• Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 5:52 AM

    Calling BS on ‘Cultural Appropriation’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Social media platforms are replete with people venting outrage. And nothing commands coverage in mainstream media these days quite like an outrage going viral on social media.

    Except that such outrage often stems from little more than human herds banging out ignorant snark on their smart phones. Only this explains the viral outrage among black women over white women wearing braids.

    Kim Kardashian is under fire for cultural appropriation yet again [for wearing] her hair in bead-adorned braids that resemble Fulani-style braids. Kardashian credited actress Bo Derek, who is white, for the traditionally black hairstyle.

    (Huffington Post, January 30, 2018)

    As best as I can tell, cultural appropriation is a bastardization of political correctness (even with all of its faux outrages). This spawn has members of one group calling out “influencers” from another group for incorporating anything in their style, speech, food, clothes, customs, etc., which members of the offended group deem an intrinsic part of their culture.

    For example, black Americans might deem Fergie trying to sing like Aretha – for her cringeworthy rendition of the National Anthem at last week’s NBA All-Star Game – a form of cultural appropriation. And Indians might deem Gigi Hadid wearing a bindi – to look “exotic” at a music festival – the same.

    But, trust me, I doubt the vast majority of blacks accusing Kardashian can even spell Fulani, let alone tell you anything about Fulani culture. Never mind the likelihood that the Fulani people culturally appropriated this hairstyle from the Hausa people. After all, anyone who knows anything about African history knows that warfare and commerce among ethnic groups led to all kinds of “cultural absorption” between them.

    Incidentally, it is particularly dismaying that blacks are wallowing in this kind of cultural tomfoolery during “Black History Month.” Historian Carter G. Woodson must be rolling over in his grave. After all, he fought to set aside this period (originally for one week, now for one month) for national reflection on the achievements of black folks.

    The point is that, unless the alleged offender’s intent is to offend (and we can always tell), all claims or charges of cultural appropriation is bullshit.

    Which brings me back to Kim. Arguably, she has as much license as any white woman ever could to appropriate black culture. But there are many other reasons why this outrage over her wearing braids is just acculturated nonsense. I’ll give just two:

    1. Kardashian has just cause to credit Bo Derek because Derek was the first (in the late 1970s) to make braids fashionable among white women; and
    2. Bo Derek was as entitled to wear “black braids” as Nicki Minaj is to wear “white wigs.”

    This second point should also compel you to wonder about the “cultural appropriation” of black women bleaching their skin to look white. Not to mention the curious fact that, evidently, white women couldn’t care less about this, or about black women wearing “white hair.”

    Meanwhile, I can think of 99 problems black Americans face, but cultural appropriation ain’t one. This is why I’ve been trying to disabuse blacks of this misguided outrage for years.

    Most notably, I chastised no less a person than director Spike Lee. This, after he made quite a show of criticizing Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood for culturally appropriating the black American experience.

    It hardly mattered to Lee that they directed two of the best films ever made about that experience in The Color Purple and Bird, respectively. I took him to the woodshed in “Spike Lee vs. Clint Eastwood Over No Blacks in War Movies,” June 10, 2010.

    But here is how I called out the hypocrisy inherent in the cultural policing at issue in “No Blacks Please, We’re Fashionistas,” June 15, 2011.

    ____________________

    For starters, black women can stop covering up their natural hair with wigs made of white women’s hair. Indeed, why should white fashionistas hire black models to appeal to black women who just want to look white? I find nothing more unattractive and pathetic than a black woman sporting a long, blond wig.

    On the other hand, if these women exhibited more pride in their ethnicity, their purchasing power would compel the arbiters and gatekeepers of fashion to feature women who look like them (even with nappy hair and dark skin) in magazines and on the runways.

    ____________________

    Apropos of which, Kardashian is gracing the March 2018 cover of Vogue India. And you can bet your life savings she’s on there only because the publisher knows that millions of skin-bleaching Indian women aspire to look like her (and other whites like Jennifer Aniston and Blake Lively – both of whom have been Vogue India cover girls). The mercenary expectation is that Indian women will buy up this issue like kids buying up the latest edition of the Harry Potter fairy tales. How’s that for cultural appropriation?

    That said, I regret that I’ve had so little impact on this craze. That black women are accusing Kardashian of committing this faux cultural crime is Exhibit A in this respect.

    This is why I am so heartened that George Clinton is now trying to disabuse blacks of any pretension of cultural purity. Because I can think of nobody better positioned to do so than this founder of Parliament-Funkadelic and composer of its One Nation Under a Groove soundtrack for life.

    Here is how he dismissed all claims of exclusive rights to cultural styles, speech, food, clothes, customs, etc. in the February 23, 2018, edition of Rolling Stone:

    I’d bite off the Beatles, or anybody else. It’s all one world, one planet and one groove. You’re supposed to learn from each other, blend [with] each other, and it moves around like that.

    We got to get over this shit.

    Drop the mic!

    It only remains for me to clarify that blending with, or even appropriating from, other cultures does not give license to use intellectual property without compensation. White singer Robin Thicke learned this the costly way when he blurred the lines between his one hit song and one of Marvin Gaye’s.

    You probably recall the nasty, yearlong litigation Gaye’s heirs trigged when they sued Pharrell and Robin Thicke for plagiarizing the riff for their 2013 hit ‘Blurred Lines’ from Gaye’s 1977 hit ‘Got to Give It Up.’ A Los Angeles jury awarded Gaye’s estate $7.4 million in damages just two months ago.

    (“First Marvin Gaye’s Tune, Now Pharrell Is Singing Mine,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 15, 2015)

    I supported Gaye’s heirs in this case because you don’t get over that kind of shit. You get paid for it.

    Related commentaries:
    Spike vs Clint
    no blacks please
    First Marvin

  • Monday, February 26, 2018 at 8:17 AM

    Trump Finally Criticizes Russia re Syria but Unwittingly Criticizes Himself

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Friday, when Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull visited the White House, President Trump was obliged to hold a joint press conference. This gave reporters an increasingly rare opportunity to question him in a formal setting.

    I feared they would waste the two questions Trump allowed to ask redundant ones about the Russia investigation. Therefore, I was heartened when one of them asked why he was just standing by while President Putin and President Assad commit all manner of crimes against humanity in Syria.

    Trump, after all, is the self-proclaimed strongman who launched 59 cruise missiles at an airbase in Syria last April. The base was relatively deserted. But he insisted his “wag-the-dog” strikes would make Assad think twice about ever crossing his red line on the use of chemical weapons again. His clear insinuation was that, unlike the “weak” Obama, he would make Assad pay a deadly price every time.

    Yet here, in effect, is all Trump had to say:

    I will say what Russia and what Iran and what Syria have done recently is a humanitarian disgrace.

    (Reuters, February 23, 2018)

    This, despite the fact that Assad has crossed his red line many times since last April – impunity increasing Assad’s indifference with each new attack.

    But nothing betrayed his weakness quite like Trump not even having the balls to call Putin out by name for intervening in Syria. Even worse, he went out of his way to deflect responsibility.

    This, of course, is an incriminating tell. No doubt you’ll see that it mirrors the way he always deflects responsibility for Russia’s cyberattack on the 2016 US presidential election:

    It could be Russia, but it could also be China. … It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, O.K.?

    (New York Times, September 27, 2016)

    That said, this tweet shows why Trump’s lame criticism of Russia actually criticizes himself:

    We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017

    Many commentators are hailing him for finally calling unrelenting wars crimes in Syria a humanitarian disgrace. Unfortunately, this just reflects how much Trump has lowered the bar for and debased the norms of presidential leadership. But I hope reporters continue pressing him to explain why he has done nothing to prevent these crimes.

    The conflict in Syria has been raging ever since Arab Spring protests erupted in 2011. It became very complicated very quickly – complete with regional powers fighting sectarian battles by proxy, Western powers whack-a-moling ISIS terrorists, and Russia seeking superpower relevance.

    They all have the blood of innocent Syrians on their hands. Not to mention the migration/refugee crisis this conflict spawned. But Russia became most blameworthy when Putin began providing direct political and military cover for Assad.

    After all, that cover has included everything from vetoing UN resolutions criticizing Syria to enabling Syrian forces to launch chemical attacks and drop barrel bombs on opposition forces and innocent civilians alike.

    I decried Russia’s complicity in several commentaries, most notably in “Why Putin, Not Obama, Is the Master of Assad’s Fate,” December 14, 2012, and “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015. And I ridiculed its setbacks in others, most notably in “Putin’s Bush-Lite Declaration of ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria,” March 19, 2016, and “Alas, Syrian Ceasefire No. 44 Will Fare No Better,” September 10, 2016.

    More to the point, though, anyone who knows anything about this Syrian conflict knows that Putin’s idea of working constructively is saying anything and bombing anyone to keep Assad in power. Evidently, Trump is too stupid to see this or too compromised/cowardly to do anything about it.

    Meanwhile, Nikki Haley is his John the Baptist-like ambassador to the United Nations. She never misses an opportunity to denounce Putin and Assad (by name), citing the open and notorious way they are turning Syria into what UN Secretary-General António Guterres describes as “Hell on Earth.”

    Such was the case on Saturday when she blasted Russia after it finally agreed to a UN resolution providing for (another) ceasefire. This one was supposed to allow deliveries of humanitarian relief to millions of besieged Syrians, over 600 of whom Syrian and Russian bombs killed just this past week.

    Here in part is what Haley said:

    Every minute the council waited on Russia, the human suffering grew. … In the three days it took us to adopt this resolution, how many mothers lost their kids to the bombing and the shelling?

    (CNN, February 24, 2018)

    Except that, whenever Haley denounces Russia, she highlights the daring way Putin is continually defying, if not mocking, Trump (and his wishful thinking about working constructively). Which is why nobody should have been surprised that, after voting for that ceasefire resolution on Saturday, Putin gave Assad his blessing for this on Sunday:

    A child died and at least 13 other people suffered breathing difficulties after a suspected chemical attack on a besieged Syrian rebel enclave [in the eastern Ghouta region] Sunday, a medic and a monitor said.

    (Agence France-Presse, February 26, 2018)

    My heart goes out to these victims. But there’s no gainsaying the fact that this latest attack is mostly about punching a bully (namely Trump) in the nose. After all, given what he said on Friday, Putin and Assad were clearly daring him to put up or shut up on Sunday. Instead, Trump retreated, tweeting talking points about how his immigration policies will make America safe (and white) again.

    And so it goes – with Putin doing as Putin does; Trump tweeting as Trump tweets.

    But hope springs eternal that commentaries like this will goad the thin-skinned Trump into launching truly deadly strikes against Assad, if only to save his own face.

    Related commentaries:
    wag the dog Syria
    U.S. and Russia on Syria
    Putin, not Obama, master
    Putin’s Bush-lite mission in Syria
    Bombing ISIS
    Ceasefire
    Demystifying ISIS

  • Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 8:21 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 15 – Closing Ceremony, Ending a Ratings and Diplomatic Bust

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am pooped.

    What’s more, I risk permanent damage to my already failing eyesight if I watch another event. Never mind the irony that my addictive interest in watching healthy people compete is making me unhealthy.

    Frankly, I deserve a gold medal — not just for watching so many events but for writing so many commentaries too (i.e., instead of sitting passively and eating them all up … like a couch potato).

    Even so, I watched three exciting events on Friday, Day 15: two in Snowboarding, one in Curling.

    Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom

    All I care to share about the Snowboarding events is that Ester Ledecka sealed her crossover appeal.

    • Ester Ledecka of Czech Republic won gold; Selina Joerg of Germany, silver; and Ramona Theresia Hofmeister of Germany, bronze.

    Ledecka is the reigning world champion in this event. Therefore, everyone expected her to win. But this snowboarder is the same athlete who won gold in Alpine Skiing Women’s Super-G. I commented on that truly shocking feat at Day 7 below.

    Ledecka is now the first woman to win gold in different sports at the same Winter Olympics.

    Men’s Curling

    Despite my fatigue, this too warrants a little comment.

    • The United States won gold; Sweden, silver; Switzerland, bronze.

    This is the first-ever gold for the United States in this event. As it happens, though, I’m on record dismissing Curling as being to sports what Karaoke is to entertainment – as I did in “2010 Winter Olympics,” February 17, 2010. But I’m also on record admitting that it’s my favorite Olympic spectacle to watch – as I did in “2014 Sochi Olympics: Day 1,” February 8, 2014.

    I mean, the loony costumes and screaming banshees aside, can you imagine a greater spectacle than a Russian curler getting busted for performance-enhancing drugs? This makes about as much sense as a couch potato taking uppers for binge watching. Yet this is what competition in this “sport” came to in PyeongChang.

    I could not resist ridiculing this man-bites-dog news in “Day 10 — Norway vs. the Netherlands (with Russia, the Wildcard),” February 20, 2018.

    Closing Ceremony

    Events related to the Closing Ceremony are already underway, not least the grand arrival of delegations from the United States, headed by Ivanka Trump, and North Korea, headed by General Kim Yong Chol. But, thanks to revealing previews, I already know enough to know that it will hardly be must-see TV.

    Except that, if you’re into robotic Pandas and Tron-style dancers, this Closing Ceremony might be for you. Indeed, it’s notable that the wizard who gave us that memorable Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics will have a big hand in tonight’s closing. But, as I said in “Diplomatic Brinkmanship Upstages Opening Ceremony,” February 9, 2018, the technical wizardry and precision marching he choreographed for Beijing ruined these ceremonies for all other host countries.

    I should stop, lest I give away too much.

    Ratings Bust

    That even an Olympics addict like me couldn’t bear to watch another event (after Friday) probably explains this foreboding ratings trend:

    For the last Friday of the often-struggling PyeongChang Games, NBC and NBCSN’s combined primetime coverage grabbed a 9.2/16 in metered market results. That is an all-time low for an Olympics that is on track to be the lowest ever.

    (Deadline, February 24, 2018)

    Evidently, I was not the only one who was pooped. There seems to have been a pandemic of viewer burnout. This is why I urge the IOC to stop its quadrennial practice of adding new sports, as well as new events in existing sports, to both Summer and Winter Olympics. In fact, it would do well to cut enough sports and events to allow each Olympics to span only one week, instead of the two weeks over which organizers now schedule events.

    Diplomatic Bust

    The politics of nuclear brinkmanship hovered over these Games – from opening to closing – like the Sword of Damocles.

    Recall that Vice President Mike Pence headed the US delegation at the Opening Ceremony. In doing so, he made much ado about not dignifying the head of the North Korean delegation with even a handshake, let alone a bilateral meeting.

    Yet we now know that, despite his public posturing, he was working assiduously behind the scenes to arrange a meeting.

    Of course, Kim Jong-un’s sister made her sensational debut on the international stage as the head of that North Korean delegation. And I thought it entirely predictable and sensible that she snubbed Pence. She reportedly canceled their meeting at the last minute, effectively leaving him sitting at the conference table.

    But only an arrogant fool could think it was okay to treat the North Koreans like skunks in public, and then expect them to want to hook up, diplomatically, in private. I duly ridiculed this caveman art of diplomacy in the February 9 commentary cited above.

    This brings me to President Donald Trump – who announced more beating-a-dead-horse sanctions against North Korea just yesterday. Granted, it’s debatable whether he intended this more as red meat for the pack of baying conservatives in his audience than as another stroke in that caveman art of diplomacy.

    But, as was the case with Pence’s churlish behavior, the timing of Trump’s announcement seems bound to blowup any chance of these delegations meeting in the backdrop of this weekend’s Closing Ceremony.

    Not to mention that every country in the region, including China, thinks Trump’s America poses a far greater threat than Jong-un’s North Korea. Accordingly, those countries will continue making a mockery of Trump’s sanctions by doing all they can to help North Korea flout them.

    Then there’s the mismatch redux of Trump dispatching his daughter, and Jong-un, his most grizzled general. After all, if Trump had a diplomatic bone in his body, he would have dispatched his daughter to the Opening Ceremony to meet with Jong-un’s sister. Then, as a follow-up, he would have dispatched Pence – with far less fanfare – to this Closing Ceremony to meet with General Kim.

    Alas, this is the way these Games end. Not with camaraderie among athletes but brinkmanship among politicians.

    FINAL MEDAL COUNT: Norway 39; Germany 31; Canada 29

    With its haul of 39 medals, Norway broke the Winter Olympics record of 37, which the United States set at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

    Russia won 33 in Sochi. But we can ascribe that haul to its well-documented state-sponsored doping. That leaves the United States as the Sochi winner with 28. But it managed only 4th in PyeongChang with 23, indicating not just how well others performed but also how much it under performed.

    Finally, I raved about Cross Country Skiing on Day 1. Therefore, I trust it will come as no surprise that I nominate Marit Bjoergen of Norway as the most outstanding Olympian of these Games.

    She didn’t have to, but she sealed this honor, and her legacy, by winning gold in the final event today, the Women’s 30km Mass Start. For this gold merely added to the gold, silver, and two bronze medals she had already won — for a total of five:

    It has been an amazing career for me, this is my last Olympics and to finish like this is incredible.

    (London Independent, February 25, 2018)

    Indeed, it is. In fact, over five Olympics, this Norwegian (37) won a Phelpsian 15 medals. This includes 8 gold, which matches hauls by the great Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Bjoern Daehlie for the most gold medals by a Winter Olympian.

    Hail, Marit!

    With that, I’ll see you in Japan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1-14
    2010 Winter Olympics
    2014 Sochi Olympics Day 1
    PyeongChang Day 10
    PyeongChang Opening Ceremony

  • Saturday, February 24, 2018 at 9:37 AM

    Solution to the Menace of Guns: Treat Them Like Alcohol…?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In a Thursday tweet, Trump vowed to push for comprehensive background checks for gun sales, while calling for the minimum purchase age to be raised to 21.

    (The Hill, February 24, 2018)

    How crazy is that?

    After all, show me an 18-year-old who doesn’t drink because he’s not of age and I’ll show you one who is a teetotaler.

    Which is why aping age requirements for alcohol amounts to no more than the “feel-good,” Band-Aid solution Trump made such a show of pooh-poohing just days ago.

    #BanAssaultWeapons; #BanHighCapacityMagazines; #UniversalBackgroundChecks!

    Related commentaries:
    Gun crazy USA

  • Friday, February 23, 2018 at 10:11 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 12, 13, 14 — Jamaican-style Bobsledding Jumps the Shark

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I noted in “PyeongChang Olympics: Diplomatic Brinkmanship Upstages the Opening Ceremony” on February 9 that other supervening events might limit my commentary on Olympic events. That has been the case, most notably last week with the Parkland mass shooting and the resignation of South African President Jacob Zuma, and this week with the death of Billy Graham and the Chibok-style kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria.

    Therefore, what follows is an amalgam of commentaries on Olympic events from Day 12-14.

    Women’s Bobsled

    As a native of the Caribbean, I found nothing comical about the way Jamaicans provided Bobsledding fodder for amusement in Sochi. Here is just a taste of the racial and regional shame I vented in “Sochi Olympics: Day 10,” February 17, 2014.

    ____________________

    I fully appreciated the novelty of having a team from one of our tropical islands participate in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada; I got the comic relief those ‘fish-out-of-water’ Jamaican bobsledders provided; and I got why a shrewd producer thought he could make a mint by turning their Olympic misadventures into the farcical, slapstick comedy Cool Runnings. …

    Listening to all of the nostalgic swooning over this movie today, you’d think it reflected Jamaica’s intrinsic cool as surely as The Comedians reflected Haiti’s terminal despair. But, as I recall it, Cool Runnings portrayed the Jamaicans involved as little more than minstrel fools and made a mockery of their national pride. Imagine a feature-length episode of “Amos ‘N Andy Go to the Winter Olympics” and you’ll get the idea.

    More to the point, though, Cool Runnings was based on the hapless and laughable efforts Jamaican bobsledders displayed over a quarter-century ago. Which is why, instead of laughing along with everybody else, I am constrained to wonder why the efforts Jamaican bobsledders are displaying today seem every bit as hapless and laughable.

    ____________________

    Given that, you’ll understand my dismay at watching putatively proud Nigerians joining Jamaicans in doing the same in PyeongChang. Here is how the politically correct press is spinning their slapdash preparation and slapstick participation:

    Every so often an Olympic team captures the public imagination not because of their stellar performance, but because of the sheer audacity it takes for them to perform at all.

    They joke about being from a ‘shithole’ country, as defined by President Donald Trump, saying they hope they can redefine the view of African immigrants.

    (Daily Beast, February 17, 2018)

    The unwitting point, of course, is that everyone knew these black bobsledders were not just woefully but willfully unprepared. In fact, the Jamaicans made plain their intent to do little more than inject slapstick comedy into this Olympic competition. Only this explains borrowing “Cool” from Cool Runnings and “Bolt” from Usain Bolt to name their bobsled “Cool Bolt”.

    More to the point, though, the predictably shitty performances of both teams at these Games will do little to redefine the global view of bobsledders from Africa and the Caribbean.

    Meanwhile, the Olympic motto is “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. But watching NBC’s exclusive coverage, you’d be forgiven the impression that its motto includes a fourth word: Sappier.

    I have no problem with the profile pieces that invariably tug at the heart. It’s just that it smacked of wanton unfairness when NBC featured Nigeria and Jamaica’s final runs in this event.

    It was bad enough that these teams were in last and next to last place, respectively. But NBC blithely ignored the final runs of the vast majority of the other 18 teams – all of whom were more deserving of coverage based on any objective criteria.

    As it happened, one of the announcers even remarked that he was getting more questions about Nigeria and Jamaica than any of the teams contending for gold. I suspect he was complaining as much as marveling.

    Whatever the case, there seems little doubt that NBC was more interested in providing comic relief than coverage of Olympic competition, and the Nigerians and Jamaicans were only too happy to oblige: the former expected a boost in its ratings; the latter a boost in their commercial appeal.

    This, alas, is the legacy of Cool Runnings. And, lest you think all black bobsledders are thusly fated, you need only look to the black-American bobsledders to see what a black team that is serious about this sport can do.

    Enough.

    • Germany won gold; the United States (with two black bobsledders), silver; and Canada, bronze.

    Women’s Downhill

    I prefer watching women Tennis players because, in addition to the power the men display, they display a lot more finesse. I find their combination of power and finesse far more entertaining.

    This might just betray prurient interest, but I prefer watching women Downhill skiers for similar reasons. They match the daring, power, and speed the men display, but they look so much better doing it.

    Then, of course, there was the drama of seeing if Lindsey Vonn could live up to the eight-year hype of finally defending her gold in this event from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. I refer you to “Day 7 — Lindsey Vonn: Return of the Snow Queen” below for more on her quest.

    There was also the drama of Mikaela Shiffrin withdrawing at the last minute to give herself the best possible chance of winning gold in her favorite event, the Women’s Combined.

    As it turned out, Vonn was lucky just to make the podium – by the tip of her skiiy-ski-ski.

    • Sofia Goggia of Italy won gold; Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway, silver; and Lindsey Vonn of the United States, bronze.

    Women’s Combined

    I refer you to “Day 6 — Mikaela Shiffrin Begins Her Heiden Quest” below for more on her quest. But, as it turned out, she too could not live up to the hype.

    • Michelle Gisin of Switzerland won gold; Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States, silver; and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, bronze.

    This result means that Shiffrin will leave these Games with 1 gold and 1 silver. To be sure, this is nothing to sneeze at. But it’s a far cry from the 5 gold she was hyped to win.

    With all due respect to Eric Heiden, imagine if Michael Phelps had come away from the 2008 Beijing Olympics with only 1 gold and 1 silver after being hyped to win 8 gold. Of course, Shiffrin’s shortcomings speak volumes about that Phelpsian conquest.

    Other Notable Events

    I enjoyed watching the United States win its first-ever gold in Cross Country Skiing Women’s Team Sprint Free; the United States upset Canada to win gold in Women’s Hockey (proving that, despite Trump, America is still #1!); Anna Gasser of Austria upstage Jamie Anderson of the United States to win gold in the inaugural Snowboard Women’s Big Air; and Wu Dajing of China upset two South Koreans to win gold in Short Track Skating Men’s 500m.

    Meanwhile, Women’s Single Figure Skating is easily the most glamorous event at any Winter Olympics. But, after watching the Short Program, I knew it would be dominated by “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

    You might think I would have much to say about this event, but I couldn’t possibly comment. After all, in my Day 10 commentary, I upbraided the IOC for allowing any Russian athlete to participate in these Games.

    Nothing vindicates my principled opposition quite like a Russian woman bobsledder testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs today. She joins a Russian male curler who was stripped of his bronze medal for the same shame at these Games.

    MEDAL COUNT: Norway 37; Canada 27; Germany 26

    Related commentaries:
    Opening Ceremony
    Day 1-11
    Sochi day 10
    PyeongChang day 10

  • Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 12:13 PM

    Boko Haram (a la Chibok Girls) Strikes Again. So Where’s the Outrage?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Terror group Boko Haram incited international outrage four years ago when it kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls from Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. In fact, no less a person than First Lady Michelle Obama led the viral protest #BringBackOurGirls.

    Yet, just two years later, you would have been forgiven for having no clue this infamous kidnapping ever occurred or, more to the point, that those schoolgirls remained in captivity. This incited my outrage, which I vented in “#BringBackOurGirls Lost in Dustbin of Public Consciousness,” April 18, 2016.

    ____________________

    This kidnapping incited universal outrage. Never mind that this outrage manifested in little more than people – most notably celebrities like Rihanna, Madonna, and Michelle Obama – posting #BringBackOurGirls on their social media pages.

    Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find any mention of these girls on those pages since then. Which is why it’s hardly surprising that this tragic anniversary passed for so many as if ‘the Chibok girls’ never entered public consciousness.

    Mind you, Boko Haram kidnapped many more schoolchildren (i.e. girls and boys) with nary a mention in mainstream or social media. In fact, having killed 20,000 and displaced 2.8 million across five regional countries, its unrelenting reign of terror is now preventing over 1 million Nigerian children from going to school. …

    That this anniversary garnered so little media coverage reflects not only the fecklessness of this fight, but also the disinterest in the schoolgirls’ plight.

    ____________________

    Given that, it is noteworthy that some mainstream-media organizations are reporting on Boko Haram’s latest kidnapping, much as so many reported on its Chibok kidnapping four years ago.

    Police said on Wednesday that 111 girls from the state-run boarding school in Dapchi, in Yobe state, were unaccounted for following an attack by the armed group on Monday night.

    (Al Jazeera, February 22, 2018)

    Alas, just as it was four years ago, the Nigerian government is giving all kinds of misleading, self-serving reports about rescuing these Dapchi girls. But also, just as it was four years ago, the parents of the missing are still grieving inconsolably, betraying the fact that those government reports are untrue.

    Frankly, the record suggests that these girls will return home in only one of four ways:

    1. The government negotiates a prisoner exchange.
    2. The government pays a handsome ransom (to save face).
    3. The parents pay a handsome ransom.
    4. The girls manage a daring escape.

    In the meantime, it is equally noteworthy that reporting on this Dapchi kidnapping has incited nary a peep from the usual gaggle of hashtag protesters. Perhaps they’re too busy tweeting fashionable and equally fleeting outrage about the latest mass shooting of schoolchildren in “Gun Crazy USA.”

    Related commentaries:
    lost public consciousness
    Gun crazy USA

  • Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 8:22 AM

    Billy Graham, Preacher to Masses, Counselor to Presidents, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Billy Graham figures prominently in my earliest memories of television. My family used to gather round to watch his Christian crusades in the late 1960s, much as families do to watch Football games today.

    This analogy works on many levels. Most notably, we were as fanatical about religion as any fan is about Football. And Graham was as big a star in my home as Tom Brady is in any.

    Which constrains me to share this:

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

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

    (“My Good Friday Sermon,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 6, 2007)

    Yes, even Graham’s crusades were must-see TV on far too many occasions.

    That said, he clearly believed God’s calling was for him to be a peripatetic preacher, not a parish pastor. Accordingly, by the late 1960s, he had already spent 20 years holding crusades in jam-packed sports stadiums all over the world.

    In fact, with all due respect to the 12 disciples and every pope, Graham probably did more to “spread the gospel” in person than anyone in history. Not to mention the manifest distinction between his mission to enrich souls and that of today’s popular televangelists (like Joel Osteen). For theirs, it seems, is primarily to enrich themselves.

    Meanwhile, broadcasting on radio and television increased Graham’s influence and celebrity exponentially. He was arguably bigger than the Beatles ever were. This explains why heads of state – from US presidents to British monarchs – summoned him as much to bask in his reflected glow as to seek his religious guidance.

    His reach was global, and he was welcomed even by repressive leaders like Kim Il-sung of North Korea, who invited him to preach in Pyongyang’s officially sanctioned churches.

    (New York Times, February 21, 2018)

    But, when it comes to religious apostasy, I was a precocious child. This compelled me to pose all kinds of unsettling questions to my evangelical Daddy about fundamental contradictions that abound in Christianity – before I was twelve.

    My questions ranged from the existential (e.g., asking him to explain creationism in light of evolution after watching Inherit the Wind at a friend’s house) to the ridiculous (e.g., asking him to reconcile his own preaching about the sin of alcohol with his savoring the flavor of Rum Raisin ice cream, which he often did).

    He never provided any satisfactory answers before he died (in 2006). I doubt Graham could have done any better.

    The point is that I had just cause at an early age to believe that, despite his telegenic appeal, even Graham might not be all he seemed.

    Sure enough, the infamous Nixon tapes eventually revealed that he was as seduced by and deferential to political power as any president was inspired by or jealous of his religious power. Only this explains him being caught on tape endorsing Nixon’s antisemitism – in furtherance of a bigoted conspiracy, instead of rebuking it – in the name of God.

    ‘They’re the ones putting out the pornographic stuff,’ Mr. Graham said on the tape, after agreeing with Mr. Nixon that left-wing Jews dominate the news media. The Jewish ‘stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain,’ he continued suggesting that if Mr. Nixon were re-elected, ‘then we might be able to do something.’

    (New York Times, March 17, 2002)

    Mind you, Graham was on record denying, with righteous indignation, ever uttering an anti-Semitic word in his life. And nobody who heard him preach about religious tolerance and building interfaith (and interracial) bridges had any reason to doubt him. Then, thanks to Nixon’s perfidy, came the tapes. Graham eventually apologized.

    But only God knows which of Nixon’s other vices (or those of other rich and powerful people) he provided evangelical indulgence for in private, while damning the same in public.

    In any event, it speaks volumes that the heir to his brand of evangelism is his son Franklin – whose religious bigotry is surpassed only by his political idolatry. Here, for example, is what Franklin is preaching these days under the banner of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:

    Graham painted Trump as a defender of Christianity [who] ‘defends the Christian faith more than any president in my lifetime.’

    (Huffington Post, January 22, 2018)

    This, of course, is plainly absurd. It’s even more so than Jesse Jackson painting Trump as a defender of the Constitution who defends the rights of blacks more than any president in his lifetime.

    At least his Daddy had the decency to kiss ass like this in private. Evidently, the messianic nature of Trump’s fiendishness has emboldened evangelicals like Franklin to do so in public, and with religious conviction.

    Their idolatry inspired me to write such commentaries as “Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016, and “Evangelical Leaders Have Sacrificed Their Souls at the Altar of Trump,” October 15, 2016.

    Incidentally, as restitution for his devious fraternization with Nixon, Billy vowed that he would associate his ministry with partisan politics never again. Franklin is clearly betraying that vow in spades

    At any rate, the dissatisfaction I referenced above often led to appeals to my Mummy to explain why men of God, like my Daddy, do ungodly things. And I remember well her telling me, in her still small voice, that men of God might appear god-like, but they are only flawed men doing God’s work. As such, Billy was nonpareil.

    Graham died today at his home in North Carolina. He was 99. May God have mercy on his soul. And may he rest in peace.

    Godspeed, Billy.

    Related commentaries:
    Good Friday
    Daddy died
    Evangelicals

    * This commentary was originally published on Wednesday, February 21, at 10:34 p.m.

  • Wednesday, February 21, 2018 at 5:26 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 11 – Hot Ice Dancing Full of Intrigue

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Figure Skating Ice Dance

    In Sochi, this event was Exhibit A for the alleged rigging that complimented Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. Except that the United States reportedly colluded with Russia:

    According to L’Équipe, which quoted an unnamed Russian coach, the United States intended to help Russia win the overall team event and the pairs competition. In return, Russia would make sure the Americans Charlie White and Meryl Davis won the Ice Dancing competition.

    (New York Times, February 8, 2014)

    Perhaps this was a trial run for the more infamous collusion that so undermined the 2016 presidential election in the United States. No doubt the success they had in Sochi would have been encouraging; after all, each event played out exactly as alleged in that L’Équipe report.

    But I contended back then that the Russians performed well enough in the Team Event and Pairs to win gold, and that the Americans did the same in Ice Dancing. But I could hardly blame Canadians for thinking the fix was in, particularly with respect to the Ice Dancing competition.

    Here, for example, is the imperious way columnist Rosie DiManno propagated this conspiracy in the Toronto Star on February 16, 2014 (i.e., before ice dancers competed in the long performances for gold on the 17th):

    The villainy of Ice Dancing knows no bounds. If the fix is not in against [Canadian pair] Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, then I’m the Princess of Wales.

    DiManno is no princess. But that does not mean the fix was in.

    Mind you, unlike judging Pairs – with its tricky jumps, twists and twirls that clearly separate the wheat from the chaff, judging Ice Dancing is rather like judging beauty: it’s in the eye of the beholder. Not to mention the curiously incestuous relationship among the teams, which added an even more intriguing dimension to this alleged collusion. Here in part is how I commented in “Sochi Olympics: Day 11,” February 18, 2014.

    ____________________

    The far more intriguing aspect of this competition was the incestuous nature of the relationship between the teams from Canada and the United States. It’s curious enough that they both trained for these Games at the same skating center just outside Detroit, Michigan; but training with the same coach … who happens to be Russian?!

    Hell, if the fix were truly in, you could be forgiven for thinking that the ice dancers themselves were wholly complicit. Especially when you consider that they merely switched positions from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where Canadians Virtue and Moir won gold and Americans Davis and White, silver. Perhaps this is why the only Canadians not complaining about Team Canada getting robbed last night are the Canadian ice dancers themselves.

    ____________________

    Given that, what are we to make of the same Canadian pair who won in Vancouver, got “robbed” in Sochi, now winning again in PyeongChang?

    In a performance by turns athletic, sensual and expressive, the nonpareil Canadian ice dancing team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir reclaimed the Olympic gold medal.

    Somewhat surprisingly, the judges very slightly preferred the free dance of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France. But the Canadians’ edge in the short program made the difference.

    (New York Times, February 20, 2018)

    • Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada won gold; Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, silver; and Maria Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States, bronze.

    To be fair, there was no hint of any Sochi-style rigging in this event. In fact, I saw first-hand why the short program made the difference. Mere seconds into theirs, the French pair suffered a Jackson and Timberlake-like wardrobe malfunction. Even I knew immediately that ended their shot at gold.

    No doubt they earned sympathy points for skating on despite her exposure. But, as soon as they stepped off the ice, they made clear they knew gold was lost.

    ‘It was kind of … in our thoughts all along the program a little bit,’ said Cizeron, who handled most of the questions in a post-event media session. ‘When you rotate, it’s kind of hard to keep your dress on when it’s open.’

    (Washington Post, February 19, 2018)

    Frankly, they were lucky to win silver. Because brother and sister Alex and Maria Shibutani for Team USA (a.k.a. “Shib Sibs”) gave them more than enough competition. But, talk about incestuous relationships.

    I honestly had a difficult time appreciating their “athletic, sensual and expressive” performance. Granted, it did not include the explicit simulation of cunnilingus Virtue and Moir performed. But it was sexy enough to raise eyebrows.

    When I was his age, I could never even imagine performing anything so intimately with any of my sisters. Which makes it all the more remarkable that these siblings sell unbridled intimacy so convincingly.

    But who knew Olympic Ice Dancing had all the intrigue of a John le Carré novel, eh?

    MEDAL COUNT: Norway 29; Germany 23; and Canada 19

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1-10
    Sochi Day 11

  • Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 7:54 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 10 – Norway vs. the Netherlands (with Russia, the Wildcard)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Men’s Speedskating 500 (Long Track)

    Norway is dominating skiing events at these Games much as the Netherlands is dominating skating events. Therefore, it looked like a scene from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly when one Norwegian took on three Dutchmen and … iced them.

    Okay, for a more athletic analogy, this is rather like one Ethiopian taking on three Bolt-like Jamaicans (in the Men’s 100m at the Summer Olympics) and burning them.

    But, in fairness to the skating Dutchmen, the Norwegians are dominating these Games in ways that smack of divine providence. There’s no greater testament to that than this:

    After Cha had broken the Olympic record in a blistering lap, the ice-cool Lorentzen went 0.01 seconds faster.

    (Reuters, February 19, 2018)

    It was miraculous enough that this Norwegian won by such a razor-thin margin. But, in doing so, he made the Dutchmen look lame and the South Koreans look unlucky … on home ice.

    It speaks volumes that one could hear a pin drop in that skating arena after Lorentzen crossed the finish line with the winning time. And it’s debatable whether Dutch fans or South Koreans fans were the more dumbstruck.

    • Havard Lorentzen of Norway won gold; Cha Min Kyu of South Korea, silver; and Gao Tingyu of China, bronze.

    The favored Dutchmen ended up 7th, 9th, and 10th. The sentimental South Koreans, 2nd, 12th, and 16th.

    Incidentally, Lorentzen rationalized his improbable win by saying that it’s not good for his sport for the Dutch to be too dominant. The irony seemed lost on him that Dario Cologna of Switzerland, who managed a rare win in Cross-Country Skiing, could say the same about Norway and his sport.

    Sochi and Doping Russians

    We’ve just crossed the halfway point in PyeongChang. And to date, medals have been awarded in eight Cross-Country Skiing events. Norway has won gold in five, including one sweep. Medals have been awarded in nine Speedskating events. The Netherlands has won gold in six, including one sweep.

    For a little context, Russia won the final medal count in Sochi with 29, including 11 gold; to date, “Olympic Athletes from Russia” are languishing in 20th with 11, none of them gold. The United States finished second in Sochi with 28, including 9 gold; it is languishing in 5th with 10, including 5 gold. Host country South Korea is making a good showing with 7, including 3 gold. And, thanks almost entirely to their speedskaters, the Netherlands is in 4th with 13, including 6 gold.

    That said, the IOC has banned Russian athletes from participating under their national flag at these Games. This, it would have you believe, is the harsh way it’s penalizing Russia for operating a state-sponsored doping program.

    But this is a farce. Because the IOC should have banned not the Russian flag but every Russian athlete. As it happened, I hailed what I thought was its intent to do so in “IOC Ban Shows USA How to Deal with ‘Systematically’ Corrupt Russia,” December 6, 2017. Alas, its bark turned out to be far worse than its bite.

    But nothing vindicates my zero-tolerance approach quite like this:

    ‘It’s a catastrophe,’ she said. Moiseeva, the skip, or head curler, of the Russian women’s team was referring to the possible effects of a failed doping test by a fellow Russian curler here at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

    (New York Times, February 19, 2018)

    Clearly, no evidence can be more damning of the systemic, endemic and unreformed nature of doping in Russia than a Russian curler testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

    I rest my case.

    MEDAL COUNT: Norway 28; Germany 20; and Canada 17

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1-9
    IOC ban

  • Monday, February 19, 2018 at 7:17 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 9 – Women Ski Jumpers Still fighting for Equal Rights

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yesterday was the final day of competition in this sport. But my only interest stems from the equal rights campaign the IOC forced women ski jumpers to wage just to compete.

    The IOC argued ski jumping was simply too dangerous. The female jumpers repeatedly found themselves responding to the idea that jumping would injure their ovaries – a claim the former U.S. women’s coach, Larry Stone, scoffs at.

    (CBS News, February 9, 2014)

    This, despite women demonstrating – by their participation in everything from the Marathon to Weightlifting – that they have the mental strength and physical toughness to compete in any Olympic sport. They finally overcame and competed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

    That women are finally participating in Ski Jumping 90 years after the men is thanks in large part to women responding to ignorant and chauvinistic ideas about their vulnerabilities with cogent and unassailable declarations. I commented on this  dynamic in “Sochi Olympics: Day 4,” February 11, 2014.

    ____________________

    My baby-making organs are on the inside. Men have an organ on the outside. So if it’s not safe for me jumping down, and my uterus is going to fall out, what about the organ on the outside of the body?

    This was no less a person than pioneer jumper Lindsey Van sounding off on the February 13, 2013 edition of Rock Center on NBC. It’s probably the bane of her competitive life that her name is so similar to that of another more famous Lindsey.

    But Van’s name will go down in the annals of history along with those of women like Patsy Mink and Edith Starrett Green. Recall that Mink and Green fought for the passage of Title IX, which guaranteed girls and women in the United States the same opportunities as boys and men in any field of education — particularly in high school and college sports.

    ____________________

    Women ski jumpers have come a long way, baby. But they still have a long way to go. After all, they got scant media coverage at these Games and had opportunities to compete for medals in only one event. Men ski jumpers had opportunities in three.

    The women competed a week ago today.

    Women’s Normal Hill Individual

    • Maren Lundby of Norway won gold; Katharina Althaus of Germany, silver; Sara Takanashi of Japan, bronze

    The men compete in their final event later today, but I couldn’t care less.

    MEDAL COUNT: Norway 26; Germany 18; Canada 16

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1-8
    Sochi Day 4

  • Sunday, February 18, 2018 at 8:12 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 8 – Gay Politics Upstage Men’s Figure Skating

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Men’s Figure Skating

    It speaks volumes that Adam Rippon of the United States got more media coverage after snubbing US Vice President Mike Pence than Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan got after defending his title. That Hanyu became the first man to do so since 1952 compounded this media oversight … slight.

    Never mind that he seemed to be competing for some of that coverage. Only this explains Hanyu embracing the cult-like worshippers of his queer attachment to Winne-the-Pooh bears.

    In any event, reports are that Pence offered to clarify his views on homosexuality after the openly gay Rippon accused him of being radically homophobic.

    Rippon is referring to what he sees as the vice president’s past support of ‘gay conversion therapy.’ The vice president, an evangelical Christian, supported funding ‘institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior’ as part of his 2000 Senate campaign.

    (Washington Post, February 12, 2018)

    No doubt the only clarification Pence has to offer is the irreconcilable trope on which all evangelicals hang their homophobia. That, of course, is that they damn the sin of homosexuality but love the homosexual sinner.

    At first, Rippon dismissed the vice president’s offer. But he later expressed a willingness to have “an open conversation.” This alone makes him a better man than Pence. Recall, after all, that Pence refused to exchange smiles, let alone express a willingness to discuss political differences, with the head of the North Korean delegation at the Opening Ceremony.

    Interestingly enough, gay storylines figured prominently in Sochi too, where Hanyu won his first gold. Perhaps most interesting, though, is that the anti-gay villain back then was the host himself, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    But his surliness made Pence an offending guest, who I denounced in my February 9 commentary below. His hospitality made Putin the endearing host, who I praised in “Sochi Olympics: Day 6,” February 13, 2014.

    ____________________

    Given all of the pre-Games furor about Russia’s anti-gay laws, some might be shocked by the thriving, openly gay spirit in Sochi. Nothing demonstrated this quite like President Vladimir Putin warmly embracing openly gay speedskater Ireen Wuest as he congratulated her on her gold medal win in the Women’s 3000.

    Granted, macho-man Putin might’ve been thinking that just one hug from him would be enough to turn her straight. Whatever the case, I’ll be really impressed if he’s caught warmly embracing an openly gay male athlete.

    Westerners are criticizing Putin for endorsing laws banning the promotion of ‘non-traditional lifestyles.’ But they are overlooking the inconvenient truth that he’s doing so for the same politically expedient reason Barack Obama endorsed laws defining marriage as strictly between a man and a woman, which he did during his first presidential campaign in 2008.

    After all, if Putin were really concerned about the gay lifestyle influencing Russian culture he would’ve banned Men’s Figure Skating from his Sochi Games, no? Because what could be more gay than men skating around in sequins and tights looking like fairy queens on ice? Oh right, the comically homoerotic Men’s Double Luge. Things that make you go, hmmm. …

    The likely gold medalist in this event is [Yuzuru Hanyu] a 19-year-old Japanese boy.

    ____________________

    Unfortunately, this was not a particularly exciting event. Which is why I have joined the media in showing more interest in Rippon snubbing Pence than in Hanyu winning gold.

    • Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan won gold; Shoma Uno of Japan, silver; and Javier Fernandez of Spain, bronze.

    For all his talking and media coverage, Rippon managed only a 10th place – behind his virtually ignored teammates Nathan Chen, who finished 5th, and Vincent Zhou, 6th.

    Incidentally, this event occurred on Day 7. But it was upstaged by too many others for comment, not least the Women’s Super-G.

    Men’s Ski Slopestyle

    This was the only event I really enjoyed watching yesterday. Never mind that the media seemed more interested in showing us Gus Kenworthy of the United States kissing his boyfriend.

    Kenworthy was the defending silver medalist in this event. But, like Rippon, he appeared to spend more time talking about gay politics than preparing for competition.

    He was reportedly nursing lingering injuries. But it’s hard to imagine his extracurricular activity did not contribute to Kenworthy finishing dead last in this final.

    Apropos of the event itself, I waxed awestruck enough in my Day 2 commentary on Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle. Competitors performed the same tricks – only on skis instead of snowboards.

    Still, with all due respect to all other events, most notably the Men’s Giant Slalom, this was the  most exciting event of Day 8.

    • Oystein Braaten of Norway won gold; Nick Goepper of the United States, silver; and Alex Beaulieu-Marchand of Canada, bronze.

    MEDAL COUNT: Norway 22; Germany 17; and Canada 15

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1-7
    Sochi Day 6
    Day 2 slopestyle

  • Saturday, February 17, 2018 at 5:41 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 7 – Lindsey Vonn: Return of the Snow Queen

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Women’s Super-G

    Lindsey Vonn is easily the most successful female skier in history. She racked up a record-setting 81 wins on the World Cup tour between 2002 and 2018. But, despite opportunities at five Olympic Games over that period, she has only one career-crowning gold medal.

    To be fair, untimely injuries, which she chronicled with viral impact on social media, account for this lack of Olympic glory. In fact, she was arguably in her prime when injury prevented her from competing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

    This is why a healthy Vonn was understandably anxious, after days of weather-related delays, to start winning as many gold medals as possible at these her fifth and likely last Olympic Games:

    I won a gold medal at the 2010 [Vancouver] Olympics that changed my life. It all helps establish a legacy, and now, here’s one more shot.

    (New York Times, February 16, 2018)

    She is far from my favorite winter Olympian, but I was really pulling for Vonn. And she seemed headed for gold until, ironically, she made a rookie mistake, overshooting one of the final gates and losing precious time.

    • Ester Ledecka of Czech Republic won gold, Anna Veith of Austria, silver; and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein, bronze

    Vonn ended up sixth. Next, the Downhill, her best event. Then again, the Giant Slalom was Mikaela Shiffrin’s, and she ended up off the podium in fourth.

    That said, I’d be remiss not to hail Ledecka’s improbable win. Forty-five women competed in this event, but commentators assured viewers that only the first 19 had any chance of winning.

    Sure enough, after the 19th skier finished well off the podium, they announced Veith as the winner. Moreover, Veith began celebrating as such.

    Then came Ledecka, the 26th skier, and all hell broke loose — complete with the commentators eating crow.

    Her victory is all the more remarkable because she’s primarily a snowboarder, so much so that the 22-year-old Ledecka had to borrow skis to compete in this event. In fact, she is the first and only Olympic athlete to compete in both skiing and snowboarding. Now she has an Olympic gold medal in the former to go with her World Championship title in the latter.

    Bring in the clowns (from North Korea). Where are the crowds?

    My abiding pet peeve is the eyesore of empty venues at Olympic Games. I decided to hold off venting in this case because the weather has been so inhospitable, events themselves have been postponed. But the weather has been near perfect these past few days. Yet, empty venues abound.

    Media reports gave the impression that hundreds of North Korean cheerleaders would be leading goodwill cheers during every event at every venue. But even they are nowhere to be seen. I mean, there was virtually nobody in the stands for one of the feature events of these Games, the Women’s Giant Slalom. WTF!

    I hoped the screed I wrote four years ago would be instructive. Here is an excerpt from “Sochi Olympics: Day 1,” February 8, 2014.

    ____________________

    I have a gripe about something that is becoming as much a staple at Olympic Games as the Opening Ceremony.

    I find it more than a little difficult to reconcile all of the Chinese hype about these Olympic Games being such a source of national pride with all of the empty seats at so many events.

    (“Beijing Olympics,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 15, 2008)

    Sure enough, the first day of competition in Sochi makes clear that we’re going to be treated to the dispiriting eyesore of empty seats here too. To be fair, Western media have done all they possibly could to scare away spectators with their hysterical reporting on potential terrorist attacks.

    Still, you’d think the Russians would have learned from the Chinese, or heeded my advice:

    Again, it’s not as if the London organizers were not aware that this might be the case. It boggles the mind, therefore, that they did not enlist tens of thousands of volunteers (from pensioners to school kids) to show up at a moment’s notice to fill seats if ticket holders do not show up. They could have warned in print on all tickets that the holder forfeits the seat if it is not occupied by [45] minutes before the scheduled start of the event.

    (“London Olympics: Day 1,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2012)

    ____________________

    That said, I feel a bit foolish. After all, Chinese organizers had 1.3 billion people from which to draft and even they couldn’t ensure all venues were jam-packed to save face. Therefore, it seems foolhardy to expect any other host country to do so.

    What’s more, South Korean organizers are reportedly trying desperately to do something about it.

    Groups of South Korean schoolchildren have been a common sight, bused in for field trips as part of a program by the Ministry of Education to educate young Koreans about winter sports.

    They also fill empty seats quite nicely.

    (New York Times, February 15, 2018)

    Accordingly, I hereby put this pet peeve to rest. But I remain convinced that, as dispiriting as it is for me to see empty venues, it must be doubly so for Olympians to compete in them.

    MEDAL COUNT: Norway 19; Germany 15; Netherlands 13

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1-6
    Sochi Day 1

  • Friday, February 16, 2018 at 3:35 PM

    South Africa Replaces Corrupt Zuma with Captured Ramaphosa

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The ruling African National Congress (ANC) gave President Jacob Zuma an ultimatum on Monday: resign by Wednesday or be impeached on Thursday (via vote of no-confidence).

    True to form, the hopelessly beleaguered Zuma strutted and fretted his case on TV until the eleventh hour and then resigned. No doubt he’s now hoping the sinecure he negotiated will prove secure against prosecution on over 700 pending charges of corruption.

    Whatever the case, his antic farewell said and done, Parliament elected his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, the 5th president of post-apartheid South Africa yesterday.

    As it happens, I have been telegraphing this day ever since South Africans elected Zuma nine years ago. I refer you to attesting commentaries like “South African President Mbeki Forced to Resign. Hail Zuma?!” September 22, 2008, “Zuma Doing to South Africa What Mugabe Did to Zimbabwe,” December 12, 2015, and “Wither South Africa,” April 10, 2017.

    Therefore, I’m not surprised that South Africa ousted Zuma this week much as Zimbabwe ousted Mugabe three months ago. And, with all due respect to viral memes, the metaphor is not South Africa kicking Zuma to the curb on Valentine’s Day. It is South Africa finally holding him to account for raping it the way he allegedly raped countless South African women, leaving the country as ravaged and depressed as he invariably left them.

    Granted, there’s a silver lining in South Africans not waiting 37 years to rid themselves of his corrupt and corrosive leadership. This means that the mess Zuma left Ramaphosa pales in comparison to that which Mugabe left his successor.

    Nonetheless, it beggars belief to think that Ramaphosa will do much to clean it up. After all, he’s the poster boy for the corruption and cronyism that enabled political elites to benefit most from the country’s black-empowerment and affirmative-action policies. Policies intended, but which have failed, to lift over half of South Africa’s 56 million people out of poverty.

    Not to mention that he is more captive to the state-capture scandals that defined Zuma’s presidency than Zuma himself.

    State capture is more systematic than plain vanilla (banknote-stuffed envelope) corruption, which seeks to exploit existing opportunities. State capture goes one better by changing personnel, regulations and laws to work in one’s favour.

    (Financial Times, October 17, 2017)

    Only this explains Forbes ranking him among the richest South Africans with a net worth of $450 million. Even accounting for his unbridled greed and ambition, this has to be more wealth than Ramaphosa ever imagined amassing.

    Nelson Mandela, the father of black South Africa, reportedly tapped Ramaphosa 20 years ago as his preferred successor. Therefore, South Africans can be forgiven for hoping that he is now free to fully (re)commit himself to the poverty alleviation and sustainability programs that inspired Mandela to do so.

    Incidentally, Mandela and Lee Kuan Yew, the father of modern Singapore, enjoyed a mutual admiration society. I suspect this was based on Mandela’s interest in modeling South Africa’s development on Singapore’s and Lee’s interest in basking in the reflected glow of Mandela’s moral authority and statesmanship. Lee fully basked; alas, South Africa never fully modeled.

    In any event, the best thing South Africans can do at this point is to vote for Mmusi Maimane and his Democratic Alliance (DA) in next year’s general elections. Because he personifies the leadership and the DA champions the values Mandela saw in Ramaphosa and the ANC, respectively.

    In fact, ANC leaders have so betrayed their party’s founding values that it will take a generation or two for new leaders to rediscover them. And you don’t have to take my word; ANC stalwarts like Nobel Laureates Nadine Gordimer and Desmond Tutu have bemoaned this fact.

    I duly commented on their disaffection and disillusionment in commentaries like “South Africa Betraying Its Values,” May 13, 2011, “Massacre at South Africa’s Lonmin Marikana Mine,” April 17, 2012, “Chief Prosecutor Condemns SA President Zuma and His Ruling ANC,” October 21, 2013, and “South Africa Joins Ranks of Countries Selling Its Sovereignty to China,” October 3, 2014.

    But nothing damns the ANC quite like this from the universally acclaimed French economist Thomas Piketty – as quoted in the October 6, 2015, edition of The Guardian:

    We are 25 years after the fall of apartheid … [but] inequality is not only still very high in South Africa, but has been rising and in some ways income inequality is even higher today than 20 years ago.

    Amandla! … Ngawethu!

    Related commentaries:
    Mbeki resign
    Zuma doing to SA
    Wither SA
    Zimbabwe outs Mugabe
    SA betraying values
    Massacre at Lonmin
    Chief prosecutor
    SA selling sovereignty

  • Friday, February 16, 2018 at 5:42 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 6 — Mikaela Shiffrin Begins Her Heiden Quest

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Women’s Giant Slalom

    Here is how I reveled in Mikaela Shiffrin’s humbling introduction to Olympic competition in Sochi:

    You probably know that Lindsey Vonn of the United States was being billed as the darling of these Games until a recurring injury prevented her from even participating. What you probably don’t know is that the jingoistic American media anointed first-time Olympian Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States as Vonn’s heir apparent. This, despite the participation of far more accomplished Alpine skiers like Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, Anna Fenninger of Austria, and Tina Maze of Slovenia.

    Well, Shiffrin made her big debut today and was properly left in the snow. …

    Shiffrin has one more event, the Women’s Slalom, not only to live up to her billing as Vonn’s golden heir but also to salvage what little remains of Team USA’s reputation for having the best Alpine skiers in the world. For, of the 22 medals that have already been awarded in this sport, Team USA has won only 3 — none of them gold

    (“Sochi Olympics: Day 11,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 18, 2014)

    But oh, what a difference four years make.

    • Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States won gold; Ragnhild Mowinckle of Norway, silver; Federica Brignone of Italy, bronze.

    Not only did she avenge this loss but media worldwide are hyping her as the darling of these Games in ways Vonn never experienced. In fact, only Eric Heiden can relate to the expectation of winning five golds in a single Winter Olympics.

    Except that, despite this golden start, Shiffrin’s mother/coach has already lowered expectations. Five days of weather delays mean that Shiffrin would have to compete for six or seven consecutive days to complete her feat. This, Shiffrin’s mother says, would be too much.

    As it happened, she had less than 24 hours before she was competing again in the Women’s Slalom, her best event.

    Women’s Slalom

    Despite lowered expectations, Shiffrin could not live up to the hype. NBC commentators began telegraphing (and making excuses for) an upset after she finished the first of two runs well behind the leader. Shiffrin then tipped her own hand when she made quite a show of “puking buckets” before her second run, which she would later blame not on competitive nerves but on some obscure virus (slalomcitus upsetus?).

    Still, everybody seemed shocked when, far from winning what seemed a guaranteed gold, she did not even win bronze.

    • Frida Hansdotter of Sweden won gold; Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, silver; and Katharina Gallhuber of Austria, bronze.

    Shiffrin finished fourth, matching the Olympian disappointment Shaun White must have felt (and caused) in Sochi when he too finished fourth in his guaranteed-gold, best event, the Men’s Halfpipe (see Day 5). To be fair, unlike White, Shiffrin is no one-gold wonder. After all, she has already won one gold at these Games, and still has two opportunities to win more.

    That said, there must be some second-guessing her mother’s decision to withdraw from today’s Super-G. But I suspect avoiding head-to-head competition with Lindsey Vonn, the dowager ice queen of these Games, had a lot to do with that decision. Vonn will be making her long-delayed debut.

    Men’s Downhill

    This is easily the premier event at the Winter Olympics, much as the Men’s 100m is at the Summer Olympics. … Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was my favorite to win. … He made a lasting impression when I saw a documentary years ago on the dedication and effort he put into his rehabilitation. …

    Alas, it was not to be … Svindal finished fourth, just off the podium.

    (“Sochi Olympics: Day 2,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 9, 2014)

    Svindal (35) was the oldest man in this field – a fact commentators apparently felt they needed to share repeatedly. But I take middle-age pride in watching older athletes triumph over younger ones – as Shaun White (31) of the United States did on Day 5 when he bested upstart Auymu Hirano (19) of Japan to win gold in the Men’s Halfpipe.

    This is why I couldn’t have been happier with the results in this event.

    • Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won gold; Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, silver; and Beat Feuz of Switzerland, bronze.

    That said, realizing that I am old enough to be Svindal’s father must be one of those signposts of growing old. Granted, he would have made me a very young baby daddy.

    Skeleton/Luge vs. Bobsled

    Am I the only one who wonders why bobsledding is even worthy of Olympic competition?

    Skeleton/Luge involves athletes sledding down the ice track, at speeds nearing 80mph, not sitting snugly in soapbox-like sleds called Bobsleds, but lying facedown, head-first/flat on their backs, feet-first – completely exposed on snowboard-like sleds. Which makes it fair to assert that Skeleton/Luge is to Bobsled what the NFL is to Touch Football, no?

    Skeleton/Luge is clearly more dangerous to race. Indeed, Georgian luger Nodar David Kumaritashvili suffered a fatal crash during a practice run on the morning of Opening Ceremony for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. His death effectively turned that ceremony into a wake. But it’s this obvious danger that makes Skeleton/Luge so much more thrilling to watch than Bobsled.

    Which makes it fair to question why Bobsled is getting so much more media attention, no? Oh, right – slapdash teams still trying to soak up attention and rake in dough like Jamaica’s “Cool Runnings” team from the 1988 Calgary Olympics. But I digress …

    In fact, the only reason I’m commenting on these sports is to hail host country South Korea for wining its second gold in Men’s Skeleton.

    • Yun Sungbin of South Korea won gold; Kikita Tregubov of Russia, silver; Dom Parsons of Great Britain, bronze.

    Sungbin made history by becoming the first Asian to win gold in this event.

    Men’s 10,000m Speedskating

    I am commenting on this event only to memorialize Sven Kramer’s disappointing performance.

    To put what happened into context, imagine that, instead of winning gold in the 100m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics, Usain Bolt got disqualified and won silver, respectively. Now imagine his all-consuming desire for redemption at the 2016 Rio Olympics. More to the point, imagine the interest worldwide, to say nothing of it in Jamaica, in watching Bolt achieve it.

    Indeed, the interest back home in the Netherlands was such that teachers reportedly suspended classes so students could join the rest of the nation in watching him. That’s what Kramer had riding on this event.

    But on Day 2 – in commenting on his three-peat victory in the 5000m – I wrote that “I fear disappointment awaits again” in the 10, 000m. Sure enough, Kramer looked a winded shell of himself as the effectively waddled across the finish line … in sixth place.

    • Ted-Jan Bloemen of Canada won gold; Jorrit Bergsma of the Netherlands, silver; Nicola Tumolero of Italy, bronze.

    Incidentally, my sense is that Dutchmen were as shocked and saddened watching Kramer get so soundly beaten as Jamaicans were watching Bolt pull up lame in his final event at the World Championships in London last year.

    MEDAL COUNT: Norway 17; Germany 15; Canada 13

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1-5
    Sochi Day 11
    Sochi Day 2
    Bolt pulls up lame

  • Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 8:53 AM

    Target Parkland, Florida – Another School Shooting in Gun-Crazy USA

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    There had already been 17 school shootings in the United States just this year; then came this:

    A heavily armed young man barged into his former high school about an hour northwest of Miami on Wednesday, opening fire on terrified students and teachers and leaving a death toll of 17 that could rise even higher, the authorities said.

    (New York Times, February 14, 2014)

    This is a truly dystopian sequel to the infamous Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. But it speaks volumes about gun violence in America today that this massacre ended with 17 dead, most of them schoolchildren; whereas the one back then ended with 7 dead, most of them gangsters.

    Not to mention the Groundhog-Day spectacle afoot. In fact, nothing is more despairing than watching politicians spout platitudes about gun rights, gun control, and/or mental illness after these shootings.

    They affect the same emotion anew each time – complete with “heartfelt condolences” for grieving families. Yet they steadfastly refuse to do anything to stop them, which renders their words not only hollow but also hypocritical.

    This is especially the case with craven, NRA-obeying Republicans. These, after all, are the sons of bitches who took pride in repealing an Obama-era regulation that made it difficult for mentally deranged people to buy guns. Now Trump is leading the chorus of these same Republicans in paying lip service to the categorical imperative of doing everything possible to prevent mentally deranged people from buying guns.

    Except that this makes about as much sense as fighting the opioid epidemic by targeting small-time drug dealers who sell opioids, instead of the big-time drug companies that manufacture them. With respect to gun violence, instead of targeting the mentally ill, it clearly makes more sense to ban assault rifles and prevent gun companies from manufacturing any more.

    But, as Don King, Trump’s African American, would say: “Only in America,” folks.

    Meanwhile, whether attending school, a concert, or even church, no place is safe from the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.

    I’m on record dismissing what politicians say in tragic times like these – as commentaries like “This Gun-Control Debate Is Insane,” April 5, 2015, attest.

    This is not the commentary to delve into the gun debate. But I would be remiss not to note that these politicians know full well that blaming the scourge of mass shootings in America on mental illness is rather like blaming the scourge of drug trafficking throughout the Americas on poverty.

    Everybody knows the most effective way to stop mass shootings is to stop gun manufacturers from peddling assault weapons the way cartels traffick drugs. I have already written about this cause and effect in far too many commentaries, including “NRA Cares No More about Gun Violence than Drug Cartels Do,” June 17, 2014.

    This is why I think it’s time for gun-control activists to adopt the bloody tactics of anti-fur activists. Namely, they should seek out politicians who oppose gun-control measures (at the behest of their NRA paymasters) and douse them with red paint, symbolizing the blood of schoolchildren they have on their hands.

    All else is folly. And nothing is more so than the wallowing media coverage that invariably attends these mass shootings. I’m on record decrying this perverse feature here:

    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?

    You’d think – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes since Columbine – that 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)

    And here:

    No less a folly, though, is the way law-enforcement officials hold rolling news conferences to do little more than pat themselves on the back, or the way news organizations feature lucky survivors regaling us with tales of their harrowing heroics.

    (“Target Las Vegas: Another Mass Shooting in Gun-Crazy USA,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 2, 2017)

    So, then, until the next mass shooting interrupts 24-7 coverage of the scandals and blunders of the Trump presidency.

    Related commentaries:
    Gun Crazy USA
    Gun control debate insane
    NRA like Drug cartels
    Target Las Vegas
    Orlando Shooting

  • Thursday, February 15, 2018 at 5:25 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 5 — The Pyrrhic Redemption of Shaun White

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Unfortunately, bad weather is continuing to upstage the athletes at these Games. Most notably, it forced cancellation of Alpine events for a third day yesterday.

    Men’s Halfpipe

    Here is what I wrote about how Shaun White fared at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

    ____________________

    I joined the peanut gallery of those heaping scorn on Shaun White for withdrawing from Slopestyle. He is easily the biggest name in snowboarding. Yet he claims it’s too dangerous. Worse still, he admits he withdrew to give himself a better shot at gold in Halfpipe.

    Except that, after watching snowboarder after snowboarder crash-land all manner of exotic tricks, I began thinking that White unwittingly ended up competing in the more dangerous event.  Apropos of which, with Slopestyle, Halfpipe, and other snowboarding events, the IOC is clearly trying to grow interest in the Winter Olympics by featuring events that have made the Winter X-Games must-see TV.

    No doubt White fully appreciated that, if he didn’t win Halfpipe after withdrawing from Slopestyle, his agony of defeat would be surpassed only by his stigma of humiliation.

    Well, here’s to the schadenfreude I fully anticipated would come: White did not even make the podium in Halfpipe! Frankly, I think it’s fair to say that never before in the history of the Olympic Games has an athlete so hyped to win gold failed to even win bronze. He finished fourth. …

    I wish White lots of luck in pursuing what seems to be his greater interest these days anyway, namely, becoming a rock star!

    ____________________

    Of course, we all love a redemption story. And narcissistic presumptions are such these days that White just knew everyone would want to see every breath he takes along his comeback trail. Only this explains his documentary SnowPack: Shuan White and the U.S. Snowboard Team.

    His selfie-indulgence aside, I enjoyed watching every run of this competition. It helped that I’ve become so informed, I could almost predict the score for each one.

    Sure enough, I heralded his triumph while everyone else was enduring an agonizing wait for the official score.

    • Shaun White of the United States won gold; Ayumu Hirano of Japan, silver; and Scotty James of Australia, bronze.

    With that, White emulated teammate Chloe Kim (Day 4) by living up to the hype. And he did it in far more dramatic fashion.

    Kim scored a high of 98.25 on her third and final run. But she had no pressure because she already had a lock on gold, which made that run merely ceremonial. By contrast, White needed to score above 95.25 on his third and final run. He scored 97.75.  And he performed air-to-fakies with a slightly higher degree of difficulty than Kim’s. Thrilling!

    As it happened, though, he barely had a chance to celebrate. Because media reports about a sexual-harassment lawsuit began tarnishing White’s gold even before he got it. Lena Zawaideh, a former drummer in his rock band, filed it in 2016.

    And here’s where my Sochi excerpt comes in. Zawaideh alleged that he reacted to his humiliation in Sochi by subjecting her to all manner of sexual humiliation. This ranged from texting her Anthony Weiner-style penis pictures to showing her feces-themed porn, featuring a priest and nun no less.

    The lawsuit also said White … shoved a bottle of vodka into her mouth and forced her to drink from it … stuck his hands down his pants, approached Zawaideh, and stuck his hands in her face trying to make her smell them … and tried to kiss [her].

    (Associated Press, February 14, 2018)

    She was 17. White settled.

    Of course, the irony is that he would have escaped this #MeToo reckoning if he hadn’t won, hence the pyrrhic redemption. Instead, his fall from grace began at his gold-medal news conference.

    It’s a testament to his popularity that the reporter who asked about Zawaideh’s lawsuit came across like a skunk at a garden party. But, as he struggled to answer, White looked and sounded like he belonged not atop the Olympic podium but in the rogue’s gallery of sexual harassers.

    He dismissed her allegations as mere gossip. But this is how Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein, and others tried to no avail to escape the truth and consequences of their sexual harassment.

    This is why I’d be shocked if any new sponsor would touch him with a ten-foot poll. More to the point, his current sponsors might drop him like a hot potato.

    He now has dozens of endorsement deals worth millions of dollars each, ranging from contracts with global corporations like AT&T to more niche companies like GoPro.

    (Yahoo! Sports, February 13, 2018)

    As if that were not bad enough, White incited viral outrage when, as part of his emotional celebration, he dragged the US flag in the snow. However, given the potential fallout from his sexual-harassment case, he could fairly dismiss this outrage as the overweening blandishments of idle-minded jingoists.

    But God help him if #MeToo’s avenging angels begin demanding he be stripped of his Olympic medal. Because he need only look at what happened when they demanded the likes of Charlie Rose be stripped of their awards.

    MEDAL COUNT: Germany 12; Netherlands 11; Norway 11

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1-4
    Sochi Shaun
    Anthony Weiner
    Charlie Rose et al

  • Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 5:37 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 4 – The Rise of Chloe Kim

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Women’s Halfpipe

    Chloe Kim is a phenom – whose breathtaking athleticism is surpassed only by her endearing personality. But I can think of no better way to hail her Olympic performance than to say it was every bit as awe inspiring as Shaun White’s was at the 2006 Turin Olympics. White won gold at those Games, where the Halfpipe debuted as an Olympic sport.

    Mind you, I watched Hannah Teeter win the women’s event in Turin. But I’m comparing Kim to White because, as impressive as Teeter was, she looked like a Halfpipe beginner compared to White.  By contrast, the athleticism Kim displayed was every bit as pioneering as that which White displayed back then. What’s more, it was comparable to that which White and other male Olympians are displaying today.

    In other words, Kim has closed the athleticism gender gap in this sport beyond what women like Teeter could have imagined just 12 years ago.

    • Chloe Kim of the United States won gold; Liu Jiayu of China, silver; and Arielle Gold of the United States, bronze.

    Incidentally, nothing indicates the level of hype surrounding Kim quite like NBC featuring this 17-year-old on promotional posters as one of Team USA’s triumvirate, alongside the 31-year-old White and 33-year-old Lindsey Vonn. Arguably, she lived up to hers. It remains to be seen if the other two can live up to theirs.

    Mind you, unlike these one-hit wonders, Mikaela Shiffrin is a triple threat. Therefore, she might wonder why every promotional poster does not feature her front and center.

    That said, this seems a good occasion to commend the diversity of Team USA. This constitutes a redoubtable strength, which no other team can match. And, as the daughter of South Korean immigrants, Kim personifies this diversity.

    No surprise, then, that South Koreans took as much pride in her Olympic triumph as Americans. And, with all due respect to the xenophobic President Donald Trump, such common bonds foster comity not just between South Korea and the United States but among all nations.

    Incidentally, apropos of diversity, it speaks volumes that eight different countries won the eight gold medals awarded in eight different events today (namely, Austria in men’s Alpine, Sweden in women’s Cross Country, Norway in Cross Country, Canada in Curling, Germany in Luge, Italy in Speedskating (Short Track), USA in Snowboard, and the Netherlands in Speedskating).

    Women’s 500m Speedskating (Short Track)

    I try to limit commentary to events that inspire awe. But I cannot resist sharing the derision this event evokes.

    For the uninitiated, Short-Track Speedskating is to Long-Track Speedskating what Arena Football is to the National Football League, or what Bumper Pool is to Billiards. And, at the risk of offending its fans, this sport seems like little more than Roller Derby on ice – complete with bumps landing skaters on their ass and out of contention.

    Elise Christie of Great Britain is the world record holder in this event. She bumped her way to an unprecedented trifecta of disqualifications in Sochi (in the 500m, 1000m, and 1500m).

    Therefore, she must have spent the past four years praying for redemption. And it seemed at hand after she cruised into yesterday’s final by setting a new Olympic record in her qualifying heat.

    Alas, she fell, she cried, and then she whined:

    I was knocked over, I didn’t fall on my own. I’ve worked so hard for the 500 and it was taken away from me.

    (Reuters, February 13, 2018)

    • Arianna Fontana of Italy won gold; Yara Van Kerkhof of the Netherlands, silver; and Kim Boutin of Canada, bronze.

    MEDAL COUNT: Norway 11; Netherlands 10; Canada 10

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1-3

  • Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 5:29 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 3 – The Grit of Cross Country and the Crash of Slopestyle

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Bad weather forced the postponement of more Alpine events. On Day 1, I hailed the grit Cross Country skiers display as a matter of course. Sure enough, they competed despite the weather.

    Women’s Biathlon 10km Pursuit

    Again, you really have to watch one of these Cross-Country events to fully appreciate the athleticism and skill these Olympians display. And none has been more impressive than Laura Dahlmeier.

    She made history by becoming the first woman to win both the 7.5km Sprint and 10km Pursuit in one Olympics. This feat was all the more impressive given that she won the latter just two days after the former.

    • Laura Dahlmeier of Germany won gold; Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia, silver; and Anais Bescond of France, bronze.

    Men’s Biathlon 12.5km Pursuit

    Yes, I watched the men’s event too.

    • Martin Fourcade of France won gold; Sebastian Samuelson of Sweden, silver; Benedikt Doll of Germany, bronze.

    Women’s Slopestyle

    Americans are dominating Olympic Slopestyle the way they dominate Olympic Basketball. In fairness to the men, though, watching women ski Slopestyle is rather like watching women play Basketball. Have you ever seen any woman “play like Mike”?

    Granted, unprecedented wind gusts caused the women to ski the course like first timers on bunny slopes.

    Even so, it did little for the quality of Olympic competition that, while performing basic tricks, virtually every skier crash-landed on her butt.

    [F] our out of every five Olympians crash-landed thanks to 31 kilometre per hour gusts of wind.

    Nick Pope, a commentator for BBC Sport, said on Twitter that the Pyeongchang slopestyle was like ‘the world’s most beautiful graveyard.’

    (Business Insider, February 12, 2018)

    This is why it only took landing on her feet for Jamie Anderson to defend her title.

    • Jamie Anderson of the United States won gold; Laurie Blouin of Canada, silver; and Enni Rukajarvi of Finland, bronze.

    Women’s Speedskating 1500

    Perhaps the only noteworthy thing about this event is that it ended the prospect of the skating Dutchmen sweeping all major events.

    But what I found most interesting was watching Marrit Leenstra, who finished just off the podium in fourth in Sochi, supplant teammate Lotte Van Beek, who finished third.

    • Irene Wust of the Netherlands won gold; Miho Takagi of Japan, silver; and Marrit Leenstra of the Netherlands, bronze.

    MEDAL COUNT: Norway 9, Germany 7, Netherlands 7

    NOTE: Figure Skating awarded its first medals yesterday in the Team Event. But I have no interest in watching any of the events in this sport. Which I suppose is rather like watching the Summer Olympics but tuning out Track and Field or Swimming events. I did say from the outset that I would be discriminating.

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1-2

  • Monday, February 12, 2018 at 6:48 PM

    Ex-White House Staffer Rob Porter Is Not ‘a Domestic Abuser.’ He’s a Wife Beater!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    White House staff secretary Rob Porter abruptly resigned last week. He was forced to do so after the Daily Mail uncovered a White House cover-up of his history of spousal abuse.

    Two ex-wives reportedly told the FBI over a year ago that Porter abused them (physically, psychologically, and emotionally). One of them even produced an incriminating photo of the black eye he gave her. More to the point, the FBI immediately informed the White House of this alleged abuse.

    Which means that the Trump administration allowed Porter to continue serving as the gatekeeper of the nation’s top secrets for nearly a year, knowing full well that he failed his FBI security clearance.

    But nobody should be surprised that White House staffers defended Porter as if they were defending their pussy-grabbing boss himself. Nor should anybody be surprised that Trump could not resist providing his own self-serving support:

    Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. … There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone.

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018

    In truth, one can hardly blame staffers for showing so little concern about the national security risk Porter posed. After all, the personally and financially compromised Trump poses the biggest (blackmail) risk of all.

    This prevailing fact renders all the indignant reporting on the timeline – establishing which staffer knew what when – much ado about nothing. The only relevant timeline is the one showing red flags of racism, xenophobia, narcissism, and misogyny, which spanned from the day Trump declared his presidency to the day voters elected him president of the United States.

    That said, reporters and commentators are bending over backwards to avoid calling Porter a wife beater. Instead, they are calling him a “domestic abuser.”

    I don’t know if they’re trying to be politically correct, or if they’re just too lazy to think twice about what they’re saying.

    Either way, there’s a glaring flaw in using this term – cognitive dissonance notwithstanding. Because, in every other context, “a domestic” is a “hired household servant.” Ergo, a domestic abuser is one who abuses a household servant; and domestic violence can refer to abuse of both wife/husband/spouse and servant.

    This is why, far from showing intended sympathy, reporters and commentators are unwittingly referring to Porter’s ex-wives as the household servants he abused.

    Accordingly, I urge all to stop calling a man who beats his wife a domestic abuser. Call this spade a spade, namely, a wife beater. If that’s too harsh for you, spousal abuser will do.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump sexual abuser

  • Monday, February 12, 2018 at 5:49 AM

    PyeongChang Olympics: Day 2 – The Youthful Abandon of Red Gerard

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Bad weather is forcing postponement of events at these Olympics in ways it used to force postponement of matches at Wimbledon. The Men’s Downhill and Women’s Giant Slalom are among the casualties. Except that no amount of preparation could insulate Alpine events from disorientating and dangerous wind gusts.

    Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle

    This event debuted four years ago in Sochi. But I can explain terms like jibs, backsides, fakies, and corks no better today than I could back then, despite watching many events.

    Slopestyle is like performing trampoline-style acrobatics while going downhill on snowboards or skis. And this only gives a sense of the daring and skill involved in this sport. For example, Shaun White won gold when the death-defying Halfpipe debuted at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Yet he begged off competing in this event because it proved too taxing on his aging 31-year-old body.

    That said, I was tremendously gratified when I pierced the inscrutable nature of Slopestyle scoring to predict the upset victory for one of the youngest competitors at these Games.

    • Redmond Gerard of the United States won Gold; Max Parrot of Canada, silver; and Mark McMorris of Canada, bronze.

    Gerard won the first gold of these Games for Team USA, emulating the feat Sage Kotsenburg performed when he won this same event in Sochi. This 17-year-old phenom also happens to be the first athlete born in this millennium (namely 2000) to win an Olympic Gold Medal. How old does that make you feel?!

    Women’s Moguls

    Truth be told, I watched this event only to see how the three Dufour-Lapointe sisters of Canada would fare. This, because I was so impressed four years ago by their NBC profiles and even more so by their performances. Youngest sister Justine and middle sister Chloe won gold and silver, respectively, but oldest sister Maxine finished a humbling 12th.

    As it happened, Justine was the only one who made it to the final round this time. But she was unable to defend her title.

    • Perrine Laffont of France won gold; Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Canada, silver; and Yulia Galsheva of Kazakhstan, bronze.

    Men’s 5000m Speedskating

    One of the most thrilling and agonizing moments of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics was watching Sven Kramer, the “flying Dutchman,” win the 10,000m. Because, thanks to a truly bizarre disqualification, his thrill of victory soon turned to the agony of defeat. That he was not even at fault only compounded matters. Evidently, his coach directed him at some point to make an illegal lane crossover. He lost that race but won the hearts of millions everywhere.

    Even I cheered when he defended his title in the 5000m four years later in Sochi. I thought the form he displayed augured well for vindication in the 10,000m. Unfortunately, he fell short, managing only a relatively disappointing silver-medal performance.

    He is off to a similar start at these Games, completing a rare three-peat feat in this event yesterday. But it remains to be seen if he can finally vindicate that disqualification in Vancouver by winning the 10,000m. Having failed in 2014, I fear disappointment awaits again.

    • Sven Kramer of the Netherlands won gold; Ted-Jan Bloemen of Canada, silver; and Sverre Lunde Pedersen of Norway, bronze.

    Speedskaters Eric Heiden, Bonnie Blair, and Shani Davis are more famous on this side of the Atlantic. But this gold makes Kramer the most decorated speedskater in Olympic history. And, as indicated above, he’s bound to pad his record with more medals at these Games.

    MEDAL COUNT: Norway 8, Netherlands 5, Germany 4

    NOTE: Am I the only one who finds it laughable that the IOC banned Russia, yet Russians are figuring in media coverage almost as much as North Koreans…?

    Related commentaries:
    Day 1

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