• Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    Bloomberg to Obama: Stay Away from NYC?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Just when it seemed all politicians involved in the post-Sandy relief and recovery efforts were rising above the politics of personal ambition comes word that the Republican mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg, declined a request from the White House last night for President Obama to survey the damage.

    Bloomberg reasoned, disingenuously, that because the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, had already invited Obama to survey damage in his area, there was no need for him to survey damage in NYC. He concluded, self-righteously, that:

    We’ve got lots of things to do.

    No shit, Sherlock! Or is that Napoleon? Because only preternatural insecurity about his own stature and power could have caused the diminutive Bloomberg to defy the president in this way: a defiance made all the more craven because he knows full well that even though Obama could ignore him and arrange the trip in concert with the Democratic governor of NY, Andy Cuomo, the political spat that would ensue would be too distracting and demoralizing at this point.

    But make no mistake, this diss says far more about Bloomberg’s political megalomania than about any political motivation Obama may have had. For nothing betrays Bloomberg’s reasoning quite like the Republican mayor of NYC, Rudy Giuliani, inviting President George W. Bush to survey damage within 48 hours after 9/11 – and appropriately so.  And we all know that NYC had even more to do back then.

    Therefore, I urge all New Yorkers to make it plain to this little Schmuck that they do not appreciate him dissing Obama in this petty and spiteful way.

    NOTE: The reason presidents become so actively involved when such disasters strike is that the federal government invariably takes the lead – not only in organizing the recovery and rebuilding efforts (most notably through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), but also in providing the tens of billions necessary to fund these efforts.


    Thursday, November 1, 2012

    Bloomberg endorses Obama

    The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast – in lost lives, lost homes and lost business – brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief…

    We need leadership from the White House — and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks…

    Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change… But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward…

    One believes a woman’s right to choose should be protected for future generations; one does not. That difference, given the likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies, weighs heavily on my decision.

    One recognizes marriage equality as consistent with America’s march of freedom; one does not. I want our president to be on the right side of history.

    One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.

    (Bloomberg, November 1, 2012)

    He clearly offers a compelling case for his endorsement. But you’ll forgive me for thinking that Bloomberg rushed it out today because New Yorkers heeded my call to let him have it for dissing Obama yesterday.

    All is forgiven, Bloomy.

  • Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Superstorm Sandy: unprecedented destruction; relatively few deaths

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, this is not an occasion for commentary. Instead I shall suffice to humbly share a few highlights:

    • Much of the destruction was caused by sustained wind gusts of between 50 and 90 mph, creating unprecedented surges of seawater, which caused flooding of coastal areas all along the Atlantic seaboard.

    The state of New Jersey took it in the neck worse than any other state. It’s going to take us a while to dig out from under it, but we will dig out from under it.

    (New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, CBS News, October 30, 2012)

    • 8 million homes and businesses across 13 states (from Virginia to Maine) are without power; restoration will take up to 10 days (especially since the electrical grid itself in places like NYC sustained considerable damage). Not to mention blizzard conditions in places like West Virginia and Ohio.
    • Electrical fires continue to rage out of control in some areas – over 100 homes were destroyed in Breezy Point, Queens despite the best efforts of 200 firefighters, and many other homes have been blown off their foundation.
    • Wind gusts, tidal surge, and resulting flood waters have paralyzed and shutdown  much of New Jersey and New York City – with a 13-foot surge causing unprecedented damage to the transit system in both areas.

    The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night. Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region.

    (MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, NY Post, October 30, 2012)

    • Heroic search and rescue missions continue – highlighted by the evacuation last night of hundreds of patients, including babies in neo-natal care, from NYU hospital at the height of the storm.
    • The New York Stock Exchange will be closed for a second consecutive day, which did not happen even after 9/11. This is the first time a weather event has forced closure of the markets for two-consecutive trading days since the blizzard of 1888. JFK, La Guardia, and Newark airports remain closed – causing traveling nightmares for tens of millions worldwide.

    We knew this was going to be very dangerous. This is a once-in-a-long-time storm. Maybe the worst we have ever experienced

    (NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, CNN, October 30, 2012)

    • President Obama has issued emergency/disaster declarations for much of the Northeast, which will make unlimited rescue and recovery assets as well as financial resources to help with rebuilding immediately available.
    • Storm damage is projected to cost $50 billion (of course much of this will be offset by the construction boom that invariably follows such disasters…).
    • Remarkably, despite the historic scope of this destruction, only 26 people have been reported killed. But I suspect that number will rise. (Sandy left 69 dead in the Caribbean.)
    • Perhaps the most dramatic image of the damage caused, and of the danger that remains, is a crane now hanging over Manhattan like a Damoclean sword from the 70th floor of a luxury high rise under construction in midtown.

    With that, it is fair to say that much of the ratings-motivated media hype was warranted – at least insofar as New Jersey and New York City are concerned. My prayers and thoughts go out to all those affected.

    NOTE: We fared relatively well in the DC-metropolitan area:  some power outages (but not in my neighborhood); reports of property damage – with trees falling on homes (but I only suffered a few leaks). Most offices and businesses remain closed today.

    DONATE to the American Red Cross here

  • Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    Hurricane Sandy: Frankenstorm?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    News outlets 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 doom…

    [But] Americans are blessed with the technology, escape routes to inland shelters and other emergency management resources to gauge and withstand hurricanes with virtually no loss of life.

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

    The above explains why CNN and other news outlets are streaming headlines about Cat. 1 Hurricane Sandy becoming an “unprecedented frankenstorm.”

    In other words, the United States has nothing to fear but (media-stoked) fear itself. Especially since this hurricane has done little more than leave flash floods in its wake in far less sheltered and resourceful places like Jamaica, Cuba and my country of birth, The Bahamas – all of which were in its direct path.

    This is not to diminish the report of 20-plus deaths that were related to the floods of course. And as one who has lived through some of the worst hurricanes in history I want

    To be fair, though, much of the media hype stems from forecasts that Sandy might merge with a nor’easter (“an early winter storm from the West, and a blast of arctic air from the North”) that will create “weather mayhem” from Washington, DC to Maine … maybe.

    Even so I suspect this consolidated monster will cause no greater damage (in relative terms) in the United States than Sandy caused in the Caribbean. More to the point, access to shelter is such that there is no reason for there to be any loss of life. Which is why I want to stress that, no matter how media-serving the hype or how reassuring the calm before the storm, I urge you to take all necessary steps to prepare come what may (e.g., like the power outages we in the DC metropolitan area suffer for days even in the aftermath of much less menacing storms).

    That said, there is a silver lining in this frankenstorm. Because the obsessive media coverage of it over the next few days will provide us a little reprieve from their obsessive coverage of this interminable and infernal presidential campaign.

    Beware frankenstorm … I guess.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was published originally on Friday, October 26 at 7:01

  • Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 7:23 AM

    Political Publicity Whores

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 6:51 AM

    Shameless Huckster Donald Trump Strikes Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

    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 entertainment 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 con 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!

    (“Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2011)

    You’d think by now that the media would react to any of Trump’s patented attention-grabbing stunts by flipping him a collective middle finger. Yet it seems every media outlet was waiting with baited breath yesterday to see what snake oil he had to sell them this time – after he announced that he would be revealing on YouTube at high noon some “gigantic news” about President Obama that would affect the outcome of the election.

    By contrast, as my opening quote indicates, I knew Trump was merely summoning the suckers he truly believes are born every minute. And sure enough all he had to sell was another barrel of hot air about Obama being an academic fraud who was not born in America.

    Specifically, he informed the world that he has a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose deal for the president: if Obama releases his college transcript and passport application (and, most significantly, if they are authenticated to his satisfaction), Trump would donate $5 million to a charity of Obama’s choice. Not surprisingly, Obama’s spokesman reacted by saying that the president would not even dignify this nonsense with a comment, let alone a response.

    Of course, the person who must be feeling like the biggest sucker of all today is Mitt Romney – who made quite a public show of traveling up to Trump’s conceited dome in New York City to kiss his ass and receive his endorsement.

    But the only reason I’m bothering to comment is that this latest stunt seems to have been the all too belated tipping point even for reporters who consider the redneck utterings of Honey Boo Boo newsworthy.  For here is how no less a person than Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post gave Trump the reportorial finger after listening to his “major announcement”:

    Me to Donald Trump: Go away. Please.

    What’s more, Cilizza was a Pied Piper in this respect; except that the words other reporters used to signal their intent to march away from Trump’s media circus made his words seem positively prayer like.

    I am also happy to note that the Black celebrities I admonished to distance themselves from this race-baiting huckster seem to be doing just that – with both Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez moving out of Trump-owned/named buildings in recent months.

    I regret, however, that NBC continues to carry his reality-TV show. But I suspect The Apprentice may have jumped the shark this season for many other reasons. So here’s to this tipping point too.

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  • Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 5:33 AM

    The BBC’s Penn-State Problem

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    All of England is still reeling with shock and indignation at recent revelations that Sir Jimmy Savile was a predatory pedophile (and an alleged necrophiliac). Savile was the nationally beloved host of a number of BBC programs, including the very popular and long-running Top of the Pops. But reports are that he sexually abused hundreds of young girls (and boys) throughout his 40-year career.

    Of course, chances are very good that most of you living outside the UK have no idea who Savile was. But just imagine the outrage here in America if we found out a year after Dick Clark  died – not only that he was a “predatory sex offender,” but that ABC blithely tolerated and even enabled his child sex abuse.  Savile was that famous, and he cavorted with ease among British royals, politicians and celebrities alike.

    But the analogy to Penn State is more relevant because of the actual similarities between the way it covered up the pedophile exploits of Jerry Sandusky and the way the BBC covered up Savile’s. And BBC executives are only adding insult to injury by citing the cultural norms and practices of the day to excuse their complicity.

    For here, as reported by the BBC (October 23), is what its director general, George Entwistle, said in this respect during testimony yesterday before the Commons Culture Committee:

    There is no question that what Jimmy Savile did and the way the BBC behaved in the years – the culture and practices of the BBC seems (sic) to allow Jimmy Savile to do what he did – will raise questions of trust for us and reputation for us.

    Far more troubling, though, was a report on Monday by Panorama, the BBC’s own critically acclaimed current affairs program. For it left no doubt that Savile was part of a pedophile ring, which included other stars as well as top executives at the BBC – some of whom may still be on the job … and still preying on children.

    Top of the Pops programme was a centre of abuse – and that Savile was not the only one involved.

    Liz Dux, a lawyer for some of the victims, told Panorama: ‘The stories that I’m hearing from some of the victims are that they did report the abuse and that no action was taken.’

    She added: ‘There are some quite serious allegations that a paedophile ring was operating.’

    Frankly, nothing indicates that the BBC does not fully appreciate the depravity of what is being alleged quite like Entwistle insinuating that the culture and practices that tolerated corporal punishment of little children back “in the years” also tolerated the predatory sexual abuse of them.

    Anyway, like Penn State (and, foremost, the Catholic Church), the BBC is now bracing for an avalanche of civil lawsuits. I just hope that UK officials emulate their U.S. counterparts by making those who covered up for Savile pay not just with their job, but with their freedom as well.

    Meanwhile, like those two institutions, I doubt there’s anything the BBC can ever do to reclaim its once-enviable institutional reputation and public goodwill. As for Savile, unfortunately, he died a year ago at age 84 without having to face any of the truth and consequences of his criminal behavior.

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  • Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 6:58 AM

    Obama Pummels Romney in Final Debate

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In fact Obama pummeled him so much that halfway through last night’s debate I thought moderator Bob Schieffer would invoke the mercy rule…. But I can think of nothing more pathetic and hypocritical than Romney – who attacked Obama during their first debate like an Alaskan redneck pounding a baby seal – whining all night about Obama attacking him.

    Actually, if you watched their first debate (as it seems everybody did), all you have to know is that Obama did to Romney last night what Romney did to Obama in their first debate. The difference, however, is that Obama got pummeled in their first debate – not because he was unable to counterpunch, but because he did not think Romney was worth the effort. By contrast, Romney got pummeled last night simply because he was unable to counterpunch.

    Alas, it is hoping for too much for Obama to get the same bounce in the polls after this debate that Romney got after the first one.

    To be fair, though, I’m sure Romney went into this final debate thinking that the lesson of the first two debates is that the American people (particularly women) are so stupid they’ll buy any version of himself he sells – even if that version is a clone of Obama himself. Only this explains why he cynically and haplessly agreed with everything Obama said. Never mind that this parroting rendered completely phony and hypocritical all of his criticisms about Obama’s foreign policy being weak and incompetent in every respect.

    To paraphrase the New York Times, on every question, Romney looked like a contestant at a beauty pageant grappling to answer that final question. Yet Republican pundits and spinmeisters would have you believe that Romney won because all he had to do was show up and “do no harm” (i.e., look presidential, not like a warmonger). But when did talking about having a spine but demonstrating that you don’t, not to mention blithely  disavowing solemn pledges made just weeks ago, become the way to look presidential…?

    This, I suppose, is what is meant by putting lipstick on a pig (and Romney was sweating like one, giving him that dreaded Nixonian glow). Except that, for far too many Americans, Romney really did do all he needed to, which was to look like a female version of Sarah Palin. But his Republican make-up artists are as delusional as Romney is mercurial if they believe this will be enough to get him into the White House.

    Go vote!  (And the earlier, the better!)

  • Monday, October 22, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    On Second Thought, Debates Do Matter…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The media should be chided for shamelessly and irresponsibly promoting the first of these debates (beginning just hours from now) as a do-or-die, Thrilla-in-Manila showdown.  After all, every single reporter or pundit worth his salt knows that no presidential debate in U.S. history has ever been a decisive factor in the outcome of any presidential election.

    (“The presidential debates: just making waves,” The iPINIONS Journal, October, 3, 2012)

    Well, if you believe the polls, I was dead wrong.

    More to the point, the Obama campaign spent hundreds of millions in TV ads portraying Mitt Romney, among other things, as a cold-hearted rich guy whose plan for economic growth is to let the rich get richer and hope their good fortune trickles down to the poor … eventually; and whose plan for the nearly 40 million uninsured is to repeal Obamacare and let the poor go to the emergency room … as they do now.

    Yet there seems little doubt that, based solely on his “Etch-a-Sketch” performance in their first debate (on October 3), Romney made it seem like all of that money was wasted targeting some phantom candidate. And, as he morphed from Tea Party-Mitt to “moderate Mitt” right there on stage, all Obama did was look on is utter stupefaction.

    Meanwhile, the effect of Romney’s performance, according to the polls, was to erase in one 90-minute debate the seemingly insurmountable lead Obama enjoyed all year – not just nationally and in all swing states, but also among key demographic groups like women and the elderly.

    This is why the twitterers who frame media storylines are now giving the impression that debates will factor decisively in the outcome of a presidential election this year for the first time in U.S. history.  And even though the media consensus is that Obama recovered enough to win the second debate (on October 16), polls suggest that his performance was rather like closing the barn door after the horses were already running wild….

    Nevertheless, the media are missing no chance to buildup tonight’s debate as the rubber match for the presidency.  This debate is supposed to be exclusively on foreign policy, but I suspect domestic issues will still predominate.

    Frankly, I remain as stupefied by Romney’s surge in the polls as Obama was by his performance in that first debate. Because I refuse to believe that the majority of the American electorate are so stupid as to vote for a president based solely on how he performs in debates.

    For example, polls indicate that the vast majority of women are pro-choice, support the services Planned Parenthood provides, and support healthcare reform. And, despite what Ann Romney says, these polls also indicate that, for women, these social issues (all of which Obama has championed and Romney opposes) will factor far more than the economy when they vote for president.

    Yet these same polls would have us believe that, based solely on Romney’s impressive (but plainly disingenuous) performance in that one debate, the 20-point lead Obama once had among women has been completely lost. They say women are fickle; but such a change would reflect more self-abnegation than fickleness.

    So, despite all the polling and commensurate hype about Romney erasing every advantage Obama once enjoyed, I remain convinced that, when all is said and done, Obama will win this election in a landslide. Current polling data merely reflect the fleeting impressions Romney created with his performance, which will have no impact once people actually vote.

    This, of course, will vindicate my abiding view that, like everything from Reality TV to professional wrestling, presidential debates are still far more about entertainment than elections.

    Enjoy the show.

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  • Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    Why the world economy is still in such a mess…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, October 19, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    Tigers Sweep Yankees Out of Playoffs

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last night the New York Yankees (with a team payroll of almost $200 million) showed themselves, once again, to be the biggest and most expensive losers in the history of professional sports. Specifically, they failed in their quest to win another World Series in humiliating fashion when the Detroit Tigers (with a team payroll of less than $120 million) defeated them 8-1 to win the American League Championship Series (ALCS) four games to none.

    Mind you, given their payroll and the media hype surrounding their team, one could be forgiven the expectation that the Yankees would win the World Series every year. But the last year they lived up to this perennial expectation was 2009. And I fear it might be another decade, and a whole new roster of high-priced players, before they win another World Series.

    I must confess, though, that I’m not much of a Baseball fan. In fact, I pay no attention to the sport until after Labor Day – when Division Championships begin in earnest. And even then I find highlights on ESPN’s Sport Center enough to satisfy my interest.

    But the Yankees transcend sport. Nothing demonstrates this quite like the way they make news almost as much for their behavior off the field as for their play on it.  Some players on the team are actually covered in the media like Hollywood stars – none more so than Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod).

    But at least Jeter has demonstrated an uncanny ability to live up to the media hype with his play on the field. This is why his season/career-ending injury (with a broken ankle) in Game 1 of this ALCS was so demoralizing for the Yankees, and probably sealed their ignominious fate. By contrast, A-Rod has demonstrated an uncanny ability to underperform – most notably in post-season play.

    Apropos of this, no storyline in As the Yankees Turn provides more off-season fascination than watching the Yankees spend obscene amounts of money to lure the best players to New York only to have them play – during the critical October pennant race and World Series – as if they were bought with phony dollar bills.  God knows they played this October like phony superstars who were bought with phony money, failing as they did to win a single game in a postseason series in 32 years.

    What Boss Steinbrenner’s money does buy: April through September. What it doesn’t buy: October, which apparently isn’t for sale at any price – even for close to a quarter-billion dollars.

    (ESPN.com, October 10, 2006)

    Of course, for those of us who can’t stand the Yankees’ money-can-buy-me-anything attitude, season-ending losses like the one they suffered last night provide unbridled glee.  But this glee was made all the more delightful by the irony of watching A-Rod, their $29-million-per-year man and the highest-paid player in the league, getting benched for his poor play: batting a noodle-like 3 for 25 at .120 during these playoffs, and giving credence to suspicion that A-Rod without steroids is like Samson without hair….

    After all, only the Yankees were rich and foolish enough to acquire A-Rod from the Rangers in 2003 by assuming the burden of his unprecedented 10-year $252 million contract.  They then compounded their folly by giving him a five-year contract extension valued at $114 million.

    He is already saying that he’ll be back next year to stink up Yankee Stadium. But there seems little doubt that the Steinbrenners are now so disappointed and disaffected that they’re going to buyout his contract just to prevent him from despoiling that fabled Yankees uniform a minute longer.

    In the meantime, the Tigers will be sitting back and waiting for the winner of the NCLS between the defending World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants. They will play Game 1 of this year’s World Series next Wednesday.

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  • Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    The Three Lovers of France’s First Lady, Valérie Trierweiler

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Well, based on the latest episode of As the Elysée Turns, it may be that I presumed too much about the sophistication of the characters involved in this political ménage a trois. For the French media were replete with reports last week about the “blind jealousy” that compelled Valérie to take to Twitter – just days before Sunday’s elections for the national assembly – to declare her support not for Ségolène (and Hollande) but for her (i.e., their) opponent.

    Just imagine the national spectacle/embarrassment if President Obama endorsed a candidate for House Speaker [who just happened to be an ex-girlfriend] and First Lady Michelle then took to Twitter to endorse that candidate’s opponent…

    This is why Hollande needs to move quickly to reclaim his political manhood. Because nobody will have any confidence in or respect for his presidency if he allows himself to be so sensationally betrayed and pussy-whipped by a woman who is not even his wife.

    (“Ménage a Trois Involving French President Heats up,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 19, 2012)

    Given the ménage a trois referenced above, one can be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that the philandering for which the French are famous stems from the quizzical insouciance French men have towards marital/sexual fidelity.

    So imagine my shock when I read reports this week that the philandering of no less a person than the new first lady of France proves that, as in most things, women are better at this too (or worse depending on your level of puritanism).

    They say a week is a long time in politics, and in French politics it needs to be. France’s First Lady, Valérie Trierweiler, certainly had a lot to pack in during her working week, sleeping, as is alleged in a new book, with both François Hollande, the socialist president, and Patrick Devedjian, a Right-wing politician. Oh, and she was also married to her fellow Paris Match journalist Denis Trierweiler at the time.

    (The Irish Independent, October 16, 2012)

    I always thought the notorious dalliances of French novelist and performer Colette was an anomaly among French women. But this documented scheming of First Lady Valérie will do much to disabuse me of that thought.

    More to the point, though, if President Hollande did not have cause to dump this cunning and spiteful courtesan before, surely these revelations should compel him to do so now – if only to avoid becoming a national laughing stock, non?

    Quel scandale!

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  • Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 6:40 AM

    Debate Round 2: Obama the Comeback Kid! Enough said.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    Skyfall: But the Name is Baumgartner, Felix Baumgartner

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am still trying to figure out what contribution to mankind that celebrated rover is making by showing us in HD what we already know; namely, that Mars is an uninhabitable mass of molten rock and red sand.

    This is why I am so hard-pressed to figure out why anyone would regard Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting skyfall on Sunday as anything more than a terrific publicity stunt.

    It is certainly noteworthy that he became the first man to jump from a hot air balloon 24 miles up in space: freefalling for almost four and a half minutes (complete with death-defying, out-of-control spins that risked blackout and certain death) and becoming the first skydiver to break the sound barrier of 768 mph by reaching a top speed of 833.9 mph.

    Good for him. But does this mean that instead of traveling in SpaceX or Virgin Galactic-type vehicles, Astronauts (and space tourists) might be traveling into space via hot air balloons and freefalling back to earth? No. So what’s the point?

    Having said that, as death-defying publicity stunts go, Baumgartner’s makes those performed by more famous daredevils like Evel Knievel and David Blaine (of the recent Times Square electrocution farce) seem timid. However, where space exploration is concerned, there is a reason virtually everybody knows about Neil Armstrong, John Glen, and Buzz Aldrin but virtually nobody knows about Joseph Kittinger…. (Exactly. Google him!)

    More to the point, I do not see how Baumgartner becoming the first man to freefall faster than the speed of sound a few days ago does any more to advance our travel through, or understanding of, space than Nik Wallenda becoming the first man to skywalk across the Niagara Falls on a tightrope a few months ago. (And daredevils are invariably men, aren’t they?)

    Indeed, it speaks volumes that this skyfall was funded by Red Bull instead of NASA: it was little more than raw, nail-biting entertainment. Which is why producers of the James Bond movies would do well to hire Baumgartner to perform some of his base-jumping stunts in their next installment.

  • Monday, October 15, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    Why (Is) Buzz Bissinger Voting for Mitt Romney?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Buzz Bissinger is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the bestselling book Friday Night Lights. He distinguished himself more recently by damning – in print and on TV – the way Penn State University conspired to cover up the predatory, pedophile abuses of former assistant Football coach Jerry Sandusky.

    More to the point, Bissinger was nationally acclaimed until he wrote a column titled, Why I’m Voting for Mitt Romney, which was published at the Daily Beast a week ago today. Some of the criticism is understandable, of course, given that he professes to be not just a lifelong Democrat but one who “swooned” for Obama in 2008. But to read some of it you’d think Bissinger wrote a column titled, Why I’m Supporting al-Qaeda.

    Not surprisingly his critics are all Democrats/liberals – who now consider him a traitor to all of their political causes. Indeed, it’s an indication of how much Bissinger has strained old personal, professional and political ties that Peter Berg, creator of the TV show Friday Night Lights that help make Bissinger’s book a cultural phenomenon, felt compelled to write an open letter to Governor Romney on Friday to make it crystal clear that, unlike Bissinger, he’s not a supporter.

    Berg’s letter reads in part as follows:

    I was not thrilled when I saw that you have plagiarized this expression [‘Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose’] to support your campaign… The only relevant comparison that I see between your campaign and Friday Night Lights is in the character Buddy Garrity – who turned his back on American car manufactures…

    Please come up with your own campaign slogan.


    For his part Bissinger has reacted to the ad hominem attacks by portraying himself as a martyr for the (FOX News-inspired) cause of exposing the liberal bias in the mainstream media. Never mind that, according to FOX News’s own chest-thumping reporting, the mainstream media is now dominated by it and other organizations for whom conservative bias is a virtue….

    In any case, as an avowed liberal myself, I truly regret the attacks. But instead of making a cause celebre of the backlash against him, Bissinger would do well to reflect on what caused him to make a mockery of his journalistic credentials and reputation by writing such a self-indulgent and fallacious column that seemed scripted to incite that backlash.  Here’s what I mean:

    I felt reading this column the way admirers of former GE CEO Jack Welch must have felt watching him accuse this president of the United States of faking leading economic indicators for political purposes….

    Bissinger informs his readers that he has “studied the issues assiduously” and therefore has a comprehensive understanding of where both Obama and Romney stand on them. But this is why it is so stupefying that the reasons he proffers for choosing Romney amount to little more than a preference for the “infectiousness of rejuvenation” he believes Romney has: whatever that means.

    Frankly, nothing betrays how fickle, misguided and oxymoronic his “giving up on Barack Obama” is quite like Bissinger parroting the ironic whining of the super-rich who are simply fed up with “Obama’s constant demonization” of them. After all, the rich have never been richer thanks to Obama’s policies that have led to record highs on Wall Street and record profits for corporate bottom lines.

    What’s more, he even admits that he agrees with Obama on the issue that is the raison d’être of Romney’s candidacy: extending the Bush tax rates that favor the rich. Specifically, Bissinger asserts that, like Obama, he thinks, “Those making more than $250,000 should pay more taxes, and that does include me.”

    Beyond this, any fair-minded person (especially a life-long Democrat) would surely be far more turned off by Romney’s demonization of the poor (i.e., “47 percent” of the American people) as a bunch lazy parasites living off the taxes of the rich than by anything Obama said about the super-rich. But not Bissinger; instead he parrots the specious line about the poor paying no “federal income taxes” to justify Romney fomenting class-warfare with his insinuation that they do nothing but sit on their asses collecting welfare checks, social-security checks, and food stamps.

    Meanwhile, he probably knows better than Romney that the poor have always been exempted from federal income taxes. Instead, they “contribute both as a patriotic obligation and skin in the game” – to use Bissinger’s condescending and patronizing words – by paying payroll and social security taxes.

    As I referenced above, Obama’s critics have become so vested in seeing his presidency fail that even erstwhile respectable business leaders are now proselytizing doubts about the reliability of the BLS unemployment rate – in which they used to express abiding religious faith.

    They went certifiably nuts a week ago Friday when the rate fell below 8% (7.8 to be exact) for the first time in four years. This sent Jack Welch on a manic rant – all over TV and the Twitterverse – claiming that Obama must have ordered his “Chicago guys” to cook the books to boost his re-election prospects. Sadly, this makes Donald Trump’s claim that Obama is a Manchurain president who was born in Kenya seem reasonable. But I digress.

    The point is that Bissinger is now manifesting this kind of Obama derangement syndrome by claiming that, despite all Obama has done to rescue America from the precipice of another Great Depression and restore its standing on the world stage, he’s “not sure Obama really wants to be president in any practical way.”

    The irony seems lost on Bissinger that Obama’s enviable record of accomplishments makes it self-evident that he wants to be president in every practical way. What he can be fairly accused of is not having much patience for the impractical traps of the office – like begging non-stop for campaign donations and stroking the egos of petty-minded congressmen.

    Which brings me to what Bissinger claims is the “tipping point” for his switch from Obama to Romney: that debate.

    Bissinger concedes that it’s perhaps naïve for him to believe that the way Romney flip-flopped on virtually all of his core policies, which left Obama famously dumbfounded, does not constitute a disqualifying display of political pandering.

    Actually, he flatters himself. Because, instead of naïve, it’s willfully stupid for him to suggest that this merely reflected Romney’s “move [back] to the center” where his political soul resides. Hell, he is so committed to selling his soul to the far-right of the Republican Party that Romney now describes himself – with born-again zeal – as “severely conservative.”

    More important, he has vowed that, if elected, among other things, he will abolish abortion rights (except in the case of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother), defund Planned Parenthood, repeal access to comprehensive healthcare for over 40 million Americans (assuring them, as he has, that hospital emergency rooms will always be there for them), oppose gay marriages, and pursue a unilateral, war-mongering and messianic foreign policy (which will lead inexorably to a march of folly into Iran that will make Bush’s misadventure in Iraq seem like a garden variety drive-by shooting).

    Yet, after juxtaposing Obama’s “distracted” defense of his unassailable record with Romney’s engaging presentation of his yin-and-yang plans during that debate, Bissinger concluded that what America needs now more than ever is a man who will say or do anything to get elected.

    Towards the end of his column he writes that he respects that Obama is a man of principle. But then he complains that this president lacks the political traits of “friendliness and compromise” that are necessary to lead.

    When I read this I could not help thinking that, like Welch, Bissinger was suffering a sudden onset of political dementia and would have benefited from a more protective editor. Because it is plainly delusional for anyone to think that Romney has a friendlier disposition and is more inclined to compromise for the greater good than Obama. Not least because it was the preternaturally awkward Romney who took a public pledge that he would not compromise with Democrats to reduce the deficit even if that compromise granted 90 percent of the cuts in government programs his Republicans favor and only 10 percent of the increases in taxes Obama’s Democrats favor.

    Ultimately, this “issues-based” endorsement of Mitt Romney seems more worthy of a clueless actress like Stacey Dash than a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist like Buzz Bissinger. He thinks he might be naïve. He tells his readers, with the relish of an agent provocateur, that even his wife thinks he’s a traitor. I think he’s just seeking more media buzz. Well done … Bissinger.

  • Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 7:58 AM

    Nobel Prize for Peace to the EU?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Well, I suppose if those inscrutable Norwegians can award this once-distinguished award to Barack Obama for saying a lot but doing nothing to promote world peace, then why not award it to the EU for saying and doing just a little more.

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  • Friday, October 12, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    Armstrong Exposed as Cycling’s Doper Don

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It pains me to concede today that the evidence is indeed overwhelming that Lance fueled his way to cycling glory on a cocktail of PEDs that make those he took to treat his cancer seem like mere aspirin…

    The real tragedy here is not Lance falling from grace, but the disillusionment this is bound to cause among the millions of cancer survivors who derived life-sustaining inspiration from his ‘LIVESTRONG’ life story. That his life story is turning out to be a phenomenal fraud is devastating enough for me. I can only imagine the impact it’s having, and will have, on them.

    (“Lance Armstrong: falling from grace,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 24, 2011)

    More to the point:

    The evidence against him is such that Lance Armstrong insisting he’s no doper is rather like O.J. Simpson insisting he’s no murderer. In any event, this development makes Armstrong easily the most notorious cheater in sports history. And I suppose calling it a ‘fall from grace’ mistakenly assumes he had grace in the first place….

    (“Doper Lance Armstrong Stripped,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 24, 2012)

    As these quotes indicate, I came to regard Armstrong long ago as little more than a pathological liar and a serial cheat. But even I did not appreciate the extent to which he enlisted and ensnared others in his web of lies to further his ill-gotten gains.

    USADA released the findings of a two-year investigation yesterday accusing Armstrong of using a cocktail of banned substances and blood transfusions. They built up a picture of an elaborate doping ring which alleged the involvement of support staff, fellow riders and even his former wife. The doping programme was the brainchild of disgraced Italian doctor, Michele Ferrari, and Armstrong would travel across Europe during and before races to have blood transfusions.

    The report also accused Armstrong of administering testosterone to a teammate, threatening fellow riders with the sack if they did not follow Dr. Ferrari’s EPO programme and of surrounding himself with drug runners ‘so that he could achieve his goal of winning the Tour de France year after year.’ The report says there was a ‘code of silence’ in cycling as Armstrong intimidated whistle-blowers and the 200 pages of evidence referenced financial records, email traffic, and laboratory test results which the agency believes proved he was doping for years.

    ‘The USPS Team doping conspiracy was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dan­gerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices,’ the agency said. ‘A program organised by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today.’

    (The Telegraph, October 11, 2012)

    Frankly, the USADA report reads like the criminal indictment of a Mafia Don. After all, it’s one thing for Armstrong to have been scoring performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) for his personal use; it’s quite another for him to have been recruiting and disciplining his teammates in a manner eerily similar to the way a mob boss recruits and disciplines his Capos.

    Which puts a completely different light on the decision by federal prosecutors to give him a pass:

    After a two-year investigation, prosecutors announced on Friday that they will not be filing any criminal charges against Lance…

    But it was hardly a vindication of his innocence. After all, prosecutors offered no reason for closing the case, leaving the public to speculate in perpetuity about his guilt or innocence, and compelling me to offer the following take on their decision:

    No matter the nature and amount of the evidence, prosecutors have wide discretion in deciding whether to file charges. In this case, I suspect that, like me, the lead prosecutor believes PEDs should be decriminalized. Moreover, he probably considered the fact that, as 60 Minutes duly revealed, virtually every cyclist who competed against Lance was using PEDs too. (In point of fact, the winner of the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, was just stripped of his title on Monday and banned for two years for doping.)

    Then there’s last year’s sensational acquittal by a federal jury of baseball’s home-run king, Barry Bonds, on a battery of charges related to his use of PEDs. Not to mention the formidable goodwill Lance has amassed over the years from his heroic bout with testicular cancer and the hundreds of millions he has raised for cancer research through his LIVESTRONG foundation.

    Taken together, I suspect these factors led prosecutors to conclude not only that Lance would probably be acquitted too, but that no public interest would be served by prosecuting (or arguably scapegoating) him for using PEDs. That’s my take.

    Nevertheless, the all-important U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is moving ahead with its separate investigation. Never mind that the only punishment this agency can impose at this point is to inflict further damage to Lance’s already tattered reputation. Yet that is precisely what USADA seems determined to do.

    (“Feds Give Lance Reprieve on Doping,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 8, 2012)

    I now believe that no amount of good Armstrong has done through his LIVESTRONG foundation is sufficient mitigation to spare him from criminal prosecution. For, far from being a scapegoat, he was the boss of what USADA described as “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

    What’s more, it speaks volumes about his guilt that he chose not to even contest the USADA findings. No doubt he did this because, after spending the past few years insisting that his only accusers are one disgruntled former teammate and jealous people like former Tour champion Greg Lemond, USADA was prepared to confront him with 26 unimpeachable accusers, including 11 former teammates and his personal aide.

    In fact, he can still be, and should be, prosecuted (a la Roger Clemens – not for being a fiendish abuser of PEDs, but for perjuring himself to federal authorities about being one).  And no matter the prospect of jury nullification, justice demands it.

    I appreciate of course that there are many who believe not only that no prosecution is warranted, but that Armstrong’s reputation remains undiminished. I submit, however, that such people are no different from the poor-misguided fools who would still hail Bernie Madoff as a financial genius and would still give him their money to “invest.”

    But, as Dina Lohan might say: Lance, you’re dead to me!

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  • Friday, October 12, 2012 at 6:56 AM

    VP Debate: Mission Accomplished – Biden did not gaffe; Ryan did not choke

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 5:25 AM

    Supreme Court Rules For Amazonian Indians against Chevron

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Since March 23, 2005, in a commentary titled Ecuador’s Indigenous People Fight to Reclaim Ancestral Land, I’ve been commenting on the David v. Goliath quest by Amazonian Indians to get oil giant Chevron to pay for the damage its exploration for oil did to their rainforest.

    Here in part is how I framed the issue in that 2005 commentary:

    In the 1990s, Ecuador became the mecca for oil exploration in Latin America. The country’s Ministry of Energy and Mines sparked a black gold rush in 1999 when it confirmed Ecuador’s potential to yield as many as 26 billion barrels in oil reserves…

    Notwithstanding foreign obligations and potential riches, however, the Indians have had enough! They have asserted ancestral land rights to areas of Ecuador where the potential yield for oil is greatest. And, to protect their rights and drive away the oil companies, they have organized guerilla campaigns of kidnappings, sabotages and robberies that would make the insurgents in Iraq green with envy…

    They have staged city protests, filed legal injunctions and sued the companies for pollution, dumping waste into waterways and leaving behind hundreds of unlined pits brimming with toxic wastewater – which the Indians claim have caused irreparable harm to their health. In fact, a $6 billion class action lawsuit by Indian tribes have oil giant ChevronTexaco so tied up that the wariness of other oil companies is bringing oil production in Ecuador to a virtual standstill.

    And here is what I predicted four years later when this David v. Goliath lawsuit finally made it to court:

    I fully expect the Ecuadorian judge hearing this case to rule for the Indians against oil giant Chevron. Not least because of the substantive and demonstrable harm done to the rainforest, to say nothing of the unconscionable and irreparable harm done to the Indians (from oil pits that have contaminated the streams they rely on for drinking water).

    (“Amazonian Indians Suing Chevron for Billions,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 5, 2009)

    Well, I was right. The judge not only granted the Indians the $6 billion they sought but added $12 billion in punitive damages to reflect the egregious nature of Chevron’s conduct.

    Instead of paying up, however, Chevron began forum shopping to get a higher, more powerful court to affirm its imperious and specious view that this judgment was attained by “fraud and bias.” This led over the past three years, inexorably, to the U.S. Supreme Court. But it exposed just how utterly without merit Chevron’s appeal against enforcement of the $18 billion Ecuadorian judgment was when this U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday to not even dignify it with a hearing.

    Now Chevron will either pay or dare the mini-Chávez who now rules Ecuador, Rafael Correa, to nationalize its assets.

    President Rafael Correa announced Saturday that he will enact a change to Ecuador’s hydrocarbons law allowing the government to nationalize oil fields if a private operator doesn’t comply with local laws.

    (Associated Press, July 24, 2010)

    No doubt the refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to even hear Chevron’s appeal gives Correa the legal cover to do politically what he has been aching to do for years.

    Meanwhile, it is worth noting that big oil companies have polluted and pillaged the land in Nigeria and other countries in Africajust as they have done in Ecuador and other countries in Latin America.  Hope springs eternal, therefore, that, like the Amazonian Indians, African natives will win billions in compensation in due course.

    But it is instructive that, where Ecuador had to chase after Chevron for two decades to get paid, it took the United States just two years to get BP to pay many billions more for mere collateral damage from its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

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  • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    Black Actress Stacey Dash Pilloried for Supporting Romney

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I usually avoid the goings-on in the Twitterverse like the plague. But my civic duty compels me to chime in on the backlash Clueless actress Stacey Dash is suffering for publishing the following tweet on October 7:

    Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future.

    Frankly, the way she is being pilloried (by Black, White and Brown Obama supporters) you’d think she caused more embarrassment for her fellow Blacks with this one tweet than Bernie Madoff caused for his fellow Jews with his $100-billion ponzi scheme. I suppose this is why it came as such a shock to the White person who shared this with me yesterday that I was more bothered by her presumption that I would damn Stacey as a traitor to our race than I was by her tweet.

    You can probably guess that this person is an Obama supporter who believes his contention that Romney is just looking out for rich folks. But this is precisely what provoked me to ask why she finds it so incomprehensible that rich Blacks like Stacey would vote for him.

    It is no exaggeration to say that her white face turned beet red as she tried to answer that question without conceding the obvious; namely, that she thinks Stacey should be voting for Obama just because he’s Black.

    Alas, this is the kind of reverse racism that far too many Blacks have allowed White liberals to think is cool with us.

    Anyway, after she recovered her color and composure, I suggested that the real wonder is that so many poor Whites seem to think that a vote for Romney is a vote for their future. After all, Obama’s policies – from reforming healthcare to creating blue-collar jobs – will benefit them far more than Romney’s (which are aimed at making the rich richer in the vain hope that their money will trickle down in the form of investments that provide jobs for the poor).

    She agreed.

    What I did not say, to spare her feelings, is that many Black evangelicals might actually consider it their religious duty to vote for Romney. After all, Romney’s policies – from opposition to gay marriage to opposition to abortion – are more consistent with their Christian values than Obama’s (which are consistent with a secular agenda that evangelicals consider diabolical):

    The dark little secret is that far too many Blacks are every bit as homophobic as right-wing Christian Republicans, which Blacks demonstrated in brazen fashion four years ago by voicing moral opposition to the ordination of gay bishop Gene Robinson.

    (“California Upholds Ban on Gay Marriage,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 28, 2009)

    Never mind the contradiction inherent in Christians voting on issues like homosexuality and abortion, which Jesus had nothing to say about, instead of voting on issues like caring for the sick (think Obamacare) and feeding the hungry (think food stamps), which he expressly commanded his followers to do.

    Incidentally, what is truly incomprehensible is that gays would  vote for Romney. After all, he not only professes a moral aversion to homosexuality but also promises to faithfully execute laws that deny gays their civil rights. But I digress.

    I’m an Obama supporter – notwithstanding that he has not done nearly as much to help poor Blacks (and Whites) as I had hoped. But I understand why it would have been politically imprudent for him to do so; and hope springs eternal that, once re-elected and relieved of the need to pander for votes, he will redeem his presidency in this respect.

    More to the point, though, I think it makes sense for every Black to vote for Obama – not because he’s Black, but because his polices are more progressive, humane, and in the spirit of what Jesus would do than Romney’s. Not to mention that, as Bill Clinton delineated at the Democratic Convention, Democratic presidents have a reassuring record of championing policies that create more middle-class jobs than Republican presidents … by far. All of which clearly belies the accusation that Blacks vote for Democratic presidents out of some congenitally slavish political loyalty….

    Still I say, lay off Stacey! For the Civil Rights Movement was also about giving Blacks the same rights Whites have always enjoyed to vote with their pocketbook, instead of their race, in mind.

    That said, I’m all too mindful that the perverse nature of celebrity these days is such that, far from feeling victimized by this backlash, Stacey is probably reveling in it….

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  • Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    Viva Chávez … Again!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Without exception, pre-election reports in the United Sates gave the impression that 40-year-old challenger Henrique Capriles was poised to dethrone Hugo Chávez on Sunday as president of Venezuela.

    But I knew better; not least because here, in part, is what I wrote six years ago after Chávez fended off the challenge of Manuel Rosales – who ran on the same down-with-socialism platform back then that Capriles ran on this time:

    With Chávez ruling his country like a truly benign despot – afflicting the comfortable (by, among other things, confiscating their land to redistribute amongst peasants as cooperative farms) and comforting the afflicted (by, among other things, using Venezuela’s oil wealth to provide comprehensive welfare programs) – Rosales did not have a chance.

    (“Viva Chávez,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 4, 2006)

    Frankly, given that he defeated Rosales by 27 percent, the only surprise to me is that Chávez defeated Capriles only by 10: 54 to 44 percent. For a little perspective, however, it might be helpful to know that the same news organizations that are belittling this victory as his “smallest yet” will be the ones declaring a landslide victory if Obama manages to win re-election by half that margin.

    More important, though, Capriles conceded defeat without raising any of the questions about the legitimacy of the outcome that made Rosales a political martyr in the United States … but a sore loser in Venezuela. In fact, this election not only debunks the U.S.-propagated myth that socialism and democracy are incompatible, but also reaffirms Chávez as the premier democratic leader in all of South America.

    Apropos of this, I’m on record expressing my dislike of his bombastic (Chavismo) leadership style. Nevertheless, here is how I acknowledged his democratic bona fides and recognized his political invincibility six years ago in the same above-referenced commentary:

    Here’s to Hugo Chávez: the duly re-elected president (for life) of Venezuela, undisputed heir to Fidel Castro, and perennial pain in the ass to President George W. Bush and his successors….

    Henceforth, I shall refrain from calling Chávez a ‘Castro wannabe.’ After all, his regional and international influence has already surpassed that which Castro exercised at the zenith of his reign. And, having won two democratic elections at home, Chávez has earned the right to be distinguished (as a benign demagogue) from Castro – who was never anything but a ruthless dictator for whom democratic elections were the plague.

    Chávez now has another six-year mandate to continue his Bolivarian Revolution at home while fomenting it abroad. What’s more, I am now more convinced than ever that only death will end his reign:

    Those who were dancing on his grave a year ago are probably mourning today. Because, in a wholly predictable redo of his earlier defeat, Chávez won a resounding victory on Sunday on a referendum that will allow him to serve now as president for life…

    The Bolivarian Revolution is a process whereby Chávez seizes control of the country’s oil revenues and confiscates private homes and businesses to put them all ‘at the service of Venezuela.’ Concomitant with this, he institutes political and economic reforms to create his version of a socialist paradise … which he hopes to replicate throughout the Americas.

    Now it seems only death by natural causes will prevent Chávez from emulating Castro; that is, by using Venezuela as a laboratory for quixotic socialist policies for more than 50 years … come what may.

    (“Chávez’s Mortal Enemy Now Is Cancer, Not the CIA,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 11, 2011)

    Finally, it would be remiss of me not to comment on the most galvanizing issue of this campaign: the state of Chávez’s health. Because nothing seemed to animate opposition forces (at home and abroad) quite like continual reports of his imminent demise from “terminal cancer.”

    Yet, like his mentor Fidel Castro, he lives. More to the point, there can be no denying that his many, highly publicized trips to Cuba for medical treatment are responsible for making fools of those who would have bet their life savings that Chávez would be long dead by now. So think whatever you will of Cuba, its celebrated healthcare system clearly had as much to do with Chávez’s re-election as any political influence he wielded in Venezuela.

    Viva Chávez!

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