• Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Was Hagel Nominated as Defense Secretary for the U.S. or Israel?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    previewImageIf, like me, you caught snippets of today’s Senate hearing on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to serve as U.S. defense secretary, you could be forgiven the impression that he was nominated to serve as Israel defense secretary.

    After all, almost every senator seemed more interested in getting Hagel to testify about his support for Israel than in getting him to delineate his plans for defending the United States; none more so than freshman Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

    Ted_Cruz_2012_0093e-7620-ipadbackground_image_1024wIn fact, Cruz personified the ironic phenomenon of the American who acts more like a Zionist than any Jew in Israel – treating, as he did, any hint of criticism Hagel has ever uttered about Israel as if it were tantamount to blasphemy against the almighty God.

    Except that the Hispanic Cruz has already demonstrated that he not only wants to be more Zionist than any Jew, but also more White and right wing than any White right-winger in the Republican Party. And, lest you think I’m being unfair to him, here’s how this latter-day Uncle Tom reacted just days ago after fellow Hispanic, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, announced the immigration reform proposal he and other Republicans struck with Democrats in the Senate:

    I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants….

    (Washington Post, January 29, 2013)

    In other words, like the “severely conservative” Mitt Romney, Cruz thinks the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country should either “self-deport themselves” or wait until a Tea Party Republican like him is elected president to be rounded up and deported by force. But I digress….

    I will have more to say about this insidious strain of pro-Israel pandering in American politics next week when I comment on Israeli Dror Moreh’s instructive documentary, The Gatekeepers.

    For now I predict Hagel will be confirmed, despite the jihad against him by all of the self-appointed Israeli gatekeepers in the United States Senate. And, for the record, like Obama, I suspect Hagel has done more to demonstrate his unimpeachable support for Israel than any of his Pharisaic inquisitors….

  • Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    In U.S. Senate Another Black Makes Two. But…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    images-1I had mixed feelings yesterday when Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) appointed his former chief-of-staff, William “Mo” Cowan, to hold the Senate seat vacated by new Secretary of State John Kerry. Cowan will serve until a special election is held this June for Kerry’s permanent replacement.

    Mixed because, on the one hand, I was exceedingly glad that Patrick ignored the imperious lobbying by Rep. Barney Frank to be appointed; while on the other hand, I was dismayed that it took this rather elitist form of affirmative action, yet again, to get a Black person into the U.S. Senate.

    images-2Recall that just last month North Carolina Governor Nickki Haley (R) appointed Rep. Tim Scott to replace Jim DeMint – who retired quite unexpectedly to head The Heritage Foundation.

    This means that, within one month, the all-White Senate became integrated with not just one, but two Black senators – the most ever to serve in this chamber at the same time. (Only seven Blacks, including Cowan and Scott, have served in the Senate in U.S. history.)

    At any rate, just as I saw no reason to celebrate Scott’s appointment, I see no reason to celebrate Cowan’s. Especially since Cowan has precluded himself from running to be elected in his own right in June and all of the main contenders to permanently replace Kerry are White.

    At least Scott will be serving as bench warmer a bit longer – until the end of DeMint’s term in 2014. And he clearly intends to run; so it will be interesting to see if Scott can earn his seat in the Senate the old fashioned way. That would be cause for celebration – notwithstanding his misguided Republican political ideology….

  • Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    Antigua v. United States re: Online Gambling … Continues?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Over five years ago, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that Antigua and Barbuda is entitled to compensation for damages it suffered when the United States acted unilaterally to prevent American residents from participating in online gambling. This action caused Antigua’s online gambling/gaming industry to contract in short order from one that was worth $3.4 billion and employing over 4,000 people to one worth only a fraction of that amount and employing fewer than 500.

    online-gambling-300x299In fact, this tiny Caribbean nation has been on a quixotic quest for over a decade to get the mighty USA to reconcile the moral/political aversion that compelled it to make online gambling illegal with the amoral/economic windfall that compelled Antigua to make it legal.

    Here, in part, is how Caribbean News Now reported the latest developments on Tuesday (January 29, 2013):

    Antigua is seeking final WTO approval of its sanctions in order to compel the U.S. either to comply with the rulings in Antigua’s favour in the gambling dispute or to negotiate a fair and reasonable solution with the Antiguan government.

    Alas, abiding American economic nationalism is such that the world’s only superpower could not care any less what economic impact its actions have on powerless countries like Antigua. The United States clearly sees no reason to negotiate over actions taken pursuant to what it considers sovereign interests.

    The United States has also been repeatedly judged to be in violation of its WTO commitments by the organization’s dispute settlement panels… Opinion in Congress sometimes encourages this behavior; legislators are less likely to question the legitimacy of U.S. conduct than to question the WTO’s authority to pass judgment over the United States.

    (Council of Foreign Relations, March 2007)

    imagesNo doubt this is why, according to the New York Times, the WTO granted Antigua permission on Monday to violate American intellectual property rights to make up its gaming losses, calculated at $21 million a year. Except that the WTO granting Antigua permission to implement retaliatory sanctions against the United States (to force it “to negotiate a fair and reasonable solution”) is rather like the UN granting Palestinians permission to reclaim their pre-1967 borders against Israel (to force it to negotiate a fair and reasonable two-state solution): in each case the permission seems more like a dare.

    As it happens, I have written many commentaries on this ongoing dispute. Most notably I admonished Antigua early on to do all it can to join other countries to present a multilateral case against the United States.  Because redressing the determinative imbalance of power was the only hope it would have of enforcing any WTO judgment.

    Below are extensive excerpts from two of those commentaries that I believe are worth reprising: firstly, because they put this week’s developments into more informed context; and secondly, because they now seem so prescient.

    ___________

    • From United States Tries to Regulate Business in Caribbean … Again (published by Caribbean Net News on 1 March 2006):

    It must be recognized from the outset that if Antigua were a member of a properly integrated community of Caribbean nations, the U.S. would have been far more likely to comply with the requirements of the WTO ruling…

    Antigua pleading alone to get the United States to change its position is rather like a flea pricking the butt of an elephant to get it to change its course.

    Because unless a country (or a group of countries) can telegraph how its political or economic power can adversely affect the U.S.’s hegemonic interest (e.g. on illegal immigration or drug trafficking), it would be lucky to get even diplomatic niceties in response to such a plea.

    • From Online Gambling in Antigua is Dead (published by Caribbean Net News on 21 July 2006):

    antigua.barbudaIn my 1 March commentary I criticized the ill-fated odyssey of the Antiguan government to compel the U.S. government’s compliance with a WTO directive to cease and desist its restrictive policies towards online gaming. I did so because the Antiguans were placing too much faith and credit in the power of the WTO to enforce its ruling, which held that U.S. policies violated global market access and prohibited customers from engaging in a legal commercial activity in a foreign jurisdiction.

    Yet, despite my admonition that looking to the WTO is futile, the Antiguans continue to do so; taking fools comfort in one hollow, if not pyrrhic, WTO ruling after another.  (Only countries with retaliatory economic power — to place punitive tariffs on imported goods, for example — have any chance of enforcing such rulings.)

    For years now, the United States has telegraphed that it has no intention of complying with WTO rulings on Internet gambling. Indeed, its response to the first significant ruling against it in this regard was to arrest and prosecute Jay Cohen, an American citizen, for operating the online gaming company World Sports Exchange out of Antigua. This, even though Cohen’s activities were not only legal but actually licensed by the Antiguan government…

    Clearly, this extraterritorial reach of U.S. jurisdiction — to regulate and control online gaming — has grave legal and financial ramifications for the entire industry, which generates half of its $12 billion annual revenue from U.S. residents. After all, if the United States can cause Betonsports, the biggest fish in this pond, to go under, then all other online gaming companies (i.e., relative minnows) must feel doomed to drown…

    Therefore, I urge online gaming operators to limit their customer base to people outside the United States.  Because freedom and a market share of an industry valued at only $6 billion is clearly preferable to ending up in prison like Cohen….

    __________

    Affirming my prescience, the United States has not only arrested and prosecuted several Americans involved in running online gambling operations, it responded to these latest developments by warning Antigua on Monday:

    … not to retaliate against U.S. restrictions on Internet gambling by suspending American copyrights or patents, a move it said would authorize the ‘theft’ of intellectual property like movies and music.

    (Reuters, January 28, 2013)

    Well, despite Antigua not heeding any of my previous admonitions, I feel constrained to offer just one more: It might be that an acute inferiority complex is causing this pee-wee nation to continue fighting this losing battle against the United States. It might be that it covets some perverse honor in being this century’s Cuba. And/or it might be that it sees some sustainable economic benefit in branding itself as a haven for high-tech pirates.

    Whatever the case, I hereby admonish Antigua to stop wasting money on mercenary lawyers, lobbyists and others to fight this case and just concede all legal points to the United States. Then affect appropriate Caribbean-Basin humility and request, not legal compensation, but financial aid to make up the economic losses and opportunity costs this ill-advised 10-year dispute has caused. I suspect the United States would be happy to oblige….

    Mind you, in the meantime, if the United States deems it morally/politically expedient to legalize online gambling, which is not at all farfetched, what little remains of Antigua’s online gambling industry would be gobbled up in an instant.

    Finally, I feel constrained to cite the many Antiguan officials who were implicated in facilitating the billion-dollar Ponzi/Madoff scheme of Texan “Sir” Allen Stanford.  After all, this must have had a depressing effect on what little sympathy Antigua had in the international community for its cause….

    Related commentaries:
    U.S. tries to regulate
    Online gambling in Antigua is dead
    Final nail in coffin of online gambling

  • Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6:45 AM

    EU: Britain Trying to Have Its Cake and Eat It Too

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    24britain2-cnd-articleLargePublic disillusionment in Britain with the European Union is such that Prime Minister David Cameron felt compelled last Wednesday to pledge to hold an “in-out referendum” on UK membership if he is re-elected in 2015.

    The next Conservative manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next parliament…

    And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms, or come out altogether.

    It will be an in-out referendum.

    (Cameron, The Guardian, January 23, 2013)

    Except that Cameron stands even less chance of negotiating a new settlement with his European partners than President Assad stands of negotiating a peace settlement with Syrian opposition forces. Nothing affirms this quite like virtually all of Cameron’s European partners reacting to his pledge by giving him the proverbial finger:

    If Britain wants to leave Europe we will roll out the red carpet for you.

    (France foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Der Spiegel, January 23, 2013)

    [C]herry-picking is not an option. Europe isn’t the sum of national interests but a community with a common fate in difficult times.

    (German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, Der Spiegel, January 23, 2013)

    Mind you, there’s no gainsaying that the UK needs the EU far more than the EU needs the UK. Many feared, for example, that the euro currency would fold if the UK did not adopt it. But the euro has thrived in spite of this.

    Still, no less a person than President Obama felt sufficiently bewildered by Cameron’s pledge to advise him that:

    The United States values a strong UK in a strong European Union.

    (CNN, January 23, 2013)

    imagesIn other words, notwithstanding the “special relationship” between the two countries, Washington considers London a bridge to Europe that, if broken down, would cause a devaluation of that relationship.

    But I suspect Cameron’s pledge is nothing more than a brazen political ploy to appease the Eurosceptics in his Conservative Party. In fact, Cameron pledging to claw back power from the EU is rather like Mitt Romney pledging to repeal Obamacare: each knew full well that entrenched political realities made his pledge inherently unfeasible.

    In fairness to Cameron, though, he is only trying to cherry-pick EU policies the way almost all British prime ministers have done – not as much to advance Britain’s national interests as to pander to rabid factions within their respective political parties.

    Apropos of which, I’m on record giving Cameron’s Labour-Party predecessor, Gordon Brown, the finger for trying to claw back powers from the EU just as Cameron is trying to do now:

    [N]othing justifies my skepticism (over the viability of an EU constitution) quite like the Sisyphean attempts by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to reconcile the contradictions inherent in this treaty. Because, according to the BBC, he boasted in recent parliamentary debates – without any hint of irony – that he had secured ‘special treatment for the UK in a range of areas’ at the European summit and that Britain would keep opt-outs on foreign policy, labor rights, tax, and social security.

    But if Britain has already established the untenable precedent that it can ‘opt-out’ of all of the key provisions of the treaty, then what is the legal and substantive effect of this ersatz constitution?!

    (“A Dead EU Constitution Resurrected as a ‘New Treaty’…,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 27, 2007)

    What makes this cherry-picking so insufferable, however, is the plainly absurd claim by British prime ministers that allowing them to do so would be as good for the EU as it would be for the UK.

    I don’t just want a better deal for Britain. I want a better deal for Europe too:

    (Cameron, The Guardian, January 23, 2013)

    Except that there clearly would be no Europe if each member state were allowed to bend the rules (i.e., to opt out of any policy or claw back any power it deems would serve its national interest). Which is why, instead of allowing Britain to undermine its core features by continually trying to do so, the EU should enact a policy to kick out any member that seeks such “special treatment.”

    Related commentaries:
    A dead EU constitution

  • Monday, January 28, 2013 at 6:59 AM

    Women Allowed to Speak at Davos … on Women’s Issues

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

    Despite all their talk about spreading the wealth and sharing the sacrifices of globalization, the agenda for most attendees is to establish contacts that might help them exploit business opportunities.

    (“Attendees Emit More CO2 than Solutions at World Economic Forum,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 29, 2007)

    The above explains why I have so little regard for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos, Switzerland, which ended yesterday.

    To the point, though, all one has to do is browse some of my commentaries — with titles like Women Make Better Politicians than Men (October 14, 2010), Lagarde to Replace Strauss-Khan at IMF (June 16, 2011), and Given the Mess Men Have Made of Fighting Wars, Women Can Hardly do Worse (January 26, 2013) — to appreciate my abiding belief (or hope) that the more women participate in such meetings the more newsworthy they would be.

    Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 7.38.41 PMTherefore, it comes as no surprise that the panel discussion that made the most news at this year’s meeting just happened to be comprised of five women and only one man.

    Granted, the topic was “boosting women’s role in economic decision making.” So one could be forgiven for thinking that it was every bit the token that the annual panel discussion on economic development in Africa represents – complete with mostly Black speakers.

    Except that, where there seems little prospect of Blacks ever leading discussions at the World Economic Forum on any topic other than economic development in Africa, the prospect of women doing so on everything from technology to banking and world economic development is very good.

    Which brings me to Sheryl Sandberg’s truly provocative and progressive statements. Sandberg, of course, is the Facebook COO who is generally regarded as one of the most powerful women/people in Silicon Valley.

    Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 7.47.24 PMHere, in part, is why she made news:

    She called for ‘much more open dialogue about gender,’ including discussing with female employees whether they plan to have children.

    ‘Every HR department tells you not to do that … but we need to have a much more open conversation…

    ‘Think of it like a marathon. Everyone’s cheering the men on. The messages for women are different: are you sure you want to run, don’t you want to run, don’t you have kids at home? We have to talk about this.’

    As an example of the nervousness around the subject, she cited her own lawyer who had told her she could not publish an article on urging women to ‘lean in’ to their careers – as opposed to pulling back from their work – before starting a family.

    ‘Then I thought, he works for me,’ she said. ‘If someone wants to sue me because I’m talking about gender discrimination, go ahead.’

    (The Telegraph, January 25, 2013)

    Hear, hear!

    Mind you, women have been leaning in to their careers and, commensurately, men have been leaning in to their families for some time now. The only people who need gender awareness training in this respect are male CEOs who have never had to help with dishes, let alone diapers; or who never had to compete with women in the classroom, let alone the boardroom.

    Accordingly, the more women equal (and surpass) the number of men in corporate boardrooms (the way they are equaling and surpassing us in classrooms), the more “natural” it will become for men (including CEOs) to share the burdens and anxieties that come with balancing career and family life.

    Related commentaries:
    Attendees emit
    Lagarde to replace

  • Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    Given the mess men have made of fighting wars, women can hardly do worse

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    126076_600

  • Friday, January 25, 2013 at 5:47 AM

    North Korea Playing Nuclear Brinkmanship … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A blunt and explicit threat from North Korea on Thursday that its missile and nuclear programs would “target” the United States poses a stark challenge to the Obama Administration even as it hoped it could focus its major diplomatic effort on restraining Iran’s less-advanced nuclear program.

    (“North Korea Issues Blunt Threat to United States,” New York Times, January 24, 2013)

    north_korea_24Given the above, from no less an authority than the New York Times, you might think we’re about to face a North Korean missile crisis that makes the infamous Cuban one seem like much ado about nothing. Except that nothing could be further from the truth.

    In fact it’s this alarming Times article that is much ado about nothing. And to be assured of this, all you need to do is read my most recent commentary on the nuisance North Korea has represented on the world stage since 1975. So here for your edification and peace of mind is North Korea to The World: Nuke Off! The iPINIONS Journal, December 13, 2012:

     ___________________

    President Obama led a chorus of world leaders hurling patently meaningless condemnation at North Korea yesterday after it launched a long-range missile/satellite into space. Never mind that the only thing newsworthy about this launch is that (after the fifth brazenly attempt) it appears to have been successful.

    Moreover, all indications are that the only danger North Korea poses is the irrational fear of imminent nuclear attack it incites every time it test-fires one of its missiles. Never mind that the United States possesses (and can fortify its regional allies with) anti-ballistic missile defenses that could neutralize any such attack.

    So instead of stoking such fears, Obama should convene a coalition of the willing among Asia-Pacific countries (APEC) to forge agreement on the following resolution, which, significantly, would not be subject to UN-style veto by any country (namely, China or Russia):

    northkoreab-300x217APEC

    • Recognizing that the United Nations is unable or unwilling to stop North Korea from violating its resolutions (most notably, res. 1718 against conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles) with impunity;
    • Finding that these violations pose an untenable threat to the Asia-Pacific region;

    Resolves that:

    1. Instead of continuing the feckless practice of bribing North Korea with cash, oil and food to get it to stop these violations, APEC shall henceforth impose the severest possible sanctions, unilaterally;
    2. If, either as a result of misfire or deliberate intent, any of North Korea’s missiles even threatens any APEC country, the United States shall lead the bombardment of all of its nuclear and missile facilities until they are incapable of even setting off firecrackers, let alone launching nuclear missiles.

    All else is folly….

    Related commentaries:
    North Korea to the world

  • Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 5:27 AM

    Mali, the New Afghanistan…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you’ve heard about the Algerian hostage crisis that ended in a bloody massacre last Thursday when government troops stormed the gas plant where the hostages were being held. The plant is run jointly by Britain’s BP, Norway’s Statoil, and Algeria’s state oil company. Reports are that thirty-seven hostages (of multiple nationalities, including three Americans), as well as dozens of their captors, were killed.

    This hostage crisis came on the heels of France honoring a request by Mali, its former colony, to help it stave off jihadists who are attempting to rule Mali the way the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the years before (the original) 9/11. In fact, the jihadists claim that their hostage-taking suicide mission in Algeria was in response to France intervening in Mali.

    Mokhtar Belmokhtar, also known as 'the one-eyed',  who broke away from Aqim to form al-MulathaminHere is how Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the Osama bin Laden wannabe du jour, framed their motives from his safe haven somewhere in North Africa (aka the Islamic Maghreb/Sahel).

    We in al-Qaeda announce this blessed operation. We are ready to negotiate with the West and the Algerian government provided they stop their bombing of Mali’s Muslims.

    (Al Jazeera, January 21, 2013)

    These developments, coupled with last year’s on the American consulate in Benghazi, have Western political commentators waxing shock and awe about the opening of a new front in the war on terror in the Islamic Maghreb/Sahel. Never mind that these Afro-centric jihadists have more in common with booty-hunting Somali pirates than with Islam-crusading al-Qaeda fighters.

    In any case, there is nothing new about this front:

    Not to mention the prevailing fallacy that America must wage war in Afghanistan because it (still) constitutes the central front in the war against al-Qaeda. After all, for the past six years the Bush Administration prosecuted the war in Iraq as if it were the central front in this war.

    Moreover, there’s no denying that the last vestiges of al-Qaeda are now so splintered that they are just as likely to be found in Pakistan, North Africa or, indeed, in the United States, which makes the strategy for taking them on in Afghanistan patently misguided.

    Therefore, Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and run ASAP; to let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and to rely on Special Forces and aerial drones to ‘disrupt and dismantle’ Taliban and al-Qaeda operations there.

    (“‘Without (or even with) more forces, failure in Afghanistan is likely,'” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)

    I just hope France has learned the lessons of Afghanistan; namely, that the war on terror should be about tracking and killing terrorists, not about invading and building nations.

    ALeqM5geStIc3sBxszklbx0sKyr55NoH0A-2Because, with the deployment of relatively few ground troops and aerial drones, the French can complete their mission in Mali in less than 10 weeks, as opposed to the more than 10 years it has already taken the Americans to complete theirs (whatever that is these days) in Afghanistan.

    To be fair, it seems Obama is finally relying on Special Forces and drones to track and kill terrorists wherever they rear their diabolical heads – just as he has been doing with ruthless success in Pakistan. And it is noteworthy that he has honored President Hollande’s request to provide logistical support (i.e., transport planes and drones) to help France execute its mission in Mali.

    The expanding American fleet of 375 armed drones — which gives the White House a seductively simple, inexpensive, safe (for Americans) and easily hidden way to wage war – [is] squarely on top of Obama’s agenda when he takes up his second term Jan. 21… Its chief architect and apologist, White House terrorism adviser John Brennan, is Obama’s pick to run the CIA — which operates in secret many of the drone strikes.

    (Huffington Post, January 22, 2013)

    Actually, I predict that countries will take it upon themselves, as a matter of national pride, to get rid of terrorists within their borders (the way Algeria did) before American drones strike, leaving nothing but death and destruction for those countries to clean up … themselves.

    This is why, instead of dreading this “new” Maghreb/Sahel front, we should be heralding this new Special Forces/drones strategy. It also behooves us to appreciate that we are really engaged not as much in a war on terrorism as in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order that the late Samuel P. Huntington warned about.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama’s Afghan surge fails

  • Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 6:40 AM

    Obama Inauguration: Take 2 (revised)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I was unable to see any of the inauguration festivities live; therefore, what follows are observations based solely on news reports, video clips, and transcripts.

    Barack Obama Sworn In As U.S. President For A Second TermThe National Anthem

    Beyoncé looked a lot better than she sounded. And she sounded terrific – even if not quite as soaring and awe-inspiring as Whitney Houston at the 1991 Super Bowl.

    But then came the heartbreaking news — not only that she pulled a Brittney by lip-synching, but that Whitney did as well, which was rather like finding out that Marion Jones used steroids. Not to mention the shame of the revered Marine Corps Band fake-playing their instruments in synch with Beyoncé: what a national disgrace!

    I say we establish that, henceforth, if you can’t sing the National Anthem live you should not be invited to sing it — especially on such august occasions. Did Kelly Clarkson or James Taylor lip synch? I don’t think so.

    The Poem

    Ever since JFK invited Robert Frost to recite a poem at his inauguration in 1961, (Democratic) presidents have considered it de rigueur. This is a good thing. And even though no Frost or Maya Angelou, Richard Blanco acquitted himself well with the reading of his (very long) “One Today.”Kudos also to Obama for helping Blanco make history as the youngest, first immigrant, first Hispanic and first openly gay person to be the Inaugural Poet.

    tdy-130121-obama-swearing-in3.photoblog600The Oath

    How odd that, despite all the flak they got for messing up the Oath in 2009, President Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed it again.

    Only this time it was Obama’s fault, strangely having as much difficulty pronouncing the words “United States” as George W. Bush always had pronouncing the word “nuclear”.

    The Speech

    It is an indication of how slothful and herd-like political commentators are that most of them seemed only interested in hearing some catch phrase like “ask not what your country…” or “all we have to fear….” And, remarkably, they thought they were providing insightful commentary by declaring this address a failure because no phrase stood out for them “like that.”

    Barack Obama Sworn In As U.S. President For A Second TermMeanwhile, I can cite a number that could prove every bit as memorable, including:

    We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations…

    Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it…

    We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future…

    Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law…

    We cannot substitute spectacle for politics or treat name-calling as reasoned debate….

    What these commentators fail to appreciate of course is that, just hours after he delivered it, nobody thought either FDR or JFK said anything in his inaugural address that was particularly memorable. I am convinced that in due course Obama will be quoted just as often as they are.

    130122_paul_ryan_ap_605Not surprisingly, the Republican thought police issued their visceral talking points criticizing the address as not conciliatory enough … towards Republicans. Mind you, these are the same folks who issued a clarion call to all Republicans on day one of Obama’s presidency to challenge or undermine everything he says or does “to make him a one-term president,” making their criticism rather like Lance Armstrong criticizing Greg LeMond for doping.

    It betrays their delusional arrogance that, despite doing all they could to destroy Obama’s presidency, Republicans still expected him to parrot their absurd “rich-get-richer, poor-get-poorer” political philosophy in HIS winning inaugural address.

    inaug3_20130121102718_320_240Incidentally, given the way so many Blacks condemned me for analogizing gays’ struggle for civil rights with ours, I hope they’ll forgive me for feeling some measure of vindication hearing Obama do the same in this inaugural address. More importantly, I suspect MLK would be proud that Obama channeled him on this – his national holiday – to advocate for gay civil rights.

    In a similar vein, I note that my fellow Progressives are cheering Obama for championing all the things in this address that they were damning him for not championing throughout his first term. But I urge them to appreciate that if Obama had caved in to their goading “to have a backbone and fight” – instead of heeding the counsel of those of us who advised him to seek compromise and wait to fight another … term – he would have seemed no more worthy of leadership than obstructionist Republicans. In which case he would not have been on the steps of the Capitol yesterday delivering that inspiring address as the blueprint for his progressive second term.

    Far too many liberals are being swayed by conservative spin about Obama’s domestic policy agenda being too unfocused and his foreign policy being too soft. Not to mention the political naivete being displayed by those who are already calling him a “sellout”.

    After all, they fail to appreciate that Obama is merely planting political seeds this year (e.g., on the economy, healthcare, Iran, and even in his dealings with rabidly partisan Republicans) that he reasonably expects will blossom (i.e., pay dividends) in due course…

    Of course, this means that, like the most successful presidents in modern times (namely Reagan and Clinton), Obama is perfectly prepared to sacrifice short-term popularity (and a few congressional Democrats) to ensure his re-election and presidential legacy.

    (“Obama’s Swing Right Alienates Left,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 24, 2009)

    59c14dd38ca24102270f6a706700e8ceThe Crowd

    Expecting the crowd at this second inauguration to come anywhere close to matching the crowd at the first – either in terms of size or enthusiasm – is rather like expecting Michael Phelps to repeat his eight-gold-medal feat at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

    That said, even though the estimate of nearly 1 million who attended yesterday was actually 1 million fewer than in 2009, it was still more than twice the size of the crowd that attended George W. Bush’s first inauguration in 2001.

    As always the TV commentators were keen to point out the celebrities in the crowd. Alas, this led to the embarrassing spectacle of George Stephanopoulos of ABC News showing us Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell and calling him actor Morgan Freeman….

    The Parade

    I could not help noticing that there were more law-enforcing personnel along the parade route than spectators. Where did everybody go?! Especially since reports are that the weather could not have been more conducive… Even more distressing was the impression that the 59 groups in the inaugural parade were performing just for Obama and a few friends – given that most of the viewing stands were virtually empty.

    As for the floats, the only one I was remotely interested in seeing was the one for the Tuskegee Airmen: but it must’ve been invisible because I never saw it.

    What I did see, much to my dismay, was Obama looking more like a clueless valley girl than the president of the United States as he saluted the groups marching by. This is because he was chewing like a hungry cow on the Nicorette gum he uses to combat his addiction to nicotine. Reports are that he used to sneak away for puffs on his cigarettes until he mustered the will power to give them up. Well, perhaps he needs to start sneaking away to chew on his nicorettes until he musters the will power to give them up too.

    president-obama-michelle-inaugural-ball-dance-videoThe Bangs and Dress(es)

    Michelle is getting universal raves for her new hairstyle. But I’m not feelin’ it. It makes her look too much like a grown woman trying too hard to look young.

    As for what she wore throughout the day, you might have an opinion, but I cannot possibly comment.

    Ditto for the Balls, which I know from personal experience amount to little more than thousands of people packed like sardines in a stadium-size ballroom all looking like drunken penguins and fairies.

    Related commentaries:

    Obama’s swing right

     

  • Monday, January 21, 2013 at 7:18 AM

    Remembering MLK; Inaugurating Obama

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o ‘Catfished’…? (revised)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Remarkably, Manti Te’o’s improbable tale about his imaginary girlfriend dying of cancer on the same day his grandmother died last September is competing for media coverage with Lance Armstrong’s belated confession about taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDS).

    Te’o is the All-American linebacker from Notre Dame whose tale of personal tragedy became even more of an inspiration for the Fighting Irish last season than the proverbial “win one for the Gipper” ever was.

    Specifically, after tebowing about his professed twin griefs for all the world to see, he led the Irish on an impressive winning streak that ended only last week in a punitive loss to Alabama in the BCS national championship.

    originalI use the word “punitive” advisedly; because on Wednesday the sports website Deadspin.com exposed every word Te’o ever said about his girlfriend – from his heart-wrenching recollections about the hours he spent on the phone nursing her to sleep after her chemo sessions to his description of the intimate connections they had – as all “blarney.”

    Te’o claims that he was a victim of what he calls a “sick joke,” insisting that he had no idea the woman he fell in love with online and over the phone does not exist.

    In other words, despite what he claims was the undying love he developed for her and the way he comforted her while she was dying of leukemia, Te’o wants the world to believe that he never felt the irresistible desire or emotional need to lay eyes, let alone other body parts, on her (for two and a half years!?). Which has to mean that he’s either gay or emotionally bankrupt … or both:

    We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

    (Associated Press, January 17, 2013)

    But trust me folks, it strains credulity to think that Te’o was not in on the “joke.” He insists, for example, that he had almost daily phone conversations with his imaginary girlfriend. Yet no girl or guy has come forward to say that he or she was the person on the other line playing him for a fool. And what a fool he had to be if he could not tell that, all the while, he was just speaking either to one of his (male) friends or to a number of different people all pretending to be her.

    yahoo_teoafterbcsWhich begs the question. Why perpetrate such a hoax? I suspect what I alluded to above probably offers the best explanation; namely, that he saw how inspiring his story was—not just to his teammates, but to the entire world of sports once his team kept winning games. He probably even began having delusions about winning the Heisman Trophy:  think Munchausen by proxy on steroids.

    This smacks of nothing more than a private hoax that got completely out of controlthanks in no small part to a patently lazy, gullible media. But neither Te’o nor anyone else who was in on it could have fathomed that it would become a talisman that fueled his team to an improbable streak of victories the way PEDs fueled Lance to his now inglorious streak.

    This, I believe, is the real story behind this so-called joke. Except that the joker is Te’o and the joke’s on us. Which compels me to stress that far from blaming and shaming this obviously troubled football player, blame and shame should be heaped on officials at Notre Dame and newsroom editors all over the country who not only bought Te’o’s blarney hook, line and sinker, but did far more than he did to propagate it.

    Having said all that, I am mindful that, like Kate Middleton’s nurse, Te’o might not be able to stand the public ridicule that is now coming at him every which way but loose. The difference of course is that, all indications are, he brought this on himself. Nonetheless, whatever fallout or development may come, I will not be dignifying this catfish story with any further comment.

  • Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend a symptom of premature concussion…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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    Related commentaries:
    Manti Te’o catfished

  • Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 9:37 PM

    Lance Confesses: Oprah’s Big Get?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Folks, let me make this perfectly clear: Lance Armstrong confessing that he’s a doper is about as newsworthy as Jodie Foster admitting that she’s gay.

    But I know enough about the television news business to know that getting the first confessional interview with this disgraced cyclist was probably even more coveted than getting the first confessional interview with disgraced financier Bernie Madoff.

    The problem is that this covetousness had nothing to do with the potential newsworthiness of the interview. Instead it had everything to do with the prospect of drawing eyeballs to the TV screen, which is really no different from twits like Donald Trump publishing obnoxious/offensive tweets just to draw attention to themselves.

    Incidentally, I feel obliged to clarify here that I don’t blame attention whores like Trump, no-name politicians and Twitter trolls for playing this game to continue reviving their 15 minutes of fame. I blame erstwhile responsible people in the mainstream media for airing their contrived remarks just to garner ratings – knowing full well that they are providing nothing more than proverbial train wrecks for people to gawk at.

    Screen Shot 2013-01-16 at 8.25.21 PMWhich brings me back to Oprah’s “big get.” Because, frankly, the only thing newsworthy about this story is that it was Oprah who got Lance for her OWN netherworld network (airing tomorrow night). After all, given the pervasive gloating in media about how she was floundering in relative obscurity and irrelevance, one could be forgiven for thinking that she had lost all of her clout.

    Especially since it’s an open secret that every big name in the business (like Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Charlie Rose, Katie Kouric, Matt Lauer, et al) was prowling for Lance to boost their ratings the way Taylor Swift prowls for boyfriends to write new songs. (I hear Bradley Cooper shot Taylor down flat at Sunday’s Golden Globes. Another reason he deserved to be People’s “Sexist Man Alive” long before Jake Gyllenhaal – who fell for her game hook, line and sinker.)

    Anyway, here’s is all I have to say about Lance’s confession:

    It pains me to concede today that the evidence is indeed overwhelming that Lance fueled his way to cycling glory on a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs that makes 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)

    lanceweb15s-2-webThat was almost two years ago folks. Therefore, it’s the understatement of the century to say that his confession is much too little much too late. Still, reports are that, like Madoff, he’s refusing to name those (doctors and cycling officials) who helped him perpetrate his fraud.

    And, as for his role as a Pied Piper in the fight against cancer mitigating his guilt and shame:

    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…’

    I appreciate of course that there are many who believe not only that no prosecution is warranted but that Armstrong’s reputation as the poster boy for cancer survivors 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.’

    (“Armstrong Exposed as Doper Don,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 12, 2012)

    Screen Shot 2013-01-16 at 8.22.56 PMToday I think of Lance Armstrong as nothing more than a pathetic joke. But I can’t blame Oprah for hoping that this interview will cause people to stop thinking of her as one too.

    NOTE: You’ve probably noticed all kinds of people coming out of the woodwork with tales about how Lance bullied them into going along with his doping program. But unless they are one of the few people (like Greg LeMond) who are on record calling him a pathological liar and diabolical cheat … before his fall from grace, they should just shut up!

    Related commentaries:
    Doper Don

  • Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    I Apologize to Prince Albert (and his wife) … Reservedly

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The London Times is to the United Kingdom what the New York Times is the United States: the de facto national newspaper of record.

    Prince Albert of Monaco kisses his new bTherefore, when the Sunday Times published a lengthy article – salaciously headlined “The Full Filthy Monte” – on the antics of Prince Albert’s reluctant bride, I had no reason to doubt that the facts reported were true.

    Except that I had already written numerous commentaries damning Albert for his shameful, deadbeat treatment of children he fathered out of wedlock.

    Here, for example, is how I was spewing indignation at him long before his private life became tabloid fodder even for the staid Times:

    Regular readers know that I’ve been unsparing in my criticism of Prince Albert II of Monaco – not only for living a notoriously promiscuous lifestyle, but also for fathering children (2 that we know of) out of wedlock…

    He incited my most indignant ire when he renounced the birthright of his Black son in favor of vesting it in his White nephew.

    (“Prince Albert Getting Married; No More Babies Out of Wedlock?” The iPINIONS Journal, August 4, 2006)

    And here’s how I paid homage to that Times article – with the unvarnished intent of making him look more like a frog than a prince:

    I could not have been more cynical [in previous commentaries] in observing that Albert is no prince charming and woe betide the woman who marries him. This is why I suggested that only a gold digger would consider him a great catch, implying of course that Charlene had to be one.

    Well, it turns out I was right about him, but only partially right about her. Because reports are that she ‘tried to flee three times’ to avoid having to go through with her three-day royal wedding, which began on Friday…

    But it hardly reflects well on her that the only thing her attempts to escape reportedly accomplished was to force Albert to renegotiate the financial terms of their prenuptial agreement; i.e., to make them more lucrative for her.

    (“Monaco’s Prince Albert Captures His Runaway Bride,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 5, 2011)

    Well, after all that, Albert sued the Times for reporting that his wife was a reluctant bride and that he had to pay her a princely prenuptial sum to get her to marry him.  And, much to my chagrin, he won:

    Prince Albert of Monaco has accepted a high court apology and substantial damages from the Sunday Times over ‘seriously defamatory allegations’ that he had entered a sham marriage with Charlene Wittstock.

    (London Guardian, January 15, 2013)

    Of course, I’m sure Albert could not care any less about the defamatory things I might have written about him. Nonetheless, I feel a moral duty to apologize for my defamatory comments that were based on this now-discredited Times article.

    Prince_Albert_Nicole_Coste_Neue_Revue075_op_461x600But, apropos of what incited my ire in the first place, I make no apology for this:

    Unfortunately, Albert has decided that his son’s royal birthright will be neither conferred nor recognized. This is Europe after all. And, despite their cosmopolitan pretensions (and the predilection of their men for sex with Black women), the Hohenzollern, d’Orleans, de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias, Windsors and other European royals remain so provincially racist that the prospect of a Black prince in their midst is simply too scandalous even to countenance. (Of course, inbreeding and consorting with Nazis and Fascists are fine… But this!? Quelle Horreur!)

    Therefore, in issuing his decree, Albert eagerly assured his peers that, while he acknowledges his bastard son, this Black prince ‘would not be in line to the throne and would not have the name Grimaldi.’

    (“Prince Albert of Monaco Renounces Birthright of His Black Son,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 7 2005)

    Incidentally, Albert sired this “unsuitable” heir during a seven-year affair with an Air France flight attendant from Togo named Nicole Coste.

    That said, it would be remiss of me not to note that:

    • First all major London tabloids were caught in a phone-hacking scandal that impugned their integrity, irreparably.
    • Then the BBC was caught covering up facts about the 50-year pedophile exploits of its biggest star, Jimmy Savile.
    • Now the Sunday Times has been caught making up facts about the relationship between Prince Albert and his wife, Princess Charlene.

    Clearly, something is rotten in the state of England.

    Related commentaries:
    Prince Albert’s getting married
    Prince Albert captures runaway bride
    Prince Albert renounces … Black son

  • Monday, January 14, 2013 at 10:36 PM

    Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, Was a Racist? Duh.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In a culture where the latest goings-on in entertainment, sports, or reality-TV are more often than not the topic of engaging conversations, any discussion about the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is decidedly refreshing.

    You too will get an appreciation of this by eschewing the public debate now raging over whether Ben Affleck was robbed because the Academy did not give him a director’s nomination for Argo, to engage in a private debate on whether Lincoln was a racist.

    article-2261962-127DA1B4000005DC-130_306x423I had this experience yesterday when an acquaintance vented jingoistic disdain at a British historian for writing that Lincoln was a racist. He countered, with religious conviction, that:

    If Lincoln was a racist, he would never have freed the slaves. Any dummy knows that.

    But how, for Christ’s sake, can any intelligent person dismiss as “antagonistic and politically incorrect” the well-documented, if not inherent, fact that Lincoln was a racist?!

    (Incidentally, I suppose any dummy also knows that if Thomas Jefferson were a racist, he would never have bothered having consensual sex with his slaves. He would have simply raped them like other slave masters did.)

    Anyway, it just so happens that prevailing reviews of two of the most popular movies now playing dramatize this oxymoronic thinking: For, on the one hand, film director Quentin Tarantino is being whipped for his historically accurate depiction – in Django Unchained – of the relationship between Blacks and Whites in the years before the Civil War. While, on the other hand, Spielberg is being celebrated for his historically sanitized portrayal – in Lincoln – of the “Great Emancipator” as a saintly man who freed the slaves more as a moral imperative than as a military/political necessity.

    Frankly, I fear far too many moviegoers will consider this film Lincoln every bit as historically correct as evangelical Christians consider The Holy Bible. Especially after having no less a person than former president Bill Clinton appear on the world stage at the Golden Globes on Sunday to extol Spielberg’s one-dimensional and misleading portrayal of Lincoln as … instructive.

    Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 9.57.41 AMIn any event, this British columnist is hardly the first person to call a spade a spade where Lincoln is concerned. For here, in part, is what I wrote in this context just two years ago:

    Lincoln favored the gradual emancipation of slaves long before he was elected president.  But, just like the Founding Fathers, he subjugated the moral imperative to free them to the political realities that kept them in bondage.

    Ultimately, political necessity (i.e., winning the Civil War) compelled him to emancipate only those slaves living in states not under his/Union control. This is why Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is as compromised as Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which counted blacks as only three-fifths of a person.

    (“Abraham Lincoln Was a White Nationalist [aka Racist],” The iPINIONS Journal, March 9, 2011)

    You’re probably wondering if I attempted to disabuse this acquaintance of his viral ignorance. I did not. Trust me, I have learned the hard way that, for a growing number of people, ignorance is indeed bliss.

    NOTE: Matt Drudge boasts of having 908,457,427 visits to his media portal over the past 31 days. So am I the only one who finds it odd that he has only 165,508 followers on Twitter?

    After all, Miss Alabama got more followers than that in just 24 hours after sportscaster Brent Musburger went gaga over her during the BCS championship game last week. Makes you wonder if even one tenth of the web traffic Drudge reports or directs to other sites is real, no? Bot., bot, bot….

    Related commentaries:
    Lincoln was a White nationalist

  • Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 7:07 AM

    Thanks to the NRA, I’m locked and loaded to fight the flu…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, January 11, 2013 at 5:44 AM

    Obama White House: Too Male, Too White

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Given all of President Obama’s political rhetoric about gender equality and diversity, you’d think this would be a very progressive and transformative portrait. But it’s not.

    (“Women Complain about Obama’s All-Boys Club,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 21, 2011)

    This, in part, is how I lamented the portrait acclaimed journalist Ron Suskind painted in his book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, of how the (disappointingly) few women in the Obama White House were being treated during his first term. Now his White House is in the ironic and untenable position of having to defend itself (again) against accusations of being staffed with too many (White) men.

    Mere days after Obama’s re-election, the Democratic diversity police were compelled to issue a warning over his handling of (Black) Susan Rice’s candidacy for secretary of state. Recall that he sent her to Capitol Hill to kiss the ass of a few Republican senators only to prevail upon her to withdraw her name from consideration after those senators said that she’s not a very good kisser.

    By discriminating contrast, even though those same senators said that (White) Chuck Hagel was an even worse kisser, Obama went ahead and nominated him for secretary of defense.

    And it did not help matters that he tried to make up for not standing by Rice by showing how utterly begrudging his nomination of (White) John Kerry in her place was. He did this in petulant and disrespectful fashion by not giving Kerry a chance to utter a single word when he presented him at the White House. (Top nominees are customarily given an opportunity to say a few words when the president presents them to the media….)

    But Obama then compounded the diversity infraction he committed with Rice by nominating all White guys to the other top jobs in his, um, er, White House; namely, for treasury and the CIA.

    Then came this week’s photo showing him in the Oval Office surrounded by his closest advisers – all of whom are males, and all, but one, of whom are White.

    Well, this not only compelled the diversity police to issue the kind of rebuke one would’ve expected a Mitt Romney White House to receive; it ignited a viral lament that had Democratic women wondering if they need to send “binders full of women” to Obama.

    About all those white guys: What a shame.

    Not an outrage, but a shame. The face of power that President Obama has chosen to present to the country and the world with his second-term Cabinet picks is striking — except for the African American president at the top of the pyramid — for its retro look, white and male.

    (The Washington Post, January 10, 2013)

    As indicated above, Obama surrounding himself with a bunch of good ol’ White boys is nothing new. The question is: why?

    My psychoanalysis is that, as a Black president, Obama is convinced that he is such a dominant and diverse presence that he supplants the need for the representation of other traditional minorities in his inner circle.

    It may be, for example, that he thinks of himself as the equivalent of five persons. Which, of course, would surely have some of his White predecessors – who counted Blacks like him as only three fifths of a person – rolling over in their graves.

    Nonetheless, I have no doubt that, just as he made amends in his first term by appointing more women and minorities (including a Latina and a Jewish woman to the Supreme Court) than any other president by far, he will do the same this term.

    In fact, when the Democratic diversity police rebuked his White House at the beginning of his first term, I felt so confident Obama would make amends that I made light of it in a commentary, which included the following observations:

    Who would’ve thought that President Obama, the first Black president of the United States, would be liable to criticism for fostering extracurricular White House activities that exclude women? Yet, ironically, that is precisely the case.

    This criticism reached a tipping point last week when he invited only male members of his Cabinet and Congress to the White House to play basketball…

    To his credit, though, Obama is nothing if not a quick study…

    Therefore, it was hardly surprising that cameras caught Melody Barnes, the Domestic Policy Council Director, lumbering with clubs in tow across the front lawn of the White House over the weekend heading out for a PR round of golf with Obama.

    And thus was another gender barrier broken. It’s just too bad that cameras did not confirm whether Barnes was actually invited to play or merely to serve as the president’s caddy….

    (“Obama Finally Admits Women to His All-Boys Club,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 27, 2009)

    Wise up Obama!  You clearly do not need women and minorities to vote for you ever again. But, no matter the amends you make eventually, this narrative that you are no more transformative than Ronald Reagan when it comes to diversity in the White House could have a lasting negative impact on your legacy.

    Related commentaries:
    Women complain
    Obama finally admits women

  • Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 7:21 AM

    No Baseball Hall of Fame for Bonds, Clemens or Sosa !

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    January 9 looms as a day of reckoning for Baseball (i.e., a referendum on steroids in Baseball). Candidates must be retired for at least five years and need 75 percent of the votes to be inducted. More to the point, members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BWAA) will either vote based solely on these players’ Hall-of-Fame-worthy stats, or they will factor prevailing suspicions about their use of steroids into their votes.

    Clearly, if it’s the former, Bonds, Clemens and Sosa will be inducted in a landslide, and the steroid era will be vindicated. If it’s the latter, they will be denied in resounding fashion, and players will have the three most-persuasive reasons yet to stop taking steroids.

    I fear they will be denied.

    This is based on the precedent voters set when they gave Mark McGwire only 24 percent – despite the fact that his stats made him every bit as worthy of induction.

    (“Hall of Fame for Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, or End of Steroid Era in Baseball,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 29, 2012)

    Well, I was right.

    For here, in part, is how the Associated Press reported on the resounding statement the BWAA made yesterday by electing to induct no player into the Hall of Fame this year.

    Steroid-tainted stars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa were denied entry to baseball’s Hall of Fame, with voters failing to elect any candidates for only the second time in four decades.

    Bonds received just 36.2 percent of the vote, Clemens 37.6 and Sosa 12.5….

    It is instructive though that McGwire has received fewer votes on each successive ballot, garnering only 16.9 percent this year. Because this indicates that Bonds, the only seven-time MVP and reigning home-run king, and Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner, will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    That is, unless America experiences a radical cognitive dissonance on use of steroids in professional sports. This, alas, will not come soon enough for the likes of Lance Armstrong. But I digress…

    My only wonder is what will become of other eligible players from the steroids era like Alex Rodriquez, Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols…. After all, to be fair and consistent, the BWAA will have to deny entry to anyone who played during this era between 1990 and 2010. And, that a player never tested positive for any banned substance is clearly no defense given that Bonds, Clemens and Sosa never tested positive for anything.

    Frankly, I don’t know what else to say at this point except to share a few excerpts from some of the far-too-many-to-count commentaries I’ve written on this topic:

    Baseball ‘purists’ are so outraged that they are calling for all records set over the past decade to be eradicated because they were probably achieved by pumped-up cheaters. Yet these cheaters were the ones who rescued the game from almost terminal disinterest after the baseball strike of 1994. And team owners and fans alike knew full well that the sudden supernatural performances of once mediocre players did not result from pumping iron during that strike.

    At any rate, so what if players take steroids. It’s, essentially, a victimless vice – far less poisonous than alcohol. And where steroid junkies usually endanger only fellow players on the field, drunks endanger all of us on the highway (and in so many other ways).

    (“Baseball Is Juiced, So What!” The iPINIONS Journal, February 18, 2005)

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

    (“Baseball’ MVP … Is a Steroids Junkie, Duh!” The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2006)

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

    Just as the achievements of players like Babe Ruth have not been diminished even though they drank alcohol during prohibition, the achievements of players like Barry Bonds should not be diminished even though they took performance-enhancing drugs during the steroid era.

    So, asterisk this!!!

    (“Bonds Should Be Cheered, Not Jeered As Baseball’s New Home-Run King,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2007)

    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?!

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

    Related commentaries:
    Hall of fame for
    Baseball is Juiced
    Baseball’s MVP … is a steroids junkie – duh!
    Bonds should be cheered
    Mitchell Report on steroids in baseball
    Rafael Palmiero is a juicer too…?
    Decriminalize drugs

  • Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    Taylor’s Swift Split from Latest Trophy Boyfriend

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    You know we are a doomed, if not damned, civilization when banal news about singer Taylor Swift breaking up with her latest trophy boyfriend is competing with breaking news about college and professional football.

    Although, to be fair, I suppose it is newsworthy that this hookup with Harry Styles, the Mick Jagger wannabe from British boy band One Direction (aka 1D), lasted only 65 days instead of her more long-suffering tenure of 6.5 weeks.

    Incidentally, if you’ve never heard of 1D just think of lily-White American boy bands like O-Town and 98 Degrees…; exactly.

    Unlike most entertainers, Taylor revels in her status as a role model and encourages little girls to look up to her…. Except that, at the rate she’s running through men, she might prove as wholesome a role model for little girls as that notorious rolling-stone Mick was for little boys….

    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…? And I suspect the only problem Taylor has ever had with any of them is Taylor herself…

    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.

    (“Swift Blurring Reality and Entertainment to Unseemly Degree,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 15, 2012)

    Frankly, I’m not sure why everyone thinks she’s  so cute. After all, despite her penchant for dressing like a 1950s teenager, there’s nothing cute about this perverse and manipulative starfucker whose partial list of bedpost conquests, in just the last few years, includes Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner, John Mayer, Cory Montieth, Jake Gyllenhaal, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Conor Kennedy, and now Harry Styles. With her record I can’t imagine why any self-respecting celebrity would want to touch her with a 10-foot pole….

    And, helloooooo, the name we usually call a woman whose job requires her to sleep with men is not “a performer,” but it does begin with a “p.”

    Related commentaries:
    Swift blurring reality

  • Monday, January 7, 2013 at 5:55 AM

    Redskins Come Up Lame … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan. But it would be gauche for anyone like me who works in Washington, DC not to be a Redskins fan – if only by default (i.e., as long as their success has no adverse impact on that of my team).

    Of course most of us had come to regard the Redskins the way Chicagoans regard the Cubs, namely, as celebrated losers. That is, until the Redskins played well enough this season to finally host their first playoff game yesterday since 1999.

    And, to be honest, their new franchise player, quarterback Robert Griffin III (aka RG3), brought so much excitement, and engineered so much success, that I even harbored thoughts of abandoning my  hapless Eagles and their perennially hobbled franchise player, quarterback Michael Vick.

    Well, so much for all that: because the Redskins not only lost yesterday’s NFC wild-card game to the Seattle Seahawks 24-14; they may have lost RG3 too.

    No doubt you recall when he suffered what looked like a career-ending knee injury on December 9 in a game against the Baltimore Ravens. I saw it happen live and thought then that he should have been placed on injured reserved immediately to repair and rehab that knee in preparation for next season.

    In fact, I had in mind what our Nationals Baseball team did to protect and preserve their franchise pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, when he suffered what looked like a career-ending elbow injury in August 2010: they pulled him from the rotation immediately; had him undergo corrective surgery; and then sat him out for an entire year to rehabilitate his arm.

    By contrast, the Redskins kept RG3 in that fateful game until he could barely stand on his own two feet; rested him for one week; and then put him back in the lineup — despite it being painfully clear to everyone that he was not even close to being 100%.

    He nonetheless led them to a couple impressive victories. But, given the way he re-injured that knee in yesterday’s loss, those victories may prove pyrrhic at best.

    Now Washington is being treated to the spectacle of the coach, Mike Shanahan, insisting that the team doctor cleared RG3 to return in that Ravens game on December 9, and the doctor, James Andrews, insisting that nothing could be further from the truth:

    He [RG3] didn’t even let us look at him. He came off the field, walked through the sidelines, circled back through the players, and took off back to the field.  It wasn’t our opinion.

    We didn’t even get to touch him or talk to him.  Scared the hell out of me.

    (NBC Sports, January 6, 2013)

    Whatever the case, I fear that, having been unable to take the Redskins back to the Super Bowl this year, RG3 will end up doing no more for them than Vick did for the Eagles (or the Falcons): provide boundless excitement when he plays, but hardly playing because of chronic injuries.

    In the meantime, since they knocked the Redskins out, and the Eagles did not even make it in, the Seahawks will be my team for the rest of the playoffs. Not least because they have in Russell Wilson a rookie quarterback who might end up beating RG3 for the NFL rookie of the year award.  Oh, did I mention that Wilson’s Black too.

    Why? Because less than a decade ago, Black quarterbacks in the NFL were almost as rare as Black players in the NHL.  But with RG3, Wilson, and others, I predict Black quarterbacks will soon become as commonplace as Black running backs. Indeed, nothing is more indicative of this than having a Black quarterback lead the Irish of Notre Dame in tonight’s BCS National Championship against defending champs Alabama.

    NOTE: My Eagles suffered their worst season in over a decade, ending up just 4-12. They have already fired their head coach, Andy Reid, and chances are very good that they’ll be getting rid of Vick too.

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