• Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 8:35 AM

    Why did this week’s healthcare dance get a big fat zero?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Because somehow all of the judges ended up being Republicans. What’s up with that?!

  • Friday, February 26, 2010 at 5:04 AM

    Argentina vs. Britain over the Falklands … still?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Falklands are little more than a bleak and desolate cluster of rocks dotting the South Atlantic Ocean some 8,000 miles from Britain. Therefore, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dispatched the Royal Navy there in 1982 to oust Argentine forces, I thought she was acting pursuant to some quixotic, neocolonial notion of extraterritorial sovereignty.

    It never occurred to me that she went to war in the Falklands for the same reason US President George W. Bush went to war in Iraq two decades later; namely, oil. And even though it took British prospectors decades, they finally found “black gold under them there rocks” and just this week began drilling for every drop.

    To their credit, Argentines (who jingoistically refer to these islands by their Spanish name, Malvinas) have always charged that mining the islands’ hydrocarbon deposits was the prevailing casus belli.  This is why the British striking oil has only added mounds of salt to the wounded pride that has been festering among Argentines ever since they were ousted.

    But even though wounded, their pride has never been, and will never be, so foolish as to cause them to attempt to avenge their defeat on the battlefield. Instead, they have chosen to engage the British in a war of words for control, or at least an equitable share, of the reported 60 billion barrels of oil that is due to be extracted.

    In fact, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is even deploying Churchillian rhetoric by vowing that her country’s sovereignty over these islands “would never be surrendered.” Unfortunately, this smacks of the feckless machismo we’ve come to expect of blowhards like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; especially since it’s demonstrably clear that Argentines do not have the balls to back up her words with “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” 

    Frankly, Argentina would be better served by her crying the following ironic, perhaps even hypocritical, symmetry in the court of public opinion:

    Just as Iran seems determined to develop its nuclear program despite restraining UN resolutions and legitimate legal challenges (proffered by US and backed by most Western powers), Britain seems determined to drill for oil despite restraining UN resolutions and legitimate legal challenges (proffered by Argentina and backed by the 32 countries of Latin American and the Caribbean).

    We are absolutely clear this is legitimate business in Falkland Islands waters and we will continue to reiterate our position that we have no doubt about our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.

    (Chris Bryant, minister British Foreign Office)

    Except that serial admissions by other Foreign Office officials over the past 100 years make the legitimacy of this drilling business anything but clear. Here, for example, are two that were cited on the question of sovereignty in a 1987 report by Lieutenant Commander Richard D. Chenette, USN, for seminar on “War in the Modern Era”:

    [I]t is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Argentine government’s attitude is not altogether unjustified and that our action has been somewhat high-handed.

    (Head of Foreign Office’s American Department 1927)

    I must confess that … I had no idea of the strength of the Argentine case nor of the weakness of ours.

    (British Ambassador in Argentina 1929-1932)

    Mind you, this is not to say that the legitimacy of the Argentines’ claims is crystal clear.  It’s just that they are not only the plainly aggrieved party, but now hold the moral high ground for having properly referred this international dispute to the United Nations for resolution.

    Finally, it would be remiss of me not to note how categorically inconsistent Bryant’s statement (quoted above) is with the right of Falkland Islanders to self-determination….  But given all the British have invested in these islands, not least the loss of over 250 soldiers during that 74-day war in 1982, who can blame them for declaring such a prideful, even if neocolonial, claim of sovereignty?

    They will have to forgive some of us for inferring, however, that this high-risk, high-reward investment explains why they’ve been giving short shrift to undisputed UK territories in the Caribbean in recent years.

    After all, the vestiges of their colonial involvement in these islands can fairly be characterized as low risk for even lower reward (i.e., no prospect of drilling off our pristine shores even if oil were found beneath our Caribbean Sea).

  • Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 5:08 AM

    A win for Toyota?! Ooops…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    First, for a little context and perspective, please be advised that product recalls affect hundreds of millions of people in the United States every year.  And many have been prompted by defects in cars that “caused the deaths of innocent Americans.” 

    Remember the rollover and tire problems that plagued Ford Explorers in 2000?  Industry experts say that those defects caused “as many as 250 deaths and more than 3,000 catastrophic injuries” before Ford issued a recall. 

    I won’t even mention the recalls that have been related to defective Chinese products….

    More to the point, in each case CEOs duly appeared before Congress for a humiliating tongue lashing. Notwithstanding that these hearings never produce any insights about or remedies to these defects. Those usually come from negotiation between company executives and government regulators – in this case the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

    All the Toyota vehicles bear my name. For me, when the cars are damaged, it is as though I am as well. I, more than anyone, wish for Toyota’s cars to be safe, and for our customers to feel safe when they use our vehicles… I am deeply sorry.

    (Akio Toyoda, CEO Toyota Motor Company)

    In fact, the only thing novel about yesterday’s hearing was the CEO involved.  After all, the media has portrayed him variously as a member of the Japanese royal family and as a member of the Japanese Yakuza (mob). 

    No doubt this is why these plebian congressmen could not resist reveling in the schadenfreude of Mr Toyoda himself, the grandson of the company’s founder. Especially since this was not the case when Mr Ford, the great-grandson of that company’s founder, appeared before Congress, hat in hand, begging for a bailout in 2008.

    At any rate, they have now had their day.

    That said, it would be naïve not to appreciate that this public flogging of Toyota over the safety of its cars was infused with an unbridled dose of commercial nationalism. For selling cars is a zero-sum business. And these congressmen know full well that the worse they make Japanese cars look, the better they make American cars look:  not only to Americans but also to the Chinese and other potential customers worldwide.  And fair enough, since but for its deadly brakes defect and the craven attempt by executives to cover it up, none of this would be happening.

    Of course there’s also the fodder they’re providing for the trial lawyers who contribute so handsomely to their campaign coffers.  For taking shots from Congress is cheap compared to the shots Toyota will be taking from class action suits, which will cost it billions.

    So, when all is said and done, this will hardly be a “win for Toyota” – as its executives were caught boasting in a compromising internal memo when they thought they were going to get away with a limited recall.  Far from being limited, they have now had to recall over 8.5 million cars and trucks … and counting – by far the largest in history.

    NOTE: The fact that Toyoda agreed to appear before Congress reflects the importance not only of the US market to Toyota’s bottom line, but also of American goodwill to Japan’s foreign policy agenda.  After all, foreign CEOs are beyond the reach of Congressional subpoenas, and most have sensibly avoided these dog and pony shows like the plague.

  • Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 5:45 AM

    So much for the Scott Brown effect

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Brown’s victory will change the Democratic majority in the US Senate from 60-40 to 59-41. But listening to political pundits you’d think that he alone now holds the power not only to defeat Obama’s policy agenda (most notably healthcare reform), but also to render him a failed one-term president.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Not least because I doubt this wannabe a full-term senator will risk the wrath of Massachusetts’ liberal voters by siding with rabid, hoping-Obama-fails conservative Republicans on very many issues.

    [The election of Scott Brown: full of sound and fury…, TIJ, January 20, 2010]

    Wingnuts in the Republican Party are already branding him a red (commie) traitor. Why…? Because, as the opening quote attests, Scott Brown did yesterday exactly what I predicted he would do: he demonstrated that he will not blindly support their conservative-traditional agenda just to undercut President Obama’s progressive-transformative agenda.

    Mind you, it should tell you all you need to know about these wingnuts (a.k.a. Christian conservatives) that just weeks ago they were heralding Brown as the Moses of their Party, now they’re damning him as just another Judas. (If Brown were smart, he would leave the Republican Party and run for reelection in 2012 as an Independent….) 

    Their instructive, Talibanic denunciation of him came over a jobs bill, which actually included – in the spirit of bipartisanship – job-creation measures that Democrats demanded as well as tax-cutting provisions that Republicans always touted as an article of their legislative faith. Yet only Brown and four other Republicans voted to support this bill. The other 36 members of their caucus in the Senate voted to kill it.

    This clearly proves that Republicans are so determined to see Obama fail that they would even vote against their own avowed policies if he expresses any support for them. And this fanatical hypocrisy is bound to be on display on Thursday when Obama invites them to the White House for televised negotiations over healthcare reform.  

    But much to the delight of Democrats, and chagrin of Republicans, Brown has already shown himself to be far more principled than members of either party anticipated:  

    I hope my vote today is a strong step toward restoring bipartisanship in Washington.

    (Scott Brown)

    This bodes well for Obama; never mind that he reportedly plans to fund this jobs bill “by a crackdown on offshore tax shelters” in the Caribbean.  Yet he too is now doing exactly what I predicted he would do:

    I fear, however, that, racial pride aside, those in this region who heralded Obama’s election as the dawn of a new day in US-Caribbean relations are in for a rude awakening…  Even if he manages to turn his attention to us, it would probably only be to cripple our banking industry by closing “loopholes” in the US tax code, which allow American corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid taxation by using the offshore accounts that have become so integral to our regional economy.

    [Obama elected…and world celebrates ‘change’, Caribbean Net News, November 7, 2008]

    Special Note on Republican Strategy

    Far too many pundits are flattering Republicans by propagating the notion that their politics of obstruction and nullification represent a shrewd strategy for reclaiming power in Washington.  These pundits don’t even bother to qualify their ennobling flattery by noting the ominous fact that this strategy is institutionalizing legislative partisanship and gridlock.

    What strikes me most about it, however, is the way Republicans are trying to marginalize, and even delegitimize, Obama as president of the United States.

    This is why people like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Glen Beck keep referring to him as a socialist who “does not share the core values of the American people.” They also cultivate alienation among feral supporters toward him by giving credence to demonstrably false claims about Obama being a Muslim who was not even born in the USA.

    It might be too politically incorrect for others to say, but here’s calling this spade a spade:  the only thing that explains why this patently irrational strategy has gained such currency among Republicans is bad old-fashioned racism.  And no doubt this racial antipathy is only made more indignant by the uppity Obama’s declared aspiration to be an even more transformational president than their beloved Godfather, Ronald Reagan.

    In any event, having spent the first year of his presidency trying to reason with unreasonable Republicans, Obama now has just cause to use Executive Orders as well as congressional procedures like Reconciliation to enact his legislative agenda.  And he need not worry about too much backlash because these lunatic Republicans comprise no more than 25 percent of the electorate. 

    So here’s to “Rahming” healthcare reform, immigration reform, deficit reduction, and other sensible legislation down their throats, Mr. President! 

    Related commentaries:
    Election of Scott Brown
    Obama elected

    * The commentary was originally published yesterday afternoon at 12:54

  • Monday, February 22, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    2010 Winter Olympics Update II

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Men’s 1000  and 1500 (long track)

    Shani Davis defended his 2006 title by winning the 1000 in very impressive fashion. Unfortunately, despite being the world record holder in the 1500, he was unable to win Olympic gold in this event. Shani won silver.

    It’s a shame Shani Davis is not more of a household name in America.  He’s clearly a very disciplined and polite, even if somewhat guarded, athlete.

    Of course, with football, baseball, basketball, and many other sports competing for popularity, it’s understandable why Speedskating is virtually unknown here. But to the extent it is, I wonder why Shani does not get even one-tenth of the media coverage, to say nothing of the commercial endorsements, Apolo gets…

    Short track, featuring Apolo Anton Ohno, is easily more exciting; not least because of the jostling and crashes involved. But there’s something very majestic about watching the strength and gliding form the men and women in long-track skating display

    Snowboarding Men’s Halfpipe

    Shaun White is to this sport today what Michael Jordan was to basketball in his prime.  What is most interesting about this is that White is almost as big outside of his sport as Jordan was. And it will only add to his stature that he won this event by performing superhuman tricks with such ease, including one he invented himself which nobody else dares even try.

    Snowboarding Women’s Halfpipe

    Alas, watching the women perform their tricks is about as exciting as watching female basketball players compete in a slam dunk competition. Having said that, it was great to watch Australian Torah Bright upset what was billed as a sure-fire sweep for team USA by winning gold.  Americans Hannah Teeter, the defending gold medalist, and Kelly Clark had settle for silver and bronze, respectively.

    But the airing of Teeter’s personal profile was easily the redeeming feature of this event. It showed how she and her entire family fund a charity, which provides education schools and other social services to a small village in Kenya, with proceeds from her endorsements and earnings on the tour as well as from the sale of Vermont maple syrup.  How delightfully American is that!

    Women’s Downhill

    Lindsey Vonn lived up to the hype!  She won in commanding fashion.

    She even dispelled rumors about her faking her injury by clearly favoring her injured shin all the way down and crossing the finish line virtually on one leg: a truly Jordanesque performance.  One down, four to go….

    Men’s Figure Skating

    Frankly, watching men compete in this sport is rather like watching women’s play football.  (On second thought, I actually enjoy watching play football, but for reasons having nothing to do with the quality of their play….)

    In fact, the most interesting part of this event had to do with the controversy that erupted after American Evan Lysacek defeated Russian defending champion Evegeni Plushenko.  Because the fact that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin thought this warranted an official protest shows how much national pride is vested in these games.

    But I know enough about this sport from watching the likes of Debbie Thomas, Katarina Witt, and Kristi Yamagouchi to appreciate what a good technical and artistic performance should look like. Therefore, even though Plushenko looked more athletic (performing his signature quad with relative ease), I think Lysacek’s combination of athleticism and artistry earned him the gold fair and square. But Plushenko insisted he was robbed.

    In any event, I’m not sure why NBC thinks it’s good TV to feature trash talking by a guy dressed in tights, embroidered with feathers.  To his credit, Lysacek returned Plushenko’s sour grapes dripping with so much honey I could feel tooth decay setting in just watching it.

    Women’s Super Combined

    Unlike the Halfpipe, I find the women who compete in alpine skiing every bit as exciting to watch as the men. There’s no discernible difference between the sexes in the skill and daring involved. It’s great, scary stuff. And Maria Riesch of Germany, who won this event, proved it in gold-medal fashion.

    Of course, just as Shaun White is the only name really associated with Snowboarding, Lindsey Vonn (on the women’s side) and Bode Miller (on the men’s side) are the only names associated with alpine skiing – on American TV that is.  For example, one could be forgiven for thinking that Vonn, not her teammate American Julia Mancuso, was the defending champion in the Women’s Downhill.  Yet Mancuso demonstrated her bona fides by outperforming Vonn to win silver in the Super Combined (a downhill and slalom run) behind Riesch. Vonn crashed. So much for emulating Michael Phelps…

    Men’s Super-G

    It is hard to top the pathos surrounding Bode Miller – who continued quest for redemption by winning a silver medal to add to his bronze in the downhill. But Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal comes close.

    For here’s a guy who suffered what should have been a career-ending crash on the slopes in 2007.  So to see him outperform all competitors to rise to the top of the Olympic podium was truly heartwarming.  Yet the glib Bode can’t help himself. Because when asked to explain why the Americans are dominating so many events at these Games, he offered this pithy, and begrudgingly endearing, reply:

    Aside from the fact that we’re just much better than everybody else . . .

    Women’s Super-G

    Well, with all due respect to Bode, the Americans are not as dominant as all that.  For skiers from Austria and Slovenia proved better in this event, winning gold and silver, respectively.  Vonn held on to win bronze.  But leave it to Vonn’s husband/coach to give us the first real manifestation of the ugly American at these games by accusing the Austrian course designer of making it “Vonn proof”:

    I know for a fact that the Austrian course setter said that he was setting [the super-G course] against Lindsey, which is kind of silly, considering. I know he made a comment to some people that ‘we studied all the tapes, and we found out that the one from Val d’Isere is the one she did worst in,’ which happened to be third place.

    Idiot!

    Skating Men’s 1000 (short track)

    Once again the talk was all about Apolo Anton Ohno’s quest to become the most decorated Winter Olympian in American history. But too often the commentators pushing this line neglected to mention the fact that Eric Heiden won five gold medals (in 1980 alone), and Bonnie Blair won five gold and one bronze (1988, 1992, 1994).

    Whereas, with the bronze he won in this event (to surpass Bonnie in total medals won), Ohno’s seven medals are comprised of only two gold (2002, 2006), two silver (2002, 2010) and three bronze (two in 2006, one in 2010).  Not to mention that for the second race now he got smoked by the South Koreans – who won gold and silver in this event, and who would have shot him out of the silver he won a few days ago had they not suffered a freak accident just meters from the finish line.

    Men’s Super-G Combined

    Bode redeemed.  In what was a truly improbable outcome, he came from seventh place on the first downhill leg to first after the slalom.  And given the combined nature of this event, the gold medalist here can make a legitimate claim to being the best alpine skier at these Olympic Games.  Congratulations Bode!

    Men’s Hockey …

    Last night’s USA vs. Canada game had to have been the most hyped non-medal event of these Olympics.  And all it did was to seal the triumph of national pride over Olympic glory in every respect.

    Frankly, to see the Americans celebrating their upset 5 to 3 win, and the Canadians mourning their surprising loss, you’d think they had just played the gold-medal match. Or, given that it came on the eve of the 30-year anniversary of the Cold-War gold medal match between the USA and Russia, a more fitting analogy might be that all involved were acting as if this were a second miracle on ice.

    In fact, this was only a preliminary-round match, which means that even though the Americans won this battle, the Canadians can still win this war. And I’m betting on it. But, “woe Canada….”

    Apropos jingoistic rivalries, who knew the Scandinavians were such a chest-thumping, trash-talking bunch? But the way the Norwegians and Swedes are going at each other over cross-country events makes the back and forth between the US and Canada over hockey seem positively schoolyard.

    For the record though, since medal count is the only way to determine bragging rights: 1) The USA is kicking ass so far with 24 (including 7 gold, 7 silver, and 10 bronze);  2) Germany with 18 (6, 7, and 5);  3) Norway – so shut up Sweden?! – with 12 (5, 3, and 4); 4) Canada with 9 (4,4, and 1); and 5) South Korea tied with 9, and of same mix (4,4, and 1).

    So much for Canada’s American-style boast about finishing number one in the medal count, eh!  And I’m sure the Norwegians would want me to point out that the Swedes are trailing way behind in 10th place with only 6 (3,1, and 2).

    Related commentaries:
    Olympics Update 1

  • Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    Why Michelle Obama sees obesity as a national health and economic problem

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 8:18 AM

    Tiger speaks … and says exactly what I told him to!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    So, where were you when Tiger spoke? I suspect the entire world stopped at 11 this morning to listen. Now comes all of the psycho-babble about what he said or did not say.

    But I think he said, again, all he needed to say: that he’s really, really sorry … for everything; that he accepts full responsibility for his “selfish and foolish” behavior, and that he vows to do everything necessary to repair his marriage and regain the trust of his fans as well as the respect of his fellow players. (The sponsors will follow….)  Hell, he even threw in the de rigueur testimony about being a born again … Buddhist.

    Moreover, he said it all with the right confluence of contrition (for hurting his family and disappointing his fans), humility (for acting like an entitled jerk) and, yes, even indignation (at the media for stalking his wife and children).

    In fact, as I predicated would be the case, it’s only the tabloid media and folks who wallow in their tabloid fodder who seem disappointed because he refused to cater to their prurient lust for details about his affairs. But, just as I admonished him to do, Tiger stated quite emphatically that all of those details are none of their business:

    I understand that people want to know… Every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me, issues between a husband and wife.

    And with all due respect to CNN’s legal expert, the fact that the police found no evidence to support charges of domestic violence (against him or his wife) means that Tiger does not have to answer any further questions about what happened on that fateful Thanksgiving night that precipitated his fall from grace.

    Most importantly, he said that he will continue on his path to recovery, and will return to golf sooner rather than later.  Granted, he was not specific, but reading between the lines, I remain convinced that he’ll be back in time for The Masters in April.

    With that, to all who are complaining about the way Tiger controlled this press event, I say get over yourselves.  For you can’t say on the one hand that the guy does not owe you anything, but on the other hand complain about how he has chosen to deal with this public humiliation.  Frankly, if the way he’s charting his path to recovery and redemption is okay with his family and sponsors, then everyone else, especially you weekend duffers, be damned.  Real fans can’t wait for him to move on from all of this mess.

    So what’s the point [of holding this press event]?

    Well, I have to think that team Tiger has determined that it’s the least he can do to give his remaining sponsors, like Nike, as well as the organizers of the PGA Tour, the closure they need to welcome him back.  Because it is also crystal clear that this outing will do nothing to rehabilitate his good name…

    Winning tournaments in his inimitable fashion is the only way now to eradicate bacchanalian images of his private life from public consciousness – even if not from the tabloids

    [Tiger will finally speak, but what will he say? TIJ, February 19, 2010]

    Well done Tiger. And enough said!

    NOTE: I guess, since Tiger did not invite them to this seminal press event, celebrity philanderers Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley will have to consider themselves no longer among his best and most-valued friends, eh….

    Related commentary:
    Tiger will finally speak

    *This commentary was published originally at 1:18 yesterday afternoon

  • Friday, February 19, 2010 at 12:09 AM

    Tiger will finally speak, but what will he say?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Notwithstanding all other BREAKING NEWS – about the latest from the Olympics, President Obama’s controversial meeting with the Dalai Lama, or the white American terrorist who flew his plane into a federal building in Texas – the press “statement” Tiger Woods will deliver today at 11 A.M. will dominate all media coverage.  And fair enough; for he (even if not what he has to say) really is that newsworthy.

    Indeed, what is truly remarkable is that one of his PR flacks has made it crystal clear, not only that Tiger will have nothing new to say but that he will entertain no questions from the press. Instead, he’s expected to read a statement in which he reiterates the apology to his wife Elin as well as the regrets to his sponsors and fans that it took him and his publicists three postings on his website to finally get right last December.

    Of course he’ll admit that he has been a naughty boy, and that he is possessed by many phallic demons. This is why he will undoubtedly pledge to continue (sexual and marital) counseling to assure everybody of his intent to keep them zipped up while keeping his head(s) on the straight and narrow path of recovery. And I’m sure he’ll do his best to infuse this performance with emotion by interjecting a few sniffles and shedding a tear or two.

    But just to make this contrivance complete, he will be reading it before an intimate gathering of family and friends, and a few handpicked (or henpecked) members of the press (for appearances).

    Incidentally, despite no longer wearing her wedding ring, the fact that Elin is still sporting his Nike attire is just as reliable an indicator that she fully intends to stand by her man. I imagine not wearing her ring is just her way of showing the world, and perhaps even convincing herself, that she’s not letting him treat her like a doormat.

    So, if it plays out as planned, this press event will surely disappoint the tens of millions who have just been longing for him to address, in an Oprah-style confessional, all of the shocking revelations about his private life (of juggling the 19 mistress we know about) that have provided such titillating tabloid fodder the past two months.

    So what’s the point?

    Well, I have to think that team Tiger has determined that it’s the least he can do to give his remaining sponsors, like Nike, as well as the organizers of the PGA Tour, the closure they need to welcome him back.  Because it is also crystal clear that this outing will do nothing to rehabilitate his good name.

    And I’ve already telegraphed why here:

    This will do little to stop the media from trying to induce every woman he has ever met to spin kiss-and-tell stories … even if they’re pure fantasy.  But I urge Tiger to have nothing more to say. Instead he should just let his golf do all of the talking, which is the only way he’ll ever erase this stuff from public consciousness; especially since all of his statements reek of whining, self-righteous blather.

    [Tiger issues indignant apology, TIJ, December 2, 2009]

    And here:

    Winning tournaments in his inimitable fashion is the only way now to eradicate bacchanalian images of his private life from public consciousness – even if not from the tabloids.  And only this will give his understandably spooked corporate sponsors [like Accenture who dropped him like a hot potato] the cover they need to feature him as their spokesman once again… In any event, I am convinced that Tiger will return … sooner rather than later.

    [Tiger escapes to a “safe haven,” TIJ, December 14, 2009]

    Therefore, if you’re planning to tune in to hear him give details about his affairs, or even about the current state of his marriage, don’t bother.  Which means that you’ll have to rely on The National Enquirer for answers to such burning questions as:

    *  We know of 19 Tiger, but just how many women were there?

    *  Some of them claim that you gave them allowances of as much as $10,000 per month; others that you blew $50,000 to $100,000 on them in one weekend.  How much of your $1 billion fortune did you spend on these women?

    *  Virtually all of them claim that your method of safe sex is having sex your wife knows nothing about.  Did it ever occur to you that you were risking not only your life but your wife’s as well by having unprotected sex with these women?

    *  Was Rachel Uchitel really your favorite?

    *  By the way Tiger, is it just a coincidence that all of these women are white, or do you have something against women of color, and black women in particular?

    Etc, etc, etc. (And by the way, I’m sure some crack reporter will ask him one or more of these questions at some point. But I hope he has the presence of mind to answer, “That’s none of your business,” in every case.)

    On the other hand, if you’re a genuine golf fan, he’ll probably say all you want to hear when he confirms that he’ll be returning to the tour sooner (in time for the Masters in April – as I predicted) rather than later (not until next year – as many sports analysts predicted).

    NOTE: Tiger’s betrayal and the public humiliation it wrought have evidently caused his wife to become a virtually anorexic.  By contrast, Tiger seems to have been drowning his sorrows in tubs of ice cream, and now looks just like all of the other fatsos who play on the PGA tour. Let’s just hope he doesn’t begin playing like them as well….

    Related commentaries:
    Tiger escapes

  • Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 5:14 AM

    So much for the enviable reputation of Mossad, Israel’s spy agency

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Alas, ubiquitous CCTV cameras are making a mockery of the cloak and dagger work of government spies that was once left to the creative medium of John le Carré novels and James Bond movies.

    Perhaps you recall how CCTV caught Russian spies in tea shops all over London in November 2006 executing the ham-handed assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, a rogue FSB (or KGB) spy whose revelations about the agency’s political assassinations were undermining the public image of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Now Israeli spies have been caught red-handed in similar fashion at a five-star hotel in Dubai last month executing a farcical hit on Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas leader who was suspected of procuring arms from Iran for missile attacks against Israel.

    For it’s bad enough that these spies can be seen in technicolor going into public bathrooms and coming out in their laughable disguises (some looking like clones of 1970s tennis player Bobby Riggs as they stalked al-Mabhou into the hotel elevator).

    But I doubt Mossad, known for its stealth and highly sophisticated operations, will ever live down the fact that its agents acted more like keystone cops than James Bond as they carried out this mission.  After gaining entry to his room by posing as housekeeping staff, they allegedly shot al-Mabhouh with a dart tranquilizer and then suffocated him.

    Mind you, I harbor no moral aversion whatsoever about such targeted assassinations (as long as they are carried out for national security, not political, purposes).  In fact, I applaud the Israelis for doing it the old-fashioned way: clean, up close, and in person; as opposed to the cowardly way the Americans now do it: with remote-controlled, aerial drones firing missiles that invariably kill many innocent bystanders for every target they hit.

    Instead, what I find so incomprehensible about this Mossad caper is that these spies used the real identities of six Israeli citizens to forge British passports. After all, even if using real identities were necessary to avoid being detected at border control, why not use the I.D.s of Jews from faraway New York City instead of those of more vulnerable Jews back home in Israel?

    Now, not only has CCTV blown the cover of all agents involved, but Mossad has made these six Israelis unwitting suspects in a murder investigation as well as potential targets of reprisal hits by Hamas assassins.

    Not to mention the justified political indignation this once-revered spy agency has incited among British officials; especially given the Israeli government’s assurance in the mid-1980s that its spies would never use forged British passports again after they were caught using them for a mission back then….

    Oy vey!

    Related commentaries:
    Putin orders hit on rogue Russian spy

  • Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5:48 AM

    UPDATE: 2010 Winter Olympic Games

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Unfortunately, the story of these Games to date is all about how bad weather (either too much rain or too much snow) and technical difficulties (malfunctioning zambonis – ice resurfacing machines) have conspired to force postponements of almost all of the signature events. And it’s a tossup whether these postponements are causing more frustration for the athletes or spectators.

    What is certain, however, is that the Vancouver organizers are even more humiliated by the technical difficulties than they are frustrated by the weather. (Recall that things did not get off to a very auspicious start when technical difficulties ruined the choreographed lighting of the Olympic flame at the Opening Ceremony.)

    Men’s Moguls

    In any event, the highlight so far has to be Alexandre Bilodeau’s win in the Men’s Moguls on Sunday. Because this win not only gave Canada its first gold medal as host country (a real feat after not winning any gold medals in the two previous hosting gigs: Montreal 1976 and Calgary 1988); it also capped a very endearing human interest story, which featured Bilodeau speaking fondly of his older brother – who was born with cerebral palsy – as his biggest fan and greatest inspiration. 

    Women’s Snowboardcross

    But if Bilodeau’s win represented the thrill of victory, Lindsey Jacobellis’s loss in the Women’s Snowboardcross last night represented the agony of defeat; not least because she was living out a human interest story that was almost as compelling as Bilodeau’s. Specifically, Jacobellis gained notoriety for blowing a gold medal in this event in 2006 when she tried a showboating trick just meters from the finish line and fell flat on her ass.  She recovered well enough to get silver. 

    More importantly though, she spent the past four years proving that the gold really was hers by dominating this event at all major international competition.  This is why everyone, including Jacobellis, felt certain that her redemption was finally at hand.  Instead, she suffered even greater ignominy. Because, ironically, she wasn’t even trying to showboat this time when she flubbed a standard turn, lost control and ran off course. She was disqualified. And this was only the semifinal.

    Perhaps there’s some consolation in the fact that Canadian Maelle Ricker went on to win, giving her country its second gold.

    Men’s Downhill

    On the other hand, Bode Miller (r) had even more to prove, given his failure to win a single medal in Alpine Skiing in 2006 after being favored to win five. His spectacular failure incited unbridled schadenfreude because of his notoriously cocky attitude, which made him think that he could spend as much time drinking and partying before each event as he did preparing on the slopes. 

    But even before his first event, the talk was of Miller certain repentance, if not his potential redemption. He exuded serenity. Then he skated to a thrilling bronze in the Men’s Downhill – finishing just nine-hundredths behind the gold medal winner and two hundredths after the silver.  This made him the most decorated Alpine skier in US history.  And he will undoubtedly add more medals to his haul before these Games are over.

    Pairs Figure Skating

    Otherwise, I enjoyed watching the Chinese husband and wife team win the Figure Skating Pairs on Monday night.  This was rather like Canada finally winning gold because this was their third attempt too, coming out of retirement (at 36 and 31 respectively) for the occasion.

    However, I only found out the morning after that the most dynamic pair in this event was not even featured on TV.  They just happened to be a black team from France that finished 14th

    What makes this noteworthy is not just their rave performance but the fact that they were the first black pair to ever compete in this event at the Olympics.  Not to mention that in a sea of white and Asian faces, it would have been inspiring for many to have seen them in prime time.

    Speaking of which, featuring this French pair would have given the announcers an opening to inform the television audience that figure skating is not as lily white as it might appear, since US skater Debi Thomas (who won a bronze in 1988) and French  skater Surya Bonaly (who competed in ’92, ‘94 and ’98) are pioneers in this respect.

    Speedskating Men’s 1000

    It is regrettable, though, that the alienation of esprit de corps, dating back to 2006, between black American Shani Davis, the defending gold medalist in Men’s 1000 Speedskating, and the rest of the mostly all-white US team (having to do, alas, with accusations of racism) has not been reconciled. I just hope that, like 2006, Davis can vindicate his antic disposition by winning gold for the US again.

    Men’s Snowboardcross

    The only other result of note so far is Seth Westcott winning gold in the Men’s Snowcross to become the first American athlete to win consecutive gold medals in the same event since speed skater Bonnie Blair did over a decade ago.

    Apolo Anton Ohno

    Which brings me Apolo Anton Ohno; because he’s running a dead heat with Lindsey Vonn as the most talked about athlete at these Games.  But unlike like Vonn – who has yet to compete, Ohno has already won a silver medal in the Men’s 1500, making him the most decorated Winter Olympian in history – along with the aforementioned Blair.

    Never mind that he only won it because two Korean skaters ran into each other just meters from the finish line, ruining a chance for a clean sweep and allowing Ohno and his teammate to skate on by.  Frankly, his most impressive feat this year might be the fact that he showed up at a competitive 145 pounds, after competing at 165 in 2006. 

    Of course, this might have more to do with the training he did for his winning performance on Dancing with the Stars than with any training for these Olympics. But it’s an indication of how formidable a challenge it will be for him to medal in his remaining four events that he failed to even place in the Men’s 500, which he won in 2006.

    Cross Country, Ski Jumping and other sports

    To be fair, I have thoroughly enjoyed what little I’ve seen of Cross Country, Ski Jumping, and other sports (though not including Curling; for calling this an Olympic sport is rather like calling Karaoke a fine art). But since I know little about them, and even less about the athletes who compete in them, I have only two comments to make:

    1. Apropos Curling, instead of glorifying the fact that a six-month pregnant woman is competing, commentators should stress what an insult her participation is, not only to the spirit of Olympic competition but also to all other Olympic athletes who must get their bodies into top physical shape just to qualify for the Olympics.

    • 2. You’d think having virtually no other sportsbesides ice skiing and skating would make Scandinaviansthe superstars of these Winter Games. Yet they are being dominated not only by the Americans, Germans, and French, but even by the South Koreans. Go figure….)

    I am really looking forward to all of the alpine events (especially the Women’s Downhill, featuring Lindsey Vonn); women’s figure skating; and all of the remaining speed skating and snowboarding events (especially tonight’s halfpipe featuring Shaun White).  

    Dead Georgian Luger

    With all due respect to the Georgian Luger who lost his life on Saturday, I think the announcers should observe a moratorium on any further references to him. For it’s bad enough that organizers have sissified the men’s Luge course (by moving the start down to the women’s level to make it easier), but it’s just unfair to all of the other Olympic athletes to make his death the running theme of these Games.

    NOTE:  Much has been made of the fact that these postponements have given Vonn extra time to rehab her bruised shin.  But this also means that she will now have far less time to recover between races once her first of five events begins later today. So let’s hope the “bumpy” course does not aggravate that shin too much.

    Related commentaries:
    Let the Games begin

  • Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 5:24 AM

    First in France, now immigrant riots are raging in Italy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Fears are mounting in Italy that immigrants from North Africa are determined to ape the riots their brothers perpetrated throughout France five years ago. Because for the second time in as many months, disillusioned, disaffected, and delinquent youths rampaged through Milan last weekend, destroying shops and burning cars to vent long-simmering grievances over chronic unemployment, racial and religious discrimination, and police brutality.

    Reports are that these are the worst racial unrest in Italy since World War II. But I predicted it would be thus:

    The riots in France should serve notice on other developed nations that have relegated immigrants to ghettos where crime and every order of vice pervade (and, incidentally, where Islamic jihadists troll for guerilla fighters and suicide bombers). Because these riots demonstrate what little spark it takes for the simmering resentment that burns in ghettos to set nearby cities ablaze and terrorize an entire country.

    Alas, there but for the grace of God…

    [World beware, French riots affect us all, TIJ, November 8, 2005]

    Instead of dealing with the root causes of these riots – as the French did by implementing government programs to assimilate their alienated young Africans, the Italians have decided to corral them in internment camps for repatriation.  In fact, Italian lawmakers prepared for these riots years ago by enacting the most draconian immigration laws in Europe:

    Italy has an immigration policy that aims at mass expulsion of illegal immigrants – especially the unemployed. Indeed, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi even proposed an immigration bill that would authorize border patrol to open fire on boats carrying would-be illegal immigrants

    [The plague of Haitian immigrants…, TIJ, March 31, 2005]

    I fear, however, that this approach will only add fuel to the fires of gang warfare that characterize life in its immigrant communities as well as to clashes with local white hooligans.  Add to this tinderbox the corrupting and violent machinations of Italy’s notorious Mafia and you see what a simmering social volcano these riots represent.

    But that’s Italian….

    NOTE:  It might interest you to know that, according to The New York Times:

    There are 4 million legal immigrants in Italy, out of a population of 60 million, and even more illegal immigrants. And while many Italians rely on them to work in their businesses and take care of their young children or elderly parents, many Italians see the new arrivals as a threat.

    Related commentaries:
    World beware, French riots
    The plague of Haitian immigrants

  • Monday, February 15, 2010 at 5:12 AM

    5th Anniversary of The iPINIONS Journal

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As improbable as it seemed when I launched this weblog, today marks the fifth anniversary of The iPINIONS Journal. 

    Remarkably enough, I enjoy writing and publishing my commentaries even more now than I did back then.  Therefore, I have no doubt that I shall be doing so for at least another five years.

    I only hope that you will continue to find my musings on current events a worthwhile daily diversion.

    Thank you for your support!

    ALH

  • Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 6:49 AM

    Let the 2010 Olympic Winter Games Begin

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Unfortunately, last night’s Opening Ceremony was marred by the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili (21), an athlete from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, during a practice run on the luge earlier in the day.  

    Clearly this was a tragic event. But I’m glad the Olympic spirit rendered unthinkable all talk of showing respect for him by either canceling competition in this sport or making the luge slower (since Nodar was luging at 90mph when he lost control).

    The head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Jacque Rogue, decided instead that dedicating the Opening Ceremony to him would be a more fitting tribute.

    That said, as Opening Ceremonies go, it got off to a rather quaint, perhaps even patronizing, start.

    It might be helpful to know that the white folks who now own and run Canada finally apologized a couple years ago for the way they displaced, exploited and, in many cases, killed the aboriginal people of that country.  (I know, you probably thought only the white folks who colonized America did that….)

    The producers of this show probably thought it would be a fitting demonstration of that apology to proudly feature surviving aborigines (Indians) performing their native dances on this world stage. 

    Great!  Except that this only begged the question:   How many Indians do you suppose are on Canada’s Olympic team….? I bet you will not see a single one over the next couple weeks.

    That said, the emotional highlight of the evening was easily the prolonged standing ovation Nodar’s surviving teammates received when Georgia was introduced during the parade of nations.

    As for the rest of the ceremony, well, coming so close on the heel of the unprecedented show China put on for the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Summer Games, it was fated to be underwhelming by comparison. And so it was – despite the best efforts of some of Canada’s most famous entertainers.

    In fact, it seemed fitting that their elaborate plan to ignite the Olympic flame suffered an embarrassing electrical malfunction. O Canada….

    I swear, as I was dozing off, I heard one of the NBC hosts, Matt Lauer or Bob Costas, snoring…. Just kidding; but what a snooze!

    Although, to be fair, I thought the slam poet extolling the virtues of being Canadian and K.D. Lang singing a soulful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah did a lot to redeem the evening.

    The good news is that “the Michael Phelps of these Games,” American skier Lindsey Vonn, has recovered sufficiently enough from a shin injury to remain favored to become the most decorated athlete (with five gold medals). 

    Of course, much of the media hype surrounding her also has to do with the fact that she’s probably the most attractive woman to ever compete in the signature event of the Winter Olympics: the downhill (with apologies to women’s figure skating: the sport as well as the cute girls who compete in it).

    Let the games begin!

    NOTE: It probably came as a pleasant surprise to many last night to learn that the person who represents the Queen as Canada’s head of state is a black woman from Haiti: Governor General Michaelle Jean.

    Related commentaries:
    Opening ceremony of Beijing Olympic Summer Games

  • Friday, February 12, 2010 at 6:20 AM

    Haitians: returning to Africa; blaming the US & France?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is interesting, even instructive, to see how Haitians, displaced by last month’s earthquake, are reacting to offers by Africans to “return home.” Because, if nothing else, their reaction should put the (final) nail in the coffin of Pan-Africanism.

    Here, for the record, are two of the more widely reported offers Africans have made in the beleaguered spirit of pan-African brotherhood:

    Haitians were sons and daughters of Africa since Haiti was founded by slaves, including some thought to be from Senegal… Senegal is ready to offer them parcels of land – even an entire region.

    (Spokesman for President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal – pictured here)

    Haiti’s history as a creation of the slave trade and the world’s first black republic creates a special obligation for African Union members. It is out of a sense of duty and memory and solidarity that we can further the proposal … to create in Africa the conditions for the return of Haitians.”

    (African Union President Jean Ping)

    But I trust Africans will not be too offended by the fact that reaction amongst Haitians has ranged from consternation to indignation.  In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a single Haitian (government official or private citizen) who thinks these offers to return home are even worthy of consideration.

    And who can blame them. I know if I were Haitian, I would consider rebuilding my country in the Caribbean – surrounded by relatively rich, stable, and charitable countries – far more preferable to being relocated to “tribal lands” in Africa – surrounded by relatively poor, unstable, and parasitic, if not predatory, countries.

    Not to mention that, given the pandemic of corruption, incompetence and civil strife that continues to plague virtually every country on this continent, “returning” to Africa for Haitians would be tantamount to the proverbial jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

    Perhaps Haiti is fated to loom amidst the islands of the Caribbean just as Africa is amidst the continents of the world – as a dark, destitute, diseased, desperate, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous and ultimately dysfunctional mess.

    [Haiti’s living nightmare continues … unabated, TIJ, March 7, 2005]

    By contrast, with every developed country in the world now vested in its future, Haiti stands to benefit from a nation-building effort the likes of which the world has not seen since the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Western Europe after World War II. (This, notwithstanding President Truman’s Point Four Program, which was intended to be a Marshall Plan for Africa, Asia, Central and Latin America.)

    So on behalf of our Haitian brothers and sisters: thanks, but no thanks Africa.

    (By the way, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, rescue teams and emergency supplies from countries all over the world, including Israel, poured into Haiti.  There are 54 countries in Africa.  How many of them do you recall participating in this rush to aid these “sons and daughters of Africa” in their hour of earth-shattering despair…?)

    Meanwhile, all Haitians should be heartened by the irony of having the United States and France compete to be the father of their national rebirth.  After all, it was the US and France that led other nations in a conspiracy to ensure that Haiti would suffer crib death as a nation after winning independence in 1804.

    The Americans participated in this infanticide because they deemed it too politically untenable to have a nation of black revolutionaries enjoying democratic freedoms in their backyard, while their young nation was still so dependent on the institution of black slavery.  Their hypocrisy had to have been palpable; but it clearly paled in comparison to the fear these Americans had of embers from the fires of revolt that liberated France’s Haitian slaves eventually igniting similar fires among their American slaves.

    The French participated merely to avenge their defeat by these Haitian revolutionaries – who, ironically, emulated the way American revolutionaries defeated the British … with the help of the French.

    But that, as we say, is ancient history.  This is why it strikes me as just an academic exercise, which does nothing to further Haiti’s national interest, for commentators to be conjuring up this 19th century conspiracy. For it can only serve as a specious reason for the chronic growing pains Haitians have suffered since independence, and will prove a fatally flawed basis on which to demand reparations for those pains.

    Mind you, this is not to say that the US, in particular, has no obligation to come to Haiti’s aid.  In fact, I’m on record asserting quite emphatically that it does:

    American presidents are almost as responsible for creating the nightmarish living conditions in Haiti as the succession of incompetent, corrupt, and ruthless leaders they’ve sponsored throughout Haiti’s modern History… The American government must honor its unfulfilled obligations to help build a Haiti than can sustain itself, govern itself and police itself.

    [The plague of Haitian migrants in the Caribbean, TIJ, March 31, 2005]

    But these commentators blaming the Americans for Haiti’s dystopia is rather like Robert Mugabe blaming the British for Zimbabwe’s.  Never mind that the foreign aid the world has lavished upon Haiti over the past 50 years has more than compensated for whatever damage this conspiracy may have caused. So blame people like Papa Doc, not Thomas Jefferson, for “destroy[ing] the dream that was Haiti”.

    Haitians are living a serial nightmare. And even though white foreign faces appear as evil forces from time to time, black indigenous faces (like those of the Tonton Macoutes, FRAPH, and even Lavalas devotees) are the constant, central and catalytic characters….

    [Haiti’s living nightmare continues … unabated, TIJ, March 7, 2005]

    That said, I am hopeful that what will distinguish this latest round of foreign aid is the vested interest all donor nations are taking in Haiti’s sustainable development.  Indeed, nothing militates against billions more being squandered quite like having former U.S. President Bill Clinton, instead of local leaders, managing this nation-building project. Especially considering that one could be forgiven for thinking all Haitian politicians are congenitally incompetent and corrupt….

    (Incidentally, don’t worry about Clinton being rushed to the hospital yesterday.  His heart just needed a little tuning up. In fact, his doctor insists that, after a day’s rest, the best prescription for him is to resume his very full work load.)

    China, Brazil, Venezuela and France have all made politically opportunistic attempts to lead this effort.  But the Haitian government endorsed America’s exceptional standing in this respect by granting the US exclusive and indefinite command and control…

    The US is not only providing the vast majority of all emergency supplies and financial aid, but an advance team of military forces were already handing out supplies and helping the Haitian police enforce law and order.

    [Haiti’s Three Rs: Relief, Recovery and Reconstruction, TIJ, January 15, 2010]

    Moreover, once government institutions and the rule of law have been established, Clinton will clearly be the person best suited to attract the private investments that will be the engine of Haiti’s economic growth. And the billions he garners in annual corporate pledges for his Clinton Global Initiative is a testament to this fact.

    Although, frankly, without this very high-profile and foreign oversight, even the most jingoistic Haitian would have to concede that nobody would have any reason to believe that Haiti would be any better off 10 years from now than it was the day before the earthquake hit – despite billions in charitable donations.

    Finally, it cannot be overstated that, with over 200,000 dead, Haiti’s earthquake was a tragedy of biblical proportions.  But the blessing in disguise is that no people have ever had a better opportunity to form a more perfect union than Haitians have today.

    Let us pray they make the most of it.

    More on Reparations

    France may well have a special obligation to pay reparations to Haiti, not only for the institution of slavery but also for the $21 billion in adhesive and unwarranted reparations the world forced the newly independent Haiti to pay France (in installments from 1825 to 1922) in order to be recognized.  Of course, the inconvenient truth is that it wasn’t just France that extracted this payment, but the entire world….

    But surely no country has a greater obligation to pay reparations than the US, not only for slavery but also for the systematic discrimination it practiced against the descendants of black American slaves for over 100 years after Abolition.

    Yet, just as supervening events (like Affirmative Action) make reparations in the American context impracticable, if not redundant, similar events (like foreign aid) make reparations in the Haitian context even more so.  Indeed, there’s a reason why the US, the richest and most generous country in the world, has never paid reparations for its institution of slavery.

    Related commentaries:
    Haiti’s living nightmare continues
    The plague of Haitian migrants
    Haiti’s Three Rs: Relief, Recovery, Reconstruction
    Fatally flawed demand for reparations

  • Monday, February 8, 2010 at 4:47 AM

    Hallelujah! The Saints Go Marching In: 31 to 17

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Colts are favored to win. But I’m betting on the Saints not only to beat the 5-point spread but to actually win in an upset reminiscent of the 1969 Jets’ win over the then Baltimore Colts. Though, frankly, I can’t imagine anyone, except die-hard Colts fans, not praying for the Saints to provide this miraculous outcome for the Katrina-ravaged people of New Orleans.

    [NFL Championship Sunday: Favre intercepted … again, TIJ, January 25, 2010]

    The Game

    What can I say….

    Hell, I was so convinced the Saints were going to win that I informed my brother, an Ordained Bishop, that the Lord was going to get more converts for inviting them into Super Bowl heaven than he could get from a thousand religious crusades. 

    And it was clear they were going to go marching all the way in after they won that onside kick to open the second half.  But Lance Moore’s spectacular two-point-conversion catch from Drew Brees midway through the 4th (to give the Saints a 24 to 17 lead) really clinched it. Enough said!

    Except that, given the prevailing national sympathy with the people of Haiti, Colts fans should derive some consolation from the fact that Haitian wider receiver Pierre Garcon scored the first touchdown of the game. Of course, Haiti could not lose in this respect given that its claims Stanley Arnoux of the Saints as a native son too.

    The Entertainment

    Queen Latifah’s performance of “America the Beautiful” was awful!  Perhaps it had something to do with her earpiece popping out.  

    But not since Whitney Huston performed the “Star Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV has anyone performed it as well as Carrie Underwood did tonight. She was really that good.

    Unfortunately, the Who not only looked, but even sounded like a group of grumpy, dirty old men. Their half-time performance was a snooze. 

    Alas, this is what the lingering national trauma over a peek at Janet Jackson’s right, nipple-pierced boob (yes, I remember it vividly) has wrought:

    Me: Next year they’ll be favouring us with a half-time performance by the Monkeys.
    The Bishop
    : The who?
    Me: No, the Monkeys! …

    The Commercials

    I was so nervous after the Saints’ slow start, and the Colts’ quick score that I didn’t even notice the most controversial spot of the night was airing until I saw Tim Tebow at the end. But pro-Choice activists must have been smoking crack when they deemed this a rabid anti-abortion commercial. It was fine, even if misplaced.

    (Incidentally, the Bishop calmed my nerves by reminding that the Lord saith that the race is not given to the swift nor to the strong, but to he that endures to the end.)

    My pick for best commercial goes to the Doritos spot featuring a dog wearing a shock-therapy, anti-barking collar.  Its riff on the man-bites-dog anomaly – with the dog placing the collar on the guy who was teasing him with the Doritos – was hysterical. But the fact that it also conveyed a subtle message about cruelty to animals (think Michael Vick) made it priceless.

    The bit with Jay, Oprah and David gets honorable mention only because of the dramatic and funny real-life controversy behind it. And the picture of the three of them sitting on a couch watching the game in this context was as poignant as it was pithy.  I just wonder why they couldn’t have worked Conan into the spot…

    But am I the only one who was thoroughly disgusted by all of those fat, pasty white folks walking around in their underwear for the Career Builders commercial?

    And Dockers must have died when their $3 million spot, featuring more ugly men walking around in their underwear, followed right after this one.  (I suppose this is what happens when one big ad agency runs out of ideas….)

    How ’bout them Saints, eh!!!

    Related commentaries:
    NFL Championship Sunday…

    * The commentary was published originally last night at 10:47 pm

  • Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    Living in a winter wonderland: 21 inches and counting

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 7:15 AM

    Why has healthcare reform crashed? Obama blames Toyota

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, February 5, 2010 at 6:12 AM

    UPDATE: American missionaries charged with Kidnapping Haitian babies

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Today, 10 Baptist missionaries from the United States were formally charged with conspiracy and child kidnapping for allegedly trying to abscond from Haiti with 33 children.

    They were arrested a week ago today while crossing the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  The missionaries claim that all of the children were left homeless, and in some cases orphaned, by the January 12 earthquake. And that they had proper authorization – such as could be granted by Haiti’s fractured government.

    Yet they now face 5 to 15 years in prison and remain in custody pending further determination by an investigative judge; i.e., no bail!

    But, even for Haiti, this is surreal:

    First and foremost, instead of inciting moral indignation, this story fills me with hope. After all, if law enforcement in Haiti is already functioning well enough to apprehend white-collar criminals, this must auger well for Haiti’s rapid recovery.

    It’s just too bad the police do not appear to be doing as good a job of arresting the violent criminals who are preying on the millions of displaced women and children now living in tent cities all over Haiti.

    Then there’s the almost farcical scene of these missionaries in court pleading that they were engaged in the work of the Lord, not in child trafficking.  

    But am I the only one who thinks it’s crazy that these folks are being prosecuted for attempting to whisk 33 kids off to a better life when there are probably a thousand times that many desperately wishing, waiting for that opportunity…?

    Whatever the case, this story is an unfortunate distraction; not least because the international media are now focusing far more on the fate of these 10 missionaries than on the fate of 10 million Haitians.

    Frankly, this judge would be well-advised to release these missionaries on humanitarian grounds ASAP – recognizing the good, even if misguided, intentions of the defendants, as well as the overriding welfare of the Haitian people. 

    That judge can free you but he can also continue to hold you for further proceedings.

    This, according to Reuters, is the damoclean hope the prosecutor offered the missionaries at their hearing yesterday. I have to think, though, that the judge will find in fairly short order that the dysfunctional nature of life in Haiti alone raises reasonable doubts about their guilt. 

    In any case, the charge of child trafficking becomes patently absurd when one considers that the missionaries had parental consent (in some cases); and moreover, that they were involved in trying to help poor Haitian children long before it became fashionable. 

    Not to mention that even if they were tried and convicted, former President Bill Clinton, who is now the de facto leader of that country, would procure an immediate pardon. This is, after all, the roving American ambassador who flew all the way to North Korea to procure the release of just two Americans who were convicted on equally dubious charges.

    So, point made: Haitian children are not for sale! And a religious calling to “save the children” does not confer the right to circumvent the laws of poor, earthquake-ravaged Haiti to do so.

    Now, for the sake of their country, I hope foolish pride does not prevent Haitian authorities from disposing of this case with dispatch.

    NOTE: Many people are accusing these missionaries of cultural and religious arrogance. But I’ll bet that these are the same people who praised Madonna for taking kids from their poor parents in Malawi by promising that she could give them a better life – complete with Kabbalah indoctrination no doubt. 

    Related commentaries:
    Haiti’s Three Rs: Relief, Recovery, and Reconstruction

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday morning and updated last night

  • Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 12:17 AM

    World beware: China Calling In (Loan-Sharking) Debts

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Western leaders have made a mockery of their condemnation of the brutal crackdown on Tibetan monks by heeding China’s warning against meeting with the Dalai Lama in any official capacity.  In fact, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeased the Chinese by refusing to meet with him at No. 10, choosing instead to meet only at the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This enabled Brown to claim that he was meeting the Dalai Lama ‘in a spiritual rather than political capacity.’

    (“Punishing China for its brutal crackdown on Tibet? Hardly…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2008)

    As this opening quote indicates, the Chinese can be forgiven for thinking that even President Obama would heed their extraterritorial warning against meeting with Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. They were undoubtedly emboldened last year when Obama appeared to do just that; specifically, when he snubbed the Dalai Lama on the eve of his (Obama’s) first state visit to China.

    His spokesman, Robert Gibbs, insists that Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama was always scheduled for later… Far more credible is that Obama is snubbing the Tibetan leader because the Chinese would consider such a meeting ahead of his state visit to China next month an insult. And frankly, given the unprecedented and unparalleled power China now has to affect the economic and geopolitical interests of the United States, appeasing the Chinese to this degree seems far more prudent than pusillanimous.

    (“Obama Upsetting Liberals, Appeasing China?! Calm Down Folks, The iPINIONS Journal, October 6, 2009)

    But the day of reckoning for this warning (for Obama and the Chinese) is drawing nigh.  The White House announced yesterday that Obama intends to welcome the Dalai Lama later this month. On cue, the Chinese reacted variously like an angry parent disciplining a willful child and a loan shark dealing with a delinquent debtor:

    A meeting would be totally at odds with international accepted practices and would seriously undermine the political basis of Sino-US relations … If the U.S. leader chooses this time to meet the Dalai Lama, that would damage trust and cooperation between our two countries, and how would that help the United States surmount the current economic crisis?

    (Zhu Weiqun, the Communist Party official in charge of enforcing China’s global effort to marginalize the Dalai Lama)

    I applaud Obama for calling their bluff.  Not least because any real attempt to squeeze the United States financially would amount to an unprecedented case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. After all, the US market is even more indispensable to China’s economic growth than China’s credit is to the US’s.

    Meanwhile, they’re only directing that the Dalai Lama should be shunned today, but who knows what extraterritorial directive the Chinese will issue pursuant to their perceived national interest tomorrow…?

    Moreover, consider for a moment what passive-aggressive hegemony they have in mind if they already presume that they can dictate who the president of the United States invites to the White House…. And it’s an indication of their supervening jingoism that the Chinese are proffering the demonstrably specious notion that the US would be acting the same way if the president of China were meeting with the leader of a secessionist movement from the United States (if such a creature even exists).

    Incidentally, much is being made of China’s concurrent grievance with the US over arms sales to Taiwan. But I believe China has a right to exercise a sphere of military influence over Taiwan based on the same principle (such as it was) that entitled the US to do so over Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis.  And I fully expect that, despite commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to defend Taiwan, if (or in fact when) push comes to shove, the US will defer to China over Taiwan just as the Soviet Union deferred to the US over Cuba.

    All the same, this episode should serve as a warning to all countries around the world that are not just lapping up China’s largesse, but are heralding it as a more worthy superpower than the United States. After all, China is spitting imperious and vindictive fire at the rich and mighty United States over a relatively insignificant matter like meeting with the Dalai Lama. So just imagine what it would do to a poor and weak country in a conflict over a truly significant matter.

    I anticipated that the Chinese would be every bit as arrogant in the use of their power as the Americans.  But I never thought they would use it for such an irrational and plainly unwinnable cause.

    In point of fact here, in part, is how I admonished countries in the Caribbean and Latin America in this respect almost five years ago:

    What happens if China decides that it is in its strategic national interest to convert the container ports, factories and chemical plants it has funded throughout the Caribbean into dual military and commercial use? Would these governments comply? Would they have any real choice? And when they do comply, would the US then blockade the entire region – as it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis?

    Now, consider China making such strategic moves in Latin America where its purportedly benign Yuan diplomacy dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed….

    (China Buying Up Political Dominion,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 22, 2005)

    It clearly does not bode well that China has no compunctions about drawing moral and political equivalence between its beef with the US over the Dalai Lama and the US’s beef with it over internet espionage, unfair trade practices, and support for indicted war criminals like President Bashir of Sudan. Because irrational self-pity in a regional menace like North Korea is one thing;  in a global power like China it’s quite another.

    Still, when all of the chest-thumping and saber-rattling are done, I am confident that cooler heads will act to prevent a trade war (or worse) between the US and China pursuant to the same principle that prevented war between the US and Soviet Union:  the sobering and inescapable recognition that it would only lead to mutually assured destruction; i.e., it would be MAD!

    NOTE: China getting its nose all bent out of shape over the Dalai Lama’s visit is made all the more boorish and irrational when one considers not only that Obama is just following the precedent set by his predecessors, but that he has stated repeatedly that he considers Tibet a part of China and the Dalai Lama nothing more than a spiritual leader.

    Related commentaries:
    Punishing China…Hardly
    Obama upsetting liberals
    China buying dominion over Caribbean
    Tibet – China’s Buddhist intifada

  • Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 12:04 AM

    Climate Change: as much fraud as junk science…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    After the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report last Friday, which zealous environmentalists are now touting as “the final word on global warming”, I felt obliged to respond…

    The way the findings in this report are being proselytized begs allusions to the Holy Bible. It is ironic, though, that some renowned scientists (including Dr Tim Ball – Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship and Dr Richard Lindzen – Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are dismissing this IPCC report with the same intellectual derision with which secular humanists dismiss the Holy Bible…

    [G]lobal warming and cooling are natural phenomena that have occurred in (30 to 40 thousand-year) cycles since the beginning of time… Believers in global warming are uninformed, fad-obsessed herds being led by a cadre of myopic media and political elite…

    I could not be more indignant at rich environmentalists who seek absolution for their environmental sins by “purchasing carbon credits or offsets” in the same spirit with which Catholics once sought absolution for their moral sins by purchasing Papal indulgences.  

    [Mother Nature makes UN report on global warming seem like flaming hoax, TIJ, April 12, 2007]

    These excerpts are from a commentary I published almost three years ago.  Back then, I’m obliged to note, the orthodoxy of global warming was such that I got branded a veritable heretic for not only questioning, but actually ridiculing the purported scientific findings upon which this orthodoxy is based.

    Trust me, I have the scars to show from the metaphorical flogging and stoning I took. But that was then. For recent revelations are causing a pandemic of doubt even among the most devoted believers in the IPCC’s report, which most famously provided the script for Al Gore’s cult classic, An Inconvenient Truth.

    First Climate-gate exposed emails in which scientists from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia – who conducted much of the research for this now infamous 2007 IPCC report – are clearly conspiring to manipulate data to hide the fact that there’s more evidence of global cooling than warming.

    Research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU files… The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas.

    (Eduardo Zorita, an expert in European climate trends)

    Then a January 23, 2010 article in the Times of London cast doubts on almost all of the IPCC’s most important findings.  For example, the report, which won the IPCC and Al Gore the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, found that “the probability of Himalayan glaciers disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high.” But according to the Times:

    It emerged last week that the forecast was based not on a consensus among climate change experts, but on a media interview with a single Indian glaciologist in 1999.

    Even worse, this article continued as follows:

    [The IPCC report] says the total area of Himalyan glaciers ‘will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 square kilometers by the year 2035′. There are only 33,000 square kilometers of glaciers in the Himalayas.

    Now comes an article in the most recent edition of The Sunday Telegraph of London which reveals that some of the IPCC’s findings weren’t based on any scientific research at all

    Instead, the scientists who authored this critical section of the report evidently relied, alternatively, on “anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them,” which were published in a climbers magazine; and on a dissertation by a geography student at the University of Berne in Switzerland.

    And in a late-breaking development, the Guardian is reporting today that the head of the beleaguered CRU, Professor Phil Jones, clearly tried to hide flaws in the data on which his climate change findings were based.

    These revelations, as well as others, finally forced the head of the IPCC, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, to concede that:

    There may have been other errors in the same section of the report, and I am considering whether to take action against those responsible.

    All the same, there’s a crescendo among politicians and scientists alike calling for Dr Pachauri to resign. And those calls will only grow louder given reports in recent days that, despite his denials, he knew of the errors and did nothing to correct them; and, more damning, that he used the report to win hundreds of thousands in grants. But he remains defiant:

    I know a lot of climate sceptics are after my blood, but I’m in no mood to oblige them.

    Of course, any self-respecting scientist who contributed in any way to this report could be forgiven for wanting to disassociate from Dr Pachauri and the IPCC’s now tarnished Nobel.  In fact, here is how Professor Richard Tol of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, Ireland did just that:

    Why did they do this? It is quite astounding … it is illustrative of how sloppy Working Group Two (the panel of experts within the IPCC responsible for drawing up this section of the report) has been.

    Yet, according to The Sunday Telegraph, a survey of the 400 authors and contributors to the IPCC report found that a majority not only stand by it but still support Dr Pachauri and his panel of agenda-driven climate-change scribes.

    But redemption for the IPCC might still come from the efforts of other scientists who are driven more by the science than politics of global warming.  Here, for example, is the constructive insight Roger Sedjo, a senior research fellow at the US research organisation Resources for the Future, shared on this embarrassing spectacle … fraud:

    The IPCC is, unfortunately, a highly political organisation with most of the secretariat bordering on climate advocacy. It needs to develop a more balanced and indeed scientifically sceptical behaviour pattern. The organisation tend to select the most negative studies ignoring more positive alternatives.

    I fear, however, that the IPCC will only be redeemed if melting glaciers defy God’s Rainbow Covenant and cause another flood of Biblical proportions. 

    In the meantime, these revelations should compel the Nobel Committee to revoke the IPCC’s, as well as Al Gore’s, Nobel Prize. Although, with British MPs calling for criminal prosecutions, Dr Pachauri, Prof Jones and others clearly have far more to worry about than professional humiliation.

    They are not merely bad scientists – they are crooks. And crooks who have perpetrated their crimes at the expense of British and U.S. taxpayers.

    (Lord Christopher Monckton, Science and Public Policy Institute, Chief Policy Advisor)

    Related commentaries:
    UN report on global warming
    Gore and IPCC win Nobel Prize
    Climate-gate
    Copenhagen: more hot air but no binding agreement

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