• Monday, August 27, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    New York City Becoming New ‘Dodge’ City

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Just two weeks ago New York City policemen killed a knife-wielding man in broad daylight in Times Square.

    On that occasion they had plenty of time to clear bystanders from their line of fire. Therefore, nobody was injured when two trigger-happy policemen fired 12 shots between them from just three feet away. Local authorities have not said how many of those bullets actually hit their target….

    On Friday NYC policemen killed a gunman in broad daylight on the street outside the Empire State Building.

    On this occasion they had no time to clear bystanders from their line of fire. Therefore, nine people were injured when two trigger-happy policemen fired 16 shots between them from just four feet away.

    This second shooting began after a disgruntled, fired employee exacted revenge by gunning down a former co-worker right there on the street (though, significantly, without injuring anybody else). Of course he had to have known he would be either arrested or shot dead on the spot. In fact, he reportedly planned for the suicide by cop that followed.

    NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has led a chorus of commentators heaping praise on the police for the way they performed on both occasions. But I see nothing praiseworthy about the police firing 12 shots to takedown a  mentally-ill man armed with nothing more than a knife. Even worse, it strikes me as not just reckless but incompetent that they sprayed so many errant shots at a standing target on this second occasion that nine bullets ended up hitting bystanders.

    Clearly, given the ease with which disgruntled employees can get their hands on guns (and go postal), the real shock is how rarely the police have to respond to such incidents.

    The irony, however, is that the shooting at the Empire State Building demonstrates that the police pose far greater danger to the public by the way they respond than the incidents themselves pose in the first place. (In this case, the gunman never even fired a single shot at them….)

    So instead praising these policemen as heroes, Mayor Bloomberg would do more to ensure public safety by requiring all NYC policemen to take remedial courses in target shooting. Not to mention mental/situational-awareness training to know when it’s time to hold friggin’ fire. For, assuming deadly fire was even warranted, both of these incidents should have ended with no more than two clean shots.

    In the meantime, all pedestrians would do well to think of New York City as Dodge City; not least because dodging (police) bullets could become a way of life there.

  • Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 6:43 AM

    Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The last thing I wanted when I began commenting on the deaths of famous people four years ago was to contribute to our culture’s morbid fascination with celebrities. In fact, I only began commenting on them as a lark to propagate the superstition that the deaths of famous people come in threes.

    Therefore, with sincere apologies, I hereby declare that henceforth I shall comment only on the deaths of famous people who have made pioneering or extraordinary contributions to mankind.

    (“Post mortem on Deaths of Famous People,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 4, 2010)

    No doubt it was a pioneering event on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong made his “one giant step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” And every mention of that historic landing since then has given the impression that it was not just momentous but truly meaningful.

    Except that, to my simple mind, everything about man on the moon has always been belied by having so few men follow in Armstrong’s footsteps. For, including him, only 12 men have set foot on the moon, and none since 1972.

    Which begs the question. What benefits have we enjoyed as a direct result of man landing on the moon…?  Because, apart from the unprecedented infusion of national pride it inspired back then, I am hard-pressed to cite a single benefit. (And even though we’re only landing robots on Mars, I suspect this momentous event will turn out to be no more meaningful. The only wonder is that it is taking so many rover shots of molten rocks and red dust for mankind to get the picture….)

    At any rate, I suspect nobody became more mindful of the dubious nature of his achievement than Armstrong himself. Many have wondered why he so zealously shunned the fame America wanted to lavish upon him. I submit that it might be because he was humble enough to recognize that what he did, though momentous, was not truly meaningful.

    Apropos of this, it’s instructive that when George Mallory, the first man to summit Mount Everest, was asked why he wanted to do so, he reportedly replied, “Because it is there.” In a similar vein, it might be that Armstrong came to realize in retrospect that his landing on the moon served no greater purpose.

    But what a moment, eh?!

    As indicated, Armstrong was famously (and refreshingly) humble and private. Therefore, he would probably recoil at all of the heroic eulogies being broadcast around the world to mark his death.

    Accordingly, I shall end here by simply noting that Armstrong died on Saturday from complications following recent heart-bypass surgery. He was 82.

    Farewell, Neil.

    NOTE: Apropos of that superstition, Jerry Nelson, Count von Count of Sesame Street, and Phyllis Diller, pioneering comic, both died within the past week as well.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 6:57 AM

    What the Supreme Court Wrought with Citizens United…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    NOTE: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is the 2010 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions have a First Amendment right to spend as much money as they like as an expression of free speech. In other words, corporations are people too, bro!

  • Friday, August 24, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    Doper Lance Armstrong Stripped…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The entire world seems shocked by the BREAKING NEWS that the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has stripped Lance Armstrong of all cycling titles and prize money won since 1998 and banned him from the sport for life. Most notably this includes stripping him of his seven Tour de France titles.

    But I am not:

    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)

    I think USADA will (and should) strip Lance of his tour victories and ban him from professional sports, like triathlons, for life.

    (“The Other Shoe Drops: USADA Files Doping Charges,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 13, 2012)

    In fact, I’m on record declaring my belief that Armstrong doped his way to fame and fortune on an apothecary of drugs that make those he took to fight cancer seem like mere aspirin. So for me the only thing noteworthy about this development is the way he’s displaying the pathological nature of his mendacity and self-delusion.

    For here, in part, is the statement he issued late yesterday that triggered USADA’s decision:

    There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, “Enough is enough.” For me, that time is now…

    The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense…

    If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and – once and for all – put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair.

    USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours…

    (Associated Press, August 24, 2012)

    Except that the only reason Armstrong quit USADA’s process yesterday is that on Monday a federal court threw out his frivolous attempt to stop it.  That process, of course, is the generally recognized and accepted way for athletes suspected of doping to plead their case. Therefore, Armstrong damning it in this fashion seems more self-righteous than principled.

    More to the point, the only reason he quit is that the teammates he cites in support of his innocence are the very witnesses USADA had lined up to affirm his guilt. This makes his statement an unwitting confession.  Never mind the mockery he makes of his notorious fight against cancer by claiming that it’s too much for him to stand and fight against USADA.

    Frankly, 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 the history of sports. And I suppose calling it a “fall from grace” mistakenly assumes he had grace in the first place….

    With that, I shall end by reiterating my long-standing plea:

    I believe policing drugs in professional sports is not only Orwellian, but utterly futile. After all … athletes have always, and will always, do or take anything that might give them a competitive advantage. And if what they do or take poses no harm to anyone except themselves, who cares?!

    This enlightened attitude towards performance-enhancing drugs would have precluded the ‘scandals’ that now threaten the professional careers of Tour de France Champion Floyd Landis, and Olympic (100m) Champion Justin Gatlin; to say nothing of sparing them international ridicule as pathetic liars and cheaters.

    (“Decriminalize Drugs…Especially in Sports,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 3, 2006)

    And finally this:

    Although Lance Armstrong never tested positive, practically every Frenchman believes the seven-time Tour de France Champion is nothing more than a cycling dope fiend. But similar clouds of suspicion hang over superstars in every sport these days – from those in Baseball to Swimming. And the only way to bring integrity to sports is to repeal the moral prohibition against drug use and allow athletes to do or take whatever they deem is necessary to be successful….

    (“A plea for Landis… et al: decriminalize drugs…,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 3, 2006)

    Which constrains me to apologize to the French for casting aspersions on the suspicions they’ve held about Armstrong from the day he won his first Tour in 1999. I’m just waiting now for the breaking news about Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs….

    Related commentaries:
    USADA vs. Lance
    [Clemens] Decriminalize drugs

  • Friday, August 24, 2012 at 5:42 AM

    Hurricane Isaac: Republican Convention vs. Haitian lives

    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)

    This quote speaks volumes.  Which is why the only reason I’m bothering to comment on the looming landfall of Hurricane Isaac (in the United States) is to inject a little perspective on the coverage it’s getting.

    The American media are giving the impression that the biggest threat Isaac poses is to the Republican National Convention, which is scheduled to convene in Tampa on Monday. Whereas, at worst, delegates might have to navigate torrential rains commuting between their hurricane-proof hotels and the hurricane-proof convention center.

    Meanwhile, long before its outer bands reach Florida, Isaac will be causing devastation truly worthy of this media hype down in the Caribbean. But far too little coverage is being given to this fact..

    In the aftermath of that January 2010 earthquake, the American media covered plans for Haiti’s recovery as a cause celebre. Therefore, if only out of a sense of moral obligation, you’d think the media would be showing commensurate interest in the fate of hundreds of thousands of Haitians still squatting in tent cities there.

    Not to mention the tragic irony that these poor Haitians, many of whom have no clue about their impending doom, will be serving as shock absorbers for Isaac’s wrath, ensuring that when or if it lands in Florida the impact will be greatly diminished.

    Yet most news outlets are hyping Isaac as if it were a cat-5 hurricane making a beeline for Tampa with no layover in the Caribbean. I gather CNN is a notable exception; unfortunately, virtually nobody in the United States watches that network anymore.

    Of course, apropos of my opening quote, if Isaac were to devastate Haiti, even mom-and-pop stations from as far away as Maine would be tagging along as the American media swarm in like flies to shit to provide 24/7 coverage. I just urge them to provide a little more coverage now to prompt relief agencies and ordinary Americans alike to act to limit the loss of life and protect what little property poor Haitians have left.

    Related commentaries:
    Katrina’s coming
    Haiti

  • Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 5:07 AM

    China and Japan in Falklands-Like Dispute

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I remember well the prevailing view that Mainland Chinese leaders would have a difficult time inspiring loyalty among Hong Kong Chinese after “the handover” in 1997.  Which is why it is more than ironic that it’s a Hong-Kong based group that is leading nationalistic protests against Japan over ownership and control of the Senkakus Islands (aka the Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese).

    Japan has administered these relatively uninhabited islands ever since the handover of administration (back) from the United States in 1971. Except that both China and Taiwan lay territorial claims that make ownership of these islands even more disputed than ownership of the Falkland Islands. Instructively, Argentina was unable to wrest ownership or control of these islands from Britain even after triggering a full-scale war in 1982.

    Which begs the question. Is either China or Japan prepared to go to war over the Senkakus Islands?

    I think not. Especially because Japan seems every bit as determined as Britain was to protect and defend its sovereign claim.  Japan demonstrated this when it wasted no time detaining and then summarily deporting Hong Kong activists who landed there last week.

    And, as if to demonstrate that going to war to defend these islands would enjoy popular support, Japanese nationalists landed on Sunday, without incident, and raised their national flag on the beach in a symbolic re-staking of their claim.

    This is why I suspect Mainland Chinese leaders will allow Chinese nationalists to exorcise their passions by leading street protests – complete with vandalizing Japanese-made cars along the way. These leaders might even hurl diplomatic rhetoric at Japan commensurate with those passions; but nothing more.

    Besides, they are probably relieved that these few protests over Japanese imperialism are detracting attention from the thousands of riots over political corruption and the growing gap between rich and poor that are sowing the seeds of a “Chinese Spring” (aka a Jasmine Revolution).

    Not to mention that war between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands would make the war between Argentina and Britain over the Falkland Islands seem like a barroom brawl between mindless drunks. Not least because the United States would be compelled to honor its treaty obligations to defend Japan….

    To complicate matters, China is engaged in similar territorial disputes throughout the region with the Philippines, Vietnam, India, South Korea and others. All of which makes it liable to increasingly loud and defiant charges that its claims are more pursuant to imperial ambitions than national sovereignty.

    The irony, of course, is that Chinese leaders have grown their country into an economic superpower by zealously disabusing people all over the world of their fears about such imperial ambitions. Never mind the more acute irony that this dispute actually says far more about Japan’s imperial past than it does about any imperial ambition China might have.

    Indeed, I’ve written a number of commentaries on the umbrage the Chinese take whenever Japanese leaders make a public show of their pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine. This shrine honors Japan’s war dead. For China, however, it is tantamount to German leaders making a public show of their pilgrimages to a shrine honoring dead Nazis.

    In any case, notwithstanding the mob-like passions of their respective nationalists, I’m sure Chinese and Japanese leaders alike are mindful of the folly of fighting a war over desolate islands that could only end in a pyrrhic victory at best.

    Related commentaries:
    Yasukuni shrine
    Revolution simmering in China

  • Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 5:26 AM

    Diana Nyad Fails Cuba-to-Florida Swim … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    My regard for the media is such that it would not surprise me if they tried to hype the eating of a ham sandwich as an historic event.

    This essentially is what I think of the way they hyped the latest attempt by Diana Nyad to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. After all, this was her fourth attempt to accomplish at 63 a feat she failed to accomplish on her first attempt at 28.  Was the outcome ever in doubt? And we all know what they say about people who do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result….

    True to form, her team reported on Good Morning America (GMA) early yesterday that the very same stormy seas and jellyfish stings that caused her to end each previous attempt, caused her to end this latest quixotic swim, which she began late Saturday night. This, of course, is rather like reporting that strong winds and hypothermia caused a climber to end her quest to become the first person to summit Mount Everest wearing just a bikini and flip-flops.

    Yet to listen to the gnat-brained twits on GMA waxing disappointment you’d think Nyad stood a realistic chance of making it this time. In fact, even though she made it farther than ever before, she still had more than 33 of her 103-mile swim to go.

    Nevertheless, given that Nyad thought she could do this at 63, it would not surprise me if she deludes herself into thinking she can do it at 73. But if she tries again, anyone who enables her in any way should be arrested and charged with elder abuse.

    That said, let me hasten to clarify that any hint of schadenfreude on my part is entirely unwitting.  As a former competitive swimmer myself I have a genuine appreciation for her efforts. And that she hails from Pine Crest, a rival prep school in Florida that routinely whipped my school, Saint Andrew’s, in dual meets during my high-school days does not diminish my appreciation in the least.

    I just think the only person worthy of the kind of media attention being lavished on Nyad in this respect is Michael Phelps – if he decides to accomplish this endurance swim now that he has retired from competitive swimming.

  • Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    Niall Ferguson: from Eminent Historian to Political Hack

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I trust my commentaries make it plain that I am far too cynical (aka informed) to be disappointed by anything in American politics. And nothing justifies my cynicism quite like the way political debates and election campaigns have been reduced to little more than hurling partisan talking points that have no regard for objective facts.

    But just when I thought I could not become any more cynical comes Niall Ferguson’s partisan hit job on President Obama. He is an acclaimed professor of history at Harvard who has become a celebrity playing a political pundit on TV. But the perspective he brought to debates on issues of the day was at least informed by a coherent, even if misguided, political philosophy.

    This is why I was so shocked when he sounded on Sunday’s edition of Face the Nation on CBS like just another political hack. Specifically, he delivered a diatribe about “why we need a new president,” professing regret that, despite his best wishes, President Obama has failed to keep his campaign promises – especially on the economy and deficit. Never mind that his main points, which he belabors in the current issue of Newsweek, are readily belied by a comprehensive tally of all of Obama’s “promises made and promises kept” by Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact.

    Actually, Ferguson was so brazen in spinning data to support his partisan points that host Bob Schieffer felt compelled to interrupt to inform viewers that he Ferguson was in fact an adviser to Obama’s vanquished opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican Senator John McCain.

    Appropriately enough, McCain has made a virtue out of self-deprecating jokes about being a sore loser. But there was no hint of self-deprecation or humor in the way Ferguson was licking his political wounds on TV for all to see.

    But, as referenced above, PolitiFact is the most authoritative source for anyone interested in determining whether Obama has fulfilled enough campaign promises to earn re-election. Therefore, I shall suffice to share the following for anyone who might have been impressed by the professor’s seemingly authoritative critique of Obama to consider:

    Surveys of academic historians and political scientists have routinely ranked Franklin Delano Roosevelt second only to Abraham Lincoln on lists of the most successful presidents in U.S. history. No doubt historian Ferguson knows that Obama made the same promises in 2008 that FDR made in 1932 when he was campaigning for his first term, namely, to improve the economy and balance the budget. The only difference is that FDR was dealing with an economy in the death throes of the Great Depression; whereas Obama was dealing with one in the death throes of the worst recession since that Great Depression.

    Of course, any high-school student knows that FDR wasted no time breaking both promises by championing his New Deal initiatives. Why? Because FDR realized that government action (i.e., spending) was the only way to resuscitate the economy. And there’s no gainsaying the lasting success of his initiatives. Which is why it’s hardly surprising that Obama attempted to champion similar initiatives – highlighted by his Stimulus Package.

    Except that many of Obama’s initiatives were undermined or thwarted by Republican obstructionists the likes of which Democrat FDR could never have even imagined. And, based primarily on the extent to which they have obstructed his efforts to improve the economy and balance the budget, these short-sighted, idiot Republicans are now proudly proclaiming Obama a failed president. But Ferguson should know better….

    Anyway, like Obama’s critics today, FDR’s critics back then accused him of betraying American values (of capitalism and rugged individualism) and fostering interest-group politics (by courting the likes of working-class Whites, union members, immigrants, and Jews). More to the point, it follows from his diatribe that Ferguson would have been in the vanguard of critics calling on FDR to “Hit the Road” after only one term – just as he’s calling on Obama to do today.

    Well, we all know how reliable and informed FDR’s critics turned out to be. Which is why it is so stupefying that this (erstwhile) eminent historian is condemning himself by repeating their notorious mistakes.

    But it’s one thing for me to impeach Ferguson’s ill-advised foray into political punditry in this fashion. It’s quite another for no less a person than Nobel Prize-winning (Princeton) economist Paul Krugman to do so by decrying his “unethical commentary” in Newsweek as riddled with “multiple errors and misrepresentations.”

    What’s more, Krugman was being kind. For here is how another of Ferguson’s peers, Professor Brad DeLong – economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, reacted:

    Fire his ass. Fire his ass from Newsweek, and the Daily Beast. Convene a committee at Harvard to examine whether he has the moral character to teach at a university. There is a limit, somewhere. And Ferguson has just gone beyond it.

    (Huffington Post, August 20, 2012)

    With that, it is probably best for me to leave it to his fellow professors to sort Ferguson out.

    I will only add that his hit job actually makes me regret that the Constitution prevents Obama from fully emulating FDR by being elected to three consecutive terms. All the same, I have no doubt that this president who, among other things, championed universal healthcare and vanquished al-Qaeda – the most serious foreign threat to America since the Nazis, will be ranked by (objective) historians right up there with FDR as one of the most successful presidents in U.S. history.

    NOTE: A colleague found Ferguson’s commentary so unhinged he speculated that, like so much of the criticisms of Obama, it must be racially motived. I hastened to disagree. I offered that I’ve read enough of his published works to believe that Ferguson’s criticisms derive far more from his academic aversion to the Keynesian policies Obama favors than from anything having to do with his race. I addressed the philosophical differences between them in this respect in Rational Markets vs. Keynesian Economics (September 23, 2010).

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, August 20, 2012 at 5:55 AM

    Ecuador Grants Wikileaker Julian Assange Asylum … in London?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Such is the nature of groupthink among Western commentators that you’d be hard-pressed to find any who support, as I do, Russia’s decision on Friday to incarcerate three Pussy Rioters. The nature of their political hooliganism warrants prosecution.

    Likewise you’d be hard-pressed to find any who oppose, as I do, Ecuador’s decision that same day to grant Julian Assange asylum.  The nature of his alleged sexual offenses warrants prosecution.

    Despite a hollow threat to storm the embassy, Britain ordered police to surround it 24/7 and arrest him as soon as he steps foot outside. It maintains that it has an obligation to extradite him to Sweden in accordance with the Vienna Convention’s Extradition Act and pursuant to the finding of just cause by its own Supreme Court.

    To be fair, Assange maintains that he does not fear criminal prosecution in Sweden. He fears that, if extradited, Sweden will promptly extradite him to the United States to face the death penalty for publishing a treasure trove of classified government documents on his infamous site, WikiLeaks.

    For the record, here is how I characterized his fate in this respect two years ago:

    [I]f these leaks pose (or have caused) the kind of damage U.S. officials claim, then  Julian Assange, the defiant discloser of all government secrets who heads WikiLeaks, should be dead or sitting in Guantanamo Bay.

    (“WikiLeaks More U.S. Secrets,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 29, 2010)

    But I hasten now to clarify that, if extradited, tried, and convicted under the Espionage Act, Assange would be sentenced to prison, not death. After all, the United States stopped executing people for espionage decades ago. It’s also instructive that prosecutors have already declared they will not be seeking the death penalty against Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who stole those classified documents for Assange.

    This is why the only issue here is whether Ecuador – in the person of its wannabe-Chávez president, Rafael Correa – can be allowed to frustrate Britain’s obligation under international law to extradite Assange to Sweden to face charges for crimes he allegedly committed in that country’s jurisdiction.  I say no.

    Like Venezuela, Ecuador is becoming famous for condemning the way the United States prevails upon sovereign countries to act in its interest on the international stage. Therefore, it seems hypocritical that Ecuador is demanding a guarantee from Sweden that it would not extradite Assange to the United States if Ecuador hands him over to Britain. Got that?

    Indeed, it’s academic because Sweden clearly will not, indeed cannot, offer any such guarantee. Not least because if the United States presented a legally cognizable case for extradition in a Swedish court, Sweden would be obligated – under the same Extradition Act that obligates Britain – to extradite him.

    Meanwhile, it is plainly absurd for Assange to be championing freedom of speech from sanctuary being provided by a country that is notorious for denying this freedom. Not to mention that his schtick about being a martyr for transparency and freedom of the press smacks of nothing more than a cynical ploy to avoid doing time for his crime(s).

    It is hardly surprising, of course, that pathologically anti-American countries are standing in solidarity with Ecuador. But I am stupefied that so many Western commentators are standing in solidarity with Assange. Not least because they are doing so at the expense of his alleged victims who have been waiting for years for this self-righteous crusader to be brought to justice.

    It is irrelevant, and I’m sure Sweden couldn’t care less, that Assange fears the United States is on a “witch hunt” against WikiLeaks – as he charged during his sermon on the windowsill yesterday….

    In the meantime the world is being treated to a Mexican standoff. There’s no way Ecuador can sneak him out of the embassy, let alone the country; therefore, Assange could be inside for a very long time.

    In which case it might be helpful to know that this is not like the embassy of a rich country.  In fact, by all accounts, his accommodations and amenities are such that it might be only a matter of time before Assange decides that he’d rather be imprisoned by either Sweden or the United States than remain holed up in Ecuador’s embassy….

    That said, If Assange were exposing government corruption or activities that betray the public trust, I would be his most ardent supporter. But he’s leading a foolhardy and untenable crusade for ‘complete transparency’ in diplomatic relations. Instead of winning converts, this will only ensure that diplomats will be even more secretive in their dealings to avoid even the remotest possibility of being ‘exposed.’

    Which is why WikiLeaks is about as relevant today as yesterday’s newspaper. And Assange himself will be old news soon enough – as the fickle Twitterverse, which seems to determine all the news that’s fit to follow these days, becomes obsessed with the next sensational story. (Apropos of which, Britain is probably wondering what happened to all of that media goodwill it was reveling in just days ago for hosting such a terrific Olympic Games.)

    Still, it’s troubling enough that his supporters do not seem at all concerned that, far from exposing treachery, WikiLeaks merely compromised the constructive engagement the United States had with a number of Muslim countries. This engagement was clearly furthering greater comity and cooperation among nations. And, for obvious reasons, public knowledge of such could incite domestic unrest in the countries involved.

    But it’s truly mind-boggling that his supporters do not even seem concerned that Assange’s cult-like mission has ruined the careers and endangered the lives of scores of innocent diplomats.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    Despite Biden’s gaffes, Obama would not ditch him if he could…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Friday, August 17, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    Putin Gives Pussy Riot the Clamp

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Three female members of a Russian punk band called Pussy Riot were arrested five months ago for crashing service at a Moscow cathedral to perform a protest song against President Vladimir Putin.

    I suspect few commentators have criticized Putin in print more than I have for his dictatorial rule.  In fact, I coined the phrase “the putinization of Russia” way back in 2005 to encapsulate my contempt for his litany of abuses.

    Yet I am not nearly as troubled as everyone else in the West seems to be that these punks were sentenced to 24 months in prison today for their hooliganism and blasphemy. Hell, to read BBC reports you’d think there were no difference between Pussy Riot and revered Soviet dissidents like Andrei Sakhorov and Natan Sharansky. But, far from being political dissidents, these women are a public disgrace for desecrating a place of worship to protest Putin’s rule.

    To be fair, Putin is on record declaring that these rioters should not be punished too harshly. Therefore, whatever he meant by that, I suspect he will pardon them when he finds it politically expedient to do so (i.e., so that he does not appear to be caving in to self-righteous outrage from Westerners).

    Apropos of which, am I the only one who recalls that just last year a British court sentenced the 21-year-old son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmore to 19 months for swinging on the Union Flag at the Cenotaph (the national memorial to Britain’s war dead)? And, far from the noble cause of democracy, this spoiled brat was merely protesting increases in university tuition fees?  Where was the outrage then?!

    Frankly, the only thing I find noteworthy about this story is the way latter-day puritans in the American media are doing all they can to avoid saying the group’s name.

    Which begs the questions:

    • Why is it okay to say “pussycat” but not “Pussy Riot”? Surely, there’s nothing profane in the word “riot” – notwithstanding the violence it connotes?
    • If “cat” makes pussycat okay, then surely “mother” makes motherfucker okay, no?
    • Indeed, why is it okay to say “cocksure” but not the four-letter word from which it is derived…?
    • And how does one say “pussy” in Russian anyway?

    Things that make you go, hmmmm.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, August 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    Massacre at South Africa’s Lonmin Marikana Mine

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Rabble-rousing trade unionists (COSATU) and unreformed communists (SACP) have turned the ruling ANC from a governing coalition into a band of pillagers. Therefore, Zuma relying on them to intimidate his critics, like cartoonist Zapiro, should serve as a dire warning of what South Africa will become under his leadership.

    (“Zuma issues fatwa against cartoonist Zapiro,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 22, 2008)

    As this quotes indicates, I feared for South Africa under the leadership of Jacob Zuma. Not least because he rose to power primarily by stoking and courting the mob-like passions of poor, uneducated South Africans.

    It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that these poor, uneducated South Africans have now resorted to rabble-rousing tactics to get better wages and other benefits: President Zuma himself led them to believe that these are the least to which they were entitled from day one of his presidency. But we have seen the inevitable consequences of his brand of mindless populism play out (in the extreme) in Zimbabwe.

    There, President Mugabe’s courting and stoking of the mob-like passions of thousands of farmers led them to believe they were entitled to use tribal weapons/tools (i.e., machetes, spears, and sticks) to seize the property of rich White farmers. Unfortunately, their actions turned Zimbabwe from the breadbasket of Africa into the basket case it is today.

    Here, Zuma’s rhetoric led thousands of poor Black miners to believe they were entitled to strike and use similar tribal weapons/tools to extract more than a doubling of their wages from rich White mine owners (and their token Black shareholders).

    Significantly, though, conflicts raged among the Lonmin miners themselves for weeks as competing unions engaged in a power struggle to ensure solidarity within their ranks. This resulted in the killing of at least 10 miners even before the police moved in yesterday to break up their strike.

    What unfolded, alas, was the kind of massacre all South Africans must have thought was relegated, along with Sharpeville and other massacres, to their tortured history under Apartheid. The police, many of them Black, claim they were forced to open fire when the miners charged their lines: 34 miners were killed and many more wounded. No policeman has been reported chopped up or speared.

    This massacre is bad enough of course. But the analogy to Zimbabwe is instructive. Because just as that country was a thriving producer of farm products before similar strife turned it into a basket case, South Africa is now risking its status as the world’s leading producer of platinum being irreparably harmed.

    Because far from the police resolving the matter, surviving miners have vowed to continue their strike … by any means necessary.  Mind you, one cannot blame them for demanding more pay when the mine owners and their investors are making out like robber barons on Wall Street.

    ‘We made the A.N.C. what it is today, but they have no time for us,’ the union leader said, asking that his name be withheld because he feared reprisals from the government. ‘Nothing has changed, only the people on top, and they just keep getting more money.’

    (New York Times, August 17, 2012)

    Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Zuma cut short a trip to Mozambique today to appeal at the site of this massacre for the miners to return to the negotiating table. But this is rather like an al-Qaeda leader appealing to jihadists to take their grievances to the UN.

    Mandela must be rolling his eyes over in ironic despair. What a tragic mess!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    VP Biden, Stop Your Dog-Whistling about Race … Now !

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Vice President Joe Biden set Republican tongues wagging on Tuesday for injecting the following not-so-subtle dog-whistle about race into a speech he delivered that day before a predominantly Black crowd in Southern Virginia:

    Romney wants to let the, he said the first 100 days he’s gon’ let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchaaain Wall Street … they gon’ put y’all back in chains.

    (C-SPAN, August 14, 2012)

    But I feel obliged to begin by noting that Republicans decrying racism in this context is rather like prostitutes decrying promiscuity.

    After all, no less a person than presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has spent the past year dog-whistling about President Obama’s American identity – suggesting that this first Black president of the United States does not have American values. In fact, Romney has even “palled around” with the nutjobs who are brazenly demonizing Obama as an African fraud – most notably flying to New York City a few months ago to kiss the brass ring of birther king Donald Trump.

    Then, of course, there are the race-baiting Republicans who have impugned everything from Obama’s Christian faith to his intellect. (The simple fact is, notwithstanding that the first 43 presidents of the United States were all White, some White folks have become unhinged because this 44th president is Black.)

    This is why I have no regard for the feigned outrage Republicans are venting over Biden’s remarks.

    That said, I find what he said insulting. Far too many Blacks react to racist remarks by White Democrats [or liberals] by simply pointing to racist remarks by White Republicans [or conservatives]. I do not.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote when Hillary Clinton declared that (White) Republicans were treating (White) Democrats in Congress like slaves:

    This … demonstrates the insidious entitlement White liberals have been granted – by politically compromised Black leaders – to make all kinds of racial jibes with impunity; so long as those White liberals are celebrated supporters/members of the Democratic Party.

    And, in this case, it only added insult to the racial offense that Hillary made these remarks in the front of an ‘Amen’ crowd at a Black church in Harlem – where she ‘came back home’ like a proverbial prodigal daughter.

    (“Hillary: Republicans Treating Democrats like Slaves,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 23, 2006)

    Just as it was with Hillary’s, what added insult to Biden’s remarks was the way he exaggerated his intonations and broken English to, gasp, sound more Black (i.e., ignorant). Yet in each case, instead of jeering, Blacks cheered.

    Not to mention their enabling cheers when the late Senator Ted Kennedy called a Black female judge a Neanderthal (i.e., a friggin’ ape) just because, like Clarence Thomas, she was appointed by a Republican president.

    By contrast, I urge you to recall how Blacks sat on their hands and gave death stares when (then presidential candidate) Ross Perot said the following in a speech at a NAACP annual convention:

    Financially at least, it’s going to be a long, hot summer. Now I don’t have to tell you who gets hurt first when this sort of thing happens, do I? You people do, your people do. I know that, you know that.

    (Los Angeles Times, July 12, 1992)

    The point is that I do not recall a single Black politician defending Perot against plainly specious accusations of racism for making these remarks, the way no less a Black politician than President Obama went out of his way yesterday to defend Biden.

    Accordingly, I defy any intelligent and fair-minded Black American to explain why Biden saying that Romney wants to put “y’all back in chains” is any more racially acceptable than Perot saying that the ones who are going to get hurt most by a financial downturn is “you people”.  Especially because what Perot said was as true then as it is now; whereas, what Biden said is as farfetched as it is insulting.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    NBC and Taylor Swift Blurring Reality and Entertainment to Unseemly Degree

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    NBC

    Friends and family will attest that I spent most of the Olympics hurling profanities at NBC for the Taliban-like control it exercised over TV coverage of the Games.  But my profane outrage intensified into righteous indignation every time it previewed (as it did ad nauseam) the coming attraction of its new “reality” TV show, Stars Earn Stripes.

    According to NBC, this show “pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.” It does this by having third-rate celebrities train for and compete in “real-life combat” scenarios.

    Except that, at the very least, NBC showed an appalling lack of good judgment by promoting these war games during the Olympic Games. After all, the Olympics are all about goodwill among nations and are the very antithesis of war. And whatever homage might have been intended was plainly undermined by the mockery and greed inherent in casting Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, among the recruits for this show.

    More to the point, though, it’s one thing to have third-rate celebrities pretending to be ballroom dancers, or wannabe celebrities pretending to be castaways on a makeshift Gilligan’s Island.  It’s quite another to have actors pretending to be soldiers – not for a movie, but for a reality TV show which, by definition, trivializes the real life-and-death dangers U.S.  troops face on the battlefield.

    Indeed, there’s a reason previews for the war-themed movie The Expendables 2, which also ran during the Olympics, did not incite similar outrage: there’s clearly nothing wrong with actors like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger playing soldiers in a (make-believe) movie.

    To be candid, it’s unconscionable for NBC to claim that its TV soldiers are paying homage to men and women who serve by pretending to put themselves through the same rigors and dangers American soldiers face in war zones like Afghanistan. Not least because the difference between dodging bullets and bombs when you know they are designed not to kill you and doing so when you know they are designed to kill you is literally like life and death.

    This point is brought into stark relief by stars earning their stripes in Hollywood getting to “wrap” and go home every day, while troops earning their stripes in Afghanistan have to cope 24/7 with the unnerving prospect of being shot in the back by a “friendly” Afghan as readily as being shot in the head by an angry Taliban. Not to mention the real-life, post-traumatic stress disorders real soldiers suffer even if they’re lucky enough to make it back home….

    This is why I was heartened to learn that a group of Nobel Laureates shares my righteous indignation about this show. In fact, so much so that they published an open letter of protest to coincide with Monday’s premier episode. It reads in part as follows:

    It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining…

    We, too, call upon NBC stop airing this program that pays homage to no one, and is a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent.

    (The London Guardian, August 13, 2012)

    Unfortunately, this is a network whose corporate conscience and public spirit are such that it saw nothing wrong with interrupting the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics for a one-hour promotional showing of a comedy about animals. Therefore, I doubt it’s going to be too troubled by the sensibilities of a group of Nobel Laureates, even if among them is the irreproachable Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

    NBC should stand for Nothing But Cash. Because raking in cash is its only guiding principle.

    Apropos of which, network executives are trumpeting that all of the money stars win from competition on the show will go to a charity of their choice. Never mind that in Palin’s case that charity might be Alaskan Rednecks for Moose Hunting.

    But this only compounds the insult the very premise of this show represents. For anyone who knows anything about stars who play for “charity” knows that the amount they make from competition pales in comparison to the amount they pocket for merely appearing on the show. In other words, stars earn cash!

    Taylor Swift

    Nothing epitomizes the unseemly blurring of reality and entertainment quite like Taylor Swift dating men to create fodder for her songs.  And nothing demonstrates how gullible the public has become in this respect quite like this promiscuous and venal songstress making a fortune by peddling a plainly disingenuous virginal image.

    What, she’s 22 and has already exploited about 22 boyfriends that we know of…?! Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But Taylor has millions of impressionable kids thinking that she’s addressing in her songs all of the problems good girls have dating boys. Yet I suspect the only problem Taylor has ever had with boys is Taylor herself.

    In any case. her latest prey should give even (the parents of) her most devoted fans pause. For Taylor has stalked him to the point of buying a $5 million house across the street from his family home.

    Of course, it would be troubling enough if this were any family. But that it’s the famous Kennedys of Hyannis Port indicates just how grandiose and unhinged her pursuit of fodder for her woe-is-me songs has become. For just imagine the drama that will unfold when she breaks up with this Kennedy boy she has now ensnared, which everybody knows she will do as soon as the time comes to write her next album.

    So instead of glorifying Taylor as a role model for teenage girls, the media should expose her for what she is: a cold and calculating shrew who uses men the way a carpenter uses his tools. And this pathology is actually surpassed in its creepiness by what appears to be her psycho-obsession with channeling Jackie O. God help this boy and the entire Kennedy clan.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Pleasure your man to cure morning sickness?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am not a father; therefore, I cannot relate to the frustration men must feel lying flaccidly by while their pregnant wives (or girlfriends) suffer morning sickness.

    But I can certainly appreciate how aroused they will become when they hear about scientific research which shows that they can help cure that morning sickness … naturally.

    Here is how the New York Daily News reported on the exciting findings:

    One academic is proposing a cure for morning sickness that some moms-to-be might find in bad taste — sperm.

    Gordon Gallup, a psychologist at SUNY-Albany has a theory that pregnant women who are continually exposed to the father’s semen are less like to suffer from AM nausea.

    Gallup, who specializes in human reproductive competition and behavior, offers the theory that expectant women become ill and vomit because their bodies are rejecting the semen’s genetic material as something foreign and unfamiliar.

    (August 10, 2012)

    No doubt this will make men go, oooh, yeah!  And it will certainly make some women go, ewww, yuck! But I suspect it will make most women go, yuck! Nonetheless, I’m sure some pregnant women will be happy to see if they can finally get more out of this obliging act than lock jaw. In fact, Gallup also found that:

    Semen contains anti-depressants and mood-altering chemicals which increase affection and induce sleep.

    Whatever the case, I offer the following prescription for any woman who has a hard time swallowing the notion that engaging in a gag-inducing sex act can prevent the gagging associated with morning sickness:

    Tell that sucker who’s begging you to give him a blowjob to make you feel better that, if he really wants to help, he should take his limp dick to the bathroom – plastic cup and magazine in hand – and do what men do when they donate to sperm banks.

    This way you can test the medicinal effect of his sperm without having to do, while suffering morning sickness, what you only ever feel like doing after you’ve had a good meal and several glasses of wine.

  • Monday, August 13, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Romney’s VP: Paul Ryan…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Political punditry in America has become almost as reactionary and partisan as the dribble that pours out every time a politician opens his mouth these days.

    You’d think, for example, that nationally respected pundits like Paul Krugman and David Gergen would be offering insight and analysis on Mitt Romney’s choice of Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate. Instead, liberal pundits are offering nothing but trite talking points about how Ryan’s arcane efforts as House budget chairman to reduce the deficit and national debt amount to wheelchairing Grandma off a cliff to give rich folks more in tax breaks.  And conservative pundits are offering nothing but similar talking points about how those very same efforts amount to the only hope America has of avoiding a Greek-style financial catastrophe.

    Needless to say they’re both wrong.  Not least because nobody can possibly know how the best-laid plans to deal with America’s long-term debt will fare when confronted with inevitable exogenous factors. After all, Bill Clinton handed George W. Bush a budget surplus and a comprehensive plan to deal with the national debt. Yet two unfunded wars and a global financial crisis later and America’s fiscal house looks a veritable basket case.

    More to the point, though, making a big deal about what Ryan advocated as Chairman of the House Budget Committee completely misses the point. I mean, does anyone recall anybody making a big deal about what Joe Biden advocated as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations when Obama chose him as his running mate?  No, because what mattered were the policies Obama was proposing to implement as president, not those Biden advocated as senator.

    Which is why the only issue here is what Ryan’s selection says about the would-be president who selected him. Apropos of this, recall for a moment the many times Romney declared that the most important criterion for selecting a VP candidate is ensuring that that person is eminently qualified to be president on day one.

    To illustrate his point he repeatedly stressed the importance of real-world/executive experience. In fact, he invariably juxtaposed his experience as a businessman with President Obama’s as a politician to indicate why he’s more qualified to lead America in 2012 than even this sitting president who already has nearly four years of real-world/executive experience in the White House.

    So, given his declared criteria for choosing a running mate as well as the indignation with which he routinely dismissed Obama’s experience (as a community organizer, college professor, and U.S. senator), you’d think Romney’s choice would’ve been someone with impeccable credentials as a businessman and creator of private-sector jobs, no?

    Except that he has chosen in Ryan the poster boy for the very kind of career politicians – with no real-world/executive experience – who he blames for turning the U.S. economy into (what he would have you believe is) a hopelessly moribund, dysfunctional mess. After all, Ryan began his career as a politician at the suckling age of 29 – at which time his only real-world/executive experience was working as a personal trainer and driving a wienermobile.

    Frankly, the hypocrisy inherent in his choice should be reason enough to vote against Romney, if not for Obama. But Romney himself is exposed as a spineless phony when you realize that the only reason he compromised his own principles in this brazen fashion is to cater to the rabid Tea Partiers who now control the Republican Party.

    To be fair, Romney telegraphed his willingness to sell his soul to these right-wing nuts last year when he took a Tea Party pledge during a Republican candidates’ debate to reject, as president, any comprise with Democrats to solve the budget crisis. For that pledge mandated rejection even if that compromise called for 90% of the cuts in Medicare and other social services he wanted and only 10% of the increases in taxes and none of the cuts in defense spending Democrats wanted.

    Alas, the reasonable and pragmatic Romney who served as governor of liberal Massachusetts has been born again as an unreasonable and doctrinaire Tea Partier who believes compromise is a dirty word and that the Lord has ordained that the only way to govern is the Republican way … or no way.

    Remarkably, the only difference between John McCain’s fatally flawed choice of Sarah Palin and his choice of Ryan is that at least Ryan has a brain between his ears.  But if being a brainiac on budgets and debt financing were all that mattered then perhaps Romney should have chosen a Nobel laureate in Economics.

    Not to mention the absurdity inherent in anyone trying to spin his choice of another plain-vanilla white guy as bold and inspiring.  I’m sure the Hispanics in Florida who were hoping he would pick their senator, Marco Rubio, don’t see it that way….

  • Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    London Olympics: Closing … Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I declared on Friday that television coverage of these Olympic Games had jumped the shark. And NBC showed just why last night. For, instead of beginning its tape-delayed, prime-time broadcast by showing the Olympic events it knew people wanted to see, NBC interposed a further delay to air a one-hour documentary on the events of World War II. Events, mind you, that anyone in America can watch 24/7 on the History channel.

    Even worse, the network could not have chosen two more annoying personalities to host this documentary than that smart-alecky gnome, sportscaster Bob Costas, and former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw – who always sounds like he’s talking and chewing hot potatoes at the same time.

    So if you are one of the few people who were not already planning to boycott NBC after tonight’s Closing Ceremony, this commercial stunt should provoke you into joining this madding crowd of boycotters. This was not NBC’s finest hour.

    Final results of note

    I was not kidding when I wrote in my Day 14 commentary that I’d had enough. Therefore, I did not watch any Olympics yesterday, Saturday, or today, the final day of competition. Nevertheless, I feel obliged to at least note for posterity the results of a few signature events from these final two days of competition:

    It came as no surprise when the USA blew out France 86-50 to win gold in women’s Basketball. What was surprising, however, was the scare Spain put in the “Dream Team” by scoring 100 points before losing by a mere seven: 107-100. Its average margin of victory coming into this final was over 30 points. This validates the view I expressed in my Day 2 commentary that this Dream Team could not hold a candle to the original Dream Team.

    On the other hand, I think the IOC should discontinue Basketball as an Olympic sport for the same two reasons it discontinued Softball:  no matter the occasional close call (or the exceptional loss), the Americans dominate to a prohibitive degree and, unlike most team sports, Basketball is hardly played outside of North America and Europe.

    David Boudia of the USA shocked the world by upsetting the designated Chinese gold medalist in men’s 10m platform diving. Bo Qui settled for silver; Britain’s 18-year-old poster boy for these Olympics, Tom Daley, did his country proud by winning bronze. Significantly, this was the first time an American won any medal of any type in diving since 1996. Conversely, instead of the expected 8 of 8 gold, the Chinese settled for 6 of 8 (a Russian did a little shocking of his own when he won gold in the men’s 3m springboard on Day 11).

    Brazil upset the USA in women’s Volleyball to win gold; but Russia prevented a highly coveted sweep when it defeated Brazil in men’s Volleyball to win gold.

    Mexico defeated Brazil to win gold in men’s Soccer, continuing the most improbable losing streak in all of sports (i.e., of Brazilians who, perennially, are reputed to be the best players in the world failing time and again to win gold at the Olympics).

    The USA got the better of Jamaica again, winning gold this time in the women’s 4x400m relay; Russia took silver; Jamaica, bronze. But, as expected and quite fittingly, Usain Bolt led Jamaica in avenging this loss – not just by defeating the USA in the men’s 4x100m relay, but by doing so in world-record fashion. Jamaica held the previous record of 37.04. It set a new mark of 36.84. The USA won silver; Trinidad and Tobago, bronze.

    Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda out-dueled two (tag-teaming) Kenyans to win gold in the men’s marathon.

    FINAL OVERALL MEDAL COUNT: USA: 104; China: 87; Russia: 82

    Women ruled!

    I made a point in my commentary on the Opening Ceremony of heralding the fact that Team USA was comprised of more women than men for the first time in Olympic history.

    Regrettably, NBC celebrated this fact in chauvinistic fashion by airing a montage of the best female tits and ass shots its cameramen captured during these Games. By contrast, I would like to celebrate it by noting that women won 29 of the 46 gold and 58 of the 104 overall medals Team USA won.

    This should put to rest all (Republican) doubts about the efficacy of Title IX – which, among other things, mandated equality between the sexes when it comes to opportunities, funding, treatment, and other benefits in athletics.  What’s more, the effect of this legislation was also reflected in the number of female Olympians competing for other countries whose bios boast of training at educational institutions in the United States.

    Closing Remarks

    Who would have thought Great Britain would enjoy sensational athletic success during these Games in direct proportion to the spectacular security failures it suffered in the run up to them? Yet there’s no denying the once-in-a-lifetime success its fourth-place haul of 65 medals overall and third-place haul of 29 gold represent.

    What’s more, given the unqualified shambles it made of security preparations, there’s also no denying the shock and awe at how well the Games were run and at how safe they turned out to be. Even the notoriously inclement British weather went into hibernation for the most part, favoring athletes with almost ideal conditions for every outdoor event.

    Well done Great Britain: as Team GB and as host!

    As for the actual Closing Ceremony, frankly, I don’t know why they even bother.  Because, by now, most people are usually so strung-out on anything related to the Olympics that they’d probably shoot the TV if they even bothered to tune in.

    Of course, I appreciate why the athletes would welcome this opportunity to congregate in the Olympic Stadium to mark the end of intense athletic competition in a state of ecstatic bonding revelry. But it speaks volumes that while I can remember almost everything that happened during the Opening Ceremony in Beijing, I cannot remember anything that happened during the Closing Ceremony, and the novelty then was such that I was really tuned in. Can you remember anything?

    Furthermore, I don’t know who the London organizers thought they were enticing with their tease about the Spice Girls, music’s “Golden Girls,” headlining this ceremony.I’m sorry, but this is taking the very good thing about women dominating these Olympics a bit too far. And having the sublime Adele play second fiddle to them only compounds this folly.

    Not to mention that I specifically asked for Pink Floyd, and they’re offering The Who? Puhleeese!

    Finally, apropos of lamenting NBC’s sexualizing of female Olympians, the girls from Ipanema will surely provide ample diversion in this respect at the Rio Games in 2016.

    See you then….

  • Friday, August 10, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    London Olympics: Day 14

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    To be honest, folks, I’m pooped.

    Watching (or staring at) as much streaming video as I have over the past two weeks is probably not good for my health … to say nothing of my already failing eyesight. Never mind the irony inherent in the cause for this being my addictive interest in watching the healthiest people on the planet compete in their respective sports.

    Actually, I believe I deserve a gold medal – not just for watching so many events but for actively participating by writing so many commentaries on them as well (i.e., instead of sitting passively and eating it all up like a couch potato): over 150 hours of viewing and 14-consecutive days of commentaries. Bolt thinks he’s the friggin’ greatest thing on two legs; well, let’s see him do that!

    That said, after perusing today’s schedule, I decided that there were only two events worthy of causing further damage.

    Track and Field

    The more notorious rivalry between the USA and Japan in women’s soccer is easily matched by the less reported rivalry between the USA and Jamaica in women’s Track and Field. And no event has crystalized the latter quite like competition in the women’s 400m relay.

    This is why I was almost as eager to see this race as I was to see the men’s 100m. Moreover, both Americans and Jamaicans were seeking to win gold and redemption in equal measure because of what happened in Beijing:

    It seemed a cruel irony that the Jamaicans – who had been flawless in all sprint events to date – aped the Americans by botching the baton handoff in the women’s 4x100m relay and losing what was certain gold in this event. On the other hand, the Russians could not believe their dumb luck when the gold medal was practically handed to them.

    (“Beijing Olympics,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 25, 2012)

    Well there was no dropping of the baton this time.  More to the point, the Americans reasserted their preeminence – not just by beating the Jamaicans rather handily, but by setting a new world record in the process. The old record of 41.37 was set by the East Germans in 1985. The Americans ran 40.82. That the Jamaicans ran their fastest time ever and still came up short is an indication of the Bolt-like strides the Americans made in setting this new standard.

    Accordingly, the Jamaicans can hardly be dissatisfied with their silver; the Ukrainians are no doubt thrilled with their bronze. (For what it’s worth, there seems little doubt that Bolt will anchor the men’s 4x100m relay for Jamaica tomorrow to avenge this loss. This will also be the final event of any real interest to me at these Olympics.)

    That said, you can be forgiven for thinking that the highlight of these Games for me was either watching the alluring Allison Felix win the 200m in Track and Field or watching the adorable Gabby Douglas win the all-around in Gymnastics. In fact, these moments pale in comparison to the joy I felt watching my compatriots from The Bahamas beat the Americans and British to win the men’s 4X400m relay.

    Indeed, the real reason I’m so pooped (or knackered as my British friends might say) is that I’ve spent the past two hours jumping and shouting for joy as I reveled in this glorious victory. The USA held on to win silver; Trinidad and Tobago get honorable mention by holding off our former colonial master, Great Britain, to win bronze. Significantly, this is the first time any country has defeated the USA in this race since 1952.

    Of course, many of you may think – it’s just one gold medal, what’s the big deal. Well, I refer you to the brilliant and instructive commentary by my dear friend and colleague Sir Ronald Sanders in today’s edition of Caribbean News Now. For in it he delineates why, when one factors in such things as GDP and population size, one gold medal won by The Bahamas with a population of just 300,000 is the equivalent of 1,000 gold medals won by the USA with a population of over 300,000,000 (or the equivalent of 10 won by regional rival Jamaica with a population of almost 3,000,000).

    And because the Americans will not come close to winning 1,000 and the Jamaicans will be lucky to win 5, this means that, when all is said and done, Bahamians will have performed better at these Olympic Games than both. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. Not that the Jamaicans need any encouragement….

    Congratulations to Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu, and Ramon Miller (who literally won this race for The Bahamas by chasing down two-time Olympic 400m champion Angelo Taylor of the USA on the anchor leg like a dog chasing after a bone).  You’ve made all Bahamians proud!

    NOTE: I urge my fellow Bahamians to resist labeling these heroic men as “Golden Boys.” It’s understandable that national giddiness misled us into labeling the women who won the 4x100m relay at the 2000 Sydney Games – the first-ever gold medal for our (independent) Bahamaland – as “Golden Girls.” But we’ve matured since then, and should not perpetuate this juvenile ostentatiousness.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA: 94; China: 81; Russia: 63

  • Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    London Olympics: Day 13

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Rhythmic Gymnastics

    I upset fans of equestrian eventing by declaring in my Day 3 commentary that it should not be an Olympic sport. Well, fans of rhythmic gymnastics should prepare to get their tutus ruffled; because I hereby declare that it is even more underserving of Olympic accreditation.

    Frankly, as I watched no less a person than defending Olympic champion Yevgenia Kanayeva of Russia in the individual all-around today, I got the impression I was watching auditions for the female lead in a live performance of the Kama Sutra.

    Mind you, some of the rhythmic positions she got into demonstrated beyond all doubt that she’s quite athletic. It’s just that her performance, as well as the admittedly less erotic performances of her fellow competitors, seemed more suited for the Cirque du Soleil than the Olympics.

    Soccer

    It speaks volumes that women’s Beach Volleyball has sustained far more public interest throughout these Games than women’s Soccer.  Not least because, after the USA won the 1999 FIFA World Cup (most noted for the indelible image of Brandi Chastain’s sports-bra celebration), public interest was such that one got the impression it was only a matter of time before this sport overtook Baseball as America’s favorite pastime.

    Yet, coverage surrounding the bona-fide rivalry between the USA and Japan in the women’s Soccer final today paled in comparison to that which surrounded the intramural play between two American teams in the women’s Beach Volleyball final yesterday. Of course, given that efforts to establish a women’s professional soccer league in the afterglow of the 1999 World Cup proved a Sisyphean task, I suppose we should have seen this public disaffection coming.

    But public interest aside, I saw enough of this gold-medal match to appreciate why what little hype it received was entirely warranted. Japan played like it had a chip on its shoulders. No doubt this stems from getting virtually no acclaim or respect despite defeating the two-time defending Olympic champion USA in last year’s World Cup final.

    On the other hand, media previews suggested that the USA would use this occasion to pay back Japan for defeating it in that World Cup much as it paid Japan back for attacking it at Pearl Harbor.  Such were the desperate efforts to stoke public interest in this match….

    As it turned out, the two teams could not have been more evenly matched – in every respect. Indeed, if ever a soccer match should have ended in a tie at the end of regulation, this was it. Except that, after the USA scored in the eighth and 54th minutes, Japan could not get a second after it scored in the 63rd minute. Thus the USA won its third consecutive Olympic title 2-1 … along with some measure of redemption.

    It must be said, however, that in this sport winning the World Cup is a much bigger deal than winning Olympic gold. Perhaps this explains why reigning men’s World Cup champion Spain apparently felt no shame about getting kicked out in the first round at these Olympic Games. Worse still, the USA men’s team did not even qualify to participate. Brazil plays Mexico for gold on Saturday, but who cares?

    Track and Field

    In Gymnastics, the winner of the all-round is considered the best athlete in the sport; in Swimming that title goes to the winner of the individual medley. In this sense, the winner of the decathlon for men and heptathlon for women is considered the best athlete in Track and Field.

    (“London Olympics: Day 8,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 4, 2012)

    I was impressed when Jessica Ennis of Great Britain lived up to her billing by winning the heptathlon on Saturday. But I was even more so when Ashton Eaton of the United States won the decathlon today.

    Athletes compete over two consecutive days for the most points in 10 events: the 100m, long jump, shot put, high jump, and 400m on the first day; and  the 110m hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw, and 1500m on the second.

    But Eaton was so dominant on the first day yesterday that today’s second day of competition amounted to little more than a victory lap.   Trey Hardee of the USA won silver; Leonel Suarez of Cuba, bronze.

    Meanwhile, after his performance in the 100m on Sunday, Usain Bolt seemed a lock to become the first man in history to defend Olympic titles in the men’s 100m and 200m.  He did not disappoint.  In fact, Bolt led a Jamaican sweep in the men’s 200m today – with Yohan Blake, runner-up in the 100m, trailing for silver; Warren Weir, who was not even fast enough among Jamaicans to qualify for the 100m, bronze.

    All Bolt has to do now is anchor the Jamaican 4x100m relay to gold on Saturday. This would complete his quest for a repeat trifecta (i.e., of winning gold in the same three events he won in Beijing) and certify his status as a legend in this sport.

    Finally, even though I’m not too crazy about the distance events, I cannot fail to mention the remarkable win by David Rudisha of Kenya in the men’s 800m.  Not least because he did what no other athlete, not even Usain Bolt, has managed to do on the track at these Olympic Games: set a world record. The old record of 1.41.11 was set by Wilson Kipketer of Denmark in 1997.  Rudisha ran 1.40.91.

    The Kenyans of course have won many Olympic medals. Which I suspect is why Rudisha took such pride in pointing out that he is a Maasai and that this is the first-ever individual gold for his people.

    Also of interest is that second-place finisher Nijel Amos of Botswana ran the exact time of 1.41.73 that none other than the chairman of the London organizing committee, Lord Sebastian Coe, ran in 1981 when he set the world record in this event that Kipketer broke in 1997. Timothy Kitnum of Kenya won bronze.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA: 90; China: 80; Russia: 56

  • Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    London Olympics: Day 12

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Beach Volleyball

    It’s no exaggeration to say that Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings of the USA are to women’s Beach Volleyball what members of the Dream Team are to men’s Basketball.  In fact, Misty and Kerri have amassed a better record in Olympic competition than the various Dream Teams.

    This is why they were such prohibitive favorites coming into today’s gold-medal match. What’s more, their opponents, April Ross and Jen Kessy could fairly be described as the USA’s B-team. Indeed, to continue the Basketball analogy, this all-American final held all the suspense of the Washington Generals taking on the Harlem Globetrotters. Get it?

    Therefore, it came as no surprise when two-time defending Olympic champions Misty and Kerri defeated Olympic rookies April and Jen in straight sets to win their third consecutive gold medal; April and Jen won silver; a pair from Brazil defeated one from China to win bronze.

    Track and Field

    Watching the women’s 200m final today was every bit as exciting as watching the men’s 100m final on Sunday. In particular, watching Allyson Felix of the USA win the 200m in 21.88 was every bit as exciting as watching Usain Bolt of Jamaica win the 100m in 9.63; except that it might’ve been twice as exciting because her race lasted twice as long.

    But there’s no gainsaying the thrill of watching a woman run that fast who looks more like a ballerina than a bodybuilder:  Allyson really is that graceful … and fast and strong too.  More to the point, she finally made it to the altar, having been twice the bridesmaid, winning silver in 2004 and 2008.  This was especially sweet for Team USA because, with this gold, she finally broke the stranglehold Team Jamaica has held on the premier sprint events in this sport since the 2008 Beijing Games.

    Apropos of this rivalry, just as they did in the 100m on Saturday, Americans and Jamaicans battled for the top five places in this race: with Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, who won gold in the 100m, winning silver; Carmelita Jeter of the USA, who won silver in the 100m, winning bronze; Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica, who won bronze in the 100m, finishing fourth; and Sanya Richards-Ross of the USA, who won the 400m on Sunday was trying to match Michael Johnson’s elusive double, finishing fifth.

    Wrestling

    As indicated in my take on the women’s 200m above, one of the precedent-setting features of these Olympics is the extent to which women are generating far more excitement in sports traditionally dominated by men. This was certainly the case today when I tuned in to a few matches in women’s freestyle wrestling. And, remarkably enough, there was no mud involved….

    Indeed, further betraying innate chauvinism, it is truly humbling to concede that if I were on the mat with any of the women competing – even in the lightest weight class – she probably would have had her way with me … gladly.

    In fact, I watched Carol Huynh of Canada defeat Isabelle Sambou of Senegal for bronze in the lightest weight class of 105.5 pounds. I also watched two-time defending Olympic champion Kaori Icho of Japan three-peat by defeating Ruixue Jing of China for gold in the 138.5-pound weight class.

    Field Hockey

    I cannot resist noting that, in a matchup that was really war by other means, Argentina avenged its loss in the Falklands War 30 years ago by defeating Great Britain 2-1. No doubt this victory was extra sweet because it was executed on Britain’s home turf – with members of the British royal family bearing agonizing witness no less.

    This was only a women’s semifinal match, but there seems little doubt that all of Argentina is celebrating this as the most important victory of these Olympic Games.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA: 81; China: 76 Russia: 52

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