• Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    Royal Wedding vs. Killer Tornadoes

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    TV stations cover natural disasters purportedly as a public service. But there’s no denying that such coverage is a ratings boon for their bottom line – catering as it does to the perverse thrill of suspense that keeps us fixated on the hype of impending [or unfolding] doom….

    (Katrina’s coming, Katrina’s coming, The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

    Well, we found out yesterday that there is at least one event that can compete with natural disasters for TV ratings: a royal wedding.

    In fact, this led to the spectacle of American TV anchors pretending to report on the tornadoes that devastated the so-called “tornado alley” in the Southern United States from London with Buckingham Palace looking like a gilded elephant over their shoulders.

    When all was said and done, coverage of this natural disaster, which killed over 340, injured thousands, and destroyed thousands of homes, paled in comparison to coverage of the escapist fare that played out in London yesterday. British officials are boasting that over two billion people tuned in to watch the royal wedding. But given that half the world was asleep during the ceremony, the actual viewership was probably half that number.

    It would be remiss of me not to note, however, that at least one news anchor got his priorities straight:

    As I left New York for London last night, I was haunted by one thing: the radar image I had seen on the Weather Channel before departing. It showed an active tornado over the top of Tuscaloosa, Alabama… I landed in London, [Friday] morning their time, and checked my Blackberry before we taxied off the runway. I saw the death toll: 83 and climbing. Before long, it was posted at 172… I kept thinking of the four-inch Royal Wedding briefing binder in my bag—I had devoted the night flight to studying it—a global media event outside my area of expertise…

    But for now, for us, for this story, one of us had to go back and lead a separate coverage team—as the death toll grows. Three hours after arriving in London, I was in the departure lounge for British Airways flight 177 to JFK.

    (NBC News anchor Brian Williams, The Daily Nightly, Friday 29, 2011)

    Alas, there can be no greater indictment of his profession than the fact that he was the only one among his peers who had the presence of mind to do what, after all, was the only proper and professional thing to do in this case.

    Indeed, it shall redound to the eternal shame of network anchors Katie Couric of CBS and Diane Sawyer of ABC that they chose to sit back in London to parrot platitudes about this royal wedding instead of joining Williams in Alabama to report on the human tragedy unfolding there. Although, to be fair, perhaps these two women decided that covering this fairytale was more inside their area of expertise….

    Anyway, I’m sure the “just wed” royal couple will forgive me for praying far more for relief to come to those affected by these tornadoes than for them to live happily ever after.

  • Friday, April 29, 2011 at 5:01 AM

    Beware! You’re being taken by this fairytale … in more ways than one

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 5:55 AM

    Third of Three Commentaries in Homage to the Royal Wedding

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The royal family betrayed its traditional pretense of being above partisan politics by inviting former Conservative prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major while snubbing former Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.  By contrast, all living prime ministers were invited to the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981.

    I am convinced, however, that Labour leaders are protesting this “gratuitous offense” not so much because Blair and Brown feel slighted, but because it reflects the kind of capricious royal prerogatives that simply cannot be tolerated in a democracy.

    With that, here is the third commentary from February 16, 2011.

    The Problem is Not Kate’s Weight, it’s William’s Title

    I am profoundly dismayed that even American news organizations report every tidbit about the April 29 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton as if it were the latest breaking news about the revolutions spreading across the Middle East.

    The latest example of this farce came on Monday when even the purportedly serious NBC Nightly News reported the hardly surprising news that William had chosen his brother Harry as his best man, and Kate her sister Pippa as her maid of honor. And in due course the media will undoubtedly be reporting on who received a coveted invitation to this wedding as if they were reporting on who made scrolls for entry into heaven.

    Meanwhile, I took a royal beating for ending my November 16, 2010 commentary on their engagement as follows:

    I wish this couple all the best—especially Kate. For, as Lady Di found out in so many tragic ways, marrying a prince and future king does not guarantee living a charmed life.

    Indeed, William proposing to her with his mother’s engagement ring might be another bad omen in this respect. Not to mention that she already seems afflicted with the anorexia nervosa that the anxieties of joining ‘the firm’ caused Diana to develop….

    (“Prince William to Kate: enough of the wait,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 16, 2010)

    Well, I wonder what kind of flak the editors of London’s leading newspaper are taking for publishing a report a few days ago, which echoed my observations about Kate’s weight:

    Every bride-to-be loses weight – but, with three months to her big day, Kate Middleton looks extra slim.

    As she left a London restaurant the sporty curves that first caught Prince William’s eye seemed to have changed… Her legs, previously toned but shapely, looked very thin.

    (The SUN, February 11, 2011)

    After all, socialite and Princess Di friend Jemima Khan was reportedly disinvited from this wedding of the century for posting the following catty, but true tweet just weeks after I posted my offending commentary last November:

    Kate Middleton – those are not heir-bearing hips are they? Unfeasibly thin.

    Meow!!!

    All the same, the point of my original commentary was not Kate’s weight; rather it was William’s title. Because, truth be told, I couldn’t care any less about whether or not Kate will end up on her “big day” as mere skin and bones underneath her wedding dress.

    Instead, what concerns me is that people around the world seem even more vested in this anachronistic institution today than they were when William’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, got married 30 years ago (on July 29, 1981).

    I have long maintained that royalty is anathema to the universal principle that all people are created equal. Moreover, that a democracy that perpetuates royalty in the 21st Century is almost as cancerous (and oxymoronic) as one that perpetuated slavery in the 19th.

    This is why I find it somewhat hypocritical that Western media are praising the Egyptians for overthrowing their dictatorship, while celebrating the British for perpetuating their monarchy (with all of its state-supported perks, privileges, and regal indulgences). And it’s no consolation to argue in mitigation that Western monarchs are now constitutionally prohibited from oppressing their subjects the way Mideast dictators still do.

    Because what offends is that monarchies are undemocratic by nature; dictatorships are not. In point of fact, Hosni Mubarak proved that anyone can grow up to be a dictator; whereas, William proves that only a royal heir can grow up to be a king (albeit in waiting).

    And, lest you think my view smacks of congenital iconoclasm, take it from Colin Firth. Firth, of course, is a sure bet to win this year’s Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of British King George VI in The King’s Speech. Yet here is how he expressed his problem with this institution:

    I really like voting.  It’s one of my favourite things. It [an unelected monarchy] is a problem for me.

    (Daily Mail, February 16, 2011)

    So instead of reveling in the rites and rituals of an institution that devalues them as “commoners,” perhaps Britons should mark William and Kate’s wedding by launching protests of their own to get rid of it. But since William and Kate are relative innocents, I urge protesters to stay well clear of Westminster Abbey and other places where they will be celebrating their wedding.

    NOTE: As for the success of their royal marriage, another bad omen might be choosing the same day of the month, the 29th, as their wedding day as Charles and Diana did… Things that make you go, hmmm…?

    Related commentaries:
    Prince William to Kate

  • Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 5:53 AM

    Second of Three Commentaries in Homage to the Royal Wedding

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Continuing this series, which began with a proper introduction yesterday, this second commentary is from May 4, 2007. I feel compelled to note, however, that the American media are providing blanket coverage of this wedding for the same reason they provide similar coverage of human train wrecks like Charlie Sheen and Donald Trump: it’s a perverse ratings bonanza.

    But nothing demonstrates the folly inherent in this coverage quite like American news anchors reporting on the political massacre in Syria or, even worse, the natural disaster in Alabama with Buckingham Palace looking like a gilded elephant over their shoulders.

    More to the point, though, nothing demonstrates how much the media are working to manufacture interest in this royal wedding quite like an ICM Research poll which found that four out of five Britons are “largely indifferent” or “couldn’t care less” about it. (Notwithstanding polls which indicate that 70 percent of Britons still support the Monarchy.  Go figure….)

    This should be a wake-up call for the BBC, government and the palace, all of whom have been vastly — and deliberately — exaggerating the public’s enthusiasm for the wedding in recent weeks. It’s time to get some perspective — most people simply don’t care.

    (Graham Smith, Republic.org, March 28, 2011)

    The London Guardian echoed Smith’s observation – regarding enthusiasm among Americans – with a report today under the headline, Royal wedding fever hits U.S. media but public interest remains low.

    With that, here’s the second commentary:

    Americans show more interest in ‘The Queen’ than in the Queen

    Everyone had a theory for the low turnout.

    (The Washington Post reporting on the surprisingly few gawkers who greeted Queen Elizabeth in Virginia yesterday, May 3, 2007)

    It’s been 16 years since HM Queen Elizabeth II made her last state visit to the United States. Therefore, in light of this absence, her PR handlers can be forgiven their expectation that the American people would be waiting in suspended animation to shower her with lots of pent-up fondness.

    Alas, what a royal disappointment it must have been when this British flying circus was greeted in my resident state of Virginia yesterday by fewer (and less enthusiastic) royal gawkers than the throngs who gawk at royal lookalikes every day along Hollywood Boulevard. And this disappointment must have been made humiliating by the fact that organizers no doubt felt they had guaranteed a good turnout by staging the opening ceremonies for this tour on the campus of Virginia Tech University.

    But, even though they were a captive audience, it was probably ill-advised to impose upon these still-in-shock students in this way – even if you’re the Queen of England. Never mind that the only frame of reference most of these kids have for Her Majesty is of her being played with uncanny verisimilitude by Helen Mirren – in the box-office hit The Queen – as the constipated, cold-hearted old fart who snubbed Princess Diana so royally after she died.

    Indeed, how ironic that the first stop on the Queen’s U.S. tour is a patently-contrived visit to comfort the survivors and grieving families of the massacre at Virginia Tech….

    Meanwhile, thanks to her hopelessly conflicted son Prince Charles and the global-warming Messiah Al Gore (whose book An Inconvenient Truth is replacing the bible in U.S. hotels), there’s more interest throughout the rest of America in how big a carbon footprint the Queen will leave behind than in what she’ll be doing during her trip.

    Now, lest you think I hate the Queen, let me hasten to disabuse you of that notion. Because it’s not Elizabeth II I abhor; instead, it’s the absurdly anachronistic and inherently undemocratic prerogatives of monarchy which she personifies.

    We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to stop.

    (cbc.ca, HM Elizabeth II – commenting on the American bicentennial in Philadelphia, July 1976)

    Much is being made of the Queen’s visit to Jamestown today to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first settlement in America by English colonizers. But few locals seem in the mood to celebrate. Instead, many of them are calling for her to apologize on behalf of the Great Britain for introducing slavery throughout the Americas and slaughtering so many native Americans.

    And given the ironic desire of royals to please commoners these days, the Queen may well offer a non-apology apology – by expressing “heart-felt regret” for these horrific atrocities. But, as hot air goes, I fear this would only increase her carbon footprint unnecessarily. (See Fatally-flawed demands for…apology for slavery in “Related Articles” below)

    Finally, the British media have often reported that the Queen loves dogs and horses more than she loves humans. Therefore, I have no doubt that she’ll suffer all of these tiresome royal duties with a smile just for the treat of being able to finally “fulfil a lifelong dream…by attending the Kentucky Derby at the Churchill Downs racetrack” tomorrow….

    NOTE: I suspect this will turn out to be the Queen’s last visit to America. Therefore, I wish her Godspeed, even if I cannot bring myself to pray “God Save the Queen”.

    Related commentaries:
    A little more about the British royals
    Prince Charles insinuates that Gore stole his global-warming message
    Fatally-flawed demands for reparations and a full apology for slavery

  • Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 6:38 AM

    First of Three Commentaries in Homage to the Royal Wedding

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Perhaps you’ve noticed that media organizations from around the world have already begun broadcasting from London in advance of Friday’s royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

    Unfortunately, the 24/7 reports being filed amount to little more than mundane observations about the fairytale nature of this event and about the security nightmare it poses. Or, as the current issue of the prominent German magazine Der Spiegel laments, the media are helping perpetrate “a joke, a hopelessly overhyped celebration of an absurdly undemocratic system.”

    Frankly, all we need is a bona fide al-Qaeda attack in the UK or the U.S. at some point before Friday to end this unseemly media obsession and relegate coverage of this wedding to the style pages where it belongs. (But even I would hate to see anyone rain on William and Kate’s parade. Mother Nature should see to that….)

    The irony of course is that nothing will do more to expose the vapid, parasitic, anachronistic and crassly commercial nature of British royalty than media efforts over the next few days to drum up interest in this wedding.

    This was demonstrated in hysterical fashion last week when a British TV interviewer tried to get American comedian Jerry Seinfeld to express interest in this royal farce. For, just like the court jesters in Shakespeare’s plays (i.e., the only characters who dare speak truth to power), here’s how Seinfeld dismissed not just this royal wedding, but the entire royal family:

    Well, it’s circus act; it’s an absurd act. That’s what the Royal Family is – it’s a huge game of pretend. These aren’t special people – it’s fake outfits, fake phoney hats and gowns.

    (London Daily Mail, April 14,  2011)

    But this show will go on. And, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them.

    Accordingly, I shall join in this week of revelry by reprising – over the next three days – three of the many (anti-monarchy) commentaries I’ve written on the British royal family over the past six years.

    This first one is from February 17, 2005:

    A royal marriage worthy of King Henry VIII

    HRH Prince Charles’ proposal to marry Mrs. Parker Bowles (his mistress-in-waiting for 30-plus years) must have King Henry VIII chortling in his grave.

    After all, no other royal since that raffish king has shown such utter contempt for his religion, the institution of marriage, and the welfare (and lives) of women. Yet, on 8 April 2005, Charles is scheduled to complete this dubious trifecta and, in so doing, enhance the legacy of unconscionable royal prerogatives that make fools of his loyal subjects.

    (A republic, a republic – my life for a republic!)

    Charles clearly realizes what, alas, Edward VIII did not: The UK has always had a critical mass of servile monarchists for whom the royals can do no wrong. Moreover, no amount of aberrant, shameful and capricious behavior by these royals will diminish their devotion to the monarchy.

    Indeed, it’s troubling – to say the least – that revelations about the royal family’s cold-hearted treatment of Princess Diana seem to have had little effect on public support for the monarchy. Mind you, these are the same loyalists who – not so long ago  – welcomed Diana as the lady avenger of their faith. They worshiped everything about her and prayed for the day of Charles’ coronation as king, and she as their queen. And, upon her sudden death, they wailed and mourned as if Christ himself had been re-crucified!

    But the royal family’s PR machine seems capable of manipulating public opinion through any scandal that threatens its reign. Therefore, when the exiled Princess disclosed details about her marriage (of quiet desperation) to a Prince who treated her as little more than the chosen breeder of his heir and spare, that machine spewed out its own revelations about Diana that made Charles seem the victim of a bulimic, hysterical, ungrateful and hopelessly dysfunctional brat of a wife; and, that was that!

    So this British fairytale continues with Charles now lauded as a doting Daddy betrothed to a more suitable woman. The sad reality, of course, is that where the Royal pronouncement of such a marriage once warranted summary abdication, today it heralds the respectable union of the future king and his indefatigable mistress.

    But royal prerogatives and enabling subjects notwithstanding, if only half of Diana’s claims about Charles are true, his head should be fitted for a guillotine rather than a crown.

    (A republic, a republic – my life for a republic!)

  • Monday, April 25, 2011 at 5:47 AM

    Happy Easter … Monday

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Despite the untenable nature of colonialism, the British introduced a few customs that are still heartily observed throughout their former colonies in the Caribbean. And public holidays certainly fall within this cherished tradition.

    Unlike the Americans, however, the British do not glorify their holidays with patriotic or reverential titles like President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, or Thanksgiving Day. Instead, they just refer to almost all of them as Bank Holidays.

    (This curious designation probably came about as an unwitting homage to British mercantilism. Nevertheless, the official line is that it dates back to 1871, when national obsession with the game of cricket led to the Bank Holidays Act – to give bank employees a few extra days off each year to play and watch matches.)

    At any rate, “Easter Monday” seems to be the most ambivalent of all British holidays. After all, it has a reverential title but no discernible relevance to Jesus Christ (like Good Friday or Christmas). But perhaps even the British had qualms about appending a “bank holiday” to the holiest weekend on the Christian calendar.

    Whatever the case, as a young boy, this was always my favorite bank holiday. Not just because it was the first bona fide beach holiday of the year, but also because it helped me recover from the trauma of wallowing in the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Especially since all of the hosannas heralding His resurrection on Easter Sunday provided little therapy.

    Meanwhile, with beaches like the ones shown here, one wonders why the British did not leave us with many more bank holidays….

    Related sites:
    Plan your vacation to The Bahamas

    Plan your vacation to the Turks & Caicos Islands

  • Friday, April 22, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    My Good Friday Sermon

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I grew up the son of a preacher man. One of the things I found most dispiriting about this was having to listen to the same sermon over and over again, knowing full well that my Daddy expected me to be moved by the Holy Spirit anew each time.

    In fact, by the time I was ten, my mind, body and soul had become inured to “inspired” sermons from the pulpit, all of which I could parrot (almost verbatim) from my church pew. Only the wife of a vainglorious politician could possibly relate.

    Yet I never grew tired of the rituals that attended the Easter season. Indeed, I could never disguise the spirit of suspended animation that got me through it all — even as others affected the countenance each occasion warranted (i.e., by being appropriately maudlin on Good Friday to mourn the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and joyous on Easter Sunday to celebrate his resurrection).

    goodfridayNever mind that my animated countenance was due entirely to the anticipation of what fun Easter Monday would bring — as the first beach holiday of the year in the Caribbean Commonwealth.

    But oh the guilt I suffered for supplanting religious pathos with this hedonistic inspiration during Christianity’s holiest days!

    Thank God I deduced before my puberty was in full bloom that He will forgive me: Not only for my sinful thoughts, but also for the diabolical pleasure I derived from playing one of the soldiers who flogged Jesus Christ (as he crawled his way to Golgotha) in the passion plays our Church performed every Easter.

    Therefore, here’s my own Good Friday Sermon. I address it particularly to those Christian parents who will force their children to abide church services throughout this weekend just as my parents forced me to do when I was a child:

    God will forgive the little ones for not getting all worked up each year for the scripted homage to His son’s crucifixion and resurrection. He will even forgive them for not writhing with the Holy Spirit on cue at revivals, at which it seemed only the souls of mischievous children, not those of sinful adults, needed salvation.

    Moreover, He will not ruin their lives if the only spirit that moves them at Easter time is the one they hope will get them to the beach on Easter Monday; trust me!

    goodfridaybHowever, if you really must wallow in the macabre passions of the season, I suggest you buy the DVD of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and watch it tonight. Because, more than any Easter homily or play, this movie will evoke the funereal emotions and convey (in refreshing and entertaining fashion) the expiatory significance of these familiar words:

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

    (The Holy Bible, John 3:16)

    Amen.

    That said, it would probably surprise none of you to learn that the elders of my church damned me to Hell long ago for being a “backsliding reprobate.” But this had more to do with the Pharisaic standards that govern conduct in most churches than any unpardonable sin I may have committed.

    Indeed, I believe it is duly recorded on God’s Heavenly scroll that I am more spiritual, and live a more Christ-like life, than almost all of the tartuffes who bored me to distraction with their sermons in my youth!

  • Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to stop.

    (cbc.ca, HM Elizabeth II – commenting on the American bicentennial in Philadelphia, July 1976)

    This will seem almost traitorous to many of my fellow Caribbean natives, but I am not a monarchist. In fact, nothing offends my sense of nationalism more than seeing so many of my people maintain a level of fealty to British Royalty that would shame even the most obsequious servant in Buckingham Palace.

    After all, I have been quite unabashed in agitating for our regional governments to not only abolish allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but also rid our societies of all the colonial vestiges that flow from her “sovereign” fountain of honors (like knighthoods and Orders).

    But that’s enough raining of the Queen’s parade. Today is her 85th birthday, and the good news for all of her subjects is that, looking as fit as she does, she is destined to live longer than her mother (who died at 101).

    Alas, this means that Charles has decades more to wait before becoming King (and, yes, for ill or good, Camilla will become queen). Apropos of this, reports abounded this week heralding Charles as the longest monarch-in-waiting at 59 years and counting….

    Of course this also means that William too will be a relatively old man before he becomes king, which rather puts all of the regal hysteria surrounding his pending nuptials into more sobering context.

    Indeed, a few years ago the Queen reportedly gave the royal nod to having one of her most trusted ladies-in-waiting inform the BBC that she considers her role as monarch:

    …a job for life [and that] she wouldn’t consider not continuing to fulfill those vows until she dies.

    (Queen’s cousin, the Hon Margaret Rhodes, BBC, April 19, 2006)

    She might have intended this as an admonition for Charles to cool his heels. But William would do well to take heed as well.

    God Save The Queen!

    Happy Birthday Your Majesty!

    Related commentaries:
    Queen’s diamond anniversary
    William to Kate: enough of the wait
    Fergie caught in royal sting
    Royal embarrassment

  • Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    Lifting the Ceiling on America’s National Debt?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you recall all of the Chicken-Little talk by politicians and pundits alike surrounding this year’s budget. Yet literally within seconds of Congress passing a budget bill to avert a government shutdown, these same politicians and pundits redirected their Chicken-Little talk towards drumming up idle-minded fear over the national debt.

    Meanwhile, everybody knows that Congress will raise the debt ceiling just as it has done 74 times since 1962; that there will be no government shutdown over this issue either; and that Standard & Poor’s will duly lift its warning about downgrading America’s AAA rating as soon as Obama and his Republican nemeses begin negotiations to forge a deal – not only to continue financing this country’s $14 trillion debt, but also to impose fiscal discipline on its annual budgets. In any case, America will default on its debt obligations when pigs fly.

    So instead of taking any of this talk seriously, why don’t we all celebrate this Easter week by praying for these Chicken Littles to finally do something useful – like laying eggs for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

  • Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 5:19 AM

    BP Oil Spill One Year Later

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This week the media are commemorating the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Conspicuously absent from their retrospectives, however, are the on-air rants by reporters, commentators, environmentalists, and politicians, including no less a person than President Obama, about this spill causing an ecological catastrophe that will last a thousand years.

    By contrast, I published a commentary back then (on May 4) entitled Gulf oil spill: Obama’s Katrina? that I hoped would provide a more sobering perspective.

    To help make my point, I quoted the following from the May 4, 2010 edition of the Wall Street Journal:

    The infrequency of big spills is extraordinary considering the size of the offshore oil industry that provides Americans with affordable energy. According to the Interior Department’s most recent data, in 2002 the Outer Continental Shelf had 4,000 oil and gas facilities, 80,000 works in offshore and support activities, and 33,000 miles of pipeline. Between 1985 and 2001, these offshore facilities produced seven billion barrels of oil. The spill rate was a minuscule 0.001%.

    According to the National Academy of Sciences … only 1% of discharges in North America are related to petroleum extraction. Some 62% of oil in U.S. waters is due to natural seepage from the ocean floor, putting 47 million gallons of crude oil into North American water every year.

    Alas, instead of being reassured, most readers reacted to this commentary as if I had suddenly become a flak for BP. And I probably lost a few of them by rubbing their hysteria in their faces with a follow up (on August 3) entitled BP oil everywhere, but not a drop to see.

    Again, to help make my point, I quoted the following assessment of the actual damage that was offered by marine scientist Ivor Van Heerden in a July 29 report by TIME magazine:

    Yes, the spill killed birds – but so far, less than 1% of the birds killed by the Exxon Valdez. Yes, we’ve heard horror stories about oiled dolphins – but, so far, wildlife response teams have collected only three visibly oiled carcasses of any mammals. Yes, the spill prompted harsh restrictions on fishing and shrimping, but so far, the region’s fish and shrimp have tested clean, and the restrictions are gradually being lifted. And, yes, scientists have warned that the oil could accelerate the destruction of Louisiana’s disintegrating coastal marshes – a real slow-motion ecological calamity – but, so far, shorelines assessment teams have only found about 350 acres of oiled marshes, when Louisiana was already losing about 15,000 acres of wetlands every year.

    In this same commentary, I noted further that:

    Scientists are falling all over themselves to explain that much of the oil, which latest government reports say amounted to 205 million gallons, has simply evaporated (by a biodegrading process called weathering). Thank God for Mother Nature…? The rest they say was captured at the source by BP, broken up by dispersants, eaten up by microbes, or skimmed or burned by BP and Coast Guard clean-up crews.

    Despite all this, there are still some die-hard Chicken Littles who insist that this unfolding narrative of the disappearing oil is just another shameless attempt by BP’s PR machine to limit its liability….

    Well, now come reports which affirm my take on this spill beyond all reasonable doubt. Specifically, the Associated Press reported yesterday, rather definitively, that:

    Scientists judge the overall health of the Gulf of Mexico as nearly back to normal one year after the BP oil spill… More than three dozen scientists grade the Gulf’s big picture health a 68 on average, using a 1-to-100 scale. What’s remarkable is that that’s just a few points below the 71 the same researchers gave last summer when asked what grade they would give the ecosystem before the spill…

    The survey results mirror impressions Jane Lubchenco, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, gave on the health of the Gulf in an interview with the AP Thursday.

    ‘The Gulf is much better than people feared.’

    To be fair, though, die-hard skeptics would undoubtedly argue that other scientists are still worried about the “mysterious deaths of hundreds of young dolphins and turtles, strangely stained crabs and dead patches on the sea floor.” Of course, I could argue that these scientists should be more worried about the millions of fish that were found dead in the Chesapeake Bay in January, which clearly had nothing whatsoever to do with BP.

    In any case, because these scientific reports utterly belie their narrative of this spill being an environmental apocalypse, the media are now doing their damndest to hype the financial toll it has taken on the region’s fishing and tourism industries. But I have no doubt that – just like the Gulf itself – these industries will recover in due course.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama’s Katrina?
    BP oil everywhere

  • Monday, April 18, 2011 at 5:45 AM

    ‘Black Swan’ Body Double Exposes Portman as a Fraud

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s not getting nearly as much media coverage as Donald Trump accusing President Obama of faking his American citizenship, but Natalie Portman’s body double accusing her of faking the dance moves that won her an Oscar is far more newsworthy; not least because it actually rings true.

    I’m not speaking because I feel I should be heralded. I’m just speaking because they’re completely lying about the amount of dancing that Natalie did in the movie…

    They were trying to create this image, this facade, really, that Natalie had done something extraordinary. Something that is pretty much impossible… to become a professional ballerina in a year and half. Even with as hard as she worked, it takes so much more. It takes twenty-two years, it takes thirty years to become a ballerina…

    Of the full body shots, I would say 5 percent are Natalie.

    (ABC 20/20, April 15, 2011)

    This is how Sarah Lane, a soloist with the American Ballet Theater, is justifying her reasons for destroying the illusion that Portman actually performed the ballet scenes that so impressed the members of the Academy. I don’t blame her.

    Which means of course that, even though she nearly starved herself to death to look the part, Portman never really acted the part….

    In any case, Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky clearly has a vested interest in maintaining the Portman-as-prima-ballerina illusion. No doubt this is why he gave 20/20 this self-serving (but unverified) statement:

    Here is the reality. I had my editor count shots. There are 139 dance shots in the film – 111 are Natalie Portman untouched. Twenty-eight are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math, that’s 80 percent Natalie Portman.

    Granted, body doubles are used in movies all the time. But I doubt Sylvester Stallone would have won such acclaim for his role in Rocky if it were revealed that a professional boxer actually performed most of the fighting scenes.

    Anyway, this burgeoning controversy vindicates my pick of Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right for the Oscar that went to Portman this year. (See my picks for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards in my February 28 commentary.)

    Moreover, as several friends will attest, I’ve remarked on more than one occasion that Portman’s performance was off-putting because her facial expression alternated between that of a deer caught in the headlights and that of a deranged lunatic throughout the entire movie – even in dancing scenes where her big head was allegedly superimposed on Lane’s exquisite body. And I made these remarks long before Lane exposed her as a fraud.

    Of course, like most actors, Portman is probably too self-obsessed to admit taking credit for dancing she did not do. Hell, she probably considers this a prerogative of her artistic license.

    But if she has any self-respect she would return that Oscar. And if she refuses, the Academy should do what the Grammys did when Milli Vanilli was exposed as a lip-synching fraud: strip her of it.

    Related commentaries:
    83rd Annual Academy Awards

  • Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 7:08 AM

    Trump Hailed Not Just As A Joke, But As A Clown

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here is how I dismissed Donald Trump as a viable presidential candidate a week ago yesterday:

    [N]othing demonstrates that his clownish foray into presidential politics is just for personal ego and financial enrichment quite like previewing his campaign platform by speaking more like a right-wing radio shock jock than a politician.

    (Trump for president?! Don’t be a sucker, The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2011)

    And here is how the New York Daily News featured him a few days later:

    You might think that my commentary inspired this front page. But I couldn’t possibly comment.

    NOTE: Trump claims that he wants to restore respect for America because Obama has made it a laughing-stock on the world stage. The irony is clearly lost on this preening megalomaniac that he has done more to make America a laughing-stock  in the past two weeks than Obama has done in the past two years.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump for President? Don’t be a sucker

  • Friday, April 15, 2011 at 5:41 AM

    ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life To Live’ … Canceled!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Actually, I haven’t seen an episode of either one of these daytime soap operas since 1984. Yet when I read yesterday that ABC was canceling both of them it was as if I had read that my favorite college professor had just died. Here’s why:

    I’m a little embarrassed to disclose that I spent almost as much time watching soap operas during my college “daze” as I did attending classes. In fact, I recall on more than one occasion not taking a particular class because it was scheduled during the three-hour period I reserved for watching All My Children at one o’clock, One Life To Live at two, and General Hospital at three. On some days, when I was feeling especially keen, I began my daily viewing with Ryan’s Hope at 12:30….

    It’s no wonder then that I can remember all that happened in the soap-opera lives of characters like Adam, Tad, Erica, Dorian, Vicki, the Buchanans, Luke, Laura, and the Quartermaines as well as anything that happened in my classes.

    And, as any fan would readily attest, I have no doubt that if I tuned in to any of these soaps today I would feel as if I hadn’t missed a single episode; notwithstanding all of the new characters who have come and gone over the past twenty-six years.

    But I appreciate the financial constraints that make producing soap operas so prohibitive today – especially when game shows or talk shows can generate similar ratings for a fraction of the cost. Indeed, paying the multimillion-dollar salary of daytime’s leading lady, Susan Lucci (Erica Cane of AMC), probably cost as much as producing some of these other shows.

    Not to mention all of the cable and online distractions (like YouTube, Facebook, et al) that now make soaps seem all too quaint.

    Therefore, instead of bemoaning the cancelation of All My Children and One Life To Live, I shall suffice to say thanks to all of the characters who played such an integral role in making college almost as entertaining as it was educational.

    That’s a wrap.

    NOTE: I fully expect more sentimental fans to launch a petition drive to keep these soaps on the air. And one of them, AMC, might get a reprieve. But it’s an indication of how utterly dispensable they are that an erstwhile devoted fan like me could go for decades without watching and not experience a hint of pining … until I read that they were being canceled.

    They’ve had a good (40-year) run. Let them rest in peace.

  • Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 5:23 AM

    Bonds, Baseball’s Home-run King, is Now a Convicted Felon

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It came as no surprise to me that a jury convicted Barry Bonds yesterday on one count of obstruction of justice stemming from his obvious dissembling during a federal investigation into the use of steroids in Major League Baseball.

    What was surprising was that the jury deadlocked on the other three counts of perjury. After all, he lied repeatedly to a federal grand jury about never knowingly taking steroids because he thought his drug dealer (who also happened to be his trainer) was just injecting him with flaxseed oil.

    Moreover, one would have thought that lying about taking steroids was per se (or by definition) perjury. Further, that it was this perjury that amounted to obstruction of justice.

    But I see no point in analyzing this verdict too much. Instead I shall reprise a few quotes/excerpts from previous commentaries that put this sad end to his career into context.

    You will see that, even though I fully expected him to be convicted – not for taking steroids, but for lying about it, I still hoped for an O.J. jury to fully to acquit him. Assuming that women jurors would be either more susceptible to, or more ignorant about, his lies, my hopes were raised when the empanelled jury was comprised of eight women and four men. And, frankly, this jury’s failure to convict on the three counts of obvious perjury vindicates, well, at leat 75 percent of my discriminating hope….

    This quote is from a commentary on a weepy, self-pitying press conference Bonds gave in which he attributed interest in whether or not he is a steroid user to a media conspiracy against him:

    No one who follows baseball believes that Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or even Sammy Sosa never took steroids. Therefore, it’s become a pathetic tragicomedy to see these sports heroes humiliate themselves with their puerile attempts to convince us otherwise… But how sad: for if Bonds were man enough to admit the obvious, I think his legion of fans would have stayed loyal to him.

    (Bonds: coward, cry baby, and cheater…, The iPINIONS Journal, March 24, 2005)

    This is from one in which I indicted the culture of hypocrisy surrounding the use of steroids in professional sports:

    Steroid use has flourished in Baseball (and other professional sports) pursuant to an open conspiracy amongst players and team owners to feed the gladiatorial lust of fans who want to see bigger, stronger and faster cyborgs perform for their atavistic enjoyment. And, naturally, the more fans revel in their steroid-fuel feats of athleticism, the richer players, and even richer team owners, become.

    (Bonds, baseball’s MVP, is a steroids junkie … duh! The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2006)

    This is from one in which I pooh poohed the notion that Bonds should not be considered the home-run king:

    Forget all of the talk about his use of steroids or putting an asterisk next to his name, Barry Bonds is the new home-run king of Baseball today – having blasted his 756th homer last night on his own field of dreams in San Francisco…

    But, just as the achievements of players like Babe Ruth have not been diminished even though they drank alcohol during prohibition, the achievements of players like Bonds should not be diminished even though they’re taking steroids today.

    (Bonds should be cheered, not jeered…, The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2007)

    Finally, this excerpt is from one in which I presaged and lamented his indictment – noting that the testimony of witnesses like his former mistress were  turning public adulation of Bonds into public ridicule, and that this was punishment enough:

    The other shoe that finally dropped in the world of sports yesterday was the wholly-anticlimactic announcement that Baseball’s home-run king, Barry bonds, has been indicted. In fact, a federal grand jury in San Francisco has charged him with four counts of perjury [prosecutors dropped one count just before trial] and one count of obstruction of justice stemming from his patently false testimony that he thought the steroids his personal trainer was injecting into his butt was flaxseed oil….

    However, because this grand jury had been investigating these charges since 2003, many sports pundits, and even Bonds’s own lawyer, expressed surprise that the jurors ended up indicting him. But I presaged this outcome when I wrote a commentary over a year ago (on 20 April 2006) in which I protested (in the title) that “The indictment of Barry Bonds would be an error for Baseball”:

    I’ve been quite unabashed in proffering my reasonable suspicion that Bonds has become a home-run monster by taking an apothecary of steroids that would make Dr Frankenstein green with envy. And my suspicions were only confirmed when his injection protocol was chronicled in the recently published book Game of Shadows.

    But it’s one thing for indignant sports fans to express unbridled schadenfreude over the public ridicule Bonds has been subjected to (including having steroid-size syringes thrown at him during games and his mistress testify that steroids had the ironic effect of engorging his head to twice its normal size while shrinking his balls to half its normal size; never mind the erectile dysfunction). It’s quite another for prosecutors to make a federal case out of his dissembling about steroids.

    Because, even though Bonds has relished being the poster boy for the overpaid, self-indulgent, obnoxious, temperamental, whining cry-babies that professional athletes have become, an indictment would make him a scapegoat for the sins not only of Baseball but also of the entire culture of American sports. And, that just ain’t fair…

    Alas, despite his protestations of innocence, I have no doubt that just as domestic diva Martha Stewart was imprisoned not for securities fraud, but for lying to a federal grand jury about it, so too will Bonds be imprisoned not for taking steroids, but for lying to a federal grand jury about it…

    This means that he will effectively end his storied career not with a bang of record-setting home runs on the baseball field, but with a whimper of self-pitying tears behind bars.

    If convicted on all counts, Bonds could be sentenced to 30 years. But since I think this indictment is arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory, this is one case where I hope an ‘O.J. jury’ nullifies his guilt by acquitting him at trial.

    (Barry Bonds, baseball’s home-run king, is indicted, The iPINIONS Journal, November 16, 2007)

    __________________

    With that, the only question now is whether federal prosecutors will retry Bonds on the perjury charges. But I think they’ve wasted enough federal resources prosecuting this victimless crime. I’m still waiting, for example, for them to indict the crooks on Wall Street who perjured themselves by telling Congress that they thought the subprime mortgages they peddled in the global marketplace were first-rate AAA securities.

    Not to mention that, even if they eventually get Bonds on all counts, the judge would probably sentence him to no more than 18 months (Martha was sentenced to only 5). Moreover, he’d probably be allowed to serve his time under home confinement (in one of the many mansions steroids bought him) just as others convicted pursuant to this misguided federal investigation have been allowed to do.

    Related commentaries:
    Bonds: coward, cry baby, and cheater
    Bonds indicted
    Bonds is steroids junkie

  • Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 5:22 AM

    Obama Flip-flops on Guantanamo … Too

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama made a political and moral virtue out of his promise to close the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo).  And he vindicated all of the HOPE supporters like me vested in him when he signed an executive order with a bang to do just that within 48 hours after being inaugurated as president.

    But I soon realized that, notwithstanding his campaign rhetoric, Obama was actually governing just like Bush on foreign-policy issues.  And he duly vindicated my observation in this respect by systematically adopting many of Bush’s war-on-terror tactics, which he routinely condemned along the campaign trail:

    Most notorious has been the way Obama has continued renditioning terror suspects to other countries, where they are invariably subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (torture) that he decries as against American values. But he has also continued detaining these suspects indefinitely without trial, surveilling them (and us?) via secret wiretaps and invoking of ‘state secrets’ to squash disclosure of these tactics.

    (“Obama angers liberals by governing just like Bush,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 14, 2009)

    Unlike other supporters, however, I did not consider any of this cause for disillusionment. In fact, here is how I presaged this inevitable disconnect between Obama’s rhetoric and governing even before he was elected:

    I’m sure the congenitally pragmatic Obama will have a moderating influence on Congressional Democrats, which will prevent them from pursuing a radical, vindictive agenda that could undermine his presidency.

    (“Conviction of Stevens bad omen for Republicans,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 28, 2008)

    The operative word here is pragmatic. More to the point, it was my enlightened regard for his pragmatism that compelled me to publicly reprimand Obama just months into his presidency:

    I wish Obama would stop using Clintonian spin to explain his adoption of Bush’s policies. After all, there is no difference between what he’s arguing today and what Bush argued throughout his presidency was a national-security need to keep CIA enhanced interrogation techniques cloaked in secrecy.

    This is also why I think he should cease his political posturing about closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo). Because, as much as I loathe his politics, [Bush] is right here too: Gitmo is a transparently well-run prison; worldwide nimbyism precludes any country taking the al-Qaeda terrorists detained there (most notable in this regard is the irrational, scaremongering, politically expedient nimbyism that precludes them being imprisoned in the U.S.); and, if they are ever released, they will certainly launch new attacks on America.

    (“Obama angers liberals by governing just like Bush,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 14, 2009)

    Therefore, I was hardly surprised last week when the Obama Administration finally adopted the Bush Administration’s policy on Gitmo; i.e., opting to try al-Qaeda suspects in military tribunals there instead of in civilian courts in New York City – a stone’s throw from Ground Zero.

    I would have been pleasantly surprised, however, if Obama had simply admitted that political opposition and pressure made trying them in NYC unfeasible.  Hell, look at the inhibiting furor plans just to build a mosque near Ground Zero incited. Unfortunately, Obama resorted to more Clintonian spin again:

    We must face a simple truth … members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the Administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States.

    (U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, FOX News, April 5, 2011)

    This of course was a patently craven attempt to blame the Republican-controlled Congress for this latest flip-flop. But it’s belied by the fact that the Obama Administration had two whole years with a Democratic-controlled Congress to haul those detainees to trial in the U.S. and failed to do so.

    It is clear that other supporters are becoming increasingly disillusioned not just by his flip-flopping on foreign-policy issues like closing Gitmo, but also on domestic issues like extending the Bush tax cuts.  I, on the other hand, am just becoming increasingly disgusted by his posturing as if all of the Bush policies he once condemned are now commendable just because he’s pursuing them. That’s the kind of self righteousness that ended up hoisting Nixon by his own petard.

    NOTE: Some of you might get the impression that I support Obama governing like Bush in each case. But this is not so. For example, regular readers know that nobody has been more persistent and strident in decrying Obama’s decision not just to continue Bush’s war in Afghanistan, but to escalate it.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama angers liberals
    Conviction of Stevens

  • Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 5:26 AM

    Ban on Burqa Takes Effect in France

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [Author’s Note: To hail the ban on burqas coming into force in France yesterday, I have decided to reprise my July 20, 2010 commentary supporting it.]

    In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity… The burqa is not a religious sign; it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement – I want to say it solemnly … it will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.

    (French President Nicolas Sarkozy, London Guardian, June 22, 2009)

    Whether or not women should be allowed to wear burqas or niqabs in public is a very controversial and contentious issue.

    I do not think they should. But I see nothing wrong with women wearing Hijabs or jilbabs, which cover the head, but not the entire face.

    On the other hand, I do not agree with President Sarkozy’s patronizing pronouncements on the gender implications of the burqa. Not least because his declaration seems premised on the demonstrably false assumption that women who wear burqas in France are no more educated or liberated than those who wear them in Afghanistan (specifically in places where the Taliban still rule).

    I appreciate the differences between Sharia laws that clearly oppress women in places like Afghanistan and those that appear to subjugate them in places like Iraq … and France.

    Moreover, no matter how well-intentioned, I do not think any Western government should be dictating to mature Muslim women what constitutes appropriate religious garb; especially if there’s nothing inherently untenable (legally or socially) about that garb.

    (Sarkozy proposes ban on the burqa, The iPINIONS Journal, July 1, 2009)

    This, in part, was how I expressed my disagreement when Sarkozy first proposed banning burqas in France a year ago.  Because I believe that concerns about law and order and national security present far more compelling reasons for governments to ban them.

    For example, it would rather defeat the purpose of installing CCTV cameras in every nook and cranny of public space, like most cities around the world are doing, if people could walk around with their faces completely covered. After all, terrorists and common criminals have been known to wear burqas as effective disguises.

    But citing religious, cultural and gender concerns in this context is fraught with political conflict. And nothing demonstrates this quite like those opposing this ban arguing that, instead of liberating women as Sarkozy argues, banning burqas would actually oppress them:

    A complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or the niqab in public as an expression of their identity or beliefs.

    (John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination in Europe, Reuters, July 13, 2010)

    In any case, I understand why the lower house of the French parliament voted 335 to 1 a week ago today to ban “any veils that cover the face”. The French Senate is expected to vote in similar fashion in late-September; then the ban becomes law.

    For the record, several European countries, including Germany, Belgium, and Italy, seem poised to follow France’s lead in banning the burqa.  And even though the U.S. Constitution purports to grant Muslim women the (religious) freedom to wear burqas, I suspect that will change as soon as someone wears one as a disguise to pull off a terrorist act.  (But contrary to popular belief, a woman cannot get a driver’s license wearing a burqa even in America.)

    The instructive irony in this context, however, is that, as best I can tell, only two countries in the Muslim world (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) require women to wear the burqa.  So, at least in this sense, Sarkozy is right, it’s not “a religious sign”.

    Related commentaries:
    Sarkozy proposes ban on the burqa

  • Monday, April 11, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    Gbagbo surrenders…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    When I surmised that it was only a matter of time before Gbagbo was ousted, I had in mind days. But reports are that, just hours after publishing my commentary this morning, French Special Forces (with Ouattara forces in tow) stormed his residence and took him into custody.

    To avoid Ouattara looking like a stooge of former colonial masters, the French are downplaying their role – insisting that they only played a supporting role and allowing opposition forces to take Gbagbo and his wife to be held at the hotel in Abidjan where Ouattara set up his headquarters after the election.

    Talks are now underway to decide what to do with him; i.e. whether Ouattara forces will hold him in custody for trial by local courts or whether they will dispense with local justice and just hand him over to The Hague. Ouattara would be wise to opt for the latter.

  • Monday, April 11, 2011 at 5:08 AM

    Noose Tightens on Gbagbo in Ivory Coast

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This does not bode well; not least because Gbagbo now has an even firmer grip on the military and police forces than his dubious mentor, Kibaki, had on similar forces in Kenya. Moreover, if it persists, he seems quite prepared to order them to squash this unrest by any means necessary.
    (Africa’s democratic despots now includes Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, The iPINIONS Journal, December 15, 2010)
    This was the ominous note I sounded four months ago when it became clear that it would take military force to get rid of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. Regrettably, I was right.

    Recall that Gbagbo was just the latest African leader who refused to cede power after losing a free and fair presidential election in November to challenger Alassane Ouattara. More to the point, despite ultimatums from the UN, EU, AU, and former colonial power France for him to step down or face military action, Gbagbo did exactly as I predicted: he unleashed still loyal military forces to defend his illegitimate regime.

    Unfortunately, this has led to a simmering civil war in Ivory Coast – with UN and French forces aiding those loyal to Ouattara in a military campaign to oust Gbagbo. Reports are that over 500 have been killed and one million displaced.

    Meanwhile, Gbagbo is proving every bit as uncanny as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in his ability to survive against overwhelming odds. Moreover, his forces are proving equal to Gaddafi’s in fending off a formidable coalition of opposition and international forces.

    On the other hand, Ouattara claims that his opposition forces now control most of the country and are surrounding the presidential palace where Gbagbo and his family are reportedly hunkered down in an underground bunker.

    Whatever the case, I think it’s only a matter of time before Gbagbo’s forces tire of defending him and the bombs begin landing too close for comfort. Besides, he must know that French forces are far more willing to assassinate him than U.S. forces are to assassinate Gaddafi.

    Reporters saw the helicopters take off from the French military base followed minutes later by explosions coming from the direction of [Gbagbo’s] residence. Successive waves of French helicopters took off from the base in the following hours and additional bombardments could be heard.
    (London Guardian, April 11, 2011)

    Frankly, Gbagbo only has two options:  he could surrender and be hauled directly to The Hague to face charges for crimes against humanity; or he could escape to a friendly country like Angola.  If he chooses the latter, however, he would do well to remember that fellow despot Charles Taylor of Liberia still ended up in The Hague after escaping to what he thought was the friendly country of Nigeria.

    Related commentaries:
    Africa’s democratic despots

  • Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    Government Shutdown: the biggest non-story of the century

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A last minute budget deal, forged amid bluster and tough bargaining, averted an embarrassing federal shutdown and cut billions in spending….

    (Associated Press, April 9, 2011)

    No shit!  But to listen to media reports this week you’d think the U.S. federal government were going to disappear or explode at midnight on Friday if this deal were not reached.  Indeed, just to heighten the anxiety, most TV reports featured a countdown to this bewitching hour on ticking digital clocks.

    Never mind that it was crystal clear from the outset of these negotiations that, despite their puerile bickering over relatively insignificant numbers (like 70 billion out of a budget deficit of 1.5 trillion) and irrelevant issues (like funding for women’s health), both Democrats and Republicans were equally determined to forge a deal.

    Now, after whipping the country into a panic about a shutdown that was never coming, the media are busy trying to crown champions for averting a shutdown that never was.

    The country’s 24-hour, political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder… If we amplify everything, we hear nothing….

    (Jon Stewart, Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, November 1, 2010)

    Enough said.



    Related commentaries:
    Rally to restore sanity

  • Friday, April 8, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    Trump for President?! Don’t be a sucker

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Donald Trump is nothing more than the P.T. Barnum of business: a huckster who thrives on the maxim that “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

    Now he seems to believe that being rich is the only qualification he needs to be president of the United States:

    Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich.

    (New York Post, March 17, 2011)

    You’ve probably seen him on TV waxing heroic about turning the millions he inherited from his daddy into a garish real-estate empire that would make an Egyptian Pharaoh blush. Never mind that he had to rely repeatedly on bankruptcy protection (three times in six years in the case of Trump Hotels) to save his corporate hide. Or, more to the point, that by his own standard there are at least 152 people, including Oprah Winfrey, who are more qualified to be president. After all, he only ranks 153 on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans.

    Sadly, far too many people think Trump would make a good president. They are the suckers to whom he could sell swampland in the Florida Everglades as beachfront property, or discredited degrees from his Trump University as even better than accredited degrees from Harvard.

    Mind you, it’s not as if he’s pulling the wool over their eyes. For nothing demonstrates that his clownish foray into presidential politics is just for personal ego and financial enrichment quite like previewing his campaign platform by speaking more like a right-wing radio shock jock than a politician.

    Specifically, this is nothing more than an opportunistic way for him to generate interest in his TV show and increase value for the Trump brand. And no gimmick – even running for president of the United States – is beyond him in this respect. However, that he is fashioning himself as a born-again conservative – after supporting mostly liberal causes for much of his life – indicates that he’s only doing what is good for Trump, not what is good for his country. To be fair, though, he is only following a trail that was blazed by political hustlers like Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

    But it’s one thing for Trump to be huffing and puffing all over the media about how he would demonstrate that he has far bigger balls than Obama; i.e., by acting on the world stage like a bull in a China shop (pun intended). It’s quite another for this preternaturally self-obsessed shyster to be propagating racially divisive claims about Barack Obama being an African who perpetrated the biggest scam in history by getting elected president of the United States:

    Three weeks ago when I started, I thought he was probably born in this country.  Right now, I have some real doubts. I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding…

    His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya, and she was there and witnessed the birth. He doesn’t have a birth certificate or he hasn’t shown it.

    (NBC TODAY Show, April 7, 2011)

    Suffice it to know that, if there were any truth to any of this “birther” nonsense, Obama would never have even won the Democratic nomination. Recall, after all, that it was Hillary’s campaign that planted this suspicion in 2008 about him being born in Kenya as part of a cynical and desperate ploy to derail Obama’s campaign. But as soon as Obama released the official, “short-form” version of his birth certificate, which clearly states that he was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, team Hillary was sensible enough to move on to another ploy.

    Therefore, I see no point in dignifying these hackneyed claims with any further comment; except to note that – on this and almost every other issue on which he blithely spouts complete falsehoods – “The Donald” seems to think that a lie becomes the truth if he says it with absolute confidence and conviction.

    We all knew that Trump was a self-aggrandizing buffoon. But he has now exposed himself as a self-deluding racist as well.

    This is why I urge all of the rich folks he depends on to patronize his eponymous resorts and buy up his eponymous condominiums to begin shunning him – just as they would a half-baked racist like David Duke. I urge this especially of the black Hollywood and sports stars he likes to feature as extras in his one-man freak show.

    Trump is entitled to say whatever he likes. But, at the very least, he should suffer truth and consequences for accusing this country’s first black president of being a Kenyan Muslim who has perpetrated ‘the biggest scam in U.S. history’.

    CBS fired Charlie Sheen from One and a Half Men for hurling anti-Semitic remarks at a TV producer; NBC should feel even more compelled to fire Trump from The Apprentice for hurling racist remarks at the president of the United States.

    So, here’s to this fiendishly thin-skinned huckster having his trademark words thrown back in his face: Trump, you’re fired!

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