Monday, July 31, 2006 at 10:51 AM
F*%king Jews….The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. [Mel Gibson...raw!]When I heard about the crazed anti-Semitic tirade Mel Gibson launched into after his DUI arrest in Malibu on Friday, I thought immediately about how he excused his devoutly Jew-hating Daddy as just a lovable eccentric and about how “The Passion of The Christ” (the Passion) may have been Gibson’s (not so subliminal) homage to his Daddy’s (and his) “eccentric” views about Jews.
Of course, most of us are not inclined to hold what a person says in a drunken stupor against him – no matter the truth beneath such uninhibited ranting. And, given the way our society indulges the bad behavior of celebrities these days, I imagine most people are predisposed to forgive this megastar his trespass, especially after he conveys appropriately crafted contrition.
But it’s instructive to know that – in his church-going sober state, Gibson anoints himself as more Catholic than the Pope. And, that he’s a proud member of a Catholic sect that believes only its leaders have the authority to interpret the word of God. Indeed, many religious scholars profess that this is why Gibson proselytized his version of the crucifixion, in the Passion, using what is believed to have been the mother tongue of Jesus, Aramaic.
Yet, even though Gibson may have emulated Hitler’s propagandist Joseph Goebbels in making it, this passion film posed little threat to the welfare of Jews (despite the hysterical reaction by some in the Jewish community). However, it is undeniably a pernicious and potentially dangerous feature of Gibson’s religious dogmatism that he propagates the views of Holocaust deniers. After all, these views are grounded in the doctrine of his “traditionalist Catholic church”. And its members defiantly reject the papal reforms (decreed in Vatican II) that were intended, inter alia, to eradicate the biblical sanction of anti-Semitism, which has fueled so much violence against the Jews.
Therefore, in this light, what Gibson said seems to reflect his religious beliefs. And, this fearful symmetry makes a mockery of his PR apology, which read in part:
…when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said….I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse.
Hmmm, how’s that for “appropriately crafted contrition”? Nonetheless, whatever one thinks about his movies or his erstwhile sex appeal, Gibson is clearly a man possessed of many demons. And, frankly, alcoholism is the least of them.
To be fair, however, Gibson is hardly the first celebrity to blame his appalling behavior on alcohol. But, instead of apologizing for being a reckless drunk, he really should have apologized for being a hypocrite and anti-Semite. Indeed, if President George W. Bush was exposed as a religious hypocrite when he was overheard saying “shit” recently, then what does it reveal about the holier-than-the-Pope Gibson – who yelled at the arresting officer “You mother f*%ker. I’m going to f*%k you”?
Even more curious, though, is what his Jewish friends in Hollywood, who, I suspect, have always harbored misgivings about his passion for The Christ, will make of these raw revelations.
NOTE: It’s interesting that mainstream media have reported virtually nothing on the alleged attempt by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to “sanitize” the report on Gibson’s arrest. But here’s how the highly-regarded celebrity website TMZ.com covered this angle:
The deputy who arrested Mel Gibson wrote an eight page report detailing Gibson’s rants and aggressive conduct, but officials ordered the arresting deputy to sanitize his report, eliminating the four pages TMZ has posted on the web site. The sanitized report was signed and became the party line that the arrest occurred “without incident.” That is a blatant lie — a lie the Sheriff’s department never thought would be exposed.Indeed, despite Gibson’s own admission that he resisted arrest in a profane and abusive manner, it seems L.A. Sheriffs were still prepared to accord him above-the-law celebrity treatment by reporting that he’d been arrested “without incident”.
ENDNOTE (from the ridiculous to the sublime): Because they apparently believe his drunken fulminations reflect his (and their) true beliefs, Jew haters all over the world have been reveling in them and embracing Gibson as their new celebrity spokesman. Nevertheless, I urge you to ignore anyone who tries to draw a nexus between Gibson’s ranting and the Middle East conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Since even constitutionally anti-Semitic governments in the Arab world have slammed Hezbollah as being solely responsible for starting this war….
Sunday, July 30, 2006 at 11:36 AM
Andrea Yates, a self-described “Fertile Myrtle”, said the devil made her do it; i.e., drown her five children (ages between 7 years and 5 months) in a bathtub several years ago. And, a hang -’em-high Texas jury bought it.
But I wonder what this jury would have found if she had drowned only 1 or 2 of them….
Saturday, July 29, 2006 at 12:43 PM
Bush doctrine revised: "You’re either with us or against us; though just pretending you’re with us is OK too…"
This week in Washington, President George W. Bush hosted his two ostensibly strongest allies in the war on terror. And, where British Prime Minister Tony Blair remained unyielding and unerring in his support – much to the chagrin of almost all Europeans, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki struck many as more foe than friend – much to the delight of almost all Arabs (and Persians).
NOTE: Where Bush may have regretted that his careless whispers were caught on an open microphone during the recent G8 summit in Russian, no one thinks Maliki harbored any such regret over his “faux pas” during his visit to Washington.
Friday, July 28, 2006 at 11:54 AMDear readers:
With so much bad news in the world today, I fear seeming Pollyannaish by scavenging the globe to find something worthy of my Good (news) Friday feature. But, truth be told, I’m just in no shape today to share good news. And here’s why:Given my indignation over the attempts to scapegoat Barry Bonds for the steroids problem in Baseball (a problem, as you’ll see below, not unique to it), I intended to hail his reprieve as today’s good news – after a grand jury refused last week to indict him on trumped up charges relating to his alleged use of steroids.
But with yesterday’s breaking news about Tour de France champion Floyd Landis, praising Bonds now would be tantamount to ignoring the proverbial pink elephant cycling a stationary bike in the middle of the room.Moreover, I’m still suffering too much indigestion from all the humble pie my friends (mostly French) forced down my throat yesterday after news broke that Landis fueled his broken hip to victory, not on the natural American power I extolled with such vicarious jingoism, but on synthetic steroids! (He tested positive for unusually high testosterone levels….)
I feel like I’ve been Punk’d, which, I suppose, makes my pink Pepto Bismol an appropriate palliative.
But here’s my take on this profoundly disappointing news:
In hindsight, everyone is asserting that there had to be something fishy (or dopey) about the way Landis recovered (like Lazarus resurrected), in one 24-hour period, to cycle to victory in the grueling stage 17 of the race, when defeat seemed all but certain. At the time, however, all of the commentators (including Lance Armstrong hater, Greg Lemond) were frothing at the mouth about how Landis’s performance in this stage was the “greatest single day of racing by any cyclist in the history of the Tour de France.”
But I think, because we’re all so starved for a bona fide hero these days, it was just too irresistible not to prop up this broken-hip, goofy-looking guy on a pedestal. Unfortunately, it now seems that it was all too good to be true. And, Landis stands to be the first champion ever to be stripped of his title for cheating….
NOTE: Landis’s own team, Phonak, has already presumed him guilty by suspending him, pending further investigation. But, after everything Lance Armstrong went through with French anti-doping authorities and their suspect testing procedures, I’m not willing to accept these preliminary results as definitive. (The tests on Landis’s samples were conducted by France’s national anti-doping laboratory at Chatenay-Malabry.)
Therefore, I shall suspend wallowing in disappointment, pending a second round of tests next week….
In the interim, however, I invite my friends to revel in schadenfreude at my expense. And, since there’s a little more room in my INBOX, please feel free to keep sending the humble pies.
ENDNOTE: How’s this for a more uplifting story: My fellow islanders down in Trinidad and Tobago are reeling in controversy over the attempt by their chief justice to influence the outcome of a corruption trial of one of their former prime ministers…. Click here for my CNN commentary on why this unfolding national crisis is not as bad as it seems.
Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 11:44 AM
Another unintended consequence: Iraqi leaders suffused with more indignation against than gratitude towards AmericaDespite President Bush’s entreaties for them to ape his rosy scenario of developments in Iraq, show unqualified appreciation for American sacrifices and express due gratitude for American support, Iraqi leaders keep going off-message and showing more regard for their religious factions and other countries than for his administration and the United States.
For example, on the eve of his address before a joint session of Congress in September 2004, Interim President Ayad Allawi was heralded as the “Abraham Lincoln of Iraq”. But, despite delivering an address that seemed written by a pro-war spin doctor, just months later he defied Bush by decrying the war effort as floundering in the face a civil war, which threatened the Iraqi union American soldiers were dying to preserve.
Now comes duly-elected President Nouri al-Maliki this week who – even before making yesterday’s obligatory plea to Congress for more aid – defied Bush by declaring more common cause and solidarity with Hezbollah and its patron Iran than with Israel and its patron the U.S. In fact, his remarks on this other war in the Middle East smacked of such indignation and ingratitude that both Republicans and Democrats threatened to boycott his address. And, this international embarrassment was averted only after Bush administration officials prevailed upon Maliki to meet in private with incredulous U.S. politicians to assure them that he was not an “anti-Semite” Hezbollah sympathizer – as Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic Party, charged.
But no matter how rosy, reassuring or collaborative his words, a dark cloud hovered over Maliki’s head during his adddress. Moreover, his dour countenance inspired little confidence when he delivered the silver lining – paraphrasing Bush’s war on terror casus belli – as follows:
Do not imagine that this problem is solely an Iraqi problem because the terrorist front represents a threat to all free countries and free people of the world.
So members of Congress listened politely. But I doubt anyone, especially Bush, was terribly encouraged by anything Maliki said during his visit. And given yesterday’s opinion polls, which essentially made a mockery of his photo ops, Bush has good reason to wonder why he staked his presidency on liberating a people who now seem more allied with America’s enemies than with America itself…..
NOTE: To be fair, even though Maliki’s refusal to publicly condemn Hezbollah ruffled some feathers in Washington, some politicians understood and appreciated why it would have been suicidal for him to do so. After all, he owes his life to the countries most invested in Hezbollah’s political Jihad: namely, Syria – where he spent years in exile during Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror and Iran – where most of his supporters look to for political (and religious) guidance.
Nevertheless, most politicians now souring on the Iraqi war cite the apparent fealty of Maliki and his fellow Shiites (who comprise the majority faction in Iraq’s government of national unity) to a burgeoning Shiite axis (stretching from Iran through Iraq to Syria) as the reason for their disllusionment….
ENDNOTE: Referring to the war in Iraq as another Vietnam has already become cliché. Therefore, the only uncertainty that remains about this war is whether it will take another 58,000 American lives before U.S. politicians cut their losses and run.
Moreover, just as it is clear that the world will do nothing to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it is also clear that America can do nothing to stop Iran from wielding decisive influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. (After all, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been whining about Iranian incursions in Iraq, with apparent impunity, for years now.)
Finally, no matter their good intentions, what America is doing in Iraq and what Israel is doing in Lebanon will only increase Iran’s power and influence in the Middle East. And, the only way to checkmate its hegemonic plans is to bomb Iran now (as former Defense Secretary William Perry and former VP Walter Mondale advised) and drop a few on Syria for good measure.
O, what a tangled web….
Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 11:20 AMI couldn’t care any less what grown men do in private, behind closed doors. But when they treat places of public accommodation like gay bath houses, I find that utterly repugnant!
Therefore, I had mixed feelings in 1998 when superstar singer George Michael was outed. Because I appreciated the fact that – having so much invested in pretending to be a ladies’ man – the last thing he (or his record label) wanted was to have that Fantasy dispelled – especially for the millions of women he depended on to buy his albums.
On the other hand, I was thoroughly disgusted when I read how Michael was outed. Because, after public complaints about men engaging in lewd behavior in the public toilets of a Los Angeles park, the LAPD undercover crime suppression unit was forced to set up a sting to catch the perverts. And, alas, Michael was caught after he propositioned a vice cop in one of those toilets.
Of course, following the Hugh Grant blueprint for celebrity rehabilitation after being caught with one’s pants down, Michael went on all of the talk shows and made light of his “momentary lapse in judgment”. Indeed, he even went so far as to parody the incident in a cynical, yet self-righteous, music video called, Outside.
But no one could have imagined that Michael’s indecent proposal would be a tipping point toward a life noted more for his public drunkenness and lewd public behavior than for his soulful recordings and riveting concert performances. Moreover, no one could have imagined that this man who almost dethroned Michael Jackson as the king of pop was also, in fact, almost as perverted as MJ. Yet, such has been the highs and lows of Michael’s life since 1998.
Therefore, none of his fans and loved ones were surprised by reports on Sunday that paparazzi commissioned by the News of the World had caught him cruising in a London park for a little Fastlove. The Strangest Thing, though, is that when [He] Is In Need Of Love Today, Michael seems defiantly unconcerned about being Safe from public view or STDs. And his Father-Figure lover on this occasion (right – 58, unemployed and living in squalid conditions with a 20-year-old cat) was all too eager to share lurid details in this respect, no doubt for a handsome fee. (Given his willingness to engage Michael in a Wham!-bam-thank-you-man frolic, obviously this Happy lover and Michael were both Kissing A Fool….)
But, never mind his fans and loved ones, here’s how one of the record-company executives who have made Michael the cash cow he’s become expressed their resigned frustration:
Until George realises he has a problem there is not a lot we can do….He thinks there is nothing wrong with the odd bit of cannabis use and he also thinks there is nothing wrong with having sex with strangers.However, if any of you were to call him a Freeek!, Michael would probably say to you what he said to the paparazzo who caught him in the bush:
Are you gay? No? Then fuck off! This is my culture! I’m a free man, I can do whatever I want. I’m not harming anyone.Clearly, his Careless Whispers have evolved into a Killer approach to life – with Michael behaving as if It Doesn’t Really Matter anymore….
NOTE: Reports are that Michael’s latest indiscretion has finally forced his longsuffering boyfriend Kenny Goss to call off their wedding and kick him to the curb. And, frankly, it’s about time. Because no lover should be required to have so much Faith and Patience in the face of such brazen infidelities and disrespect!
ENDNOTE: This latest incident really should sound the end note for Michael’s singer career. However, in today’s culture of amoral celebrity worship, I doubt it will have any deleterious effect. In fact, I suspect this has only increased interest in his upcoming “50-concert comeback tour, which sold out in half an hour.”
Although, I think he’s only worthy of performing as the opening act for a M&M Redemption Tour – headlined, of course, by Michael Jackson….
UPDATE (9:15 am): The London Sun reports today that the “wedding is back on” after Michael gave Goss a £1m gift – with this endearing and promising thought:
We had a lovely 10th anniversary party and actually my 10th anniversary present to him cost me a million quid so I reckon I should get away with more then.
Clearly, they deserve each other….
Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 5:52 AMIn November 2004, the world watched in awe as Viktor Yushchenko – scarred but unbowed by a botched attempt to assassinate him – led Ukrainian democrats in an Orange Revolution against the communists who had lorded over them for the past fifty-plus years.
And, in April 2005, I published this laudatory and hopeful commentary on Yushchenko’s historic visit to the United States, where he was hailed – during a joint session of Congress – as “the George Washington of the Ukraine.”
By September, however, I was obliged to lament Yushchenko’s failure of leadership, which now had many erstwhile supporters pining for a return to communist rule. Because, instead of implementing reforms to eradicate corruption, establish fiscal transparency and set his country on a path toward sustainable economic development, Yushchenko’s government was paralyzed by infighting (as I chronicled in this article) and never delivered on any of the promises its democratic foot soldiers fought for.Frankly, Yushchenko gave the impression that his mandate was merely to manage the grandiose ambitions of the members of his government. And no one seemed more difficult to manage than Yulia Tymoshenko – the charismatic woman he appointed prime minister and who, more importantly, many Ukrainians thought personified the spirit of the Orange Revolution.
It was not surprising therefore that Yushchenko’s most decisive act as president was sacking Tymoshenko. Unfortunately, this only deepened disaffection with his leadership and exacerbated the democratic growing pains of all Ukrainians. And to make matters worse, instead of going quietly, Tymoshenko led a mutiny against him, which caused their governing coalition to crumble in abject failure.
This in turn led to new elections held last March in which pervasive disillusionment with Ukrainian democracy resulted in the improbable return to power of unreformed communists led by Viktor Yanukovych – the man Yushchenko claims ordered his assassination. But, ironically, just as the communists did all they could to thwart the democratic will of the Ukrainian people in November 2004, democrats mobilized to prevent them from ruling now.
To this end, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko kissed and made up to form what they hoped would be a more successful second opportunity to govern the country. Despite their reconciliation, however, the democrats were so thoroughly defeated at the polls that Yanukovych still managed to form a majority coalition – called the Party of Regions and comprised of socialists and communists in Ukraine’s 450-member parliament.
However, because he and Tymoshenko were unable to outmaneuver the communists democratically, Yushchenko resorted to his presidential prerogative to refuse to endorse Yanukovych as prime minister. Thus, since last March, Ukraine has been without a government.
And, just last Thursday, Tymoshenko – betraying who really wears the pants in her political marriage with Yushchenko – revealed that it was her Machiavellian plan to prolong this impasse. She calculated that if she could prevent Yanukovych from meeting today’s constitutional deadline to form a government, then Yushchenko could exercise his right to dissolve parliament and call for Ukraine’s third general election in 18 months.
Nonetheless, truth be told, Tymoshenko made it plain that if Yushchenko had endorsed Yanukovych as prime minister that SHE would have considered it:
…a betrayal of Ukraine’s national interest!
Clearly, Yushchenko deferred to her devises. And, accordingly, he’s expected to dissolve parliament today and announce new elections that, hopefully, will finally put an end to Ukraine’s long democratic nightmare….
NOTE: In homage to Winston Churchill’s famous dictum that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” I submit that American democracy is the worst ever practiced, except for all other democracies that have been tried and found even more wanton. Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of America’s bad practices is that many new democracies are emulating them.
For example, in an egregious affront to the principles of democracy, Americans have routinely undermined democratically-elected governments based on philosophical bias (as they did recently with the Chavez government in Venezuela, the Hamas government in Palestine and – are trying to do – with the Shiite government in Iraq).
And, although the irony (if not hypocrisy) seems completely lost on them, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko are merely doing as the Americans do by going to such extreme lengths to prevent democratically-elected communists from governing the Ukraine. But, like the Americans who are paying dearly, at home and abroad, for continually sacrificing democratic principles at the altar of political expediency, so too will Ukrainian democrats harbor and foster resentments that will plague their democracy for years to come.
Monday, July 24, 2006 at 5:54 AMLet’s face it, if Lance Armstrong were not a cancer survivor, public interest in his cycling feats (and in professional cycling) would not have been nearly as great. Nonetheless, I suspect his fellow cyclists (especially Europeans) welcomed his retirement last year. After all, this not only guaranteed that – for the first time in seven years – someone other than Lance would win their sport’s premier event, Le Tour de France; it also eliminated the prospect of their being beaten, yet again, by an athlete with a perceived disability – given how prominently Lance’s cancer treatment figured in the coverage of the race each year.
Because when this year’s race ended in Paris yesterday, not only was it another American cycling to victory - along the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe – but he too had beaten these glory-starved athletes despite competing with an oft-mentioned disability: an arthritic hip….
And, alas, for the French – who seemed to suffer acid reflux at the mere mention of Lance Armstrong’s name – now comes Floyd Landis to exacerbate their gag-reflexes and prolong their national longing for a cyclist who can wrest their Tour away from these larger-than-life Americans….
NOTE: Reports are that Landis will soon undergo hip-replacement surgery. Therefore, one can only assume that if he could vanquish the competition with a bad hip then he stands a very good chance of reigning over the Tour de France for longer than Armstrong did….
Click here to see how BBC Sport reported his amazing triumph in this year’s race.
Monday, July 24, 2006 at 5:39 AMAs a former competitive athlete (swimmer), I understand implicitly why so many people are hooked on playing golf. But I can also appreciate why professional golfers are chagrined to hear that the popularity of their sport is due as much to shrewd marketing (to yuppies as the course to take for corporate success) as to their skilful and entertaining play.
There can be no denying, however, that Tiger Woods transcends all corporate efforts to manage this sport. After all, his athletic bearing alone makes him something of a phenomenon amongst professional golfers and country-club shankers. His Horatio-Alger personal story makes him as American as apple pie. And, his charismatic play makes him as irresistible to watch as Michael Jordan was when he played basketball.
Indeed, I don’t mind admitting that, despite its career-boosting hype, I have never swung a golf club, let alone played a round of golf…. Yet I’m as big a fan of the game as anyone else - whenever Tiger hits the links.
Therefore, here’s to Tiger Woods for winning his third British Open (and 11th major) yesterday in such dramatic and emotional fashion: A win that is especially noteworthy given that unsentimental critics were declaiming his waning skills when he missed the cut for the first time in a major a few weeks ago – soon after his Daddy died.
I just miss my dad so much…I wish he could have been here to witness this. [Tiger Woods]NOTE: Some sports commentators predicted that – because Tiger depended so much on his Daddy for emotional support – he would not have the mental fortitude to win another major championship: so much for that.
But these are the same critics who predicted (perhaps based more on envy than sports analysis) that Tiger’s marriage in October 2005 to Swedish model Elin Nordegren would so sap him of professional drive that he would not have the energy or ambition to win another championship. Of course, since then, Tiger has only won more titles than any other player on the PGA tour, including 3 more coveted majors….
Sunday, July 23, 2006 at 5:02 PM
Saturday, July 22, 2006 at 11:29 AM
I made very clear to Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayer’s money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life – I’m against that. Therefore, if the bill does that, I would veto it.
And so, on Wednesday, President George W. Bush held true to his word and wielded the first veto pen of his presidency against a bill to fund (embryonic) stem cell research. But click here to see why Bush’s morality will not stand in the way of scientific research that could lead to cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other degenerative brain and nerve diseases.
Friday, July 21, 2006 at 6:15 AMI know, I know: finding good news these days might be difficult, but this is ridiculous…right?
I appreciate why his critics argue that, despite being linked to the racially-motivated murder of James Byrd (in a NAACP political ad in 2000) and called every vile name imaginable by its leaders, President George W. Bush should still have accepted the standing invitation to address the NAACP long ago.
Nonetheless, I commend Bruce S. Gordon – who was elected president of this civil rights organization just last year – for extending a hand of reconciliation to Bush. I commend Bush for accepting it. And I do not care what ulterior motives may have inspired them.
Because the good news is that it redounds to the nation’s benefit for there to always be meaningful political dialogue – based on mutual respect – between the NAACP and the president of the United States, regardless if the president is a Democrat or Republican. And the symbolism of the president paying homage – as Bush did yesterday – affirms the social, political and historical importance of this fact.
Of course, partisan politics in America today are such that no one expected Bush to say anything that would change the unfavorable opinion 90% of the NAACP delegates have of him (and his Republican Party). And, in this respect, his address and their reception to it (and him) were entirely predictable. But it takes a truly enlightened black leader, like Mr Gordon, to appreciate that this visceral antipathy towards Bush and his party is more a problem for the NAACP (and blacks) than it is for the Republican Party and Bush:
Because the NAACP has tethered the political fortunes of blacks to the Democratic Party like a Lilliputian chord of obligation – where it serves more as a political tool of the party than as a civil rights advocate for the “advancement of colored people.” Yet, for several election cycles now, the general consensus – even amongst loyal black Democrats – has been that their party takes them for granted. Therefore, it behooves blacks to seek and exploit more common cause with the Republican party, if only to force the Democratic Party to pay a more respectable political price for their loyal support.
Meanwhile, even though it is doing more than ever court the black vote, the Republican Party is nurturing a bond with Hispanics that may prove an even more dependable “race card” than the one the Democratic Party has played, using blacks, for decades….
Finally, it is undeniable that – no matter the reception – Bush got all his architect, Karl Rove, designed for him to get by just showing up: it’s the legacy stupid! And now Bush has precluded historians from citing the black mark on his presidency of having refused to address the nation’s oldest civil rights organization during his two terms.
NOTE: The U.S. Congress voted last week to ban all forms of online gaming. Click here to read my CNN article on what this portends for online-gaming operators who thought Caribbean countries offered them safe havens beyond the long arm of U.S. laws.
Thursday, July 20, 2006 at 5:31 AMIn this article, published last February 14, I wrote the following forlorn valentine about Haiti:
I must admit that I do not know who amongst the motley crew of 34 candidates in last week’s presidential elections offered the best leadership prospects for Haiti. But ever since it descended into virtual anarchy during the final days of the Aristide presidency in early 2004, I have felt that Haiti does not need a president so much as a prolonged period of (enforceable) martial law.
Because only under strict martial law will government authorities be able to disarm the nihilistic gangs and rag-tag militias that are still terrorizing war-ravaged slums throughout the country.
And only when law and order is restored will a corps of engineers be able to supervise the building of key elements of Haiti’s national infrastructure (ideally, employing many of the disillusioned and chronically unemployed Haitians who have joined these gangs and militias out of frustration and despair), to attract and properly utilise the foreign aid and direct investments that are desperately needed to develop its economy.
That’s my prescription for Haiti’s terminal illness….
Well, as much as I hate writing “I told you so”, I told you so!
Because, despite my prescription, Rene Preval was inaugurated president amidst such chaos that undermanned UN (stabilizing) forces were more vulnerable to attacks from Haitian thugs than coalition forces were to attacks from Iraqi insurgents. And, reports coming out of that paradise lost this week indicate that the law-and-order problems I warned about back then have only gotten worse.
In fact, last week, after months of indiscriminate kidnappings, murders and attacks on its personnel, the UN was compelled to deploy an additional 2000 “peacekeepers” to the “island’s ravaged capital to try to retake control [of areas that have been] all but ceded to armed gangs.” But, frankly, all hope seems lost that any number of UN forces will be able to create conditions on the ground that are conducive for Preval to govern.
After all, for many rampaging Haitians, the democratically-elected Preval himself is the biggest destabilizing force in Haiti. Because, incomprehensible though it may be, a critical mass of Haitians still consider the exiled Jean-Bertrand Aristide their president and are agitating violently for his return.
Here’s how I presaged this problem last February:
That the Bush administration is putting more pressure on Preval to renounce Aristide than to announce his plans to resuscitate the Haitian economy indicates the clear and present fear the Americans have of Aristide’s imminent return.
And, their fears are well founded: After all, the vast majority of leaders in the Americas still believe Aristide’s damning claims that he was the victim of a coup d’etat because President Bush (and local businessmen – mostly mulatto bourgeois Europhiles calling themselves “the Group of 184”), found his governing socialist policies politically and ideologically untenable….
And, it’s an open secret that most Haitians who voted for Preval, did so only because they expect him to facilitate the return of their Lavalas leader Aristide to his rightful place in Haiti….
Therefore, it came as little surprise last week when thousands of Haitians took to the street chanting “Aristide or death”, “Aristide is in our blood” and demanding the third coming of their Messiah. And, vindicating my cynical regard for Preval’s mandate, Andre Michelet, one of the organizers of this protest, declared unabashedly and without a hint of irony that:
We voted for Rene Preval to obtain the return of our leader [Aristide]!
Indeed, I don’t know how many more threats and shocks to his presidency it will take before Preval realizes that President George W. Bush’s promise “to stay engaged in helping Haitians build their institutions and economy” means nothing unless it is backed-up by U.S. forces and U.S. aid. And, given U.S. commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither of these seems forthcoming. Which leads me conclude today what I only feared in February; namely that:
…with so many forces arrayed against him, it’s difficult to see how Preval governs Haiti….And I fear this election might prove as all other hopeful developments have done: as just another opportunity lost for Haiti.
Alas, it now seems that it was….
NOTE: Ironically, despite refusing to fulfill his promise to help stabilize the country, Bush has decreed that it would be too destabilizing to allow Aristide to return to Haiti. And so the inertia of chaos and violence shall continue until, as I argued in this previous article, the U.S. commits to rebuilding Haiti – as it is obligated to do; instead of trying to rebuild Iraq – as it has elected to do.
Thursday, July 20, 2006 at 12:24 AMCaption courtesy of the Associated Press (AP): American citizens show their passports to U.S. Marines as they wait behind barricades in the sweltering heat in a coastal center near the U.S. embassy north of Beirut, Lebanon for their names to be called in order to be be processed for evacuation from the war torn country Wednesday, July 19, 2006. Hundreds of Americans wiped tears, hugged relatives and grumbled about delays in evacuation efforts as well as confusing directions as they were processed to be cleared to board a luxury cruise ship on Wednesday that was to evacuate them from war-torn Lebanon to Cyprus
In the midst of last year’s Hurricane Katrina crisis, I charged, in this article, that racist indifference contributed to the Bush administration’s failure to evacuate black Americans who were left stranded in flooded New Orleans after the city’s levees were breached.
But I’m constrained to reassess that charge after seeing the perennially-feckless French military evacuate its citizens from war-ravaged Lebanon – with remarkable dispatch, whilst (mostly white) Americans remain caught in the crossfire between Israeli bombs and Hezbollah rockets – no doubt wondering when their superpower-American military will finally arrive to rescue them.
And, even though I appreciate all of the factors which differentiate these two crises, I have no doubt that the Americans still hunkered down in Lebanon today feel just as abandoned by their government as blacks in New Orleans felt last year.
Although, I’m not sure whether it distresses me more that the Bush Administration might be racist or just congenitally incompetent….
NOTE: As of this post, only 1000 of the 25,000 Americans trapped in Lebanon had been evacuated. And, adding insult to their despair, the U.S. State Department has declared that those evacuated would have to pay the commercial cost for the trip.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006 at 6:02 AMOn Monday, Oprah released excerpts from an interview she and her “best friend” Gayle King did for the August issue of her own O, The Oprah Magazine, for which Gayle is editor-at-large. In the interview, they deny they’re gay – though insist, of course, that “there’s nothing wrong with being gay.”
I understand why people think we’re gay….There isn’t a definition in our culture for this kind of bond between women. So I get why people have to label it — how can you be this close without it being sexual?And, for good measure, Gayle adds:
The truth is, if we were gay, we would tell you.Alas, the ladies doth protest too much, methinks.Frankly, unless it’s a shrewd ploy to generate sales for her magazine (August is the slowest month), one has to wonder what motivated Oprah to proclaim her sexuality in this way. After all, she’s been in the business long enough to appreciate that the best way to fuel speculation about her being gay is for her to deny being gay.
But surely Oprah does not need whatever profits she might earn from increased sales of this issue. And, even though she seems to have virtually no secrets left in her closet, surely she must realize that broadcasting “I’m not gay” in this fashion has no journalistic value whatsoever.
Therefore, why Oprah, why? An overzealousness to hide what is plain for all to see…?
Regular readers of this weblog know that I’ve insinuated in previous articles (here, here and elsewhere) that the friendship between Oprah (never married) and Gayle (divorced mother of two) is more than platonic. And now Oprah has admitted as much with her extraordinary assertion that “There isn’t a definition in our culture for this kind of bond” between them.
But I fear she’s beginning to buy into her own cult worship if she thinks her friendship with Gay(le) transcends our culture. After all, I know women who, like Oprah and Gayle, have friendships with other women that have flourished for over 30 years. And I know women who, like Oprah and Gayle, share almost everything that’s going on in their lives.
But, unlike Oprah and Gayle, these women do not provide for each other the way Oprah provides for Gayle. Unlike Oprah and Gayle, they do not have “four-times-a-day phone calls.” And, unlike Oprah and Gayle, they do not routinely dine, socialize, travel on business and take vacations (to Paris and The Bahamas) together – without male companions: a togetherness, incidentally, which makes laughable Gayle’s lamentation that “it’s hard enough to get a date on Saturday night”.
(As for odd-man-out Stedman, I suspect he’s quite happy to exploit the perks and freedom that come with being Oprah’s consort for public consumption without having to perform too many private duties….)
Perhaps Oprah thinks one has to travel to the Isle of Lesbos (apologies to my Greek friends) to find an appropriate definition for her friendship with Gayle. But as long as they bond like other female “friends” have bonded since the days of women’s liberation, then people of this culture have every reason to assert, in the vernacular:
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck . . . it must be a duck.NOTE: In a related story, perhaps, the US Congress rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage yesterday, leaving open the prospect that women will soon be able to seal their bond in legal ceremonies in liberal states all over America.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006 at 4:49 PM
… after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. [Nelson Mandela]
Such humility (and restless aspiration) coming from a man so great makes me feel unworthy to even wish him a Happy Birthday. Nonetheless, the world celebrates Nelson Mandela’s 88th birthday today. And, adding to his inspirational legacy, it is encouraging to see that he still has a healthy appreciation for the finer things in life.
To Madiba: Long may he live….to climb and climb and climb….
NOTE: Click here to visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation…
I believe Bill and Melinda Gates are now in South Africa, and possibly celebrating with Mandela. Therefore, let’s hope they feel appropriately inspired to grant Mandela’s foundation a little of that $32 billion Warren Buffet donated to their foundation just a few weeks ago.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006 at 9:27 AMYesterday, the world was treated to a rare glimpse into the thriving “special” relationship between U.S. President George W. Bush and British PM Tony Blair. Because, unbeknownst to them, a microphone caught almost every word they uttered during their little verbal assignation at a G8 working lunch in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Alas, what we heard betrayed (transatlantic) political spin and media reports that the debacle in Iraq had caused this relationship to become irretrievably broken down. Because Blair still sounded like a love-sick puppy when he cooed with pride and satisfaction after Bush thanked him for his lovely gift of knit sweaters. Here’s how that exchange went:
Bush: …Thanks for the sweaters. It’s awfully thoughtful of you
Blair: It’s a pleasure
Bush: I know you picked it out yourself
Blair: Oh, absolutely, in fact I knitted it!!!Talk that makes you go “Hmmm….” But, how’s that for life imitating art – with Bush (as the Heath Ledger cowboy “Ennis”) and Blair (as the Jake Gyllenhaal cowboy “Jack”) flirting like Brokeback-Mountain lovers?
Of course, Bush and Blair’s apparent disregard for monogamy will no doubt shock their Christian fundamentalist friends and shatter their family-values public images. (I heard “shit” a few times, but did Bush drop the f-bomb on Syria?) After all, here’s what these two naughty boys had to say after ogling one of the other guys attending their luncheon:
Bush: Yeah, yeah, he is sweet
Blair: He is…honey.
Nevertheless, the real insight here is that, despite Osama bin Laden being more popular in England now than George Bush, and notwithstanding resolute efforts by members of his own party to tie his relationship with Bush around his neck like a gallows noose, Blair just can’t quit Bush; especially since they can, evidently, make love and war at the same time….
NOTE: Though unseemly on a personal level, I have no compunction about commenting on the private conversation between these two public figures. After all, no two people have shown less scruple about eavesdropping on the conversations of others than Bush and Blair.
ENDNOTE: To be fair, they were not entirely oblivious to the urgent political matters being addressed at this luncheon. Hence, for anyone interested in the political thoughts Bush and Blair shared, here below is The iPINIONS Journal’s transcript of the audiotape.
Since we all heard things differently during playback (and it did not help that Blair was being deliberately discreet and Bush was talking with his mouth full), I reviewed several print sources, including The Guardian, Washington Post and SKYNEWS, to provide the most accurate and comprehensive account of what they said:
Bush: Yo Blair, How are you doing?
Blair: I’m just…
Bush: You’re leaving?
Blair: No, no, no not yet. On this trade thingy…[inaudible]
Bush: Yeah, I told that to the man
Blair: Are you planning to say that here or not
Bush: If you want me to
Blair: Well, it’s just that if the discussion arises….
Bush: I just want some movement.
Bush: Yesterday we didn’t see much movement
Blair: No, no, it may be that it’s not. It may be that it’s impossible
Bush: I am prepared to say it
Blair: But it’s just I think what we need to be an opposition
Bush: Who is introducing the trade
Blair: Angela [Merkel, German chancellor]
Bush: Tell her to call ‘em
Bush: Tell her to put him on them on the spot….Thanks for the sweaters. It’s awfully thoughtful of you
Blair: It’s a pleasure
Bush: I know you picked it out yourself
Blair: Oh, absolutely, in fact I knitted it!!! (Laughter)
Bush: What about Kofi – he seems alright. I don’t like his ceasefire plan. His attitude basically and everything sorts out…But I think…
Blair: Yeah the only thing I think is really difficult is that we can’t stop this without getting international presence agreed. I think what you guys have talked about which is the criticism of the [inaudible word). I am perfectly happy to try and see what the lie of the land is, but you need that done quickly because otherwise it will spiral.
Bush: Yeah I think Condi’s [US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] gonna go pretty soon
Blair: But that’s that’s that’s all that matters. But if you, you see it will take some time to get that together
Bush: Yeah, yeah
Blair: But at least it gives people…
Bush: It’s a process. I agree. I told her your offer too…
Blair: Well…it’s only if I mean…you know. If she’s got a…, or if she needs the ground to be prepared as it were…Because obviously if she goes out, she’s got succeed, if it were, whereas I can go out and just talk.
Bush: You see, the irony is what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over
Blair: Because I think this is all part of the same thing
Blair: What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way….
Bush: Yeah, yeah, he is sweet
Blair: He is honey. And that’s what the whole thing is about. It’s the same with Iraq
Bush: I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Bahad [Bashir Assad of Syria] and make something happen
Bush: We are not blaming the Lebanese government
Blair: Is this…?
(Blair finally notices the microphone is turned on and turns it off….)
EPILOGUE: It has become axiomatic that G8 summits are about little more than the richest countries on earth plotting global strategies trong> to protect what they have (from the have-nots) and make themselves richer. But, as far as hollow rhetoric goes (remember last year’s talk about forgiving Africa’s debt?), the joint communiqué that ended this year’s summit – reprimanding Hezbollah for its terrorist activities and cautioning Israel to show restraint in its shock and awe response – constituted unusually relevant diplomatic language.
There can be no denying, however, that G8 Saint Petersburg will be remembered more for Bush and Blair’s careless whispers than for anything else.
Monday, July 17, 2006 at 11:17 AMLast September, I published this article extolling the findings of scientific studies that established a positive link between male circumcision (briss) and substantial reduction in the incidence of HIV infections. I lamented, however, that two words: custom and religion, explained why this simple preventative measure was not being practiced to help stem the epidemic of AIDS in Africa.
I maintained, however, that:
…whatever the religious or cultural taboo, if circumcision is as effective in fighting HIV as these African studies suggest, then not practicing it as a standard medical procedure – especially in areas with high incidence of HIV/AIDS – is irresponsible, if not inhumane.
Yet I received a flood of emails – primarily from Europeans – ridiculing me as a cultural bigot naively citing spurious research (perhaps, ironically, because the studies were conducted by an African scientist) as a panacea for this global health crisis. But in my broadcast response, I merely challenged them to present scientific data to refute the findings or suggest any measure that might have a more prophylactic effect on the spread of the AIDS virus. That effectively damned the vituperative emails.
Nevertheless, I was buoyed in my support for this admittedly controversial AIDS-prevention strategy last week when World Heath Organisation (WHO) researchers confirmed the findings of the African scientist:
They analyzed data from trials that showed men who had been circumcised had a significantly lower risk of infection with the AIDS virus, and calculated that if all men were circumcised over the next 10 years, some two million new infections and around 300,000 deaths could be avoided.
But particularly relevant to my African friends, WHO researchers found that:
In West Africa, male circumcision is common and the prevalence of HIV is low, while in southern Africa the reverse is true….This analysis shows that male circumcision could avert nearly six million new infections and save three million lives in sub-Saharan Africa over the next twenty years.
Therefore, I hope preputial Europeans who seem to care for the foreskin of African penises more than they do for African lives will find this follow-up study more credible. Perhaps then they will support efforts to prevail upon our African brothers (especially in South Africa) to suspend cultural myths and consider seriously the health benefits of circumcision.
NOTE: Since some critics might find these new findings more persuasive if they were reported by a respectable European news organization (as opposed to the Washington Post), I invite them to click here to read about them as reported by Agence French Presse (AFP).
Sunday, July 16, 2006 at 1:33 PM
Ironically, Blacks have found themselves locking arms with conservative Republicans on the most critical and divisive issue in American politics today: illegal immigration. And, of course, their most ardent foes on this polarizing issue are Hispanics and Democrats. Therefore, it’s not surprising that simmering cultural biases, which once made the political alliance between Blacks and Hispanics tenuous at best, have now erupted into open hostilities.
Moreover, it has only exacerbated tensions that Hispanics (at 14.1% of the population, and multiplying like rabbits) have now usurped Blacks (at 12.8%, and relatively barren) as the most significant voting bloc in U.S. politics. And leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) must have felt completely dissed last week when former President Bill Clinton and President Bush’s chief advisor Karl Rove both made solicitous overtures to Hispanics at the annual meeting of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest Hispanic civil rights group in the country.
NOTE: I feel obliged to stress that this growing schism between Blacks and Hispanics is not based solely on political pragmatism. Because it is fostered by a virulent stream of racial prejudice against Blacks by Hispanics, which rivals the historical prejudice Whites have displayed against them.
Indeed, it’s also not surprising that gang warfare rages more between Blacks and Hispanics than between Blacks and Whites (or Whites and Hispanics)….
Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 3:12 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his disdain for American self-righteousness (and hypocrisy) on adherence to democratic values. And, his indignation is not entirely unjustified.
In fact, Bush’s post-9/11 executive orders (on domestic spying and Guantanamo Bay, inter alia) have led most people around the world to perceive Putin as having more authority to lecture Bush on democracy than the other way around. Of course, objectively, this is patently absurd. But, as Henry Kissinger – the modern Machiavellian prince of international politics – always admonished: perception is reality.
NOTE: G8 leaders (from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, England, Russia and the United States) are meeting in Russia this weekend to discuss ways of establishing common cause on a host of political, economic and military matters. Meanwhile, Jews and Muslims are fighting a war in the Middle East that threatens to draw these leaders in on opposing sides and render much of what they discuss null and void….