• Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 11:05 AM

    National mourning for a horse? Puh-leeese!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I don’t get the emotional attachment so many people have to this horse. Then again, it probably takes understanding the psychology at play in Peter Shaffer’s Equus to get it. But I think racing horses for sport has all of the redeeming social value of cockfighting. Therefore, I had no emotional interest in the life-and-death struggle of this race horse that had so many people holding vigil until he was euthanized on Monday.

    Barbaro, of course, was the latest winner of the Kentucky Derby – by one of the largest margins in history. His win had Equine mobs betting he would be the first horse to win the elusive Triple Crown since Affirmed did it almost 30 years ago. (Only 11 horses have achieved the dubious honor of galloping to victory in the three grueling triple-crown races – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes – over a 5-week period.)

    Unfortunately, at the start of the second race in this trifecta (last May’s 131st Preakness Stakes), Barbaro shattered his right hind leg.

    Now, even though I find the whole culture of horse racing morally and socially repugnant, I know enough about it to know that – in almost every case – a horse suffering such an injury would have been shot on the spot (to put him out of his obvious misery). In fact, I’ve seen footage of a number of horses being euthanized under similar circumstances.

    But many regarded Barbaro as the second coming of Secretariat. In fact, this horse was so worshipped, it seemed everyone connected to or interested in horse racing wanted Veterinarians to take extraordinary measures to prolong his life.

    At long last, the Vets finally did on Monday what they should have done the day he was injured 8 months ago. Because all they ended up doing was prolonging Barbaro’s misery.

    They’re just pawns and treated as such and while Barbaro was going through his treatment, many horses were dying on tracks around the country and no one cared about them. [Jackie Vergerio, spokeswoman of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals]

    The sport of kings? Indeed! But so is fox hunting….

    Meanwhile, regardless of the fleeting emotional interest most people had in seeing Barbaro survive this fatal injury, I have no doubt that his owners were primarily interested in rehabilitating him to become the biggest (fee-generating) farm stud in history. This, notwithstanding their post-mortem rationalization that the fight to save his life will lead to new advances in Equine medicine – presumably to make horses more durable as prostitutes for mankind’s sporting pleasure.

    But, apropos using horses for man’s idle pleasures, now that Barbaro has been euthanized, his owners will have to settle for whatever premium they can get by auctioning him off to rich Japanese – for whom eating Barbaro would surely provide the greatest culinary “basashi” pleasure in history….

  • Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 11:22 AM

    UPDATE: Google restates its corporate hypocrisy…and vows to stand by it!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last summer, political outrage over its agreement to help the Chinese government spy on Chinese citizens forced Google’s co-founders to fly to Washington, DC to confess their corporate sins and plead for understanding, if not forgiveness. But I was so unmoved by their penitence that I ended my commentary on their confession as follows:

    …Despite their very public admission – made appropriately enough in a place where such admissions have real political, but no other, value – I’m not at all confident that Google will do the right thing. Because, in doublespeak that would make even Bill Clinton blush, Brin ended his corporate confession as follows:

    ‘It’s perfectly reasonable to do something different, to say, ‘Look, we’re going to stand by the principle against censorship and we won’t actually operate there.’ That’s an alternate path….It’s not where we chose to go right now, but I can sort of see how people came to different conclusions about doing the right thing.’

    Spoken like a true smarmy geek, don’t you think….

    Therefore, I was not at all surprised when The Guardian of London reported on Saturday that, notwithstanding its confession, not only has Google done nothing to redeem its corporate motto “Don’t be evil,” but has in fact replaced contrition about its corporate hypocrisy with unbridled arrogance.

    And, here’s how that paper reported Google’s rationalization of its conversion from a company that preaches democratic values to one that suppresses them:

    From what was said yesterday a policy change seemed unlikely in the near future. Co-founder Larry Page said: “We always consider what to do. But I don’t think we as a company should be making decisions based on too much perception.”

    Alas, even for, Google business is business, and its corporate hippocratic oath be damned!

    Related Articles:
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  • Monday, January 29, 2007 at 11:46 AM

    Attendees emit more CO2 than solutions at World Economic Forum

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Interdependence is the defining characteristic of the 21st century and there is a curious mix in today’s politics of moral cause and strategic interest…the challenge of climate change being the supreme expression of interdependence.

    This is how British Prime Minister Tony Blair ended his keynote address on Saturday at the closing session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But the only thing noteworthy about his address was the extent to which it mirrored the way Former President Bill Clinton ended his keynote address at this highfalutin forum last year:

    I worry about climate change….It’s the only thing that I believe has the power to fundamentally end the march of civilization as we know it, and make a lot of the other efforts that we’re making irrelevant and impossible.

    Of course, Davos is a place where corporate titans, international bankers, world leaders and a smattering of celebrity do-gooders gather annually for invigorating gabfests about the impact of world developments on their businesses, personal wealth and collective conscience. And, where politicians, celebrities and token guests from the Third World change from year to year, the other attendees are invariably the same rich investors and financial managers who represent the world’s super rich.

    The forum is promoted as “impartial and not-for-profit [and] tied to no political, partisan or national interests.” But movers and shakers know that the reason an invitation to this retreat is so coveted is because it’s a rare (and rarified) opportunity to see and be seen amongst the people who really rule the world. And, the PR value of such images alone is priceless. However, the real pay-off comes from the contacts one makes and business tips that flow during unguarded chats in Swiss Chalets and on Davos ski slopes.

    In fact, despite all their talk about spreading the wealth and sharing the sacrifices of globalization, the agenda for most attendees was to establish contacts that might help them exploit business opportunities – especially in lucrative but nearly impenetrable markets like China and India:

    What will happen when powers like China and India come up? … This is not only good for China and India but also for the world. [Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman and Group Managing Director of Bharti Enterprises – “the world’s most global steel company”]

    But all of this behind-closed-doors wheeling and dealing is supposed to remain as guarded from the press as the secret professional societies to which many of the Davos regulars belong (like The Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission, et al). After all, the uninitiated (i.e. 99% of us who just hear and read about it) are supposed to believe that this forum is all about addressing world economic problems that affect our lives. And that’s why the most talked about feature of this annual gathering is not the (main event) schmooze-fests for business opportunities; instead, it’s the (undercard) gabfests for charitable causes at which invited guests sit on panels where they emit self-flagellating hot air about world trade, climate change and, their pet peeve, Africa.

    Indeed, to hear these rich folks lamenting about the depletion of the ozone, the increasing gap between haves and have nots and the almost criminal waste of non-renewable energy one would think they jet-pooled to Davos on ethanol-fueled airplanes; whereas they all flew in on gas-guzzling, air-polluting private jets. And no one exposed the farce inherent in this annual forum more than Achim Steiner, Executive Director UN Environment Program, when he said, even if unwittingly, that:

    By putting climate change at the top of the Davos 2007 agenda, the World Economic Forum has focused on the key challenge of our time. The moment to act is now. Many of those present in Davos have the power to move decisively on global emission reductions – the world is looking to them to rise to this crucial challenge.

    Meanwhile, as attendees at Davos were contributing so ostentatiously to the environmental problems they were vowing to help solve, HRH Prince Charles was taking truly exemplary steps to live the environmentally-conscientious life he preaches about. Indeed, international media were saturated with reports this weekend about his decision to make the unprecedented sacrifice of foregoing his private jet to fly commercial on his current tour of America. A spokeswoman for the prince explained his 21st Century enlightenment as follows:

    Prince Charles will give up his private jet and fossil fuel-powered cars in exchange for commercial airlines and biodiesel cars in an effort to reduce his carbon footprint and help fight global warming emission….Wherever possible, we will be making less use of helicopters and chartered planes and rely more on car journeys, scheduled flights and trains.

    God save the prince!

    NOTE: It will be interesting to see if environmental crusaders like Al Gore – who presented Prince Charles Harvard’s Global Environmental Citizen Award “for his years-long environmental efforts” in New York last night – will follow the green prince’s example and give up their private jets and gas-guzzling….

  • Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 11:42 AM

    Alas, Bush’s State of the Union Address was just a prelude to yesterday’s anti-war protest

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 11:46 AM

    John Kerry delivers his political epitaph…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If you’re not a C-SPAN junkie like I am, you probably missed Sen. John Kerry’s belated concession speech this week, during which he promised his fellow Americans – with weeping sincerity – that he will never, ever launch another campaign to be elected president of the United States.

    Related Articles:
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  • Friday, January 26, 2007 at 7:55 AM

    Good (news) Friday: The First Caribbean Summit on HIV/AIDS…Hallelujah!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I was heartened when I read that the First Caribbean Summit on HIV/AIDS was convened in St. Croix last Sunday. But, given that this virus has been ravaging our people like a Biblical plague for years now, I could not help thinking that this summit was long overdue. And, truth be told, my spirit was dampened by the fact that it was held in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and not in one of our leading countries like Jamaica or The Bahamas.Yet I appreciate that a few of our regional leaders have finally taken their heads out of our soft sand to recognise that AIDS is the “fifth horseman of the Apocalypse” – as declared by keynote speaker George Allyene, United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean.

    I am also mindful, however, that these leaders face a daunting – but absolutely critical – task of disabusing our people of prevailing social taboos and religious dogma that affect their disregard for this virus. Because only then will they be receptive to education about the factors that have caused the alarming incidence of HIV/AIDS in our midst (including promiscuous heterosexual sex), and about the treatment and prevention methods currently available to combat it (including the diligent use of male and female condoms).

    Conversely, I hope this summit finally exposes the salutary neglect of all heads of government who have either refused for political reasons or failed because of fatal ignorance to apply for treatment and education funds from the $15 billion President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PETFAR) that George W. Bush initiated in 2003.

    In fact, given the resources available – including access to heavily-discounted anti-retroviral drugs through President Clinton’s Global Initiative to fight HIV/AIDS (CGI) – I feel constrained to indict all of our leaders. Because it’s their collective failure of leadership that has allowed this virus to infect so many of our people that there are now over 350,000 living with HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, which amounts to the highest prevalence of HIV in any region of the world outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

    Then, of course, there’s the haunting fact that many of those infected are unaware of their condition because our leaders have done so little to erase the stigma attached even to being tested for HIV. Never mind the far more damning fact of tens of thousands who die each year of AIDS (with 27,000 deaths reported in 2005).

    Incidentally, apropos the importance of being tested, I wonder if it will take Oprah and Sen. Barack Obama coming to our islands and being tested publicly for HIV (as they did separately in Africa recently) before some of our leaders feel sufficiently moved to launch comprehensive treatment and prevention programmes?

    Finally, since Haiti is the black sheep everyone takes a socially-indignant whack at whenever HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean is discussed, I hope the following reduces the prevalence of ignorance throughout the region about our “Haitian problem”:

    It is, in fact, tantamount to burying one’s head in the sand for anyone to think that because Haitians account for the overwhelming majority of people living with HIV/AIDS that the rest of us are relatively immune. Because, when adjusted for population size, the ratio of people living with HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas (7000), with an estimated population of 300,000, is virtually the same – at 2.3% – as that of people living with this virus in Haiti (190,000), with an estimated population of 8,300,000, which is also 2.3%.

    Now, please, think about that….

    NOTE: At this summit, John Maginley, Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Health, Sports and Youth Affairs lamented the “huge challenge [a] plague of commercial-sex workers” presents in his country’s fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. And, with the documented number of prostitutes estimated at 5000, out a population of 75,000 (i.e. 6.6%), his lamentation is quite understandable. After all, adjusted for population, that would be equivalent to the U.S. having to contend with an open and notorious swarm of 19 million prostitutes.

    Nevertheless, I encourage Maginley to apply directly to PEPFAR and CGI for readily available aid to continue his enlightened efforts to educate his people and provide them with as many prophylactics to prevent transmission of, and ARV drugs to treat, HIV/AIDS.

    As for the sex workers, however, chances are that many of them are far more educated than our regional leaders are about the transmission and prevention of this virus. Therefore, where Antiguans might find their presence morally anathema, they probably do not pose the health challenge he posits.

    But on a positive note, with sex workers comprising such a significant percentage of his work force, I urge Maginley to appreciate the benefits of not only regulating their activities, but also taxing their profits to help fund HIV/AIDS education and treatment for the general population.

  • Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 11:35 AM

    2007 State of the Union Address…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last night, President George W. Bush delivered his annual State of the Union Address to a Democrat-controlled Congress for the first time in his presidency. And, where many expected his reception to be divided along Party lines, it was remarkably bipartisan.

    Alas, this backslapping reception was inspired more by universal pity than admiration. Because everyone clearly felt sorry for this man whose familiar swagger down the aisle has been reduced to a veritable walking of the plank by record-low poll numbers and a consensus in American politics that Bush has become so irrelevant that there’s no need to get worked up to support or oppose anything he says. Therefore, his address gave Republicans an auspicious opportunity to pretend like they’re not the sore losers they are, and Democrats an equal opportunity to pretend like they are the magnanimous winners they’re not.

    Beyond this, the only other notable thing about Bush address was the pride he took in uttering these truly historic words:

    I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own, as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words: “Madam Speaker.”

    However, in case you think my cynicism is unwarranted, may I remind you that the most memorable words he said last year were that:

    …we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology.

    He then went on to list myriad ways of developing alternative sources of energy and made bold promises about making America “energy independent by 2025”. Yet not only is America as dependent, if not more so, on foreign oil today as it was a year ago; but one could be forgiven the impression that last night was the first time Bush was addressing the dire implications of America’s dependence on foreign oil. In fact, he has delivered almost the same lines about the imperatives of energy independence in all of his previous six addresses….

    Given that, I won’t even bother deconstructing his Emperor-wears-no-clothes words about the war in Iraq (and his war on terror). After all, my cynicism in this regard is surpassed only by that of almost all of those who stood in Congress and applauded him heartily knowing full well that they intend to do all they can to strip him of what little political authority he retains to pursue his “new way forward” in Iraq.

    Meanwhile, even as a theatrical exercise, I got the impression that Bush was just phoning this one in: he seemed beleaguered, if not defeated, and there was little cadence or conviction in his delivery of the customary battery of progressive initiatives (from increasing health insurance coverage to reducing pork-belly earmarks). Admittedly, all presidents pad their addresses with feel-good proposals. And even the most popular presidents know that 95% of them will never be implemented. Therefore, this was clearly not the reason for Bush’s malaise.

    Instead, Bush was painfully aware that on the most important initiative of his presidency, he has already lost the support of not only the vast majority of the American people, but also a significant majority of the members of the U.S. Congress. Nevertheless, here’s how he delivered his plaintive entreaty for them to support his “troop surge” to extricate American troops from the crosshairs of civil war in Iraq:

    We went into this largely united – in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work.

    Actually, there was one other moment of Bush’s speech that I thought was almost redemptive. In fact, it has become a standard part of the State of the Union that was inaugurated by Former President Ronald Reagan. And that is the recognition of ordinary American heroes. Because it was very heartwarming to see Bush honor a pretty inspiring group of people, including former NBA player Dikembe Mutombo who invested over $15 million to build a new hospital in the Congo, his African country of origin.

    So, until the same time next year, when nothing will have changed for the good in Iraq, the only domestic initiative implemented will have been a meager and long-overdue increase in the minimum wage and the only thing on anyone’s mind listening to Bush will be: “I wonder who’ll be standing there next year…Hillary or Obama?”

    Related Articles:
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  • Monday, January 22, 2007 at 11:23 AM

    NFL’s Historic Conference Championship Sunday!!!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Casual Football fans think Super Bowl Sunday is the most exciting day of the NFL season. But real fans know that day is conference championship Sunday. And true to form, yesterday’s NFC championship game between the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints (which Chicago won 39 to 14) and the AFC championship game between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots (which the Colts won 38-34) did not disappoint.But since I’m not much of a fan (yesterday was the first time I even bothered to tune in to the NFL all season) and even less of a critic of this game, I shall suffice to make only this off-the-field commentary about yesterday’s games:

    Almost everyone I know wanted the Saints to win the AFC Championship for no other reason than to revel in the pride and joy a victory would have provided the beleaguered victims of Hurricane Katrina. I, however, wanted the Bears to win because that would make their coach, Lovie Smith (right), the first black in history to coach a team to a league championship!

    Of course, this is significant because – even though few of them would admit it today -not so long ago, most white people in America thought blacks did not have the mental ability to play quarterback, let alone coach an NFL Championship team. Therefore, imagine what sweet vindication and racial pride I felt when Smith’s team won in such convincing fashion.

    Then, to overwhelm me with belated riches in this respect, Tony Dungy (left), the Colts’ black coach, came along in the second game and led his team to the largest comeback victory in NFL history (having been down at one point 3 to 21) to defeat the heavily favored Patriots in truly dramatic fashion.

    Enough said?

    Well, perhaps it’s worth noting that blacks are now the dominant quarterbacks in college football: with Troy Smith of Ohio State winning the 2006 Heisman Trophy in a landslide as the best player in college football, and Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles being rated fourth amongst quarterbacks in the NFL this season.

    So, on to what will now be an even more historic Super Bowl Sunday in Miami!

    And, may the best man, um, er, team win. (Although, given my declared racial interest in these two teams, I really can’t lose….) But, because the Bears have already been declared the underdog, and because I know their coach had to have suffered merciless and relentless ribbing throughout his career – having a name like “Lovie” – my pick for the Super Bowl is Chicago!

  • Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 1:12 PM

    British soccer star David Beckham gets a lotto contract to play in L.A.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    But here’s the real deal: Beckham got a $250 million screen test to become a movie star, Scientology poster boy, and Adidas pitch man! But, since this is really a two-for-one deal, Tom Cruise, now head honcho at the United Artist movie studio, promised to cast his wannabe movie star wife, former Spice Girl Victoria “Posh” Beckham, in a few movies as well.

    Oh, and for his celebrity charity, he’ll play a little soccer….

    NOTE: Hey, more power to you David. Take the money and enjoy Hollywood. But shut up about making soccer as popular in America as it is in Europe…puhleeeeese!

  • Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 12:26 PM

    VOTE OBAMA?! (Campaign ad courtesy of Team Clinton; more to come….)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, January 19, 2007 at 11:53 AM

    Good (news) Friday: Global warming will only affect today’s Sodom and Gomorrah: New York City and Washington, DC!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    How else does one explain summer temps in New York City and snow storms in Malibu this week?

    Clearly, instead of commissioning a Congressional panel of experts to study the illusive effects of global warming, Madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi should commission one to study the phenomenon of snow falling amongst citrus groves in California, which has put a whole lot of her Mexican constituents out of work and tripled the price of orange juice.

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  • Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 10:56 AM

    Happy Birthday Muhammad Ali

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    When challenger Sonny Liston disrespected him by insisting on calling him by his Christian name, Cassius Clay instead of his Muslim name, Muhammad Ali made him pay for his impudence with a thorough ass-whopping in the first round of their fight in 1965. And the rest, as we say, is bozing history….

    But as great a fighter as he was, Ali has become even greater as a peacemaker/humanitarian – having dedicated his life since he left the ring to the cause of Third World development.

    Ali turned 65 yesterday. Long live … “the Greatest!”

    Muhammad Ali

  • Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 11:09 AM

    UPDATE: Final nail in the coffin of Online gambling

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last year, I wrote a series of articles chronicling the extraterritorial prosecutions (and imprisonment) by U.S. authorities of online gambling executives who operated out of Antigua and Costa Rica. And I predicted that these prosecutions coupled with targeted Congressional legislation spelled the death throes of this once thriving industry. For example, in the most recent of these – dated October 13 and entitled “Death of online gambling…” – I lamented that:

    …it came as no surprise to me a couple weeks ago when Congress passed legislation which not only made financial transactions between U.S. banks and online gambling casinos illegal, but also rendered online gambling as a thriving industry in Antigua effectively out of business.

    But this followed an earlier article in July in which I warned that:

    …if the fate of Betonsports were not suffocating enough, what little life remained in online gaming in the Americas was effectively snuffed out on June 11 when the U.S. Congress voted overwhelmingly to pass “The Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act.” Because this Act will ban not only sports betting but all Internet gambling…period!

    [Recall that Betonsports was the world’s oldest and biggest online gaming group before it was forced out of business within days after federal agents arrested its CEO, David Curruthers, at the Texas International Airport whilst he was awaiting a connecting flight to Costa Rica from London.]

    However, in that same article I offered the following advice:

    Therefore, I urge online gaming operators to limit their customer base to people outside the U.S. Because freedom and a market share of an industry valued at over $6 billion is clearly preferable to ending up like Cohen, Curruthers and others now in hiding….

    Unfortunately, executives at NETeller, the world’s largest processor of Internet gambling transactions (think PayPal for online gamblers) based in the Isle of Man, did not heed my advice. Because just yesterday, federal authorities arrested founders John David Lefebvre and Stephen Eric Lawrence (both Canadian citizens but cuffed in California and U.S. Virgin Islands, respectively), and charged them with “funneling billions of U.S. dollars in gambling proceeds to overseas betting operations.” Of course, given the Betonsports precedent, this means that NETeller will probably cease business operations within days.

    However, at least one online gambling operator appears to have taken heed. Because on Friday, perhaps in the nick of time, when eager sports gamblers logged on to place their bets, Pinnacle Sports, based in Curacao, greeted them with the following (get out of Dodge) announcement:

    It is with sadness that we have chosen to leave the US market, but we are so grateful for all the customers we’ve acquired throughout the years.

    Now, who wants to bet that these Pinnacle shysters will ever honor their promise to pay people whose account balances they absconded with?

    Alas, as I predicted over six months ago, where online gambling – even if only remotely connected to the U.S. – is concerned, all bets are off!

    Related Articles:
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  • Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 1:29 PM

    For corporate CEOs, nothing succeeds quite like failure…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    During his 6 years as CEO of Home Depot, the largest home improvement retailer in America, Robert Nardelli managed what seemed virtually impossible in a U.S. economy experiencing unprecedented growth, buoyed no less by a thriving housing market: He generated no increase in the value of his company’s stock, which was trading at the same $40 a share when he was fired 10 days ago as it was when he was hired in 2000.

    Yet, as token of their appreciation for his “strong leadership”, the board of Home Depot gave him a get-lost severance pay of $210 million….

    Talk about a corporate scandal!


  • Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 12:20 PM

    Despite his surge, Bush fiddles (a dirge?) while Iraq burns

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, January 12, 2007 at 10:47 AM

    Why all the outrage against Chavez …what did you expect?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    International media reports this week indicate that there’s near universal outrage over the way Hugo Chavez has begun his reign as Venezuela’s president for life. And, of course, this alone is newsworthy. Because, until recently, Chavez enjoyed near universal acclaim – especially amongst heads of state throughout the Americas – even if for no other reason than his uncanny flair for teasing, if not humiliating, U.S. President George W. Bush.

    Since his landslide reelection last month, however, Chavez has demonstrated – not only to foreign companies doing business in his country, but also to foreign governments throughout the Americas – that he intends to use his dictatorial powers at home, and unprecedented influence abroad, to execute his Bolivarian socialist revolution…without question and with dispatch. And this, alas, has apparently come as a rude awakening to many of his erstwhile fans and enablers (and even a few acolytes).

    All of those sectors that in an area so important and strategic for all of us as is electricity – all of that which was privatized, let it be nationalized.” [Chavez in a speech after swearing in his new Cabinet ministers]

    But no one should be surprised that Chavez is moving so aggressively to nationalize the key sectors of Venezuela’s economy. Nor should anyone be surprised that he is emulating his mentor Fidel Castro by squashing political dissent (e.g. by refusing to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Television because he deemed their criticism of his policies “treasonous”).

    After all, regardless of what one thinks about his form, in substance, Chavez must rank as the most honest national leader on the world stage today. Because no dictator has ever subjected himself to free and fair elections – during which he made plain his intent to wield dictatorial powers – and won as clear a mandate as Chavez did to implement his socialist agenda.

    On the other hand, I can appreciate the shock and awe Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza of Chile, is suffering after Chavez called him a “meddlesome…asshole” on Monday, and then demanded his resignation. But even in this regard, outrage over Chavez’s behavior is unwarranted.

    After all – as I chronicled in a previous column entitled “America’s shrinking sphere of influence throughout the Americas” – in his first regional proxy fight with U.S. President George W. Bush, Chavez won a spectacular victory by outmaneuvering Bush and his candidate to effectively appoint Insulza as secretary general. Therefore, one can certainly understand why Chavez is more than a little annoyed that Insulza dared to criticize him publicly as follows:

    …the shutdown of a mass media outlet is a very rare incident … unprecedented in decades of democracy…[Chavez’s move smacked of] censorship against freedom of speech.

    But, just as any government minister should expect to be fired if he openly criticizes the policies of the leader who appointed him, so too should Insulza have expected Chavez to react as he has.

    More important, however, if my admonitions to regional leaders – in another column entitled “PetroCaribe: let’s look this gift horse in the mouth” – about the perils of being indebted to Chavez were not cautionary enough, then the wrath Chavez will surely unleash against Insulza should prove most instructive.

    But, you play with fire…; bargain with el diablo…(Get the point?!)

    Related Articles:
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  • Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 11:23 AM

    Bush’s “new way forward” will only sacrifice more lives and waste more money in Iraq

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Alas, the only thing newsworthy about President Bush’s address to the nation last night is what he did not say: Namely, what he will do when even he realizes in November (when the Iraqis are supposed to assume control of the country) that his new way forward has only led back to where things are today….

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  • Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 11:58 AM

    Mark McGwire rejected by Baseball Hall of Fame for lying about steroids

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Almost two years ago, Mark McGwire led an all-star lineup of Baseball players who were summoned to testify before Congress about their suspected use of steroids. And back then, I was so disappointed in his cowardly, self-righteous and patently dishonest performance that I wrote the following:

    Mark McGwire was the goat in the lineup. He earned his error for raising hypocrisy to steroid-induced levels by crying and blabbering-on like a baby during his opening statement then acting arrogant, dumb and mute when questioned by the Committee. The substance of his exchanges with all the members went something like this:

    Congressman: “Mr McGwire, have you ever taken steroids?”
    McGwire: “I tested pos, um, er, what I mean to say is I want to be positive. I’m not here to talk about the past.”

    Indeed, one Congressman became so disgusted with his testimony that he compared McGwire to Richard Nixon. And, in the context of a Congressional hearing, that’s almost as ominous as the Godfather’s kiss of death.

    In fact, after watching his testimony, I wrote that Hell will freeze over before sports writers crown McGwire’s professional career by voting to induct him into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Therefore, I was not at all surprised yesterday when the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA) reported that in recent balloting only 128 out its 545 members voted for him (ie. 23.5%, which is far short of the 75% needed to be inducted).

    But to appreciate what a major league slight this is, it might be helpful to know that reaching the 500 home-run summit virtually guarantees induction. And that when he retired in 2001, McGwire had 583 career home runs….

    Therefore, even though his name will likely appear on the ballot in years to come, it’s highly unlikely that anyone who voted against him this year will ever change his mind unless McGwire admits publicly what every sports fan knows: that he relied on a stealth cocktail of steroids to slam many of his home runs.

    Indeed, if McGwire finds the courage to make this admission, as other players like Jose Conseco have done, I think his chances of being inducted would increase immeasurably. After all, I suspect that most members of the BWAA feel as I do that the use of steroids alone should not preclude induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, crying and lying about it before a Congressional Committee (as McGwire did) should be as automatic a disqualifier as 500 home runs are a guarantee.

    Therefore, I hope more notorious (alleged) steroid abusers like Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa find McGwire’s fate instructive and confess their sins long before they become eligible for induction (five years after they retire). After all, I’m sure they do not want to join the rogue’s gallery – headed by Pete Rose – of Baseball MVPs who will be wandering outside the Hall for the rest of their lives simply because they refuse to come clean (in Rose’s case about gambling on Baseball games).

    Besides, what have they got to lose? Because, after Congress gave Rafael Palmeiro (sitting to McGwire’s right in opening photo) a walk – despite clear and convincing evidence that he perjured himself, no Baseball player faces any legal jeopardy for admitting that he took steroids; provided, however, that he was not also involved in trafficking the stuff.

    NOTE: To appreciate my take on this, recall that former President Bill Clinton was not disbarred because he had sex with Monica Lewinsky. He was disbarred because he lied under oath about having sex with “that woman”.

    Related Articles:
    McGwire cries and dissembles as Baseball defends its cheating game
    Baseball’s MVP Barry Bonds is a steroid junkie, so what?!
    Congress gives Baseball star Rafael Palmeiro a walk

  • Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 11:33 AM

    Israel’s secret plan to attack Iran is no secret at all

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Governments around the world claimed to have been shocked, shocked by the report in Sunday’s Times of London that:

    Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons….[And that] two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”.

    More specifically, the Times reported that:

    Israel has identified three prime targets south of Tehran which are believed to be involved in Iran’s nuclear programme: Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges are being installed for uranium enrichment; A uranium conversion facility near Isfahan where, according to a statement by an Iranian vice-president last week, 250 tons of gas for the enrichment process have been stored in tunnels; and A heavy water reactor at Arak, which may in future produce enough plutonium for a bomb.

    But no government worth its salt should be surprised by this report. After all, even I deduced over a year ago – after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made it clear that he was determined not only to develop nuclear weapons but also “to wipe Israel off the map” – that, despite UN, EU and U.S. pledges to stop him, it would be left to Israel to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

    In fact, here’s how I reiterated my prescient observation in this respect in an April 2006 column entitled Time to put up or shut up about Iran’s nuclear program:

    …pay no mind to the international blather about Iran’s nuclear program. Because when Israel determines that Iran is on the threshold of possessing nuclear weapons that could, in fact, wipe it off the map, Israel will launch military strikes to take out Iran’s nuclear program, just as it did to take out Iraq’s nuclear facilities in 1981.

    And, trust me, no one will appreciate being able to sit back and marvel at the mushroom clouds more than U.S. President George W. Bush….Enough said!

    Related Articles:
    Time to put up or shut up about Iran’s nuclear program
    Iran keeps on nuking and tells the UN to go to hell…with the US!
    Prime Minister Olmert “mistakenly” outs Israel as a nuclear power

  • Monday, January 8, 2007 at 11:28 AM

    Criticisms of Oprah’s school for African girls are unwarranted!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It should come as no surprise that – after years of building her up as a Saint – tabloid editors are now planting stories to remind Oprah that she’s still all too human. But the criticisms they’re hurling at her for founding an elite school for poor African girls are unfair, uninformed and unwarranted.

    It must be admitted, however, that, in recent years, Oprah herself has provided fodder for the most sensational scandals of her storied career. For example, many people were stupefied when she called in to Larry King Live to defend the literary integrity of incorrigible fraudster James Frey – even after his bestselling memoir, A Million Little Pieces, was exposed as nothing more than a book of lies. Oprah insisted that his lies were:

    …much ado about nothing….What is relevant is that he was a drug addict . . . and stepped out of that history to be the man he is today and to take that message to save other people and allow them to save themselves. [Besides, she affirmed,] the book’s message of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction still resonates with me.

    Alas, I suspect she must have been terribly surprised that her defense of Frey did not resonate with too many people. Because – after a few high-profile publishers complained that it was bringing their profession into disrepute – Oprah hurried to redeem herself by not only apologizing for defending him but also inviting Frey on her own talk show to condemn him to his face as a “talented liar”. Unfortunately, the damage to her saintly reputation was done.

    Then, of course, there was the international consternation she incited when she used a special feature in her O Magazine to deny that she and her best friend Gayle – who accompanied her to South Africa to personally interview girls for a place in her new school – are gay.

    But even her erstwhile devoted white female fans have joined the chorus of those criticizing Oprah’s saintly deeds. Because, just at they criticized Madonna and Angelina Jolie for going to Africa to adopt children, these women have taken the lead in questioning why Oprah decided to fund a $40 million school for poor girls in Africa instead of funding such a school in America.

    Moreover, Oprah did not endear herself with black Americans – many of whom have always regarded her with ambivalent admiration (perhaps you’ve read about Ice Cube, Ludacris and 50 Cent adding rap to the chorus of Oprah critics by publicly dissing her as an Oreo who treats fellow blacks more with noblesse oblige than racial camaraderie) – when she explained her decision, in part, as follows:

    I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools [in America]…If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don’t ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school.

    Nonetheless, just as I was in the vanguard of those criticizing Oprah for her Frey and “I’m not gay” faux pas (as Related Articles below will attest), I hasten now to defend her in this case. Because even though this part of her explanation is specious, if not ignorant, I think her decision is beyond reproach.

    Her critics argue that because Americans made Oprah a billionaire she should be directing her philanthropy towards helping the inner-city (black) kids she dissed – no matter how much they frustrate her. Of course, to follow their logic, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) should not be giving billions of dollars in aid annually to poor countries in Africa and around the world. And, more to the point, other rich Americans like Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates should not be donating tens of billions of dollars to help fund the health care and education of children in these same countries.

    But never mind the absurdity of their criticism, I think it’s just as presumptuous for these people to be criticizing what Oprah does with her money as it would be for them to criticize what you or I do with ours. In fact, I applaud Oprah for founding this school for the same reason I applauded Madonna for adopting that African boy: She is fulfilling a need which honors our shared humanity in a way that few of us can afford, or are even conscientious enough, to do.

    Now, in her own defense, here’s the other – more enlightened – way Oprah explained her decision to build The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in Henly-on-Klip, Johannesburg, South Africa; which will provide secondary academic and health education (complete with HIV tests and counseling, if necessary) as well as lifestyle training (no doubt emulating what rich girls get at the best finishing schools in America), ultimately, to as many as 500 girls every year:

    I wanted to give this opportunity to girls who had a light so bright that not even poverty could dim that light.

    NOTE: It would not surprise me to learn that Oprah donates more cash to charitable causes for poor blacks in America than all of her critics combined (including those disgruntled and impudent rappers).

    That said, I appreciate that many blacks would resent the fact that she gave $1 million to the almost all-white Miss Porter’s finishing school in Farmington, Connecticut, which was rated the “preppiest” place in the United States according to bestselling Official Preppy Handbook. Although, this donation was probably the cover charge Oprah had to pay to get her nieces admitted to this $38,000.00 per annum institution where Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and girls from the Vanderbilt and Rockefeller families were all trained to affect the Yankee elegance of America’s landed gentry.

    ENDNOTE: Angelina Jolie created quite a stir in the UK yesterday by criticizing Madonna in an interview with the Daily Mail for adopting her African child. Here’s a little of what she purred:

    Madonna knew the situation in Malawi, where he was born….It’s a country where there is no real legal framework for adoption….Personally, I prefer to stay on the right side of the law. I would never take a child away from a place where adoption is illegal.

    But her Johnny-come-lately criticism is not only uninformed; it’s demonstrably hypocritical – as my commentary, cited below, on her trip to Namibia to give birth to her fist biological child will attest.

    Related Articles:
    < a href="https://www.theipinionsjournal.com/index.php/2006/01/apology-accepted-oprah-but/">Oprah’s apologizes for A Million Little Pieces book scandal
    Oprah protests: “I’m not gay!”
    Gates and Buffet endow the richest foundation in history to help the world’s poor
    Madonna’s adoption of African boy stirs controversy
    To Jolie-Pitt a child is born…to save Namibia?

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