Shooting Michael Moore

February 26, 2010

Documentary:  97 minutes

Director:  Kevin Leffler 

I’ll admit it from the beginning.  I have never trusted Michael Moore.  From his very first aw-shucks days filming Roger and Me, that sly and ultimately savage depiction of corporate America, I have found his irreverent film making approach shallow and self -serving.   At the time the documentary was released however, not many Americans agreed with me.   Moore, as country  bumpkin, cleverly springing traps for General Motors CEO Roger Smith, was regarded in many circles as the late 20th century cinematic answer to Mark Twain,  skewering self-important businessmen and politicians and taking delight in exposing their foibles.

But subsequent Moore directed documentaries proved my hunch correct.   Farenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine and Sicko, all with their trademark boffo humor, increasingly revealed Moore to be a sensationalist, generally more interested in a punchline than either truth or balance.  Yet  possessing a keen sense of what hot button issues and raw footage would sell popcorn, he has been able to pack them into the theaters, oblivious to the impact of his hucksterism on impressionable minds.

With all that said, I still didn’t expect Moore to be a shyster too, who, as a film maker, would prove himself blithely disinterested in the welfare of his film subjects, while in his private life conducting himself  as much of a money grubbing capitalist as the Wall Street bankers, corporate raiders and conservative kingpins he so gleefully pillories in his films.

But that is the indeed the image that remains upon a vewing of college professor Kevin Leffler’s profoundly disturbing Shooting Michael Moore.  Adopting Moore’s now famous technique of seeking out his prey through relentless stalking, Leffler sets out to find the “real” Michael Moore – not the baseball hat-graced figure of his  numerous films, but the fat cat multi-millionaire who has left dreary Flint, Michigan far behind for a swank apartment on New York’s Upper Westside. 

And he finds him alright, but not before uncovering an extraordinary trove of information that would, if publicly known and accepted, transform Moore into the great American anti-hero.  For this is a Michael Moore who cheats on his taxes,  maintains a non-profit organization that invests in such “malign” corporations as Exxon Mobil,  Pfizer and Halliburton;  whose $2 million property in Michigan is in violation of innumerable environmental ordinances;  who pays the impoverished main subejects of his films (remember the “rabbit lady” from Roger and Me?) a pittance while his films rake in millions;  who edits his films in such a way to take his subjects’ quotes out of context and distorts the representation of their beliefs.

No greater evidence of Moore’s fraudulent approach to film making is offered than his decision to use the British and Cuban health systems as the measure to judge the American.  In Sicko, Moore takes us to the U.K. to witness the supposedly beneficent free health care system operated by the Brits’ NHS – the National Health Service.  Immigrants are shown to be beaming with the good fortune of having landed in the U.K.  A couple, leaving the hospital with their new born child, relate the great service they received, sharing a good laugh about how free it all is.  

Leffler also travels to Britain but reveals a very different state of affairs.  Over crowded hospitals and long wait lists strain the system, forcing the elderly to wait months, if not years, for scheduled operations. Pregnant women can’t find beds at local hospitals and there are reports of some delivering their children on bean bags.  The NHS itself is shown to be on the verge of bankruptcy, forced to shutter innumerable hospitals in impoverished areas for lack of funding.

But Leffler reserves his greatest bile for the way Moore represents the Cuban system.   Far from the utopian, patient-oriented welfare system presented in Sicko, Cuba’s  universal health care service is revealed to be a cesspool of neglect and avarice, with patients in elderly hospices forced to lie on filthy cots for days in their own excrement and routine check ups impossible to schedule without the right connections.  Moore, it is speculated, could not have conducted his interviews and filming in Cuba without the direct assistance of the Cuban government, who in turn, would only have given permission for the tour if it believed that the film maker’s ultimate product would prove useful as anti- American propaganda.

Ultimately, Leffler, who grew up in the same town as Moore ( Davison, MI – not Flint, MI) , went to the same school and even knew him as a child, comes to know the grown up version of his schoolmate in a more substantial way than Moore has ever known any of  his subjects.  Because public tax records, evidence of local citations and other written materials by Moore himself, don’t lie and cannot be manipulated,  without the most grevious consequences.  They all go to prove that the  Michael Moore of public acclaim, is not the humanitarian and defender of the “little man” whom his admiring public thinks him to be, but an unrepentant con-artist and raconteur, who, since his earliest days, allowed his quest for for “truth and  justice” to be overwhelmed by his infatuation with fame, wealth and himself.

There is an ironic injustice that with each sensationalistic documentary, bathed as they are in anti-Americanism and self -reverence, Moore gets richer and his films win more awards.    But the good news is that there do exist “little men” such as Kevin Leffler who are willing to take such true fat cats to task for their  hype, hypocrisy and hubris  and then lacerate them with the same stinging observations that these doyens of the far left once applied to others.   For anyone out there thinking of following in his footsteps, I have just two words:  Al Gore.

 


A True Prisoner of Conscience

February 25, 2010

The spectacle of a former prominent member of Amnesty International publicly lambasting that institution for its support of foreign despots and serial human rights abusers, should make everyone sit up and take notice.

Gita Sahgal was once a senior official of Amnesty International, heading the International Secretariat’s Gender Unit.   That was until she sent an email to Amnesty’s top bosses, suggesting that the organization had mistakenly allied itself with Cage Prisoners , a group led by Moazzem Begg, a former Guantanomo Bay inmate.

“I believe the campaign fundamentally damages Amnesty International’s integrity and, more importantly, constitutes a threat to human rights,” Sahgal wrote in the email  of January 30. “To be appearing on platforms with Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment.”

Within days she was summarily suspended from her position.

For those who might be unfamiliar with his name, Moazzem Begg is an Islamist who insists that the Taliban was the best government available to Afghanistan and who unabashedly promotes its jihadist insurgency.   His organization defends Islamists  such as Abu Hamza, leader of the mosque that sheltered Richard “Shoe Bomber” Reid , among many other violent and criminal characters who have have nothing at all to do with freedom of expression.    Its  senior members can also be seen speaking in defense of jihad at rallies sponsored by the extremist groups such as  Hizb-ut Tahrir (banned in many Muslim countries) and Tablighi Jamaat.

Going public, Sahgal stated inthe Sunday Times:  

” As a former Guantanamo detainee, it was legitimate to hear his experiences, but as a supporter of the Taliban it was absolutely wrong to legitimise him as a partner,”

So what exactly is a nice organization like Amnesty International doing with creeps like this?  That is a question I’ve been asking for nearly 20 years.

Many of us in Southern California who listen to Santa Monica-based radio station KCRW, remember how Amnesty International was once held in rather high esteem there.   For years Ruth Seymour, the station’s general manager, offered listeners the opportunity each month to provide financial and moral support to one of Amnesty’s  Prisoners of Conscience – dissidents who might be rotting away in a foreign jail for no other crime than expressing their right to free speech.  Listeners would be urged to write letters to appropriate government officials urging humane, legal treatment of the prisoner or advocating the prisoner’s release.  

Nothing wrong with that.  In fact, the moral rectitude of AI’s mission was always unassailable: ” to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.”

But over time, the organization’s very concept of  “human rights,” began to expand.  Not content to be a mere reporter of crimes committed against individuals, it sought a role in molding events.    To reap influence, the leaders of the London based institution decided that “human rights” needed to embrace not simply  individual cases of repression but the concept of social justice as well.

So from the early 1990s onwards, Amnesty International, unbeknownst to its global membership, began a surrpetitious slide into shadowy political advocacy, a position that would ultimately align it with the most vile human rights abusers on the planet.

 Today it is not only authoritarian despots who conceive of AI as a far left organization with a political agenda, but large numbers of  former supporters whose politics have not kept up with AI’s rapid radicalization.  The organization’s extraordinary level of animus leveled at the United States; its incessant promotion of  Noam Chomsky (infamous for his denials of the Cambodian killing fields,  Serbian concentration camps and latter day support for the Taliban); its preference for extolling the virtues of repressive regimes such as Cuba, Myanmar and Zimbabwe and its enthusiastic participation in the 2001 Durban United Nations World Conference Against Racism, an antisemitic hatefest, has underlined the complete erosion of its founding principles in the interests of radical politics.

Thats not to mention its problems with the very existence of the State of Israel.   In fact, more energy is given over by Amnesty to its attacks on Israel than any other areas of  its activities.  In May 2007, NGO Monitor released the results of its quantitative analysis of Amnesty International’s 2006 publications and alerts vis a vis human rights violations. According to the study, Israel had been the subject of 63 such Amnesty documents that year, more than any country in the Middle East except Iran. The corresponding numbers for other nations and notable entities in the region were as follows: Sudan (61 documents), Syria (51), Iraq (29), Hezbollah (20), Algeria (19), Tunisia (15), Egypt (13), Jordan (12), the Palestinian Authority (10), Libya (6), Saudi Arabia (6), and Morocco (5). 

Now you wouldn’t know any of this if you lived in London today.   Amnesty International’s  reputation for dispassionate reporting on human rights abuses is so pristine that it is supported by a host of celebrities from Bono to John Cleese to Yoko Ono.  It has innumerable political supporters in Parliament and is regularly lauded and quoted by members of the Labor Party.

Sahgal has already encountered the risks of going mano a mano with such a high profile institution.    Doors of famous Amnesty donors have closed on her and friends won’t return calls.  She has also experienced considerable difficulty in finding an attorney in London’s extensive  civil rights legal community to take on her case.  As she says:

 “Although it is said that we must defend everybody no matter what they’ve done, it appears that if you’re a secular, atheist, Asian British woman, you don’t deserve a defense from our civil rights firms.”

But for all of that she can be at least proud that she has begun the process of exposing Amnesty’s agenda that has been warranted for so many years.  In the process she is fast transforming herself into a true prisoner of conscience, the victim of  an intolerant, hypocritical culture that has no patience for dissent within its own ranks.

Maybe even KCRW, having long ago severed its Amnesty connection, will take up her cause.


Toyota and its U.S. Battles

February 24, 2010

No guy ever forgets his first car.   It could be a clunker, a jalopy, a chugging, grinding bundle of nuts and bolts – but a teenager’s reverence for his first wheels never diminishes.   That car somehow lives on in technicolor memories of a hard won freedom that at one time opened the road to weekend travel, pounding rock music, uninhibited carousing and girls.

My first car was a white, used, Toyota Corolla, a gift from my dad received a few months following my eighteenth birthday.  About to commence my first year at University and still living at home, my father grudgingly conceded the necessity of providing me with a means of transport for the 20 mile commute to campus, having  absolutely no intention of undertaking that task himself.  

The details  of my adventures in that little car  are now of course a legend in my own mind.  But  for whatever else those first few halcyon years of driving left me, they made me  acutely aware of differences between various makes and models of cars.   I started to notice how my friends had increasing problems with their Australian and British made cars, while my Japanese Toyota barely registered a mechanical fault.   I drove that car for five years, never longing for anything else and never experiencing any other problem other than a blown gasket or occasional overheated radiator.

Perhaps that reputation for reliability is why I feel such anguish at the seeming crucifixion of Toyota as it struggles to clear it itself of charges of negligence in the deaths of 34 people caused as a result of  sudden unintended acceleration in its vehicles.   I have been waiting for weeks to read a defense of  the car manufacturing giant, something our commentators seem loathe to do for fear of  being seen supporting the avarice and incompetence of big business.

So it was with some satisfaction that I read Holman Jenkins Jr.’s wonderful column in today’s Wall Street Journal.  Jenkins, who uses the device of inhabiting Toyota chief  Akio Toyoda’s mind to reflect on the absurdity of the case that is being made against the company, points out some salient facts of which I was unaware:

  • Eight of the 34 deaths  are related to two crashes, one in which  a San Diego dealer left the driver side floor mat installed upside down after being notified by a customer that is was a problem.   The second occured when an epileptic drove his car into a lake.
  • Toyota had indeed issued recalls and service bulletins related to floor mats  and no incident of a runaway vehicle has been reported on any of the serviced recalled cars.
  • Talk of an electronic bug, unrelated to the floor mats or the accelration pedal manufacture, is sheer speculation  and has not been verified by anyone.

Moreover, the one thing that no one seems to be ready to investigate is actual driver error.   What about when a driver becomes disoriented and pushes the wrong pedal, as occured on July 17, 2003 when 86 -year-old Russell Weller became confused, hit the accelerator instead of the brake and ploughed  into the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market killing eight people? 

Of the non-floor mat incidents, were there any other factors which could have led to sudden acceleration?   Unfamiliarity with a  new vehicle?  Drowsiness?  Inattention?  As drivers, we all know that these things happen.  They also occur while drivers are at the wheel of Toyota vehicles.

That is not to suggest that a thorough examination of the Toyota vehicle manufacturing process isn’t in order or that extra trouble shooting measures should not be undertaken. 

But as we witness Akio Toyoda and his lieutenants twisting in the wind, perhaps we should spare a thought for the 50 years of exemplary service and superb craftsmanship of their company.   It certainly does not deserve the opprobrium and disdain it is receiving today.


The Resurrection of John Yoo

February 24, 2010

Imagine you are an attorney in a law firm and one day your boss comes in and asks you to research an urgent matter for which he needs an immediate answer.  Over the next few weeks, you pour over case and statutory law, and in the end render a legal brief that, in your opinion, represents United States law as it stands today. 

 Unfortunately, the case for which the legal brief was initially requested is lost at trial.  The clients are unhappy, but understand that this is the way things sometimes go in our courts of justice. 

Several years later, the law firm decides that it needs to buttress its reputation for legal exactitude, and while going through the files comes across your brief.  Certain that the legal brief  you had written was the ultimate cause of the lost trial and subsequent damage to the firm’s reputation, it decides to launch an internal investigation into your conduct, threatening you with censure, public disgrace and even disbarment.   And indeed, for the next several years your career is put under the microscope, as the firm systematically rips apart your life.  After years of investigation, however, management cannot find one thing in your conduct or even in the legal brief that was either unethical or in breach of professional standards.   You are told that you are free to leave  – as long as you clean up the mess left on the floor by your evisceration.    

If you think that is pretty harsh, then think of what the life of White House counsel John Yoo’s and Jay Bybee’s lives were like over the past few years.   In the latter years of the Bush administration and throughout the first year of  the Obama administration, both men were subjected to an intense investigation  which was focused on finding a culprit for the legal briefs used in authorizing what is popularly referred to today as  “CIA torture.” 

Fortunately, that ordeal is now over.   Five days ago the results of  an independent study led by Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, revealed that the real malfeasance had taken place in the  the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility which had investigated  the Office of Legal Counsel to which Yoo and Bybee once belonged.   Margolis found evidence of  bias, sloppy legal reasoning and unwarranted expectations leveled against Yoo and Bybee and dismissed the absurd claim that they had somehow broken the law by the mere act of offering their legal opinions. 

I am not going to presume to offer my own judgment on the credibility of Yoo’s or Bybee’s legal briefs. Perhaps they did make mistakes.  But the effect of  this witch-hunt must surely be to caution every would be legal advisor to any president, to hedge his or her advice and to caution the president against taking any action that could have a potentially negative political or moral impact. 

Yoo himself argues that setting the dogs loose upon the President’s advisers will only end up emasculating the commander-in -chief’s extensive powers to prosecute a vigorous war on the country’s enemies.  Thus:   

“Ending the Justice Department’s ethics witch hunt not only brought an unjust persecution to an end, but it protects the president’s constitutional ability to fight the enemies that threaten our nation today.”

Since his liberation from the Office of Legal Counsel, Yoo has written a highly acclaimed and scholarly work on the necessity for a strong executive.  But others, more concerned with the torment of the country’s defenders, will continue to pound the drum of Bush era malfeasance in the hope that it will engender a  new form of ethics that will offer  kindness to the country’s enemies and extend solicitude to its prisoners. 

But if the United States is struck again, don’t expect any of these 60s-era nostrums to survive.  They will be as dead as the adminstration that sponsors them.

The trouble is, thousands of us might be as well.


The Ironic Career of Alexander Haig

February 23, 2010

Its funny how one sentence, spoken impetuously and off the cuff, can come to color an entire career. That is certainly the case of Al Haig, who died on Saturday after complications from a staph infection.

The four star general and former Secretary of State became a symbol of ‘o’er vaulting ambition’ when, in the wake of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, he declared. “As for now, I am in control, here in the White House.” Those twelve words cemented Haig’s reputation as a bumbling, over ambitious interloper, who was unsuited for high office.

But the characterization was unfortunate and far from the truth.  Haig was one of the most highly decorated soldiers in U.S. history, earning the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit and Purple Heart, among many other honors.  He was also an extremely tough, efficient and effective leader, as a solider, as a political aide and then as a political appointee.  After leaving the army, he worked for both Robert McNamara and Henry Kissinger, earning those notoriously imperious bosses’ admiration for his fearlessness and for getting things done. He became Richard Nixon’s final chief of staff after the removal of H.R. Haldeman, guiding Nixon’s decision to resign in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Haig emerged as one of the few respected hands untainted by Watergate and was widely credited with persuading Nixon to spare the nation a nasty and divisive battle over impeachment.

During his electoral campaign,  Ronald Reagan sought him out as a military adviser, recognizing his strengths as a strategist. Following the election, he felt confident enough to name him his first Secretary of State.

But Haig wasn’t cut out for the give and take of the office and soon found himself with more enemies than he could handle. He resigned in 1982 , after only eighteen months on the job. He went on to become a highly sought after speaker and wrote several books, while also joining the boards of several Fortune 500 companies.

But everything seemed to go back to that day in March, 1981 where he had been accused of usurping presidential authority. What is never well reported are the words which followed his first twelve on that day.

Here is the full quote from that time:

“ Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so. He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and I am in close touch with him.

Haig got it wrong that day.  The Secretary of State is actually fourth in line to the presidency, after the Speaker of the House, in the event of the incapacitation of the president. But the fact that he understood that any position he held was temporary and that his own role was subservient to that of the Vice President, is a mark of his firm commitment to constitutional succession, not his determination to usurp power.  But I tend to accept Haig’s own understanding of the incident, repeated in a 60 Minutes Interview conducted in 2001:

 “ I wasn’t talking about transition. I was talking about the executive branch – who is running the government. That was the question asked. It was not, “Who is in line should the President die?”

 It is a deep shame that this dedicated public servant, who served his country so well in so many capacities, should be remembered for an innocent gaffe, that anyone, in similar circumstances, could of made.

But I guess that’s the way of politics.


Our Future in Plastics

February 23, 2010

There is a famous exchange in the 1967 film The Graduate where returning graduate student Benjamin Braddock  (played by Dustin Hoffman) attends a poolside party organized by his parents .   There a Babbit- like family friend, Mr. McGuire,  counsels him in a course he should take in his future career: 

“Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you – just one word.
Ben: Yes sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Ben: Yes I am.
Mr. McGuire: ‘Plastics.’
Ben: Exactly How do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Ben: Yes I will.
Mr. McGuire: Shh! Enough said. That’s a deal.” 

McGuire’s words would actually prove to be quite prescient and wise.  The future did indeed belong to plastics and fortunes would be built on the transformation of everyday commodities into simply manufactured, easily disposable, plastic.  

But the ubiquity of plastic and its domination of our industry, has increasingly been regarded, at least  among certain sections of our society, as something not particularly beneficent at all.  Rather it has become the symbol of  rampant consumerism,  avaricious capitalism and the exploitative marketing practices.    

And over the past twenty years it has been presented by environmentalists as a threat far more sinister than even this:  the degradation of the environment and one of the leading causes leading to the death of the planet.    Countless articles, documentaries and feature films have been produced which denigrate plastic as the curse of the Western world and the one substance certain to choke our civilization to death.  

So it was with some interest that I greeted this piece in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times about  British  scion David De Rothschild and his determination to sail a boat made only of plastic bottles to the heart of the legendary Pacific garbage dump which allegedly contains hundreds of thousands of square miles of floating plastic waste. 

Naming his catamaran Plastiki, De Rothschild is seeking to draw world attention to the devastation wrought by non bio-degradable plastic in our oceans. Among his greatest offenders are supermarket shopping bags, nearly 20 billion  of which are used and disposed of annually around the world. 

But  what De Rothschild and many environmentlists like him do not tell you is that what plastic adds to  pollution, it more than makes up for in energy savings. 

For instance, when properly installed, plastic insulation can cut heat or cold loss in homes and businesses by up to 70%, making it substantially more efficient than traditional forms of insulation.  Wind and solar power would be impossible without the use of plastics. Special plastics are used in wind turbine covers and  solar panels are almost all made from plastic.  Cars are also lighter and use less energy because they carry at least 15% of their components in plastic. 

 On the pollution side of the equation, there also seems to be quite a bit of evidence for plastic’s preference over wood products. 

 Take the classic paper vs plastic argument.  According to Professor Bill Rathje from Stanford University, there is actually no evidence that a paper bag from a supermarket will biodegrade any more quickly than a plastic bag. 

Rathje  should know.   A fellow at the Archaeology Center of Stanford University ,  he is  the director of The Garbage Project, and a leading authority on what is in America’s garbage. 

“The answer is very simple and straight forward but not one that the paper-bag people like to hear,”  he says. “ In a dry landfill, paper bags don’t degrade any faster than plastic bags. And In a normal, well-run landfill, paper bags do not biodegrade any faster over at least 40 years than plastic. Since paper bags are much bulkier than plastic, they fill up more landfill space and they’re three to five times bulkier than plastic –  and you can see that yourself at the grocery. Landfills are closing down because they’re full. From that perspective, plastic is much better than paper.” 

Rathje’s project (conducted over thirty years)  made some startling discoveries.   In contrast to all of the concern directed at fast food packaging and disposable diapers, the archaeological data demonstrated that both items together accounted for less than 2 percent of landfill volume within refuse deposited over the last ten years. Even more surprising, because of industry-wide “light-weighting” — that is, making the same form of item but with less resin — plastic grocery bags had become thinner and more crushable to the point that 100 plastic bags consumed less space inside a landfill than 20 paper bags. If all three items at the center of public concern had been banned and were not replaced by anything, garbage archaeologists are certain that landfill managers would not notice the difference.

Of course, most paper comes from tree pulp, so the impact of paper bag production on forests is enormous. In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that year alone.

It also takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper, even if recycling rates of either type of disposable bag are extremely low, with only 10 to 15% of paper bags and 1 to 3% of plastic bags being recycled, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In addition, the majority of craft paper is made by heating wood chips under pressure at high temperatures in a chemical solution.  As evidenced by the unmistakable stench commonly associated with paper mills, the use of these toxic chemicals contributes to both air pollution, such as acid rain, and water pollution.   Millions of gallons of these chemicals pour into our waterways each year; the toxicity of the chemicals can be long-term and settles into the sediments, working its way through the food chain.

That all might be something De Rothschild could ponder as he crosses the Pacific in Plastiki. As the hellish Pacific storms lash his boat, he better hope  that the polymers and resins that have provided the strength of the plastic bottles that keep his boat buoyant, are truly as weather resistant and non-biodegradable as their reputation holds them to be.

 For that saving grace will be, ironically enough, all that stands between him and a very watery end for himself and his crew.


Not Out of the Woods

February 22, 2010

If there seemed something familiar about Tiger Woods’ mea culpa before an estimated 14 million strong audience on Friday,  it is probably because we seem to have been here so many times before in recent years.   Woods became the latest public figure, in a seemingly endless parade, to ask his public for forgiveness for sexual indiscretions.  He follows former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford,  Nevada Senator John  Ensign, Louisiana Senator David Vitter, former Idaho Senator Larry Craig  and television host David Letterman  – all who admitted to marital infidelity and offered a public apology to atone for it.

And much like these earlier cases, Woods’ fall from grace was swift because he had projected a greater sense of virtue, fooling his public into believing he was a hard working family man, who cared little for the perquisites of fame and exuding an iron clad discipline that focused on winning games and raising a young family.

Well myths fall, and in the process of being discovered, so has much of Woods’ allure.

There is very little doubt that anything can ever be the same for Tiger Woods. While he may go on to win many more trophies and pocket millions in prize money, he will never again obtain the level of veneration he once commanded.  Thomas Wolfe was right.  Once you leave, you can’t go home again.

In his apology, Woods spoke all the right words of course: an apology to his wife;  contrition before his family, friends, staff and sponsors and a plea for privacy for his battered marital relationship  But in the brief 14 minute speech he failed to once recognize the most important reason his admission of infidelity became such a personal collapse.   He failed to invoke the word “God.”  Not once did Woods refer to the fact  that  what he had committed was, in fact, far more a moral sin against God than a failure in his personal obligations to others.

Not many commentators took note of this on Friday.   But then again not many took note when Mark Sanford , a practicing Christian, failed to do the same thing six months ago, and no one seemed to care when David Letterman ignored the subject altogether in September.

Perhaps it is a mark of collapse of religious belief in this country that so few of our public leaders and personalities feel the need to remind themselves and their adoring followers, that the commitment to a union with one person emanates from a higher sphere.   Woods might never have asked for a role as moral leader, but his fame and success, much like that of the aforementioned senators and entertainers, thrust  it upon him.  What he might have achieved on Friday, with the mention of that one word, could have pushed him further along the road to recovery than almost any therapy he has undertaken in the past 45 days.

This, then, was Woods latest, and perhaps most egregious, lapse.  He had the opportunity on Friday to strengthen himself, his family and his public for the difficult climb from the hole he had dug himself.  One word would have done it.  Not out of the woods, this Tiger therefore still has much foraging to do for his lost reputation, before he can claim a successful public comeback.


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