Cross Posted on Global Voices

Morgan Tsvangirai, and not Robert Mugabe, has become the most poignent effigy symbolizing the tragedy that is Zimbabwe. Much like the young nation that stood replete with promise and seemingly unlimited potential in the early 90’s, Tsvangirai emerged as the most potent threat to Mugabe’s tyranny at the turn of the century. Just like the country, once known as “Africa’s breadbasket” has become Africa’s basket case, Tsvangirai has turned into a tragic case of a could’ve been, should’ve been.

The increasingly isolated leader of the main opposition held a publicized press confrence announcing that Mugabe’s efforts to hang on to power would be rebuffed. Unsurprisingly, this event, which early 1998 galvanized the nation’s workers to a work stoppage that ground the nation to standstill was hardly noticed by ordinary Zimbos. People are not happy with state of the nation, neither are they happy with Tsvangirai.

Bev Clark at Kubatanablogs epitomizes the deep frustration felt by many Zimbabweans at the arbotive opposition;

Tsvangirai believes that elections are the way to go, either in 2008 or whenever. Never mind that we’ve had the last several elections stolen from under our noses. Yes of course we agree that the conditions need to be rectified in order to hold accountable and transparent elections but we also know that this is the very last thing that Mugabe will allow because it would be shooting himself in his own small foot.

So therefore we have the two dominant political parties in Zimbabwe playing the same old games. Zanu PF is bound to win, and the MDC is bound to lose – unless the MDC stops ploughing the same old barren fields of thought and action.

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Eddie Cross: How long?

How long, oh Lord?

Perhaps this has been the most common question that I have been asked in recent weeks. People look at me anxiously and hope for an indication that things are not as bad as they seem and that there is some hope that this long nightmare might end.

That is a tough question – perhaps because there is no answer. The truth of the matter is that we might wake up tomorrow morning and find that everything has changed. The reality is however, that change is not likely to come very soon and it is how we manage that bit of information that matters.

Let’s just review the overall situation that confronts us right now.

It is now certain that 2007 is going to be much worse than 2006. Inflation is going to be higher, the economy will almost certainly shrink – for the 9th year in a row and the flood of economic refugees into other countries will, if anything get worse. Shortages will be more widespread and this will
create additional problems for those of us who live here. I predict that the coming agricultural season will be much worse than in the past year. Output across the board will be lower – without exception.

Then there is the situation in Zanu PF. Mr. Mugabe is no longer functioning effectively as Head of State – he is working very short hours and for whatever reason is already in a state of semi retirement. He has moved to his new home in Harare and goes into the office late in the morning
returning home before midday. Few people are seeing him and it is clear that government is confused and divided – no strong central direction is apparent. Everybody is doing his or her own thing.

Then there is the succession debate. Rumors abound about Mugabe’s future plans – they all point to him stepping down and it would appear from our sources that the debate on whether to allow him to remain President until 2010 has been quashed. It would appear to us that he is now committed to
retirement in March 2008, if not sooner. A recurrent Zanu PF nightmare is that he might become incapacitated sooner than March 2008, leaving Zanu unprepared for the succession battles that will follow.
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Tendai Biti: MDC acts on Hon. Mubhawu

The national executive of the MDC held its fifth post-Congress meeting in Bulawayo on 15 October 2006. The meeting was historic in that it was the first time the party had held its executive meeting in Bulawayo.

The national executive deliberated on the state of the party, did a post-mortem on the Chikomba and Rushinga by-elections and received and deliberated on Advocate Happias Zhou’s report on the assault of in Mabvuku 2 July 2006. The national executive also reviewed the debate in Parliament on the Domestic Violence Bill. Pursuant to this, a number of critical decisions were made, which include the following:

1 (a) That the executive committee accepts in total the report and extends its thanks gratitude to Advocate Zhou, Ms Irene Petras, Mr Kay Ncube and Mr Kudzakwashe Matibiri for their sterling effort in producing the report for no charge. The executive also accepted the responsibility of Zanu PF and its intelligence agents in infiltrating and destabilizing the party and the centrality of the State in the barbaric assaults that took place on 2 July 2006. However, the party acknowledges the huge internal problems inherent in Mabvuku and with immediate effect dissolves the Tafara/Mabvuku district executive. An interim committee will be appointed to run the district pending elections to be held in 3 months time.

(b) That the party acknowledges the destructive role played by the sitting MP, Hon Timothy Mubhawu and for his role in the matter, the party immediately relieved Mubhawu of his position in Harare province where he was director of elections. The party further barred and interdicted Hon Mubhawu from dealing with any structures in Mabvuku in any manner other than that of organizing meetings and rallies consistent with party programmes.
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Cross Posted on Global Voices

Global Voices has posted a harrowing video documenting the brutal beatings suffered by worker’s union demonstrators recently. Read the post and watch the video here.

Debate surrounding a new law, the Domestic Violence Bill, became the context for a much criticized misogynistic outburst in Zimbabwe’s parliament last week. Timothy Mubhawu, a controversial member of Zimbabwe’s parliament attracted the ire of women worldwide when he, purpoting “to represent God”, expressed his views on the proposed bill,

“I stand here representing God Almighty. Women are not equal to men. It is a dangerous Bill and let it be known in Zimbabwe that the right, privilege and status of men is gone. I stand here alone and say this bill should not be passed in this House. It is a diabolic Bill. Our powers are being usurped in daylight in this House.”

This outburst, wouldn’t nearly be as appalling had it been uttered by any other legislator save for Mubhawo. Zimbabwean women were on the streets the day after Mubhawo’s infamous statement. Mubhawo is the chief suspect in the brutal assault of Trudy Stevenson, a white female parliamentarian.
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Eddie Cross: MDC rallies

The MDC held one of its anniversary rallies in Bulawayo on Sunday. This morning the local State controlled daily has as its headlines “Residents Boycott Tsvangirai”. Nothing could be further from the truth. No doubt Nelson Chamisa and William Bango will release photos later of the event but my own estimate is that we had a larger gathering at White City than thelast time we were there.

It is very difficult to estimate numbers on an open field but people were sitting perhaps 15 to 20 deep and standing about 5 to 10 deep at the back in a 180 radius crowd. The atmosphere was festive – a lot of humour and good spirited banter, some very clever heckling of certain speakers. As usual MT got a very strong response. I sat next to Grace Kwingeh – she had been in Europe for the past 4 years and it was her first rally in Bulawayo since coming home. She said she was astounded at the turnout.

It was especially so when you appreciate it publicized by word of mouth, there is no public transport and people had to sit in the open in October for 4 hours to hear the leadership. No one moved until it was all over.

MT had just come from the Eastern districts where three rallies were held and after Bulawayo he was on his way to the Midlands. A frantic schedule and I do not know how he keeps it up.

On another subject, we held a National Council meeting in the morning prior to the Rally and one of the main decisions was to suspend Timothy Mubhawu from all positions in the Party and to put his case the National Disciplinary Committee for consideration. He may well be expelled from the Party as a result. The reason for this strong action was the statement he made in Parliament on women and their status in society. This statement was completely at variance with Party policy and was viewed as a very serious breech of discipline on a key issue.

The decision was unanimous.

Eddie Cross

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  • Despite the fact that we have a one sided parliament in Zimbabwe (ZANU-PF controls both houses of the legislature), some Zimbabweans are fiercely debating the implications a proposed Domestic Violence Bill. The bill, which was first proposed two years ago, was finally gazetted for parliamentary reading in July. As it has gone through the legislative process, the proposed bill has engendered emotional debate among Zimbabwe’s laity. Traditional Zimbabwean culture is very conservative and pretends to be paternalistic. I use the word “pretends” because I am of the opinion that in families that truly uphold authentic traditional Zimbabwe cultural values, women are indisputably deeply revered. Zimbabwean oral traditions give women a sacred place as the chief matriac of any lineage. If you think I’m pulling this out of my behind, here are a few examples that I believe elucidate my convictions that true Zimbabwean culture places a premium on the role women play. According to Shona oral tradition, the most heinious offense a child can commit is assaulting their mother. The whole concept in the Shona language of “kutanda botso” or high filial treason, is built around protecting the mother figure. There is no such measure advocating for the protection of paternal figures yet this idea is reinforced among children over and over again as they grow up. The sense of unquestioning respect that our cultures heaps upon a mother is so high, I can clearly remember feeling guilty of this filial high treason for mere anger at my own mother. What’s worse is the consequences of “kutanda botso” are assured psychiatric rages as payment from the ancestors, it can be very scary growing up a Zimbabwean child. Second, in my culture’s highly valued marriage process, mothers are intenionally accorded exclusive homage; apart from the dowry or bride price, Zimbabwean culture mandate the delivery of a special cow to the brides mother known as “mombe yeumai” or the motherhood cow. The idea behind this hallowed piece of tradition is to honor the bride’s mother for bringing her into this world. Again, no such specific attention is given and lauded up the father of the bride despite that the partriachs dominate proceedings during a traditional marriage. Beyond the marriage ceremony itself, the relationship between the mother in law and her son in law remains one of the most strictly upheld aspects of our culture to this day. Mothers in law are to be venerated with a degree of respect that I can only think of as matching that which subject were expected to laud upon their African kings in antiquity. A son in law must not make eye contact with their mother in law, they should (if they abide by strict Shona culture) appear before their mother in law dressed casually or in jeans, and must not talk to her out turn. I blame the chauvinistic neo-classicals for crusading against the sanctity of women. That’s a post for a different day. Back to the DV bill. Without a doubt, its most controversial moment came on Monday when MDC MP Timothy Mubawo uttered the infamous “I represent God” in defence of male dominance,
    “I stand here representing God Almighty. Women are not equal to men. It is a dangerous Bill and let it be known in Zimbabwe that the right, privilege and status of men is gone. I stand here alone and say this bill should not be passed in this House. It is a diabolic Bill. Our powers are being usurped in daylight in this House.”
    Yes folks, that came out of the mouth of a legislator who has been under suspicion for the most violent outburst of rage against Trudy Stevenson a female MP! Zimbabwean women came out on the streets yesterday to protest the misogynistic comments of Mubawo. As the controversy has raged, it has emerged that Mubawo’s misdirected comments may have been evoked by a purpoted attack the bill reportedly mounts against marriage. According to Zimbabwe Journalists,
    But a closer look at the Bill by zimbabwejournalists.com revealed the MP, although apparently out of order in making the sexist comment about women, the Bill, which has been hailed as a saviour for women who suffer domestic violence on a daily basis, is far from what many ordinary women expected. A perusal of the Hansard, the daily record of the House of Parliament, reveals the Bill was supported by almost every legislator on the clauses that deal with domestic violence, which according to Oppah Muchinguri, the Gender Minister, is responsible for 60 percent of all murders in Zimbabwe. Trouble started when the legislators discovered embedded within the Bill were clauses that they think undermine the sanctity of marriage by giving too much powers to mistresses who can take wives to court if approached about their adulterous affairs. If the mistress claims harassment and the court concurs, the wife can be jailed for up to 10 years. Under existing law, a woman with a Chapter 37 marriage certificate could take her husband’s girlfriend to court but under the Bill, it is an offence for the woman to approach the mistress.
    But there’s even more,
    Apparently the Bill also protects the former mistresses from losing the property acquired through their adulterous affairs. Male MPs who spoke off the record for fear of making sexist remarks said the Bill has “completely shifted from dealing with domestic violence to protecting the interests of a few women leaders”. They promised to speak on record in the House after “re-grouping” with the chiefs and others to put their case against certain clauses in the Bill together. Another Zanu PF MP, who also did not want to be named said: “Right now we are going to Bulawayo to discuss the budget but I feel this is an important issue. Look at the House, we have 22 female legislators and only four are married – not that it’s an offence to be single. The four are outnumbered. They know the Bill threatens the institution of marriage. Oppah Muchinguri, the Women’s Coalition and others should be applauded for their work on trying to nip domestic violence in the bud but then they have not fully explained to the generality of the women in the country what they really intend to do with the law – protect themselves, their own selfish interests.”
    As the debate continues, one can only pay homage to our mothers, grandmothers, and sisters hoping that they will someday see the honor and respect our ancestors endowed them with. [tags]Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Legislation, Domestic Violence, Women’s Rights, Human Rights[/tags] (1)

MDC turns seven

The MDC will on Sunday, 8 October 2006, hold its seventh anniversary celebrations at the ceremonial home of people power at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, Harare.

The occasion will attract thousands of MDC supporters both in and outside Harare, provincial leaders from across the 12 provinces as well as national executive and standing committee members. President Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to give the keynote address at the carnival ceremony which will be interspaced with music and drama from various groups.

The MDC was formed in Harare on 11 September 1999 and on Sunday, the party takes stock of its challenges and achievements in the past seven years. On Sunday, we will celebrate seven difficult years under an unrepentant dictatorship. On Sunday, we will celebrate the resilience of the people of Zimbabwe in the face of visible signs of collapse which include a high inflation rate that continues to skyrocket, a collapsed health and education system, a life expectancy of 34 years, massive corruption in all sectors of the economy and an acute shortage of foreign currency for critical imports such as power, fuel and medicines.

The MDC bears visible scars after only seven years in existence. We remember and salute the thousands of our supporters who perished at the hands of Zanu PF such as Learnmore Jongwe, Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya, to mention but a few; we remember the thousands whose houses were burnt and destroyed by this government and the millions who have fled their motherland to seek refuge elsewhere and to work in dehumanising and degrading conditions. We remember the pain and tears of our supporters over the past seven years as Zanu PF went on the rampage across the country and unleashed unprecedented violence on those suspected of sympathising with the MDC.

Ours has been a tough struggle against a dictatorship determined to remain in perpetual combat with the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. The MDC has shown its resilience under one of the most vicious dictatorships and the fact that we are still existing bears testimony to the determination of the people of Zimbabwe to save their country. Our cause is just and we continue to survive the detours, impediments and set-backs authored by the dictatorship.

On Sunday, we will take advantage of the occasion of the party’s seventh anniversary to reflect on our challenges and achievements over the years. The MDC is ready to roll out its programmes. There is no doubt that the people shall soon express themselves in a big way against tyranny. We remain committed to to peaceful resolution of the national crisis. We have already tabled our roadmap as our humble submission towards a peaceful resolution of the national crisis that continues to get worse everyday. In any contest with the people, dictators have always come second best. Zimbabwe deserves better. Let’s build a new and better Zimbabwe.

Nelson Chamisa, MP
Secretary for Information and Publicity

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Eddie Cross: The responsibility to protect

For almost all of the 20th Century, a basic dictum of international diplomacy was “non interference in the internal affairs of other States”. Even today, Mugabe angrily denounces all attempts to even discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe at international gatherings as “interference in our internal affairs.” At the SADC summit last month he stormed out of that gathering and flew home 24 hours early when leaders insisted that the Zimbabwe situation be discussed in a closed session.

Today in Darfur the international community faces a fresh challenge – the Sudanese government is flatly refusing to allow more effective UN surveillance of the situation in Darfur and is continuing to try to subjugate the people of Darfur by means of armed force using both State resources and informal armed forces. The international media is still allowed into the Sudan and so we can see for ourselves the effects of this situation on the ordinary men and women of the western region of Sudan. We can see the refugee camps, the fresh graves; hear the stories of those whose lives and rights are being abused by a dictatorial Islamic regime.

In recent times the issue of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States has come under scrutiny. People are questioning the dictate and saying that where a government is threatening the fundamental human and
political rights of its people, the international community has the responsibility to act in solidarity with the poor and defenseless. So today we are seeing really tough talk at the UN about Darfur and we are also seeing more and more prominent people from all walks of life saying that the international community has the responsibility to interfere.

In southern Africa we have been there as well – both the Rhodesian and South African governments used the dictate to argue that outsiders had no right to interfere. But eventually, the gravity of the crisis and the threat to the
stability of the region persuaded those with power to take action. In both cases the international community appointed a “point man” to take responsibility for coordinating and directing the resolution of the crisis. In both cases they were successful. Henry Kissenger was the point man on Rhodesia and Margaret Thatcher the point “man” for South Africa.

What happened after their intervention was critical, but it was their (often unsung) actions that actually broke the logjam and made all else possible. If you had told me that South Africa would go through the process that led
to the 1994 elections without serious violence and upheaval – I would have said you were nuts. But it happened and the key element was a carefully planned and executed political action backed by the threat of the use of
power. Such threats are only credible when they are real and can be backed up by action if needed.

Today it is 30 years since Henry Kissenger flew into South Africa and held talks with a team of Ministers led by Ian Smith at Union Buildings in Pretoria. He came with a plan agreed by key African leaders and the backing
of the global community at the time. He arrived when Rhodesia was in the throes of an armed struggle with the armies of Zanla and Zipra who were demanding one-man one vote (democracy). 150 000 men were under arms and the
ordinary population of the country was being brutalized by all sides. The economy was in dire straights and there was no end in sight for the conflict. There were fears the conflict might spread into South Africa itself. Smith was totally in charge and even the South Africans were wary of taking him on politically.

Kissenger persuaded the South Africans that there was no future for Rhodesia under Smith. That backing the Smith government was not only a waste of South African resources but was having a negative impact on the survival and prosperity of South Africa itself. He was well prepared and the US had used its considerable intelligence capacity to ensure that he could argue this case with some force and conviction.

Kissenger sympathized with Smith – recognised his courage and determination and even his love of the country he led. But he also understood that he was never going to win and that if the final defeat came any way other than
through negotiation, it would be a disaster. He presented his plan to the Rhodesian team and after they had debated it amongst themselves for a while, they rejected it. At that point the President of South Africa came in and
said to the Rhodesian delegation that if they walked out of that room without an agreement, he would cut off their essential supplies and all future support would cease. Smith went on to call it the “Great Betrayal” but in fact what those two foreign leaders did that day was to rescue the country from itself and open the way to a new beginning.

The Rhodesians flew home and Smith went on television 30 years ago on the 23rd September 1976 to say they had agreed to a transition to real democracy. It took 3 more years but when Zimbabwe was born on the 18th April
1980, Henry Kissenger was, in a very real sense, its father.

Today the international media are banned from Zimbabwe and unless someone has the courage and the equipment to film something clandestinely – the world cannot see what is happening here. That does not excuse leaders. They
should not require pictures to make decisions on situations like Darfur and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately very often that is the case – but it should not be so. They know what is happening – they have other resources, reports,
intelligence and their diplomats.

The crisis in Darfur is serious, but it does not compare to the situation in Zimbabwe where a criminal class is in power, is terrified of its past and is fighting to stay in control at any cost. The consequences are there for all
to see – GDP down by half, exports by two thirds, life expectancy by half in a decade, elections a sham, the media totally controlled and all forms of opposition ruthlessly put down by armed force and violence. We are a threat
to regional stability and prosperity; our economic and political refugees are drowning the social and economic systems of our neighbors. Our leadership is unrepentant – even of genocide and the mass destruction of homes and livelihoods. They are guilty of the theft of national assets and income on a scale that has not been seen in recent years in the rest of the world.

Like Burma and North Korea they have built up a military State that is able and willing to maintain itself on what remains and can continue to do so indefinitely. The only recourse of its beleaguered and embattled population is flight or a form of national “house arrest”.

The Zimbabwe situation is one that is wide open to international intervention. The failure by African leaders, the South African leadership in particular, demands that the international community itself takes a fresh look at what is going on and what can be done to get things back on track. Unlike Darfur, Iraq, Burma and North Korea – Zimbabwe is vulnerable to international action. It is a small country with limited resources – none of them really strategic, it is land locked and its neighbors hold the key to the survival of the regime.

This is a problem that can be fixed. For the sake of its people, the international community has an obligation to interfere. It does not require military intervention of any sort, just coordinated and concerted action by the leaders of democracies in Africa and abroad.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 2nd October 2006

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With Mugabe’s approval, police quash another demo

In what has been widely condemned as the state’s approval of police cruelty, Mugabe berated Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) leaders for crying foul after police brutalized them for their attempted demonstrations last week. Speaking at an official event during a stopover on his way back from Cuba and New York, Mugabed raged at the demonsrators accusing them of putting on a charade for western media to document,

The President said the ZCTU leaders — who were beaten up by police for holding an illegal gathering in Harare — got the treatment they deserved for ignoring warnings to disperse.

“We cannot have a situation where people decide to sit in places not allowed and when the police remove them, they say no. We can’t have that, that is a revolt to the system. Vamwe vaakuchema kuti takarohwa, ehe unodashurwa. When the police say move, move. If you don’t move, you invite the police to use force,” the President said.

And as if they had planned it ahead, the police did it again.

27 people on Monday were left with bruises after police in Harare crushed a protest march by the pressure group National Constitutional Assembly (NCA). Demonstrations, which took part in several cities last Wednesday, had failed to take place in Harare due to heavy police presence.

Dr Lovemore Madhuku, chairperson of the NCA, said the impromptu strike action which was attended by around 300 people was to make the people of Harare go back to the streets and regain their confidence as the police blocked the protests last week. He said; “The objective is to raise awareness and putting pressure on the government.”

Police are said to have started beating the protesters who were not resisting but merely sat on the road. There were no arrests. Madhuku believes it was a well calculated plot by the authorities not to arrest anyone so as to create the impression that there were very few people in the streets. He also said perhaps it was coinciding with the return of Robert Mugabe who was returning home from the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

All this does is instill tremendous amounts of fear in an already fearful lay population in Zimbabwe. One of the things Mugabe’s propaganda has done extremely well is overmagnifying the consequences of opposing them whilst underplaying or downright ignoring the progress made by activists for a better Zimbabwe. Ultimately, as ordinary Zimbabweans engage in the cost-benefit analysis of whether it’s worth the risk of going out on the streets, there are huge disincentives for the people to be involved in street protest. We cannot forget the plain reality here; at just 7 years of age, the MDC has attained heights scaled by no other opposition party in Zimbabwe. And despite Mugabe’s constant belittling, the NCA and ZCTU are still out there for the people. Don’t forget the other civic activists braving assured police torture on a daily basis either.

As for the Bull Conner like government, their time is fast approaching. They too, like their infamous predecessor will realize that just the most violent beatings, the most inhumane punishment, and the most demeaning things they can do and say will not take away from the people of Zimbabwe that which the government didn’t give; our God-given right to freedom and dignity. Pretty soon, the people will have nothing left to fear anymore. In Why we can’t wait, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. describes Mugabe’s impending reality,

When for decades you have been able to make a man compromise his manhood by threatening him with a cruel and unjust punishment, and when suddenly he turns upon you an says: “Punish me. I do accept it so that the world will know that I am right and you are wrong,” you hardly konw what to do. You feel defeated and secretly ashamed. You know that this man is as good a man as you are; that from the some mysterious source he has found te courage and the conviction to meet meet physical force with soul force.” p.16

It’s only a matter of time….

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Eddie Cross: Seven years of courage and determination

Seven years ago I sat in the aquatic stadium in Chitungwiza and watched as 8000 ordinary Zimbabweans – mostly low-income workers and rural peasant farmers, formed a new political Party, which they called the “Movement for Democratic Change”. It was the start of a new era in Zimbabwean politics.

I seem to have been in opposition politics all my life. It started in the 60’s when I was a student at the University in Harare and underwent a metamorphosis in political terms – discovering the conditions under which people were living and working and for the first time appreciating the
unjustness of the situation. I vowed to work towards resolving the problem and spent the next 12 years in opposition politics – working against the Smith government.

At independence in 1980 I was part of the transition team – working to help the incoming administration (Zanu or Zapu) to come to grips with what had been a closed book to the rest of the world for 13 years following the imposition of mandatory UN sanctions in 1967. I then worked on the first donor conference and did the background papers that laid the groundwork for a very successful transition in agriculture. Over the next 15 years the farm sector was Zimbabwe’s most consistent performer.

Although I sympathized with the forces that came to power in 1980, I always had an uneasy relationship with them even though I occupied quite senior positions in the first 8 years of Mr. Mugabe’s rule. This was accentuated in 1983 when I was brought face to face with the early effects of the Gukurahundi exercise and raised my disquiet with the then Secretary to the Cabinet, Charles Utete. I went on to raise my concerns with certain European governments and got my first serious reprimand and threat from the Minister of State Security, Emerson Munangagwa.

It was the beginning of the end for me – the last time I had been threatened by a Minister of Security, it was by a Minister in the Smith government who called me a “threat to national security”. Somewhat exaggerated in my view at the time and also in retrospect, but as we have come to learn, political paranoia has no bounds.
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