Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 10:32 AMI’m not a very good salesman. And, this is especially the case where selling my own skills or wares is concerned. (For example, a good day for me when I was a shoeshine boy in the early 1970s was four shines at 25¢ ea….Pitiful isn’t it?!)
Therefore, I shall suffice to refer you to objective reviews, which you’ll find with the book’s listing at all major booksellers. I will also provide a link to reviews in the sidebar of this page in coming days.
For the best deal on price, handling and shipping, however, I recommend the booksellers linked to below (especially if you’re buying several copies to give to family, friends, colleagues, et al.).
And, it might interest you to know that proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit two Caribbean charities: one that promotes childhood health and fitness (perhaps you recall reading in my bio that I’m an ACE-Certified fitness trainer…); and another that provides lifestyle education to help children with Autism and learning disabilities live independent lives.
Finally, I have a proposition for you – even though my publisher iUniverse, which is a publishing house owned by Barnes & Noble, will probably kill me for making it. But if you’re interested in bulk orders (i.e. 20 or more copies), I invite you to contact me (in the person of my faithful webmistress, Caroline) at: email@example.com. Because if I were to endorse such orders, you’d get a 40% discount plus free or greatly-discounted handling and shipping costs.
Thank you in advance for your support.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007 at 10:07 AMJamaican Barrington Irving, a 23-year old aerospace student, will fly into the history books today. Because, when he lands his private plane in Miami (God willing), he will become not only the youngest pilot but also the first black person to fly solo around the world.
According to Flight Tracker, Irving took off on his global quest on March 23, when he flew from Florida to Cleveland. He continued on to New York and St. John’s, Canada and then, on April 7, flew across the Atlantic and landed in Europe at Santa Maria in the Azores. From there he made several stops in Europe – including Athens, Greece – before landing in Cairo, Egypt on April 19.
From there Irving made a couple stops in the Middle East – including Dubai, UAE – before heading off to Asia, where he landed in Mumbai, India on May 9. He then made several stops throughout that region – including Taipei, Taiwan – before crossing the Pacific and returning to America by landing in Shemya, Alaska on June 9.
From there he began his home stretch – making a few stops in places like Denver, Colorado and Houston, Texas (the home of NASA, where he seems destined). And, he’s scheduled to finally end his 3-month, 27,000-mile world flight adventure today at the Opa-locka Executive Airport in Miami, Florida.
However, in addition to demonstrating his remarkable mental and physical skills, this historic feat will also vindicate Irving’s undaunted ambition. After all, instead of having the latest in aviation technology to allay understandable concerns about the airworthiness of his plane, this daring aviator/engineer relied on a single-engine plane he built himself from donated spare parts.
(Imagine the fright he must have suffered flying this rinky-dink plane through the heavy turbulence and inclement weather he says he encountered along several legs of his flight.)
I think this shows it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you have or what you don’t have. [Barrington Irving - addressing throngs of students who greeted him in Houston on Saturday]
Therefore, here’s to Irving joining the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Adrian Kisovec and other pioneers in the pantheon of aviation.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 at 10:13 AMOrdinarily I would not bother to comment on a regional soccer match between the United States and Mexico. But I feel obliged to do so after such a match became a proxy for this week’s critical debate in the US Senate on comprehensive immigration reform.
Although, it would have been comical if this debate were not so serious to listen to Americans wax political about soccer. Especially since most of them are not only clueless about this sport; they didn’t even watch the US defeat Mexico 2-1 to win the 2007 Gold Cup on Sunday before a sold-out – predominantly (illegal) Mexican – crowd in Chicago.
Nevertheless, what I gathered from this proxy match is that those in favor of immigration reform regard Mexico’s loss as a bad omen. After all, according to their missionary logic, the fact that Mexicans can’t even beat Americans in soccer – having lost eight-consecutive matches since 2000 to estos gringos in Mexico’s national sport – only dramatizes their lives of irredeemable desperation. And this, immigration supporters fear, will actually strengthen their opponents’ argument that chronic poverty and despair will compel Mexicans to continually cross the border in droves – regardless of what the Senate does to assimilate the millions already living in the US illegally.
Whereas, those who oppose reform regard the US’s win as manifest destiny. After all, according to their feudal logic, if Mexicans can’t even help the US field a more formidable team for the Olympics of soccer – the World Cup in 2010, then they really are worthy of being nothing more than indentured servants to be lorded over by Americans in perpetuity….
Of course, all such political inferences from this soccer match are complete rubbish! But if you’re a sports fan, even if you couldn’t care any less about soccer, you’ll no doubt appreciate the following analogy:
The US dominating Mexico in soccer is rather like Argentina dominating the US in basketball! [ALH ipinions]
Therefore, the outcome of Sunday’s match resonates with me only to the extent that it insults Mexico’s already injured national pride.
NOTE: You can be forgiven for wondering if I intend to ape the pack of self-righteous hypocrites who’ll be fulminating with indignation on TV about today’s coverage of Paris Hilton whilst going on and on about it themselves. (Are your ears ringing Bill O’Reilly?!)
2006 World Cup: Italy, Italy, Italy!
Monday, June 25, 2007 at 12:19 PM
The CIA will declassify hundreds of pages of long-secret records detailing some of the intelligence agency’s worst illegal abuses — the so-called “family jewels” documenting a quarter-century of overseas assassination attempts, domestic spying, kidnapping and infiltration of leftist groups from the 1950s to the 1970s. [CIA Director Michael Hayden]
Even though a congenital cynic, I am still incredulous that reputable journalists – from those Watergate hounds at the Washington Post to the Whitewater sleuths at the New York Times – are reporting this week’s document dump by the CIA as a bona-fide declassification of secret information about the agency’s legacy of illegal activities – the so-called “black ops”.
After all, so much light has already been shed on the CIA’s dark side that these records have about as much lifeblood in them as Count Dracula would have in him at high noon. In fact, “all the news that’s fit to print” about the crooked quality of the CIA’s family jewels has been published by everyone from Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist Gary Webb in his book – Dark Alliance, in which he details the CIA’s illegal funding of the Contras in Nicaragua and its hand in the crack cocaine explosion in America, to MIT educator and political gadfly Noam Chomsky in one of his many books on the subject – US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, in which he documents the agency’s bloody fingerprints not only on the types of activities CIA Director Hayden cops to above, but also on many others that were perpetrated over the years in countries from The Philippines during the 1940s and 1950s to Haiti between 1986 and 1994.
In fact, even I indicted the CIA on similar counts in a February 2005 article entitled President Chavez: Bush trying to kill me, in which I cited the many reasons why Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had just cause to be fearful about the prospect of being assassinated by the CIA on direct orders from President George W. Bush. Although Chavez’s mentor, Cuban President Fidel Castro, probably mollified his fears by regaling Chavez with first-hand accounts of all of the harebrained schemes the CIA deployed over the years in futile attempts to assassinate him.
Meanwhile, the fact that Robert F. Kennedy’s fingerprints are all over the plans to kill Castro has been widely reported. What would be a newsworthy declassification, however, is the alleged fact that his and JFK’s fingerprints are all over the well-executed plan to “silence” Marilyn Monroe….
Therefore, why all the hype about these family jewels, right? Indeed, why the farce of pretending to air decades of dirty laundry – the contents of which have been public knowledge for almost as long?
Well, in a nutshell, reports about the CIA’s more recent (and ongoing) black ops, including operating secret prisons in Eastern Europe, renditioning terror suspects to rogue states like Egypt to be tortured for information and spying on American citizens, have outraged so many voters that Congress is threatening knee-jerk oversight over its legitimate activities. And this portends grave consequences for national security, to say nothing of the storied careers of some of the CIA’s more decorated rogue agents….
(Incidentally, hopelessly-uninformed, terminally-gullible and now reflexively-outraged Americans were shocked, shocked by recent revelations about the government’s relatively-benign domestic spying program. Yet any college graduate who bothered to attend just a few of his freshman Political Science classes should have learned that political activists – from the sublime Dr Martin Luther King Jr to the ridiculous Jane Fonda – were the targets of positively-nefarious eavesdropping, which made them vulnerable, in some cases, to state-sanctioned blackmail. Therefore, it’s hardly “breaking news” that the CIA wiretapped journalists and political dissidents.)
At any rate, I suspect the CIA manufactured this hype – about purportedly exposing itself – as part of a classic bait and switch operation. Because Hayden & Co not only hope these fossilized pages, with all of their cloak and dagger details, will not only flatter indignant Congressmen by making it seem as though they forced the CIA to give up these “long-secret records”; they also expect the titillating details they contain about past activities will deflect the public’s glare from the agency’s current activities.
In fact, this is a textbook case of Manufacturing Consent, in which mass media has become a willing accomplice in a calculated scheme to give the American people the impression that the CIA is a reformed agency that welcomes Congressional and public scrutiny.
Never mind that this alleged declassification is made patently-specious not only by glaring omissions (redactions) in the records being released this week, but also by the fact that much of what is considered legal CIA activity today makes some of the illegal activities being declassified seem relatively tame.
Therefore, don’t believe the hype!
(But if you really get off on this stuff, then just wait until the FBI deems it expedient to expose its family jewels….)
Sunday, June 24, 2007 at 11:34 AM
Saturday, June 23, 2007 at 11:12 AM
The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace. [former Israeli foreign minister, Abba Eban]Accordingly, after decades of fighting for, and being on the precipice of achieving, statehood (even getting no less a person than US President George W Bush to recognise their right of national self-determination), the Palestinians have chosen instead to wage civil war. In fact, this is now the prevailing state of affairs in the once-occupied territories, where internecine battles are raging between the religious fanatics of Hamas, who control the Gaza Strip, and the secular crooks of Fatah, who are hanging on for dear life in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, despite billions in development aid from their respective puppet masters, there are no signs anywhere that the Palestinians will ever be interested in seizing any opportunity for peace.
Friday, June 22, 2007 at 11:46 AMI am mindful that it constitutes a passive-aggressive rebuke for me – the son of a preacher man – to have written so little that is good about organized religion. Therefore, it gives me great joy to bring you today’s good news about the Catholic Church.
Because in an extraordinary decree that was published this week, the Vatican gave notice that it will no longer tolerate a revival of the indulgences that once defiled the sanctity of the Catholic faith. And this, I imagine, will do far more to redeem the holy character of the Church than the “Vatican’s Ten Commandments for Drivers”, which the Pope – mocking God – handed down on Tuesday….
But what makes this decree so newsworthy (and instructive) is the fact that it was issued as a rebuke against a member of the richest and most powerful family in the Catholic Church, namely: The Kennedys (who Americans seem to think wield as much influence in the Church today as the Medicis wielded at the height of their power in the 15th Century).
Although it would be disingenuous of me not to concede that if this matter concerned a member of a generic family, it would not have captured my interest. . But I could not resist sharing the schadenfreude this story evoked in me and heralding the belated comeuppance of a Kennedy.
At any rate, in attempting to exorcise the most egregious of these revived indulgences, it appears the Holy See decided to make an example of Joe Kennedy – a former US Congressman and the eldest son of Robert F Kennedy – who was assassinated in 1968. (Of course, this makes Joe the nephew of the most famous Kennedy of all, JFK – who was also assassinated in 1963.)
Here, in short, is the cardinal sin he committed, which, alas, the Vatican could not indulge:
In 1991 Kennedy divorced Sheila Rauch. (Both of whom are pictured here looking like a perfectly-unhappy couple.) But he left her after 12 years of marriage, and after she had given birth to their twin sons, in order to marry one of his young political aides named Beth Kelly. Then in 1993, he added insult to his unfaithfulness by appealing to the Boston Archdiocese to have his marriage to Rauch annulled, which was granted summarily…“in secret”.
(NOTE: Because Catholicism prohibits divorces, the Church devised annulments, which allows Catholics to remarry in a Church ceremony and continue practicing their faith, as a cleansing rite; i.e., a more sanctimonious way of dissolving marriages. Moreover, Catholic Archdioceses all over America have been all too solicitous of blessing the breakdown of marriages amongst their donors, um…er, parishioners. In fact, American marriages account for 75% of annulments granted worldwide each year.)
Nevertheless, Joe Kennedy appealing to the Boston Archdiocese for an annulment is rather like Prince Charles appealing to the Duchy of Cornwall for an easement. Therefore, Rauch faced a proverbial David -v- Goliath fight when she launched her Lutheran challenge to the grant in this case. No doubt, however, her decision to chronicle her crusade in a 1997 book entitled Shattered Faith, which exposed some of the darkest secrets of the Catholic Church, prevailed upon the Vatican to reverse Kennedy’s annulment…in the interest of justice, religious faith and common sense.
After all, by granting the annulment, the Church was representing to the world (and to God) that Rauch’s marriage to Joe was “never consecrated” (which seems like a Freudian slip for “never consummated”) because one or both parties never formed the requisite intent to fulfill the vows (conjugal duties?) of marriage, or that at least one of them was non compos mentis at the time of their marriage. But being a Kennedy, Joe had to flaunt his presumed entitlement by requesting the annulment after he had already married his nubile aide….
Therefore, God bless the Vatican for taking this bold step to redress the fallacies inherent in the granting of so many annulments. Because – as TIME quotes a Rome-base canon lawyer lamenting:
[Americans] think it’s their right….It’s not a right.Now all we need is for the ex-wives of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, and every other prominent Catholic who annulled his marriage, to follow Rauch’s religious example. Although, this Vatican interference in the lifestyles of The Kennedys (and other rich and famous Catholics) might inspire them to emulate King Henry VIII and establish their own Catholic Church of America….
But for now: Hail Mary full of Grace!
NOTE: On a few occasions the articles I published here have stirred so much interest amongst Caribbean readers that I’ve been asked to have it republish as my syndicated article, which is featured every Friday by Caribbean Net News. And, such was the case with my article on the controversy Salman Rushdie’s knighthood incited. Although I suspect Caribbean readers are more interested in the “NOTE” I appended at the end of this article on this week’s Conference on the Caribbean in Washington, DC.
So, click here to read why it has stirred so much interest….
Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 11:45 AMAlas, Muslim fanatics have issued another fatwa against author Salman Rushdie. But this time Rushdie did not even do (or write) anything to incite their religious bloodlust. Instead, these zealous and narcissistic executioners of Islamic hegemony are braying for his head simply because the British government announced last weekend that Queen Elizabeth II will bestow a knighthood upon him; an honor which they have somehow determined is intended as an insult to the Prophet Muhammad:
This insulting, suspicious and improper act by the British government is an obvious example of fighting against Islam. [Iran's Foreign Ministry Director for Europe, Ebrahim Rahimpour]
The action by the British Queen in knighting Salman Rushdie, the apostate, is an unwise one….If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified. [Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Ijaz-ul-Haq]
Salman Rushdie has turned into a hated corpse which cannot be resurrected by any action. [Iran’s First Deputy Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar]
Of course, Rushdie first incurred this kind of foreboding notoriety in 1989 when Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini ordered his execution (on Valentine’s Day no less) for writing The Satanic Verses, which he condemned, ostensibly, because of Rushdie’s “blasphemous” characterization of the Prophet Muhammad. (Although the Ayatollah was probably more pissed off by Rushdie’s unflattering allusions to him.) And it did not matter that this book is a fantastical and farcical depiction of a cosmic battle between good and evil, in which Rushdie proselytizes his Islamic heresies, and ridicules all religions, in mystical and otherworldly prose.
At any rate, the Ayatollah’s fatwa forced Rushdie into hiding – complete with a 24/7 cordon of bodyguards courtesy of Scotland Yard. But he was effectively resurrected in 1998 after a politically-evolved Iranian government granted Britain’s request for his clemency, which prompted Rushdie to proclaim in typically-ethereal flourish that:
I already feel the shreds of the fatwa flying away as if they were dust.
Nevertheless, I doubt this reissued fatwa will again cause him to take flight and cower in fright. Nor do I think the British government will again be so terrorized as to accessorize the glitterati lifestyle to which he has become so accustomed in recent years with another cordon of bodyguards.
After all, even though they may chant suicidal commitment to this fatwa, Muhammad’s willing executioners are too busy killing fellow Muslims in places like Iraq and Palestine to turn their sights on Rushdie.
Indeed, he can take some comfort from the fact that similar fatwas were issued recently against Danish cartoonists (for drawing blasphemous caricatures of Muhammad), former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali (for exposing the misogynistic tenets of Islam in her film Submission), and even the Pope (for insinuating in a homily that Muhammad’s teachings have wrought little more than jihadist violence). Yet all of these condemned blasphemers are all still alive and, by all accounts, well.
That said, I feel obliged to reiterate my solidarity with Rushdie. In fact, my own published writings make it patently clear that I endorse his irreverent and wholly-justified disdain for the many venal and misanthropic things Muslims do in the name of Allah. Although the irony seems completely lost on them that their diabolical threats make all too real Rushdie’s literary allusions to the devil disguising himself as God….
By the same token, however, I feel constrained to reveal my dismay over the pedestrian reverence Rushdie showed in accepting the fatuous and anachronistic honor of being knighted by the Queen.
I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognised in this way. [Salman Rushdie]
After all, it would be intellectually disingenuous, if not hypocritical, for him to deny that the Queen bestowing such honors makes a mockery of democracy almost to the extent that the Ayatollah issuing fatwas makes a mockery of Islam. And it only adds a patina of unseemliness to this royal farce that “commoners” are more likely to make it onto the Queen’s Honors List these days by bribing politicians than by “rendering honourable service to the crown”….
The British monarch lives under this illusion that Britain is still a 19th Century superpower and that bestowing titles is something still deemed important. [Iran’s Mohammad Reza Bahonar, Ibid]
Hear, hear! (Hate the messenger…if you must, not the message)
Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 11:12 AMOver the past few weeks I have received many e-mails from people throughout the Caribbean enquiring about my plans to participate in or comment on this week’s Conference on the Caribbean…in DC (and I hope the geopolitical irony in that is not lost on you). But, as the Editor of Caribbean Net News can attest, after being invited to participate, I soon realized that the agenda for this conference was being geared more towards adding a Caribbean quotient to the hot air that passes for legislative action in Washington than towards addressing issues that affect our region in a pragmatic and comprehensive manner.
Even more discouraging and disheartening, however, was the singular purpose with which regional ambassadors to DC were jockeying amongst themselves to ensure that their head of state would be guaranteed the dubious honor of shooting the breeze for a few minutes with (lame-duck) US President George W Bush….
Nevertheless, I hope the well-intentioned attendees derive some benefit from this week’s conference. Although I fear the only benefit will be their belated realization that these conferences amount to little more than talking-shop opportunities for political and academic elites.
Meanwhile, it is an indication of the fecklessness of leaders of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) that they are taking credit for the US government’s decision to extend the deadline (by six months to 31 January 2008) for when Americans returning from Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean will be required to present passports. After all, everyone in America knows that this deadline was extended only because of (typical) bureaucratic incompetence at the US State Department. In fact, passport processors there were drowning in such a deep backlog of applications that this extension was mandated as a life raft for them…not us!
To reinforce the point, however, it should be noted that this extension pertains only to Americans traveling by land and sea, which benefits Mexicans and cruise liners more than CARICOM countries; whereas, those traveling by air must have passports in hand by this September 30.
Of course, CARICOM leaders had vowed to prevail upon Bush to extend this deadline, which would benefit regional tourism tremendously. But the fact that this issue was not even raised during their pow wow with him yesterday betrays the hollowness of their vows. (A fact, incidentally, that is confirmed by the conspicuous omission of any reference to this hot topic in the boilerplate joint communiqué that was issued following their meeting.)
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 5:30 AMToday, humanitarians are taking their annual time out to commiserate about the appalling state of the 12 million refugees now mired in limbo and abject poverty in refugee camps all over the world.
But, on this issue, a picture is worth a thousand words – even for an impudent and irrepressible wordsmith like me. Besides, I suspect the plight of these refugees is all too familiar to most of you – if only because their tragic stories are told like preemptive pricks at your conscience every time you turn on your TV:
For more information about today’s events, and about how you can participate, click here.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007 at 5:06 AMWell, 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:
Séparation Royal-Hollande: les réactions [L’Express.fr]
Ségolène Royal annonce sa séparation d’avec François Hollande [Le Monde.fr]
Royal et Hollande devront trouver un mode de vie politique [Le Figaro]
Incidentally, these two have been “partners” forever (30 years) and have four children, but never bothered to marry….
Admittedly, I can’t even speak French, let alone relate to Les Liaisons Dangereuses that seem to characterize love French style. (Royal claims that she ended their relationship because Hollande was having an affair with journalist Valerie Trierweiler. Never mind reports that she has been a consenting, though frigid, party to this ménage a trois for years.) But what intrigues me about this split is not the announcement of it, which reportedly overshadowed the respectable showing the Socialists made against French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right party in Sunday’s elections for the National Assembly.
(Although it is somewhat curious that Royal and Hollande issued separate statements about the end of their affair almost simultaneously on Sunday afternoon. And it is patently clear that France’s more staid newspapers are using the timing of their statements merely as a pretext to peddle tabloid fodder about their sex lives.)
Instead, I’m intrigued by the apparent fact that Royal’s resounding defeat by Sarkozy to become president of France precipitated not only the dissolution of her and Hollande’s personal relationship but also the termination of their political partnership.
Moreover, as if this split were not already sensational enough, the French are salivating with prurient anticipation now that Royal has declared her (woman-scorned) intent to challenge Hollande for leadership of the Socialist Party – a position he has held like political Svengali for 10 years.
All couples have their difficulties, and we have had ours. And now we are moving on to a new phase. [Segolene Royal]
C’est la vie….Game on!!!
Meanwhile, this Royal-Hollande scandal should help puritanical Americans put their moral indignation over Bill and Hillary’s mercenary and (seemingly) loveless marriage into context….
It’s worth noting, however, that if Hillary loses the US presidential election next year, I suspect this would also trigger not only the dissolution of their marriage but also the termination of their political partnership; and, perhaps, in even more precipitous and salacious fashion….
Sarkozy defeats Royal to become president of France
Monday, June 18, 2007 at 11:04 AMGiven my chronicling of all major developments in the Duke Lacrosse rape case, it would be remiss of me not to comment on the fact that “persecutor“ Michael B. Nifong was disbarred on Saturday. His disbarment came at the end of a week-long trial, which featured Nifong as the star witness for his own defense.
During his testimony, however, he shocked everyone, including his lawyer, by blubbering out the announcement that he was resigning as Durham County District Attorney because:
My community has suffered enough…It has become increasingly apparent, during the course of this week, in some ways that it might not have been before, that my presence as the district attorney in Durham is not furthering the cause of justice.
Not surprisingly, the three members of the North Carolina Star Bar disciplinary panel saw Nifong’s belated-concession as nothing more than a vain, inconsequential and patently-contrived attempt to manipulate their findings. Accordingly they found that he:
…manipulated the investigation [of three (white) players for allegedly raping a (black) stripper] to boost his chances of winning his first election for Durham County district attorney. In doing so, he committed a clear case of intentional prosecutorial misconduct that involved “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.
[F. Lane Williamson, Chairman of the N.C. State Bar Disciplinary Hearing Committee]Nevertheless, this finding was even more anticlimactic than last April’s decision by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper to drop all charges against these players – as I predicted he would – because they were:
…innocent victims of Nifong’s tragic rush to accuse.Therefore, I see no merit in reiterating the reasons why Nifong’s disbarment was the only just verdict the panel could render. Instead, I shall suffice to refer you to my Related Article below, which delineates the case for his inevitable indictment and conviction, and provides links to other articles dating back to his racially and politically-motivated filing of charges in this case.
However, based on chats with friends over the weekend about his fate, I feel obliged to disabuse you of any undue sympathy you may feel for Nifong. After all, this is a man who wilfully withheld exculpatory DNA evidence and was prepared to throw three young men in prison on a rape charge that the world now knows that he knew was bogus from day one – notwithstanding his disingenuous and fatuous claim that this obvious fact only became apparent to him last week.
Even worse, after wasting state resources to persecute these students (and forcing them to waste millions of dollars defending themselves), Nifong still could not bring himself to admit that he was dead wrong. Because when Chairman Williamson asked him, with manifest indignation, exasperation and contempt, if he still believes the accuser he followed so merrily down a primrose path to career suicide, Nifong responded with reflective conviction:
…something happened.It’s no wonder a lawyer for one of the exonerated players echoed Williamson’s indignation, exasperation and contempt when he declared after Saturday’s verdict that:
I don’t think any of us are done with Mr. Nifong yet.
Therefore, here’s to Nifong not only being disbarred but also losing his life savings. (Of course, he may even lose his freedom after he’s convicted on charges of obstruction of justice, which I fully expect to be filed in due course.)
Meanwhile, I hope the millions these wrongly-accused players will collect in civil damages from the state and Duke University will help assuage the emotional distress they and their families have suffered as a result of this legal “fiasco”.
UPDATE 3:15 pm EST:
According to one of my reliable readers over in America, CNN is reporting that Duke has reached a financial settlement with the three lacrosse players – to compensate for presuming them guilty and then effectively expelling them. Of course, I suspect the amounts shall remain confidential. But I have no doubt that they got enough from Duke to cover their legal bills…and then some. How ‘bout that?!
Now, on to the Nifong and the N.C. state treasury, which will have to indemnify his liabilities….
Rape charges against Duke Lacrosse players dropped
Sunday, June 17, 2007 at 10:37 AM
Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 12:10 PMA month ago today, I recorded my first podcast. But because I was cajoled into doing it by dear friends (who thought I had a “perfect radio voice”), I set a firm condition for future recordings:
I ended that podcast by declaring that it would be my first and last recording – unless a critical number of you (I had in mind 1000) submitted compelling ideas that would persuade me to make podcasts a regular feature of my weblog.
Well, as of this posting, my diligent blog moderator (who instigated this trial) had read and collated 5,139 of your kind submissions. But by some remarkable coincidence (I suspect a conspiracy) almost all of them proffered a consistent theme:
…tell us more about your personal life….What do you do for fun? What’s your sign? Are you married? Do you like Asian girls? [And other such mundane or far too personal suggestions]Unfortunately, as flattered as I am by the interest, I couldn’t possibly podcast in this Oprahesque manner. After all, not only am I much too shy, but doing so would betray the very nature of my weblog, which is more political journal than personal diary.
Accordingly, I hope all of you will understand why I’ve decided to retire from podcasting. But at the behest of my friendly conjurers of this misadventure, I shall leave my first and last recording on the site as a monument to my feckless podcasting legacy….
Good night, and good luck!
NOTE: Click here to listen to my first and last podcast….
Friday, June 15, 2007 at 10:10 AMOne of the great ironies of my life is the fact that I was introduced to African literature by an English girl in America. And the book she gave me, which sealed my abiding affection for this genre, is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe of Nigeria.
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.
Of course, by citing this egregious oversight I intend no disrespect to other writers who have been awarded this most-coveted literary prize; most notably, Achebe’s fellow Africans Wole Soyinka also of Nigeria in 1986, and Nadine Gordimer in 1991 and J.M Coetzee in 2003 both of South Africa.
Nevertheless, as literary awards go, the Man Booker International Prize is easily second only to the Nobel Prize; although some literary snobs would argue the reverse is true.
Either way, the good news is that a panel of distinguished judges awarded it to Achebe this week for his body of work. But, frankly, he would have gotten my vote based solely on two of his works, namely: Things Fall Apart, which sired the recurring theme in African literature of chronicling the birthing pains of national independence amidst the death throes of British colonialism; and An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, which rebutted condescending and hypocritical presumptions in white liberal thought by exposing celebrated novelist Joseph Conrad as a self-righteous racist.
At any rate, given that the nominees for this prize included such luminaries as Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Doris Lessing, Philip Roth and Margaret Atwood, this is no modest achievement.
Meanwhile, as far as that elusive Nobel is concerned, hope springs eternal. Because even though it’s hardly an established trend, I suspect that Man Booker might be to Nobel as Golden Globe is to Oscar: i.e., winning the former might presage winning the latter…
So, congratulations Mr Achebe…and good luck!
NOTE: Although virtually unreported in the United States, the death of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer in Jamaica last March led to a post-mortem spectacle that rivaled the one which followed the death of Anna Nicole’s son in The Bahamas. And to be sure, people throughout the rest of the world were just as riveted as Anna Nicole junkies were – until the Woolmer case was closed on Tuesday.
Click here to read my CNN article on this recurring Caribbean tragic comedy.
Short biography of Chinua Achebe
Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 10:03 AMIn a September 2005 article entitled Yahoo! becomes China’s most-favored thought police, I lamented, yet again:
…how odious and hypocritical it was that American corporations that exploited democratic freedoms to make their names and untold fortunes are now collaborating with a totalitarian regime to deny people in the most populous country on earth similar human freedoms….
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) for the crime of daring to use his email 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 Tiananmen Square.
I was exceedingly glad therefore when it was reported this week that Shi’s mother has decided to sue Yahoo. Specifically, that she has joined a growing class-action suit that was originally filed in April by the World Organization for Human Rights USA against Yahoo on behalf of Yu Ling, the wife of Wang Xiazoning. Because like Shi, Wang – an acclaimed Chinese dissident who was sentenced in September 2003 on the dubious charge of “incitement to subvert state power“ – was also imprisoned (and allegedly tortured) by the Chinese government after Yahoo provided private information about his Internet activities.
Of course, before entering the Chinese market, Yahoo and other technology companies (like Google and Microsoft) were perfectly aware that investing in China required them to check their western principles at the border. And they not only struck this Faustian bargain willingly, but also seem determined to honor it – as long as it is commercially viable to do so.
Therefore, I hope this lawsuit succeeds in pricking Yahoo’s corporate conscience in ways that political and moral appeals have not. In fact, I am convinced that only when juries award plaintiffs billions in damages – similar to the awards that finally forced tobacco companies to quit their unconscionable practice of spiking cigarettes to induce nicotine addiction and guarantee streams of profit – will these technology companies find it too prohibitive to continue serving as special agents in China’s thought-control police force.
Meanwhile, in an ironic twist, Yahoo itself voiced dismay this week that its Chinese spymaster is blocking the commercial use of Flickr.com – its very popular photo-sharing site. And, despite pro-forma denials, everyone knows that China shutdown the site because die-hard Chinese freedom fighters were using it to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre in June 1989, which the Chinese government wants to white-wash from the minds of all Chinese citizens.
NOTE: I’m still waiting for Microsoft to honor the vow it made last year to stop doing business not only in China, but in all countries that thrive on human rights abuses….
Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 10:10 AM
…The Caribbean is not a terrorism hotbed and I hope this incident would not trigger paranoia in the U.S. government agencies and that they would not start profiling of people from our region and causing problems for them….We see this as an aberration.
[This is the essence of an extraordinary plea Guyana’s president, Bharrat Jagdeo, made during a meeting with the FBI agents and the US Ambassador last weekend – as reported by Caribbean360.com yesterday]Since last Friday, when Caribbean Net News published my commentary on the plot by men from Guyana and Trinidad to blow up JFK Airport, I have received many e-mails from Caribbean nationals asking me to feature it here as an instructive article for American (immigration) officials and ordinary citizens alike. Indeed, as one concerned islander wrote: “it’s them Americans who need to read this”. And, especially in light of PM Jagdeo’s plaintive woe quoted above, I am happy to oblige.
I have been only mildly irritated by reports on the alleged plot to blow up JFK Airport which suggest that the unusual suspects in this case were simply too broke and stupid to pull it off. But I’ve been positively incensed by the fact that some of those reports were written by Caribbean natives who posited this condescending notion in misguided attempts to express the shame and mitigate the guilt they presume we all feel.
The Caribbean-American community in New York is understandably upset, embarrassed and miffed over the weekend revelations that four immigrants from the Caribbean, one of them a naturalized American citizen, conspired to blow up the fuel farm and pipelines at John F. Kennedy International Airport…. [T]his “Keystone Kops” terror bungle – no matter what the facts are – embarrasses the Caribbean, makes immigration reform more difficult and places the tourism product of the region under a cloud.
[“Features” report by Michael D. Roberts in Caribbean Net News dated 7 June 2007]
Of course, I can relate to the full gamut of emotions that were incited in both Caribbean immigrants in America and natives throughout the region when Caribbean nationals were arrested for this alleged plot. (The suspects pictured here, clockwise, are putative “mastermind” Russell Defreitas, Abdul Kadir and Abdel Nur all of Guyana and Kareem Ibrahiim of Trinidad & Tobago.) But I’m incredulous that so many regional politicians and columnists have reacted so defensively to this revelation – with some of them even insinuating that it would be our just deserts if US authorities decided to punish the lot of us for the alleged misdeeds of a few bad men.
Nevertheless, I entreat all you to not only reject any attempt by others to impose guilt by regional heritage upon you, but also defy anyone to show how this sorry episode reflects badly on the rest of us or jeopardizes our economic welfare.
After all, I know of no American who was “upset, embarrassed and miffed” when American Lori Berenson was arrested in Perú for unlawful collaboration with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement – a communist guerrilla group which had committed numerous terrorist attacks in a vain attempt to overthrow that country’s democratically-elected government.
I know of no American who was upset, embarrassed and miffed when American John Walker Lindh was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan – in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 – where he was fighting with the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorist against fellow Americans.
I know of no American who was upset, embarrassed and miffed when American Adam Gadahn was exposed as the most celebrated al-Qaeda spokesman in the Muslim world – who spouts propaganda not only about killing fellow Americans, but all “infidels”; i.e. non-Muslims. (Recall how many innocent Africans were killed when fanatics heeding al-Qaeda’s propaganda bombed American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania….)
Now, just as few, if any, Americans heeded the bombastic and spiteful calls to boycott Aruba over the Natalee Holloway tragedy, I have no doubt that even fewer will boycott the Caribbean over this harebrained scheme by these wannabe terrorists. Moreover, it borders on pathological delusion to think that the criminal threats of four nincompoops from the Caribbean could possibly make “immigration reform more difficult”. (Immigration reform in America will fail because of partisan-political reasons having everything to do with scapegoating Mexicans.) Therefore, it is ignorant and only foments hysteria amongst our people to suggest otherwise.
Meanwhile, it is utterly irrelevant that these men may not have been financially, intellectually or temperamentally able, or duly established as a bona fide terrorist organization to execute this conspiracy to blow up JFK Airport –
…to kill the man twice [and] put the whole country in mourning.
(Incidentally, they planned to execute it by setting ablaze a jet-fuel artery that runs through residential neighborhoods nearby and leads to a field of storage tanks at the airport.)
Because if – as the FBI proffers – they have been caught on surveillance tapes boasting about their evil intent and meeting with undercover agents to discuss the logistics of furthering their conspiracy, then these tapes alone would have provided sufficient probable cause for them to be arrested under anti-terrorism laws (even in some Caribbean countries). Moreover, I have no doubt that surveillance tapes will constitute the damning “smoking gun” that will convict them at trial.
In which case I would say: lock ‘em up and throw away the key!
NOTE: Of course, if you have a Muslim-sounding name and happen to be from Guyana or Trinidad & Tobago, then you should expect US immigration officers to cast a more suspicious eye upon you. But I urge all Caribbean natives who might be profiled as a result of this plot to (try your best to) appreciate the American (border-control) perspective, understand that it’s not personal and shun foolish pride that would cause you to avoid traveling to the United States….
Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at 10:19 AMIt’s very likely that the first time most of you heard about Genarlow Wislon’s extraordinary 2-year legal nightmare was during a 20-second report on TV last night. But some of us have been monitoring (and agitating in support of) the fight to free Genarlow that has been raging in the Blogosphere and on talk radio almost from the day he was arrested in 2003.
The facts of the latest development in this story are so outrageous, however, that instead of offering my usual commentary, I shall suffice to republish the story as it was reported on CNN.com yesterday.
___________________________________ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — A judge on Monday threw out the 10-year sentence against a 21-year-old for a consensual sex encounter he had as a teenager. But the state attorney general quickly filed a notice of appeal, keeping Genarlow Wilson in prison for the time being.
The prosecutor’s move brought an abrupt halt to the jubilation Wilson’s mother, Juannessa Bennett, and his attorney, B.J. Bernstein, were feeling, and the plans they were making for Bennett to be reunited with her son.
“It is extremely, extremely disturbing that the attorney general would take this action now,” Bernstein said, adding that she did not know what message “he’s trying to send” or “who he’s representing.”
In a written statement, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker said he filed the appeal to resolve “clearly erroneous legal issues,” saying that while the judge did have the authority to grant habeas relief, he did not have the authority “to reduce or modify the judgment of the trial court.”
Separately, Baker noted that Douglas County recently had offered a plea deal “that would have allowed Genarlow Wilson to plead to First Offender Treatment, which would mean that he would not have a criminal record nor would he be subject to registering on the sex offender registry once his sentence had been completed.”
“The plea deal, if accepted by Genarlow Wilson’s lawyers, could also result in Genarlow Wilson receiving a sentence substantially shorter than the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for which he was originally sentenced, possibly leading to his release based upon time already served,” Baker wrote.
“Genarlow Wilson, through his attorneys, rejected all of those offers. The district attorney’s office has indicated that the plea offer will remain available to Genarlow Wilson notwithstanding the appeals process,” according to Baker’s statement.
Wilson has drawn support from throughout the country, including the editorial board of the New York Times and former President Jimmy Carter.
When he was 17 years old, he had a consensual sexual encounter with a 15-year-old girl, which was consensually videotaped. Georgia law at the time made such an action a felony punishable by 10 years in prison and listing on the sex offender registry.
The state legislature later changed the law, partly in response to Wilson’s case. But the change was not made retroactive, leaving Wilson in jail. He has already served more than two years.
Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Wilson of Monroe County, Georgia, voided the sentence Monday, agreeing with Bernstein that the punishment was cruel and unusual, and therefore unconstitutional, Bernstein said.
The judge ruled Wilson should serve one year, less than he has already served, and that he would not be listed as a sex offender.
Upon reading his ruling, which was faxed to her office in Atlanta, Bernstein cheered, screamed with delight, and hugged Wilson’s mother. Watch Wilson’s mom, lawyer’s tearful reaction to the judge’s ruling
“I just feel like a miracle happened,” Bennett told CNN.
“He didn’t deserve to have the sexual predator status,” she said.
When Bernstein — a frequent guest on CNN — spoke to reporters before the attorney general’s announcement, she pleaded with prosecutors to give up the fight.
“This has been a really long 28 months,” Bernstein said tearfully. “It’s a very long fight. And right now we have an order of release. And I beg the attorney general of the state of Georgia: please, enough. Do not file an appeal, please. Because we have an order of release right now for a young man that I think most everybody in the community believes should not be in prison.”
She added, “Please, please, enough.”
Bennett called the decision “a dream come true. It’s definitely a dream come true.” Of the judge she said, “He got a lot of heart, and God bless him.”
Bernstein said she could not believe how long it took to get to this point.
Now, if you’re half as outraged about Genarlow’s prolonged detention as so many people were about Paris’ early release last week, then I encourage you click here to contact the office of this attorney general to let him know how you feel – especially if you are registered to vote in the peachy state of Georgia….
Meanwhile, in case you’re wondering why civil-rights hellraisers Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are not marching down in Georgia shouting “no justice, no peace”, it might have something to do with the fact that even though this attorney general is an unconscionable bastard, he’s an unconscionable black bastard….
Monday, June 11, 2007 at 10:15 AMNo doubt the water-cooler chatter today in offices all over America, if not all around the world, today will be dominated by excited reflections on last night’s final episode of The Sopranos. But, with TV critics having already screen-tested scenarios for the climactic scene – with each of the show’s main characters being variously featured as the one who gets whacked, the finale was inevitably anti-climactic. (Talk about ending with a whimper, not a bang….)
And if anyone tells you that he thinks it was a brilliant twist that the show ended with no one getting whacked, tell him to…fuggedaboutit! Because he’s probably the kind of guy who’d prefer to see NFL players play touch instead of tackle football….But who would’ve thought that – after enthralling fans with signature mob violence for 8 seasons – writer David Chase would sign off with an episode (which he also directed) that leaves us with an impression of him that can best be summed up in the name he gave one of his most-beloved characters: Big Pussy!
Good riddance Sopranos! (And listen here Chase, if you spared your cast just to milk this franchise as a Godfather-type movie trilogy, fuggeda…!)
Meanwhile, if you’d really like to get under the skin of the loud mouth who will still insist on regaling the office with a dramatic re-enactment of every boring scene, just interrupt him by asking: Did anyone happen to see that black guy make history at the Canadian Grand Prix yesterday?
In fact, against all the odds and racist naysaying amonsgt his detractors (including fellow racers), 22-year old rookie Lewis Hamilton, an Englishman of Caribbean (Grenadian) heritage, became the first black man to win a formula one race. And if you think this was a fluke, bear in mind that this guy has had unprecedented top-three finishes in all of six races to date as a professional driver. But if you don’t know formula one from Formula 409, please take note:
Formula one car racing is a sport that requires the steady nerves of a surgeon, the daring skill of a jet fighter and the physical stamina of a marathon runner. And, no sport can match the sustained thrill, nail-biting anxiety and death-defying excitement one gets from watching those drivers navigate the zigs, zags and hairpin-turns of a gand prix race track – jockeying for position at speeds exceeding 200 mph!
Now, when one considers the uncanny similarities in racial background and precocious talent between Hamilton and Tiger Woods (complete with fathers who managed their respective careers from birth), it’s easy to see why the barons of Formula One racing are salivating with grand expectations that Hamilton will do for his sport what Woods has done for golf.
Traditionally, it is difficult enough for a driver to win a race in his first season. Yet so great has been Hamilton’s impact, so impressive his results, that now the unthinkable seems possible – he could do what no-one has ever done before, and win the world championship as well. [Andrew Benson, BBC Motorsport editor]So, here’s to Lewis Hamilton for racing through one of the few remaining racial barriers in sports. And, in doing so, it is noteworthy that he’s continuing the historic trend that Jackie Robinson began 60 years ago with his spectacular debut in Major League Baseball.
I’m just having a fantastic day….This is history. [Hamilton’s modest reflection on his historic achievement]
Monday, June 11, 2007 at 9:55 AMGiven the hero’s welcome he received in Albania yesterday, beleaguered US President George W Bush can be forgiven the wish thought that he was marching triumphantly through the streets of Baghdad. Nevertheless, he must have felt positively Clintonian as these former communists shouted “Bushie, Bushie” as they hailed him for his unilateral determination to shield them from Russia’s Cold-War resurgence.
After all, Bush has made it clear that, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war-mongering resentment, he intends to invite Albania into NATO’s ever-expanding protective vortex….
But the deliriously-cheering crowds (so eager to embrace Bush that their surge towards him must have given the Secret Service nervous jitters) were doubly grateful to behold this American president. Because they also appreciate that he seems no less determined to ensure that their brothers in Kosovo – who comprise over 90% of the population in this (disputed) Serbian province – will soon become as “liberated” from the Serbs as they are now from the Russians.
And in a press conference with their defiantly pro-American Prime Minister, Sali Berisha (who greeted Bush as “the greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times”), Bush played to his adoring fans by declaring that:
Sooner rather than later you’ve got to say `Enough’s enough — Kosovo is independent.
Kosovo: wither Serbia’s Alamo