There are 25 stories in my 2007 HUMAN EVENTS archive. As the year wound down it seemed appropriate to revisit them, thus avoiding the media contagion known as Disposable News Disorder.
Christopher Hitchens’ book, “God is Not Great,” was one of the 150 top selling books of 07. He has since produced another — “The Portable Atheist,” just in time for the Christmas gift market. Hitchens practiced a form of self-mortification when he invited Vanity Fair magazine to give him a makeover. The photos of his scotch-saturated and tobacco-tainted teeth made many a reader exclaim: “Good God.”
For a second time, a book by Richard Dawkins (the first being “The Selfish Gene”) crossed the line between literature and politics. Despite the movement to grant Turkey admittance to the European Union as a presumed secular state, the Turkish publisher of Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” was threatened with legal action (or worse) for printing ideas which are insulting to the Islamic faith.
In mid-December, the Pope got an early Christmas present when Tony Blair officially converted to the Catholic faith. Blair claimed he hadn’t done it sooner lest people think he was “a nutter.” Many replied: “Too late Tony.” Blair is serving now as a negotiator in the Middle East peace process. The Pope is not a popular figure in the Islamic world which begs the question — how will Tony’s road to Damascus conversion be viewed by Muslims? By the Israelis? Quite honestly, the prospects for peace on earth look dim when one reads that — two days after the Christmas pilgrims departed — Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests brawled over how to clean up the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Another dust up in UK politics is on the horizon. Gordon Brown is facing a bonafide insurrection. A sufficient number of his own Labour Party members have promised to vote NO on Brown’s request to hold terror suspects for up to 42 days without charging them. The current holding time is 28 days. Those against the extension say the system is not broken and needs no fixing on the basis of hypothetical cases. Brown has appointed a “fixer” to save himself from a public drubbing.
Behind this battle is the feeling that Brown’s holding time as PM needs to be shortened. Stories are now leaking about Labour’s secreted mini-revolts, staged against Brown from the get-go. The party of a sitting Prime Minister can call, at any time, for a vote of no confidence. That usually means a general election is soon to follow. This fall, the Labour government confessed it had lost two major data bases full of private details — financial and otherwise — on British citizens. We’re talking a great many British citizens. This has thrust the otherwise lackluster Tories ahead in the polls. But does anyone really want to run this island loony bin?
How crazy is the UK government’s decision to require the National Health Service (NHS) to cover surgical procedures for Muslim women who wish to regain their virginity (a must have for one’s wedding night)? From 2005-06, there were 24 taxpayer funded hymen replacements. Muslim women who do not want to “go public” pay up to £4,000 (roughly $8K US) to have their virginity restored in private clinics. Medical science meets hypocrisy!
Other UK ‘07 firsts — on the Islamic feminist front — include the conviction of a Muslim woman for engaging in terrorist activities. This legal decision coincided with a two-part Channel Four TV program. In BRITZ, the daughter of a Muslim family decides to join the jihad after her friends are hassled by police. Her commitment to the cause begins with wearing a hijab (head scarf).
In real life news, a hijab-wearing hair stylist sued the owner of a British beauty salon over job discrimination. The salon specializes in offering “urban funky” cuts and the owner said she wanted employees who would model these hairstyles to the public. The suit demands that the salon owner — who is now the target of racist taunts and threats — pay the plaintiff more than the business earns in a year. Jihad against gels? You be the judge.
In the mixed fortunes department, the twin Kaczyñski brothers, who were serving together as President and Prime Minister of Poland, had their family act broken up by voters. The new Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, delivered his first policy speech to the lower chamber of Parliament on November 23. It was standing room only except for the chair left empty by President Lech Kaczyñski. Lech went on a state visit to Georgia rather than listen to the man who beat his bro.
The Polish press reported that the President’s absence was not the only unusual element of the day. The new Prime Minister rocked the house by delivering a stirring message about people’s freedoms, including the freedom to be economically active and to make money. Private ownership — on which true freedom rests — is something the Kaczynski Brothers kept limited to an absolute minimum. In fact, the former Prime Minister, Jaros³aw Kaczyñski, once said that there was no room in Poland for the rich.
Meanwhile, the President of France has caused the tabloids to go on steroids to keep up with his love life. After a lightening fast divorce from his wife of 11 years, Nicholas Sarkozy added a series of high profile dates with glamorous women to his already mind-boggling schedule of diplomatic forays across Europe and beyond. There is so little romance in today’s headlines.
Speaking of which, the British press has penned more articles on Hillary Clinton. Several focus on how her sham marriage to Bill could be what keeps her out of The White House. If journalists decide to dog old Billy and uncover the details of his current love life, US voters could decide to cancel this soap opera rather than renew the series for another four to eight year run.
The prize for extending one’s own political life in 2007 goes to Vladimir Putin. After choosing his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, Putin volunteered to become Medvedev’s Prime Minister after he, Putin, steps down as President next year. (He cannot legally try for a third term at this time). He has urged the government to smooth the path for his career transition. As if there would be resistance. A week ago, it was revealed that Putin, during his eight years in office, may have stashed away a personal fortune in the $40 billion range. Far from being a cold-hearted tycoon, Vlad just ask if someone could give his dog a GPS chip in case he wanders off. Nor does Putin abandon a human friend in need. Repeated attempts by the British government to extradite Andrei Lugovoi for the fatal poisoning of fellow former KGB agent — and anti-Putin activist — Alexander Litvinenko, (in Nov. 2006) have been rebuffed by the Kremlin. Andrei Lugovoi is now not only a multi-millionaire member of Russia’s economic oligarchy, he is running for political office with Putin’s blessings.
As these words hit the keyboard, Pakistan is in turmoil. Iowa (and the rest of the US electoral process) now looks like an exercise in self-absorbed inanity. The only thing more alight than Karachi — as the year comes to a close — is the Draft Al Gore movement on the Internet.
A personal note: To all those who have read my reports — and especially to those who took the time to comment (either way) — Thanks and Happy New Year!