Monday, February 27, 2012 at 12:04 AM
I’m going to forego my customary review to focus instead on one person who made a personal/racial statement last night that transcended all of the fashion statements that are usually the subject of so much morning-after chatter.
That person is Viola Davis, and the statement she made was nothing more than wearing her hair in its natural state.
The reason this is so noteworthy is that, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been bemoaning the refusal of black women to embrace this feature of their God-given beauty. Here, for example, is how I addressed this issue just months ago in No Blacks please, we’re fashionistas, The iPINIONS Journal, June 15, 2011:
Unless non-white women stop doing all they can to make themselves look white, this racist trend will continue.
For starters, black women can stop covering up their natural hair with wigs made of white women’s hair. Indeed, why should white fashionistas hire black models to appeal to black women who just want to look white? Frankly, I find nothing more unattractive and pathetic than a black woman sporting a long, blond wig … unless it’s for Halloween.
On the other hand, if these women exhibited more pride in their ethnicity, their purchasing power would compel the arbiters and gatekeepers of fashion to feature women who look like them (even with nappy hair and dark skin) in magazines and on the runways.
So here’s to Viola for burning her wig. And I hope the fact that she was easily among the most beautiful women walking the red carpet tonight will inspire other black women to follow fashion. Of course, this does not mean that they have to sport a wild afro like the one Esperanza Spalding did as she sang the In Memoriam tribute to the movie folks who died last year….
Incidentally, I never thought Angelina Jolie was all that. But she looked a pasty, anorexic mess. And she should have felt appropriately humiliated when the guy she presented an award to proceeded to mock how foolish she looked on stage trying way too hard to strike a sexy pose, which actually made her look like a greyhound dog taking a piss. (The only thing missing when he mocked her with a similar pose was a fire hydrant.)
Also, the fact that this guy was accepting the screenplay award for George Clooney’s movie The Descendants only made his mockery more acute. Because I suspect strutting her skinny bones was just Angie’s misguided way of trying to show up Clooney’s statuesque girlfriend - who I gather is more famous for her Dancing-With-The-Stars legs than Mary Hart was for her Entertainment-Tonight legs…
Oh, one more homage to fashion: Jennifer Lopez was clearly trying to recreate the titillating buzz she created in 2000 when she wore that green, silk-chiffon Donatella Versace dress with a décolletage below her naval (eat your heart out Tim Gunn). Unfortunately, her look was almost as embarrassing as that of a 250-pound guy trying to squeeze himself into the same tuxedo he wore when he weighed 200.
That said, there is so much hype surrounding The Golden Globes and other movie-award shows these days that by the time The Oscars come around everything seems somewhat anticlimactic.
Apropos of hype:
I suppose it was too much to expect Billy Crystal to live up to it. But he had some really good moments; never mind that they were mostly in the opening pre-packaged montage featuring the likes of George Clooney and Justin Bieber. Still, there’s no denying that nobody has done a better job of hosting since the last time he did in 2004; and
Kudos to the Academy producers for diffusing all of the hype Sacha Baron Cohen created by insisting on showing up in character to shamelessly, if not rudely, promote his latest movie, The Dictator: they studiously avoided featuring him in any of their camera shots. Unfortunately, this jerk is still getting almost as much post-Oscar press – for spilling an urn of what he claims were the ashes of his deceased pal Kim Jong-il all over American Idol and E! News host Ryan Seacreast - as the women are getting for their fashions.
But if these same producers thought they were building up suspense by making us wait for over an hour before presenting the first award anyone really cared about, they were dramatically mistaken. Because this only increased frustration and boredom with the filler awards and highlighted how lame Billy’s jokes were (he was often the only one laughing at them).
And did we really need to watch stars, most of whom weren’t even nominated, going on about the first time they went to cinema…? They would do well to cut the bit pieces (although, that Cirque du Soleil bit was awesome) and condense this four-hour (main) show down to two hours.
Anyway, I published my picks – complete with pithy commentary – on Saturday. Here is how they fared with the actual winners.
And the Oscar goes to…
The winner was Jean Dujardin in The Artist. This was quite an upset as because it was no small feat for this relatively unknown Frenchman to upstage both Brad Pitt and George Clooney on Hollywood’s biggest night. It is also noteworthy that he became the first Frenchman to win an Oscar in this most-prestigious category.
Actor in Supporting Role: My pick was Christopher Plummer in Beginners.
The winner was Christopher Plummer – who received a standing ovation that was truly well deserved and clearly heartfelt.
Actress in Leading Role: My pick was Viola Davis in The Help.
The winner was Meryl Streep in Iron Lady. What else can one say … except shame on this perennial nominee and now three-time winner for denying Viola her first Oscar! Of course, I can’t feel too bad for her because I’m on record declaring The Help as little more than an exploitative historical farce.
Actress in Supporting Role: My pick was Octavia Spencer in The Help.
The winner was Octavia Spencer. Though, unlike Plummer’s, I found the standing ovation she got a little patronizing. But it reinforced my view that the popularity of this film has more to do with white guilt than black talent.
The winner was Michael Hazanavicius.
Best Picture: My pick was The Artist.
The winner was The Artist. Silence is indeed golden.
That’s a wrap!
Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 11:50 AM
I appreciate all the attention The Academy Awards give to good but relatively unseen films like The Tree of Life. Unfortunately, with all due respect to critics and members of the Academy (of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), how much a film makes, not whether the Academy awards it an Oscar, is the generally recognized measure of its success.
Indeed, it might surprise, if not disillusion, many of you to learn that studios covet an Oscar for Best Picture primarily because – as Sumner Redstone, the owner of Paramount, conceded in a moment of extraordinary candor – it guarantees millions more in box office receipts. And no studio head pursued this Holy Grail with more mercenary gusto this year than Harvey Weinstein – whose three films The Artist, My Week with Marilyn, and The Iron Lady are vying for 16 Oscars.
Anyway, The Academy Awards will be broadcast tomorrow night. Including the red-carpet foreplay, it will be a six-hour show. But trust me, only six minutes of it will be worth watching (i.e., the moments it takes to present awards in the six categories below).
And, remarkably enough, the host comedians do little to relieve the boredom of the interludes between these carefully spread-out moments.
(2008 Oscars, The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2008)
Oh, alright, I suppose many girls (and some “guys”) will be more interested in the foreplay – with its focus on the latest fashions – than in the spurts of excitement that come in those six minutes during the main event. I just have no interest in watching preening, pampered poseurs showing off their borrowed bling and frocks….
Although, apropos of boring hosts, I hope the return of Billy Crystal makes the rest of the show far more entertaining than it has been in recent years. Not least because I’ve been in the vanguard of critics calling for his return to center stage at The Academy Awards for years:
I say give the hosting gig back to Billy Crystal, permanently!
(2006 Oscars, The iPINIONS Journal, March 6, 2006)
I’m mindful of course that Crystal is hosting only because Eddie Murphy begged off after Brett Ratner, his pal and evidently his professional Siamese twin, blurted out an anti-gay slur and was summarily fired from directing this show.
And if playing second banana to Eddie weren’t dispiriting enough, the bone-headed producers are now raining on Billy’s parade by buying into the self-promotional hype Sacha Baron Cohen has been stoking for his film, The Dictator. Because instead of foiling Cohen’s obvious attempt to upstage The Academy Awards by walking the red carpet in his dictator’s garb, they themselves are building up more suspense around what antics he might pull than around Billy’s performance (or, God forbid, around which nominees might win).
Hell, for all we know this irreverent comic might be planning to storm the stage, pretend to behead Billy and take over as host. What’s more, Cohen, in character, is likely to blurt out slurs that make the one that got Ratner fired seem positively genteel. And they are indulging all of this distracting, self-promoting publicity for a yet-to-be-released film that is not even nominated for any awards?
Go figure … but that’s show business folks….
Actor in Leading Role: George Clooney in The Descendants
Because his play against type is not only inspiring artistically but damn so shrewd professionally.
Actor in Supporting Role: Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Because, as my Bibi would say, it’s about time!
Actress in Leading Role: Viola Davis in The Help
Because, for the almost all-white members of the all-boys club that is the (voting) Academy, this celebration of the Mammy iconography is not just perversely nostalgic but also as American as apple pie. According to the February 19, 2012 edition of the Los Angeles Times, the 5,765 members of the Academy are 94 percent white and 77 percent male.
But I can’t blame Viola for getting her Oscar any way she can – especially given all the perks and privileges it guarantees. I just pray she does not pull a Halle by acting as if she had just won a friggin Nobel Prize for doing something as meaningful as MLK did to win his. After all, she merely portrayed Blacks in the same stereotypical way Hattie McDaniel did to win her Mammy Oscar 73 years ago for Gone with the Wind.
(I refer you to my commentary on The Help to see how insidiously offensive I found this movie. And I hope the historical symmetry - in terms of nostalgia and surreal appeal – between The Help and The Artist is not lost on you.)
Actress in Supporting Role: Octavia Spencer in The Help
Because, well, see above.
Best Director: Michael Hazanavicius for The Artist
Because nothing represents the triumph of style over substance that defines modern culture quite like people acting as if this silent film is the best thing to happen to cinema, ironically, since talkies became all the rage in the 1930s.
Best Picture: The Artist
Because, well, see above.
Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 10:48 AM
We are thoroughly investigating the incident and we are taking steps to ensure that this does not ever happen again… I assure you … I promise you … this was NOT intentional in any way…
I offer my sincere apologies for any offence this may have caused, to the president of Afghanistan, the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and most importantly, to the noble people of Afghanistan.
(NPR, February 23, 2012)
This was the abject apology U.S. Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, offered on Afghan TV yesterday for the “improper” disposal (i.e., burning) of Qurans and other Islamic religious materials at the U.S. Bagram Air Base near Kabul.
The general, looking more like a broken hostage than a commanding officer, offered it in a futile attempt to quell riots that erupted as soon as word of this disposal leaked last weekend. And similar apologies from U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and no less a person than President Barack Obama himself seem to have only fueled them – complete with fulminations of anti-Americanism that must fill the Taliban with jingoistic pride.
But here’s the deal: I’m all for showing utmost respect for the religious customs and practices of the Afghan people. I also think an apology was in order for the obvious offense this burning caused (although, one from Gen. Allen alone should have sufficed).
The problem is that I’m on record declaring years ago not just that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, but that trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people is a fool’s errand. Nothing demonstrated this quite like Afghan President Hamid Karzai himself offering the following gratuitous insult, which duly conveyed the ingratitude and betrayal that sums up what the United States is getting in return for all its efforts at nation building in Afghanistan:
If fighting starts between Pakistan and the U.S., we are beside Pakistan. If Pakistan is attacked and the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan’s help, Afghanistan will be there with you.
(Associated Press, October 23, 2011)
Frankly, it has been painfully clear for years now that cognitive dissonance in Afghanistan is such that U.S. forces are regarded these days not as liberators but as crusaders with a penchant for physical brutality and religious insensitivity.
More to the point, it’s an indication of how far America has lost its way in Afghanistan that Gen. Allen is apologizing to the “noble people of Afghanistan” who think nothing of burning not just the Bible and American flag but also President Obama in effigy. And it hardly matters that the mobs involved in these burning are no more representative of the Afghan people than those involved in burning Qurans are representative of the American people….
It’s bad enough that the United States continues to sacrifice lives and waste money for this lost cause. But that this purported superpower continues to apologize in this fashion reflects an ongoing national humiliation that emboldens not just rioters in Afghanistan but terrorists worldwide.
Hell, U.S. generals have become so cowered (where Afghan sensitivities and restiveness are concerned) that Gen. Allen did not even bother to qualify his apology by explaining that the materials were burnt, according to an ISAF spokesman, because prisoners on the base were using them to circulate “extremist messages.” Not to mention that incidents of “friendly” Afghans turning their guns on their American mentors are becoming epidemic….
Yet we now have the surreal, ass-backwards dynamic of U.S. generals promising that U.S. soldiers will be spending more time getting religious sensitivity training from Afghans than giving military professional training to them, which is America’s stated mission.
I challenge you to cite an instance where any government official in the Muslim world uttered a single word of condemnation when Muslims desecrated the corpses of U.S. soldiers by dragging them in the streets then hanging them in a public square in Somalia. Not to mention that even the beheading of U.S. soldiers alive by insurgents in Iraq incited no moral outrage.
(Abu Ghraib 2.0…, The iPINIONS Journal, January 12, 2012)
Perhaps the more probative challenge, though, would be to have you cite an instance where any U.S. president, including that personification of American imperiousness, George W. Bush, demanded an apology from any Muslim country for any of the atrocities it committed against the United States (from Saudi Arabia for 9/11 … for instance). But don’t trouble yourself, you won’t find one.
All of which makes one wonder why America is continuing to suffer these kinds of indignities, to say nothing of the loss of life and treasure, for a cause that is making its misadventure in Vietnam seem beneficial, prudent, and honorable by comparison?
The United States’ legacy there will be distinguished either by a terminally wounded national pride as American forces beat a hasty retreat in defeat (following the Russian precedent in Afghanistan), or by thousands of American soldiers being lost in Afghanistan’s ‘graveyard of empires’ as they continue fighting this unwinnable war (following America’s own precedent in Vietnam). And more troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters…
Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and run ASAP; to let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and to rely on Special Forces and aerial drones to ‘disrupt and dismantle’ Taliban and al-Qaeda operations there.
(“‘Without (or even with) more forces, failure in Afghanistan is likely,’” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)
What a costly and shameful farce America’s involvement in Afghanistan has become!
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 11:04 AM
I have seen only one episode of American Idol and that was during its first year of production. I was not impressed! But then again, watching plainly untalented people make fools of themselves (intentionally or not) is not my idea of entertainment.
(“Paul Abdul making booty calls on American Idol,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 5, 2006)
As this quote indicates, I find little redeeming value in American Idol. Therefore, when its star Simon Cowell left to launch The X Factor, I thought that made about as much sense as Donald Trump leaving the farcical Celebrity Apprentice to launch a spinoff of his own.
This is why I don’t mind expressing unbridled schadenfreude at the growing pains Cowell is suffering with his new show. Pains, incidentally, that were highlighted when he fired his highly touted muse, Paula Abdul, a few weeks ago … after just one season.
Yet nothing indicates how desperate Cowell is to make The X Factor relevant quite like him exploiting Whitney Houston’s death by suggesting that he was in talks with her to replace Paula. Not to mention contrived leaks about him paying Beyoncé $500 million (or paying Elton John half as much) to join his show, which would amount in both cases to nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.
In any event, I hope Cowell’s troubles prove contagious, and that plummeting ratings cause these no-talent shows to go the way of daytime soap operas. After all, it’s a cultural shame that these and other reality-TV programs like The Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills did not jump the shark after just one season.
But if you’ve seen this kid’s croaking (drug-induced?) rendition of Adele’s Someone Like You on YouTube, you know that the only footsteps she can follow in are those Whitney took during her final years; that is, when drugs and booze caused a permanent frog to become lodged in her throat. And we all know how awful and sad that made her sound….
Frankly, instead of grooming Bobbi Kristina to put her on stage, her loved ones should be staging an intervention to put her in rehab.
Paula booty calls…
Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:28 AM
No doubt the rhetoric now being hurled between the United States/Israel and Iran smacks of an unnerving echo of that which was hurled between the United States/Britain and Iraq before the ill-fated invasion of that country in 2003 – complete with UN nuclear inspectors (then and now) on a wild-goose chase to find weapons of mass destruction.
The key difference, however, is that the indispensable party to this war dance with Iran is the pragmatic and prudent President Barack Obama; whereas, in the case of Iraq, it was the dogmatic and cocksure President George W. Bush. More to the point, unlike Bush, whose logic was to bomb first and seek peace later, Obama seems determined to seek peace first and bomb later … if necessary.
In the meantime, we are being treated to the spectacle of Obama, on the one hand, opining that - though rightly concerned not just about Iran’s nuclear program but about its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, repeatedly vowing to wipe it off the map - Israel has not decided to attack; and his secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, on the other hand, opining that Israel has already decided to attack in April, May, or June.
Then of course there’s the drumbeat now being sounded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, where he is emulating, in dogmatic and cocksure fashion, the rhetoric Bush used as a prelude to war against Iraq.
Not to mention the tit-for-tat car bombings which saw Israel assassinate an Iranian nuclear scientist right in Tehran in mid-January and Iran retaliating by attempting to assassinate Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia last week. Or the war games which saw the United States dare Iran to follow through on its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz by sailing an aircraft carrier through without incident last week and Iran countering by sailing two warships towards a Syrian port this week.
All of which makes clear that the United States/Israel and Iran are ratcheting up their psychological warfare to an unprecedented level. Commensurate with this, Israel is saying everything to give the impression that an attack is imminent.
Except that this ploy is being undermined by its indispensable partner, the United States, which clearly deems such obvious blustering beneath its dignity as a superpower. But any talk about Obama emboldening Ahmadinejad by publicly admonishing Netanyahu against continually threatening the use of force is belied by the precedent of Bush’s constant saber rattling and bellicose rhetoric doing nothing to hinder, let alone stop, Iran’s nuclear program.
For its part, Iran is saying everything to give the impression that it not only has the power to withstand any attack, but might launch a “preemptive strike” of its own: oy vey!
But here’s the deal: I am convinced that, despite increasingly onerous sanctions, Iran will develop nuclear weapons. Not least because Iran is clearly following the North Korean precedent. Specifically, despite suffering for decades under the most comprehensive and stringent battery of sanctions, North Korea developed the nuclear weapons that it now uses as a Damoclean sword to extract all manner of political and economic concessions from the very countries, most notably the United States, that are still enforcing sanctions against it.
Yet I am convinced that, despite threatening to use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the United States/Israel will never attack. Not least because the United States has to wonder if Iran is just playing a cat-and-mouse game with the world over its nuclear program for the same reason Iraq did over its WMDs: it’s far more important for its neighbors to think that it has weapons to destroy them than it is for the world to know that it has no such weapons. Not to mention that an attack on Iran would stir up a veritable hornet’s nest—ranging from $6-per-gallon gasoline to effectively kicking off World War III.
And Hamlet thought he had a dilemma? Hell, having to decide when, or whether, to act in these circumstances could turn any thinking president (or prime minister) into a dithering fool.
(“New Sanctions on Iran: Naïve or Shrewd?” The iPINIONS Journal, June 15, 2010)
Most important, though, I am convinced that, despite its rhetoric about wiping Israel off the map, Iran will never attack Israel. Not least because of the same reason the Soviet Union/Russia has never attacked the United States: Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). And rest assured that if any country thought it was beneficial (politically or financially) to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists, North Korea would have done so years ago.
It is worth noting, however, that when Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will only be a matter of time before other countries in the region acquire them too. Indeed, according to the January 16, 2012 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia signed a nuclear cooperation pact with China just last month to develop and use atomic energy for the same “peaceful purposes” Iran continually proffers….
As a general proposition, possessing nuclear weapons is sheer lunacy, which makes the United States and Russia the biggest lunatic nations in the history of mankind. Beyond this, trying to control which countries possess nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is as inherently unfair as it is patently unenforceable.
Who says every sovereign nation does not have the same right to develop these weapons that the United States, Russia, China and others exercised… Indeed, it is instructive that India, Pakistan and Israel refused to even sign the self-abnegating NPT.
(North Korea has nukes…now what?! The iPINIONS Journal, October 6, 2006)
Monday, February 20, 2012 at 6:31 AM
One can be forgiven the impression that “Presidents’ Day” is just another jingoistic inducement for Americans to go shopping. Whereas, in fact:
Washington’s Birthday (officially February 22) is a federal holiday observed the third Monday of February to honor George Washington, the first President of the United States. This date is commonly called Presidents’ Day and many groups honor the legacy of past presidents on this date.
(whitehouse.gov, List of official holidays)
But since this holiday was first observed in 1885, it’s arguable that the holiday was really meant to honor Abraham Lincoln, the man who “preserved the union through its darkest hour:” the American Civil War. (Lingering sympathy and regret over his assassination at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865 probably inspired the honor.)
Since then, however, Americans have considered no other president sufficiently worthy; notwithstanding that they have sculpted the faces of two of them (namely, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt) into Mount Rushmore along with those of Washington and Lincoln.
(Indeed, it’s also a testament to the extraordinary character and accomplishments of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., that he’s the only other American to have a federal holiday – the third Monday in January – declared in his name.)
At any rate, on January 1, 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which formally named the third Monday in February Presidents’ Day to honor all presidents.
NOTE: My choice of presidents to grace Mount Rushmore II: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald W. Reagan. Yours?
Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 7:04 AM
The absurdity, chauvinism, and irony inherent in men attempting to deny women access to contraceptives (and abortions) is completely lost on these nincompoops.
(Abortion a political issue … again, The iPINIONS Journal, February 11, 2012)
‘Reading the news this morning was like stepping into a time machine and going back 50 years,’ Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said. ‘It’s a picture that says a thousand words, and it’s one that most women thought was left behind when pictures only came in black and white.’
‘I’m disappointed. I know it’s a disappointment that’s shared by millions of women across this country,’ Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said. ‘I’m saddened that here we are in 2012 and a House committee would hold a hearing on women’s health and deny women the ability to share their perspective.’
(ABC News, February 17, 2012)
Like I said, clueless nincompoops.
Abortion a political issue…
Friday, February 17, 2012 at 5:31 AM
The media and sports fans alike made quite a spectacle of deifying what proved to be the inconsequential play of Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos during the most recent NFL season. Therefore, you’d think they would be wary of deifying the play of Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks only months later. Yet this is precisely what they’re doing.
Don’t get me wrong, it was certainly fun and even inspirational to watch Lin come off the bench just two weeks ago and proceed to score more points in his first 7 games than any other player in NBA history. And this linderella story was only heightened by the fact that he led a floundering Knicks team to a 7-game winning streak in the process.
But it is patently absurd to be comparing Lin to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, both of whom entered the league as bona-fide superstars having led their respective universities to NCAA championships. By contrast, Lin was a benchwarmer because he never played well enough to make the NBA draft, let alone become the most celebrated player in the league. And, but for injuries to demonstrably better players on his own team, he’d still be warming the bench in obscurity.
Lin is clearly enjoying a surreal, almost miraculous streak of good luck. But it’s foolhardy to think this luck will carry him and the Knicks through an entire season at this level.
Which is why hailing him as league MVP already is rather like hailing a man as husband of the year based solely on his performance during his honeymoon. Or, if that analogy is too off topic for you sports fans, it’s rather like hailing the designated rabbit in a mile race as a new track sensation just because he’s leading a pack of world-class milers after the first lap….
Meanwhile, despite all of this linsanity, the Knicks are still 17th in the NBA with a record of 15-15. By contrast, the Chicago Bulls are 1st with a record of 25-7. Hell, the Knicks don’t even have the longest winning streak; that distinction belongs to the San Antonio Spurs who have won 9 consecutive games. And, most significantly, with only 66 regular games instead of 82 to play this season (because of the lockout/contract dispute), the Knicks will be lucky to even make the playoffs.
This final point is what makes allusions to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos so instructive. Never mind that Lin is awfully keen to make these allusions himself – citing Tebow as his inspiration and invoking his own Christian faith as often and unabashedly as he does.
But beyond leading his team to a mid-season, 7-game winning streak as well, Tebow has little to show for all of the attention and accolades he received last season. Not to mention the humiliating way he was brought down to earth when Tom Brady and the Patriots routed him and the Broncos 45-10 in the second round of the playoffs. I fear Lin and the Knicks are fated for even greater humiliation.
That said, there’s no denying the transcendent nature of his mere presence in the NBA. After all, he is one of very few Asians to ever make it (in fact, he’s the only one currently playing) and one of even fewer graduates from an elite school, like his alma mater Harvard, to generate this kind of notoriety.
No doubt this worldwide linsanity is being stoked by these two factors, coupled to be sure with Lin’s irrepressible charm. And what a boon it must be for marketers to have his almost cherubic face as the face of the NBA, instead of that of the Neanderthal-looking LeBron James (a la his April 2008 King-Kong inspired cover of Vogue) or the alleged-rapist Kobe Bryant (a la his July 2003 charge).
Whatever the case, I hope he enjoys this ride for all it’s worth. Specifically, he’d be well-advised to press the Knicks to sign him to a multiyear deal commensurate with all of the excitement he’s generating globally and all the money he’s making for the team. He’s currently earning the NBA’s minimum wage for a second-year player. And even though that’s a whopping $762,195 a season, he could probably get millions more if he re-signs now while he’s so hot.
The Knicks will attempt to keep their linsane streak alive when they host New Orleans tonight. They should win, but they will have to win 10 consecutive games before I even begin to take them seriously. I don’t think they will.
In fact, in fairness to Lin, I urge sports analysts and reporters (like New York legend Warner Wolf) to help stop this linsanity before rabid fans really go insane. Lin is not like Mike; he’s not even like Isaiah. And analysts and reporters can begin by stopping their lazy and uninformed casting of Lin as a Chinese taking over the NBA the way China is taking over the United States.
Not least because he was born in California, which makes him as American as apple pie. And his parents emigrated from Taiwan, which makes calling him Chinese every bit as ignorant and insulting as calling a Pakistani Indian.
Finally, apropos of lazy and uniformed allusions, I feel constrained to explain that Lin is no Asian Jackie Robinson: Asians were never enslaved in America, were never victims of the legacy of slavery, and were never legally banned from professional sports.
All the same, I fully appreciate the racial pride Lin’s play is imbuing in people of Asian descent. This actually reinforces the cultural diversity and debunking of stereotypes that make America so strong (and of which all Americans should be proud). So, at least in this context, this linsanity is a good thing.
NOTE: If you detect even a whiff of resentment in this piece, it stems unconsciously from my allegiance to the hapless Washington Wizards (7-23), who the Knicks ran over on our own home court in the third game of this linsational streak.
Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 5:34 AM
Ever since Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, liberal elites have betrayed an obsessive interest in the political career of his wife, Hillary. These are the folks who treated Barack Obama like an uppity Negro for daring to challenge her ascension to the presidency in 2008, and who are now – with no hint of irony – advising him to make her his VP running mate for re-election this year.
Here, for example, is what no less a person than Bill Keller, former executive editor of the New York Times (2003-11), is proposing:
[It's] just the ticket … just the thing to do to guarantee President Obama’s re-election… And meantime, you know, Joe Biden was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He’s not a slouch on international policy. In fact, from the point of view of those disaffected liberals who were referenced earlier, you know, Biden is probably more popular – would maybe be a more popular secretary of state. So, you know, give him the State portfolio.
(NPR, January 11, 2012)
Mind you, these are the same folks who insisted, quite rightly, that George W. Bush would look like a wimp if he heeded unsolicited advice from conservative elites to dump Dick Cheney and select a more appealing VP running mate to guarantee his re-election in 2004.
Beyond this, they fail to appreciate that the last thing Obama wants is for anyone else, especially a Clinton, to be given credit for his re-election and, by extension, for what is destined to be his historic and transformational presidency.
Not to mention that if he did as they propose, Obama would become a lame duck on day one of his second term as the media focus turns to Hillary (and Bill), who would then be perfectly positioned to replace him as president in 2016 – belatedly fulfilling the restoration that was so generally presumed for 2008.
Indeed, this is why I think, as I suspect Obama does, that their proposal to put Hillary on the ticket this year is almost as misguided, if not condescending, as their presumption that his challenge to her in 2008 would amount to nothing but a “fairytale.”
Incidentally, my position holds even if VP Biden suffers a sudden heart attack before Election Day. Because listening to some of these folks one can be forgiven the impression that they are prepared to knock him off if necessary….
Ultimately, though, it remains my abiding opinion that – despite the universal acclaim she has won as secretary of state – the way Hillary deceived the American people (by being an enabling doormat and political spinmeister for her husband’s infidelities) makes her unsuitable to serve as VP, let alone president, of the United States.
On the other hand, her cupidity, cunning, and covetousness make her ideally suited to serve as an international banker. Which is why even I have participated in Washington chatter about her becoming the next president of the World Bank (WB).
Here, for example, is what I proposed:
Here’s to women replacing more and more men in positions of power. And none will be more heralded (and symbolic) than Hillary Clinton replacing Robert Zoellick as head of the World Bank when his [first] term expires next year.
(Lagarde to replace DSK at IMF, The iPINIONS Journal, June 16, 2011)
Well, this prospect had tongues wagging yesterday after Zoellick formerly announced that he would not be seeking to renew his contract when it expires this summer (on June 30). Because the prevailing view is that the only reason he’s not holding on to this highly coveted job is to make way for the covetous Hillary.
The WB will go through the formalities of selecting his replacement of course, but nobody doubts that Obama will exercise the same prerogative every other U.S. president has exercised over this process since the Bank was created at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944:
[T]he irony is not lost on me that a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ exists between the United States and Europe which calls for an American to head the World Bank and for a European to head the IMF.
(Lagarde to replace DSK at IMF, The iPINIONS Journal, June 16, 2011)
To be fair, Hillary has pooh-poohed reports about her heading to the WB with the same conviction with which she has pooh-poohed reports about her running for VP (or president again). But I am convinced that she could not resist the former if it’s handed to her on a silver platter; whereas, given the disappointment of 2008, she would clearly be loathed to pursue the latter.
Accordingly, I urge Obama to have his White House aides begin shining that platter.
NOTE: Claims that it’s time for a non-American to head the WB will prove about as successful as claims that it was time for a non-European to head the IMF did until the European Lagarde was selected.
Lagarde to replace DSK
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 5:07 AM
Remarkably enough, I enjoy writing my commentaries even more now than I did back then. Therefore, I have no doubt that I’ll be doing so for at least another seven years.
Apropos of which, I marveled when I read in his CBS obituary (dated November 5, 2011) that Andy Rooney wrote 1,097 commentaries during his 30 years at 60 Minutes. Therefore, just imagine my astonishment when I checked and realized that I had written twice as many during less than seven years here – such that, as of today, my total is 2,358.
Of course, I’d consider myself lucky if you have found (and continue to find) my commentaries half as interesting as I found Andy’s.
Thank you for your support!
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 7:25 AM
Monday, February 13, 2012 at 9:41 AM
[I]nstead of [Whitney] having to watch wistfully as the music industry heralds the rise of the likes of Adele and honors the longevity of the likes of Bruce Springsteen, this show will now feature the industry’s biggest stars falling all over themselves to sing not just her praises but her songs too (and far better than she ever managed to do over the past decade or so). Which is why I’m not even going to watch the Grammys, let alone write my annual post-show commentary.
(“Whitney Houston … is dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 12, 2012)
I followed through on my boycott of the Grammys. But I’ve heard enough feedback from family and friends to accept that it was a misguided thing to do.
That said, I’ve seen enough clips to gather that host LL Cool J did a superb job of setting a tone that prevented the show from degenerating into a series of maudlin tributes to Whitney. His opening prayer was a classy, pithy touch.
But why so many shots of her boy toy, Ray J? Especially given that he was clearly looking to draw attention to himself by showing up just hours after Whitney’s death only to make a public display of his crocodile tears. The disassociated look on his sister Brandy’s face, as he was leaning on her throughout for “emotional” support, said it all. A grief-stricken boyfriend…? I think not. Hell, he’s so vain he probably thought the show was about him….
As for the tributes, Jennifer Hudson is getting rave reviews for her rendition of Whitney’s signature song, I Will Always Love You. But I found it rather disappointing. I mean am I the only one who literally gasped when she failed to hit that high, transitional note that gives this song its innervating pathos? Perhaps losing all of that weight has affected her voice, because I think Jennifer as fat Effie in Dream Girls would have done Whitney far more justice….
Speaking of which, the appropriately plump Adele not only lived up to but exceeded all expectations. She affirmed my assertion that she has more than filled the void Whitney left when she began chasing the dragon.
In fact, Adele’s performance of Rolling in the Deep was as stirring and poignant at last night’s Grammys as Whitney’s performance of The Star-Spangled Banner was at the 1991 Super Bowl. What’s more, that her album 21 sold more last year (18 million) than the albums of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj combined is a testament to the ultimate triumph of unadulterated talent over vaudevillian schtick - aka substance over style.
For the record, Nicki looked like a hapless Madonna retread with her exorcist-themed performance (and if you haven’t seen Madonna’s 1989 Like a Prayer video, YouTube it); Rihanna looked like a hapless Madonna retread with her Desperately-Seeking-Susan performance; and Gaga - her circus act already so hackneyed - was just gagged (i.e., not even invited to perform … and won no Grammys). But these girls are just demonstrating how truly avant-garde Madonna was by each, in her own way, copying today what the Material Girl did over 20 years ago.
Meanwhile, nothing indicates how destined Adele is to eclipse Whitney’s stardom quite like her winning as many Grammys in one night (6) as Whitney won over her entire career. And after getting a glimpse during a pre-Grammy 60-Minutes interview of how truly comfortable she is in her own skin, I have to say that this meteoric rise could not have happened to a nicer girl.
On the other hand, I wonder if it came across as insensitive that, despite having more opportunities than anyone else to do so, Adele failed to even mention Whitney’s name, let alone pay tribute to her: too nervous … or just clueless?
Well, she’s only 23. So here’s to hoping that her career is as long and successful as Sir Paul McCartney’s – that old Beatle who reportedly acquitted himself pretty well with two performances last night.
That’s a wrap!
Whitney is dead
Monday, February 13, 2012 at 6:41 AM
I’m embarrassed to say that when I heard the news of Whitney Houston’s death, I was almost as shocked that she was still alive as I was that she had just died.
Mind you, nobody was a bigger fan than I. It’s just that I’ve been commenting on her demise for so many years that I had long since forgotten that she had a voice so good it sent chills up and down my spine when she sang something as mundane as the U.S. National Anthem:
Who would have thought when Whitney married Bobby 13 years ago that she would rival him in bringing public disgrace and humiliation upon their family?
Yet, it is undeniable that – despite Bobby’s record of bad behavior – Whitney’s diva tantrums, public displays of dementia, and drug-induced anorexia have been the prevailing features of their doomed marriage. Now she seems determined to match Bobby’s frequent arrests by being repeatedly committed to drug rehab.
Can anyone even remember that heavenly voice and beautiful face that descended among us like an angel in the 1980s? Now juxtapose that with her drugged-out renditions of gospel spirituals during her wacky ‘retreat’ to her ‘homeland’ (Israel) last year. And just look at how she’s deformed God’s brilliant construction of her face, making her look like a cross between a woman wacked out on crack and an anorexic?
Still, as a firm believer in redemption and the power of prayer, I pray Whitney recovers from her drug addiction and recaptures just a little of that magic she had before things went so horribly wrong.
Good luck Whitney!
(Whitney Houston: crack is wack … and back! The iPINIONS Journal, March 25, 2005)
Alas, it was not to be – as all of the people who were forced to walk out of her dazed, confused, and cringe-worthy concerts in recent years will attest. Indeed, virtually every one of her “comeback” performances only exposed the utterly devastating, croaking effects of drugs on her voice. So much so, in fact, that her last album, I Look To You (2009), had to have been nothing more than a triumph of technology over talent.
Not to mention all of the canceled performances and interviews, as well as the public displays of intoxication, that made her fall from grace such a sad, pathetic public spectacle.
This is why, unlike those who are showering her with praise today, I have only lamentations. But I see no point in belaboring them. Especially because the road she travelled to perdition has been traveled by so many other superstars: Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse being only the most recent casualties.
Of course, listening to the eulogies you can be forgiven the impression that it was just last year when she performed her iconic rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner and made her star-is-born movie, The Bodyguard (featuring her incomparable version of I Will Always Love You); whereas that was 1991 and 1992, respectively.
Meanwhile, who can deny that singers like Mariah Carey and Jennifer Hudson have more than filled the void Whitney left all those years ago? But I appreciate that, for most people, context (i.e., the full picture) is hardly relevant today.
All the same, I am constrained to note that it’s entirely in keeping with her despairing, diva personality to upstage tonight’s Grammys by killing herself yesterday.
After all, instead of her having to watch wistfully as the music industry heralds the rise of the likes of Adele and honors the longevity of the likes of Bruce Springsteen, this show will now feature the industry’s biggest stars falling all over themselves to sing not just her praises but her songs too (and far better than she ever managed to do over the past decade or so). Which is why I’m not even going to watch the Grammys, let alone write my annual post-show commentary.
Then there’s this: Her voice could no longer keep her living in the style to which she’d become accustomed, and reports abounded that she was facing imminent bankruptcy. Therefore, it might just be that this was Whitney’s way of saying, “Calgon take me away”….
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
(Lyrics from the Greatest Love of All)
You were so right Whitney; they couldn’t take away your dignity. But you gave it away.
My heart goes out to her parent who fought so heroically to get her back on the right path, complete with an intervention that required police support.
Whitney was found dead yesterday from a suspected drug overdose in the bathtub of her hotel room in Beverly Hills. Curiously enough, she may have telegraphed this fateful end on Thursday night by binge-drinking herself into a boisterous and self-destructive mess at a nightclub, where she was the center of attention for all the wrong reasons for the last time. She was 48.
NOTE: I pray potheads like Rihanna take heed. For, as Whitney herself confessed, marijuana is just the gateway drug….
Wack on crack…
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 9:51 am
Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 10:29 AM
There’s nothing more venal about the cult of celebrity that now defines Western culture than the way celebrities conspire with tabloids to pimp out pictures of their new-born babies. And there’s nothing redeeming in celebrities declaring that the money will go to charity; because that invariably means less than 10 percent of the millions they rake in.
This is why I am so pleased that Beyoncé and Jay-Z have broken this trend. For instead of demanding even more than the reported $11 million Angie and Brad got for pictures of their twins, Bey and Jay fed this incomprehensible public lust by releasing photos of their one-month-old daughter Blue Ivy on a Tumblr page – reportedly, for no money at all.
Of course, it may just be that they are banking on this publicity generating millions in fees for the even more venal trend they’ve started by trademarking their baby’s name….
Nonetheless, I hope rich celebrities will be shamed into stopping the greedy practice of pimping out pictures of their babies. For it’s clearly hoping too much for the public to come to its senses and stop caring what these babies look like.
Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 7:46 AM
It has been decades since abortion and related issues have been fodder for political fisticuffs. This is why it was so surreal to watch the Susan G. Komen foundation and Planned Parenthood engaging in a cat fight over funding for abortions last week, and even more so to watch President Obama and the Catholic Church engaging in a duel over funding for contraceptives this week.
To listen to Christian conservatives, though, you’d think these two bouts were the opening salvos in the culture wars they’ve always regarded as a warm up for Armageddon. But I’m convinced that they represent little more than sound and fury signifying nothing.
My conviction is substantiated by the fact that the cat fight ended within days when indignant backlash from liberals forced the Susan G. Komen foundation to reverse its decision to defund Planned Parenthood; and the duel ended within days when equally indignant backlash from conservatives forced Obama to reach an “accommodation” with the Catholic Church.
Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services — no matter where they work. So that core principle remains. But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company — not the hospital, not the charity — will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.
(whitehouse.gov, February 10, 2012)
Nevertheless, Republican presidential candidates are so desperate to find an issue they can tar and feather Obama with that they are refusing to accept this accommodation. Instead, they are framing Obama’s attempt to ensure that all women have access to contraceptives as “a war on religious liberty.”
Nobody made this clarion call with greater religious fervor than Republican candidate Rick Santorum, fresh off his shocking primary sweep in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado on Tuesday. But nothing betrays how contrived this call to arms is quite like Santorum, a devout Catholic, declaring at yesterday’s Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) convention that this war is:
…not about contraception … it’s about government control of your lives.
After all, this is a wannabe president who has vowed as an article of faith to have the government force women to have unwanted pregnancies (even in cases of incest and rape) by making not just abortions but even contraceptives illegal. Not to mention his support for laws that force a woman to get an invasive transvaginal ultrasound and require her doctor to ask if she wants to hear the heartbeat and see printed images of the fetus all before getting an abortion. No wonder he’s the poster boy for the patently hypocritical conservative cause to limit ”government control of your lives?!”
Indeed, the irony should not be lost on any of us that we’ve gone from President John F. Kennedy going out of his way in 1960 to assure the American people that his Catholic Church will not dictate public policy, to the Catholic Church going out of its way today to dictate papal edicts, masquerading as public policy, to President Barack Obama.
It actually speaks volumes about how much religious dogma is shaping the platform of the Republican Party that even an erstwhile moderate like Mitt Romney is proselytizing the Humanae Vitae (i.e., the teachings of the Church on, among other things, pre-marital sex, birth control, and marriage) just to demonstrate what a “severely conservative” Republican he is these days.
In fact, the irony of ironies is that one could be forgiven for thinking that Republican politicians are more Catholic than Catholic bishops. After all, where the politicians are preparing for a holy war over birth control/abortion, the bishops have already declared a willingness to work with Obama to ensure that the accommodation he announced yesterday actually works in practice.
Another irony is that, instead of the politicians, the bishops (led by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York) are the ones who seem politically astute enough to appreciate that if the Catholic Church can abide 99 percent of the women in its pews disobeying the its teachings on birth control, then the Church can abide the poor women who work for its charities having the access to contraceptives Obama outlined in his accommodation.
Today, nearly 99 percent of all women have used contraception at some point in their lives, but more than half of all women between the ages of 18-34 struggle to afford it.
(whitehouse.gov, February 10, 2012)
To be fair, though, I suspect the bishops are tempering their moral/conscientious objections in this case because they are all too wary of untenable comparisons being made with their failure to voice such objections when Catholic priests were sexually abusing little boys….
Which is why, no matter the fine print, this accommodation will not only work but also endear Obama even more to women voters – no matter the fatuous bitching by their spouses or boyfriends about it being his latest attempt to control their lives. By the way, the absurdity, chauvinism, and irony inherent in men attempting to deny women access to contraceptives (and abortions) is completely lost on these nincompoops.
In any event, the final irony is that by summertime the only people making abortion a “wedge issue” will be members of team Obama warning voters that these talibanic Republicans would waste no time outlawing a woman’s right to control her body if they ever regain control of Congress and the White House at the same time.
NOTE: Conservatives voicing moral/conscientious objections to Obama’s attempt to provide women access to contraceptives should beware that just as many liberals have moral/conscientious objections to his use of our tax dollars to build up the military industrial complex and wage war. So if they want to go down that road, two can play that game.
Friday, February 10, 2012 at 5:35 AM
I failed to contain my indignant laughter yesterday when an otherwise intelligent colleague cited the unusually warm winter we’re having as evidence that “global warming is real.” After composing myself, I explained that the gaping hole in his logic is about the size of the one Al Gore keeps telling us is in the ozone layer.
Specifically, I cited, somewhat in jest, the cyclical phenomenon of “Indian summer” – which is as old as the globe itself – as evidence that warm winters are nothing new. I then pointed out that unless Eastern Europe is part of a completely different globe, the arctic winter killing hundreds and stranding thousands there makes a mockery of the very notion of global warming.
Finally, I referred him to reports this week (most notably in U.S. News & World Report) that the polar ice caps are melting far less than previously thought. Which means that Gore’s inconvenient prediction about sea levels drowning Manhattan skyscrapers is at least a few thousand years premature.
But I’ve been quelling hysteria about global warming for years – as the following quote from my August 8, 2006 commentary, My final word on global warming, will attest:
I am convinced that all of the preaching about global warming is just hot air. Of course the planet is getting warmer (even if only by a sweltering 1°F (.17°C) every 100 years … ouch!). Moreover, I have no doubt that humans (especially Americans) are marginally to blame. But I also have no doubt that this warming is simply due to natural climate variations (i.e., it’s a cyclical phenomenon).
Perhaps you’ve noticed in recent years that the term “global warming” has fallen into desuetude. However, slapping the poll-tested term “climate change” on the same arguments is rather like putting lipstick on a pig. Actually, nothing betrays the fact that global warming is more about politics than science than this semantic sleight of hand.
At any rate, I have on the odd occasion been drawn out of hibernation and back into the fray since “my final word” in 2006. In this case, it was not the narrow-minded assertions of my colleague, but the stunning admission of a prominent scientist that has drawn me back.
I’m referring to an interview given by “former warmist” Fritz Vahrenholt in the February 8, 2012 edition of SPIEGEL. The headline for this interview quotes Vahreholt admitting, “I feel duped.” Here are some of his more pertinent statements:
[T]he official United Nations forecasts on the severity of climate change are overstated and supported by weak science…
[I] learned that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is more of a political than a scientific body. As a rapporteur on renewable energy, I witnessed how thin the factual basis is for predictions that are made at the IPCC…
I say that global warming will remain below two degrees by the end of the century…
In terms of the climate, we have seen a cyclical up and down for the last 7,000 years, long before man began emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. There has been a warming phase every 1,000 years, including the Roman, the Medieval and the current warm periods….
Of course, Vahrenholt is hardly the first person to question the science behind the IPCC’s findings. Findings, incidentally, which formed the basis for Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and for all of the international acclaim it attained, including a Nobel Prize he won jointly with the IPCC.
Anyway, here are excerpts from what even I had the good sense to write in an April 12, 2007 commentary, Mother Nature makes UN report on global warming seem like a flaming hoax:
After the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report last Friday, which zealous environmentalists are now touting as “the final word on global warming,” I felt obliged to respond…
The way the findings in this report are being proselytized begs allusions to the Holy Bible. It is ironic, though, that some renowned scientists (including Dr. Tim Ball – Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship and Dr. Richard Lindzen – Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are dismissing this IPCC report with the same intellectual derision with which secular humanists dismiss the Bible…
[G]lobal warming and cooling are natural phenomena that have occurred in (30 to 40-thousand-year) cycles since the beginning of time… Believers in global warming are uninformed, fad-obsessed herds being led by a cadre of myopic media and political elite…
I could not be more indignant at rich environmentalists who seek absolution for their environmental sins by ‘purchasing carbon credits’ in the same spirit with which Catholics once sought absolution for their moral sins by purchasing Papal indulgences.
I fear, however, that the IPCC will only be redeemed if melting ice caps defy God’s Rainbow Covenant and cause another flood of Biblical proportions. In the meantime, these revelations [about researchers manipulating scientific data to give credence to global-warming theories] should compel the Nobel Committee to revoke the IPCC’s, as well as Al Gore’s, Nobel Prize….
(“Climate change: as much fraud as junk science,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 2, 2010)
That said … again, it’s back into hibernation for me.
Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 5:22 AM
In a deft and enlightened move, Martelly declared from the outset of his presidency that he wanted to make peace – not just with Aristide but with every other former Haitian leader as well. To this end he made quite a public show today of meeting with both Aristide and Baby Doc.
Implicit in this of course is that he will discourage any attempt to prosecute Baby Doc, and that Aristide will now be loath to challenge the legitimacy of his presidency. Beyond this, Martelly’s move is deft and enlightened because it lays the foundation for the kind of political certainty that is sine qua non for the foreign direct investments Haiti will need to rebuild.
Haiti’s judicial authorities have dealt yet another blow to the victims of former leader Jean-Claude Duvalier, Amnesty International said this week after the criminal case against the former ‘president-for-life’ for grave human rights violations was dropped.
An investigating judge in Port-au-Prince on Monday announced that Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier will not stand trial for alleged crimes against humanity – including torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions….
(amnesty.org, January 31, 2012)
But let me hasten to clarify that nothing could be further from my mind than gloating here about my prescience; especially because nobody was initially more anxious to see Duvalier prosecuted than I. It’s just that, given the way President Martelly and the Haitian judiciary are being pilloried in the press, I think it’s important to put this decision to spare the country a war-crimes trial into context.
I fully appreciate the criticism that Haiti is opting for political expediency at the expense of criminal justice. But Martelly can point to similar criticisms that were leveled at South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which granted outright amnesty to many Whites who had the blood of the brutal Apartheid regime on their hands.
Clearly Haiti could do a lot worse than to follow South Africa’s principled example. Moreover, Martelly was undoubtedly mindful that prosecuting Duvalier for war crimes would probably incite more factional violence in the streets of Haiti: believe it not Baby Doc still has rabid followers who would die for him. And in that event, nobody doubts that self-righteous organizations like Amnesty International would not be able to lift a finger to stop the bloodshed.
Alas, putting Duvalier on trial for embezzlement of public funds (as the government intends to do) will provide little or no consolation. Not least because he probably has more than enough from the billions he embezzled to settle whatever damages are assessed.
All the same, my thoughts and prayers go out to all who were affected by the brutal reign of the Duvaliers. Even more, though, I wish the longsuffering people of Haiti an extended period of peace, happiness, and prosperity. I am convinced that foregoing a war-crimes trial will help this wish come true.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 5:36 AM
[H]e will be indicted; he will be convicted; and he will go to prison. And, just like Marion, it won’t be for taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), but for lying so openly and notoriously about it. I am equally certain that it’s only a matter of time before the French move to strip him of his seven Tour titles.
That said, the real tragedy here is not Lance falling from grace, but the disillusionment this is bound to cause among the millions of cancer survivors who derived life-sustaining inspiration from his ‘LIVESTRONG’ life story. That his life story is turning out to be a phenomenal fraud is devastating enough for me. I can only imagine the impact it’s having, and will have, on them.
(“Lance Armstrong: falling from grace,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 24, 2011)
The above is an excerpt from just one of the many commentaries I’ve written over the years on the reasonable suspicion that Lance Armstrong fueled his way to cycling glory on a cocktail of PEDs that make the cocktail of meds he took to treat his cancer seem like mere aspirin by comparison.
I was persuaded to predict his legal fate as I did after watching a 60-Minutes probe which featured two of Lance’s long-term teammates retelling the testimony they gave under oath to federal prosecutors about not just witnessing but helping him inject PEDs.
I saw EPO in his refrigerator… I saw him inject it more than one time like we all did, like I did many, many times. [Lance] took what we all took … the majority of the peloton. There was EPO, testosterone … blood transfusion….
(Tyler Hamilton, 60 Minutes, May 22, 2011)
Well, I was wrong. Because, after a two-year investigation, prosecutors announced on Friday that they will not be filing any criminal charges against Lance.
No doubt this came like a belated Christmas present to him. But it was hardly a vindication of his innocence. After all, prosecutors offered no reason for closing the case, leaving the public to speculate in perpetuity about his guilt or innocence (unless he confess). Which compels me to offer the following take on their decision:
No matter the nature and amount of the evidence, prosecutors have wide discretion in deciding whether to file charges. In this case, I suspect that, like me, the lead prosecutor believes PEDs should be decriminalized. Moreover, he probably considered the fact that, as 60 Minutes duly revealed, virtually every cyclist who competed against Lance was using PEDs too. (In point of fact, the winner of the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, was just stripped of his title on Monday and banned for two years for doping.)
Then there’s last year’s sensational acquittal by a federal jury of Baseball’s home-run king, Barry Bonds, on a battery of charges related to his use of PEDs. Not to mention the formidable goodwill Lance has amassed over the years from his heroic bout with testicular cancer and the hundreds of millions he has raised for cancer research through his LIVESTRONG foundation.
Taken together, I suspect these factors led prosecutors to conclude – not only that Lance would probably be acquitted too, but that no public interest would be served by prosecuting (or arguably scapegoating) him for using PEDs. That’s my take.
Nevertheless, the all-important U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is moving ahead with its separate investigation. Never mind that the only punishment this agency can impose at this point is to inflict further damage to Lance’s already tattered reputation. Yet that is precisely what USADA seems determined to do:
Unlike the US Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws. Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation.
(USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart, Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2012)
As indicated in my opening quote, I’ve seen and read enough to believe that Lance cheated his way to cycling fame and fortune. But the Inspector Javert of commentators I am not….
Lance Armstrong: falling from grace
Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 7:59 AM
Bipartisanship finally erupted in Washington, DC last week when Democrats and Republicans alike began venting imperious indignation over the arrest of 19 American aid workers by Egyptian authorities for allegedly engaging in non-governmental organizing without government approval. In fact they are being scapegoated for the political unrest that is now a fact of daily life in Egypt.
There’s no denying, though, that this indignation is heightened because among those arrested and remanded for trial is the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a member of President Obama’s Cabinet.
This begs the question. Why has the relationship between the United States and its erstwhile puppet state deteriorated to the point where Egypt is now picking a fight with, and thumbing its nose at, the United States in this brazen and impudent fashion?
Hell, reports are that the military generals who now/still control Egypt were not even moved by a direct plea from President Obama himself to let his people go….
The reason for this of course is that these are generals scorned by the way the Obama administration threw their former leader, Hosni Mubarak, under the bus; especially after successive U.S. administrations had coddled him and them for decades like a parent would her unruly children.
(And you have to think that as soon as they saw this, America’s other most-favored dictators - namely, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and King Mohammed of Morocco - began looking to China as a more enabling and reliable superpower patron: more on this below.)
The generals telegraphed this feeling of betrayal, and highlighted U.S. hypocrisy in this context, by proffering the patently disingenuous explanation that they have no power to let the aid workers go because that authority is now vested in the independent judiciary the Americans themselves demanded as part of the post-Mubarak Egypt: touché.
In point of fact, it cannot be overestimated how much the stability Mubarak’s de facto dictatorship imposed on Egypt depended on unwavering and unconditional U.S. support. This is why I thought the Obama administration made a strategic blunder a year ago this month when it refused to endorse/guarantee Mubarak’s pledge to stay in power for only an additional six months to oversee the transition from his dictatorship to a functional and orderly democracy.
With all due respect to the protesters, the issue is not whether Mubarak will go, for he will. (The man is 82 and already looks half dead for Christ’s sake!) Rather, the issue is who will replace him. And it appears they have not given any thought whatsoever to this very critical question.
The devil the Egyptians know might prove far preferable to the devil they don’t. Just ask the Iranians who got rid of the Mubarak-like Shah in 1979 only to end up with the Ayatollah – whose Islamic revolution they’ve regretted (and have longed to overturn) ever since….
(Army pledges no force against protesters, The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2011)
I later observed that:
It seems the only thing that will satisfy these protesters – who clearly have no ability to lead Egypt’s transition and have no faith in the ability of anyone else to do so – is replicating throughout the entire country the festive state of anarchy that reigns among them in Tahrir Square.
(Egyptian revolution part II, The iPINIONS Journal, July 14, 2011)
So here we are with Egypt in terminal protest mode and the generals still as angry at the United States for abandoning Mubarak (and jeopardizing the military oligarchy he presided over) as protesters are angry at them for failing to usher in the Jeffersonian democracy they naively expected would be the proverbial door hitting Mubarak on the way out.
What is driving these tensions is that, just as the protesters clearly no longer fear military reprisals, the generals no longer fear U.S. reprisals. This is why, instead of being cowered by familiar U.S. threats about withdrawing aid unless they release the American aid workers, members of the Egyptian military who arrived in Washington over the weekend to meet with White House and Congressional leaders abruptly cancelled all meetings yesterday and returned home.
In effect, they are now daring the United States to withdraw its $1.3 billion in annual military aid and risk losing what little influence it retains in this most powerful country in the Arab world. And the United States will cave because repairing this fractured relationship is even more in its geopolitical interest (to help defend Israel, defend the Suez Canal, and curtail the influence of radical Islam – especially in the Sinai) than it is in Egypt’s. Not least because China is probably whispering in Egypt’s left ear that it would be more than happy to pick up the slack – without all of the self-righteous moralizing about democracy. And the Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, are already propping up the military with billions — no doubt fearful that a democratic revolution or an Islamist insurgency would threaten their idyllic governing monarchies.
Apropos of this, China demonstrated in dramatic fashion on Saturday just how far it is willing to go to enable other totalitarian regimes to brutalize their people to stay in power. Specifically, it joined Russia in vetoing a UN resolution on Syria that merely called on President Assad to stop using his military to massacre pro-democracy protesters. In other words this resolution did not even call for regime change or crippling sanctions like the fateful one on Libya did.
It is worth noting though that this resolution on Syria was supported by virtually every other member, including the Arab league. But the reason China and Russia were determined to brook universal condemnation for effectively sanctioning Assad’s crimes against humanity is that they are setting a UN precedent to give themselves cover if/when they are forced to brutalize their people in similar fashion to stay in power. Which of course is just one of the reasons why neither China nor Russia will ever earn the respect and admiration the United States enjoys in the international community.
That said, I suspect the generals are going to make the United States sweat. You can be sure they know just how anxious the Obama administration is to avoid any comparisons to the Carter administration’s hostage crisis of 1980. Indeed, the generals will probably emulate the Iranians by putting on a show trial to convict the aid workers/hostages only to make another show of pardoning them in a perverse gesture of goodwill between allies. And the United States will have no choice but to humbly abide this humiliation and pray it all plays out in weeks rather than months.
Alas, getting rid of dictatorships in the Middle East is not as black and white as getting rid of Apartheid in South Africa. And any Republican presidential candidate who suggests otherwise is just blowing smoke up your ass.
This is why I’m afraid the only way these protesters will get rid of the military leaders who have always ruled Egypt is if there’s a split in the military like the one now developing in the Syrian military. This of course would portend civil war.
I am reminded though that it took nothing less than a civil war for the paragon of democracy, the United States, to find its way. I just hope the folks in Tahrir Square are prepared to die by the thousands for their cause.
(Egypt: military a bigger devil than Mubarak, The iPINIONS Journal, November 22, 2011)
Monday, February 6, 2012 at 5:43 AM
I was actually pulling for the Giants and Patriots [to make it to tomorrow's big game], respectively. Because my fallback allegiance [after my team Philadelphia didn't even make the playoffs] is now with the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. And I would like nothing more than to see the Patriots get some measure of payback for the way the Giants ruined their chance at NFL immortality by defeating them in Super Bowl XLII (in 2008), ending their pursuit of the elusive perfect season.
(“NFL Championship Sunday,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 26, 2012)
Frankly, I don’t like the Disneyesque spectacle Super Bowl Sunday has become. And do we really need the five-hour build up; especially given that a mere half hour on any given Sunday is usually more than enough?
As for the game, it did not get off to a very auspicious start for my Patriots when Brady absent-mindedly gave up a two-point safety on their first possession.And this, after the Giants demonstrated that they would have no difficulty moving the ball. In fact, halfway through the first quarter they had already amassed over 100 yards on 19 plays; meanwhile, the Patriots had 0 yards on only one play. Even more foreboding, the score was 9-0.
In other words, I was beginning to despair for the Patriots. Then came the longest drive to the end zone in Super Bowl history when they marched 96 yards in 14 plays in just over two minutes to go into halftime leading the Giants 10-9.
This was all the suspense I needed to stay tuned. Especially since the prospect of watching a heavily botoxed Madonna perform her old songs held about as much suspense as the prospect of watching the overhyped commercials that had already been “previewed” ad nauseam over the past two weeks.
I suppose this latter point reflects the need in this twitter age not just for instant but for prequel gratification. Which it begs the question. What is the point of shelling out $3.5 million to air those same commercials again during the game if everyone has already seen them a thousand times?
The notable exception was the commercial, It’s Halftime America, on the revival of Detroit featuring Clint Eastwood. Admittedly, my enjoyment had much to do with the fact that this was the most admired and respected Republican celebrity effectively singing hosannas to President Obama for saving the auto industry and telling the American people that it’s only halftime on this road to recovery … so stay the course. Obama could not have said it better himself; particularly given that Clint intoned his words with biblical authority that would make Charlton Heston as Moses seem like, well, a charlatan.
Not surprisingly, this commercial sent Romney’s campaign strategists into apoplectic fits - not least because they know he’s going to be dead meat when Obama’s campaign strategists begin juxtaposing Clint’s words about the resurrection of Detroit with Romney’s infamous pronouncement that Detroit should be left to die….
I have to admit, however, that where all of the other commercials turned out to be every bit as overplayed as predicted, Madonna’s performance was a delightful surprise. Granted, she had some technical (mic) issues, but these only proved she was singing live … Elton.
There’s no denying that when it comes to stage presence and performance, this old broad puts to shame today’s young chicks who can’t even lip-synch, let alone sing live and dance … in synch.But the time has come for Madonna to stop trying to perform gymnastic moves on stage and save them instead for the bedroom….
Anyway, back to the game:
After the Patriots took the opening possession of the second half 76 yards for a touchdown to go up 17-9, my spirits began to soar…. But back came the Giants with two equally impressive drives. My frazzled nerves were only spared by the fact that they were forced to settle for field goals each time, such that at the end of the third quarter the Patriots were still ahead by a nail-biting margin of 17-15.
Then it was déjà vu all over again when Manningham made what had to have been the best and most-critical catch in NFL history: it put the Giants within game-winning, field-goal range with just 3:39 to play.
All they had to do was milk the clock. But when the Patriots defense fell apart they ended up rushing in for a relatively quick touchdown.
This inadvertently set up the tantalizing prospect of watching Brady exact perfect revenge by leading his team to a game-winning touchdown to snatch victory away from the Giants – just as Manning did in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XLII (in 2008) to snatch victory away from the Patriots.
Alas, it was not to be. The Giants held them off – as Brady’s Hail Mary from beyond the 50-yard line with no time left was not answered. (This is why I only ever put my abundant pride on the line when I wager on sporting events: Patriots over Giants 38-17? What was I thinking/smoking? Well, at least I got one of the scores right.)
I just wonder why, given that catch alone, it was Manning not Manningham who won the MVP award….
On the other hand, am I the only one who finds the dynamic playing out in NFL football between the Manning brothers just as intriguing as that which is playing out in Grand Slam tennis between the Williams sisters – with the younger sibling in each case dominating the rivalry between them? Eli now has two Super Bowl rings, big brother Peyton just one. And it must have been bittersweet for Peyton to watch Eli get his second last night in the Indianapolis stadium he built.
But their parents must be awfully proud; especially Daddy Archie – himself a former NFL quarterback who never even made it to the Super Bowl but has now enjoyed the elusive thrill of that victory three times through his sons.
In any case, this had to have been the most exciting game in Super Bowl history. And it won’t surprise me to learn that it was the most-watched too.
Congratulations NY!!! (Enjoy the parade.)
NOTE: The only thing I can say in the Patriots’ defense is that Brady’s wife Giselle is probably as much a curse on them as Tony Romo’s girlfriend Jessica was on him and the Cowboys. Do the right thing Brady….
Patriots over Giants 38-17
* This commentary was originally published last night (Sunday) at 10:39
Giselle’s potty-mouth pout (February 6, 10:14 am)
Many of you have written to say that it was mean and unfair for me to not just ridicule Giselle for asking people to pray for her husband, but also insinuate that he should get rid of her.
But nothing demonstrates how wise and prescient my ridicule was in both respects quite like reports that she was overheard saying the following in a damning rebuke of Brady’s teammates after the Patriots’ loss last night:
My husband cannot fucking throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.
(New York Post, February 6, 2012)
What a class act, eh? And please bear in mind that it was her husband who got the Patriots off to a lousy start by giving the Giants that careless, two-point safety. More to the point, though, when you add to this my-man-can-do-no-wrong attitude the fact that the wives and girlfriends of the other players all probably hate (i.e., envy) this skinny, rich, supermodel bitch, it becomes clear that the chances of this team ever reestablishing the esprit de corps necessary to win the Super Bowl is now nil to none.
Therefore, I repeat: do the right thing Brady!