• Monday, September 30, 2013 at 5:32 AM

    Forget World Series, Yankees Can’t Even Win/Buy Birth into Playoffs

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    yankeesThe New York Yankees have replaced the Dallas Cowboys as the “America’s Team” people love to hate.

    Of course, Yankees fans would be reveling in this hate if their team were still playing the way it did between 1996 and 2000, when the Yankees won four World Series championships. Instead, they’ve played like such losers since then (with the notable exception of their last championship in 2009) that they’re becoming even more of a punch line than the perennially hapless Chicago Cubs.

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

    (ESPN.com, October 10, 2006)

    Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 9.26.04 PMNot to mention the ridicule and humiliation Yankees fans are suffering over having their third-baseman, Alex Rodriquez, become the undisputed poster boy for the chronically overpaid, comically self-obsessed and clinically juiced players in all professional sports.

    No storyline in As the Yankees Turn provides more off-season fascination than watching the Yankees spend obscene amounts of money to lure the best players to New York only to have them play – during the critical October pennant race and World Series – as if they were bought with phony dollar bills.  God knows they played this October like phony superstars who were bought with phony money….

    (“Yankees Return to Their Losing Ways…,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 26, 2010)

    And so it was yesterday that – with their final game of this season – the Yankees (with a team payroll of over $200 million) showed themselves, again, to be the biggest and most expensive losers in the history of sports. For, as bad as it was in previous years for them to flame out during the critical October pennant race and World Series, they didn’t play well enough this year to even make it into the playoffs.

    523f5e6e0d961.preview-300Indeed, the irony is that the only thing die-hard Yankees fans had to cheer about this year was the retirement of “Enter Sandman” Mariano Rivera (43) – their relief pitcher whose league record of 652 regular-season saves was surpassed only by his inimitable Zen-like character, which made him seem like a saint in a sport fielded by hedonists.

    Apropos of retirement, the Yankees (fans and management alike) might derive some consolation from the looming 211-game suspension that will probably force the battered and disgraced Rodriquez (38) into retirement.

    And, alas, recurring injuries are turning the team’s most popular player, Derek Jeter (39), into a shadow of himself. Therefore, he would do well to follow the Sandman’s lead and announce that next year will be his farewell season….

    In any case, season-ending losses like this year’s excite unbridled schadenfreude in those of us who can’t stand the Yankees’ money-can-buy-us-anything attitude.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    Understanding China … For Dummies

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    138086_600

    And the more you buy their cheap, child-labored products, the more their maxim rules….

  • Friday, September 27, 2013 at 5:23 AM

    Predictions about Eurozone Disintegration Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 7.52.06 PMNobody can blame Jose Manuel Barrasso, president of the European Commission, for gloating on Tuesday’s edition of Charlie Rose as follows:

    [Despite predictions about disintegration of the EU] all the steps [taken since the global financial crisis of 2008] have been for more integration, more integrated governance…

    All of the doomsayers were wrong…  People want to show they are more intelligent because they are predicting the worst-case scenario.

    After all, the prevailing view among political economists back then was that a default contagion, which began in Greece, was “having a firm grip across Europe” – as Manoj Ladwa, senior trader at ETX Capital in London, forewarned in an April 28, 2010 Reuters report.

    images-3Hell, the most famous economic analyst and prognosticator of the day, Nouriel Roubini (aka Dr. Doom), was so wedded to this view that he recommended a triage that would cut off Greece to save the Eurozone; except that he framed it as a strategic move Greece should make to save itself.

    Specifically, here’s how he diagnosed the problem:

    The muddle-through approach to the Eurozone crisis has failed to resolve the fundamental problems of economic and competitiveness divergence within the union. If this continues the euro will move towards disorderly debt workouts, and eventually a break-up of the monetary union itself, as some of the weaker members crash out.

    (Financial Times, June 13, 2011)

    And here’s what he prescribed:

    Breaking up and divorcing is painful and costly… Make no mistake: an orderly euro exit will be hard. But watching the slow disorderly implosion of the Greek economy and society will be much worse.

    (Financial Times, September 19, 2011)

    eu_countries_europeBut the doomsayers could be forgiven their pessimism. After all, concerns about this contagion had Greeks in the streets venting rage at Germany’s hegemonic power within the Eurozone; while it had Germans in the streets spewing indignation at Greece’s indulgent and parasitic public finances.

    What’s more, the conventional wisdom was that this Greco-German antagonism was just a manifestation of the irreconcilable differences between rich countries in the North and poor ones in the South that would lead inexorably to disintegration.

    This is why so few pundits could have anticipated – not only that Greeks would eventually swallow virtually all of the get-your-financial-house-in-order austerity measures Germans were forcing down their throats, but also that Germans would re-elect Chancellor Angela Merkel in a landslide election this week; especially given her declared intent to link the destiny of Germany with that of the Eurozone.

    In other words, Germans seem just as determined (and able) to prevent the disintegration of the Eurozone (aka the United States of Europe) today as Northerners were to prevent the disintegration of the United States of America in 1861….

    Yet some of us knew it would be thus, despite the seemingly irreconcilable differences between North-South/rich-poor member states:

    Greece is now looking to richer member states of the Eurozone, like Germany and France, to bail it out of an existential financial mess.

    No doubt many Europeans would like to swat away the Greeks the way they swat away the Roma (Gypsies) who panhandle all over the continent. They are all too mindful, however, that Greece’s membership in the EU means that if it implodes financially, the collateral damage for the rest of them would be incalculable…

    Who can blame the Germans (and others in the North) for harboring resentment over having to indulge this Zorba-like attitude among the suntanned citizens of the PIGS [namely Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain]…? And I imagine recognizing that refusing to bail them out would be tantamount to cutting off nose to spite face only intensifies their resentment.

    (“Greece Just Another Panhandling PIG in Europe,” April 29, 2010)

    Accordingly, what the Germans have joined together (remember, Konrad Adenauer was an EU founding father), let no member state put asunder…? May they live happily ever after….

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    The America’s Cup: More Rich Man’s Hobby than ‘Bona Fide’ Sport

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have always thought of the America’s Cup as a rich (White) man’s hobby that has more in common with social events like Polo matches than sporting events like Baseball games.

    9202498Except that at least Polo has some redeeming value in this respect – given that, although a majority of the team owners/sponsors are White men, a majority of the (best) players are Latinos.  Whereas, not only are almost all of the team owners/sponsors for the America’s Cup White men; almost all of the yachtsmen are too.  Which is why, ironically, Polo players are more representative of the Americas than the men who participate in the (men-only) America’s Cup. But I digress.

    It was impossible to miss all of the jingoistic reports and commentaries on the way the America’s Cup played out in San Francisco Bay today between Oracle Team USA (Team Oracle), defending the Cup, and Emirates Team New Zealand (Team Emirates), challenging (its oxymoronic appellation notwithstanding).

    For the uninitiated, which I suspect will be 99 percent of you, the Cup goes to the team that is first to win 9 races over a specially designed 10-mile course, which in this case incorporated such scenic mileposts as Alcatraz Island.  And it looked to be a rout when Team Emirates raced to an 8-1 lead on Day 8 (September 18). But, by some miracle (or, more likely, a mutually beneficial collusion), Team Oracle sailed to seven consecutive victories that were even more improbable than Team Emirates’s 8-1 run. This led to (or set up) today’s made-for-TV, winner-take-all race with the teams tied 8-8.

    Team Oracle won the tiebreaker to clinch the Cup. But if ever there were a race where money bought victory, this was it. “The greatest comeback in sports history“? Sure. It ranks right up there with Lance Armstrong’s comeback from cancer to cycle to seven consecutive victories in the Tour de France….

    Americas_Cup_2682146bBut it’s an indication of how fickle most commentators are that the same ones, who on Day 8 were venting all of my misgivings about the elitist, all-white, men-only nature of this event, were commenting on this do-or-die race today as if it were the friggin’ Super Bowl.

    Incidentally:

    Billionaire Oracle mogul Larry Ellison’s team won the America’s Cup in 2010 and thus earned the right to determine the current regatta’s rules. He called for the new AC72 catamaran, which can hydroplane on top of the water at speeds of nearly 50 miles per hour. These boats are among the fastest, most sophisticated, most expensive, and most dangerous sailboats ever built.

    (TIME magazine, September 17, 2013)

    But frankly, all you need to know about this event is that 14 teams signed up to compete – only to have Ellison, the world’s 5th-richest person with a net worth of $41 billion, make the cost of competing so prohibitive (with team budgets of $100 million, give or take a million) that 10 of them withdrew. Another two teams were deemed unsuitable, for whatever reason.

    YACHTING-AMCUP-ESP-PODIUMThe point is that it would have been too elitist to be worthy of public interest even if all 14 teams had competed in qualifying rounds to make it to the final, first-to-nine series. That only four teams ended up competing just compounded the mockery of this rich man’s hobby masquerading as a bona fide sport.

    Not to mention that the seemingly contrived outcome gives credence to claims (by real sport sailors) that the whole event amounted to little more than an ostentatious exercise in self-flattery for Ellison’s Olympian (money-can-buy-me-anything) ego.

    Interestingly enough, my take on the Equestrian Eventing at the Olympics pretty much sums up what I think about the America’s Cup:

    Many of you took umbrage at my blithely dismissing Equestrian Eventing at these Olympics. But, truth be told, because success depends almost as much on the nature of the equipment/horse as it does on the skill of the competitor/rider, I don’t think Equestrian Eventing should be an Olympic sport. The mere fact that one has to be either rich or sponsored by a rich person just to participate makes a mockery of the egalitarian spirit of the Olympics. And while even rowing is enjoying some racial diversity, equestrian performers are almost exclusively White men and women of European descent.

    (“London Olympics Day 3,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 30, 2012)

    Finally, I feel obliged to clarify that, as one who has fond memories of many summers competing in sailing races, I am hardly averse to sport sailing. It’s just that the boats of the America’s Cup are to sport sailing what assault rifles are to sport hunting.

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 9:03 pm

  • Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 5:37 AM

    ‘Men should be barred from politics’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    imagesTed Turner (aka the mouth of the South) created quite a stir on Monday when he said the following about men in politics at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit in New York City:

    They could do everything else, be president of universities, business leaders, but they just couldn’t serve in any elected position for 100 years.

    (Newsbusters.org, September 23, 2013)

    Some commentators thought he was being so progressive as to be revolutionary. Others thought he was pandering to his predominantly female audience. But I knew he was simply adding his very loud voice to a cause some of us have been advocating for years.

    Here, for example, is how I hailed the election of women as heads of state in Germany, Liberia, and Chile almost eight years ago:

    In light of the recent trend set by Angela Merkel of Germany and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Bachelet’s election would be encouraging to those of us who welcome the seepage of woman power through the crevices of  political and corporate governance around the world…

    Here’s to ‘the fairer sex’ – not only as indispensable guardians of home and hearth, but also as invaluable (and capable) stewards of the ship of state!

    (“Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 12, 2005)

    RosieRiveter_PanelAnd here’s how I commented on some of the realized and promising benefits of this reversal of gender roles in politics three years ago:

    We have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make some credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family-friendly policies is undeniable in this respect. Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that if more women held positions of power in politics they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments – just to cite one obvious example.

    Finland’s president, prime minister, president of the Supreme Court, as well as eight of its eleven government ministers are all women. Arguably, there’s a direct correlation between their positions and the fact that Newsweek rated this county the best place to live in 2010 – in terms of health, economic dynamism, education, political environment, and quality of life.

    (“Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 14, 2010)

    You might think of this trend as the germination of the “soft power” that even the superpower United States is struggling to develop as a matter of existential necessity. Simply put, soft power defines national strength, as well as international influence, more in terms of the general welfare of people than the projection of military might.

    But to avoid any confusion (or misguided snark), let me hasten to clarify that I do not think men should be literally barred from politics. I don’t think Turner does either. I just believe a great deal of public good would be derived from a reversal of gender participation in politics at this point in the (his)tory of (man)kind – such that men and women are represented in inverse ratio, at every level, to what we have today.

    To be sure, some pioneering women will feel the need to “act just like men” – as Margaret Thatcher arguably did. But as their participation, power, and influence become the norm rather than the exception, so too will their natural tendency to lead or rule by persuasion and consensus, instead of presuming, like men, that might makes right.

    In fact, the women of Finland have clearly demonstrated that women do not have to act like men to be successful in politics. (The same, I submit, will hold for business or any other professional endeavor.) I HOPE Hillary takes heed….

    Related Commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 5:37 AM

    New York’s Keystone Cops Unload and Misfire … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I wrote the following just over a year ago – after a series of incidents where trigger-happy policemen opened fire on a suspect in midtown Manhattan and injured bystanders:

    Instead of 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, all 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.

    (“New York City Becoming New Dodge City,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 27, 2012)

    390-copshoot15n-2Many of you thought I was being unfair, even “alarmist.” But bear in mind that the suspect in each case was not only clearly mentally disturbed, but actually within taser range (only 3-5 feet away) when the police opened fire.

    Well, now comes this:

    Two bystanders were shot by New York police officers in Times Square on Saturday night as they opened fire on a mentally disturbed suspect.

    Witnesses said police were responding to reports of a 35-year-old man acting strangely at 42nd Port Authority, when two women were caught in the cross fire.

    (New York Post, September 15, 2013)

    Was I right, or what?  Especially given that, after opening fire and missing so horribly, the Post reported that:

    Police finally brought [the suspect] down with a taser….

    Unbelievable!

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  • Monday, September 23, 2013 at 5:53 AM

    Emmys Honoring Cory Monteith but Snubbing Jack Klugman?! Boycott the Show!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    imagesNo doubt you’ve heard by now that the producers of tonight’s telecast of the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards intend to pay special “In-Memoriam” tribute to Cory Monteith of Glee. 

    Except that the Emmys had quite rightly never even nominated him. Yet they are snubbing more deserving actors like Larry Hagman of Dallas and Jack Klugman of The Odd Couple to honor him. (The Emmys had already slighted Hagman with just two career nominations but no wins. By contrast, it had quite rightly rewarded Klugman with three career wins.) What’s more, I could name many other actors – who died last year – who are more deserving than Cory.

    This snub, I submit, is reason enough to boycott the show.

    A sure sign of the oft-cited decline of Western civilization is a faux celebrity like Kim Kardashian making more money writing idle-minded tweets about her cash-driven life than a Pulitzer Prize-winning author like Philip Roth makes writing psychoanalytical books about his angst-ridden life. Apropos of which, is it any wonder Roth announced just last month that he was ending his writing career?

    (“Twitter Rant: Take 2,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 27, 2013)

    Trust me, I know only too well that I come across like a curmudgeon with my Twitter rants. But I hope the lamentation on the juvenilization of our culture and common sense they represent is not lost on my detractors.

    Alas, this juvenilization will be dramatized in funereal fashion tonight. Mind you, just years ago (i.e., before Facebook and Twitter), no producer would have even countenanced paying special “In-Memoriam” tribute to a young actor whose claim to fame had more to do with his drug-addled (real) life than with the role he played, as part of an ensemble cast, on one TV show. Yet such is the cultivation of unearned fame today that the producers of tonight’s show think this makes sense.

    Here’s the plainly disingenuous explanation executive producer Ken Erlich provided for this inmates-running-the-asylum decision:

    To a younger generation, Cory Monteith’s portrayal of Finn Hudson (on Glee) was highly admired, and the producers felt that he should be included along with the four other individuals we have singled out [namely actress Jean Stapleton, actor James Gandolfini, comedian Jonathan Winters, and producer Gary David Goldberg].

    (The Associated Press, September 21, 2013)

    emmys3-650x379The obvious truth of course is that producers are hyping a tribute to him to boost ratings among the all-important young demographic – paying proper last respects to stars like Hagman and Klugman be damned.

    The irony, though, is that most young people will probably be watching Sunday Night Football or the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad. Which is why I fully expect the ratings to reflect just how clueless producers were for thinking they could lure viewers from these counterprogramming shows with a one-minute tribute to Cory. Then again, the whole point of my rants is that there’s no longer any expectation of common-sense behavior in this age of Twitter and faux celebrity….

    Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 1.04.27 PMIn any event, here, in part, is how Klugman’s son Adam decried Erlich’s explanation:

    I think it’s criminal … my dad was at the inception of television and helped build it in the early days… What about the people who should be introduced to somebody like my father? I don’t mean to say anything disparaging about Cory, but he was a kid who had won no Emmys and it was a self-induced tragedy.

    (Hollywood Reporter, September 21, 2013)

    Well, not quite criminal, but surely his contempt for what Emmy producers intend is understandable….

    Nonetheless, you might think some commentary on the actual, deserving winners tonight is still warranted, but I couldn’t possibly comment. For to do so in light of my outrage would be akin to asking that proverbially oafish question (purportedly coined by American singer, song writer and Mathematician Tom Lehrer):

    Apart from that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 2:13 pm

  • Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    With the mainstreaming even of S&M porn, fairytales like Cinderella make about as much sense as rotary dial phones

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    6a00d8341d417153ef017744577202970d-800wi-1

  • Friday, September 20, 2013 at 5:41 AM

    Miami Cubans’ Economic Blackmail against The Bahamas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Ever since reports about prison guards abusing Cuban refugees at a detention center in Nassau, Bahamas went viral last month, the Bahamian government has been trying to weather a public-relations hurricane.

    Unsurprisingly, these reports incited regional outrage. Nowhere more so than in Miami, from where Cuban exiles (aka Miami Cubans) exert apparent political influence in the United States that defies their political demographics as well as common sense.

    images-2For the record, while raising legitimate questions about the authenticity of videotapes allegedly showing this abuse, Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell is deflecting blame by drawing:

    … a distinction between the possible or alleged individual behaviour of agents of the state and the state itself.

    (The Tribune, August 19, 2013)

    Unfortunately, this is rather like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on the one hand, questioning the authenticity of forensic evidence implicating his regime in the use of chemical weapons, while on the other hand, deflecting blame by pointing to rogue agents of his regime as the culprits.

    images-3To be fair, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe pleaded just days ago that the Bahamian government is still “working on a report into the alleged abuse.”

    Except, to complete the analogy, when one considers that it took UN investigators only three weeks to produce their report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, it seems more like obfuscation, if not obstruction of justice, that it has already taken Bahamian investigators more than three months to produce theirs on this abuse.

    Frankly, the Bahamian government would be well-advised to admit the obvious, namely, that Cuban refugees were in fact abused while in a government detention center. For context, though, the government might submit that the abuse alleged was no more severe than that which inmates in every prison, in every state in the United States claim prison guards mete out against them every day.

    But until the government makes this admission, the powerful politicians who give Miami Cubans their clout will not buy any assurance that those implicated will be held to account, or that new measures have been implemented to prevent further abuse. And, incidentally, it hardly matters that the abuse allegedly stemmed from prison guards reacting, in kind, to a violent attempt by refugees to escape from the detention center.

    images-1Which brings me to the more salient point of this commentary: the friggin’ nerve of Miami Cubans.

    You could be forgiven for thinking that the reason for their sustained outrage and threats to stage economically crippling protests is the alleged abuse of Cuban detainees. But this is not so.

    Instead, what has them waging a public-relations jihad is the Bahamian government’s policy of repatriating people they hail as “freedom-seeking Cuban refugees.” Never mind that this policy is no different from their U.S. government’s policy of repatriating freedom-seeking Haitian refugees.

    [Ironically enough, it was another Democratic president, Bill Clinton] who initiated the inherently unfair, if not racist ‘wet foot, dry foot’ immigration policy during his presidency, which stipulates that seafaring Cuban refugees who make it to U.S. shores must be assimilated, unconditionally; whereas seafaring Haitian refugees (fleeing even greater persecution and privations) who make it must be repatriated, summarily.

    (“Compassion Fatigue for Haitian Migrants,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 31, 2009)

    By contrast, notwithstanding the abuse alleged in this case, The Bahamas should be hailed for having an immigration policy that treats all refugees equally and caters to no special interest group. Its government rightly relies on guidance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in determining which asylum seekers are granted refugee status and which are repatriated – after exhausting all legal appeals.

    Accordingly:

    [Foreign Minister] Mitchell confirmed that 24 people, all Cuban nationals, were repatriated to their home country on Friday, August 16…

    He said there are 20 others who will be returned home shortly and 275 Haitian migrants were returned to Haiti last week as well.

    (Jamaica Gleaner, August 20, 2013)

    images-5Alas, activist Miami Cubans, like those associated with the protest group Democracy Movement, are so indulged by politicians in the United States that every member of the Florida congressional delegation has been fighting to give political sanction to their plainly contrived, hypocritical and misguided outrage. Is it any wonder, then, that they now believe they can even dictate how politicians in other countries deal with Cuban refugees?

    Far more troubling, though, is the number of refugees – who claim they were abused – who The Bahamas has sent off to Miami instead of repatriated to Cuba. Because, whatever the merit in doing so, it may have unwittingly given other refugees the impression that sensational claims of abuse (even if self-inflicted – as has been documented) gets one a ticket to Miami.

    Meanwhile, nothing betrays the ulterior political motive of Miami Cubans quite like Democracy Movement protesting the due repatriation of every Cuban refugee.

    For, irrespective of claims of abuse, they are now threatening to stage protests everywhere from the curbs of major Florida airports to the docks of major cruise liners. And they are doing all of this in a venal effort to get the Bahamian government to adopt the U.S. immigration policy that accords preferential treatment to Cuban refugees.

    This is why Foreign Minister Mitchell is right to decry it as “economic blackmail.” After all, Miami Cubans are clearly banking on Bahamian politicians becoming so unnerved by the mere potential economic impact of any bad publicity that they will do Democracy Movement’s bidding.

    Sadly, that Minister of Tourism Wilchcombe is reportedly exhorting Bahamians to stage counter protests is an indication that they might be right, at least insofar as Bahamian politicians becoming unnerved is concerned. This, of course, is absurd.

    images-6Not least because anyone who knows anything about the real influence of Miami Cubans knows that it is limited to voting as a block every four years in presidential elections – given Florida’s status as an all-important swing state.

    Which is why Democracy Movement trying to persuade anyone who is not a Miami Cuban to abandon their flight or cruise to The Bahamas is rather like Catholic Bishops trying to persuade anyone who is not Roman Catholic to stop having pre-marital sex. Exactly … good luck with that!

    Accordingly, the best thing Bahamian officials can do is to completely ignore the idle threats of Democracy Movement’s publicity-seeking crusaders.

    Besides, their cause celebre will flame out soon enough in this media age where even a story as consequential as the military coup in Egypt has the lifespan of an adult mayfly. Whereas responding to their protests is like adding fuel to fire.

    Finally, I urge you to challenge any Miami Cuban who thinks it’s unconscionable for the Bahamian government to repatriate refugees to Cuba to explain why it’s not unconscionable for the U.S. government to have one “special-entry” immigration policy for Cuban refugees and another “papers-please” one for all others from this region (most notably Haitians).

    It is a testament to the conceit and arrogance of Miami Cubans that they firmly believe they’ll be able to return to Cuba after Fidel dies – to inherit the political power and social privileges they or family members abdicated decades ago. And they assume this prerogative without any regard for the Cubans who have been toiling at home, waiting for their opportunity to govern their country.

    Except that, at this rate, a well-indoctrinated Elian Gonzalez will be Cuban dictator before Miami Cubans are disabused of their antic pining for their paradise lost.

    (“Raul Pledges to Continue Fidel’s (50-year) Cuban Revolution,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 26, 2008)

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  • Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 5:20 AM

    North Korea Craving Attention Dennis Rodman Can’t Give

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    North Korean President Kim Jong-Il is a temperamental and insecure man. Only this explains his habit of making nuclear threats from time to time. Whenever he does, he commands the international attention he craves so pathologically and extorts the aid his people need so desperately…

    When it comes to psychological warfare, this North Korean gnome is one Chicken Little who manages to jerk the world’s chain every time. Indeed, true to form, statements of concern from world leaders about what Jong-Il might do followed his antic declaration with Pavlovian predictability. But one wonders why — given his record of idle threats — world leaders even give him the time of day?

    (“Why do World Leaders Give North Korea’s President Time of Day,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 4, 2006)

    nk3Evidently, like father, like son; because Kim Jong-un is now doing the same thing … for the same reasons. Specifically, with the international media now obsessed with goings on in Syria, and with a state visit by the American clown Dennis Rodman not generating the kind of attention he craved, Jong-un has resorted to this:

    Steam has been seen rising from North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility, suggesting that the reactor has been restarted.

    (BBC, September 12, 2013)

    This, of course, is the nuclear reactor his father agreed to shut down in 2007 with considerable fanfare as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal.  Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that, given the economic straits his country is in (again), Jong-un is playing the nuclear card to incite fear and extort more concessions:

    His perverse calculation is that a successful launch [or, in this case, producing more plutonium to make nuclear weapons] will give him a much stronger hand to extort (with threats to attack South Korea or sell nukes to terrorists) tons more money and food when he returns to the negotiating table for patently disingenuous talks about dismantling his nuclear program. And, past being prologue, he’s right.

    (“North Korea Commanding World Attention … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 13, 2012)

    images-1That said, it’s noteworthy not only that President Obama seems less inclined than his predecessors to cave in to these patented threats, but also that Jung-un seems less inclined than his predecessors to open fire on South Korea to give credence to them.

    Finally, here is what I proposed, in “North Korea to The World: Nuke Off!” The iPINIONS Journal, December 13, 2012, as the only sensible way to deal with this little unruly nation:

    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 a UN-style veto by any country (namely, China or Russia):

    APEC

    • 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:
    Why do leaders give Kim time of day
    North Korea commanding … again

  • Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 5:42 AM

    Lady Gaga (and Others) “In a Dangerous Place”

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    UnknownHere, in part, is how I explained why I am far more impressed with music stars like Adele and Beyoncé than those like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj:

    Lady Gaga literally personifies the triumph of packaged and formulaic acts over talented performances. Which is rather a shame because this girl can sing…

    Come to think of it, though, most performers today seem to think that the key to success is looking and behaving in a way off stage that makes what they do on stage seem almost irrelevant: Exhibit B – Nicki Minaj (or, for you older folks, think of all of the off-stage exhibitionism that rendered the music of artists like Grace Jones and Madonna irrelevant).

    By sterling contrast, Adele not only sings like an angel, but she might just be the music industry’s saving grace. Unfortunately, the VMAs have so little to do with musical talent these days that Adele performing on this show was rather like Andrea Bocelli performing on So You Think You Can Dance.

    (“2011 MTV Music Video Awards, The iPINIONS Journal, August 30, 2011)

    As you can imagine, I got a lot of flak from Gaga’s “little monsters” for dissing her in this fashion. But, as vindication goes, it doesn’t get any better than this. Because here’s what no less a person than Elton John is saying now about Gaga – who happens to be the godmother of his two sons:

    When your persona begins to take over your music and becomes more important, you enter a dangerous place.

    (New York Post, September 17, 2013)

    images-1Of course, some might suggest that there was a time in Elton’s career when his persona was beginning to take over his music and become more important – adorned as it was with Liberace-like costumes and ostentatious eyewear. But he would probably stress the difference between wearing flamboyant costumes for performances on stage, which he did, and wearing them as performances off stage, which Gaga does … as part of what seems to be a pathological need to pull daily publicity stunts.

    Interestingly enough, Elton is also quoted in this Post report recalling how he predicted that Michael Jackson would never perform a single one of the 50 “This Is It” concerts he contracted to perform at The O2 Arena in London.

    UnknownExcept that I don’t know why anyone thought he actually would – given the public meltdowns that characterized Michael’s last years, including showing up for his child-molestation trial wearing his pajamas and showing up for the grand announcement of his “This Is It” concerts utterly dazed and confused.

    Here, in part, is how I commented on his life’s downward spiral towards its all too predictable end:

    Reports abound that Michael fed this [spendthrift] habit in recent years by contracting to perform, collecting hefty advances, and then resorting to all kinds of ploys (often involving hospital visits) to avoid getting on stage. Indeed, despite reports of him rehearsing for his big comeback series of concerts, I am convinced that, having collected a hefty percentage of the advance ticket sales, he had no intention of actually performing.

    Therefore, it shall remain one of the greatest ironies, if not mysteries of his life that, for a man who claimed to be happiest when performing, Michael did so much during the last years of his life to avoid being on stage. His last concert performance was in 1996….

    (“Michael Jackson, King of Pop, Is Dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 27, 2009)

    Enough said.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 6:27 AM

    Shooting Rampage at DC Navy Yard

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 7.26.19 PMIt never takes long for national tragedies in America to devolve into rubbernecking TV spectacles.

    The shooting rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC this morning is a case in point — complete with wall-to-wall coverage, 99 percent of which is peddling misinformation and stoking fear, and hourly law-enforcement/political press conferences, 98 percent of which is informing the public that, “we have nothing further to add.” Not to mention the looping of eyewitness accounts, which do little more than create fodder for idle media speculation … and police wild-goose chases.

    Meanwhile, the only relevant facts are that a gunman made it into a building at the Navy Yard, where he shot 12 people – who were like sitting ducks – before the police killed him in a shootout.  Early reports were that he had two accomplices, which, true to form, were later corrected with more speculation about one accomplice who remains at large.

    But chances are very good that the shooter will turn out to have been a “lone wolf” – with mental problems or an incomprehensible grudge against the Navy.

    Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 7.23.22 PMTherefore, besides extending sincere condolences to all those directly affected, I shall suffice to reprieve excerpts from two commentaries on previous rampages, which effectively sum up all that I think should be said about them:

    I fully support strict gun-control laws. Nevertheless, I am convinced that no laws can prevent these kinds of human tragedies. In fact, incidents like this bring into stark relief the fact that it’s not guns, but insane and troubled people — with motives no one can possibly anticipate or comprehend — who commit mass murders…

    Therefore, let us look to psychologists to help us understand what triggers such psychotic human behavior; not to politicians to legislate against it or pundits to cast blame.

    (“Massacre at Virginia Tech,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2007)

    And

    I don’t know why the media always reward these psychotic people by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and on the front page of every major newspaper … worldwide, and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds? Isn’t it clear to see, especially in this age of instant celebrity, why some loser kid would find this route to infamy irresistible?… And it’s not as if delving into their past or trying to discern their motives will help law enforcement deter or prevent the next attack.

    You’d think that – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes since Columbine – we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the shooter to: May God have mercy on your soul as you burn in hell!

    (“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)

    390-navy-0917Except that I shall add two points:

    1. Whether law enforcement calls this tragedy a terrorist attack or a shooting rampage is as much a distinction without a difference as whether Assad massacres his people with conventional weapons or with chemical weapons.
    2. I’m on record expressing wonder that these shooting rampages do not happen more often; and that crazed gunmen or terrorists have yet to target sports stadiums, which loom like large duck ponds compared to military installations. And, given the ease with which this gunman got through all of the security at this navy yard, chances are very good that once one (or more) of them sets his sights on a sports stadium, the fatalities are going to be closer to 9/11 numbers than today’s relatively modest body count.

    It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing law-enforcement officials can do to prevent such attacks.

    (“From New York to London, Terrorists are Terrorizing Us to Death,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2007)

    NOTE: It clearly offended all notions of diplomatic niceties for some Russian Sarah Palin to mock President Obama by tweeting that these shooting rampages make America “exceptional.” But, where shooting rampages are concerned, it’s true.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 5:43 pm

  • Monday, September 16, 2013 at 6:57 AM

    U.S. and Russia Strike Deal to Avert U.S. bombing Syria … for Now

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Marathon negotiations between U.S. and Russian diplomats at a Geneva hotel produced a sweeping agreement that will require one of the most ambitious arms-control efforts in history.

    The deal involves making an inventory and seizing all components of Syria’s chemical weapons program and imposing penalties if President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply will the terms.

    (Associated Press, September 14, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 8.34.43 PMThis agreement the United States struck with Russia/Syria today to avert “limited” military strikes may not be as gullible and foreseeable a blunder as the one Britain struck with Germany in 1938 to guarantee “Peace for Our Time.”

    After all, where Germany made a mockery of that agreement by occupying the Sudetenland the very next day, chances are that Syria will feign compliance for at least a few months before making it plain that it has no more regard for its agreement with the United States than Germany had for its with Britain.

    In the meantime, I am simply stupefied by all of the pundits (across the political spectrum) who are hailing this agreement as a diplomatic coup for Russian President Vladimir Putin – with some even hailing him as the new superpower broker in the Middle East. What patent nonsense!

    For starters, these are the same pundits who just weeks ago were telling us that the reason Putin was so eager to stop President Obama from launching missile strikes against Syria is that this country is the only place in the region where Putin has any political clout. They were/are right.

    Which is why their plaudits would only make sense if Putin had brokered a deal with respect to similar events in a country like Egypt or Libya, where Western powers have always held sway. Not to mention that Putin fatally undermined any commendation with his world-is-flat insistence — reinforced in his September 12 op-ed in the New York Times — that all evidence indicates it was Syrian rebels, not regime soldiers, who used chemical weapons.

    Hell, with delusional puppetry like that, you could be forgiven for thinking that Russia’s Putin is Assad’s Rasputin. But I wish reporters had the balls to challenge Putin to present what evidence he has that implicates the rebels instead of blithely reporting his unreasonable doubts about the evidence that clearly implicates the regime.

    Unknown-1Now bear in mind that the only reason Obama wanted to launch those strikes was to deter Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from ever using his chemical weapons again.

    Therefore, I don’t see how this deal is a coup for Putin if he’s staking his reputation and influence on forcing his puppet dictator to do Obama’s bidding … and then some. After all, even if Obama had launched one million missiles, by definition he would’ve had to avoid hitting Assad’s chemical weapons, leaving the dictator to use them another, even more desperate day.

    In which case, if anything, this deal would seem a diplomatic coup for Obama, no? That is, of course, if Assad complies. After all, it may be that Putin has no greater influence and control over Assad than Obama has over General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – his putative puppet dictator in Egypt.

    This is why the only question is: If (or when) Assad begins his cat-and-mouse games of noncompliance, will Obama follow the precedent his predecessors set by bombing without congressional authorization, or will he risk more national handwringing and personal humiliation by deferring to the fickle, ignorant “will of the American people [via vote of their representatives]” again.

    No doubt Assad is banking on the latter, and a resounding no from Congress. But I think Obama will opt for the former, and merely inform Congress after Assad is taking cover in his bunker.

    Related commentaries:
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    *  This commentary was originally published  Saturday, September 14, at 9:21 pm

  • Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 6:24 AM

    American Media Serving as Carrier Pigeons for al-Qaeda

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Once again, like Pavlovian dogs, practically every news program in the United States reported yesterday on the latest message from the new leader of al-Qaeda as if it were a message from the president of the United States.

    But, besides scaremongering to generate ratings, can you think of any reason why they played video clips of America’s enemy number one ordering lone wolves to do, wherever they are, what those two misguided nincompoops did in Boston (at the marathon) earlier this year? In other words, why, pray tell, are the media serving as carrier pigeons for al-Qaeda to make sure its foot soldiers get their marching orders…?

    markstein

    Which compels me to suggest that only after al-Qaeda begins targeting Western news organizations instead of embassies will they stop rushing to disclose all of these methods to intercept and foil terror plots. More to the point, am I the only one who thinks it’s almost complicit for reporters to continually tip off terrorists about all of the covert ways Western governments are trying to combat them…? Friggin’ idiots!

    (“Terror Alert: al-Qaeda Planning Attacks! (Duh…),”  The iPINIONS Journal, August 4, 2013)

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, September 13, 2013 at 6:28 AM

    Russia and United States in Chess Game for Syria

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Much is being made of a Russian proposal to resolve the “Crisis in Syria.” In sum, it calls for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons arsenal to international demolition experts and sign the international convention against their use to avoid military strikes by the United States.

    Notwithstanding understandable skepticism … on both sides, a fearful Syria and a war-weary United States are grasping at this proposal as if it were a life-saving buoy. Indeed, reports are that Syria rushed to sign the international Chemical Weapons Convention today – after decades of defiantly refusing to do so. And the United States rushed to Geneva today to begin talks with Russia about the details. But the United States and Syria know full well that if they rely solely on this proposal, their risk of drowning is very high indeed.

    images-4However, if this peaceful disarmament works against all odds (given that Russia’s Vladimir V. Putin is no more trustworthy than Syria’s Bashar al-Assad), it would save Obama from having to launch a stupid war of his own – complete with disruptive, hornets-nest potential that would make the fallout in Iraq seem tame by comparison.

    If it doesn’t work,  it’s Putin’s machinations, not Obama’s reputation, that should incur global scrutiny … and wrath. More important, Obama would then have far greater justification to launch military strikes – not just to deter Assad’s use of chemical weapons, but to take him out as well.

    But it might be helpful to know that Putin has his own existential interest in either controlling or destroying Assad’s chemical weapons; above all, to avoid them falling into the hands of Islamic terrorists who hate Russians more than they hate Americans.

    images-3What’s more, far too few commentators seem to appreciate the irony that, just as Obama purportedly got himself into a box by threatening military action if Assad crossed his red line, Putin has now put himself into one by assuming responsibility for Assad’s disarmament. (In so doing, he may have also unwittingly provided Obama an escape hatch to get out of his.)

    Still, it is not lost on me that past seems prologue here. For Putin seems to be testing/daring Obama with his diplomatic and military maneuvers with respect to Syria today just as Nikita Khrushchev tested/dared John F. Kennedy with similar maneuvers with respect to Cuba 50 years ago.

    This is why, instead of even threatening to bomb Syria, thereby incurring blame for turning it into another ungovernable mess like Iraq, Obama should test/dare Putin in turn by:

    • Aggressively training and arming (vetted) opposition forces to enable them to not only outgun Assad’s ragtag army, but also purge al-Qaeda jihadists from their ranks.
    • Countering Putin’s threat to supply Iran with sophisticated missile systems and help it build a second nuclear reactor “for peaceful energy purposes” with his own threat to do the same for a friendly Gulf State like Saudi Arabia (while of course still maintaining the military edge Israel enjoys over all Arab states in the region … combined).
    • Openly flirting with the prospect of supplying sophisticated missile systems to the newly independent states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and helping them build new nuclear reactors too….

    Such an arms race by proxy would surely give Putin pause; not least because he would have just cause to fear Obama bankrupting his Russia the way President Reagan bankrupted the Soviet Union with a similar arms race during the Cold War. After all, not only can the United States afford to donate more; its pawn state(s) can afford to buy more arms than Russia’s as well.

    Checkmate!

    Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 6.59.14 PMFinally, much is also being made of a Putin op-ed the New York Times published today. In it he criticized Obama’s foreign policies and lectured the American people on the fundamentals of international law and the universal truth that all men are created equal. Unsurprisingly, Obama’s critics in the United States are taking umbrage at Putin’s brazen hypocrisy and pointing to his op-ed as just another reflection of his contempt for a “weak Obama.”

    But I think it betrays Putin’s own weakness that he used a U.S. publication to take cheap shots at Obama. After all, his dictatorial rule is such that he would not allow his fellow Russians, let alone a foreign leader, similar freedom of expression to criticize his policies. Not to mention the hypocrisy of this man who invaded the newly independent state of Georgia, massacred hundreds of thousands of people in the unruly Russian region of Chechnya, and decreed that LGBT people are not only unequal but unnatural.

    This is why it makes Obama’s critics look weak and foolish for taking his plainly mischievous op-ed so seriously. To his credit Obama rebuffed exhortations by reporters to even dignify it with a comment.

    Far more troublesome, though, is the media’s determined intent to pursue their venal, vested interest in an open, Cold War-like confrontation between the United States and Russia. Accordingly, on the one hand they will do all they can to goad Putin into overplaying his hand by stroking his Napoleonic ego (e.g., by hailing him as the new power broker in the Middle East); while on the other hand they will do all they can to goad Obama into overreacting by challenging his Mandingo manhood (e.g., by dismissing him as a clueless, feckless and hopeless figure who prefers to lead … from behind).

    In any event, for the record, America’s foreign policies might be a mess of compassion, contradiction, cunning, and confusion, but the world has been and remains far better off with its policies reigning supreme than those of any other country, especially Russia.

    NOTE: Remember Egypt?  It’s just another example of the obsessive, myopic, and herd-like nature of the media that, after months of covering the explosion of every Molotov cocktail in Egypt as if it were the opening salvo of World War III, you’d be hard-pressed to find any mention of the ongoing unrest there in the news today; i.e., now that the media has turned its sights on Syria. This, notwithstanding that, after deposing the democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi two months ago, the Egyptian army issued orders just yesterday extending martial law and daily curfews for at least another two months.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 5:28 pm

  • Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 5:26 AM

    Return of the Polar Ice Caps. I told you so!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I knew long before I published my very first commentary online that I was inviting insults – not only to my intelligence, but also to my very being.

    Which, incidentally, is why my heart goes out to all of the kids whose online chats, pictures, observations, etc., incited such degrading and dehumanizing abuse (aka bullying) that they killed themselves. I just wish those kids could have seen the abuse some of my commentaries incited. This might have made them feel better about themselves.

    images-1At any rate, none of my commentaries have incited more abuse than those on global warming. Mind you, I’m not referring to ignorant comments made by anonymous (i.e., cowardly) trolls who get off on littering the Internet with irrelevant snark. Instead, my abusers, in this case, were mostly scientists, politicians, and/or environmentalists with a vested interest in propagating/proselytizing the gospel of global warming.

    Even so, their abuse was so degrading and dehumanizing that I decided to publish what I thought would be “My Final Word on Global Warming” on August 8, 2006. (A form of intellectual suicide, I suppose.) Except that, as new developments continually vindicated my initial take on this global debate, I could not resist the urge to say to my self-righteous critics, “I told you so.”

    As it happens, I’ve had many occasions since 2006 to say so – as a simple search here of the term “global warming” (or “climate change” – their CYA term) will attest. Today is another such occasion.

    For your information and some context, though, here’s the unassailable way I have proffered my take on global warming from day one:

    I am convinced that all of the preaching about global warming is just hot air. Of course the planet is getting warmer (although only by a sweltering 1°F every 100 years … ouch?). Moreover, I have no doubt that humans (especially Americans) are marginally to blame. But I also have no doubt that this warming is simply due to natural climate variations (i.e., a cyclical phenomenon).

    (“My Final Word on Global Warming,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2006)

    Please note that I did not deny, and have never denied, the existence of global warming. I have only ever argued that, to the extent it exists, it is a cyclical phenomenon – as a subsequent commentary, “Global Cooling? Yes!” The iPINIONS Journal, October 21, 2008, will attest.

    But here’s an excerpt from one other commentary, just to show that I gave as good as I got where my critics were concerned:

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

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

    Believers in global warming are uninformed, fad-obsessed herds being (mis)led by a cadre of myopic media and political elite… I could not be more indignant at rich environmentalists who seek absolution for their environmental sins by ‘purchasing carbon credits’ in the same spirit with which Catholics once sought absolution for their moral sins by purchasing Papal indulgences.

    I fear, however, that the IPCC will only be redeemed if melting ice caps defy God’s Rainbow Covenant and cause another flood of Biblical proportions. In the meantime, these revelations [about researchers manipulating scientific data to give credence to global-warming theories] should compel the Nobel Committee to revoke the IPCC’s, as well as Al Gore’s, Nobel Prize….

    (“Climate Change: As Much Fraud as Junk Science,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 2, 2010)

    __________________

    MoS2 Template MasterAlas, with the ice caps now re-freezing, that redemption might be generations away.

    Given all that, here’s the cause for my latest, I told you so.

    A chilly Arctic summer has left nearly a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year – an increase of 60 per cent.

    The rebound from 2012’s record low comes six years after the BBC reported [in 2007] that global warming would leave the Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013.

    Instead, days before the annual autumn re-freeze is due to begin, an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia’s northern shores…

    (Daily Mail, September 8, 2013)

    But let me hasten to clarify that I have no common cause with right-wing, Bible-thumping nutters who deny global warming with the same religious fervor with which they deny evolution. Instead, here’s an illustration of what animates my disdain for holier-than-thou global warmers:

    To hear most of these rich folks lamenting about the depletion of the ozone, the increasing gap between haves and have nots, and the almost criminal waste of non-renewable energy, one would think they jet-pooled to Davos on ethanol-fueled airplanes; whereas they all flew in on gas-guzzling, air-polluting private jets.

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

    Not to mention the hypocrisy inherent in rich folks – who live in air-conditioned, energy-hoarding mansions, lecturing poor folks – who live in non-electric, ramshackle huts, about burning “ozone-depleting” coal to fuel their subsistence living.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 6:07 AM

    9/11: Time to Move On…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Adam Zyglis Cartoon

    I applaud NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg for decreeing this week that, henceforth, the area where the twin towers were destroyed shall no longer be called ‘Ground Zero.’ Instead, it shall revert to its original name, The World Trade Center.

    But I urge him to decree also that, henceforth, the city shall no longer mark this day, every year, by wallowing in the plainly contrived ceremony of tolling bells and reading all names of those who perished on 9/11…

    Families directly affected should be left alone to grieve in their own way. But I suspect many of them moved on with their lives long ago and will feel no need to do so.

    This 10th anniversary seems a good time for the rest of the country to move on too…

    (“Time to Move On,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 11, 2011)

  • Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    On Syria (and almost every other issue) the American People Are Insolent, Ignorant Idiots…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Author’s Note: President Obama is scheduled to make his case for war (um, er, a “shot across the bow”) against Syria in an address to the nation tonight. He’s hoping the art of persuasion that got a record number of Americans to support his re-election less than a year ago will get at least one half of them … to persuade their congressional representatives to support his antic military mission.   

    In light of tonight’s address, I have decided to reprise this self-explanatory commentary, which was originally published on Saturday, September 7. 

    ALH

    _______________________

     

    And their congressional representatives are pandering, pusillanimous pussies.

    137074_600This is why I am so irritated and dismayed that so many congressmen are citing the ranting of people who ring their offices or attend town hall meetings as the basis for deciding whether or not to support President Obama’s resolution to launch military strikes against Syria.

    Specifically, it takes an unprecedented and unparalleled form of ass-backwardness for congressmen to:

    1. interrupt their summer vacations to return to Washington;
    2. receive classified briefings on the reasons why the Obama Administration believes military action against Syria is necessary (to punish Assad for using chemical weapons and “degrade” his capacity to use them again); then
    3. return home, not to inform constituents about how and why they are voting based on those briefings, but to have those constituents (who couldn’t even find Syria on a friggin’ map) tell them how to vote – complete with their passionately ignorant reasons why.

    Clearly, politicians have become little more than ‘perfectly lubricated weathervanes.’ In fact, they have made a mockery of representative government by abdicating decisions on complicated issues in favor of referendums.

    UnknownFor the record, the American people elect (and pay) congressional representatives to make “informed” decisions on issues of national importance. We have representative government instead of literal democracy (aka mob rule) precisely to avoid the spectacle we had this week – with idiots showing up at a town hall meeting and lecturing/haranguing Sen. John McCain about the contents of the congressional resolution on Syria … which he helped draft; and McCain trying in vain to disabuse them of their ignorance.

    This is why I respectfully submit that only city councilors (or town elders) should hold town hall meetings to give local people a forum to vent, as idiotically as they care to, about local issues that affect them … directly. That’s it!

    Anyway, whether you support military action or (like me) oppose it, you too should be irritated and dismayed by this political state of affairs: conducting foreign policy based on public outrage and opinion polls. The Founding Fathers must be rolling over in their graves.

    Meanwhile, there’s this:

    I fully appreciate why the use of chemical weapons incites such visceral condemnation. When all of the guilt-assuaging moralizing is done, however, even President Obama will be hard-pressed to explain why the Egyptian military killing 1000 people with guns does not cross a ‘red line,’ but the Syrian military doing so with gas does.

    Not to mention him trying to explain why Assad has been allowed to preside over the slaughtering of 120,000 in the two-plus years since he commanded this Syrian leader ‘to go.’ For surely the triggering mechanism for international intervention should be the fact that a military dictatorship is killing an unconscionable number of innocent people, not how that military is doing so, no?

    (“Actually, Isn’t Killing with Gas (Syria) more Humane than Killing with Guns (Egypt)?” The iPINIONS Journal, August 23, 2013)

    136713_600

    The White House announced late yesterday that the president will be addressing the American people on Tuesday to tell them (again) why he thinks military action against Syria is necessary. No doubt he’ll reiterate that Assad’s use of chemical weapons was “a game changer for us … [the thing] that  changed my calculus.”

    But, in addition to the two inconsistencies I mentioned above, perhaps Obama can also try to explain during this address why he launched military strikes against Gaddafi in Libya – if it’s truly the use of chemical weapons and not the “conventional” slaughter of hundreds of thousands that triggers military action. After all, Gaddafi might have slaughtered tens of thousands, but nobody ever even accused him of using chemical weapons on any of them.

    Whatever he says, I just hope Obama does not ape myopic congressmen by proffering the oxymoronic argument about the country being tired of war. Instead, his case would be far more persuasive if he declared without equivocation that the lesson of WWII is that America can never be too tired to defend the world against tyrants hell-bent on using chemical weapons. Period!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, September 9, 2013 at 5:58 AM

    Serena – U.S. Open Champion … Again!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Serena Williams has been dominating women’s tennis so much this year that I don’t know of any sports analyst who gave Victoria “Vika” Azarenka, her opponent in today’s U.S. Open final, any chance of winning. And Serena proved them right.

    Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 10.48.12 PMIn fact, the only thing that surprised anybody was that it took her three sets to dispatch Vika:

    It had taken longer than most anyone had imagined and a much tougher opponent than she’d faced all tournament, but Williams had proved victorious. She was the U.S. Open champion, again — for the fifth time. She beat a relentless Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 6-1 for her 17th Grand Slam singles title, one fewer than Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the all-time list.

    (USA TODAY, September 8, 2013)

    Ironically, what I found most interesting about the match was that it took her three sets. Because it allowed Serena to display remarkable poise under pressure, which was the only thing I found lacking in her game.

    Remember this:

    Saturday’s semifinal match between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters of Belgium was billed as little more than a tune-up for Serena’s berth into the championship final…

    Serena was trailing 5-6 and serving down 15-30 (with Kim just two points away from the upset of the tournament) when a line judge called a foot fault on her second serve. This gave Kim a 15-40 lead with two break opportunities to win the game, set, and match.

    However, instead of channeling her grit and passion on fighting Kim to save serve, Serena took out her frustrations on the judge – complete with a profanity-lace verbal assault that included this qualified threat: ‘I swear to God, if I could, I would take this f***king ball and shove it down your f***king throat… Do you hear me!’

    (“Serena Snaps … at U.S. Open,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 15, 2009)

    She lost … it.

    Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 10.45.45 PMThis is why I hope I can be forgiven unnerving flashbacks after Serena lost a truly hard-fought, heartbreaking second set. Especially when she began blaming the swirling wind and her racket (given the way she tossed it in disgust at one point) for causing her to lose a big lead, which made a straight-set victory seem assured.

    Not to mention how having another foot fault called against her could have been the fuse to set her off and cause her to lose (it) again.

    But she not only regained her composure, she upped her game to a level never seen in women’s tennis – easily finishing off a seemingly formidable Vika 6-1.

    180085338_270x359This is why I have renewed hope that, unlike Tiger Woods, she will truly rewrite the record books in her sport.

    I fully expected Venus and Serena to do to the records in women’s tennis what Tiger Woods has done (and is doing) to the records in golf.

    Alas, they have not.  In fact, of the 43 Grand Slam titles that have been up for grabs since they turned pro in 1998, Venus has won only 7 and Serena 11.  By comparison, in less than half that time – from 2004 to 2008 – Justine Henin won 7 titles. And at 29 and 27, respectively, it seems a pipe dream that either Venus or Serena will ever surpass Steffi Graf’s feat of winning 22 titles, let alone Margaret Court’s 24.

    (“Serena…Triumphs at Wimbledon,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 6, 2009)

    Hail Serena!

    NOTE: I suspect I’m not the only one who thought Venus would be the Williams sister to seal their legacy. But ever since she was struck with Sjögren’s syndrome, an incurable autoimmune condition, a few years ago, she has been barely a shadow of her old self on the court. She flamed out in the second round of this tournament.

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 9:54 pm

  • Friday, September 6, 2013 at 7:47 AM

    Tebow’s Career Sacked!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Evidently, nobody was surprised on Saturday when the New England Patriots released Tim Tebow. Which makes this apparent end to his NFL career all the more ignominious – considering that virtually everybody was hailing him as the league’s savior just three years ago, during his rookie season. Apropos of which, remember this almost blasphemous, all-cap headline from the cover of the September 2012 issue of GQ Magazine?:

    NFL KICK-OFF 2012: BROTHERS, HAVE YOU ACCEPTED TIM TEBOW AS YOUR SUNDAY SAVIOR?

    But here we are; and, truth be told, he played throughout this (try-out) pre-season like a fourth-rate quarterback on a team looking only for a second-rate one to backup their superstar, Tom Brady. It will take a miracle now for Tebow to resurrect his NFL career….

    10721119-largeThe irony, of course, is that he started off his career as something of a miracle worker – a moniker he encouraged with his trademark kneeling in prayer (aka tebowing) during games for the world to see.  In fact, there seemed no limit to the last-minute heroics he could pull off to help his team, the Denver Broncos, win.

    Moreover, you would have been hard-pressed to find a single sports analyst back then who was aware and prescient enough to see that his manner of Hail-Mary play was wholly unsustainable and that his career would amount to little more than an Icarian flight.

    By contrast, here is how I pooh-poohed the praise they were heaping on Tebow and predicted what has now befallen him:

    That Tebow beat out Kobe Bryant, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees to win a recent ESPN poll for ‘America’s favorite athlete’ demonstrates again how exaggerated and misguided the hosannas to him really are.

    In any case, I am pretty sure this phenomenon will die a media death this weekend when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots show Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, in convincing fashion, that winning football games has absolutely nothing to do with how much of a spectacle one makes of praying to God.

    (‘The Divine Tim Tebow? Puhleese!” The iPINIONS Journal, January 12, 2012)

    Brady and the Patriots did just that.  Therefore, forget being released by the Patriots this year, I wasn’t even surprised when the Broncos released Tebow in 2011 after just one season, despite his cult of celebrity – as I duly noted in “Denver Broncos: We Want Peyton; Tebow Can Go to Hell, The iPINIONS Journal, March 20, 2012.

    What’s more, I telegraphed him being picked up by another team as follows:

    I have no doubt that some other team will be happy to exploit what little remains of the ‘tebowing’ phenomenon by signing Tebow to hang out on the side lines like a de facto mascot.

    (“Denver Broncos: We want Peyton; Tebow can go to Hell,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 20, 2012)

    Sure enough the Jets took the bait.

    To be fair, the Jets claim they will use him as a running quarterback on third-down plays.  But this only reinforces the inadequacies of both Sanchez and Tebow (i.e., that they are both needed to play this one position: one to pass, the other to pass and/or run).

    (“Tebow to the Jets,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 23, 2012)

    But:

    Frankly, Tebow had to know his days were numbered when, midway through last season, ‘gangnam style’ replaced tebowing as the latest viral sensation. And now that it’s clear his presence on the sidelines does more to undermine than uplift esprit de corps, there really is no reason for any team to hire him.

    (“God Ignores Tebow’s Prayers,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 3, 2013)

    images-1What’s more, having since embraced the viral sensations of planking (aka “facedowns”) and twerking, most fad-obsessed, Twitter-brained Americans probably regard tebowing today as something that was fashionable decades ago. And, alas, without tebowing, Tebow is nothing … in the NFL.

    This is why I was truly surprised, if not stupefied, when the Patriots picked him up after the Jets threw him away earlier this year. As it turned out all the Patriots did was delay the inevitable … for a pre-season.

    On the other hand, I think he would make a killing as a mega-church, prosperity-gospel preaching televangelist….

    (“God Ignores Tebow’s Prayers,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 3, 2013)

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