Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 12:04 PM
Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope? [Barack Obama in his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004]I’m not sure if it’s blind faith or black pride that is keeping my hope alive that Barack Obama will be elected the next president of the United States. After all, polls now indicate that it will take a miracle just for him to win the Democratic nomination.
For the record, when I endorsed his candidacy over a year ago Obama was polling within five points of the putative winner, Hillary Rodham Clinton. But today, similar polls have him trailing her now by more than twenty….
Meanwhile, on a more positive note, Obama seems to have overcome what loomed as one of the biggest obstacles of his campaign; namely: absurd (intra-racist) questions about whether he’s black enough. In fact, any lingering doubt in this respect had to have been erased when the brother showed that he definitely has rhythm by getting jiggy with Ellen Degeneres on the Monday edition of her talk show.
Alas, more substantive obstacles loom. But, remarkably enough, Obama is the one throwing most of them in the way of his campaign. For example, even I was moved to wonder if he was “Dan Quayle(ing) his campaign” when his gaffes had political pundits questioning: Is Obama ready for prime time?
And, in this vain, I was stupefied when he announced to the world – via the New York Times on Sunday – that he plans to “get tough with Hillary” to bring his campaign more into focus. Because the best way for him to do this is to be more passionate, precise and, indeed, aggressive in talking about his agenda for restoring trust in the presidency and redeeming America’s goodwill and moral authority around the world.
But frankly, this pugilistic strategy is fraught with political peril, not to mention hypocrisy.
After all, Obama has pledged repeatedly that the raison d’etre for his campaign is to restore civility to politics. Now he has cast himself as an attack dog intent on taking a bite out of Hillary’s campaign, which gives the impression that he cannot beat her with his political ideas.
I’ve got to do something in Philly. [Obama telegraphing his get tough strategy just days ago]
Therefore, after all of the boxing metaphors that were used to hype last night’s debate at Drexel University in Philadelphia, most viewers were probably only interested in how many blows Obama would be able to land on Hillary.
(Which, of course, allowed her to do the rope a dope with her “politics of hope” and show that she can take a licking and keep on ticking.)
Unfortunately for Obama, the debate might as well had been billed as Edwards vs. Hillary. Because, invariably, it was Edwards attacking her – with very clean blows incidentally – by criticizing her “double talk” on the issues (e.g. for saying with indignant certitude that she supports and opposes giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants), cozy ties with big business (including defense contractors for crying out loud!) and craven willingness to say anything to anyone to get a vote.
Meanwhile, because of his ill-advised strategy to fight, everything Obama said came across as a desperate attempt to wound Hillary politically. Even worse, because he was so elliptical (i.e., professorial) whenever he threw a blow, he always seemed to be just piling on after Edwards had already landed his direct jabs and uppercuts.
Therefore, I urge Obama to stick with the “new kind of politics” he promised. And this is critical because, notwithstanding gallant efforts to draw sharp distinctions during these debates, there really are no substantive differences on the major issues among the Democratic candidates. Whereas, what truly distinguishes Obama from the others is his inspiring biography and the unimpeachable character of his public service.
In fact, this is why I endorsed him….
Besides, there’s no reason for Obama to pick fights with Hillary (in a misguided attempt to derail her coronation) when Edwards seems so intent, and professionally disposed (as a former trial lawyer), in this regard.
So, let’s go Obama! I’m still with you Bro….
Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 7:57 AMA year ago this month, Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim announced his plan to fund an annual prize to reward “a retired African head of state for excellence in leadership”. But here’s a little of what I wrote back then about the egocentric and oxymoronic nature of this no “Mo” corruption prize:
Ibrahim seems to think African leaders are so congenitally corrupt that the only way “to remove corruption and improve governance” in Africa is, ironically, to bribe them.
And to prove that he intends to vest this igNoble prize with (at least financial) value that surpasses that of the Nobel Prize (at $1.4 million), Ibrahim has provided for a cash gift of $5 million over 10 years, when the winner leaves office, plus $200,000 a year for life to be awarded with his “Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership (MIPAAL)”. Moreover, to adorn his prize with a patina of integrity, he has decreed that only a leader who “democratically transfers power to his successor” will be eligible to receive this golden parachute.
Unfortunately, given that it’s a long-established fringe benefit for African leaders to steal at least $5 million each year of their rule, this prize seems at best an honorable perk….
Nevertheless, I am pleased to inform you that the MIPAAL committee, chaired by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, announced last week that former President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique was the recipient of its inaugural prize, which is reputed to be the world’s largest prize.
But Chissano is probably only one of two African leaders (the other being former President Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana) who met the criteria for being considered – especially by leaving office voluntarily and with his reputation relatively in tact.
He served two terms as president of Mozambique – from 1986 to 2005. And, in lauding Chissano’s leadership, Annan noted that:
His decision not to seek a third presidential term reinforced Mozambique’s democratic maturity and demonstrated that institutions and the democratic process were more important than personalities.
Although, when a BBC reporter asked if Chissano’s award was tarnished by the fact that his son was under suspicion for the murder of a Mozambican journalist, Annan had to have felt extremely self-conscious when he replied, indignantly, that:
You cannot blame him for something his son is alleged to have done – his mature son!
After all, Annan invoked this same filial principle (namely, that the sins of the son should not be visited upon the father) in his own defense when he was being blamed for his son Kojo’s involvement in the UN’s $40 billion oil-for-food scam.
At any rate, after Rawlings next year and, perhaps, a retired South African President Thabo Mbeki in 2009, one wonders to whom Annan’s committee will award the MIPAAL – without the stench of corruption permeating the occasion…?
Monday, October 29, 2007 at 8:09 AMEven though everyone expected her to be the ultimate winner, Cristina Fernández Kirchner surpassed all expectations by defeating her 13 rivals so decisively in national elections held yesterday that she rendered a scheduled November 25 runoff unnecessary.
Under Argentina’s election laws, she needed 40 percent of the vote, with a lead of more than 10 percent over her nearest rival, to win outright. In fact, she won 44 percent, and led her nearest rival – interestingly enough, another woman named Elisa Carrio – by 21 percent (at the time of this posting).
But here’s how I heralded this outcome several weeks ago in an article entitled “Argentina’s First Lady poised to steal Hillary’s thunder”:
I relish the prospect of Cristina becoming the first wife in the Western Hemisphere to succeed her husband as the elected president of her country when national elections are held in Argentina on October 28.
However, the fact that Cristina’s election would make her the second elected female head of state in the Americas, after Michelle Bachelet of Chile, only heightens my glee over her one-upmanship of Hillary. Because even if Hillary were elected next year, she would still be considered only third-rate in the pantheon of historic women in regional politics….
Meanwhile, the sore losers have already indicated that they intend to file pro forma complaints about the “unprecedented fraud” that they claim ensured Cristina’s victory. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that she will succeed her husband, President Nestor Kirchner, without delay on December 10.
But kudos to Cristina for finally demanding that media commentators stop referring to her as the “new Evita Peron” or, even worse, the “Latin Hillary Clinton”; especially since such references belittle her independent career and this crowning achievement, neither of which had anything to do with riding her husband’s coattails:
I don’t want to be compared with Hillary Clinton or with Evita Peron, or with anybody….There’s nothing better than being yourself.
Argentina’s First Lady poised to steal Hillary’s thunder
Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 12:34 PM
Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 11:58 AM
Friday, October 26, 2007 at 9:11 AM
Given that men seem determined to destroy the Earth in a nuclear conflagration (if they’re not preempted by the global-warming apocalypse that Al Gore has been warning about for the past 25 years), it seems I might as well suspend my political crusade for women to rule the world.
But, given this week’s historic development, which has a woman commanding not only the space shuttle (Pam Melroy – right) but also the International Space Station (Peggy Whitson), the good news is that women seem poised to rule over the colonization of space.
(Whitson is picture here welcoming Melroy and her crew aboard the space station early on Thursday.)
And I, for one, would be happy to follow them there; especially if they can control the ratio of peace-loving women to warmongering men at, say, 100 : 1. In fact, I get excited just thinking about the prospect….
Of course, I appreciate that, as fantasies go, this ranks right up there with a heaven where 72 virgins will be waiting to reward jihadists for their misguided martyrdom.
Nevertheless, here’s to woman power!
NOTE: President Bush vowed this week to stay the course in Cuba: Does that sound familiar?
But to read my CNN article explaining why this vow is as delusional as his declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq was over four years ago, click here.
Thursday, October 25, 2007 at 8:35 AMGiven the remarkable precision and care with which a reported 1 million people have been evacuated from the amorphous vortex of raging fires in California, it seems clear that federal, state, and local government officials have heeded the tragic lessons of Hurricane Katrina.
Indeed, not least in this regard is the way Qualcomm Stadium (home of the San Diego Chargers) has been converted into an organized, hospitable, and sustainable shelter for these evacuees; which stands in stark contrast to the chaotic, menacing, and unsanitary prison that The Superdome (home of the New Orleans Saints) was for Katrina evacuees.
Nevertheless, I urge you not to begrudge San Diegans the assistance they’re getting by making allusions to that which New Orleaneans did not get. Because no matter how prepared and resourceful, there’s only so much man can do to tame Mother Nature’s fury – whether she rains flood waters or scorching fires….
Therefore, as we watch in feckless awe, let us pray for the millions whose lives have been disrupted, the hundreds of thousands who have been displaced, and the thousands who have lost their homes or businesses.
To help please visit: californiavolunteers.org
Meanwhile, there is a silver lining in the clouds of smoke now smothering Southern California; notwithstanding the legal and ethical clouds it’s bound to create.
After all, no region has been more affected by the synergistic fallout from plummeting real estate values and subprime mortgages. But these “apocalyptic” fires will provide an expedient pretext for hundreds, if not thousands, of homeowners – who were facing imminent foreclosure on their McMansions – to simply walk away from the charred remains by blaming force majeure; i.e., an act of God!
(Although, considering their contributory negligence in offering so many inherently bad (subprime) loans, the banks would probably be happy to write off the loss and bid these defaulters good riddance.)
Adding to this silver lining, however, is the macroeconomic fact that nothing could do more than these fires will to stimulate California’s economy and re-ignite its housing boom….
Finally, given the drought conditions that persist all over the United States, one wonders how much all of the water being expended to fight the fires in this state will exacerbate these conditions….
Tuesday, October 23, 2007 at 10:51 AMI’m not sure why so many people expect me to know the details of every alleged crime involving tourists in the Caribbean – from Natalee Holloway in Aruba to Bob Woolmer in Jamaica and Anna Nicole Smith in The Bahamas. But as flattered and amused as I am by it, I’m always eager to disabuse them of this expectation.
Nevertheless, over the past few days, I have deflected numerous questions in conversations, and browsed even more in e-mails, from enquiring minds wanting to know “what really happened” with that woman who accused David Copperfield, the self-styled “master illusionist”, of raping her in The Bahamas.
As it happens, however, neither I nor any law enforcement official in The Bahamas has any clue what happened. Because instead of reporting the incident to the local police, the alleged victim waited (not sure how long) to report it to authorities back home in Seattle, Washington, where, presumably, she felt she stood a better chance of having him successfully prosecuted.
And, judging from the way FBI agents are now swarming all over Copperfield, with well-publicized raids on his Las Vegas properties, one can be forgiven for thinking that this was the smart thing to do.
However, I think she waited simply because this alleged crime occurred on a small island Copperfield bought from the Bahamian government last year; which he has magically transformed into a bohemian paradise called Musha Cay.
Therefore, one can certainly understand why this woman probably assumed that he was immune to criminal charges there, and why he probably presumes that what Copperfield wants on Musha Cay, Copperfield takes….
Meanwhile, I felt compelled to ridicule him in one of my CNN commentaries when he began marketing his island with the illusory claim that it is blessed with “fountains of youth” that are more effective than plastic surgery at reducing the signs of aging.
Alas, this raises the affirmative defense of assumption of risk by all of the idle-minded rich folks who dare to venture there. And it also allows Copperfield to cover up whatever sex crime he may have committed by arguing – with professional indignation – that everything that happens on his island is pure illusion…by design (and implied consent)! Just kidding folks.
(Although I hereby grant Copperfield’s lawyer permission to quote me without attribution….)
But seriously, and with all due respect to this alleged victim, here’s the only thing I feel obliged to say about this unfolding case:
If you’re a victim of any crime during your visit to any island in the Caribbean, please report it to local authorities, immediately. Because, despite caricatures in the international media, they are invariably more capable than any foreign agency of solving local crimes.
That said, it might help some of you to gain a little perspective in this respect by bearing in mind that the FBI and Colorado police are still trying to solve the JonBenet Ramsey murder; and that Scotland Yard and Portuguese police are still trying to find little Madeleine McCann….
Monday, October 22, 2007 at 10:57 AM
This is much bigger than South Africa rugby. To see our state president on the shoulders of one of the players, with the William Webb Ellis Trophy in his hands, there’s no bigger statement in our country than that. What we need as a nation is to understand how big this is. There’s no reason why South African rugby and South Africa can’t take this as a huge plus and build on it. [Jake White – coach of the 2007 Rugby World Cup Champions - The South African Springboks]I am not a rugby fan. But one does not have to be to appreciate the significance of South Africa’s 15-6 win over defending 2003 champions England in the World Cup final on Saturday in Paris, France.
Indeed, the mere picture of the team’s predominantly-white players hoisting their black president, Thabo Mbeki, on their shoulder as they beamed with national pride speaks volumes.
(Incidentally, for my American readers who have no idea what this game is all about, just imagine football being played in soccer uniforms; i.e., with no pads! I know, crazy right…?)
But I am mindful that – 13 years after the end of apartheid – South Africa has only six black players on its 30-man national team. Therefore, the joy of this occasion had to have been tinged with a little resentment amongst blacks – who comprise 80% of the population; especially when one considers that rugby still defines the character of this country as much as soccer defines that of Brazil.
In fact, I remember well how much contempt people in democratic countries all over the world had for the formerly all-white Springboks. Because nothing symbolized, or indeed personified, the seemingly invincible apartheid regime of South Africa more than they did.
Therefore, the irony is not lost on me that one of those black players, Bryan Habana, was named the game’s player of the year by the International Rugby Board at a gala dinner in Paris last night. Not surprisingly, the Springboks were named team of the year, and Jake White – coach of the year
So here’s to the Boks: the 2007 Rugby World Champions!
And let’s hope that their victory imbues all South Africans with a sense of unqualified national unity…if only for a day.
Saturday, October 20, 2007 at 11:01 PM
Friday, October 19, 2007 at 8:04 AMJust months ago, I lamented the separation (after 30 years) of the political marriage between Segolene Royal and Francois Hollande. Here, in part, is what I wrote:
…So much for the reputed quizzical insouciance of the French when it comes to marital (or, more notably, extramarital) affairs. Because today every French newspaper is emblazoned with headlines about the intriguing split between Segolene Royal, the Socialist candidate I endorsed here in last month’s French presidential election, and Francois Hollande, the leader of the Socialist Party.
Therefore, not surprisingly, the headlines that occasioned this week’s court appearance by the newly-elected president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his wife of 11 years, Cecelia – to initiate divorce proceedings – were even more sensational:
Nouvelles rumeurs sur la séparation du couple Sarkozy dans les medias [Le Monde]
Le couple Sarkozy aurait formalisé sa separation [L’Express]
Cécilia et Nicolas : quand le off craque… [Le Figaro](Meanwhile, headlines about a strike by transit and utility workers, which has clogged movement all over Paris, seemed like mere afterthoughts…. )
Therefore, I shall suffice to note that coverage of this story by the French media only reaffirms my contention that, when it comes to sex and marriage, the purportedly-sophisticated French are every bit as voyeuristic, puerile and prurient as the Americans.
At any rate, the point of my earlier commentary was to highlight the cynical fact that Royal’s defeat by Sarkozy precipitated the dissolution not only of her personal relationship, but also of her political partnership with Hollande.
Accordingly, the irony is not lost on me that Sarkozy’s victory has led to a similar dissolution. Especially since, in the article referenced above, I extrapolated from Royal’s split the following looming consequence for Hillary Clinton:
…if Hillary loses the U.S. presidential election next year, I suspect this would also trigger the dissolution not only of her marriage but also of her political partnership with Bill; and, probably, in even more precipitous and salacious fashion.
(Incidentally, if she loses, these two would probably end in a dead heat at the courthouse door to finally divorce themselves from the reciprocal (personal) burdens each has had to bear during their 32-year partnership….)
Given this Sarkozy precedent, however, it would seem Hillary’s political marriage is doomed if she wins and doomed if she doesn’t. But frankly, if she wins, I can’t imagine either one of the Clintons even contemplating divorce; after all, this politically-committed and co-dependent couple would still have her reelection in 2012 to consider….
Finally, reports indicate that it was Mrs Sarkozy who wanted out of this marriage, which says a lot about her political ambition. Indeed, her apparent contempt for the duties of a first lady stands in stark contrast to the relish with which Hillary and another notable first lady, Cristina Fernández Kirchner of Argentina, embraced theirs.
(Apropos this, I invite you to click here to read my article, which was published today by Caribbean Net News, on the career paths Hillary and Cristina have taken.)
Interestingly enough, however, legal experts suggest that Article 67 of the French Constitution “prevents anyone, including a spouse, from bringing a legal action” against a sitting president. Perhaps you recall how Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, invoked this provision to dodge being prosecuted on on charges of political corruption for almost 12 years.
Therefore, Cecilia may have to wait, for over a decade, before she can bid Sarkozy farewell….
C’est la vie!
Segolene Royal and Francois Hollande divorce French style
Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 8:42 AM
We’ve got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel….So I’ve told people that, if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.This is how President Bush responded – during a nationally-televised news conference yesterday – to a question about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s admonition against military action to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities.
But, no doubt, anti-Bush political pundits will be waxing indignant for days about his “war-mongering” justification for a preemptive strike against Iran. Never mind that his was only a politically-incorrect, not a factual, faux pas.
Therefore, here, for your edification, is a clarification of Bush’s congenitally-undiplomatic words.
First and foremost, notwithstanding Putin’s Machiavellian admonition, no international statesman would deny, in earnest, that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons.
More to the point, however, none of them would deny the reasonable fear that if Iran were allowed to develop nuclear weapons, it would either launch them directly at Israel, or provide them to one of their terrorist proxies to “wipe Israel off the map”.
Furthermore, under either scenario, it’s very likely that once Israel is hit, then all of its peripheral enemies – like the Syria, Hezbollah, et. al. – would pounce on it like vultures devouring a mortally-wounded deer.
Yet many pundits seem more outraged by Bush’s intent to prevent these doomsday scenarios than they are by Ahmadinejad’s intent to execute them. Of course I readily concede that, where dealing with Iran is concerned, Bush may just be an idiot savant. Because even though he has bungled almost every other foreign policy initiative, he seems positively clairvoyant in this respect.
Nevertheless, trust me folks, Iran will never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Because I maintain that Israel will do to its nuclear facilities what it did to Iraq’s in 1981, and to Syria’s just weeks ago. Moreover, just as Iraq and Syria were too intimidated to retaliate, the Iranians will huff and puff but they will only blow hot air….
But even if Iran manages to launch it’s pre-ordained crusade to wipe Israel off the map, and the U.S. retaliates in kind (as everyone assumes it would be obliged to do), I doubt the nuclear fall-out would spread much beyond the Middle East. After all, no major power (like Russia or China) would risk escalating this regional conflict into World War III just to answer Iran’s Caliphatic prayer for Armageddon.
NOTE: This is not to say that – if the U.S. tag-teams with Israel in bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities to smithereens – Russia would not seize the opportunity to drop a few bombs on some of its unruly former satellite states (like Ukraine and Georgia) to reinforce its “sphere of influence” as a resurgent superpower. But here too, the U.S. would not risk escalating this regional conflict by attacking Russia in their defense.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 at 8:24 AMYesterday, seemingly for the first time in years, Yahoo had cause to celebrate. Because after the company released a surprisingly robust earnings report, its share price enjoyed a very appreciative spike.
(Never mind that financial analysts still regard it as a tech has-been relative to the trailblazing and far more profitable Google.)
But Yahoo’s celebration had to have been bitter sweet. After all, a concurrent news report revealed that its top executives, including co-founder Jerry Yang, have been summoned by the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos (D-CA), “to clarify” alleged lies they told in previous testimony about Yahoo’s “hand in glove” relationship with China’s secret police.
Last year, in sworn testimony before my subcommittee, a Yahoo! official testified that the company knew nothing ‘about the nature of the investigation’ into Shi Tao, a pro-democracy activist who is now serving 10 years on trumped-up charges…
We have now learned there is much more to the story than Yahoo let on, and a Chinese government document that Yahoo had in their possession at the time of the hearing left little doubt of the government’s intentions. [Committee member Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)]
However, with all due respect to Rep. Smith, here, in part, is what I wrote about Yahoo’s venality in this respect in September 2005 – in an article entitled Yahoo becomes China’s most-favored national thought police:
Only weeks ago, I published an article on the Orwellian Agreements that Yahoo, Microsoft and other technology companies signed with the Chinese government to spy on the Internet activities of Chinese citizens. Of course, back then, corporate chiefs at these companies protested with indignation that they would never become stool pigeons for China’s police state.
It came as no surprise therefore when international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders reported last week that Yahoo had helped the Chinese government entrap and sentence Chinese journalist Shi Tao to 10 years in prison (a.k.a. the Ministry of Love); And, his crime?
Shi Tao dared to use his e-mail account to post on the Internet a government order barring Chinese media from marking the 15th anniversary of the brutal crackdown on democracy activists in Beijing’s Tienanmen Square.
So it was clearly public knowledge over two years ago that Yahoo conspired with the Chinese government to commit this crime against humanity. Therefore, one can be forgiven incredulity at the shock and indignation Congressmen are expressing today over this story.
Meanwhile, Yahoo must be experiencing genuine shock and apprehension. After all, given the lapse in time, it probably felt certain that it would suffer no truth or consequence for its complicity.
No matter how belated, however, I am pleased that the chickens are finally coming home to roost for Yahoo! Indeed, kudos to Chairman Lantos for demanding that Yahoo testify about its police activities that led not only to Shi Tao’s political imprisonment, but that of many other (suspected) Chinese dissidents as well:
Our committee has established that Yahoo! provided false information to Congress in early 2006….We want to clarify how that happened, and to hold the company to account for its actions both before and after its testimony proved untrue.
Investing in China: gaining profits, losing principles
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 at 11:42 AM
I thought I was appropriately deferential and congratulatory. But here’s to all who accused me of being too cynical about Gore’s Nobel:I appreciate the comments, questions and insults many of you e-mailed in response to Saturday’s article. But this cartoon expresses all I care to say in response to your e-mails.
Nevertheless, I feel obliged to note that a casual search of my weblog will make it patently clear that my criticisms of Gore’s misleading and hypocritical crusade to save the planet does not preclude my sincere and measured exhortations to save our environment….
Moreover, weighed in the balance, I’m probably more of an environmentalist than Gore is; especially where preserving the crystal-blue waters in my part of the world, the Caribbean, is concerned.
Therefore, I make no apologies for expressing such utter contempt for scaremongering headlines like “Earth in the balance” and “Planet in peril”, which are so politically motivated and commercially driven.
But I challenge acolytes of this environmental Cassandra to tell me what is more self-indulgent and cynical than Gore and other rich folks leaving their profligate carbon footprints all over Mother Earth, and then purchasing “carbon credits” for absolution? (And please do not miss – as too many of you have on previous occasions – my allusion here to papal indulgences….)
Monday, October 15, 2007 at 11:12 AM[Or why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems hell-bent on competing with Bush to see who can do most damage to U.S. ties with the Muslim world! ] One of the most salient and strategic blunders of the war in Iraq is the extent to which it has incited ill-will throughout the Muslim world towards the United States. Therefore, the last thing one would expect the Democratically-controlled Congress to do is pass a resolution that is bound to exacerbate that ill-will. Yet, that’s exactly what it is poised to do.
(Notwithstanding the Pope’s disavowed edict that Turkey does not share European values. Or French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s specious insistence that it does not belong in Europe “simply because it’s in Asia Minor”.)
Of course, it also happens to be home to the Incirlik Air Base, which serves as a strategic logistics and transfer center for American military operations in Iraq. And, despite Turkey’s public disagreements with successive U.S. governments over America’s foreign policy initiatives in places like Cyprus, Israel, and even Iraq, there has never been any doubt about the solvency of their bilateral relationship.
In fact, just weeks ago – in an interview with Charlie Rose of PBS – Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared that there are no problems at all between their two countries; and, moreover, that he’s determined to strengthen and broaden the ties that bind the U.S. and Turkey.
But now Turkey’s political leaders and, more troubling, its military generals are warning of irreparable harm and dire consequences, which could include disrupting critical operations at Incirlik and disregarding America’s standing request to refrain from engaging Kurdish “terrorists” across the boarder in Northern Iraq, if Congress passes a resolution condemning Turkey for the alleged genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915). And frankly, the national offense they have taken over the mere thought of this resolution is entirely justified!
(Not to mention that passing it could force Turkey into the camp of committed anti-American Muslim nations for generations to come.)
Indeed, never mind that even the diplomatically-challenged George W. Bush has decried this pending resolution as an egregious insult to a desperately needed and remarkably loyal ally. And never mind that it arrogates to American politicians the presumptuous role of judge and jury on a contentious matter that Turkish politicians themselves are still trying to resolve.
Because, even if the genocide at issue is an historical fact (and I’ve read enough to believe that it is), the U.S. has no compelling interest in passing this political resolution. Especially when Congress could be debating far more constructive measures to help Bush stop the genocides now unfolding in Darfur and Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, it’s instructive to note that when Rose began thanking him for the interview referenced above, Prime Minister Edogan begged for a little more time to assure the American people that, despite longstanding resistance, his government now welcomes a thorough examination of this festering historical wound. And, moreover, that if the facts conclude that a genocide was committed, then he is prepared to accept full responsibility on behalf of all Turks.
In fact, here, in part, is what he said:
This issue is not first and foremost an issue for us politicians to deal with. It must first be discussed by historians….[I have proposed to the president of Armenia that we set up a joint commission of inquiry] that will be composed of archaeologists, political scientists, legal experts, historians….
Because if there is, has been a crime, we are ready to settle our accounts with our history….Let’s move forward with this. Why should we be afraid? Why should anyone be afraid? Why are they [the Armenians] afraid? Where are their documents [proving this genocide was perpetrated]?
You cannot have this accusation without facts. The lobby [for Armenia in Washington] cannot be sufficient to judge a country like Turkey.So why is Congress going ahead with this resolution, which is scheduled for a floor vote “sometime before November 15”, despite the clear and present damage it poses?
(Not to mention the absurdity of its members making a proclamation about events that occurred during World War I, when the vast majority of the people they represent barely know what occurred during World War II.)
Alas, the reason is as venal and simplistic as the prime minister insinuated.
After all, despite being “strongly urged” against it by a bipartisan group of former Secretaries of State, including Madeleine K. Albright, James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher, Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Alexander M. Haig, Jr, Henry A. Kissinger, Colin L. Powell and George P. Shultz, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful and influential member of Congress, is determined to whip up support amongst clueless Democrats to pass this resolution.
And she’s doing so merely to honor an old campaign pledge to the “persuasive” Armenian lobby that represents a critical mass of Armenian-American voters in her home state of California.
Accordingly, as far as Pelosi is concerned, U.S. military interest in, and political goodwill towards Turkey be damned. Because the undying will of California’s Armenians to settle this historic score, at least in the U.S. Congress, must be done…?
Meanwhile, recall that Pelosi and the Democrats won control of Congress last year – in large measure – by promising to make amends throughout the Muslim world for Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy”.
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
Turkish novelist, Elif Shafak, being prosecuted for writing about Armenia genocide
Politically-incorrect Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk, wins Nobel Prize
Nancy Pelosi elected Speaker of the U.S. Congress
Save Darfur, but what about Zimbabwe
Sunday, October 14, 2007 at 12:33 PMMeanwhile, the buyers’ remorse Bush supporters are suffering is matched only by the seething envy he’s feeling towards Gore.
But, even though he has yet to issue a Shermanesque denial, trust me folks – if drafted Gore will not run! After all, even he is savvy enough to realize that being president will do nothing to enhance the political influence, or add to the googleaire cash, he’s reveling in today.
Saturday, October 13, 2007 at 7:36 PM
An Emmy, Oscar, and a Nobel: Now all that remains for Al Gore is the biggest prize of all: The White House…This morning, the Norwegian Nobel Committee revealed the worst kept secret in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize when it announced that Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are this year’s co-recipients. And in saluting them, the Committee proclaimed that they were selected:
…for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.
Meanwhile, given my series of commentaries highlighting the convenient lies Gore and the IPCC have disseminated to further their (political) cause, a number of you have already e-mailed to suggest that I must regard their selection as utter bullshit. Well, you might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment….
Instead, I shall suffice to refer you to the Related Articles below. Although, I cannot resist noting the inconvenient timing of an instructive decision an English High Court judge handed down this week. Because in ruling on whether Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, could be shown in schools, he declared that it was riddled with such egregious errors that it was unfit to show – unless accompanied by neon warnings about its inaccuracies.
But just imagine the inconvenient, if not embarrassing, irony this presented for Gore and the Nobel Committee. After all, this film not only formed the primary rationalization for awarding him this prize; but the judge actually cited the findings of the co-recipient, the IPCC, to justify his condemnation of the global-warming prophecies Gore’s film propagates as scientific fact.
Incidentally, am I the only one who wonders what sounding unwarranted alarm about climate change has to do with world peace? Of course, I suppose if the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and former Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres could win the Nobel Peace Prize for a Palestinian peace that never was, then Gore and the IPCC winning for specious environmental prophecies is no less meritorious.
Indeed, here’s what I wrote just months ago after Chinua Achebe was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for Literature:
No literate person would be surprised therefore that I think one of the great injustices in the world of literature is the fact that Achebe, 76, has never been awarded the Nobel Prize – even though he is universally acclaimed as:
…the father of modern African literature.
And, apropos political motivations, I have no doubt that these Scandinavian peaceniks are hoping that awarding Gore their coveted prize will fuel the petition drive launched recently to draft him to run for president of the United States.
After all, what better way to kill two birds with one stone: ie, rebuke war-mongering George W. Bush – by helping elect the man who personifies everything anti-Bush; and humble philanthropic-upstart Bill Clinton – by denying Bill and Hillary the opportunity to fulfill their “2 for 1” presidential ambitions. Because Hillary as president would only allow Bill to render both the Nobel Committee and the United Nations even more irrelevant with his Clinton Global Initiative….
*Published originally yesterday, Friday at 10:36 AM
Al Gore Nobel Peace Prize
Friday, October 12, 2007 at 9:02 AMA week ago today, Olympic Gold Medalist Marion Jones stood on the steps of the U.S. District Court in White Plains, NY and confessed to being a serial abuser of performance-enhancing drugs.
I was crestfallen….
After all, despite my preternatural cynicism, which compels me to doubt protestations about steroid use by almost every other athlete, I actually bought her indignant and angry denials hook, line, and sinker. But really, didn’t she look too graceful on the track, and elegant off it, to have been nothing more than just another juiced-up freak?
As public apologies go, however, hers was a tour de force: She appeared genuinely contrite – without bawling her eyes out (the way televangelist Jimmy Swaggart did when he cried me a river after getting caught in flagrante delicto with a prostitute. And she was uncannily articulate – without being too scripted (the way shock-jock Don Imus was when he begged for forgiveness after getting lassoed for calling black women on the Rutgers basketball team “nappy-headed hos”.
You have the right to be angry with me….I have let my country down and I have let myself down. I recognize that by saying that I’m deeply sorry it might not be enough and sufficient to address the pain and the hurt that I have caused you. Therefore I want to ask your forgiveness for my actions and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.
Nevertheless, what are we to make of the character and heart of this woman who divorced her husband, world shot-put champion C.J. Hunter, after he was suspended for taking steroids, and then parted ways with the father of one of her two children, former 100m world-record holder Tim Montgomery, after he too was suspended for being implicated in the BALCO steroids distribution conspiracy?
After all, she clearly wanted the world to think she was so clean that she would not even associate, let alone be intimate, with any man who takes or peddles steroids. All the while, she was probably abusing the stuff more than either Hunter or Montgomery was.
At any rate, reports are that within hours of confessing her sins, Jones offered to return her tainted Olympic medals (as if she had any choice in the matter). This, after she’d already announced her retirement (as if she could actually compete without steroids).
But not every athlete who stands to be awarded one of those medals is thrilled by the prospect. Because, just yesterday, the Nassau Guardian reported that Bahamian (“Golden Girl”) Pauline Davis-Thompson, who placed second behind Jones in the 200m at the 2000 Olympic Games, maintains that:
…she would not like receiving the gold medal in this fashion, and she would have preferred to ‘lace up her sprints and gun for it’.
And who can blame her? Indeed, even an amateur athlete like me can appreciate how tepid a consolation this would be compared to the thrill of victory she could have experienced at the Olympic Games….
Incidentally, the few months Jones will likely spend in prison will probably provide a welcome respite from her real woes. Because, according to legal pleadings published by the Los Angeles Times, even though Jones was a bona fide multimillionaire just years ago, a bank foreclosed on her $2.5 million home recently, she has been forced to sell all other properties (including a house she bought for her Mummy), she’s heavily in debt, and now has only $2,000 in the bank.
Yet Jones is only the latest, though admittedly the most famous, professional athlete to be caught in a web of lies about steroid use. Unfortunately, her fall from grace will leave fans of every Olympic sport wondering, quite rightly, if Marion wasn’t clean, then who is…?
Accordingly, this obliges me to reiterate my call to decriminalize drugs; especially in sports, which seems the only way to stop making cheaters and liars out of truly talented athletes. In fact, here’s the dose of reality I sounded over a year ago in my plea for disgraced Tour de France Champion Floyd Landis and 2004 Olympic 100m Champion Justin Gatlin:
Big-Brother authorities in cycling and track and field will pat themselves on the back for catching these big fish in their respective sports. Never mind that it is patently clear that banning these dopers will do no more to deter drug use in sports than banning Olympic Champion Ben Johnson in 1988 did.
Meanwhile, the federal indictment of Baseball’s home-run king, Barry Bonds, looms like a big African elephant in the field of professional sports. And there was probably no clearer harbinger of things to come in this regard than when Jones revealed that her steroid of choice was “the clear”, which, allegedly, is also Bonds’s favorite – although he insists on calling it “flaxseed oil”.
Now all we need is for Lance Armstrong to fess up, and for Carl Lewis to come out of the closet to resolve lingering suspicions about two of the most famous athletes in the world….
Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 9:35 AMAll around the world this week, parlor-room socialists are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. But it would not surprise me to learn that 99.9% of them have no clue who Che really was, or why they’re idolizing him.
After all, Che was little more than a middle-class doctor from Argentina who suffered a premature mid-life crisis. Instead of buying a fast car and taking a mistress, however, he decided to emulate the movie character made famous by James Dean – by becoming a rebel…with a cause. That cause, of course, was a quixotic mission to establish a new world order based on the egalitarian tenets of communism.
Although, it probably reflected an abiding death wish that Che had no patience for the non-violent political agitation that overturned unjust social orders everywhere from the Philippines to the Soviet Union and South Africa. In fact, he manifested a romantic obsession with guerrilla warfare that smacked of suicidal ideation. Moreover, it’s probably no coincidence that he had his socialist epiphany while touring South and Central America in James-Dean style… on a motorbike.
Meanwhile, one wonders why Che did not exorcise his revolutionary demons by participating in the series of political uprisings that made Argentina a rebel’s paradise during the 1950’s. Instead, fate led him to Mexico in 1954, where he met a bona fide Communist revolutionary, Fidel Castro. And soon Castro’s cause (of overthrowing the dictatorship of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista) became Che’s.
Alas, being cast as a supporting actor in Castro’s dictatorship did little to satisfy his antic lust for rebellion. Therefore, after spearheading Cuba’s ill-fated alliance with the Soviet Union (in his capacity as minister of industry and roving ambassador), Che left his now embargoed communist Shangri La in 1966 – purportedly to lead new revolutions in Africa.
But it took African guerrilla fighters little time to determine that he was more of a rhetorical firebrand (who could even make the notoriously loquacious Fidel seem taciturn) than a guerrilla fighter.
It seems fitting, however, that his itinerant life – as a revolutionary in search of a revolution – ended abruptly in the country named after the man who has inspired all Latin American revolutionaries, Simon Bolivar. Because, after traveling to Bolivia to lead a rag-tag bunch of wannabe rebels in their fight to overthrow the government of René Barrientos Ortuño, Che was captured in short order and summarily executed on 9 October 1967.
Yet, despite his failures on the battlefield, there’s no denying that no one acted (or evidently looked) more like a revolutionary than Che. But this only meant that he had far more in common with James Dean than with Fidel Castro. Indeed, nothing became of Che’s revolutionary mission quite like his dying a martyr at age 39; just as nothing became of Dean’s acting talent quite like his dying a matinee idol at age 24.
There is no other image like it. What other image has been sustained in this way? Che Guevara has become a brand. And the brand’s logo is the image, which represents change. It has becomes the icon of the outside thinker, at whatever level – whether it is anti-war, pro-green or anti-globalisation.
Its presence – everywhere from walls in the Palestinian territories to Parisian boutiques – makes it an image that is “out of control. It has become a corporation, an empire, at this point. [Trisha Ziff, the curator of a touring exhibition on the iconography of Che]
Apropos exploiting Che, leave it to President Hugo Chavez to announce that he’s giving all doctors working for Venezuela’s public health system a 60 percent pay raise to commemorate this anniversary of his death. Never mind that Che betrayed his Hippocratic Oath – namely, “Never to do deliberate harm to anyone for anyone else’s interest” – by inciting bloody revolutions all over the world.
Finally, I’m looking forward to Castro’s televised death-bed confession, in which he tells the world just how much he resents the way profiteers have mythologized Che from a socialist dilettante into a revolutionary icon. Especially since idolizing Che has overshadowed his leadership, and will no doubt undermine his legacy.
NOTE: It seems a cruel irony that Che’s legacy as a communist icon is rivaled by his legacy as a capitalist tool. Which begs the question: Are his children raking in royalties from the use of his image the way Lisa Marie is doing from the marketing of Elvis?
The answer, unfortunately, is no. For starters, copyright on the image, taken in 1960, belonged to Cuban photographer Alberto Korda Díaz, who died in 2001. But he famously rejected all royalties, and insisted only that the image be used consistent with Che’s mission. And since Korda’s death, Che’s heirs have attempted to enforce this public-spirited use of the image. Alas, given that it adorns everything from bikinis to kitchen appliances, their mission seems as doomed to failure as Che’s turned out to be….
Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 8:21 AMAuthor’s Note: On Monday night, in “The House that Ruth Built”, the New York Yankees showed themselves – for the third-consecutive year – to be the biggest and most expensive losers in the history of professional sports. But instead of searching my brain for new ways to express my schadenfreude, I shall pay homage to their phenomenal futility by merely reprising an October 2006 article – with modifications.___________________
I’m not much of a Baseball fan. In fact, I pay no attention to the sport until after Labor Day – when Division Championships begin in earnest. And even then, I find highlights on ESPN SportCenter enough to satisfy my interest.
But the New York Yankees transcend sport. In fact, they make news almost as much for their behavior off the field as they do for their play on it. And, where some players on the team are covered in the media like Hollywood stars, their spendthrift boss, George Steinbrenner, outshines them all as the biggest celebrity in the Yankees organization.
After all, the drama Steinbrenner produces with his trading players and firing (or at least threatening to fire) coaches has become such a winter saga that it rivals the entertainment value of any soap opera that airs on daytime TV. And frankly, no game this playoff season could match the suspense Steinbrenner incited last week – when he declared that if the Yanks lose to the Indians, their beloved coach, Joe Torre, would be toast!
Talk about creating performance anxiety: in coach and players alike….
But no storyline in As the Yankees Turn provides more yearly fascination than watching Steinbrenner spend obscene amounts of money to lure the best players to New York only to have them play – during the critical October pennant race and World Series – as if they were bought with phony dollar bills (and were just giving him what he paid for…).
What Boss Steinbrenner’s money does buy: April through September.
What it doesn’t buy: October, which apparently isn’t for sale at any price — even for close to a quarter-billion dollars. [ESPN.com]Of course, for those of us who can’t stand Steinbrenner’s money-can-buy-me-anything attitude, every October since the Yankees won their last World Series in 2000 has delivered unbridled glee.
For example, he acquired Alex Rodriguez (seen here, perhaps portending his fate…too) by assuming the fool’s burden of his unprecedented 10-year $252 million contract in 2003. Although, to be fair, he was not alone in thinking that this addition to a team already comprised of the game’s highest-paid players would make the Yankees perennial champions.Yet the only return Steinbrenner has gotten on his investments (during the do-or-die playoffs) is a series of spectacular losses.
Therefore, it seemed the fulfilment of poetic prophecy when the Yanks (with a 2007 team payroll of $190 million) were practically swept out of the playoffs on Monday by the Cleveland Indians (with a team payroll of only $62 million) – after losing the best of 5 games 1 to 3. And the irony was not lost on me that this outcome virtually mirrored last year’s ignominious season ender to the lowly Detroit Tigers….
Of course, their loss immediately launched sports scribes and fans into what’s becoming a fall classic of handwringing about how a team of players who are paid so much can produce so little. Indeed, in this respect, the Yankees may be in the incipient throes of a curse that will surpass the one that plagued the Boston Red Sox with 86 years of playoff futility until they won again in 2004.
Meanwhile, the prospect of another 80 years without a World Series Championship may compel even some hard-core Yankee fans, so accustomed to winning, to change their allegiances to subway rivals – the New York Mets….