Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 6:44 PM
Here is what I published within hours after Ye Shiwen of China blew away the field in the women’s 400 individual medley on Day 1:
[T]houghts of juiced-up East Germans came to mind when Sun Yang’s first-ever win for a Chinese male swimmer in the men’s 400m freestyle (shattering the Olympic record) was followed in short order by Yi Shiwen’s win in the women’s 400m individual medley (shattering the world record).
The lithe-bodied Chinese dominating the world in the graceful sport of Diving is one thing; but in the grueling sport of Swimming? Something smells … fishy.
(“Day 1,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2012)
Ryan Lochte knocked Olympic icon Michael Phelps off his perch on Saturday with a brilliant performance to win the men’s 400m individual medley.
But just minutes later, in the women’s version of the event, a 16-year-old Chinese prodigy performed an even more amazing feat as she smashed the world record and left her competitors far behind. Ye Shiwen posted such a good time that her final 50m was in fact faster than Lochte’s performance in the men’s event, at just 28.93 seconds.
Her achievement was so unprecedented that it even led some broadcasters to question whether Ye had benefited from underhand practices.
(Daily Mail, July 29, 2012)
The problem of course is that, just as Lance Armstrong is alleged to have done, Ye appears to have taken masking agents that conceal her performance-enhancing drugs. This is why, like him, she has already passed the doping test she was mandated to take right after her race. But, like him, she’s not fooling anyone.
As dominant as the Chinese were in winning gold in the men’s team yesterday, the Americans were in winning gold in the women’s team today — posting a score of 183.596. In fact, the defending Olympic champion Chinese did not even medal. The Russians took silver with 179.530; the Romanians, bronze with 176.414.
The undisputed superstar was Gabby Douglas, the only gymnast whose performance was good enough to score points for the USA on each of the four apparatuses: vault, uneven bars, beam, and floor exercise. I just hope she gets at least half the credit and commercial endorsements Mary Lou Retton got when she led the USA to gold in women’s team in Atlanta 16 years ago.
In the meantime, this result will undoubtedly provide some measure of redemption for the way the Americans fell apart in men’s team yesterday.
In what will probably be deemed the biggest upset of these Games, Chad le Clos of South Africa defeated Phelps in his signature event, the men’s 200m butterfly. What’s more, le Clos turned Phelps’s own Beijing magic — of winning gold by a fingertip — on him, making this the second time Phelps has suffered this fateful irony in London. He settled for silver; Takeshi Matsuda of Japan won bronze.
Alas, this silver also means that Phelps lost this opportunity to join only two other swimmers who have won gold in the same individual event at three Olympic Games.
Nevertheless, this medal coupled with his gold from today’s 4x200m freestyle relay and silver from Sunday’s 4x100m freestyle relay made Phelps the most decorated Olympian in history, surpassing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina who had 18 medals. Phelps now has 19: 15 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze. And he has three more opportunities to pad his record in this respect.
Yet there’s no gainsaying that his reputation, perhaps even this stellar legacy, will be tarnished somewhat if he comes out of these Olympics without winning gold in a single individual event.
That said, I cannot help feeling like something of a soothsayer, having warned/predicted that Phelps’s Olympics would be thus:
Since being defeated at the outset in this energy-sapping and potentially ego-deflating event [the 400m individual medley] could ruin his chance at gold in every other event, it would not surprise me if Phelps decides to withdraw.
(“Olympic Trials: Preview of Exciting Feats to Come,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2012)
I suspect he fears, and I predict, that if he were to lose this first head-to-head matchup with team rival Ryan Lochte, his confidence and aura of invincibility would be so sapped that he’d be lucky to win gold in half of his remaining events.
(“London Olympics Opening Ceremony,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 27, 2012)
Meanwhile, Ye followed up her win in the women’s 400m individual medley with another in the 200m individual medley in equally dominant (i.e., suspicious) fashion. Alicia Coutts of Australia won silver; Caitlin Leverenz of the USA, bronze.
Unfortunately, Missy Franklin failed even in her modified Phelpsian quest to win gold in all of her individual events by coming in fourth in the women’s 200m freestyle. Her USA teammate Allison Schmitt won gold; Camille Muffat of France, silver; and Bronte Barratt of Australia, bronze.
Ping pong & Shooting
I always thought I was a pretty good ping pong player. After watching these Olympians (men and women) go at it, however, I now realize that my game is to tricycle as theirs is to bicycle. But it’s very encouraging indeed to see that non-Asians can play at this level too.
More begrudgingly, I suppose gun fanatics in the United States can claim some vindication from Americans winning gold in men and women’s skeet shooting. In fact, throughout the history of the Games, the USA has won almost twice as many medals in shooting as its nearest rival.
MEDAL COUNT: China: 23; USA 23, Japan 13
Monday, July 30, 2012 at 8:21 PM
It’s not as if the London organizers were not aware that this might be the case. It boggles the mind, therefore, that they did not enlist tens of thousands of volunteers (from pensioners to school kids) to show up at a moment’s notice to fill seats if ticket holders do not show up. They could have warned in print on all tickets that the holder forfeits the seat if it is not occupied by 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the event.
(“London Olympics: Day 1,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2012)
This in part is how I vented outrage over the eyesore of empty seats that is reinforcing the logistical farce besetting these Games. Well, London organizers only compounded matters by redeploying thousands of soldiers they drafted to provide security outside Olympic venues to fill empty seats inside – affirming my claim that they are acting like characters in a series of Benny Hill skits.
On a more encouraging note, perhaps after reading my commentary, they provided some consolation by announcing plans to enforce the following rule:
Spectators who fail to take their seats within 30 minutes of the start of an Olympic event could lose them under plans being considered by Games organisers.
(Daily Mail, July 30, 2012)
The Mexicans rekindled my childhood fascination with the cliff divers of Acapulco by winning silver; and the Americans, David Boudia and Nicholas McCrory, added to Britons’ dashed hopes by edging out their favored son, Tim Daley, and his partner, Pete Waterfield, to win bronze.
There were four finals today but I found only two of them worthy of comment:
The men’s 200m freestyle featured Ryan Lochte demonstrating just how much his victory in the 400 IM on Day 1 took out of him. For after surrendering certain gold to France by practically dying in his anchor leg of the men’s 4x100m relay last night, he followed up today by languishing almost two seconds behind the winner of this race. This means that Lochte might be even more psyched out than pooped out, which does not bode well for him in his final head-to-head match-up with Phelps in the Men’s 200m IM on Thursday.
Meanwhile, we in America are being treated to swimming ads competing with political ads touting Lochte as the man of these Olympics, as well as profile pieces giving the impression that he is as much Hercules as Aquaman. Talk about counting your chickens before they’re hatched….
The women’s 100m backstroke featured 17-year-old Missy Franklin beginning her quest to win gold in all of her individual events — given that her hope of becoming the female (Beijing) Phelps of these games by winning gold in all of her events drowned on Day 1 when the USA had to settle for bronze in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.
She’s off to a good start in this individual quest, winning gold, ironically enough, in Phelpsian fashion … by a fingertip. What’s more, she showed remarkable poise and strength by swimming this race less than 15 minutes after qualifying for the final in the women’s 200m freestyle. Emily Seebohm of Australia won silver; and Aya Terakawa of Japan, bronze.
The Chinese proved that home-court advantage had nothing to do with the way they dominated at the Beijing Games in 2008. They defended their Olympic title by winning gold in the men’s team competition in equally dominant fashion with a score of 275.997.
Far more interesting was the razor-thin competition among all of the other teams for silver and bronze: the Japanese edged out the Britons for silver with 271.952; and the Britons edged out the Ukrainians for bronze with 271.711.
Remarkably, the top-qualifying Americans were not even in contention, finishing fifth. They can only hope to redeem themselves in the individual all-around and individual events competitions. More important, though, I hope this result does not spook the top-qualifying American women into a similar result in their team competition tomorrow.
NOTE: Many of you took umbrage at my blithely dismissing Equestrian Eventing at these Olympics. But, truth be told, because success depends almost as much on the nature of the equipment/horse as it does on the skill of the competitor/rider, I don’t even think Equestrian should be an Olympic sport. The mere fact that one has to be either rich or sponsored by a rich person just to participate makes a mockery of the egalitarian spirit of the Olympics. And, while even rowing is enjoying some racial diversity, equestrian performers are almost exclusively White men and women of European descent.
MEDAL COUNT: China: 17; USA 17, Japan 11
Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 8:50 PM
Despite my cynical comments about the men’s road race yesterday, I was positively captivatedby the women’s today; no, not that. It helped though that the women have not been caught in nearly as many doping scandals, which meant that one could be fairly impressed by their remarkable form.
What made this race so captivating was the way the 87 miles unfolded like an obstacle course. In fact, the intermittent rain, wind, and hairpin turns – all on slippery roads – caused so many crashes that it seemed like the women were in a roller derby instead of a cycling race. Nobody was seriously hurt, but I had the sensation throughout this race that I get when I’m watching a high-wire act and hoping, perversely, that the bastard would fall.
All the same, the Brits lining the course must have enjoyed the suspended animation one of their riders provided by joining a three-woman breakaway for the last 90 minutes of this nearly four-hour race: redemption for Cavendish’s failure seemed at hand. Alas, it was not to be: that British rider, Lizzie Armitstead, was edged out in the final sprint across the finish line by Marriane Voss of the Netherlands for the gold. Armitstead won silver; Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia, bronze.
No doubt they would have preferred gold, but all Britons seemed genuinely proud to have Armitstead’s silver as the first medal for the host nation.
I was exceedingly proud that one of the Canadian divers, Jennifer Abel, made Olympic history by being the first Black to medal in Diving with her partner Emilie Heymans. With all due respect to Heymans, however, if Abel had a better partner she could easily have won silver.
Anyway, perhaps today’s Google doodle featuring a Black Olympic diver inspired this good showing … eh?
The USA Dream Team, led by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, made an impressive debut by beating France 98-71.
Of course, as indicated above, the only thing newsworthy in this sport would be the USA losing a single game. Mind you, this could happen – as no less a person than LeBron can attest, having been on the putative dream team that ended up with a humiliating bronze at the Athens Games in 2004.
That said, the confidence among the players on this dream team is such that, instead of focusing on beating teams at these Olympics, they are spending more time trash talking about how they could beat the original dream team from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, which was led by Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
For what’s it’s worth, I have no doubt that the Barcelona dream team would handily defeat this London dream team. Not least because there’s no center on this team who can block and rebound the way David Robinson did; there’s no forward who can post and score the way Michael Jordan did; and there’s guard who can drive and assist the way Magic Johnson did. Not to mention the mental advantages the 1992 team would have over the 2012 team.
So I say to Kobe and Co: shut up and play ball!
I won’t say that I jinxed him, but I did say that if Phelps lost his first race it would bode ill for all the others. That was borne out today when the USA was soundly beaten by France in the men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay. This was all the more shocking because this team (comprised of Nathan Adrian, Phelps, Cullen Jones, and Ryan Lochte) was expected to swim even faster than the team that kept Phelps’s gold streak alive at the Beijing Games.
So, by his own standard, Phelps is now 0 for two. But it should also be noted that this result punctured Lochte’s boast of matching Phelps, to some degree, by winning gold in all of his events. Even worse, it must have been humbling, if not humiliating, for Lochte to have a French swimmer chase him down on the final leg of this race the way an American swimmer chased down a French swimmer to win gold for the USA in Beijing. This is the definition of going from hero (in the 400m IM yesterday) to goat (in this relay today).
On the other hand, how do you say payback in French…? And anyone who remembers the way Phelps reacted after the Americans won in Beijing will appreciate that primal scream one of the French swimmers let out after they won today….
In other swimming races of note: Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa not only upset reigning two-time Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima in the men’s 100m breaststroke but did it in a world-record time of 56.46. This was the first gold medal for a South African male swimmer in Olympic history. Christian Sprenger of Australia won silver; Brendan Hansen of the United States, bronze – finally getting that Kitajima monkey off his back. (Kitajima came in fourth.) And Dana Vollmer of the United States held off a surprising challenge from Ying Lu of China to win the women’s 100m butterfly in a world-record time of 55.98. Ying Lu won silver; Alicia Coutts of Australia, bronze.
I usually eschew the personal stories NBC runs as filler pieces in its 24/7 coverage – as I prefer to be moved solely by the athletes’ performances. But I find it particularly interesting that both the women and men’s teams are being led this year by Black gymnasts, Gabby Douglas and John Orozco, respectively, and their compelling backgrounds make this all the more impressive.
More to the point, both teams are top qualifiers going into the finals, and Orozco and Douglas are poised to medal in the individual events and all-around competitions as well. But it was a real shocker when their teammate Jordyn Wieber, who is the current all-around world champion, failed to qualify for the women’s all-around final. Only two members from each national team can qualify, and Douglas and Aly Raisman won those two highly coveted spots for Team USA.
In the interest of full disclosure I should begin by revealing that I lost all interest in Equestrian Eventing after I was thrown from a horse several years ago and nearly broke my neck. I know: you’re supposed to get right back on, right? Well, I wonder if anybody said that to Christopher Reeve….
Anyway, my interest in this competition stems solely from the absurd lengths to which presumptive U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been going to downplay his interest in seeing his wife’s horse, Rafalca, compete in Dressage. I mean, what does it say about him as a husband that he insists on knowing nothing about the sport he claims is his wife’s passion and, even worse, that he claims to have no interest in watching her horse compete at the Olympics even on TV, let alone in person?
Stupidly, it was only after watching the individual and team events and neither seeing nor hearing anything of Rafalca that I learned that Ann’s horse will not be competing until next week. But I think I’ve seen enough. Therefore, considering that Obama is the horse I’m backing in the presidential race, I shall suffice to wish Rafalca well in his race … but not Mitt in his.
By the way, I gather almost everyone else tuned in to see the Queen’s granddaughter, Zara Phillips, compete in this first leg of the three-day equestrian eventing — with cross-country and show jumping to follow. She placed 24th. So much for the inherent advantages of royal birth….
NOTE: Because so many of you got a rise out of my comments about the pole dancers masquerading as Beach Volleyball players, it might interest you to know that the most attractive athletes at these games are not these beach bunnies but the field hockey players. And they don’t have to jump around in their bra and panties to show off their beauty … and skills. But don’t take my word for it. Check them out.
MEDAL COUNT: China: 12; USA 11, Italy: 7
Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 7:38 PM
Over the next 16 days, Olympic competition will be held in 32 sports – from Archery to Wrestling. But even though I shall be indiscriminate in my viewing (on TV and the Internet), I shall be very discriminating in my commenting here. (Incidentally, can somebody explain the appeal of Badminton, which seems to defy gravity by having players use what looks like a squash racket to swat at what looks like a cluster of chicken feathers over what looks like a mini Volleyball net?)
That said, I’m already irritated: Why the hell are there so many empty seats at so many venues?! This has become a quadrennial farce.
I find it more than a little difficult to reconcile all of the Chinese hype about these Olympic Games being such a source of national pride with all of the empty seats at so many events.
(“Beijing Olympics,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 15, 2008)
The fact is that government agencies and big corporations invariably gobble up the lion’s share of tickets to all Olympic events to dole out as perks or to curry business favors. This makes it virtually impossible for ordinary folks to get them … even if they could afford them. Then, because it was no money out of their pockets, many who get these tickets think nothing of blowing off the less popular events like Badminton. But Swimming – even when Michael Phelps is being featured? Gymnastics?
Again, it’s not as if the London organizers were not aware that this might be the case. It boggles the mind, therefore, that they did not enlist tens of thousands of volunteers (from pensioners to school kids) to show up at a moment’s notice to fill seats if ticket holders do not show up. They could have warned in print on all tickets that the holder forfeits the seat if it is not occupied by 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the event.
Instead, shots of the stands at some venues give the dispiriting impression that, unless it’s Soccer or Cricket, Britons don’t give a damn, which would clearly make a mockery of the Olympic spirit. Whereas, in fact, the millions of ordinary Britons who lined the 156 miles of the Men’s Road Race in Cycling belie this impression and demonstrate that their spirits are thriving and eager to be on display.
No doubt Britons wanted nothing more than for phenom Mark Cavendish to deliver the first gold medal of these Games on this first (official) day of competition for Team GB by winning the 156-mile Men’s Road Race. And expectations were understandably great in light of Bradley Wiggins becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France just last weekend.
Unfortunately, Cavendish’s British teammates, who included Wiggins and Tour runner-up Chris Froome, could not keep him in contention for the final sprint that is his trademark (i.e., the way Cavendish and Froome did for Wiggins over the long haul of the Tour).
In any case, it only reinforced my cynical view that cycling is replete with cheats when formerly-banned doper Alexandr Vinokurov of Kazakhstan (aka the country Borat put on the map) won gold. Rigoberto Uran Uran of Columbia won silver; Alexander Kristoff of Norway, bronze. Cavendish ended up 29th. (Perhaps you’re aware that no less an authority than U.S anti-doping authorities are now accusing Lance Armstrong of being a doping fiend throughout his entire career.) Truthfully, the only thing noteworthy about this race was the sight of so many iconic London landmarks along the route.
Who knew archery could be so competitive and exciting?! I saw the Americans take on the South Koreans to qualify for the gold-medal round in the Men’s Team event. The Americans won; and, because the South Koreans are reigning world champions, this gave the Americans a great shot at winning gold.
Never mind that the South Koreans looked in shape more for the German beerfest than the London Olympics. To be fair though, it’s a good thing none of these latter-day Robin Hoods were … men in tights.
Anyway, the Americans blew their golden opportunity and lost to the Italians. The Americans won silver; the South Koreans, bronze.
Since being defeated at the outset in this energy-sapping and potentially ego-deflating event [the 400m IM] could ruin his chance at gold in every other event, it would not surprise me if Phelps decides to withdraw.
(“Olympic Trials: Preview of Exciting Feats to Come,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2012)
I suspect he fears, and I predict, that if he were to lose this first head-to-head matchup with team rival Ryan Lochte, his confidence and aura of invincibility would be so sapped that he’d be lucky to win gold in half of his remaining events.
(“London Olympics Opening Ceremony,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2012)
It was clearly a bad omen when Phelps barely qualified for the final in this event the way he barely won two of his gold medals in 2008: one can only achieve glory by a fingertip on so many occasions. But, as the above quotes indicate, I think he would have been better off not swimming this event at all.
The TV commentators insisted that he was just saving energy for tonight’s final. Well, a lot of good that did him: this defending Olympic champion in the 400m IM did not even make the podium; he placed a humiliating fourth.
Lochte won in seemingly invincible fashion – leading from start to finish and besting Phelps’s 2008 Olympic record. Thiago Pereira of Brazil won silver; Kosuke Hagino of Japan, bronze.
So save the cheers, Mr. Morgan Freeman, lightening will not strike twice for Phelps…. Now we’ll see if he has the mental toughness to recover - more psychologically than physically – to return to his winning form in his next event.
And so much for Missy Franklin becoming the female Michael Phelps by winning seven gold medals: In the women’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay, the USA won bronze, losing to Australia (gold) and the Netherlands (silver). I warned in my commentary on the U.S. trials about the precedent Katie Hoff set when she was touted as the female Michael Phelps in 2008: she did not win a single event. But I think Missy will fare better….
Meanwhile, thoughts of juiced-up East Germans came to mind when Sun Yang’s first-ever win for a Chinese male swimmer in the men’s 400m freestyle (shattering the Olympic record) was followed in short order by Yi Shiwen’s win in the women’s 400 IM (shattering the world record).
The lithe-bodied Chinese dominating the world in the graceful sport of Diving is one thing; but in the grueling sport of Swimming? Something smells … fishy.
I honestly do not get why soccer is reportedly the most watched sport in the world. Because watching the grass they were playing on grow was more exciting than watching women from Japan and Sweden play an opening-round match to a 90-minute 0-0 tie . And, alas, the quality of the T & A on display provided no diversion from the quality of play.
Notwithstanding my cheeky comments, though, I am truly dismayed that the IOC allows these Volleyball players to compete dressed (or undressed) more like pole dancers than athletes. I don’t see why women Beach Volleyball players should not be required to dress the way their hard-court sisters do. And, for what it’s worth, the hard-court players are not only every bit as attractive, their game is even more exciting to watch.
Unfortunately, the sexualizing of female athletes, by female athletes themselves no less, is becoming so pervasive that instead of beach players dressing to look more like hard-court players, hard-court players are dressing to look more like pole dancers too.
I wonder what self-respecting female sports fan would watch male athletes playing Beach Volleyball at the Olympics dressed in speedos? And women wonder why some of us treat them all as sex objects—no matter the context?
MEDAL COUNT: China: 6; Italy: 5, USA 5
Friday, July 27, 2012 at 8:32 PM
The technological wizardry, choreographed precision and sheer grandeur of everything on display during last night’s Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games kept me in such shock and awe that I was staring at the TV even during commercials.
(“Opening Ceremony of Beijing Olympics,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 9, 2008)
Granted, expecting London 2012 to emulate the awe Beijing 2008 inspired worldwide is rather like expecting Paul McCartney to emulate the excitement Justin Bieber creates among teenage girls. And to his credit, it appears nobody appreciated this fact more than Danny Boyle, the man organizers of the London Games tapped to direct their Opening Ceremony:
Beijing was beyond compare. It was on a scale that was unimaginable almost anywhere else in the world. So you go, fine … all hail Beijing! That’s the peak.
(NBC TODAY Show, July 26, 2012)
Boyle, of course, is the Academy Award-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire. He evidently set out to portray – in the form of a “live film” – the dynamism that characterizes the history and cultural development of Great Britain. And sure enough what he produced stood in animated contrast to the robotic performances by thousands of seemingly cloned precision drummers, marchers, and dancers that were featured in Beijing.
In fact, so intent was Boyle on this contrast that what played out in the London Olympic stadium tonight (in live skits on the field as well as in cinematic vignettes on jumbo screens) evoked more joy and sorrow than shock and awe.
Truth be told, I think he made his fellow Britons proud with his Olympian tribute to Britannia – highlighting such things as the idealized days of agrarian life, the lasting influence of William Shakespeare, the rising and setting of the sun on the British Empire, the industrial revolution, World War I, the social revolution symbolized by sex, drugs, and rock & roll, the age of technology, the polyglot tensions that make London today ‘A Modern Babylon,’ and the UK’s notoriously dreadful weather, just to name a few of the themes he covered.
(The way Boyle glorified Britain’s National Health Service, with its universal healthcare for all citizens, President Obama would’ve been wise to hire him to direct the PR campaign for his Obamacare….)
As it happened, though, the most intriguing thing about this Opening Ceremony was the way all of Britain conspired to keep Boyle’s script top secret. Hell, one could be forgiven for thinking that MI5 deputized the thousands of performers and crew involved as British agents on Her Majesty’s secret service.
Apropos of which, it was really quaint to see Daniel Craig (aka James Bond 007) whisking the Queen from Buckingham Palace, soaring over London in a helicopter, and parachuting with her into the Olympic Stadium to make her royal entrance.
Mind you, this stunt would have been a little more entertaining if one imagined Helen Mirren playing the Queen. Come to think of it, maybe that was Helen…. But I suppose this was Boyle paying cheeky homage to his profession.
My favorite bit, however, was ”Mr. Bean” as guest pianist for the London Orchestra’s performance of Chariots of Fire – the instrumental theme for the eponymous 1981 film. It had him becoming so bored with hitting the one note required of him that he began fantasizing about being in the movie itself. His Forrest Gumpian dream sequence that followed evoked sidesplitting laughter.
This easily upstaged the Bond bit. But let’s face it: Bond is far more Hollywood than London these days.
On the other hand, we could have done without more Harry Potter mania. But leave it to the preternaturally irreverent Boyle to have the dainty Mary Poppins tame the evil Voldemort: talk about artistic license. And no disrespect to J.K. Rowling, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is more my idea of high-fantasy children’s literature.
According to the hype, over one billion would have tuned in. But truth be told, the vast majority of us would have done so – not just to enjoy the show but to take jingoistic pride in the few seconds the members of our national team were on display during the traditional parade of nations.
In my case, I waited for this fleeting moment to see The Bahamas, my country of birth. But I was also eager to see Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei make Olympic history by including at least one woman on their respective teams. No less noteworthy though is that the mighty Team USA included more women than men for the first time in Olympic history.
Indeed, with all due respect to Boyle, these historic firsts for gender equality alone made watching this Opening Ceremony worthwhile.
It did not go without notice that Michael Phelps, the undisputed star of these Games, did not march with Team USA. But this was only because the qualifying heats for the most challenging of his seven events, the 400m Individual Medley, are scheduled for the morning after the Opening Ceremony. And the final is later that same day.
Phelps is clearly sensible enough to realize that he has to skip the parade and rest to be in the best possible condition to win. Moreover, I suspect he fears, and I predict, that if he were to lose this first head-to-head matchup with team rival Ryan Lochte, his confidence and aura of invincibility would be so sapped that he’d be lucky to win gold in half of his remaining events. Understandably, he’s not taking any chances….
(Regarding the second-biggest rivalry of these Games, I heard Usain Bolt say on the BBC today that he’s only “95%” fit. Frankly, this struck me as a preemptive excuse for being upset by team rival Yohan Blake. At least Phelps seems mentally prepared to take on his would-be usurper mano-a-mano. I hope someone prevails upon Bolt to understand that it’s better to lose after being fully prepared and giving all he had than to lose because he couldn’t be bothered to get 100% fit for the biggest race of his life. But it would not surprise me if he false starts at these Games the way he did at the World Championships last year to avoid the ultimate challenge against Blake in the 100m.)
I gather they’re planning to feature Paul McCartney in the Opening Ceremony. But I think his Beatles nostalgia act is not only way overrated, but way overexposed – as his performance at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee just last month clearly demonstrated … on both counts. Instead, Her Majesty should commission Roger Waters and David Gilmore to reunite as the real Pink Floyd for this occasion – to make Britons truly proud and give the rest of us the experience of a lifetime.
(“Gone fishing,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 24, 2012)
Alas, my source was right. There was McCartney warbling out Hey Jude. Thankfully the obligatory crowd participation was such that it drowned out his voice for the most part. Mind you, I would not be so critical if this were the Closing Ceremony, when relatively few people tune in … for obvious reasons.
Finally, the lighting of the Olympic Flame is usually a very special moment, if not the highlight, of Opening Ceremonies. And, with all due respect to Muhammed Ali – who did the honors in Atlanta in 1996 and who for some sad, incomprehensible reason was propped up in Weekend-at-Bernie’s fashion to be a part of this year’s – my favorite lighting was when an archer lit the Olympic cauldron from about 1,000 meters away in Barcelona in 1992.
But it came as something of a letdown when Boyle ended this bang of a spectacular with a whimper by having David Beckham – who famously failed to make the UK’s Olympic soccer team - deliver the torch along the River Thames by speedboat to Sir Steve Regrave, a relatively unknown five-time Olympic champion in rowing, who in turn handed it over to seven kids who set the cauldron alight. The children are our future, but this is our time. WTF!
Anyway, notwithstanding my mild criticisms and opening caveat with respect to Beijing 2008, Boyle succeeded in showcasing Great Britain in all its glory before the world tonight in a manner worthy of the way Shakespeare regaled the Mother Country in this famous homage 400 years ago:
This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars…
This happy breed of men, this little world…
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
(John of Gaunt, Richard II, Act 2. Scene 1)
A jolly good show. But memorable? I don’t think so.
Let the Games begin!
NOTE: Yes, I managed to circumvent the blockade NBC executives imposed on all Internet streaming of this Ceremony to maximize viewership of its delayed broadcast. What pettifogging, nickel-and-diming jerks!
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Actually, I’m just taking the next few days to meditate; specifically, to clear my mind of all the current-events clutter that provides so much fodder for my daily posts.
This is my way of preparing for the Olympics with which I shall be completely consumed. In other words, from Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 27 to Closing Ceremony on Sunday, August 12, the only current events I’ll be commenting on are those related to the London Olympics.
(I gather they’re planning to have Paul McCartney close the Opening Ceremony. But I think his Beatles nostalgia act is way overrated and way overexposed – as his performance at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee just last month clearly demonstrated … on both counts. Instead, Her Majesty should commission Roger Waters and David Gilmore to reunite as the real Pink Floyd for this occasion – to make Britons truly proud and give the rest of us the experience of a lifetime.)
So I’ll see you for my first commentary on Saturday, July 28.
Monday, July 23, 2012 at 9:39 AM
Of course Paterno escaped justice in this life when he passed away in January — leaving behind a legacy of nothing but shame, shame, shame. But if there is a God, Paterno must be catching a hell of a lot of heat in the afterlife.
(“Paterno Engaged in Pedophile Cover-up,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 12, 2012)
Having already sentenced Paterno to eternal damnation in my commentary cited above, I was anxious to see if the NCAA would impose a commensurate sentence on Penn State.
I think the NCAA should give the Nittany Lions the ‘death penalty’ (i.e., indefinite expulsion) — particularly because this child-sex abuse scandal makes all of the booster-paying-player infractions for which other schools have been expelled seem petty by comparison.
(“Penn State’s Catholic Church Problem,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 10, 2011)
I was relieved therefore after watching NCAA President Mark Emmert announce the following sanctions on CNN just moments ago:
Four year postseason ban—depriving the team of any bowl appearances, which is a huge revenue generator for the school and, more important, the primary objective most NFL-bound players have because of the national exposure bowl games provide;
10 initial scholarship losses and 20 per year for four years—making it almost impossible for Penn State to have a winning season during this period and, indeed, for many, many years thereafter;
$60 million fine—amounting to the gross revenue the team generates on an annual basis;
Five year probationary period; and
All wins from 1998-2011 vacated—adding insult to the injury Paterno suffered just yesterday when Penn State dismantled the 7-foot, 900-pound statue of him that was to its university campus what the Lincoln Memorial is to the National Mall. (Never mind that an analogy to the dismantling of the statue of Saddam Hussein might be more appropriate….) Now the record books will show that Penn State did not win a single game under Paterno’s leadership after 1998: this wipes out two perfect seasons; two national championships; and Paterno’s record as the coach with the most wins in the history of college Football.
Ironically, I have often argued that life imprisonment is a far more effective punishment than the death penalty. Therefore, despite calling for the “death penalty” against Penn State, I am pleased that the NCAA imposed what is effectively life imprisonment. Not least because I am mindful that, even though Paterno and Penn State engaged in a cover-up to protect their golden goose of a Football program, the underlying crimes they covered-up had nothing to do with that program.
With that I say, good riddance to Paterno and the Nittany Lions!
NOTE: Paterno’s surviving family members would be well-advised to stop issuing statements in a vain and futile attempt to salvage what little remains of his legacy. After all, at this point, only Holocaust deniers can have any interest in what they have to say in this regard.
Paterno engaged in cover-up…
Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 7:48 AM
Surely, with more Americans firing off guns than lighting up cigarettes these days, the wonder is that there aren’t more of these rampages….
Media adding to tragedy...
Friday, July 20, 2012 at 2:39 PM
Truly, the only media coverage this tragedy warrants is the few minutes it takes to cite the number of casualties (12 dead, 59 wounded); to carry President Obama’s moving expressions of national sorrow; and to assure the public that the gunman was apprehended on the scene in Aurora, Colorado.
But no public interest is served by media outlets reporting completely useless information ad nauseam as BREAKING NEWS. And that goes especially for the folly of giving every surviving moviegoer her 15 minutes of fame to give excited, invariably irrelevant eyewitness accounts. Not to mention featuring “friends” the shooter probably never knew he had waxing universal bewilderment about what he did.
Nor, incidentally, is any public interest served by teasing us with the trite debate on gun control which, remarkably enough, only ever results in making more guns more easily available – as this latest shooting will undoubtedly attest.
For, truth be told, with more Americans firing off guns than lighting up cigarettes these days, the wonder is that there aren’t more of these rampages….
I fully support strict gun-control laws. Nevertheless, I am convinced that no laws can prevent these kinds of human tragedies. In fact, incidents like this bring into stark relief the fact that it’s not guns, but insane and troubled people—with motives no one can possibly anticipate or comprehend—who commit mass murders.
(“Massacre at Virginia Tech,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2007)
Frankly, it does not take long for the media to turn these tragedies into macabre entertainment, providing unwitting or uncaring inducement for some nut to perpetrate the next one:
I’m constrained to wonder why the media always reward these psychotic people by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and on the front page of every major newspaper … worldwide, and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds? Isn’t it clear to see, especially in this age of instant celebrity, why some loser kid would find this route to infamy irresistible?
You’d think that – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes since Columbine – we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the shooter to: May God have mercy on your soul as you burn in hell!
(“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)
Anyway, just as it made no sense to stop flying after 9/11, it makes no sense to stop going to the cinema today – even to see (Batman) The Dark Knight Rises! (Apropos of making no sense, why do the police always show up after such tragedies brandishing guns that look like hellfire missiles when it’s clear the danger has already passed…?)
But the producers of this movie must be dreading that this tragedy will defy the notion that there’s no such thing as bad publicity – especially given the twittering fools who are already making “I think I’ll wait for the DVD” a trend. However, they should take some consolation in knowing that, within 15 minutes of tweeting this killjoy, these fools will forget all about it and be off to the cinema as if this tragedy in Colorado never happened.
My condolences go out to all of those who have been affected by this senseless rampage.
Arizona shooting rampage
Friday, July 20, 2012 at 9:40 AM
Reports are that the border agents (namely, immigration and customs officials) who are supposed to stop terrorists from entering the UK to strike have themselves decided to strike … over pay and job security. Alas, this only reinforces the impression that a bunch of keystone cops are in charge of security preparations for the London Olympics.
In true British character, however, the agents were polite enough to announce yesterday that they will strike on August 26, the day before the Opening Ceremony. But even this timing seems like the calculation of keystone cops. After all, by then all Olympians will be firmly settled into the Olympic Village.
(Following this very accommodating logic, they will probably come to terms with the government the day before the Closing Ceremony – just in time for the rush of foreign Olympians and spectators out of the UK….)
It might seem a singularly stupid move for border agents, having seven days of peak travel to strike with maximum effect, to wait until the seventh day when their effect will be minimal. Until one remembers that British security firm G4S, having seven months to recruit and train guards to protect the Olympic venues, waited until seven days before the Opening Ceremony when it could only make a shambles of that recruitment and training, which it has done.
This brings me to the remark I made in my July 16 commentary about security preparations playing out like real-life episodes of Benny Hill. Because this latest episode featuring border agents, coupled with the threat by train drivers to mount a three-day strike right in the middle of the Games, only reinforces the impression that administrative bungling and chaos will be the order of the day – practically inviting terrorists to strike.
If this were happening in Brazil (the site of the 2016 Olympics), the reaction might well be, “What did you expect?” But England?! What a national shame!
Meanwhile, given the growing tension in the Middle East (and Syria is the least of it), leaders of all Western countries should be on notice. Because, with all of the obsessive focus on preventing terror strikes at the Olympics in London, rogue nations and terrorist organizations will consider this an ideal time to strike elsewhere.
I remember well, for example, how Russian president Vladimir Putin made quite a public show of attending the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics to deflect attention away from the order he had given back home for Russian tanks to invade neighboring Georgia.
On guard folks!
Russia invades Georgia under cover of Olympics
Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 12:28 PM
My, how far we’ve come from the 1980s, when Tom Wolfe glorified investment bankers as “masters of the universe” in Bonfire of the Vanities. For inasmuch as Wolfe parodied the confluence of their sins (most notably, racism and greed), even he did not fully appreciate the utter venality, vacuity, and depravity of the financial transactions they mastered on Wall Street.
By contrast, just weeks ago JPMorgan Chase and Barclays joined the rogues’ gallery of banks that are now openly and notoriously beset by the corrupt, illegal, and incompetent practices of their putative masters of the universe. In fact, what seemed like an unfolding pandemic of banking scandals moved me to lament just weeks ago that the banking industry could not fall any lower into disrepute. Well, it has.
For it was unthinkable and unconscionable enough that investment bankers induced poor people to take on mortgages they could not afford just to bundle these “subprime mortgages” and peddle them as triple-A asset-backed securities; or that they used depositors’ money to gamble on everything from currency exchanges to soybean prices; or that they rigged the interbank lending rate to extract more interest payments on everything from car loans to credit cards.
But now come reports this week that, on top of all that, investment bankers were operating as little more than bagmen for terrorists and drug kingpins – all of which suggesst that investment banking these days amounts to little more than a sophisticated game of three-card monty.
From 2001 to 2007, HSBC affiliates sent almost 25,000 transactions involving Iran worth over $19bn dollars through HBUS and other US accounts, while concealing any link with Iran in 85% of the transactions…
HSBC accepted more than $15bn in cash from subsidiaries in Mexico, Russia and other countries at high risk of money laundering but failed to conduct any monitoring of these bulk cash transactions between mid-2006 and mid-2009…
HSBC knew of lax anti-money laundering practices at its Mexican subsidiary HBMX, which had dated back to its purchase in 2002. HBMX was warned, on at least two occasions, by Mexican authorities that drug money was probably being laundered through HBMX accounts.
(BBC, July 17, 2012)
Hell, I doubt even Gordon Gekko, the de facto patron saint of investment bankers, had in mind making money off terrorism and drug smuggling when he famously pronounced that “greed is good.” For even he could probably foresee the untenable consequences of such transactions to which these latter-day, money-grubbing masters of the universe – not just at HSBC but at all banks – have turned a blind eye:
The problem here is that some international banks abuse their U.S. access. Some allow affiliates operating in countries with severe money laundering, drug trafficking, or terrorist financing threats to open up U.S. dollar accounts without establishing safeguards at their U.S. affiliate…
In an age of international terrorism, drug violence in our streets and on our borders, and organized crime, stopping illicit money flows that support those atrocities is a national security imperative.
(Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, Senate Home Page, July 17, 2012)
Wachovia admitted it didn’t do enough to spot illicit funds in handling $378.4 billion for Mexican-currency-exchange houses from 2004 to 2007. That’s the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money-laundering law, in U.S. history — a sum equal to one-third of Mexico’s current gross domestic product. Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations.
(Jeffrey Sloman, federal prosecutor, June 29, 2010)
And if you’re wondering why investment bankers would prostitute their intelligence and risk their banks’ reputation by devising all kinds of Euclidean schemes to launder dirty money, consider that, while such schemes garnered standard fees from 6-8 percent during the 1980s and were therefore the exception, they garner up to 25 percent today and have therefore become the rule.
But the bottom line is that, at this point, investment bankers make used-car salesmen seem reputable….
Banking scandal redundant…
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 12:17 PM
To listen to some critics of British colonialism you’d think it was utterly devoid of any redeeming value. But as one who was subjected to it throughout much of his youth, I can attest that this is not so.
Indeed, all one has to do is juxtapose the way education and civil service have floundered in post-colonial countries in Africa with the way they thrived in those countries during colonialism to counter unqualified criticism in this respect.
Having said that, let me hasten to assert that nothing, not even a good education and a competent civil service, can possibly justify the dominion British colonialists exercised over native people from India to the Caribbean. Especially because British mercantilism meant raping and pillaging local resources for the benefit of Mother England. Not to mention the practice of racial segregation (i.e. de facto apartheid), which reinforced the dehumanizing nature of colonialism.
More to the point, as British journalist and historian Richard Gott notes in Britain’s Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt (2011), no less a person than British PM David Lloyd George telegraphed how colonial officers intended to deal with natives who resisted this dominion when he proudly recalled how, at the 1932 World Disarmament Conference, he:
[D]emanded the right to bomb for police purposes in outlying places [and] insisted on the right to bomb niggers.
Which brings me to the cruel and unusual punishment colonial officers meted out to natives whose natural pride and human dignity compelled them to resist. Nowhere was this demonstrated in more poignant and persistent fashion than in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
For according to the Kenya Human Rights Commission 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed. What’s more 160,000 were detained in conditions that rivaled those their forefathers were subjected to as captured slaves during the “Middle Passage.”
But where seeking reparations for slavery that ended 150 years ago has always been fraught with obvious (legal) problems, seeking reparations for colonialism that ended just 50 years ago is much less so.
This is why the British government finds itself in the untenable position of having to defend against claims by Kenyans who say they themselves suffered all manner of human rights abuses while being held in detention camps by the British colonial administration during the Mau Mau rebellion.
Lawyers for several victims filed what they clearly hope will be a class-action suit on behalf of all victims demanding an official apology and compensation for pain and suffering.
The claimants’ lawyers allege that Mr Nzili was castrated, Mr Nyingi severely beaten and Mrs Mara subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the rebellion…
In his statement Mr Nyingi, 84, a father of 16 who still works as a casual labourer, said he was arrested on Christmas Eve 1952 and held for some nine years. During his detention, in 1959, he says he was beaten unconscious during an incident at Hola camp in which 11 other prisoners were clubbed to death. He says he has scars from leg manacles, whipping and caning.
(BBC, July 17, 2012)
It is noteworthy that the British government admitted this week – for the first time and in a court of law no less – that Kenyans were tortured and ill-treated as alleged. Never mind that it was obliged to do so because the High Court ordered the release of 300 boxes of secret documents recently that not only chronicle the systematic torture and ill-treatment colonial officers meted out, but also expose a conspiracy among British officials to cover up these human rights abuses.
Yet, despite all this, the government is attempting to avoid compensating the direct victims of the Mau Mau rebellion by using the same argument governments have used to avoid compensating the descendants of the victims of slavery; namely, that:
…too much time has passed for a fair trial to be conducted.
(BBC, July 17, 2012)
To be sure, lawyers can raise all kinds of issues as to why, ironically enough, the British government cannot get a fair trial: not least among them is the likelihood of assigning collective guilt to all colonial officers because victims, many of whom are now in their 70s and 80s, would be hard-pressed to identify the offending one(s) in each case; they may even question whether detention during the Mau Mau rebellion was in fact the proximate cause of their injuries.
All the same, if the British government has any regard for what little redeeming value its legacy of colonialism retains, it would consider it a moral imperative to move post-haste to negotiate a victims’ fund with the Kenyan government from which all victims can seek relatively fair compensation … in Kenya.
Incidentally, this would (and should) not absolve the government of the categorical imperative to pursue and prosecute every British official implicated in these human rights abuses: from the Secretary of State in London to the camp guard in Kenya, and not just those who executed them but those who participated in the conspiracy to cover-up these abuses for so many years as well. Indeed, these British officials should be pursued and prosecuted with the same dogged zeal with which officials who collaborated with the Nazis in the torture and ill-treatment of the Jews are still being pursed and prosecuted to this day….
Of course, colonial rebellions were not nearly as persistent, and were not put down with nearly as much brutality in other colonies, as was the case in Kenya (the American rebellion excepted). But if the High Court were to establish the precedent that victims of colonial-era abuses could seek damages in British courts, I have no doubt that thousands of claimants would show up in London to seek redress from every place on earth that was subjected to British dominion.
In which case the British government would be well-advised to initiate government-to-government settlements of all such cases instead of allowing any of them to proceed to trial – especially with all of the opening of old wounds (on both sides) that would entail.
Mind you, even if the High Court were to rule that victims of colonial abuse have no recourse in British courts, the reputational damage to Britain of such an inequitable ruling would far outweigh any amount the Kenyan and other post-colonial governments could reasonably demand be placed in compensation funds for colonial abuses.
Accordingly, I fully expect Britain, at long last, to do the right thing: apologize and pay, pursue and prosecute!
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 12:45 PM
No doubt you recall reports last month that had deposed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak being rushed to hospital either in critical condition or “clinically dead.” In fact, here is how no less a news organization than the BBC jumped on the bandwagon of those reporting what seemed like his imminent death:
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been moved from prison to an army hospital in the capital, Cairo, where he remains in a critical condition. He is said to have had a series of strokes and to be on a life support machine.
(BBC, June 20, 2012)
I suspect that having him wheeled into court on his hospital bed every day during trial and this reported health crisis now are all part of a charade orchestrated by the SCAF to exaggerate Mubarak’s downfall and suffering…
(“Protesters Return to Tahrir Square,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 6, 2012)
Therefore, it came as no surprise to me on yesterday when the lead Egyptian prosecutor ordered Mubarak back to prison, citing a report by a panel of doctors which found that:
[H]is health is currently stable with medication, and it is considered good for someone of his age.
(BBC, July 16, 2012)
This compelled the BBC to eat its report and vindicate my outlook as follows:
There has been a strong suspicion that the many health scares surrounding the former president were designed either to get him moved from prison to a hospital or to help him win clemency.
No shit, Sherlock.
Monday, July 16, 2012 at 2:04 PM
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pulled a “full Ginsburg” on Friday by appearing on all of the major TV networks in a futile attempt to counter the pummeling he was taking from the Obama campaign about his business practices at his investment firm, Bain Capital.
Specifically, Team Obama was flooding the media with stories about how Romney built his personal fortune – not just by outsourcing American jobs but by then sheltering his income in tax havens like Switzerland, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands. It was Obama’s spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, however, who forced him out of his media cocoon at FOX News when she insinuated that newly released documents show he may have committed a felony by signing off as Bain’s “sole shareholder” and CEO for years after 1999 – the year he claims he left the company to head the U.S. Winter Olympic Organizing Committee.
But Romney seemed utterly blindsided when a media conspiracy seemed to erupt in his face with every interviewer demanding to know if or when he’s going to do what most presidential candidates, including his father, invariably do; namely, release many years’ worth of back tax returns. Romney reacted defiantly, insisting that, after releasing his 2010 returns, when he finally releases those for 2011 in a few weeks that will be it (i.e., only two years’ worth).
I have no doubt, however, that he will have to eat his words; not least because he’s now receiving friendly fire from Republican stalwarts like Bill Kristol who are urging him to release the mother lode immediately (of “six, eight, 10 years of back tax returns”) lest voters buy into Obama’s insinuation that he’s hiding past financial misdeeds.
But nothing indicates how desperate and untenable Romney’s position is quite like Republican nutjobs like Donald Trump urging him not to release any more tax returns until Obama releases his college transcripts. For this is surpassed in its absurdity only by birthers insinuating that Obama was not releasing his birth certificate because he had something to hide … until he released it.
Meanwhile, the media are replete with stories these days about corporate CEOs making hundreds of millions by gaming the markets and exploiting the tax code. Which is why it behooves Romney to appreciate that it is a losing proposition for him to allow voters to harbor quite reasonable suspicions that he’s just another crooked, if not felonious CEO trying to hide his misdeeds.
By contrast, only nincompoop birthers or celebrity-worshipping schmucks who would buy swamp land in Florida from Trump would believe that the obviously intelligent Obama is refusing to release his college transcripts because he has something to hide.
Not to mention that even if Obama’s transcripts were to reveal an F or two, this would not undermine his re-election campaign in the least; whereas, if Romney’s tax returns were to reveal that he failed to pay taxes for a year or two (or even that he sheltered substantial amounts of income from taxes), that would undermine his election campaign, irreparably.
Ultimately though there’s no escaping the association of calls for Obama’s college transcripts with all of the other asinine attempts to call into question his legitimacy as president of the United States. More to the point, there’s no denying that all such calls are racially motivated. After all, despite having good reasons for doing so, did you ever hear anyone call for George W. Bush to release his college transcripts?
Beyond this, there seems to be a sense, even among “liberal Republicans,” that one term under a Black president should suffice to expiate all Whites of all sins related not just to slavery but to all of the Jim Crow laws and other forms of discrimination that proceeded from that original sin. Only this explains why the racist taunts that were hurled at Obama in 2008 via dog whistles are being hurled at him this year via bull horns – with no less a person than Romney brazenly exhorting voters to dismiss him as “un-American.” (Never mind that Romney – the erstwhile liberal Republican who now calls himself “severely conservative” – comes across like a brother from another planet.)
Monday, July 16, 2012 at 6:24 AM
Instead of turning their cities into Orwellian fortresses, government officials should be recruiting individuals to infiltrate these terrorist organizations and using any means necessary to disabuse would-be terrorists of their jihadist ambitions. After all, no country has been on a more heightened terror alert since 9/11 than the United Kingdom. Yet, despite its labyrinth of security measures – including surveillance cameras on every street and at every underground station – terrorists still managed to attack in the heart of London on 7/7.
(“This Whole War on Terrorism Is a Big Joke,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 23, 2005)
Alas, it appears the British have learned nothing. In fact, based on their security preparations for the London Olympics, you’d think it was the German Luftwaffe instead of a few suicide bombers who attacked them on 7/7. This notwithstanding that, if there were terrorist attacks, everybody knows they would be far more likely in the form of the latter than the former.
What then is the point of commandeering people’s homes all over London to deploy batteries of anti-aircraft missiles on their rooftops; or of flooding the River Thames with battleships and gunboats of every type; or, for that matter, of festooning Olympic venues with robocops brandishing guns more designed to take out Sherman tanks than Islamic terrorists?
I am on record conceding that no array of security measures and military arsenal can prevent determined and skilled suicide bombers from carrying out their missions. I am all too mindful, for instance, that it was dumb luck – not high-tech security or law-enforcement personnel – that thwarted the notorious underwear and shoe bombers. Freaked-out passengers saved the day (and themselves) in each case.
Honestly, the only wonder is that terrorist masterminds have not dispatched more suicide bombers to places like Paris, London, and New York City instead of limiting their theatre of operations to places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. But I suspect they will … in due course.
In the meantime, we are being treated to the spectacle of British officials aping what officials have been doing in every major Western country since 9/11; namely, treating every major event as if it were a military exercise. And this, in part, is how they justify spending untold billions on arms for the military instead of mere millions on alms for the poor….
But this spectacle is made farcical by reports on Friday that G4S, the private security firm British officials hired to provide security at Olympic venues, failed to recruit enough personnel and is not even sure those recruited actually speak English. It’s one thing to be greeted at a store in Miami by people speaking Spanish only. It’s quite another to be greeted at an Olympic venue in London by people speaking only … Arabic (or Urdu): the fox guarding the chicken coop?
Not to mention reports that this firm has provided such substandard training to all 10,000-plus recruits that many of them can’t even spot fake bombs, hand grenades, or even hand guns in plain sight on X-ray machines; or late-breaking reports about terror suspects making it through border control at Heathrow Airport because the British government itself hired inexperienced agents in a mad rush to quell daily bedlam over interminable lines that were making the UK look like a banana republic.
(If one didn’t know better, one could be forgiven for thinking that security operations for these Olympics are playing out like a skit from an old episode of Benny Hill.)
I suspect a number of senior officers who, with their teams, have worked very hard preparing for the Olympics will feel very disappointed at being let down at such a late stage by a private security firm.
(Retired Met chief superintendent Kevin Hurley, Daily Mail, July 13, 2012)
Nevertheless, the fear remains that while British troops are on rooftops looking to fire at phantom terrorist jets, and British marines are in the Thames looking to defuse phantom mines, al-Qaeda sympathizers could be at security checkpoints ensuring the entry of suicide bombers into targeted venues to create murder and mayhem that would make 7/7 seem like just a drive-by shooting.
Mind you, instead of turning London into an Orwellian fortress on the one hand and renting mentally-challenged security guards on the other, all British officials had to do was plan to blanket every nook and cranny of the city with trained police officers (aka bobbies) backed up by military troops, and order them to stop and frisk anyone who looks suspicious. And we all know what type of person would/should arouse reasonable suspicion in this context. So if you look Middle Eastern, North African, or Pakistani and are stupid enough to board a bus or train during the Olympic Games wearing a backpack (or even a raincoat no matter how cold and wet the weather) then you should expect to be stopped and frisked quite thoroughly.
What’s more we now know that British officials will need more bobbies on the beat than anticipated because, like the private security firm, the private IT firm they hired admitted just yesterday that its highly touted supercomputer to track terror suspects will not be ready in time for the Games.
Meanwhile, perhaps to telegraph their zero-tolerance approach to law enforcement for this occasion, British officials pulled the plug on Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney in mid-song last night after their concert went beyond the 10:30 pm curfew, stranding them on stage looking like a senile, Marcel-Marceau miming act.
This potentially tragic comedy of errors is what the British have to show for billions spent in a Sisyphean effort to prevent terrorists from attacking during thes Olympic Games. Osama bin Laden must be rolling over in his grave … with laughter.
War on terrorism is a big joke
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday. at 12:24 pm
Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 6:51 AM
Friday, July 13, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) crossed the line yesterday when he spewed jingoistic indignation at the made-in-China uniforms members of the U.S. Olympic team are scheduled to wear when the London Games begin in two weeks:
I think the Olympic Committee should be ashamed of themselves. I think they should be embarrassed. I think they should take all the uniforms and put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again. If they have to wear nothing but a singlet saying “USA” on it painted by hand, that’s what they should do.
(CNN, July 12, 2012)
Frankly, it would only have been shocking to me if these uniforms were labeled, “Made in USA.” Because one would be hard-pressed to find any apparel in the United States that was not made in China. Therefore, the only person who should be embarrassed is Harry Reid for taking this cheap shot at the Olympic Committee.
Meanwhile, given the way the U.S. government depends on China to fund its initiatives, members of Congress are the ones who should have “USA” stamped on their foreheads, no? Not to mention the hypocrisy inherent in pro-business Republicans like Mitt Romney riding this China-bashing bandwagon while being the ones most responsible for outsourcing American manufacturing to China.
More to the point, though, the only thing this jingoistic indignation is doing is providing psychological fodder to help Team China get into the head of Team USA. And the Americans cannot afford to be unnerved in the least if they have any hope of reclaiming the crown for the most gold medals which the Chinese took away in 2008, winning this quadrennial fight 51-36. But no American Olympian can now feel proud and invincible marching into that stadium during Opening Ceremonies knowing that most people watching will be snickering about how their great country had to depend on China to manufacture their uniforms—notwithstanding that they were smartly designed by iconic American designer Ralph Lauren….
Anyway, just to be clear, despite Harry’s grandstanding stamp of disapproval, members of Team USA will be wearing their made-in-China frocks. But thanks for the pep talk Harry!
NOTE: Others are criticizing the uniforms for looking “too French.” But these are the same idiots who tried a few years ago to stoke mindless patriotism by urging Americans to begin calling their French fries “freedom fries.” They came to their senses after they got tired of kids at McDonald’s, Burger King and other restaurants staring back at them as if they were nuts and refusing to get their French fries until they ordered them by their proper name.
Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Here in part is how I framed my suspicions about a conspiracy among Penn State officials when Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach of the storied Penn State Nittany Lions, was arrested last November on charges of sexually abusing little boys:
Sandusky… used a group home he founded for troubled boys as a plucking ground for his pedophile pleasure…
All of the top officials associated with the team/university, most notably 84-year-old Head Coach Joe Paterno, allegedly knew about this abuse almost from the outset, but decided not to report it to the police… [A]ll of them were clearly involved in a conspiracy to cover-up the ongoing sexual abuse of little boys…
[I]nstead of wasting what little moral outrage I can still muster on child sex abusers, I just react by wishing them a fair trial followed by a lifetime in prison having ‘big’ men do to them what they did to little children. And Sandusky will surely get his…
But let me hasten to add that I believe the same fate should befall all of those who knew about this abuse and failed to report it. That clearly includes Sandusky’s three conspiring stooges Paterno, Curly and Shultz. But just as I suspect there are more victims, I suspect there are other professed good men (and they almost always are … men) who knew about this abuse and did nothing. Their motivation of course was to protect the big-money enterprise Penn State football has become.
I know many will consider it punishment enough that Paterno is resigning in disgrace… [But] just as decades of pastoring is not sufficient mitigation to grant leniency to a Catholic bishop who stood by and allowed a pedophile priest to continue raping little boys, decades of coaching is not sufficient mitigation to grant leniency to Paterno who stood by and allowed his assistant coach to do the same.
Accordingly, not only should the university force him to resign immediately, prosecutors should have him arrested too.
(“Penn State’s Catholic Church Problem,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 10, 2011)
Well, you can just imagine the hate mail I got for daring to write so irreverently about Paterno who was revered as a god – not just by people associated with Penn State, but by rabid fans of college football nationwide.
In addition to the predictable fusillade of racial epithets, almost all of them asserted that I had no standing to criticize Penn State: which I suppose means that one has to be a Catholic to criticize child-sex abuse in the Catholic Church…? Apropos of which, none of my e-mail abusers amused me quite like the few (presumably devout Catholics attending this predominantly Catholic state university) who defended Paterno by insisting that “he is even more revered here than the Pope.”
At any rate, I knew it was only a matter of time before my suspicions would be vindicated. Today they were. Specifically, just hours ago former FBI director Louis Freeh issued his seminal report on this scandal, which the Associated Press sums up as follows:
The Freeh Group’s report issued Thursday said that in order to avoid bad publicity, president Graham Spanier, football coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz ‘repeatedly concealed critical facts.’
The report says the men ‘failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.’
As I indicated in my November 10 commentary cited above, I fully expect the three stooges, Spanier, Curley and Schultz, to join Sandusky in prison where he is currently awaiting sentencing. He was convicted last month on 45 counts of child-sex abuse ranging from terrorizing little boys in his charge to anally raping them repeatedly over many years. He’s facing 60 to 442 years.
Of course Paterno escaped justice in this life when he passed away in January – leaving behind a legacy of nothing but shame, shame, shame. But if there is a God, Paterno must be catching a hell of a lot of heat in the afterlife.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 7:51 AM
Nothing is more fatuous and misleading in American politics than (mostly Republican) politicians claiming that they are doing “the will of the American people.” And nothing has inspired them to make this claim quite like their partisan efforts to repeal Obamacare.
But you’d think that orchestrating 32 congressional votes to repeal Obamacare and failing each time would indicate to Republicans that repealing it does not comport with the will of the American people. Yet these self-professed servants of the people have orchestrated another vote, which they know will fail (or the 33rd time) when all is said and done today.
At any rate, whenever you hear politicians claiming to speak for the American people just bear in mind that the American people are so divided along party lines these days that no politician or political party can even claim to speak for a simple majority of the American people on any issue. Which is why listening to Republican leaders, you’d think that anyone who supports Obama and the Democrats is no longer an American.
Obviously, forging compromises is the only way to get anything done that comes close to reflecting the will of the American people. Unfortunately, ever since Barack Obama was elected president, Republicans have been acting like a cult of born-again Christians who see Democrats as godless heathens. This is why they reject any notion of compromise as a cardinal sin: it’s either their way or some un-American, un-Godly way.
No less a person than Speaker John Boehner betrayed their new jihadist approach to politics just weeks after Republicans won control of the House in November 2010. He did so during an interview on the December 12, 2010 edition of 60 Minutes when Leslie Stahl stated that surely “governing means compromising” and then asked why he was so unwilling to say that he and the Republicans would be willing to compromise with Obama and the Democrats.
[We are doing] the will of the American people. [As for compromise] I utterly reject the word.
This, in a nutshell, explains why we’ve been treated over the past two years to the spectacle of Washington gridlock over every piece of legislation, including those merely extending policies Republicans once supported. And anyone who thinks Mitt Romney is going to usher in a new era of bi-partisanship should remember this:
During their August 11, 2011 Republican presidential debate he stood on stage with seven other candidates and pledged to utterly reject a compromise to reduce the national debt which gives them 90 percent of the spending cuts they want and only 10 percent of the tax increases Democrats want. In other words, governing for Romney, Boehner and all Republicans these days means getting 100 percent of what they want because they believe only they are interested in doing the will of the American people. This, my friends, is the very definition of political jihadism!
Meanwhile, as if this looming tower of babal were not troubling enough, consider the absurdity inherent in purportedly informed representatives looking to the hopelessly uninformed people they represent to tell them what government initiatives to support or reject.
Take Obamacare, for example, the media are replete with reports showing that the vast majority of people who express religious opposition to it have no clue what it actually provides, which in many cases are health benefits these ignoramuses would give an arm and a leg to have. Not to mention that polls routinely show that at least one-third of those who oppose this healthcare reform law are Democrats who, far from wanting to repeal it, actually believe President Obama compromised with Republicans too much in formulating its provisions. Yet Republicans say they are determined to repeal Obamacare because this is what the American people say they want.
Mind you, this absurdity obtains not only with Obamacare. Because if you were to survey them on any subject – from foreign policy to taxes – the arrogant ignorance of the American people would be on full display.
The will of the American people?! God help us….
Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 8:06 AM
The length to which some celebrity couples go to make a spectacle of their private lives never ceases to amaze me. But it’s only on rare occasions that I find the tabloid fodder they provide worthy of comment.
(“Married fool: Peter and Stephanie, Ashton and Demi,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2010)
Not even Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes would deny that they made a complete spectacle of their relationship – not just by Tom jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch to show how crazy in love he was, but by both of them acting as if their love depended on engaging in sappy public displays of affection whenever cameras were around.
Candidly, their marriage always struck me as more of a stage-managed farce than Michael and Lisa Marie’s. The only wonder is that their mission impossible lasted more than twice as long (five years versus 18 months).
But the tabloid fodder I find most worthy of comment in this case stems from all of the crowing over the way Katie supposedly blindsided Tom by filing first and, most shrewdly, by doing so in New York. For their divorce settlement would have been the same even if she ended one of their rumored Tomkat fights by storming out of their California mansion shouting, “I want a divorce!”
In other words, even if he had filed first in California it would still have been in Tom and the Church of Scientology’s best interest to limit the reputational damage no matter the cost – in terms of alimony or child custody. Not least because the media were already running wild with stories about how the Church auditioned Katie to play his wife the way a producer auditions an actress to play a movie role, and about Tom preparing to handover their daughter Suri to Scientology in a manner eerily reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby.
What is certain though is that it would have been foolhardy for Tom to challenge Katie’s demand for sole (legal) custody of Suri. After all, he can easily father another Suri, and perhaps many others, with a more suitable actress playing the role of his devoted wife.
Of course, given that this is his third strike, Scientologists must be questioning the wisdom of vesting so much faith in Tom as the irresistible face of their Church. Moreover, the subjugating irony can’t be lost on him that, if reports are true, all of his visits with his daughter will be supervised by chaperones chosen by Katie just as every day of her married life was supervised by Scientologists chosen by him.
Not to mention that, just like his previous wives, Katie has probably extracted far more of his reported $250-300 million fortune than their prenup stipulates in exchange for her silence about their marriage … and his religion.
But instead of hailing Katie as some kind of battered woman who finally turned the tables on her abusive husband, she should be criticized for effectively extorting Tom and betraying a religion she gleefully signed on to – even if with star-struck eyes wide shut. She knew (or should have known) what she was getting into; never mind the “for better or worse” vows….
Apropos of which, Scientology is getting a bad rap. For if, as he claims, its teachings and practices cured Tom of his dyslexia and bad temper, these facts alone imbue it with enough redeeming value to respect his abiding faith.
Besides, nothing is more laughable, even hypocritical, than Christians pontificating with righteous indignation about those weird and cult-like Scientologists. After all, Christians are the ones who believe in the fairytale of creationism; who are so cult-like they believe Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and practitioners of every other religion must convert to their religion in order to make it into Heaven; and who once believed that God ordained that Whites should enslave Blacks.
Frankly, anyone who knows anything about the early days of Christianity knows that it was once ridiculed as a weird cult much as Scientology is being ridiculed today. Hell, by Christian standards, Scientology seems positively divine.
And don’t get me started on how weird and cult-like it is that Catholics like Katie are led by a cabal of putatively celibate men whose perverse dictates about human sexuality are surpassed only by their perverse condonation of pedophilia among priests.