Monday, March 31, 2008 at 4:13 AMRepublished from Caribbean Net Newscaribbeannetnews.com
Britain’s FAC ‘shocked and appalled’ at situation in the Turks and Caicos Islands
Published on Monday, March 31, 2008
by Anthony L. Hall
A Special Report for Caribbean Net NewsLONDON, England: British Member of Parliament Sir John Stanley, a member of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) said last week that he was “shocked and appalled” at the responses given by a Foreign and Commonwealth Office official to questions concerning the situation in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The reaction from Sir John came during last Wednesday’s final evidence session of the FAC’s inquiry into the exercise by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of its responsibilities for security and good governance in the British Overseas Territories, which include the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) and several other Caribbean territories.
The principal witness at this session was Meg Munn MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the FCO with responsibilities for Overseas Territories.
Members of the FAC questioned Minister Munn (and Leigh Turner, the director of her department) about the FCO’s oversight in all Territories with respect to a wide range of issues, including devolution of power, human rights, civil partnerships, appointment and role of governors, and immigration.
But none of these exchanges was particularly newsworthy. The notable exception was when Sir John Stanley queried how the TCI could possibly cope with an immigration problem that is “equivalent to illegal immigration to the UK of between 4 to 5 million people.”
“Certainly illegal immigration from Haiti is an important issue…. And things are improving. I haven’t got the details in front of me, but perhaps if I can write to the committee with the work that’s been done on that. But I entirely take your point on that…” Munn responded.
However, it was the Committee’s focus on the FCO’s apparent failure of oversight with respect to alleged corruption in the TCI that made news and dominated the session.
Committee members seemed especially concerned at the volume of complaints Turks and Caicos Islanders submitted to the FAC.
“The largest number of memoranda that this committee has received from a single overseas territory has come from the Turks & Caicos Islands, both public memo and memoranda sent to us privately,” said Sir John.
But the Committee’s most forceful questioning of Munn stemmed from its own findings on the torching of the office of the UK-appointed attorney general and on the sudden departure of the UK-appointed chief auditor.
Again, Sir John expressed the FAC’s concern:
“[I]s it not a matter of the utmost concern when the attorney general’s house, sorry office, was arsoned a few months ago and when he sought additional security and protection from the foreign commonwealth office he was told that this is not a matter of the Foreign Office even though the Foreign Office has specific responsibility under the constitution for internal security in the TCI?
“And is it also not a matter of equal concern that the chief auditor – whose term of office expires about today and is about to leave the islands, if he hasn’t done so already – he is not being replaced because the Foreign Office have not found a replacement for him and that the appointment is now the subject of a local job share by existing members of his staff?”
In response, Munn and Turner seemed to have no clue about the facts and circumstances involved. Moreover, they appeared to deflect blame to Britain’s governor in the TCI, His Excellency Richard Tauwhare. Because they indicated that the governor – who “has a weekly police briefing from the head of the police force and [knows] what is happening and what can be done ” – sounded no alarm and did not keep them properly informed.
This response provoked an apparently outraged Sir John Stanley to say: “I have listened to your official’s response and I have to say I am shocked and appalled on those two issues by the response which he has given.
“It is I think disgraceful that apparently nobody in the Foreign Office is aware that the attorney general requested additional security following the arsoning of his office and was fobbed off by saying that this is not a matter for the Foreign Office. And I think it is quite appalling that your department in London is unaware that we face a key vacancy right this minute in the post of chief auditor.”
Committee member, Greg Pope MP, followed Sir John’s reprimand with an equally damning observation about the spectre of corruption in the TCI and, by implication, about the FCO’s failure to ensure good governance in this Overseas Territory:
“[W]hen we hold inquiries the committee receives lots of written evidence….. Typically, a handful of the evidence that we receive, the senders request confidentiality. With the TCI, a very large number of people did. This is a real concern.
“When we were there, let me put this in context, the only other place I’ve been to where people insisted on confidentiality of this kind was in [China]. I’m just shocked that in some place with the Union Jack on the flag people are doing that.”
Much of the Committee’s questions raised the prospect of a commission of inquiry on corruption in the TCI. And when members finally pressed Munn on the necessity of establishing one to investigate their findings, she responded:
“I am very exercised about what I’m hearing from your visit…. I have a completely open mind on this and in terms of establishing a commission of inquiry…. So far there has not been sufficient evidence that’s been stood up in order to proceed with a commission of inquiry. And if we had evidence we would want to see that happen.”
This apparently casual approach seemed unlikely to satisfy the FAC, however. In fact, Committee member Paul Keetch MP, summed up the FAC’s view of the “evidence that’s been stood up” by saying: “The three of us were quite astonished at what we discovered.”
In addition, FAC members left little doubt that they expected their view of the evidence to prevail in the House of Commons and that the appointment of a commission of inquiry is warranted.
“[I]f the Governor wants to appoint a commission of inquiry, which he has the power to do, without consulting the Cabinet, he expects it to pay for it, but we will not pay for it. That sounds ridiculous. If I were a Governor of one of these places, and wanted to appoint a commission of inquiry, I would expect Her Majesty’s Government to pay…,” Keetch added.“Can you give us an assurance that, if the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands wanted to commission an inquiry, and the local Cabinet refused to fund it, we would?” he then inquired.
Turner responded that this was “not the normal way of doing business” but that “in theory, yes”, it was possible.
Keetch persisted: “But he could?”
Munn and Turner responded in unison: “Yes, yes….”
Keetch persisted further:
“I accept that, but there was some confusion about this: if he wanted to, could the Governor appoint a commission of inquiry?”
To which Munn responded: “Yes.”
The Committee is scheduled to make a report to the House of Commons by the end of July. The UK g
overnment will then have two months to reply to the findings in its report.
[Efforts by Caribbean Net News to obtain comments on the FAC’s proceedings from the government and opposition party in the TCI proved to be unsuccessful by press time.]
Since so many of you have e-mailed asking for my personal opinion on this report, here it is:
I find it instructive that members of the FAC were “astonished … shocked and appalled” by what they discovered on their fact-finding mission to the TCI. Because their outrage manifests recognition of the British government’s untenable neglect of its duties and responsibilities to ensure good governance in our country.
Nevertheless, if outrage were sufficient to hold TCI government officials accountable for their corrupt practices, the disaffected, disillusioned and disgusted people of the TCI would have done so long ago. Instead, we need the British to honour their constitutional obligations to us by convening a commission of inquiry – not only to investigate the vast scope of these allegations but also to recover public funds that have been embezzled or misappropriated.
Because only such a commission would have the authority to conduct the forensic examination of bank accounts, sales of Crown Lands, and business transactions that have given probable cause to suspect that Premier Michael Misick and his cabinet ministers are ruling over us like African Kleptomaniacs.
Whatever the extent of their ill-gotten gains, however, it redounds to the shame of the British government that TCI officials have been allowed to perpetrate such brazen fraud and abuse. Indeed, just imagine the irony of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe having just cause to tell Prime Minister Gordon Brown to clean up corruption in his own territory before lecturing him about good governance.
Frankly, a commission of inquiry is long overdue; notwithstanding Minister Munn’s dithering on this point. After all, if she is clueless about dire matters relating to her own appointees in the TCI (namely, the attorney general and the chief auditor), then it’s hardly surprising that she is even more clueless about the mountain of evidence that makes this commission so absolutely necessary.
Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 11:05 AMI’ve been chronicling and lamenting Robert Mugabe’s dictatorial rule over Zimbabwe for many years. But nothing distinguishes his iron-fisted rule quite like the drama that occasions presidential elections, which, of course, he always wins.
Therefore, despite media speculation that Mugabe might finally be upset at the polls today, I suspect the only real question about the outcome concerns how much vote rigging will be required to ensure his victory.
This time around, like the last time, very good. I rate them in the same way, that we will succeed and we will conquer…. This is a vote against the British.
[Mugabe yesterday, in patented fashion, exhorting Zimbabweans to blame phantom British forces for the misery he has inflicted upon them over the past 28 years.]
That said, I am somewhat encouraged by the fact that former Mugabe insider and ex-finance minister Simba Makoni is on the ballot. Because, for the first time, the opposition has in Makoni someone who knows all of Mugabe’s vote-rigging tricks and can perhaps take counter measures to limit their effect.
Whatever the case, nobody who knows Mugabe can possibly believe that he will ever accept defeat at the polls. After all, this man is a genocidal megalomaniac who is congenitally disposed to war.
Therefore, it will take a war – that will make post-election violence in Kenya seem like a school-yard brawl – to wrest power from his hands.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested in the sordid tale of how Mugabe has ruled and ruined Zimbabwe, I invite you to read some of my forlorn commentaries linked to below.
Zimbabweans pray for liberation from their liberator Mugabe
Mugabe launches head-bashing assault on Opposition leaders
Yes, save Darfur! But what about Zimbabwe
UN aids and abets Mugabe’s regime
Britain’s salutary neglect
Mugabe snares his foe in flagrante delicto
Friday, March 28, 2008 at 10:25 AMThis year, for the first time, I shared my New Year’s resolution, which was published here on January 3, 2008. But I did it primarily as a public service announcement (PSA). Moreover, with my doctor’s collaboration, I am committed to writing quarterly updates on my progress to inspire (though more likely to commiserate with) all of you who are struggling to fulfill similar resolutions.
Accordingly, here are some excerpts from my original article, followed by my first update:
I have always been blessed with good health – especially since I began swimming competitively at age 9. Therefore, I’ve never felt the need to join the madding crowd of yo-yo dieters making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight….
But that all changed recently when my doctor summoned me for a consultation on the results of my latest physical exam. In short, she informed me that I’m fat, and I that need to lose weight…40lbs to be exact….
Far more troubling, however, is the self-delusion that allowed me to gain 40lbs (up to 210) and still think that I was every bit as fit as when I weighed 170…. My cholesterol is over 300 and I’m presenting all of the early-stage symptoms of kidney and heart problems that took my Mummy’s life at the unforgivably young age of 64.
Therefore, I have resolved to lose all 40lbs by this time next year.
Finally, I had my first prostate exam…. I was so traumatized that I can’t even imagine having another one for at least another 10 years! (But seriously, if you’re over 40, I urge you to discuss the importance of prostate exams with your doctor.)
UPDATELast week I tipped the scale at 203 – down from 210 in January. Unfortunately, this 203 was up from the 196 I weighed in early February; which means that for every 2 pounds I lost, I gained one back (i.e., two steps forward, one back).
My cholesterol is 270 (LDL: 190, HDL: 64), down from 325. Nevertheless, my doctor is so concerned about the lack of progress here that she mentioned that dreaded word: “statins.” Even more troubling, however, is the erectile dysfunction associated with them. After all, I’ve heard enough about Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor to know what a downer they can be…down there.
Therefore, if I have to go on statins to get my cholesterol down, I might have to go on Viagra to get my (you know what) up!
Meanwhile, my pulse at rest is 58 (no change), and my blood pressure is 125/70 – down from 135/80. In fact, the rest of my blood-work results turned out fine.
But that’s enough information about me (next update in late June). How are you coming along?
NOTE: We are suffering a pandemic of obesity (and related complications) worldwide. Therefore, I urge you to commit to annual physical exams (complete with tests for HIV and other STDs). And this applies especially to black men in Africa and the Caribbean where there seems to be a cultural belief that one visits the doctor only for emergency care. Because I am a living example of the fact that, despite daily exercise, we are all vulnerable to that silent killer – CHOLESTEROL.
My New Year’s Resolution
Friday, March 28, 2008 at 10:11 AMAs if her lies about braving gunfire in Bosnia, brokering peace in Northern Ireland, and battling against NAFTA were not enough to turn voters off, Hillary Clinton has demonstrated yet again why she cannot be trusted.
Recall that just weeks ago she vowed that (“either way”) the nomination would be settled before the Democratic Convention in August. Yet here’s what she said yesterday when Greta Van Susteren of FOX News asked her to explain why she thinks “this race is a long way from being over:”
You know, you can always go to the convention. That’s what credential fights are for… So that’s where we’re headed….
Never mind that everyone knows she stands less than a snowball’s chance in hell of overtaking Barack Obama in pledged delegates.
But it’s an indication of how ruthless the Clintons are, and of how desperate they’ve become, that they’re telling Democrats to “saddle up” because their fighting’s about to get even dirtier. This, at a time when most people who care about the Democratic Party are pleading for them to help reconcile the rift their campaign tactics have caused.
Nevertheless, here’s the bottom line on this nomination – for those of you who failed to grasp it from my previous articles on the untenable prospect of superdelegates (Democratic Party officials) nullifying the votes of pledge delegates at the convention:
Obama seems destined to go into the convention with more victories in state primaries and caucuses, more pledged delegates, and more popular votes. Therefore, if the Clintons strong arm superdelegates into giving Hillary the nomination under these circumstances, that would constitute an even greater travesty of democracy than George W. Bush using the Supreme Court to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore.
However, I can assure you that, unlike the Bushes, the Clintons will not get away with stealing this nomination to pad their political dynasty.
That said, I think this prospect (of a Clinton coup) is grossly exaggerated. Because when all is said and done, I have no doubt that the superdelegates will side with the pledged delegates and declare Obama the party’s nominee. Moreover, as I wrote in a column published yesterday:
There’ll be plenty of time after this nomination fight is settled for Democrats to kiss and make up, which they will do notwithstanding fatuous talk about them voting in droves for McCain in November.
The specter of the superdelegates
Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 10:45 AMBill Richardson is the governor of New Mexico and a former Democratic presidential candidate. He also served as ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary during the Clinton administration. But, more to the point, he is currently the most popular Hispanic in American politics.
Therefore, it’s understandable that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama coveted his endorsement like lovesick puppies. In fact, Hillary even pimped out her husband to woo Richardson. This is why Bill flew to New Mexico to curry favor with him while watching this year’s Super Bowl. And, no doubt, central to his rap was reminding Richardson that “it was the Clintons who made him what he is today”….
Therefore, it must have come as a tremendous blow to Hillary’s campaign last week when Richardson endorsed Obama:
Barack Obama will make a great and historic president…. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our nation. I am very loyal to the Clintons. I served under President Clinton. But I served well. And I served the country well.
Richardson’s Obama endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate….
A cattle rancher in eastern New Mexico or an advertising executive on the East Side of Manhattan would agree that proper branding is important…. I wanted to be sure that Richardson’s act was branded properly.
Let me hasten to disabuse you of any notion that Carville was just being a rogue warrior. After all, the fact that neither Bill nor Hillary denounced his bestial attack on Richardson suggests that they condone it.
Moreover, Carville is just a clown in the three-ring circus of race-baiting, gutter politics that has characterized Hillary’s campaign. And, of course, the ringmaster of this circus is none other than the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton.
For his part, here’s all Richardson had to say in response:
I’m not gonna get in the gutter with them. That’s typical of many of the people around Senator Clinton. They think they have a sense of entitlement to the presidency.
But can you imagine if Carville had said this about a black politician – like John Lewis who also “betrayed” the Clintons to support Obama, and whose endorsement was just as coveted?
So where’s the outrage – especially among Hispanics?
That said, in light of this latest episode, I feel obliged to reiterate the admonition I issued in December 2006 and again just weeks ago:
It’s going to get really ugly…. Recall that Hillary’s campaign (i.e., not John McCain’s) was the first to insinuate that, because Obama’s middle name is Hussein, he must be a closet Muslim who can’t be trusted…. As I warned in December 2006, when it comes to dirty tricks, the Clintons will make Republicans look like boy scouts.
[Super Tuesday…, The iPINIONS Journal March 5, 2008]
And, frankly, national issues and the Democratic Party be damned. The Clintons really do feel entitled to return to the White House, and they’ll try to get back there by any means necessary. Although, to be fair to them, all of the complaining about these personal attacks detracting from the issues and hurting the party is patent bullshit! (It has always been thus.)
In fact, there have already been too many debates on the issues (and it would not surprise me if the people complaining haven’t seen a single one). Moreover, there’ll be plenty of time after this nomination fight is settled for Democrats to kiss and make up, which they will do notwithstanding fatuous talk about them voting in droves for McCain in November.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 9:54 PMLast year, Chelsea Clinton took a leave of absence from her high-paying job on Wall St. to stump on college campuses for her Mummy’s campaign.
The strategy was to have her siphon off Barack Obama’s youth vote while remaining in the bubble that shielded her from the media for the past 15 years. That is, unless it became expedient to exploit anything she said for political advantage.
This, of course, is why we’ve been treated to clips of Chelsea over the past 24 hours channeling her Mummy with uncanny verisimilitude during one of her college stops.
I am stupefied, however, by the near-universal praise she’s getting for her performance.
For the record, a student asked Chelsea if she thought Hillary’s credibility was shot because she laid down like a doormat in the wake of Bill’s affair with Monica Lewinsky (well, I paraphrase). To which Chelsea – manifesting self-righteous indignation that must have made her parents proud – replied:
But, with all due respect to Ms. Clinton (who is no longer 13 in case nobody noticed), “that” became every American’s business when her Daddy used the Oval Office for midday booty calls. And it became a contentious political issue when her Mummy blamed a vast right-wing conspiracy for her Daddy’s double-O assignations.
The “God damn” nerve of these Clintons will never cease…!
NOTE: Please attribute the typo in the caption above (i.e., “your” instead of you’re) to CBS News. (I added the caption below the picture.)
Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 8:24 AM
Everybody in politics lies, but they [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it’s troubling….
[David Geffen, entertainment mogul and former Clinton fundraiser, in 2007]When former senator Bob Kerry, a Democrat from Nebraska, called Bill Clinton “an unusually good liar” in 1996, he might have been motivated as much by political envy as by moral indignation.
However, even Kerry could not have fathomed the depth of Bill’s pathology for telling lies. After all, this was before Bill wagged his finger at the American people and declared imperiously “I did not have sex with that woman … Ms. Lewinsky;” and before he compounded this lie by dissembling under oath that having sex “depends on what the meaning of is, is.”
But what no one could have fathomed is that his saintly wife Hillary is even more afflicted with this pathology. Indeed, there’s a reason why Bill’s nose is so big. Whereas, Hillary reeks of such self-righteousness that one can be forgiven the impression that every word she utters is the gospel truth.
Therefore, it seems a case of divine retribution that she was caught telling a whopper about her mission to Bosnia that would make even Bill blush.
Hillary has been claiming throughout this campaign that her landing there was “harrowing.” In fact, just last week, here’s how she reiterated her self-aggrandizing version of events to burnish her Commander-in-Chief bona fides (i.e., as an example of why she would be “ready on day one to answer that 3 a.m. phone call at the White House”):
I certainly do remember that trip…to Bosnia… There was a saying around the White House that if a place was too poor, too dangerous, the president couldn’t go so send the first lady and that’s where we went. And, ah, I remember landing under sniper fire. It was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles, ah, to get to our base. But it was a moment of great pride for me.
Except that CBS News has now produced a videotape showing that her landing in Bosnia was no more harrowing than the many landings she made in places like Idaho and Arkansas during her tenure as first lady. Specifically, it shows not only that there was no sniper fire, but also that Hillary was actually greeted by a welcoming party featuring an 8-year-old Bosnian girl who even read her a poem.
Yet it’s a testament to Hillary’s supervening mendacity and political hubris that she fully expected everyone associated with this trip, including the members of her traveling press corps, to endorse her lies. And, let’s face it, they have been doing just that by their silence until CBS broke this story a few days ago….
The ‘scariest’ part of the trip was wondering where I’d eat next. I think the only ‘red-phone’ moment was: ‘Do we eat here or at the next place.’
Therefore, if you buy Hillary’s explanation that “I misspoke…that happens, it proves I’m human,” then you’re the kind of sucker she’s hoping will buy into the “2 for 1” notion that – based on Bill’s presidency – she’s entitled to be president.
Nevertheless, since such resume embellishments have been just cause to fire corporate CEOs and university presidents, this should be just cause to question Hillary’s fitness to serve as the next president of the United States.
Yet the White House papers she finally released last week (under court order) reveal that she was as big a cheerleader for this now discredited trade agreement as she was a pivotal player for the Clinton Administration’s failed health-care initiative.
Therefore, given that she’s been caught in such a tangled web of lies, it’s no wonder she tried to deflect criticisms yesterday by speaking out on the Rev. Wright controversy for the first time. This, despite vowing just days ago that she would never wallow in the gutter with political pundits who have accused Obama of a cardinal sin for refusing to abandon his Church. But into the gutter she went…head first.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008 at 8:20 AMIn an extraordinary press conference yesterday, prosecutor Kym L.Worthy presented a 12-count indictment against Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (37) and his former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty (37).
The counts include charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office. And they all stem from the lies Kilpatrick and Beatty told under oath about their sexual relationship and about their role in the firing of (internal affairs) police officers who dared to investigate their abuse of city funds to conduct their illicit affair.
Our investigation has clearly shown that public dollars were used, people’s lives were ruined, the justice system severely mocked and the public trust trampled on…. This case was about as far from being a private matter as one can get.
Just when did honesty and integrity, truth and honor become traits to be mocked, downplayed, ignored, laughed at or excuses made for them? When did telling the truth become a supporting player to everything else?
[Prosecutor Kym Worthy]
You got that right Ms. Worthy; I couldn’t agree more.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Kilpatrick and Beatty used city-issued pagers to exchange thousands of salacious text messages during their 2-year affair. And all of this occurred while they were both still “happily married” to unsuspecting spouses.
And, as is invariably the case with political crimes, their efforts to cover up these messages account for the most serious charges they face. Specifically, they’re being charged for using city attorneys to prevent the Free Press and other news organizations from publishing them, as well as using city funds to pay millions in hush money to keep the mayor’s relationship with Beatty (and other women) secret.
But here, for the record, is a little of their pillow talk that has become fodder for public amusement:
Kilpatrick (Oct. 3, 2002): I’m madly in love with you.
Beatty: I hope you feel that way for a long time. In case you haven’t noticed, I am madly in love with you, too!
Kilpatrick (Oct. 16, 2002) I’ve been dreaming all day about having you all to myself for 3 days. Relaxing, laughing, talking, sleeping and making love.
Beatty (April 8, 2003): And, did you miss me, sexually?
Kilpatrick: Hell yeah! You couldn’t tell. I want some more.
Meanwhile, even though Beatty had the decency to resign (and her husband had the good sense to kick her to the curb) as soon as their text messages became public, Kilpatrick has defied near universal calls (including a 7-1 vote of the City Council) for him to resign.
I am deeply disappointed in the prosecutor’s decision…. I look forward to complete exoneration once all the facts have been brought forth… I will remain focused on moving this city forward.
In fact, he seems to be hoping against hope that an O.J. jury will acquit him of these felony charges that could send him to prison for decades. No doubt this is why he has taken every opportunity in recent weeks to cast himself as the victim of a judicial system designed to keep black men like him down. (And yes, his long-suffering wife is standing by her no-good man….)
Never mind that 99% of the people calling for his head on a platter are black. And, moreover, that the system in this case is personified by none other than Kym Worthy – a very capable prosecutor who just happens to be black. Not to mention the irony that, despite all of the black lawyers at his disposal, Kilpatrick has retained a “good ol’ white boy” to try to save his ass….
At any rate, I support this prosecution of Kwame Kilpatrick for the same reason I supported the prosecution of Bill Clinton, and it has nothing to do with them cheating on their enabling wives. Rather, it’s because these two pusillanimous dickheads not only lied under oath about their extramarital affairs but also used government resources to conduct and conceal them.
Meanwhile, Kilpatrick is in for a rude awakening if he thinks a jury will vindicate his sex, lies, and text messages. Because nothing demonstrates terminal disaffection and disillusionment with his “hip-hop” leadership quite like the fact that his erstwhile supporters are already mounting a recall petition to vote him out of office.
Therefore, here’s to the end of his political career. And it’s even odds on whether a jury of his peers or a jury of Detroit voters will be the first to seal his fate….
Sunday, March 23, 2008 at 11:37 AM
Friday, March 21, 2008 at 9:30 AMOne of the things I found most dispiriting about growing up the son of a preacher man was having to listen to the same sermon over and over again, knowing full well that my Daddy expected me to be moved by the Holy Spirit anew each time.
In fact, only the wife of a vainglorious politician could possibly appreciate how inured my mind, to say nothing of my soul, had become (by the time I was ten) to “inspired” sermons from the pulpit that I could parrot (almost verbatim) from my church pew.
Yet I never grew tired of the rituals that attended the Easter Season. Indeed, I could never disguise the spirit of suspended animation that got me through it all – even as others affected the countenance each occasion warranted (i.e., being appropriately maudlin on Good Friday to mourn the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and joyous on Easter Sunday to celebrate his resurrection).
Never mind that my animated countenance was due entirely to the anticipation of what fun Easter Monday would bring – as the first beach holiday of the year in the Commonwealth Caribbean.
But oh the guilt I suffered for supplanting religious pathos with this hedonistic inspiration during Christianity’s holiest days! Thank God I deduced before my puberty was in full bloom that He would forgive not only my sinful thoughts, but also the diabolical pleasure I derived from playing one of the soldiers who flogged Jesus Christ – as he crawled his way to Golgotha – in the passion plays our Church performed every Easter.
Therefore, here’s my own Good-Friday sermon, which I address especially to those Christian parents who will force their children to abide church services throughout this weekend just as I was forced to do when I was a child:
God will forgive the little ones for not getting all worked up each year for the scripted homage to His son’s crucifixion and resurrection. He will even forgive them for not writhing with the Holy Spirit on cue at revivals, at which, as I recall, only the souls of mischievous children, not those of sinful adults, seemed in need of salvation. Moreover, He will not ruin their lives if the only spirit that moves them at Easter time is the one that gets them to the beach on Easter Monday; trust me!
However, if you really must wallow in the macabre passions of the season, I suggest you buy the DVD of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and watch it tonight. Because, more than any Easter homily or play, this movie will evoke the funereal emotions and convey (in refreshing and entertaining fashion) the expiatory significance of these familiar words:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
With that, and given the Pharisaic standards that govern conduct in most churches, it will probably surprise none of you that the elders of my church damned me to hell long ago for being a “backsliding” reprobate.
Nevertheless, I believe it is duly recorded on God’s heavenly scroll that I am more spiritual, and live a more Christ-like life, than almost all of the tartuffes who bored me to distraction with their sermons in my youth!
Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 10:13 AMYesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq: a war that has lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I or World War II. Of course, if John McCain has his way, it will last even longer than Europe’s 100 years war.
Yet, what has America accomplished from waging this war?
We are less safe and less able to shape events abroad. We are divided at home, and our alliances around the world have been strained. The threats of a new century have roiled the waters of peace and stability, and yet America remains anchored in Iraq.
[Barack Obama, the only presidential candidate who had the good judgment to oppose this war before it began]But, in this case, numbers speak louder than words:
29,451 American soldiers wounded
Millions of Iraqi civilians killed and wounded – according to unofficial reports. Alas, the US discounts them as collateral casualties not worth counting….
2 million Iraqis now refugees in neighboring countries
2 million Iraqis now displaced from their homes in Iraq
$608 billion wasted / misappropriated / stolen (Note: President Bush’s pre-war estimate was that the war would cost no more than $60 billion)
Meanwhile, it’s a testament to the oxymoronic and ultimately futile nature of this war that, on the one hand, Bush continually paints rosy scenarios about its success; while on the other hand, he warns that all of that success can be lost overnight….
Groundhog days in Iraq
Shotgun marriage between Iraqi Sunni and Shia factions
Civil war in Iraq is at hand
Iraq Study Group presents…
Unconscionable mistreatment of America’s war wounded
Bush proclaims surge strategy rousing success
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 8:26 AMThe uncanny similarities between Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and that of John F. Kennedy’s (JFK) in 1960 continue to unfold. Because just as a whimsical media compelled JFK to defend his religious faith as a litmus test for his candidacy, they have now compelled Obama to do the same. More importantly, just as JFK passed that test with flying colors, Obama has done so too.
I feel obliged to note, however, that Obama faced a far more challenging test. After all, JFK only had to assure pharisaic pundits – many of whom were members of his Catholic church – that his widely respected spiritual leader, Pope John XXIII, would not unduly influence his presidency. Whereas, Obama had to assure them – few of whom are members of his black church – that his widely reviled spiritual leader, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, would not unduly influence his.
On the other hand, Obama was the first presidential candidate with unimpeachable standing to address the historic tensions between race and religion that have beset America since its founding 221 years ago. And, no doubt, the fact that he is bi-racial figured prominently in this respect.
Moreover, no one can deny that he not only diagnosed the complex and polarizing issues involved, but also prescribed the best possible remedies to redress them.
Of course, I am acutely mindful that his unprecedented speech had no impact on his preternatural critics; namely, the angry white men whose racial sensibilities most pundits seem to think he had to assuage. Because, for them, Obama can never repudiate Rev. Wright’s controversial remarks convincingly enough. (And I hope the historical irony here is not lost on you.)
Alas, this only confirms the adage that, despite presumptions about affirmative action, (double) standards for blacks in public life are often twice as high or onerous as they are for whites. Indeed, one wonders if the racial sensibilities of these white folks were as troubled when white preachers spewed racist filth from their pulpits that make Rev. Wright’s remarks seem like the Sermon on the Mount by comparison.
More to the point, however, where was their moral outrage when Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush made pilgrimages to the holy white shrine of Evangelist Bob Jones – a preacher who only tempered his sermons praising Jim Crow laws and damning whites to hell for dating blacks after the IRS threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of his church.
And why didn’t the media put Reagan and Bush through the religious crucible they’re now putting Obama through?
Meanwhile, even though Hillary had the good sense to commend his speech, the reaction of her surrogates reeks with political opportunism. Because they’re insinuating that the “lack of judgment” Obama showed by waiting until Rev. Wright’s remarks were broadcast on YouTube to denounce them is just as bad as the lack of judgment Hillary showed by waiting until the war in Iraq was no longer popular to oppose it.
Nevertheless, here, for your edification, is how Obama managed to channel the political grievances, racial prejudices, and economic frustrations of white and black Americans like no black or white politician ever has, or ever could:
On the fact that Rev. Wright’s homilies are the poisonous fruit of the founding documents of America, he said:
The Constitution was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery…. A Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law…. Yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States.
On the purpose and founding principles of his campaign:
[T]o continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America.
On the divisive turn the discussion of race has taken in this presidential campaign in the last couple of weeks:
On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
On Rev. Wright’s controversial remarks:
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed….
Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
On the media’s caricature of Rev. Wright and the Rev. Wright he knows:
The truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that h
e has served diligently for so many years.
On why he can no more disown his “racist” preacher than he can disown his “racist” grandmother:
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
(Of course, I know that few, if any, white people will appreciate this juxtaposition of Rev. Wright and his grandmother. But think whatever whites will of Rev. Wright, he was primarily responsible for making Obama the God-fearing, racially sensitive man he is today; whereas, his own grandmother not only personified but also spouted the racism that every black man in America has to deal with everyday.
Moreover, just consider for a moment what psychological damage this white grandmother’s racism, albeit unwitting, could have done to the mind of her little black grandchild.)
On why “the fierce urgency of now” compels this frank and open discussion on race in America:
Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
On the proverbial chip blacks of Rev. Wright’s generation have on their shoulders:
They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted…. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings….
The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.
The anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
On the commensurate, but rarely acknowledged, chip white Americans have on their shoulders:
A similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race…. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time….
Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation.
On the path America must take now to bridge the lingering racial divide:
For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past…. The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made….
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed.
Finally, on why he is uniquely qualified to help America finally honor the promise of its founding principles:
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas…. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.
Except that, for Obama supporters who are dismayed that many whites are using this episode as a pretext for withdrawing their support for him, the following should be instructive:
I have a well-founded suspicion that although many white Americans (Democrats and Republicans) might enjoy a political affair with a black man, they would not want to marry their political loyalties to one by electing him president of the United States. Never mind that – by all other electability criteria – Obama will be the best in his class of presidential candidates in 2008.
[Run Obama run, The iPINIONS Journal, October 24, 2006]
Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 9:17 AMEmulating the bravery their brethren displayed in leading pro-democracy protests in Burma last September, Buddhist monks marked the 49th anniversary of “Tibetan National Uprising Day” on March 10 by leading street protests against Chinese rule in Tibet. And since then, similar protests have erupted not only in other Tibetan-inhabited provinces like Sichuan and Gansu, but also in neighboring countries like Nepal.
More to the point, the Chinese showed no mercy back then in killing tens of thousands of Tibetans to establish their totalitarian claim to Tibet as a part of China’s territory. And they have been determined ever since to disabuse the followers of the Dalai Lama of any hope for his return.
There is ample fact — and we also have plenty of evidence — proving that this incident was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique. This has all the more revealed that the consistent claims made by the Dalai clique that they pursue not independence but peaceful dialogue are nothing but lies.
[Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao underscoring China’s non-negotiable position that it “will only consider dialogue with the Dalai Lama if the exiled spiritual leader were willing to give up his proposition for so-called Tibetan independence.]
Indeed, given the way they dealt with the pro-democracy uprising in Tiananmen Square in 1989, it was positively suicidal for these Tibetans to think that their protest would fare any better.
Moreover, there seems little doubt that wherever sympathy protests flare up, they too will be extinguished with equal dispatch.
(According to the Washington Post, the Chinese government claims that 16 people have been killed and dozens wounded. Whereas, the Dalai Lama claims that over 80 have been killed and hundreds wounded – in what he decried as a “cultural genocide” taking place in his homeland….)
Nevertheless, the only worry the Chinese have is that western countries might consider boycotting this summer’s Beijing Olympics to protest this brutal crackdown. After all, the US-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980 (to protest the Russian invasion of Afghanistan) stands as a persuasive precedent in this respect. And, no doubt, the protesters are acutely mindful of this fact.
But they have nothing to fear. Because they are fortunate that any decision to boycott the Olympics will be President George W. Bush’s to make, not Barack Obama’s or Hillary Clinton’s. And it would be too hypocritical even for Bush to act indignant over Tibet – given Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and his myriad constitutional abuses.
(Remember, it was a self-righteous Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, who ordered the boycott of the Moscow games.)
Meanwhile, the Europeans – who would follow whatever the Americans do – wasted little time in expressing solidarity with the Chinese national agenda to ensure that no country boycotts these Olympic Games.
Boycotts have never worked… the only people who are punished in a boycott are athletes.
[Pat Hickey, president of the European Olympic Committee]All the same, I fully expect the monks to lead even bigger protests next year to mark the 50th anniversary of their national uprising – during which even more Tibetan freedom fighters are bound to be killed.
Mind you, despite my cynicism, I actually sympathize with the cause of independence for Tibet. It’s just that my understanding of the geopolitical forces arrayed against the Tibetans convinces me that there’s simply no chance of it ever being realized.
After all, the only reason Kosovo won independence recently is that the US and EU deployed troops to enforce its split from Serbia, and the Serbs did not have the military power to defend their claim to this province. By contrast, not even President Bush dares deploy troops to challenge China’s claim to Tibet.
Yet, all is not lost. Because these protests will do wonders for the Dalai Lama’s (and Richard Gere’s) perennial fund-raising efforts….
NOTE: Far from boycotting the Olympics in China, Bush has declared his intent to preside over the opening ceremonies alongside Chinese President Hu Jintao. This, of course, should surprise no one. After all, American presidents (including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter) have been championing trade with China at the expense of human rights for decades.
But never mind China, because America’s own human rights abuses stand as an even greater monument to its hypocrisy in this respect. After all, the reported abuses being perpetrated by American soldiers on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba make those allegedly being perpetrated by the Castros on the rest of the island seem positively schoolboyish. Yet Bush has compounded America’s loss of moral authority in relation to human rights by actually tightening America’s 50-year embargo against of Cuba.
Monks mount protests in Burma
Monday, March 17, 2008 at 10:49 AMHillary Clinton has played every race card in the deck in a futile effort to derail Barack Obama’s audacious candidacy. Therefore, it’s ironic that the media she once accused of coddling him are now doing more in this respect than she could have ever imagined.
Specifically, there seems to be an open media conspiracy to tar Obama with the Afrocentric rantings of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Indeed, the media have been streaming clips of this reverend’s more inflammatory sermons so much in recent days that you can probably recite them verbatim.
Nevertheless, here, for the record, is a sample of his black-power rhetoric that is stirring up so much racial strife – courtesy of ABC News:
The government gives [black men] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’
No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.
We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon [on 9/11], and we never batted an eye….
We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.But, at the risk of being pilloried along with Rev. Wright, I don’t see what is so wrong with these homilies. In fact, everything cited here is the gospel truth. And I defy anyone to refute this assertion. After all, who among the reverend’s critics is prepared to say “God bless America” for instituting slavery and for its legacy of racism…?
(Incidentally, please do not ignore the limited context in which he intoned “God damn America…”)
That said, I readily concede that preaching about America’s chickens coming home to roost – just five days after 9/11 – was grossly insensitive, politically incorrect, and even incendiary. But this does not vitiate it’s essential truth. Indeed, nothing betrays the ignorance of the criticisms being hurled at Rev. Wright quite like the fact that he is the man who provided the inspiration for Obama’s critically acclaimed bestseller, The Audacity of Hope, which, after all, is a veritable homage to the glories of America.
Therefore, I can only surmise that there’s a willing suspension of all objectivity in the media where this reverend is concerned. Perhaps this is their way of redeeming themselves in the eyes of the Clinton campaign for “giving Obama a free ride” for so long. And boy are they making him pay now:
Rev. Wright is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with … everyone has someone like that in their family.
[Obama after the videos of Rev. Wright first broke early last week. It is notable that he performed Obama’s wedding ceremony, christened his children and held a largely ceremonial role on his campaign committee – until Obama had to ex-communicate him in the wake of this media feeding frenzy.]
I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies…. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Reverend Wright that are at issue.
[Obama on Friday a few days after the media began hanging Rev. Wright’s sermons around his neck like an albatross.]
Whatever their motivations, however, the media are elevating style over substance by scapegoating Rev. Wright and then forcing Obama to denounce and reject him…too (i.e., the way Hillary prevailed upon him to denounce and reject Minister Louis Farrakhan during one of their recent debates).
It’s no accident that some commentators have even mistaken Rev. Wright for Minister Farrakhan – a man I’ve condemned as not only a racist anti-Semite but also an incorrigible thief. Because I suspect this stems from a visceral reaction to his sermonizing style, which smacks of trademark Farrakhanisms. Whereas, based on the substance of his message, Rev. Wright is no more anti-white than Geraldine Ferraro is anti-Black.
But frankly, I feel obliged to remind these fickle media hounds that America was founded on the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. Moreover, Americans should be far more troubled by the latter-day McCarthyites now condemning Rev. Wright than by the provocative things he laces throughout his sermons.
Alas, we’re in a surreal world now in which every presidential candidate is being held accountable for the things their surrogates say – no matter how tangentially associated that surrogate is with his or her campaign. Therefore, I understand why Obama had to deny Rev. Wright the way Simon Peter denied Jesus Christ, and more than thrice….
(Incidentally, like every other preacher in America, Rev. Wright has undoubtedly said some pretty indefensible things from his pulpit. But no parishioner of any church, synagogue, or mosque should have to answer for the things his or her pastor, rabbi, or imam says. And this is especially so if that parishioner is poised to become the first black president of the United States!)
Because, on Wednesday, Hillary went before the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a group of more than 200 black community newspapers across the country, and apologized for the way she and her husband have played the race card repeatedly against Obama. Her apology was belated, but fair enough.
Except that, with equal sincerity and contrition, she then apologized for the way the Bush Administration treated poor black folks in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina….
Yet no black journalist at this press conference challenged her to explain why she rendered meaningless her apology
to them for the racist things she did by apologizing for the racist things Bush did….
NOTE: Just to punctuate the fact that nothing can thwart Obama’s rendezvous with destiny (at the White House), reports are that he picked up seven more pledged delegates from the Iowa Caucuses yesterday. This is because the delegates John Edwards won in that race have now pledged to support Obama instead of Hillary.
He also picked up three (net) delegates from the California primary after that state’s Democratic Party finalized the count from Super Tuesday on February 5.
*Published originally yesterday, Sunday, at 8:49 am.
Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 11:04 AMAfter the “first study of its kind,” the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that at least one in four teenage girls (or more than 3 million teens) has a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
True to form, liberal politicians reacted by blaming conservatives for preaching about abstinence, which they claim discourages the protective use of condoms. Whereas, conservative politicians reacted by blaming liberals for preaching about condoms, which they claim only encourages teenagers to have unprotected sex.
But I have news for these politicians: The government is responsible for protecting us from criminals like robbers, muggers, murderers, and terrorists; not for protecting our kids from STDs like human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes, and HIV/AIDS.
Besides, that so many of them are infected makes it patently obvious that congenitally irresponsible teenagers couldn’t care any less about the risks of having unprotected sex. After all, conservatives and liberals have been preaching about abstinence and condom use, respectively, for decades.
Nevertheless, I say to both sides, keep on preaching. But please limit your preaching to your own kids.
Thursday, March 13, 2008 at 10:32 AMI wrote on Tuesday that Eliot Spitzer should resign. Therefore, I’m relieved that rumors of his resignation were not as “greatly exaggerated” as I thought. Evidently, after counting votes made it painfully clear that he would not survive an impeachment trial, he was forced to resign yesterday just 18 months into his 4-year tenure:
To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize. I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been….
Over the course of my public life I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason I am resigning from the office of governor….
Frankly, despite all the drama, Spitzer’s tragic rise and fall can be summed up in three aphorisms, namely: 1) what goes around comes around; 2) people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones; and 3) no man is an island unto himself.
Because, by all accounts, Spitzer conducted his life, in public and in private, without any regard for these aphorisms or for the basic tenets on winning friends and influencing people.
Winning friends and influencing people, of course, are the keys not only to achieving political success but also to surviving political failure. In fact, the only reason other public figures have survived sex scandals, and Spitzer has not, is that they cultivated political friends and allies that Spitzer, alas, does not have.
Recall, for example, that Bill Clinton defied calls for his resignation only after counting votes confirmed that virtually every Democrat and even a few Republicans in Congress were prepared to stand by him. By contrast, Spitzer has alienated so many members of the NY legislature that not a single Democrat, to say nothing of Republicans, seemed willing to stand by him.
Indeed, it speaks volumes that Spitzer had so little goodwill even among his former colleagues at the attorney general’s offices – who are now prosecuting him – that they refused to grant him a deal for no jail time in exchange for his resignation.
But the good news is that he will be replaced by Lt. Gov. David Patterson – who will become the first black (and first legally blind) governor of New York.
My prayers are with Spitzer and his family as he atones for his life of egregious hypocrisy….
The New York Times outed her yesterday as Ashley Alexandra Dupre (nee Youmans). She is a 22-year-old wannabe pop star from New Jersey who ran away from home at 17 to seek fame and fortune in New York City.
Unfortunately, like thousands of girls who run off to big cities every day with great expectations of becoming a star, she ended up becoming a prostitute (albeit a high-end one).
“I left a broken home. Left abuse…. I just don’t want to be thought of as a monster. It is complicated….”
Well, Ashley should consider herself a success: She’s famous. She clearly made a fortune. (Reports are that she rents a Manhattan high-rise apartment for over $8,000 a month; and, given her rates, that’s only two nights’ work). And, since the media have already pegged Spitzer as the monster, she’ll probably be thought of as far more sympathetic than Monica Lewinsky.
The hypocrisy of “Mr Clean” Spitzer’s assignations with prostitutes
Eliot Spitzer resigns
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 11:25 AMYesterday, Barack Obama cruised to a 61% to 37% win over Hillary Clinton in the Mississippi primary.
And, coupled with his win in Wyoming on Saturday, this effectively re-establishes him as the candidate not only with an insurmountable lead in delegates but also with the momentum in the race towards the Democratic nomination.
However, Hillary’s supporters are lamenting how troubling it is that over 90% of blacks are now voting for Obama.
And, no doubt, their lamentations were prompted by the following race-baiting remarks Geraldine Ferraro, a Hillary booster and the first female VP nominee (on the losing 1984 Democratic ticket), made recently:
If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position…. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.
But one wonders if Hillary’s supporters find it just as troubling that 100% of blacks have voted for white Democratic presidential candidates in every presidential campaign since they got the right to vote. This, despite informed efforts by people like Colin Powell to get them to stop putting all of their eggs in one political party’s basket.
Not to mention the even more glaring, if not damning, fact that whites have been voting along racial lines since time immemorial.
Of course, it is an indisputable fact that Obama’s ability to inspire multiracial support for his candidacy has more to do with his unassailable intelligence and charisma than with luck or his race. Therefore, these lamentations and Ferraro’s remarks are patently absurd, if not racist.
On the other hand, one wonders Hillary’s supporters think that the 72% of whites who voted for Hillary did so just because she’s white; or if they think that Hillary would be in the position she’s in if she were not the wife of former president Bill Clinton.
But frankly, Ferraro is just a crotchety, ignorant and resentful old cow whose remarks Obama should not dignify with any further comment.
Although with the Clintons playing the race card at every turn (in a venal effort to marginalize Obama as just another Jesse Jackson), and Ferraro asserting that he’s nothing more than an affirmative-action candidate, many of you are probably shocked to learn that white Democrats can be every bit as racist as white Republicans. But that’s a fact!
Nevertheless, let’s keep on truckin’ Obama! To Pennsylvania we go….
NOTE: With late-breaking reports that Obama actually won the Texas caucuses, he now leads Hillary in the all-important delegate count 1,608 to 1,478.
Obama regains primary momentum
Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 7:03 PM[A]s governor, I have tried to uphold a vision of progressive politics that would rebuild New York and create opportunity for all. We sought to bring real change to New York and that will continue.Today I want to briefly address a private matter. I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong. I apologize….I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good, and doing what is best for the state of New York.[Eliot Spitzer yesterday, with his wife Silda standing by him, reading a carefully worded response to reports linking him to a prostitution ring]Alas, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is only the latest politician to get his gonads caught in the vice grip of a sex scandal. Because the tragedy of a seemingly omnipotent man getting laid low by sexual indiscretions is as old, well, as the world’s oldest profession: prostitution.Of course, given the orgiastic interest in all of the titillating details, you’d think revelations about Spitzer’s assignations were falling on virgin ears….In short, federal authorities were investigating a “high-end” prostitution ring called the “Emperors Club VIP,” which, according to the Associated Press, has a stable of over 50 girls – with “model good looks” – who cater to wealthy men in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami, London, and Paris. And, in the course of their investigation, they caught Spitzer on tape haggling with the madam of this enterprise about the balance on his account and about how many thousands of dollars he’d have to pay for the services of a “petite, very pretty brunette.”I feel constrained to note that if these politicians were not lead vocals in a … chorus of moral crusaders, I would not give their sexual escapades a moment’s thought. For the unadulterated pleasure of afflicting these hypocrites, however, I don’t even mind being bedfellows with a publicity–seeking hustler like Larry Flynt.[DC Madam outs Sen. David Vitter as a faithful "John"..., The iPINIONS Journal, July 17, 2007]However, this quote explains the only reason why I believe Spitzer’s private tragedy is worthy of public comment. After all, he emulated Sen. Vitter’s self-righteousness by building a career as an anti-corruption (law and order) crusader against everything from white collar to victimless crimes.(Yes, I’m on record declaring my belief that prostitution should be decriminalized.)In fact, he even waxed heroic after busting up two prostitution rings when he worked in the same capacity as the federal attorneys who now have him in their prosecutorial cross hairs:“This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure. It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring.”[Spitzer speaking with contempt after prosecuting a high-end prostitution ring in 2004]
Yet the schadenfreude I feel over Spitzer’s comeuppance must pale in comparison to that which all of the big shots he prosecuted – as NY attorney general – must feel. Because he pissed off almost everyone on Wall Street when he coerced a slew of investment bankers and insurance brokers into copping pleas to all kinds of corruption charges. And, ironically, he did this by threatening to disclose dirt he gathered on them through the same kind of wiretap trap that has now ensnared him.More to the point, however, the irrefutable evidence of his hypocrisy is sufficient to demand Spitzer’s resignation. Nevertheless, I suspect the rumors of the death of his career have been greatly exaggerated.After all, I suspect the rumors about the death of Spitzer’s career are premature. Because his brief statement was replete with as many red flags indicating that he has no intention of resigning as the statement Sen. Larry Craig issued after he was caught soliciting gay sex in a public toilet. For example, he said that his heroic work “will continue,” that this is a “private matter,” and that politics is not “about individuals.”Then, of course, Spitzer could proffer the Clinton / Lewinsky precedent to justify his decision to ignore (partisan) calls for his resignation. (Indeed, I fully expect him to reach out to Bill for advice – especially since Hillary has so much political capital invested in his survival.)Meanwhile, much is being made of the fact that Spitzer trotted out his wife – the way all political cads do – as a prop to convey the not so subtle message that if she can forgive him then the public should.I’m a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary…. If he does something like that, I’m walking away with one thing, and it’s not alimony, trust me.[Wendy Vitter, wife of Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), in 2000 expressing the indignation voiced by many liberated women when Hillary Clinton failed to kick her skirt-chasing husband to the curb after his affair with Monica Lewinsky became fodder for international tabloids. Of course, she ended up standing by her man just like Hillary did.More importantly, however, Spitzer might find the fact that Vitter survived calls for his resignation even more instructive than the fact that Clinton survived efforts to impeach him.]But frankly, I gave up some time ago trying to reason why purportedly liberated women, like Camille Cosby and Hillary Clinton, standby men who humiliate them.The ardent feminist in me would like to think this simply reflects their evolved understanding that marriage is about a lot more than (sexual) monogamy. But it may be that they are riding so high on the power trip these marriages afford them that they couldn’t care any less how much their husbands betray traditional notions of fidelity.At any rate, most pundits seem to think that Spitzer is sweating bullets about whether political pressure or a criminal indictment might finally force him to resign. But I think he’s just fuming over the fact that when the madam asked his call girl how he was in the sack, all she could muster was “he wasn’t difficult, I mean like whatever, I’m here for a purpose.”
Monday, March 10, 2008 at 7:06 AMI suspect I was among very few “liberals” who condemned Harvard University for firing Larry Summers, its intellectually honest but politically incorrect president, in February 2006.
Perhaps you recall that (at an academic symposium) Summers had the effrontery to hypothesize that the presence of so few women in science and engineering is due to biological limitations. Moreover, that these limitations are compounded by socially constructed gender roles that make women less willing to make the sacrifices men do to advance their careers.
Of course, I did not defend Summers because I agree (entirely) with his hypothesis. Rather, I did so because Harvard is precisely the place where the freedom to engage in such intellectually provocative debate should reign. Never mind that Summers actually proffered persuasive empirical data to support his hypothesis.
In a test of Harvard’s famed open-mindedness, the university has banned men from one of its gyms for a few hours a week to accommodate Muslim women who say it offends their sense of modesty to exercise in front of the opposite sex….
No men are allowed in the gym between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Mondays, and between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays (or for just 6 out of the 70 hours a week the gym is open). Even the staff during those times is all women.This time, however, it’s not a coven of feminist professors demanding the head of the university’s president. Instead, it’s Kent Blumenthal, executive director of the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, which has 660 member colleges and universities nationwide, lamenting that:
It seems in some ways contrary to the purpose of campus recreational programs, which is all about access.But I disagree. Indeed, I hope it does not surprise any of you that I commend Harvard for instituting this policy for the same reason I condemned it for firing Summers. After all, the university’s compelling interest in providing this modest accommodation for the welfare of its Muslim female students far outweighs any burden it may cause campus gym rats.
Furthermore, Harvard spokesman Robert Mitchell notes that:
The policy only applies to one gym, a facility mainly used for intramurals. Because of its location at the edge of campus, it is the university’s least used gym.Still, let me hasten to clarify that, even though a religious accommodation, this policy does not discriminate on the basis of religion. Because Christian, Jewish and women of all other religions are still allowed to use the gym during the few hours when it’s reserved for their Muslim counterparts.
More to the point, it is specious to argue that granting this reasonable accommodation would lead to a slippery slope where all manner of special requests would have to be granted. For example, some (probably homophobic) opponents have argued that “pretty soon gays will want separate gym hours.”
However, separating men and women in such social settings is a fundamental article of faith for most Muslims. And I challenge anyone opposed to this policy to cite an accommodation (of moral equivalence) that is being, or would likely be denied, the practitioners of any other religious faith.
In fact, Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, fairly characterizes and dismisses opposition to this policy as follows:
The Muslim bashers portray it as the world coming to end, but if women have a couple hours a week to work out in private, I don’t see it as a major issue.Hear, hear!
NOTE: Harvard is a private institution. So please spare me any uninformed comments about religious or gender discrimination in violation of the US Constitution.
Sunday, March 9, 2008 at 12:59 PMWhining about one of Barack Obama’s loose-lipped aides calling her a “monster”, and screaming gotcha after another one suggested that he really doesn’t mean anything he says, were just a couple of the banana peels Hillary Clinton threw in Obama’s path last week to trip him up. Yet he actually extended his lead over her by winning yesterday’s Wyoming Caucuses in commanding and redemptive fashion: 61% to 38%.
So here’s to Obama regaining his stride and working that (rhymes-with-stitch) out of his side.
Meanwhile, you’ve probably heard Bill and Hillary zealously promoting the idea of an “unstoppable” Clinton-Obama ticket. However, this betrays not only their political cunning but also their sense of political entitlement. After all, they’re effectively conceding defeat while presuming to dictate the terms of Obama’s victory….
Indeed, suggesting that the superdelegates should put her on top is rather like an understudy suggesting that the ballet director should let her perform on opening night instead of the prima ballerina: the f@<#ing nerve!
Nevertheless, what I wrote about this prospect several weeks ago should disabuse you of any regard for this Clintonian presumption; i.e., that they’re doing the Democratic Party a favor by allowing Obama, the projected winner of the nomination, to serve as Hillary’s VP:
That said, it is far more interesting and relevant to speculate on what will happen once the nominee is determined. Because on the one hand, if it’s Hillary, she will have no choice but to choose Obama as her VP running mate. And, no matter what he says about this prospect today, I think he’ll accept the offer in a heartbeat. After all, nothing could prepare him, or set him up better, to succeed President Hillary than serving as Vice President Obama for the next eight years.
On the other hand, if it’s Obama, he would be loath to choose Hillary, and she would be even more loath to accept. After all, that would be like Aretha Franklin agreeing to go on tour as the opening act for Beyonce. Besides, Obama’s ticket would be even more formidable [i.e., unstoppable] if he were to choose a white guy from the conservative wing of the Party as his running mate.
Stick a fork in her….