Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 5:09 AMNo one should be surprised that Venezuelan President (for life) Hugo Chávez is a bullying, thin-skinned megalomaniac for whom freedom of expression is tantamount to anarchy. Nor should anyone be shocked, shocked that he’s hell-bent on squashing any political opinion that challenges his Castro-inspired quest for absolute power in Venezuela or his Bolivar-inspired quest to spread his corrupt brand of socialism throughout the Americas.
Enemies of the homeland, particularly those behind the scenes, I will give you a name: Globovision. Greetings gentlemen of Globovision, you should watch where you are going….I recommend you take a tranquilizer and get into gear, because if not, I am going to do what is necessary. [President Chávez issuing one of his trademark kiss-of-death warnings on Tuesday]
In fact, with Chávez now threatening to shut down Globovision – the only remaining TV station that does not blithely parrot his political talking points or broadcast his public bromides…verbatim – the only real questions about the simmering crisis unfolding in Venezuela are:
1. Will the Venezuelans who have taken to the streets to protest his despotic decree to shut down the country’s oldest television channel, Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), on Sunday (only to replace it with another state-run channel dedicated to promoting his political agenda) inspire military generals to perfect the 2002 failed coup against Chávez or merely goad them into executing his orders (with greater dispatch this time) to quell these protests…by any means necessary?
2. How much longer will regional leaders stand idly by as Chávez makes enabling fools of them for steadfastly praising him as the deus ex machina for their longsuffering anti-American (anti-Bush) grievances?
Alas, the answer to the first question is already becoming manifest. Because even though thousands of city-dwelling protesters appear to present a formidable force for regime change, I suspect Venezuela’s fool-me-once military generals are mindful that millions of country-side farmers are still so devoted to Chávez (their benign feudal lord) that they have their pitchforks sharpened and hoisted to defend him – just as they did in 2002. Indeed, Chávez has already issued the clarion call for them to:
Be alert, on the hillsides, in the shantytowns [in case the protests turn into another coup against me].
Therefore, either with the whimper of plaintive cries from hopelessly-weary protesters or the bang of gunfire from hopelessly-conflicted soldiers, these protests will end within days…with Chávez’s dictatorial powers enhanced immeasurably.
Nevertheless, the answer to the second question offers a little more hope. Because the only female leader in Latin America, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, has already shown that she has the political cajones to condemn this regional bully for abrogating his democratic oath so brazenly. Therefore, even Caribbean leaders – too many of whom swallowed Chávez’s PetroCaribe snake oil ever so promiscuously – must now feel compelled, if only to pump-up their limp egos, to join the chorus of those condemning him.
But I too am mindful that no less a regional leader than President George W. Bush can attest to the fact that it’s foolhardy to expect Chávez to cower or retreat under a barrage of political condemnation. After all, this Venezuelan Diablo actually thrives on such verbal jousting….
Accordingly, despite the bravery of these protesters, I am constrained to lament: Viva Chávez…and may God help the people of Venezuela.
NOTE: I feel honor-bound to disclose that I heralded Chávez’s wholly-democratic election in 1999 as a bona fide socialist revolutionary. But, as the Related Articles below delineate, my disillusion and disaffection with his leadership were swift in coming.
Meanwhile, the only silver lining in the dark political clouds now hovering over Venezuela is that these (latest) patently-dictatorial acts by Chavez might finally shame international celebrities like Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte enough to stop them from prostituting their fame in support of his regime. But I wouldn’t bet on it. After all, Chávez the munificent is bankrolling Glover’s biopic (with $18 million) on the life of Francois-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, leader of the 18th century slave rebellion that led to the founding of Haiti. (Although, in the crass and craven business of funding movies, at least this project has eminently-redeeming value….)
PetroCaribe: Let’s look this gift horse in the mouth
Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 10:55 AMI appreciate it when people have good things to say about their Caribbean vacation. After all, the livelihood of my people is dependent upon tourists having pleasant experiences and then enticing others to visit with their personal stories. But it’s always a struggle to contain my indignation when these people presume to tell me how wonderful my country is after spending a few days there lounging on a beach at some all-inclusive (invariably foreign-owned) resort. After all, these resorts reflect the daily lives of islanders about as much as Mars reflects the daily lives of earthlings.
Therefore, it is in a spirit of enlightened ignorance that I share the following story of my Serbian vacation. Never mind that I traveled there knowing more about this country than most tourists are even interested in knowing about my country, The Bahamas.
Serbia, of course, is all that remains of the former Yugoslavia: a polyglot of ethnic groups that were marshaled into a Balkan state by Western powers after World War I. But since this story is about my vacation, I shall venture no further into the history of Yugoslavia or the internecine conflicts that led inexorably to its implosion into several independent states. (However, I invite you to read the Related Articles below for a little of my thoughts on some of the issues that continue to bedevil Serbia’s national identity and economic development.)
I am always incredulous of stories by well-traveled tourists who claim to have experienced foreign countries “like the locals do”. Because the only way this is remotely possible is to have a trusted friend – who is a native of the country in question – serve as one’s host and personal tour guide. Therefore, I am extremely grateful to my friend of over 20 years for inviting me into her home in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, taking me to so many interesting sights and sharing so many local insights (gossip about Srpska posla) during my five-day visit.
On our scenic drive from the Airport, my eyes were drawn to what appeared to be Soviet-era buildings that have become eyesores as much from decades of poor maintenance and disrepair as from the ravages of war (including US bombs which destroyed a few of them in 1999). But I was also struck by the prevalence of graffiti defacing so many structures, which prompted me to remark that Belgrade must have imported the graffiti that seemed to disappear from New York City overnight many years ago.
Nevertheless, there were signs of urban renewal. And nothing symbolized this more than the Beogradska Arena – a decidedly post-Soviet complex (opened in 2004) with a seating capacity of over 20,000 that was designed to feature everything from sports events (especially basketball) to cultural programs (like the rap concert 50 Cent performed there in November 2006).
But my questions about Belgrade’s beleaguered buildings and crumbling infrastructure then prompted my host to disabuse me of any expectation that tours of Belgrade’s architecture would be the highlight of my visit. Not that I had an abiding interest in or possess the academic training to assess the architectural merit of these buildings. In fact, my questions merely reflected my informed concerns about Serbia’s enduring geopolitical and economic malaise.
Meanwhile, as we sauntered about on our daily walking tours, I was pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of city life in Belgrade – which projects the surreal character of a bustling city struggling against itself to avoid devolving back into a sprawling village. Indeed, except for evidence of its urban decay and the fact that I did not see a solitary black face amongst the teeming masses during my visit (more about that later), we could easily have been walking along the streets of London or Paris. Although, since Belgrade is hardly known as a favorite tourist destination, I was constrained to wonder whether Serbs spend more of their days gallivanting and sitting in street-side cafes than they do at work….
At any rate, our walks pass Belgrade Palace, the monumental main post office, Hotel Moskow, City Hall, the Houses of Parliament, the National Theatre and other landmarks to Terazije street and down to Kalemegdan were not without some architectural highlights. But Kalemegdan – Serbia’s largest municipal park – was a sight to behold and experience.
This park grew out of a military fortress, which dates to the 3rd Century and was reinforced and relied upon throughout its history by Serb oppressors (including the Romans, Hungarians and Turks) to keep foreign enemies and preternaturally-pugnacious Serbs at bay…. It features “artillery structures, medieval fortification with its ramparts, gateways, barbicans and the excavated ruins of a castle, the Roman remains”.
Yet despite these man-made attractions – including our pilgrimage to the quaint little Church of Sv. Petka where a couple very dear to me was married in 1946 – the highlight of Kalemegdan was looking down from our fortress promontory onto the natural wonder (i.e. the confluence) “where the Sava river gives itself to the Danube”.
Alas, I suspect I may have betrayed my overzealous interest in the tortured political history of Serbia by lobbying my host to take me to Dedinje to visit the shrine of Joseph Broz Tito, the dictator who – from 1953 until his death in 1980 – commanded solidarity and allegiance amongst the fractious peoples of the Balkans to the amorphous state of Yugoslavia.
Of course, my interest in Tito stems from the fact that he played his role as a pawn in the Cold War (geopolitical) chess game between the Soviet Union and the United States with more élan and self-determination than any other Third-World leader. But I suppose it’s a reflection of the resentful or ambivalent regard many Serbs have for him that his shrine is housed in a little shack more suitable as a resting place for gypsy patriarch than
as a memorial to the most influential leader of the former Yugoslavia.
We spent the final day of my trip in the Serbian countryside visiting the monasteries of Koporni, Ravanica and Manasija. And since I’ve already admitted that I don’t have much interest in architecture, and given the fact that my articles are suffused with religious apostasy (or iconoclasm), I can appreciate how this might seem a hypocritical sojourn. But just imagine going to Paris and not visiting Notre Dame…even if only for purely secular reasons….
At any rate, it just so happened that as we were ending our tour of Ravanica, several school buses filled with students from local villages pulled up for guided tours – which I gathered are as much a rite of passage for “good Serbs” as pilgrimages to Mecca are for Saudis. And it was here that my acute sense of being a black man in Serbia was brought into stark relief.
Because even though I noticed curious stares from people in the streets of Belgrade, no one ever uttered a word to me. By contrast, there was no mistaking the endearing and intriguing stares in the eyes of almost every one of the students who passed us by on their way into the monastery. And, just as my host was interpreting their not-so-subtle whispers (“wow, there’s a black man”), a statuesque young girl, about age 12, approached us. And, in perfect English, she asked my host, strangely enough, if it would be okay for one of her friends to take a picture of her and me. I was only too happy to oblige….
(Incidentally, I hasten to note that in my interactions with people – from Serbs who served me in restaurants to those who fielded my queries at tourist sites – they were all exceedingly cordial, helpful and even friendly!)
Truth be told, however, the most memorable part of my trip was spent indoors chatting expansively over lavish meals at the homes of local Serbs – as we did for hours every day. Indeed, I could not help thinking that whatever my Serbian friend lacks in material comfort – by admittedly ostentatious American standards – is more than compensated for by family and friends who indulge her passion for good food and stimulating conversation to almost bacchanalian excess.
My only regret is that the few phrases I managed to mumble in Serbian provided little more than comic relief for these multi-lingual folks whose command of English would make most of my American friends blush with envy. But after this brief visit, I feel comfortable declaring that:
Ja se ponosim sto sam pocasni crni Srbin
NOTE: Click here to plan your visit to Serbia.
Monday, May 28, 2007 at 9:33 AM
Friday, May 18, 2007 at 10:08 AMIMMIGRATION
Just a few weeks ago, before heading out on my annual march in support of rights for illegal immigrants, I wrote another article in my series of laments about the failure of the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. And in that article I reiterated that only the McCain-Kennedy bill contained all of the provisions to assimilate the 12 million illegal immigrants who, quite frankly, are here to stay anyway!
…with all due respect to Bush, comprehensive immigration reform will be enacted only if legislators like Sen John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen Ted Kennedy (D-MA) [pictured here with Sen Arlen Specter (R-PA) to Kennedy’s right and McCain in background] usher their bipartisan bill (which includes all of Bush’s 5 points except with regular border patrol police, not National Guard troops, enforcing the border) through Senate…and could reconcile it with the bill proffered by Republicans in the House (which includes making felons of illegal immigrants and seems designed, incomprehensibly, to deport them all back to Mexico). [The iPINIONS Journal, 16 May 2006]The good news is that a bipartisan group of U.S. senators finally agreed on a draft immigration reform bill, which includes the controversial path to citizenship and other provisions highlighted as follows:
- All illegal immigrants who arrived before Jan. 1, 2007, could stay and work after paying a $1,500 fee, passing a criminal background check, and showing a strong work record.
- They would also have to pay a fine of $5,000.
- After eight years, they could apply for a green card.
- A new visa category would be created for parents of U.S. citizens, allowing them to visit for up to 100 days per year.
- A temporary-worker program would allow 400,000 immigrant workers to enter on two-year visas, after which they would have to return home for a year before reapplying. The visas could be renewed up to three times.
- A new point system would add factors for green-card eligibility to lessen the “chain migration” of family members.
- The Border Patrol and interior enforcement would be expanded, and a new security perimeter would be created. Such border enforcement provisions would have to be implemented before immigrant-rights measures take effect.
Of course, this bill faces vituperative (bipartisan) resistance from jingoistic “no-open-borders” House members (and Lou Dobbs, the self-appointed arbiter of acceptable immigration policy). Yet chances are very good that it will be reconciled and sent to the White House in due course. And President George W Bush has already declared – in vintage bumper-sticker fashion – that he is anxious to sign it into law “without amnesty and without animosity”.
[This bill represents] the best possible chance we will have in years to secure our borders and bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America. [Sen Ted Kennedy]In the meantime, just ignore all of the semantic rantings about whether or not this is an amnesty bill. Because for all intents and purposes, this draft bill amounts to nothing less than amnesty; and calling it by any other name does not change this fact.
However, as I indicated in the above-referenced article over a year ago, it behooved the Republican-controlled Congress to pass this bill on their watch to guarantee the Republican Party “a bloc of Hispanic voters more reliable than the black vote has been for the Democratic Party for almost a half century.”
But their failure to do so redounds to the benefit of the Democrats who now control Congress. Because, if this bill becomes law, the Democratic Party will have enough die-hard supporters amongst blacks and Hispanics to control Congress for generations to come.
Nevertheless, this is indeed good news. But stay tuned….
Apropos tuning in (or moving from the sublime to the ridiculous), a couple nights ago – after months of nagging and goading, some of the more overweening readers of my weblog finally prevailed upon me this week to record my first, and possibly last, podcast.
So click here to hear me ramble….
NOTE: Some of my Haitian brothers have turned from calling me a formidable advocate for Haitian migrant rights to condemning me as a traitor. Click here to read my Caribbean Net News article that has incited their fratricidal rage….
Thursday, May 17, 2007 at 10:08 AMLast Friday, Caribbean Net News (CNN) published my commentary – entitled The tragedy of being Haitian at home and at sea – on the interdiction of a Haitian boat by the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) police, which resulted in the tragic death of 61 refugees after the boat capsized. And in that commentary I observed that unofficial (and even conflicting) news reports on this incident seemed to lead every Haitian and a fair number of TCIslanders to believe that action against the TCI police for gross misconduct, if not criminal offenses, was warranted.
But after it incited hysterical calls for summary arrests of the police and demands for compensation from the TCI government, I felt obliged to write a follow-up commentary – entitled Calls to punish the TCI police for the Haitian boat tragedy are premature, if not unwarranted – in which I admonished everyone to reserve judgment until British investigators – who were dispatched from London to the TCI – publish the findings of their official report. CNN ran this commentary the following day: last Saturday.
Little did I know, however, that as CNN was preparing to publish my first commentary, the BBC was preparing to publish the findings of an official report by British investigators on another far more notorious incident involving the British police. Perhaps some of you recall how Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes was shot eight times at Stockwell Tube station in London on 22 July 2005 – after being mistaken by the police for a suicide bomber.
Well, according to the BBC, after lengthy interviews and an exhaustive investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service “found no evidence to warrant the prosecution of any individual over the shooting of Mr Menezes”: An acquittal, incidentally, even more shocking and inconsistent with the undisputed facts than the acquittal of the white cops who were caught on tape beating the crap out of Rodney King, which provoked the 1992 Los Angeles riots. But the Metropolitan police disciplinary tribunal went even further in concluding that none of the officers directly involved in this shooting will even have to face disciplinary action.
This is hardly the forum to rehash details about the Menezes affair. Therefore, I shall suffice to note that initial news reports led every Brazilian and a fair number of Britons to believe that action against the British police for gross misconduct, if not criminal offenses, was warranted. Hence, it is not all surprising that this official report was greeted with utter indignation, frustration and dismay – as expressed in the following quote by Menezes’ cousin, Patricia da Silva Armani:
It is a travesty of justice and another slap in the face for our family. The police officers’ lives go on as normal while we exist in turmoil.
More to the point, however, if British authorities found no cause to charge any of the British policemen involved in the shooting of this “entirely-innocent” Brazilian immigrant, then surely fairness and equal justice preclude them from finding cause to charge any of the TCI policemen involved in the drowning of these desperate Haitians migrants – no matter what they determine are the undisputed facts.
After all, the TCI police could at least make a good-faith argument that – even if this tragedy was precipitated by their negligence and exacerbated by their incompetence – the drownings were just a terrible accident (or a weather-related act of God as I posited in my follow-up commentary). Whereas, the British police would be hard-pressed to explain firing eight shots – with intent to kill – into an unarmed Menezes who, according to eye witnesses, neither resisted arrest nor acted in any suspicious or threatening manner whatsoever.
Therefore, in light of this Menezes precedent, I urge the TCI government and British authorities to avoid compounding the suffering of grieving and aggrieved Haitians by conducting a prolonged investigation (the Menezes one took over 18 months) only to arrive at the inescapable acquittal of the TCI police as well. Instead, they should focus on improving preparedness and techniques to ensure that the conduct of the police in future interdiction operations is beyond reproach.
Finally, as I indicated in the above-referenced follow-up commentary, it would foster indispensable goodwill abroad and nip anxieties and restiveness in the bud at home (especially amongst our local Haitian population) for the TCI government to voluntarily offer to compensate the affected families – not only for their loss, but also to help them cope with their grief. Never mind the moral imperative that should compel it to do so….
I am acutely mindful that no accident or death at sea will ever deter Haitians from fleeing the nightmare of their daily lives at home. [from The tragedy of being Haitian at home and at sea]
Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 10:21 AMYesterday God struck down controversial televangelist Rev Jerry Falwell with a sudden heart attack. He died while sitting comfortable in his office at Liberty University, which he founded in 1971 in his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia as a Bible training college. It is a manifestation of God’s abiding grace, however, that he allowed Falwell to live more than his allotted “threescore years and ten” – as promulgated by His word in Psalms 90. He was 73.
Of course, Falwell’s death is noteworthy primarily because during his life he did more than anyone else in American history to undermine the Jeffersonian (legal and political) principle of separation of church and state. Indeed, he was as much a preacher as he was a politician as he pioneered a fundamentalist movement all over the United States to turn church services into political rallies for conservative social causes.
Alas, Falwell was not only possessed of a messianic complex, which made him presume that he spoke for a “moral majority” in America (that was neither moral nor a majority); he was also beset by a delusional fixation with homosexuality, which made him suspect that teletubby Tinky Winky, a cartoon character on a children’s television program, is a gay mascot furthering a political conspiracy to turn America from a (predominantly) Judeo-Christian into a queer nation.
But I never minded Falwell using his bully pulpit to condemn homosexuality (indoctrinating his congregation with such misanthropic aphorisms as “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve) or any anything else he thought was abomination unto the Lord. Instead, I abhorred, religiously, his venal self-righteousness, which was never more on display than in an interview with the equally messianic, delusional and self-righteous Rev Pat Robertson just days after 9/11, when Falwell intoned:
…to the pagans, abortionists, feminists gays and lesbians…and all those that tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say you helped make this happen.
(To which Robertson replied, incidentally: “I concur”.)
But since my Mummy told me to never speak ill of the dead, I shall end by noting that, based on the Bible in which he professed such blind, unqualified and unconditional faith, Falwell might be in for a rude awakening when Saint Peter greets him at the Pearly gates….
Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 10:19 AMLast February I published an article in which I expressed dismay and consternation over the refusal of the Japanese government to acknowledge the historical fact that Japanese authorities forced “comfort women” in Japanese-occupied territories to work as sex slaves during World War II. But here, in part, is how I urged the relatively-new government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to break this imperial code of denial:
[I]t behooves Japan to formally acknowledge, accept responsibility and apologize for the systematic sexual enslavement of these women. After all, just as Germany was compelled – not only politically but also morally – to offer an official apology and commensurate compensation to victims of the Holocaust, so too Japan should recognize its political and moral duty to offer an official apology and commensurate compensation to the victims of these crimes against humanity (many of whom are still alive, thank God, to give personal and eye-witness testimony).
Indeed, I urged this reckoning upon the Japanese because I suspected it was just a matter of time before irrefutable proof exposed them not only as enablers of the pimping legacy of their predecessors but also as willful abusers of these women all over again because of their attempts to pimp them off with hush money…from a private slush fund.
Unfortunately, instead of leading his country on a redemptive path towards truth and reconciliation, Abe compounded the original sin by insisting (as reported by the Japan Times on 8 March 2007) that:
…there is no evidence that the wartime army coerced women in Japanese-occupied territories into sexual slavery.
Therefore, I was not at all surprised when the Kyodo news agency reported on Friday that:
…new documents have been found that suggest the Japanese authorities forced women to work as sex slaves during World War II.
Nevertheless, I fear that Japanese leaders have become utterly committed to their own revisionist history. These are people, after all, who provoked a still-simmering schoolyard row with China after they whitewashed from school textbooks many wartime atrocities the Japanese military committed against the Chinese people during WWII.
Therefore, instead of emulating the German government as I urged them to, Japanese leaders seem determined to emulate Holocaust deniers by continuing to deny that their war heroes ever forced women to work as sex slaves….
Japan refuses to apologise to former sex slaves
Monday, May 14, 2007 at 9:57 AM
The Robert Mugabe government of Zimbabwe is the most corrupt, dysfunctional and incompetent in Africa. And, on a continent that has the most corrupt, dysfunctional and incompetent governments in the entire world, Mugabe’s achievement in this regard is a truly dubious distinction. [The iPINIONS Journal, March 2005]
Since 2000 I have written a series of forlorn articles about international sufferance of the genocide being perpetrated in Zimbabwe under the iron-fisted rule of its de facto dictator-for-life, Robert Mugabe. And I’ve been harshly critical of African leaders, most notably South African President Thabo Mbeki, for breaking their pledge (made after the 1994 Rwandan Genocide) that never again would they standby and allow innocent Africans to be ethnically cleansed for political gain. Because they’ve done just that – not only in open and notorious fashion vis-à-vis Darfur, Sudan, but also in more “politically-correct”, though less celebrated fashion in relation to Zimbabwe.
Nevertheless, I clung to the hope that UN General Secretary Kofi Annan would honor a similar pledge he made on behalf of the United Nations. After all, my hope was informed by the fact that, in making his pledge, Annan – a purportedly proud African – apologized to Africa and the international community for “failing to sound the alarm” in his capacity as the head of the UN Peacekeeping Operations as the Rwandan Genocide unfolded.
Five years ago, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa; today, it is a basket case of starving people. Five years ago, there were 4000 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe; today, there are only 400 – mostly unproductive – farms left. [The iPINIONS Journal, March 2005]
But my forlorn hope for the oppressed people of Zimbabwe suffered a devastating blow in November 2005. Because that was when, despite voluminous reports about how he was starving his people (and ethnically cleansing his political opponents), the UN Food and Agricultural Organization gave Mugabe an international platform in Rome to seem relevant and respected. And, betraying why the UN itself is now such a corrupt, dysfunction and incompetent institution, Mugabe mounted that platform and condemned America and Europe for “crippling the development of agriculture in Zimbabwe”…to the rousing applause of his fellow delegates.
Imagine my indignation, therefore, when I read news reports on Friday that Zimbabwe had been elected to head the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development. After all, this election reflected far more than international sufferance of Mugabe’s genocidal rule; this actually sanctioned it! And, with that, what little hope I had that the UN might impose sanctions against Mugabe to save Zimbabwe was effectively sapped.
Meanwhile, at least I derived a little consolation from the fact that – in reaction to this UN electoral farce – Prime Minster John Howard ordered Australia’s world-class cricket team to cancel a planned tour of Zimbabwe in September to play three one-day tournaments. Here, in part, is how he expressed his outrage and explained his order:
The Mugabe regime is behaving like the Gestapo towards its political opponents….I have no doubt that if this tour goes ahead it will be an enormous boost to this grubby dictator.
Hear, hear! Never mind my wonder about why, given the ferocity of Howard’s indignation, the Australians were planning this tour in the first place….
More importantly, however, is it any wonder that so much of Africa remains mired in dire straits when member states from this Dark Continent nominated Zimbabwe and were primarily responsible for its election? And, what does it say about the future of Zimbabwe when its Ambassador to the UN, Boniface Chidyausiku, accepted this dubious honor by declaiming defiantly that:
When they tell the African group to change, it’s an insult to our intelligence – that we Africans can’t think.
No Ambassador Chidyausika, it’s not that you can’t think; it’s that your genocidal way of thinking is an insult to our shared humanity.
And shame on the United Nations…again!
Sunday, May 13, 2007 at 11:22 AM
Saturday, May 12, 2007 at 12:23 PMReports that the Iraqi Parliament is planning a two-month summer break provoked American critics of the Iraq war to vent what little outrage they had left. But this, in turn, prompted the preternaturally tone-deaf President George W. Bush to dispatch VP Dick Cheney to Iraq this week to scare those insolent and indolent Iraqi politicians straight.
And, one can just imagine Cheney warning them and their Iranian warlords that if they retreat to their summer homes in Iran as planned, when they return, not only will there be no American GIs left in Iraq to cover their asses, but that a new Saddam and unreformed Sunni fedayeen (Uday Hussein’s specially-trained torturers) will be in charge, and all too happy to greet them.
Unfortunately, what the White House says in Iraq these days has even less resonance and respect than what comes out of it in the USA. Therefore, don’t be surprised if Iraqi politicians take their break and ignore all of the reconstructed “benchmarks” that Bush and the Congress are haggling over to repackage and send to Iraq as a pretext for keeping American soldiers in the killing fields over there indefinitely.
NOTE: My CNN commentary on the Haitian boat tragedy – published here yesterday – unwittingly inspired such rabid calls for retribution against the TCI police that I felt obliged to write a follow-up commentary admonishing against a rush to judgment, which is published here today.
Friday, May 11, 2007 at 10:14 AMGiven the article I published yesterday on The belated resignation of British PM Tony Blair, you can be forgiven the impression that I think Former President Bill Clinton surpassed Blair as a national leader in every respect. But this is not so.
Because – in another historic juxtaposition of their careers – while Clinton was trying in the waning days of his presidency to seal his legacy by brokering an elusive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, Blair was just beginning his efforts to broker an equally elusive end to centuries of sectarian “troubles” between Protestants (a.k.a. Ulster Unionists) and Catholics (a.k.a. Irish Republicans) in Northern Ireland. But where Clinton’s last-ditch efforts ended in spectacular failure, Blair may have sealed his legacy on Tuesday by ending his 10-year effort with a spectacular success.
The day’s events offered the chance for Northern Ireland to escape the heavy chains of history and make history anew….Look back and we see centuries pock-marked by conflict, hardship, even hatred, among the people of these islands.[British PM Tony Blair]
Indeed, the good news is that devolution has now returned to the Northern Ireland Assembly. And it comes five years after overt hostilities between these perennially-warring factions forced Blair’s government to suspend the devolution it had ceded to them in a power-sharing government.
But, given the knowledge of his looming (forced) resignation, it must have been particularly gratifying to Blair that after leaders on both sides of this religious and political struggle pledged their commitment to a new era of peace, each of them thanked him most of all for making it possible.
This was not a process that promised quick or easy rewards. But he (Tony Blair) has been a true friend of peace, and a true friend of Ireland. [Bertie Ahern, Irish Republic Premier]
Today we are starting upon the road which I believe will take us to lasting peace in our province….I welcome the pledge we have all taken to that effect today. [Ian Paisley, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader]
I think what today proves is that dialogue and perseverance and tenacity and persistence can bring about results. [Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein (“Republican” party) president]
Meanwhile, it is ironic that although ongoing sectarian violence between Shia and Sunnis in Iraq sealed his doom as prime minister, this cessation of sectarian hostilities between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland may have sealed Blair’s legacy as one of the UK’s most effective leaders.
More importantly, however, if these Christians can settle their purportedly-eternal internecine conflict to live together in peace, then hope springs eternal that Muslims still fighting in Iraq will do the same….
NOTE: The government of my mother country, the Turks and Caicos Islands, may have the blood of at least 61 Haitian refugees on its hands. Click here for my CNN article – entitled The tragedy of being Haitian at home and at sea – on this unfolding Caribbean tragedy.
Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 10:19 AMReports are that Tony Blair will end the long vigil over his premiership later today by finally announcing his resignation. But this news will be greeted with as many cheers as tears. And that’s a damn shame. Because Blair began his tenure as prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1997 with all of the promise that attended Bill Clinton’s inauguration as president of the United States in 1992.
Indeed, it stands as a historic juxtaposition that – by the time Blair was inaugurated – the tragic (personal) flaws that had beset Clinton’s entire career were about to consummate his fate as an impeached president. Whereas, at that time, Blair seemed to possess not only the political genius that made Clinton so promising but also the personal character that made Former President Jimmy Carter so trustworthy. And this combination of leadership traits made any notion that his career was fated to even greater ignominy than Clinton’s utterly unthinkable.
But then came Iraq. And the rest, as we say, is history….
Blair is facing a vote of no-confidence that could boot him out of office for the same reason that Bush is facing threats of impeachment: Iraq, Iraq, Iraq! [The iPINIONS Journal March 2006]
In fact, it has been evident for years that Blair’s enabling (and ultimately co-dependent) support for President Bush’s war in Iraq had caused his premiership to become irretrievably broken down. Therefore, the only wonder about today’s announcement is that he survived for so long as an essentially lame-duck prime minister.
After all, one would have expected disaffected Labourites to deploy the same Parliamentary machinations to oust him from office that disaffected Conservatives deployed to oust Margaret Thatcher in 1990. Especially since they booted her for such misdemeanor offenses (related to her policies on local taxation and EU integration) compared to Blair’s high crime of leading the country on a march of folly into a war that has proved as costly as it was contrived.
(But don’t expect the liberal patrons who fund Clinton’s millionaire lifestyle as world leader emeritus to be as generous towards you.)
Blair wins 3rd term but loses Labour’s confidence
Think quagmire in Iraq is hurting Bush? Consider Blair
Bush-Blair futile spin on their Iraq legacy
Blair caught selling seats in House of Lords for campaign cash
Tony Blair resignation
Wednesday, May 9, 2007 at 11:23 AMThe FBI made quite a show at a news conference this afternoon of announcing the arrest of six Islamic militants for allegedly:
…plotting to attack the Army’s Fort Dix [in New Jersey] and kill as many American soldiers as possible.And the competitive elbow to the ribs of sister agency, the CIA, was not lost on me when U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie stood before his FBI agents and sang their praises as follows:
We have done what American law enforcement officers are supposed to do in this post-9/11 era: To be one step ahead of those who are trying to harm American citizens…The people of New Jersey can rest assured that this terror threat has been taken care of.Perhaps.
But if I were a New Jersey resident, far from resting assured, I would have been unnerved by the misplaced confidence law-enforcement authorities exuded during this news conference. After all, but for an alert video-store clerk, they would have been as clueless about this plot as they were about the path to 9/11. Because, according to the Washington Post, these wannabe terrorists practically gave themselves up when they took a video of themselves preparing for their mission to a video store to be dubbed onto high resolution DVDs. And, thank God, the clerk alerted the police.Moreover, I am mindful that the FBI are fond of citing how their sleuthing foiled the Millennium plot to blow up the Los Angeles Airport in December 1999. Yet, in that case, but for an alert U.S. immigration officer at the Canadian border, they would have been clueless about this plot as well. Because, after finding this wannabe terrorist suspicious, this officer ordered the search of his car which turned up the massive amounts of explosives he was carrying to execute his mission.
Beyond this, however, I wonder how many plots are now underway that will not be foiled by such fortuitous circumstances. After all, I recall Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s dire warning that President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” will inspire 1000 bin Ladens to plot attacks against America. And, this foiled attack only reinforces how terribly easy it is for them to do so. (The chickens are coming home to roost….)
Nevertheless, I suppose there’s honor in (and we can derive some comfort from) the fact that the Fort-Dix six were targeting a military base instead of a shopping mall, football stadium or university campus (although they probably deferred here to American students who seem to have a monopoly on this terror enterprise…).
Meanwhile, am I the only one who finds it ironic that four of these jihadists, including including Eljvir Duka and his two brothers, are “ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia”? After all, the American soldiers they were plotting to kill are the very ones who helped liberate their people in Kosovo from their “Serb oppressors”. Never mind that this is no more ironic than the fact that – after liberating them from their Sunni oppressors – Iraqi Shias (under the Machiavellian leadership of Cleric Muqtada al Sadr) now seem every bit as hell-bent as Sunni insurgents are on killing and driving Americans soldiers out of Iraq. Go figure….
Alas, I fear it’s a fool’s errand to seek reason and understanding in the genocidal devices of Islamic militants. Indeed, here’s how one of the six who were arrested yesterday expressed the holy crusade they’re all so diabolically committed to:
It doesn’t matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested or get taken away….Or I die, it doesn’t matter. I’m doing it in the name of Allah.And, on the 16 months of surveillance recordings the FBI gathered on them, another jihadist reportedly chimes in as follows:
In the end, when it comes to defending your religion, when someone is trying attacks your religion, your way of life, then you go jihad.God help us!
NOTE: FBI assurances that these men were not affiliated with al Qaeda should disabuse anyone of the notion that the invasion of Iraq is the casus belli for the clash of religions or civilizations that Islamic militants from all over the world seem so determined to fight.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 10:45 AM
Despite Iraq (and Zimbabwe), Bush and the Queen proclaim commitment to defend and spread liberty around the worldLike most Washingtonians, I tuned in to watch the Arrival Ceremony for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the White House yesterday. But where most people seemed taken in by the elaborate pomp and circumstance on display (and by speculation about the menu and guest lists for tea and dinner), I was actually taken aback by some of Bush’s and the Queen’s welcoming remarks:
We understand and accept the burdens of global leadership. And we have built our special relationship on the surest foundations — our deep and abiding love of liberty…. Today our two nations are defending liberty against tyranny and terror….
You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 — in 1976. (Laughter.) She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child. (Laughter.) [President George W. Bush, complete with patented gaffe]
And it is the time to look forward, jointly renewing our commitment to a more prosperous, safer and freer world. [HM Queen Elizabeth II]
After all, I expected them to limit their mutual admiration to platitudes about their much-vaunted “special relationship”, which evidently dictates that if the United States jumps off a cliff (into Iraq for example), the United Kingdom would jump too. Instead, they both spoke in a manner and of deeds that invoked the halcyon days of British imperialism – with Bush blithely claiming (as the Queen herself might have 50 years ago) “the [white man’s] burdens of global leadership.”
Except, of course, that that burdensome war in Iraq made a mockery of the utility (or futility as the case might be) of their remarks. Indeed, no matter how much paint was plastered on the White House or how many toy soldiers were costumed for the occasion, Iraq trampled over their words like a pink elephant dropping fecal IEDs on the South Lawn. And, never mind that Bush’s approval ratings are so low that the only leadership he’s showing these days is in setting new standards for presidential incompetence and lame duckery….
Meanwhile, apropos “the white man’s burden”, it would appear the Queen has developed an acute case of selective deafness when it comes to the despairing cries of her subjects in the British Commonwealth nation of Zimbabwe. Because as she was enjoying a weekend of horse racing, her own British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC) was airing an interview with Zimbabwean Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo in which he decried the failure of leadership in her Commonwealth to rescue his people from the genocidal tyranny of their president, Robert Mugabe.
In fact, I extolled Archbishop Ncube’s leadership in this respect in an article over two years ago – when he was calling on fellow Zimbabweans to revolt against Zimbabwe, not looking to US and UK crusaders to liberate them. Unfortunately, since then, Mugabe has squashed the notion of revolution with such an iron fist that even Ncube has been reduced to pleading for him to just resign in the name of the Lord.
The situation in Zimbabwe is getting steadily worse but even though people’s morale has been broken they should not be intimidated….President Mugabe must go….You can’t negotiate with him. It’s useless. African presidents have tried to negotiate with that man to no avail.
Meanwhile, genocide rages on in Zimbabwe under the deaf, dumb and blind auspices of Her Majesty the Queen – with heads of state of her Commonwealth of nations doing more to cuddle Mugabe than to liberate his victims. Which, of course, makes a mockery of the Queen’s proclamation of the United Kingdom’s commitment “to a more prosperous, safer and freer world.”
Monday, May 7, 2007 at 10:22 AM
France has given me everything, and now it is my turn to render to France that France has given me. [Nicolas Sarkozy, president-elect of France]Two weeks ago, after Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal advanced to a run-off election to become the next president of France, I wrote the following wishful prospect:
…[N]o regular reader of this weblog will be surprised by my fervent wish to see Royal, a former environment minister, elected president of France. After all, based on her ideology and a comparative analysis of their policies, I clearly have more common cause with Royal than with Sarkozy.
(Although, ironically enough, I sympathize with Sarkozy’s pledge to “rupture” France from its encrusted habits (especially of doling out unsustainable welfare benefits and indulging a 35-hour work week) which make the French too complacent as well as devoid of the entrepreneurial vigor that is necessary to survive and compete economically in the 21st Century. Alas, most Frenchmen regard this vow as a symptom of the American-style impudence and recklessness that afflict Sarkozy. Indeed, Sarkozy displays a Blairite affinity for America that any self-respecting Frenchman must find particularly galling. And this, more than anything else, is why a majority of them will vote for Royal in the runoff.)
I would like Royal to win also because she would immediately become the most appealing, dynamic and influential member of my “woman-power” club of female heads of state – with all due respect to sehr geehrte Frau Merkel, the first female Chancellor of Germany.As things turned out, however, a record number of Frenchmen (reportedly 85%) voted yesterday to elect Sarkozy over Royal by a relatively decisive margin. Nevertheless, I hereby applaud their better judgment unreservedly.
Indeed, I’m obliged to note that Royal did not inspire much confidence in her leadership in the waning days of her run-off campaign when she insinuated that France’s disenfranchised, disaffected and disillusioned immigrants would have just cause to riot – as they did a year and a half ago – if Sarkozy were elected. Because this clearly amounted to nothing more than a shameful, irresponsible and hysterical act of political pandering, which I found unworthy of her candidacy.
Never mind that – far from rioting – many of those immigrants were in the streets last night celebrating Sarkozy as the leader who will provide meaningful jobs, lower their taxes and enforce law and order. After all, not only do they comprise the vast majority of the chronically unemployed; they are also most often the victims of crime. Of course, France’s smattering of anarchists were all too happy to be goaded by Royal….
Meanwhile, during his victory speech last night, Sarkozy endeared himself on this side of the Atlantic when he pointedly rejected France’s counter-Americanism, which his predecessor Jacques Chirac proselytized so zealously, by declaring that:
American friends…can rely on our friendship…France will always be next to them when they need us.
Vive La France!
Sunday, May 6, 2007 at 11:50 AMAlas, despite all the foreplay, ABC’s 20/20 “exposé” on Friday, which promised to out “some of the most newsworthy names in Washington” who were allegedly listed in a DC madam’s black book, turned out to be a frustrating anti-climax at best. In fact, Geraldo’s grand opening of Al Capone’s empty vault was more stimulating TV.
Therefore, please forgive me for enticing you to tune in to this ABC pep show. Because, if you did, you must feel like a sucker too.
(And to think that my favorite investigative reporter, ABC’s Brian Ross, allowed this madam to pimp him like a media whore to get us all hot and bothered about this show.)
Our decision at the end was not to name any names. [After all] based on our reporting it turned out not to be as newsworthy as we thought in terms of the names.
[Brian Ross delivering the line during Friday night’s broadcast of 20/20 that left viewers all over America with blue balls]
No S#!+ Brian…
Brian Ross to expose DC madam’s black book
Saturday, May 5, 2007 at 11:43 AM
Friday, May 4, 2007 at 10:19 AM
Everyone had a theory for the low turnout [The Washington Post]It’s been 16 years since HM Queen Elizabeth II made her last state visit to the United States. Therefore, in light of this absence, her (PR) firm can be forgiven the impression that the American people were waiting in suspended animation to shower her with lots of pent-up fondness.Alas, what a royal disappointment it must have been when this British flying circus was greeted in my resident state of Virginia yesterday by fewer (and less enthusiastic) royal gawkers than the throngs who gawk at royal lookalikes every day along Hollywood Boulevard. And this disappointment must have been made humiliating by the fact that organizers no doubt felt they had guaranteed a good turnout by staging the opening ceremonies for this tour on the campus of Virginia Tech University.But, even though they were a captive audience, it was probably ill-advised to impose upon these still-in-shock students in this way – even if you’re the Queen of England. Never mind that the only frame of reference most of these kids have for Her Majesty is of her being played with uncanny verisimilitude by Helen Mirren – in the box-office hit The Queen – as the constipated, cold-hearted old fart who snubbed Princess Diana so royally after she died. Indeed, how ironic that the first stop on the Queen’s U.S. tour is a patently-contrived visit to comfort the survivors and grieving families of the massacre at Virginia Tech….Meanwhile, thanks to her hopelessly-conflicted son Prince Charles and the global-warming Messiah Al Gore (whose book An Inconvenient Truth is replacing the bible in U.S. hotels) there’s more interest throughout the rest of America in how big a carbon footprint the Queen will leave behind than in what she’ll be doing during her trip.Now, lest you think I hate the Queen, let me hasten to disabuse you of that notion. Because it’s not Elizabeth II I abhor; instead, it’s the absurdly-anachronistic and inherently-undemocratic prerogatives of monarchy which she personifies.We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to stop. [Queen Elizabeth II]Much is being made of the Queen’s visit to Jamestown today to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first settlement in America by English colonizers. But few locals seem in the mood to celebrate. Instead, many of them are calling for her to apologize on behalf of the Great Britain for introducing slavery throughout the Americas and slaughtering so many native Americans.And given the ironic desire of royals to please commoners these days, the Queen may well offer a non-apology apology – by expressing “heart-felt regret” for these horrific atrocities. But, as hot air goes, I fear this would only increase her carbon footprint unnecessarily. (See Fatally-flawed demands for…apology for slavery in “Related Articles” below)Finally, the British media have often reported that the Queen loves dogs and horses more than she loves humans. Therefore, I have no doubt that she’ll suffer all of these tiresome royal duties with a smile just for the treat of being able to finally “fulfil a lifelong dream…by attending the Kentucky Derby at the Churchill Downs racetrack” tomorrow….NOTE: I suspect this will turn out to be the Queen’s last visit to America. Therefore, I wish her Godspeed, even if I cannot bring myself to pray “God Save the Queen”.Related Article:
A little more about the British royals
Prince Charles insinuates that Gore stole his global-warming message
Fatally-flawed demands for reparations and a full apology for slavery
Thursday, May 3, 2007 at 10:24 AMThe consensus opinion going into yesterday’s elections was that the two major Parties were so evenly matched that the outcome was very much in doubt. (See yesterday’s article below) And, unofficial results show why there was so much doubt.
Because, according to government TV, the opposition FNM appears to have ousted the ruling PLP in dramatic fashion. And the Party is claiming 23 seats – versus the PLP’s 18 – in the 41-seat legislative House of Assembly. The previous composition of the House was PLP 29, FNM 7, and Independent 4.
Even though the FNM lambasted his government with pot-calling-the-kettle-black charges about giving away too much “Crown Land” to foreign investors, it was really Prime Minister Perry Christie’s failure of leadership, which was highlighted by the scandal surrounding the late Anna Nicole Smith, that sealed the PLP’s doom. In fact I criticized his shortcomings in this respect when I wrote the following (in this article on 20 February about the burgeoning scandal involving his minister of immigration, Shane Gibson, who was grappling with the damning accusation that he fast-tracked the residency permit of Anna Nicole for personal reasons):
This, alas, brings me to the antic support he received from our beloved prime minister [Perry Christie] – who wistfully described Gibson as a “competent and capable individual [whose resignation will be] a loss for the entire country”. Because, frankly, I was stupefied when he echoed the charge that Gibson was a victim of “an organized conspiracy to take him out”.
After all, if Mr Christie believed that the leader of the opposition (FNM) party was trying to scapegoat such a valuable member of his cabinet and a man he considers a “genuine friend”, then he should have encouraged Gibson “to stand to slug it out” – as Gibson made clear he wanted to do during that ill-fated interview. Especially since, after accepting his resignation, the prime minister lamented the irony, if not hypocrisy, that when three members of the opposition were similarly compromised they refused to resign….But in that same article (and in this one from 3 March) I admonished Christie as follows:
Accordingly, again I plea: To preserve the integrity of his government, Prime Minister Perry Christie must demand Gibson’s resignation [not only as minister but also as a renominated MP] forthwith!
And my plea is urgent. Because it is very likely that more embarrassing, if not incriminating, information about Mr Gibson’s involvement with Anna Nicole will be published in the coming days and weeks to titillate the world and humiliate us. Indeed, it behooves the prime minister to appreciate that his failure to act decisively in this regard is having a corrosive effect on his re-election prospects.I rather suspect that Christie now regrets not heeding my advice. (But may God forgive the people of Gibson’s constituency for re-electing him despite his scandalous machinations.)
Nevertheless, here’s to the FNM – whose members now have the duty, honor and privilege of forming a Bahamian government of all the people, by a majority of the people, for all the people. And, congratulations (and welcome back) to their irrepressible leader, Prime Minister-Elect The Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham (who also served as prime minister from 1992-2002).
We will devote all of our energies to the continued development of our nation in every respect – economic, political, social and cultural. We ask our political opponents and all Bahamians to join us in this endeavour. [PM-Elect Ingraham]Hear, hear!
With this contentious political business now settled, I hereby extend this invitation on behalf of all Bahamians to people all over the world to come luxuriate under sunny skies on our beautiful beaches for what we guarantee will be the vacation of a lifetime.
So, click here to book now!
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 10:43 PM
Today is Election Day in my native country, The Bahamas. And even though it’s not an official holiday, interest in the outcome of this election is such that the only thing most people will do today is vote and then rave about their Party’s imminent victory.
It is interesting to note, however, that despite there being virtually no substantive difference between the two major political Parties, politics in The Bahamas have become every bit as polarized as they are in the United States. Indeed, here’s an admittedly crude analogy to give you a sense of the dynamics involved: The ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is to the Democratic Party as the opposition Free National Movement (FNM) is to the Republican Party.
Incidentally, 111 candidates are contesting the 41 seats that comprise the House of Assembly, which performs all major legislative functions in our bicameral Parliament. And whichever Party wins a simple majority (i.e., 21 or more seats) will be declared the duly-elected government (and its leader the duly-elected prime minister) of The Bahamas.
Alas, little more than family ties determine Party affiliation for most Bahamians. In fact, the issues which motivate our people to vote PLP or FNM are so personal that they are not even worthy of commentary. But let me hasten to assure readers worldwide that – no matter which Party wins – the hospitality, accommodations and services that have made The Bahamas a top-rated tourist destination for decades will not be affected in the least. So don’t worry (visit and) be happy….
Meanwhile, the personal insults (a lot of it invoking the mess Anna Nicole left behind) that have characterized what little debate there was between PLP and FNM candidates have inflamed (equal and opposing) passions amongst the electorate to such degree that the outcome is very much in doubt. Therefore, the islands will be rife with cantankerous, even if suspended, animation all day.
Nevertheless, I urge all eligible Bahamians to honor your civic duty to vote – with the following admonition:
Do not feel obligated to vote for the Party that gave you the biggest stash of cash. Your vote is not for sale. Let only your conscience determine who gets your vote. And fear not. Because no matter what Party whips say, your ballot is secret and there’s no way Party leaders can find out how you voted.
So, vote! And let us all respect the results when they are officially announced.
Forward, Upward, Onward…Together!
On the mess Anna Nicole left behind in The Bahamas