Ahmed Chalabi - Man for All Seasons

The Flaneur File has kept its ever-vigilant eye on Ahmed Chalabi since early 2002, when it became known that Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella group of Iraqi exiles working for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, was the principal provider of "intelligence" to the United States in all matters Iraqi. Chalabi is the man who gave us the informant code-named "curve-ball" (we should have wondered at that monniker), who was the Wilt Chamberlain to our slam-dunk assessments of Iraq's possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Flaneur File confesses that our interest in Chalabi was initially adversarial as we were in opposition to the imminent invasion of Iraq, and Chalabi was one of the international players enabling the United States government to cover the invasion plans with a cloak of legitimacy.

Many times in the past four years, it seemed as if Chalabi was through, suffering political setbacks which would haver buried lesser men. But like some indestructable Titan, Chalabi has shown he is not only in possession of uncommon cunning and ambition, but also has a testicular fortitude that this world has not seen in a leader since the glory days of Grigori Rasputin. The man's uncanny ability to land on his feet, and to even look good doing it, has forced the Flaneur File to a position of grudging admiration; albeit one that is rooted in some form of twisted Machiavellian morality.

While we are in possession of enough background material on Chalabi to run a regular feature in this space (hmmm...there's an idea - The Chalabi File), we write today to gaze in wonder at his latest feat of political prowess: Ahmed Chalabi has today officially been placed in charge of Iraq's Oil Ministry. Sure, he wanted to be King, but when that didn't pan out as he had planned, did he wilt away? Hell no, not our man Ahmed.

The IMF decided that energy subsidies paid to Iraq were getting untenable, so decided to put the pinch on, resulting in a five-fold increase in gas prices over the past six weeks, up to sixteen cents per liter. This may seem quite a low price to us, but consider that the average monthly income in Iraq is thirty-five dollars a month, and thats for the fifty percent of Iraqis who actually have a job. Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr Al-Ulum supported the increase, but only if it was incrementally phased in, so as to lessen the impact on the average Iraqi. The IMF however, would not bend, and neither would Deputy Prime Minister Chalabi. As a result, the price increase went in full effect, and Al-Ulum today resigned in protest. Leaving Chalabi somehow officially in charge of Iraq's oil.

We wonder what effect this development will have on the investigations here in the United States regarding not only Chalabi's provision of fake intelligence to Washington, but of passing U.S. secrets to Iran.
Chalabi is a man to watch, and he's not done yet.


Dr. Zhivago in Greasepaint

Clowns - amusing, tragic, annoying, frightening, insipid, talented and inane. Frequently exhibiting all these qualities at once. No better example can be provided than "Slava's Snowshow", now appearing at the Union Square Theatre (once a stronghold of NYC's own Tammany Tigers).

Spoiler Alert: I will be revealing a bit of storyline here (or what could loosely refered to as such), so if you intend to see this show and think it'll be ruined by knowing any details of it beforehand, click here.



Ok, now that we're alone, here's a simplistic version of the storyline as best as the Flaneur could wrap his mind around it:

Show opens to Yellow Clown contemplating suicide - Yellow Clown meets Green Clown, also contemplating suicide - they become hesitant comrades - they have a disagreement - Yellow Clown gets mad and sends Green Clown away - Yellow Clown goes to train station and makes imaginary friend with a Coat Rack - Coat Rack and Yellow Clown have a train platform parting scene that grabs the heartstrings and does macrame with them - Yellow Clown ends up alone in the wilderness somewhere - Yellow Clown is buried in a furious blizzard - curtain.

That's about it. Ha-Ha-Ha....silly clowns! Excuse me while I change the dressings on both of my slashed wrists.

To be fair, there is some brilliant clowning around, miming, physical theatre, and stagecraft. I'm also certain there are some depths of the story that I am just too simple a man to appreciate. The New York Times said it was life-affirming. I missed that bit, but who am I to doubt the Gray Lady?

The score is fabulous, though a bit loud sitting in the fifth row. And the grand finale of the blizzard, all 60 seconds of it or so, are worth the $60+ a pop for a seat. Brilliant lighting and special effects. Someone spent a long time snipping up little bits of paper to find the right dimensions to achieve the fluttering effect of snow so perfectly. Oh, and about those little bits of snow-cum-paper: you get more than a Playbill to keep as a souvenir, I'm still picking them out of my hair, my clothes, my cats, my keyboard....

To sum up, next time the Flaneur has a desire to see Russian Clowns, he'll just stay home in Sheepshead Bay and save himself the angst.