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 V.13 No.47 | November 18 - 24, 2004 

Payne's World

Better off Dead

And the week that was ...

De mortuis nil nisi bene, the Romans said long ago. Speak nothing but good of the dead. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's a rule we stick to in these pages. But it's not everyday the man who sired the idea of the suicide bomber passes away, either.

Yasser Arafat kicked off last week in a comfortable Paris hospital room surrounded by his "wife" and other family, friends and bodyguards. In that, it was a far different scene for the Father of Modern Terrorism than the one he allowed for so many of his targets—innocent civilians who happened to be at the wrong café at the wrong time, schoolchildren on the wrong bus or Olympic athletes whose being Jewish and competitors for Israel somehow made them fair game for terrorists.

None of Arafat's victims had the opportunity for long, misty-eyed good-byes to the world and their loved ones. None of them had the opportunity to fight for their last gasps of life with the best medical care France could provide. None of them had Jimmy Carter—former president and world class jackass—wax nostalgic about what a "powerful human symbol and forceful advocate" they were as Carter did in requiem to Arafat.

Instead, whether it was because of bullets or bombs, these innocents were brutally murdered. And for his role promoting and elongating the bloodshed that continues to this day between Palestinians and Israelis, Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Life is always full of ironies and, the farcical irony of that peace prize not withstanding, perhaps the cruelest one of all is that it wasn't just the Israelis who suffered the most at Arafat's hands. It was the Palestinians—the very people for whom Arafat was such a "powerful human symbol and forceful advocate"—who paid the price for his Ramallah kleptocracy.

Many have known for years what the rest of the world is now learning about Arafat—that his political movement (a euphemism if there ever was one) was also a very lucrative criminal enterprise that reaped billions for Arafat and his cronies.

Investigators concluded after an exhaustive probe of Arafat's wealth (and he was a very wealthy man) that most of it stemmed from idealistic pursuits like "extortion, payoffs, illegal arms-dealing, drug trafficking, money laundering and fraud" that yielded billions. Arafat also skimmed millions from funds and relief earmarked for strapped Palestinians workers —which allowed him to keep his wife in Paris in lavish style while his people starved, and, of course, blamed Israel for their troubles.

Peace in the Middle East—and more specifically, between Israelis and Palestinians—may prove one of the most difficult challenges in modern times. But as long as Yasser Arafat was alive and leading the Palestinian cause, there wasn't a snowball's chance of it happening.

Now, with any luck, maybe there is.

CBS finally issues an apology ... but not for RatherGate!

Even though it damaged the network news operation's reputation beyond any foreseeable repair, CBS still refuses to apologize for airing fake documents about George W. Bush's National Guard service on one of their premiere television shows—60 Minutes II. But when CBS cut off the final few minutes of CSI: New York to announce the death of Yasser Arafat and viewers complained, all hell broke lose. In less than 24 hours, CBS issued an apology begging for forgiveness, promised to rebroadcast the entire CSI episode and fired the producer who made the call to interrupt the show.

Last, again!

New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron announced she will not certify the results of the state's Nov. 2 general election until Nov. 23—making New Mexico the only state in the union in which the final outcome of our plebiscite is still up in the air.

Sure, we're the land of mañana but does the Secretary of State's office always have to be the epicenter?

Oh—it's the hat, stupid!

In a New York Times article written shortly after the elections, Democratic Party officials expressed concerns about evidence of a "cultural gap" between Democrats and much of the country. The Times quoted New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson who said his dealings with Mr. Kerry and his advisers had vividly demonstrated to him the problems the party faces.

Quoting Not-As-Big-Anymore Bill, “I remember being on a trip with him in New Mexico: I put a cowboy hat on Sen. Kerry and someone on his staff shuddered and asked me to stop,” Richardson said. “This is, I think, an example of the East Coast not connecting with the West Coast and with the rest of the country.”

So if John Forbes Kerry had worn the cowboy hat he might have won the state? Doesn't Richardson remember Dukakis and the tank—not mention how far cowboy hat wearing politicians who are from here go?

In this case, the staffer was right. Now if only he'd kept the senator from windsurfing. ...

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. Payne, a former city councilor, can be reached at greg@alibi.com.

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