Monday, September 01, 2014

Today's Tune: Sharon Van Etten - Serpents

Book Review: 'Obama's Enforcer' by John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky


No Longer Just

July 20, 2014
In the 1966 film A Man For All Seasons, which depicts Sir Thomas More’s steadfast disapproval of King Henry VIII’s marital infidelities, More stirringly defends the rule of law. Rebutting his son-in-law, who says he would hypothetically “cut down every law in England” to find the devil, More asks, “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?”
More argues that abandoning equal enforcement of the law imperils all citizens. Unfortunately for today’s United States, this is exactly what John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky say the Department of Justice is doing under Attorney General Eric Holder. To this enterprise, Fund brings tireless reporting, and Spakovsky brings his own experience in the Justice Department (as counsel to the assistant attorney for civil rights) and contacts therein.
Together, they have assembled a brief yet persuasive argument that, as one former career lawyer put it, “Holder is the worst person to hold the position of attorney general since the disgraced John Mitchell, who went to jail as a result of the Watergate scandal.” The authors guide us through Holder’s unique judicial malpractice: his Department’s long Supreme Court losing streak; his convenient memory lapses, lack of knowledge, and outright lies about what he knew and when he knew it; and his becoming the first-ever attorney general to be held in contempt by the House of Representatives.
But the authors do not limit themselves merely to what Holder has done or failed to do. We also see rampant abuse in particular divisions of the Justice Department: the strategic non-enforcement on behalf of environmentalists known as “sue and settle” practiced by the Environment and Natural Resources Division; discrimination in the Civil Rights Division, especially concerning voting; and the Pigford Scam, which entitled anyone who had ever given a thought to farming to a government payout.
Focusing on both Holder and the DOJ helpfully reminds us of scandals, some fresh and some old, and their oft-forgotten victims. Some stories, especially former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tony Perez’s unconscionable, trans-divisional dropping of one DOJ lawsuit against St. Paul, Minnesota, so that it would not pursue a case against the DOJ that could have killed his precious, dubious theory of “disparate impact,” deserve far more attention than they have yet received.
On many occasions, moreover, the Justice Department has abused its status as “the largest law enforcement agency in the world with investigators and agents, lawyers, and prison officials all combined in one government department” to transform life into a living hell for objects of its ire.
These targets have ranged in size from Gibson Guitar, raided SWAT-style and then prosecuted by the Justice Department on the ultimately dubious charge of using illegal wood, to the Sacketts, an Idaho family that the EPA decided lived on government “wetlands,” with the family incurring daily fines for not moving (fortunately, the Supreme Court saved them).
In one moving passage, the authors detail how department employees viciously insulted Spakovsky himself, accusing a child of parents who bitterly opposed and fled the Nazi and Soviet regimes of fascist sympathies.
It all adds up to an agency in dire need of reform. But the authors’ call to action is somewhat lacking. They suggest mostly administrative tweaks, and approvingly quote former attorney general Edwin Meese’s counsel that nothing can compare to “making sure good people are elected who will appoint good people to offices within the executive branch.”
This is all well and good, but by their conclusion the authors seem almost to have forgotten that they’ve indicted not just Attorney General Eric Holder, who will leave with President Obama in January 2017, but also the entire Department of Justice, including career employees who will outlast almost any administration.
If Holder alone were responsible for Justice’s problems, righting the agency would be far easier than if its general character had become leftist and lawless. In More’s terms, it is not a case of cutting down the laws to pursue the devil. Instead, if the DOJ now suspends and refashions laws for its own ends, then what we have is the devil himself cutting down laws that stand in his way.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?


By NINA TEICHOLZ
http://www.independent.co.uk/
26 August 2014



When Ronald M Krauss decided, in 2000, to review all the evidence purporting to show that saturated fats cause heart disease, he knew that he was putting his professional career at risk. Krauss is one of the top nutrition experts in the United States, director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and adjunct professor of nutritional studies at the University of San Francisco at Berkley. But challenging one of his field’s most sacrosanct beliefs – that the fats in meat, cheese and butter are bad for health – was a near-heretical act.

A few years earlier, when a colleague of Krauss’s had merely tried to speak about his positive findings regarding the high-fat Atkins diet, he was met with jeers and derision. One member of the audience yelled “I am absolutely disgusted that the [government] would waste my money on a study on the Atkins diet” – to the applause of many.

Challenging any of the conventional  wisdom on dietary fat has long been a form of professional suicide for nutrition experts. And saturated fats, especially, are the third rail. But Krauss persevered and concluded in 2010, after reviewing all the scientific literature, that saturated fats could not be said to cause heart disease. In March, another group of  scientists, including faculty from Cambridge and Harvard, came to the same conclusion after conducting a similar “meta-analysis”. These were stunning results. It seemed that saturated fat, our principal dietary culprit for decades, had been unfairly convicted.

Yet the truth is there never has been solid evidence that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be true because nutrition policy was derailed over the past half-century by personal ambition, bad science, politics, and bias.

Recipe for success: Vilijamur StefanssonRecipe for success: Vilijamur Stefansson (Corbis) 
















Our fear of saturated fats began in the 1950s when Ancel Keys, a pathologist at the University of Minnesota, first proposed that they raised cholesterol and therefore caused heart disease. Keys was an aggressive, outsized personality with a talent for persuasion. He found a receptive audience for his “diet-heart hypothesis” among public-health experts who faced a growing emergency: heart disease, a relative rarity three decades earlier, had skyrocketed to be a leading cause of death. Keys managed to implant his idea into the American Heart Association and, in 1961, the group published the first-ever guidelines calling for Americans to cut back on saturated fats, as the best way to fight heart disease. The US government adopted this view in 1977 and the rest of the world followed. But the evidence backing these guidelines was weak. 

Mainly, it amounted to Keys’s own “Seven Countries Study”, which purported to show a link between the consumption of saturated fats and heart disease among 13,000 men surveyed in the US, Japan and Europe. Critics have pointed out that this study violated several basic scientific norms. For one, Keys did not choose his countries randomly but instead selected only those likely to prove his beliefs – including Yugoslavia, Finland and Italy – while excluding countries with low rates of heart disease despite diets with a lot of fat – such as France, Switzerland, Sweden and West Germany.

Moreover, due to difficulties in collecting accurate nutrition data, Keys ended up sampling the diets of fewer than 500 men, far from a statistically significant sample. And the study’s star subjects – men on the Greek island of Crete who tilled their fields well into old age and appeared to eat very little meat or cheese – turned out to have been partly sampled during Lent, when the study subjects were foregoing meat and cheese. This must have led Keys to undercount their saturated-fat consumption. These flaws weren’t revealed until much later. 
By then, the misimpression left by the erroneous data had become international dogma.

There were subsequent trials, of course. In the 1970s, half a dozen important experiments pitted a diet high in vegetable oil – usually corn or soybean, but not olive oil – against one with more animal fats. But these trials had serious methodological problems: some didn’t control for smoking, for instance, or allowed men to wander in and out of the research group over the course of the experiment. The results were unreliable at best.

Citing this lack of solid science, British sceptics were feisty holdouts against Keys’s hypothesis for decades. Editors of the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet mocked the New World’s obsession: why would Americans put up with the sacrifices of a low-fat diet? They were appalled that “some believers long past their prime were to be seen in public parks in shorts and singlets, exercising in their free time, later returning home to a meal of indescribable caloric severity [when] there is no proof that such activity offsets coronary disease”.

British scientists also had long found the diet-heart hypothesis perplexing. “There was a very big emotional component into the interpretation in those days,” Michael Oliver, the influential British cardiologist, told me. “It was quite extraordinary to me. I could never understand this huge emotion towards lowering cholesterol.”

Stefansson described the fat-laden Canadian Inuit as the healthiest people he had ever lived withStefansson described the fat-laden Canadian Inuit as the healthiest people he had ever lived with (Getty) 

















Oliver and others pointed out that a great deal of evidence from around the world contradicted Keys’s ideas. For instance, the Masai warriors in Kenya were observed in the 1970s eating nothing but meat, milk and blood – not a vegetable in sight – yet they were not overweight, their cholesterol levels remained low even as they aged and scientists could find no evidence of heart disease, despite conducting electrocardiographs on 400 of them. In India researchers studied a million railway workers and found that those in the north ate 8 to 19 per cent more fat (mainly from dairy products) than their co-workers in the south, yet the northerners lived, on average, 12 years longer. This disparity led the study authors to conclude, in a 1967 paper, that to prevent heart disease people ought to “eat more fermented milk products, such as yoghurt, yoghurt sherbet and butter”.

Half a world away, scientists observed Inuit populations in the Arctic eating mainly  caribou, salmon, and seal – altogether some 70 to 80 per cent fat. “They should have been in a wretched state,” wrote Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the Harvard-trained Canadian anthropologist who lived with the Inuit for years. “But, to the contrary, they seemed to me the healthiest people I had ever lived with.”

Keys aggressively criticised these observations, which were like missiles aimed at the very heart of his theory. After all, as the British biologist Thomas Huxley remarked, a great hypothesis can be slain by an ugly fact, and these were no doubt some ugly facts. Of the Inuit, for instance, Keys wrote,  “their bizarre manner of life excites the imagination”, especially that “popular picture of the Eskimo... happily gorging on blubber”, but on “no grounds” was it possible to suggest that the case of the Inuit “contributes anything” to the scientific record. And in response to a prominent Texas A&M University professor who wrote a critique of Keys, he said that the paper “reminds one of the distorting mirrors in the hall of jokes at the county fair”.

Rolling over the opposition by sheer force of will was typical of Keys and his acolytes in defending their saturated-fat hypothesis. Keys was “tough and ruthless and would argue any point”, Oliver, a prominent opponent, said. Since Keys’s allies controlled so many top government health posts, critics were denied research grants and key posts on expert panels. As retribution for defending the healthiness of eggs, despite their cholesterol content, Oliver was publicly branded by two of Keys’s main allies as a “notorious type” and a “scoundrel” because “he opposed us on everything”.

In the end, Keys and his colleagues prevailed. Despite contrary observations from India to the Arctic, too much institutional energy and research money had already been spent trying to prove Keys’s hypothesis. The bias in its favour had grown so strong that the idea just started to seem like common sense.

Early on, however, The Lancet sounded a note of alarm that would soon be picked up by others. “The cure should not be worse than the disease,” wrote the editors in 1974, echoing the medical dictum, “first, do no harm”. Perhaps reducing fat in the diet might lead to an increase in carbohydrates, they suggested. In fact, this is precisely what happened. Grains, pasta, rice and potatoes replaced meat, cheese, and eggs on dinner plates. Breakfasts of eggs and fried kippers ceded to bowls of cereal and orange juice. The British now eat 46 per cent less saturated fat than they did in 1975. Meanwhile, UK authorities recommended that two-thirds of calories should come from carbohydrates.

The problem, as researchers have suggested since the 1950s, is that carbohydrates are uniquely fattening. Whenever they’re eaten, the body is stimulated to release insulin, which turns out to be fantastically efficient at storing away fat. Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news. Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease.

The best possible science from the past decade now indicates that too many carbs overall – even of the supposedly healthy, whole-grain kind – increase the risk of these diseases compared with a diet low in carbohydrates. In other words, too much whole-grain cereal for breakfast and whole-grain pasta for dinner, with fruit snacks in between, add up to a less healthy diet than one of eggs and sausage, followed by fish.

And scientists are now exploring the idea that sugar might have a particularly toxic effect. Here again, a British scientist led the fight against Keys. In the early 1950s, John Yudkin, a professor of physiology at Queen Elizabeth College, first posited that sugar might cause obesity and other diseases. Keys, ever alert to any challenges to his own hypothesis, jumped on Yudkin and repeatedly attacked him in scientific journals. Yudkin’s idea is a “mountain of nonsense”, he wrote at the end of a nine-page critique in Atherosclerosis. “Yudkin and his commercial backers are not deterred by the facts; they continue to sing the same discredited tune,” he wrote later.

Remarkably, it turned out that a reanalysis of the Seven Countries Study data many years later found that sugar intake correlated better with heart-disease risk than any other nutrient. Keys, however, “was very opposed to the sugar idea”, recalls Daan Kromhout, a Dutch collaborator on the study. “He was so convinced that fatty acids were the thing in relation to atherosclerosis, he saw everything from that perspective.”

Our dietary guidance has followed Keys’s view for 50 years now. Despite half-a-billion pounds spent trying to prove his hypothesis, the evidence of its health benefits has never been produced. Meanwhile, rates of obesity and diabetes are rising and heart disease remains a leading cause of death. It’s worth wondering if our working hypothesis about diet and health is not working. And if alternative ideas are to be considered, nutrition science must, like any science, provide an open, civil and unbiased climate for genuine debate. For reasons of substance and style, it’s time to enter a post‑Keysian era.

‘The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet’, by Nina Teicholz (Scribe, £14.99) is out now

US and Canadian Domestic Threat Reports Omit Islamic Terrorism

Posted on  by creeping


The FBI’s most recent national threat assessment for domestic terrorism makes no reference to Islamist terror threats, despite last year’s Boston Marathon bombing and the 2009 Fort Hood shooting—both carried out by radical Muslim Americans.
Instead, the internal FBI intelligence report concluded in its 2013 assessment published this month that the threat to U.S. internal security from extremists is limited to attacks and activities by eight types of domestic extremist movements—none motivated by radical Islam.
They include anti-government militia groups and white supremacy extremists, along with “sovereign citizen” nationalists, and anarchists. Other domestic threat groups outlined by the FBI assessment include violent animal rights and environmentalist extremists, black separatists, anti- and pro-abortion activists, and Puerto Rican nationalists.
“Domestic extremist violence continues to be unpredictable and, at times, severe,” the report states.
A copy of the unclassified, 60-page National Threat Assessment for Domestic Extremism, dated Aug. 14, was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. It warns that the threat of domestic-origin extremism was moderate in 2013 and will remain so for this year.
“Domestic extremists collectively presented a medium-level threat to the United States in 2013; the FBI assesses the 2014 threat will remain close to this level,” the report said.
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the issue of not identifying Islamist-origin terrorism in the report “has more to do with how the FBI, from an organizational standpoint, distinguishes [domestic terrorism] and [international terrorism].”
“The intended audience of this bulletin understands how we make that distinction,” Bresson said in an email, adding that the FBI does not define domestic terrorism “the same way the media does.”
Another explanation for the omission of Islamist extremism in the report is provided in a footnote to a graphic describing an “other” category of domestic extremism not included in the report. “The ‘Other’ category includes domestic extremist [sic] whose actions were motivated by beliefs which fall outside the eight designated [domestic terrorism] subprograms,” the footnote stated.
The footnote indicates the FBI has separated Islamist terrorism from other domestic extremism.
The Bureau has limited its analytical description of domestic terrorism to groups and people connected to the eight subgroups outlined in the report that use force or violence to coerce or intimidate the population, he said.
“The FBI categorizes Islamic extremists and individuals inspired by Islamic extremist groups as International Terrorism,” he said. “Even though Ft. Hood and Boston were domestic incidents, the ideology and motivation of those behind them had international elements.”
Former FBI Agent John Guandolo said he was not surprised the report did not include any reference to domestic-origin Islamic terror.
“It should not surprise anyone who follows the jihadi threats in the United States that the FBI would not even include ‘Islamic terrorism’ in its assessment of serious threats to the republic in an official report,” Guandolo said.
“Since 9/11, FBI leadership—as well as leaders from Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, CIA, Pentagon, and the National Security Council—relies on easily identifiable jihadis from the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas, al Qaeda and elsewhere to advise it on how to deal with ‘domestic extremism.’”
Patrick Poole, a domestic terrorism expert, also was critical of the report’s omission of U.S. Islamist extremism, blaming “politically correct” policies at the FBI for the problem.
“At the same time we have senior members of the Obama administration openly saying that it’s not a question of if but when we have a terror attack targeting the United States by ISIL, we have the FBI putting on blinders to make sure they don’t see that threat,” Poole said.
“These politically correct policies have already allowed Americans to be killed at Fort Hood and in Boston,” he added
Guandolo said the failure to recognize the domestic Islamist threat had allowed domestic jihadist groups and their sympathizers to shape U.S. government create policies that do not acknowledge jihad as the root cause for the current global chaos.
An example, he said, is that the FBI has appointed a domestic Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas support organization leader to an FBI advisory council at the Washington headquarters.
Additionally, the FBI is failing to train agents and analysts on the Muslim Brotherhood network in the United States, Guandolo said.
“The FBI, no matter how diligent its agents are in their pursuit of ‘terrorists’, will never defeat this threat because its leaders refuse to address or even identify it,” he said. “This level of negligence on the part of the FBI leaders and their failure to understand the jihadi threat 13 years after 9/11 is appalling.”
Poole said the failure of the FBI to understand the domestic Islamist threat led to the U.S. government categorizing the 2009 Fort Hood shooting Army Maj. Nidal Hasan as “workplace violence.”
“In the case of Fort Hood, the FBI was monitoring Maj. Hasan’s email communication with al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki but the FBI headquarters dismissed it because they were talking about ‘religious’ subjects,” Poole said.
“In the Boston bombing case the FBI cleared Tamerlan Tsarnayev with nothing more than a house visit after receiving a tip from Russian intelligence, and never making the connection that he was attending a mosque founded by an imprisoned al Qaeda financier and previously attended by two convicted terrorists,” Poole added.
As a result “we have more than a dozen dead Americans killed here at home because of these politically correct FBI policies, and with threats emerging from all corners this doubling-down on political correctness when it comes to Islam is undoubtedly going to get more Americans killed,” he added.
The domestic threat assessment is the latest example indicating the FBI has been forced by Obama administration policies from focusing on the domestic terror threat posed by radical Islamists.
Guandolo said former FBI director Robert Mueller testified to Congress that he was unaware that the Islamic Society of Boston was the organization behind the radicalization of the Tsarnaev brothers. “That tells you all we need to know about the FBI’s leadership about the threat here in America from the Islamic Movement—they are clueless,” he said.

Nope, not once will you find the words Islam or Muslim mentioned in the government’s 2014 Public Report On The Terrorist Threat To Canada. You can download a pdf of the report here and do your own search, or read ithere.
The word “Islamic” is mentioned a total of  9 times,  but solely in the context of terror group names. They couldn’t hide that fact.

War in Europe is not a hysterical idea


By Anne Applebaum
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinion
August 29, 2014

Separatist troops in Donetsk with Novorossiya flag
Separatist militants in Donetsk sport the tsarist-era "Novorossiya" flag

Over and over again — throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels — I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets. I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next. September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house.

In retrospect, all of them now look naive. Instead of celebrating weddings, they should have dropped everything, mobilized, prepared for total war while it was still possible. And now I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?
I realize that this question sounds hysterical, and foolishly apocalyptic, to U.S. or Western European readers. But hear me out, if only because this is a conversation many people in the eastern half of Europe are having right now. In the past few days, Russian troops bearing the flag of a previously unknown country, Novorossiya, have marched across the border of southeastern Ukraine. The Russian Academy of Sciences recently announced it will publish a history of Novorossiya this autumn, presumably tracing its origins back to Catherine the Great. Various maps of Novorossiya are said to be circulating in Moscow. Some include Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, cities that are still hundreds of miles away from the fighting. Some place Novorossiya along the coast, so that it connects Russia to Crimea and eventually to Transnistria, the Russian-occupied province of Moldova. Even if it starts out as an unrecognized rump state — Abkhazia and South Ossetia, “states” that Russia carved out of Georgia, are the models here — Novorossiya can grow larger over time.
Russian soldiers will have to create this state — how many of them depends upon how hard Ukraine fights, and who helps them — but eventually Russia will need more than soldiers to hold this territory. Novorossiya will not be stable as long as it is inhabited by Ukrainians who want it to stay Ukrainian. There is a familiar solution to this, too. A few days ago, Alexander Dugin, an extreme nationalist whose views have helped shape those of the Russian president, issued an extraordinary statement. “Ukraine must be cleansed of idiots,” he wrote — and then called for the “genocide” of the “race of bastards.”
But Novorossiya will also be hard to sustain if it has opponents in the West. Possible solutions to that problem are also under discussion. Not long ago,Vladimir Zhirinovsky — the Russian member of parliament and court jester who sometimes says things that those in power cannot — argued on television that Russia should use nuclear weapons to bomb Poland and the Baltic countries — “dwarf states,” he called them — and show the West who really holds power in Europe: “Nothing threatens America, it’s far away. But Eastern European countries will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation,” he declared. Vladimir Putin indulges these comments: Zhirinovsky’s statements are not official policy, the Russian president says, but he always “gets the party going.”
A far more serious person, the dissident Russian analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, has recently published an article arguing, along lines that echo Zhirinovsky’s threats, that Putin really is weighing the possibility of limited nuclear strikes — perhaps against one of the Baltic capitals, perhaps a Polish city — to prove that NATO is a hollow, meaningless entity that won’t dare strike back for fear of a greater catastrophe. Indeed, in military exercises in 2009 and 2013, the Russian army openly “practiced” a nuclear attack on Warsaw.
Is all of this nothing more than the raving of lunatics? Maybe. And maybe Putin is too weak to do any of this, and maybe it’s just scare tactics, and maybe his oligarchs will stop him. But “Mein Kampf” also seemed hysterical to Western and German audiences in 1933. Stalin’s orders to “liquidate” whole classes and social groups within the Soviet Union would have seemed equally insane to us at the time, if we had been able to hear them.
But Stalin kept to his word and carried out the threats, not because he was crazy but because he followed his own logic to its ultimate conclusions with such intense dedication — and because nobody stopped him. Right now, nobody is able to stop Putin, either. So is it hysterical to prepare for total war? Or is it naive not to do so?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

In Search of a Strategy

Obama isn't the only one who needs a coherent approach to the worldwide jihad. 

S’long, Jeet


BY 

http://www.newyorker.com/
September 8, 2014 Issue



We know Derek Jeter by heart, so why all this memorizing? The between-pitches bat tucked up in his armpit. The fingertip helmet-twiddle. The left front foot wide open, out of the box until the last moment, and the cop-at-a-crossing right hand ritually lifted astern until the foot swings shut. That look of expectation, a little night-light gleam, under the helmet. The pitch—this one a slow breaking ball, a fraction low and outside—taken but inspected with a bending bow in its passage. More. Jeter’s celebrity extends beyond his swing, of course, but can perhaps be summarized by an excited e-mail once received by a Brearley School teacher from one of her seventh graders: “Guess what! I just Googled ‘Derek’s butt!’ ”

This is Derek Jeter’s twentieth and final September: twenty-seven more games and perhaps another hundred at-bats remain to be added to his franchise record, at this writing, of 2,720 and 11,094. He’s not having a great year, but then neither are the Yanks, who trail the Orioles by seven games in the American League East and are three games short of qualifying for that tacky, tacked-on new second wild-card spot in the post-season. It’s been a blah baseball year almost everywhere, and, come to think of it, watching Derek finish might be the best thing around.

Jeter has just about wound up his Mariano Tour—the all-points ceremonies around home plate in every away park on the Yankees’ schedule, where he accepts gifts, and perhaps a farewell check for his Turn 2 charity, and lifts his cap to the cheering, phone-flashing multitudes. He does this with style and grace—no one is better at it—and without the weepiness of some predecessors. His ease, his daily joy in his work, has lightened the sadness of this farewell, and the cheering everywhere has been sustained and genuine. Just the other day, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon groused about the rare sounds of cheering offered up to Derek by his customarily sleepy attendees.

At every stop, there have been replays of Jeter’s famous plays and moments up on the big screens—the no-man’s-land relay and sideways flip to nab the Athletics’ Jeremy Giambi at the plate in the 2001 American League Division Series; that horizontal dive into the Yankee Stadium third-base stands against the Red Sox in 2004. I don’t expect further dramatics—he’s forty and often in the lineup as d.h. these days—but closings have been a specialty of his, and it’s O.K. to get our hopes up one more time. I’m thinking of the waning days of the old Stadium, in 2008, when Derek’s great rush through September carried him to the top of the all-time career hits list at the famous crater, each fresh rap of his coming as accompaniment to the deep “Der-ek Je-tuh!” cries from the bleachers that the new restaurant site has pretty well silenced. The next year, up there, he passed Lou Gehrig for Most Yankee Base Hits Ever. Two years after that, he delivered his three-thousandth career hit: a home run that touched off a stunning five-for-five day at the Stadium against the Rays.

All right, I’ll settle for one more inside-out line-drive double to deep right —the Jeter Blue Plate that’s been missing of late. It still astounds me—Derek’s brilliance as a hitter has always felt fresh and surprising, for some reason—and here it comes one more time. The pitch is low and inside, and Derek, pulling back his upper body and tucking in his chin as if avoiding an arriving No. 4 train, now jerks his left elbow and shoulder sharply upward while slashing powerfully down at and through the ball, with his hands almost grazing his belt. His right knee drops and twists, and the swing, opening now, carries his body into a golf-like lift and turn that sweetly frees him while he watches the diminishing dot of the ball headed toward the right corner. What! You can’t hit like that—nobody can! Do it again, Derek.

It’s sobering to think that in just a few weeks Derek Jeter won’t be doing any of this anymore, and will be reduced to picturing himself in action, just the way the rest of us do. On the other hand, he’s never complained, and he’s been so good at baseball that he’ll probably be really good at this part of it too.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Happy Birthday, William Wilberforce


August 29, 2014


255 years ago, a "force" was born into this world. The aptly named William Wilberforce would prove to be instrumental -- not just in ending legalized slavery in England, but sparking unprecedented social reform in the Western World, and also in setting a framework for future generations to follow his path of persistence, faith and sacrifice for others.
Wilberforce still inspires generations of social reformers and political leaders over two and a half centuries since his birth.
Wilberforce has lessons for pro-lifers. One of the most important is an acute understanding of the obstacles that block success and how to combat them -- an understanding of the nature of social evil and the forces that sustain it. The campaign against slavery was much more complicated and difficult than portrayed in the familiar movie, Amazing Grace. While the movie is stirring, it provides only a snapshot of Wilberforce's taxing campaign, just the first 20 years of Wilberforce's campaign against the slave trade, from 1787 to 1807.
Wilberforce's work took more decades, including the next 25 years of his struggle against slavery itself (not just the trade of slaves), which was not abolished by Parliament until 1833, years after Wilberforce's retirement from Parliament and just a few days before his death. And after the full abolition of slavery in 1833, the struggle took many more years to effectively enforce the laws on the high seas and throughout the British Empire.
There were no silver bullets, though there was healthy (sometimes heated) debate about the right solution to the obstacles and the right road to success.
Wilberforce battled tremendous odds throughout his life. His greatest virtue was perseverance in the face of constant illness and many setbacks, while mastering political rhetoric and seeking cordial relations even with his most strident adversaries. Strategically focused, he combined long-term goals with short-term objectives. These included limiting the slave trade and reducing it as much as possible, and then regulating slavery (through e.g., registry laws) before it could realistically be prohibited.
One urban legend that needs to be dispelled is that Wilberforce "repented" of his "instrumentalism," or step-by-step approach. There's no historical record of this. The fact is that Wilberforce pursued abolition of the slave trade and the full abolition of slavery along with short-term objectives that would limit it. It was not either/or; it was both/and.
This unfortunate myth is apparently based on one passage from Wilberforce's diary: After the 20 year fight against the slave trade (1787-1807), Wilberforce and his allies refocused on the full abolition of slavery itself.
They encountered tremendous obstacles, domestic and foreign. In his book Amazing Grace, author Eric Metaxas writes that
Britain's horrendous domestic situation in 1818 prompted [British Foreign Minister] Castlereagh to strongly advise Wilberforce against pushing for emancipation just then. But Wilberforce was unhappy about waiting. That April, feeling ill, he poured out his feelings in his diary: 'I feel more and more convinced of the decay of my own faculties both bodily and mental and I must try to husband the little that remains. Alas how grieved I am, that I have not brought forward the state of [the] W. Indian slaves.' His guilt over the situation grew when the next day, again obviously sick and weak, he fumbled an opportunity to bring the subject up at a meeting of the African Institution...
This disappointment, during one of his recurring illnesses, hardly suggests repudiation of his strategy. In fact, a great victory that advanced governmental involvement in the fight against slavery was a law that at first may have seemed incremental.
When England was a war with France, Wilberforce's allies quietly put forth a bill that would allow the Royal Navy to commandeer the cargo of foreign ships captured. This innocuous bill allowed Britain to seize the cargo of slave ships that sailed under a number of national flags.
Writer David Perrin observed, "This meant that, over a period of time, English slave-traders were deprived of their ships and profits...This disabling of the slave trade meant that they could not pay off their supporter-MPs. Hence, Wilberforce's legislation to abolish the slave trade eventually passes in 1807."
Wilberforce's prudence and success should inspire us. Prudence is practical wisdom, which requires deliberation about concrete opportunities and obstacles in the specific context of our day. Under great pressure, Wilberforce discussed and debated tactics and strategies with a spirit of humility and goodwill. That may be the most important lesson that we can learn from him.
And we will follow the example of one of the greatest heroes ever born. Happy Birthday William Wilberforce, and thank you for living a life that exhibited timeless lessons.
Jeanneane Maxon is Vice President of External Affairs and Corporate Counsel for Americans United for Life. Clarke Forsythe is senior counsel at Americans United for Life and author of Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade.