Saturday, March 19, 2005

Touchstone Magazine's Blog Presents a Number of Articles on Terry Schiavo's Dire Situation

[The following appears on the blog of Touchstone Magazine- http://merecomments.typepad.com]
http://www.touchstonemag.com

March 18, 2005
A Must-Read Article on Terri Schiavo
I doubt that readers of Mere Comments need much persuading about the moral gravamen of the Terri Schiavo case. But many may not know the extent of the evils being perpetrated. I urge everyone to read this calm, powerful article, by a Roman Catholic priest from Michigan, which is the best summation of the situation that I've seen. In it, they will learn just how thoroughly even the most minimal and reasonable forms of medical diagnosis and care have been withheld from Terri, for more than a decade. (Her husband has, for example, never permitted an MRI or PET examination of Terri.) They will learn how aggressively the courts have sought to suppress complicating evidence and testimony. And they will learn that the chief medical authority for the diagnosis of Terri's condition as one of a Persistent Vegetative State is Dr. Ronald Cranford, one of the nation's leading exponents of "the right to die" and physician-assisted suicide, a man who has advocated the "humane" starvation of Alzheimer's patients. It is not only the depravity of Terri's husband, but the corruption of the courts and the medical profession, that are on view in this appalling business.
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Noonan: “Don’t Let This Woman Die”
I hope for their sakes Republican politicians are reading and heading this no-nonsense plea from Peggy Noonan in today’s editions of the Wall Street Journal.
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Sanity in Maine
Michael Harmon writing for the Portland (Maine) Herald wonders if our nation would stand by as we starved to death an animal shelter full of dogs and cats in, or a prisoner of war at Quantanamo, or a death row inmate at San Quentin. We know the answer.
Posted by Kenneth Tanner at 12:18 PM Permalink TrackBack (0)
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The New Pantagruel on Terry Schiavo
The editors of the intelligent, unafraid, kaleidoscopic, and ever-fascinating web-only magazine, The New Pantagruel, have issued a brief, to-the-point statement on the pending murder of Terry Schiavo that can be read here. Many of our readers will be sympathetic with its moral posture.
Posted by Kenneth Tanner at 01:27 AM Permalink TrackBack (0)

Tim Townsend: Abusive Priests Often End Up in St. Louis

By
TheSt. Louis Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Mar. 19 2005

The Rev. James McGreal of Seattle has admitted to sexually abusing hundreds of children between the 1960s and 1980s. The Seattle archdiocese has so far agreed to pay almost $10 million to 26 of those victims, but because of Washington's statute of limitations, McGreal has never been convicted of a crime. Because McGreal can't be sent to jail and has never been laicized (or defrocked) he is the responsibility of Seattle's archbishops.

For the last 20 years McGreal, now 81, has been living at the Vianney Renewal Center, near Dittmer in Jefferson County. Vianney and a nearby facility called RECON are the only two places in the country where bishops can permanently send dangerous pedophile priests. "For those who need to be in a completely supervised environment there are two centers, which as providence would have it, are both in this archdiocese in the United States," said St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke in a recent interview.

Three years after the Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis broke in Boston, U.S. bishops are struggling to figure out what to do with priests who have been removed from ministry for sexual abuse of minors. "This is a significant issue," said Sheila Kelly, deputy executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops's Office of Child and Youth Protection. "The basic concern is - are these people living and working in circumstances where they cannot continue to abuse children?"

The church reports that about 300 priests have been temporarily removed from ministry; the number permanently removed is unknown. What is certain is that the number is far greater than the roughly 40 priests the two Missouri facilities can handle, so dioceses have to be creative. That might mean, as it does in St. Louis, housing a handful of pedophile priests in the local archdiocesan retirement home. Or, as in the Chicago archdiocese, designating a facility just for priests with sexual disorders - a model several dioceses might be looking to emulate. Still others, like the Belleville priests removed from ministry in that diocese's mid-1990s sexual abuse scandal, simply live on their own in private residences. "Probably there are a number of dioceses who have yet to find an appropriate way in which to take care of these individuals," said Kathleen McChesney who, last month, left her position as executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops's Office of Child and Youth Protection. "There isn't a lot of guidance, not a lot of good models yet, as the best way to do this."

McChesney said efforts to confront the problem "are under way" within the U.S. bishops' conference. Burke said he would welcome the idea of guidelines. But victims of clergy sexual abuse and those concerned about the welfare of children are not likely to have much patience with U.S. bishops.

They are asking plenty of questions now about who is ultimately responsible for these men when the state is not. How much responsibility does a pedophile priest's own bishop have for the protection of children thousands of miles away? Should Seattle's archbishop, Alexander J. Brunett, be responsible for keeping daily tabs on McGreal in Missouri, for instance? Are the religious orders or men who run the facilities responsible if one of the residents walks away?

Although the judicial system says such men are free, they are not innocent. "Thank God that a number of these men, notwithstanding the horrible crimes they've committed, have the virtue to know that they need this help and will remain in such an institution," said Burke. "But I don't know what we can do with those men who are refusing to be in a protective environment."

Bishops trying to take responsibility for their problem priests are left with few options, said Greg Magnoni, a spokesman for Seattle's archdiocese. More often than not, they turn to the Missouri facilities for help. "What would people suggest a diocese do with men who have admitted their offense and who want to be watched over and protected?" Magnoni asks.

Often judges, not bishops, make the decision to send pedophile priests to Missouri. In 1996 two priests, the Rev. Thomas S. Schaefer, now 79, and the Rev. Alphonsus Smith, now 80, were sentenced to 16-year prison terms in Maryland for abusing boys in the 1970s and 1980s. Four months later, Circuit Judge William B. Spellbring Jr. reduced their sentences to five years of supervised probation, and sent them to be treated in Missouri. They completed probation in 2001 at the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, but remain at the facility. In a recent interview Spellbring said he decided to take the men out of jail because their crimes had taken place long ago. Spellbring said he was told the priests would not have access to children, but he must rely on others to enforce that. He said his decision to let the priests out of jail might be different today. "It was never my intent to let these men die in jail ... but I'm not sure I would have let them out so soon had I known (the clergy sexual abuse crisis) was going to explode the way it did," he said. "At that point you have to take a stand and let the victims know you are behind them."

Critics say judges around the country are asked by bishops to send pedophile priests here instead of to jail, arguing that private, church-run centers save tax dollars. But David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said "recent history shows the church has failed at this duty. Priests don't reform other priests."

VIANNEY

A religious order called the Servants of the Paraclete runs the Vianney Renewal Center in Ditmer in Jefferson County and until recently a flagship retreat center in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. The order does not have a sterling record. In 2002 the order was forced to close the treatment wing of its New Mexico center. Troubled priests from other states were sent to the center in the 1960s and 1970s. After treatment, an unknown number of pedophiles were dispatched to serve in New Mexico parishes. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe was subsequently the target of 187 sexual abuse cases. Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan expelled 20 priests after he took over the archdiocese in 1993. Late that year, the Servants of the Paraclete agreed to pay $5.6 million to settle cases of childhood sexual abuse that occured after a priest had left their treatment center. When the entire center closed for good in May, five priests were moved to the order's Missouri facility in rural Jefferson County.

The Servants of the Paraclete are an order of priests founded in 1947 in New Mexico. According to its Web site the order is "dedicated to ministry to priests and brothers with personal difficulties." The Servants' treatment consists of "holistic therapeutic programs . . . (combining) the best in spirituality, psychiatry, psychology, theology, medicine, sexuality, social awareness and physiology." The order opened Vianney Renewal Center in 1990.

The Servants also run St. Michael's Community in Sunset Hills, which treats priests who suffer from depression, alcoholism or other ills but are considered likely to return to their duties. Last spring the Servants tried to expand their 10-acre Vianney facility to 226 acres off Wade Road in far northwestern Jefferson County. But county residents protested, and the priests scrapped the project. The Rev. Peter Lechner, a priest and clinical psychologist who runs Vianney and is the Servants' leader, has said that priests who live there can leave only with permission from Vianney officials and that if priests don't agree to the rules, they must leave.

At least seven of the priests who live in the two Missouri facilities are registered sex offenders, but most have never been convicted of a crime. Those who live at the facilities in lieu of jail are usually under stricter monitoring than those sent there by their bishop and who go voluntarily. But problems occur when a priest living at Vianney walks away. "One of the problems - and we have a couple of cases in this archdiocese - is that a priest can take off on you and there isn't anything you can do," said Burke. The church doesn't have a police force, he added.

One of those who left Vianney was the Rev. William Wiebler, 72, who admitted to sexually abusing boys in Davenport, Iowa. Last spring, Wiebler moved to an apartment in University City near an elementary school and preschool. Officials at Vianney informed the Davenport bishop immediately of Wiebler's flight, and the Davenport diocese's attorneys soon told St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch. McCulloch's office quickly told University City police, but the Davenport diocese did not tell Burke for at least four months, and only then after Post-Dispatch reported on Wiebler's whereabouts. In January, the Davenport diocese said 12 more people had come forward to accuse Wiebler of abuse. Burke said Davenport's bishop is "using every form of moral persuasion to get him to come back."

RECON

RECON, also called the Wounded Brothers Project, has been operating since 1993 on a 280-acre wooded tract between Robertsville and Dittmer in eastern Franklin County, about six miles from Vianney. It also has a mixed record. Last month, a Wisconsin priest, the Rev. David J. Malsch, 66, admitted sending and receiving child pornography from his residence at RECON. U.S. Attorney Jim Martin said the facility "failed at preventing this priest from committing crimes and deplorable conduct."

RECON is a private nonprofit facility run by a Franciscan priest and a social worker. Though the facility is not affiliated with the Franciscan religious order, another Franciscan priest, the Rev. Dismas Bonner, serves on RECON's board. Neither of the facility's directors, the Rev. Bertin Miller or Mark Matousek, returned a reporter's calls. But Bonner said the facility was not a treatment center. He described it as "a home that's a kind of safe haven for these people to protect both them and society." Bonner said about 20 men live at RECON, but not all of them are there for sexual disorders.

As a nonprofit, RECON is required to file tax documents with the Internal Revenue Service, and does so under three names: RECON, Evergreen Hills Homes Inc. and Il Ritiro (which means "little retreat" in Italian). The last time documents were filed for Il Ritiro was for the fiscal year 2003, but according to fiscal year 2004 tax documents, RECON and Evergreen Hills together had assets totaling over $3 million. Gross receipts for "services performed" at RECON jumped from $234,000 in 1999 to almost $600,000 in 2002, enabling Miller to nearly double his salary to $71,500 in 2003 from $36,000 in 2000. Matousek's salary jumped to $61,500 from $45,000 in the same period. Such increases reflect the severity of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in recent years, and the desperate need the Catholic church has for places like Vianney and RECON.

The Diocese of Jefferson City recently said one of its priests, the Rev. John Degnan, who lives at RECON, has at least 17 allegations of child sexual abuse against him. Sister Ethel-Marie Biri, the chancellor of the diocese, said Degnan was sent to RECON in 2002 "because we felt he needed to be supervised for a long time. ... Our plan is that that's where he's going to stay." She said that because Degnan has not been convicted of a crime, he is living at RECON voluntarily, and that the diocese pays his way. If he decides to walk away, "our only lever is financial," said Biri. That means that if the priest left RECON, the diocese would stop supporting him.

Experts in sexual disorders involving children say the only way to make sure an offender's behavior is not repeated is to keep him away from children. Bonner said the men at RECON are "supervised when they go out - if they go out shopping, they have people who drive them and stay with them all the time. They are not roaming around the countryside." But Brenda Pavlik said her brother-in-law, the Rev. James Pavlik, a St. Louis priest who was removed from ministry in November 2000 and lives at RECON, has plenty of access to children. "He has a car and goes to visit his mother twice a week alone," she said. "He goes to movies, out to dinner and lunch. He comes to family gatherings at Easter and Christmas and there are plenty of his nephews and nieces around."

Another RECON resident, the Rev. Mark Roberts, was sent by a judge to Missouri from Nevada, despite the judge's knowledge that one of Roberts' victims lives 20 minutes from the facility. Burke met with Miller and Matousek of RECON in February to discuss Roberts' case, but said last week that he did not ask them about the general security of the facility. He said he would not interfere with the way RECON is run. "That meeting was out of concern for a particular young man whose admitted or confessed abuser is at that facility, and I was meeting with them about that," said Burke. "I did not express to them concerns about their oversight or about their security. I feel badly about this. These people are carrying out a very difficult service and a very important one and I don't want to be taking whacks at them - that's just not my intention at all. It's not our facility."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reporter Tim Townsend writes about religious issues for the Post-Dispatch.
Reporter Tim Townsend E-mail: ttownsend@post-dispatch.com Phone: 314-340-8221

Chuck Finder: Steroids Expert Laughs at Testimony

Saturday, March 19, 2005
By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/

One expert and experienced Capitol Hill witness watched the Congressional steroid hearing Thursday and couldn't help but laugh.

To him, the testimony of the five past and present major-leaguers was so thigh-slapping wacky that even abuser-turned-author Jose Canseco came off as the most credible witness, outside of the medical experts.

"The other baseball players, when they were doing their routines, it seemed like they were doing a 'Saturday Night Live' skit," said Chuck Yesalis, a Penn State professor, researcher and author in the field of performance-enhancing drugs. Boston's "Curt Schilling reminded me of Michael Corleone's uncle appearing before the Senate in 'Godfather 2.' When asked about the Cosa Nostra ... 'I never heard of it. I'm in the olive oil business.'

"I was laughing out loud, it was so funny.

Yesalis testified last week before a House Energy and Commerce Committee in a warm-up to the 11 1/2-hour session Thursday with the House Committee on Government Reform, and it "was far less comical than this hearing."

Some of the commentary was so absurd to Yesalis and his research findings of the past 27 years, that a friend and former steroid user kept telephoning his State College home during the breaks in testimony to chuckle over it: former Steelers lineman Steve Courson.

In their view, any discussion of performance-enhancing drugs must involve embracing two premises that this hearing proved no one inside Room 2154 of the Rayburn Building would accept:

All drug-testing is flawed to some degree.

You have to admit to a steroid problem before you can attempt to beat it -- something professional sports owners might not do, considering bigger and better athletes make money for the baseball, football or other teams that employ them.

Moreover, Yesalis said, speaking seriously of the gravity of any such discussion, "Far beyond drugs and sports, this is a major social issue here. Our kids are doing these drugs."

Medical experts and politicians alike quoted figures that showed about 500,000 American high school students have used performance-enhancing drugs at least once. Yesalis is the researcher who struck upon that figure in 1988, though he said it probably has doubled since.

He credited President Bush with igniting political interest in the subject, with the President mentioning it in his State of the Union address and with his administration placing a federal spotlight on the BALCO investigation in California.

But discussion has to be meaningful in order to make any advances, and what Yesalis heard from the televised hearings didn't satisfy that requirement.

For one, Schilling had been outspoken previously about the rampant use of steroids in baseball. In front of the TV cameras and many of the 39-member committee Thursday, he stated that he knew of only five to 10 teammates who used them over the past decade and a half. Meanwhile, Baltimore's Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro denied using steroids, and retired slugger Mark McGwire declined to speak on the matter despite admitting to using a steroid compound, androstenedione, then permissible in baseball while breaking the home run record in 1998.

"As Canseco said, we need to agree this is a problem," Yesalis said. "If you listen to these other guys, he was the only one to take steroids. That was laugh-out-loud funny."

He found himself agreeing with Canseco on the notion that self-correction won't happen under commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball Players Association boss Donald Fehr.

"I don't think that's going to happen," Yesalis said. "It bothers me that government is sticking its nose into private business. It will argue, appropriately so, about the health and welfare of children."

And it also has baseball's antitrust powers in its hands, a tool that many members of Congress threatened to invoke if the game didn't clean up its perceived steroid problem and strengthen its new drug policy.

"The reason they're not listening is these drugs are helping their business, not hurting their business," Yesalis said.

He added he could make the argument that performance-enhancing drugs also helped to enhance bottom lines, turning owners' franchises into billion-dollar assets. He said as much in his March 10 introductory remarks on Capitol Hill.

Yesalis also maintains that drug-testing, especially the Olympic form that continuously was called "the gold standard" in these hearings, has loopholes through which he could drive an Abrams tank "and not scrape the body armor." He testified he could take a team of steroid cheats and pass the standard drug test every day, what with masking agents and expertise at the disposal of wealthy and insulated elite athletes. Such performance-enhancing drugs as human growth hormone, insulin and BALCO's infamous "cream" and "clear" still avoid detection in testing.

"There are a ton of people, including Congress in that room, who believe drug-testing will solve the issue," he said. "That's what causes my hair to hurt more than anything else."

Drug-testing is beneficial at the professional level as a public-relations tool and a way to ferret out the less-schooled cheats, he added. Major League Baseball would be wise to adopt the committee's suggestions, though.

"These guys are ticked off," Yesalis said. "You want to see tough guys? Mess with these national politicians."

(Chuck Finder can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1724.)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Jay Marriotti: Home-run Heroes Come Off as Zeros

Home-run heroes come off as zeros before Congress
March 18, 2005
BY JAY MARIOTTI
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

The man who once flaunted the biggest muscles in baseball, Mark McGwire, is now the smallest coward in Washington. Sammy Sosa, who contrived a b.s. story when his bat was corked, still comes off as a smiling sneak with "nothing to say'' because he's hiding behind a language barrier that doesn't exist.

And to think I wasted brain cells glorifying their home runs, their charm, their place in American lore. Shame on me for believing it, shame on baseball for selling it, shame on McGwire for playing the hero and then hiding behind the Fifth Amendment when under oath Thursday and facing the masses who adored him.

"I'm not here to discuss the past,'' he said, fighting back tears all afternoon. "I'm here to be positive, not negative.''

Big Fib, we'll call him. Never mind that McGwire was the one who turned a positive into a negative like no so-called sports icon of recent time. He's the positive one, the rest of us are negative nabobs. All I can say is, when his name appears on my Hall of Fame ballot in two years, I will not vote for him any more than I would for Pete Rose. As for Sosa, I'd love to believe his proclaimed innocence before the House Government Reform Committee -- "To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs,'' he said -- if an attorney hadn't read the statement for him and Sammy didn't repeatedly mumble, stare at the tabletop and either issue non-answers to important questions or agree with whatever Rafael Palmeiro or Curt Schilling said before him.

"I don't have much to tell you,'' said Sosa, mannequin-like.

Hearing all of this crud, I concur with Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), a Hall of Famer who talked tough about baseball's crooked era. "If they started in 1992 or 1993 illegally using steroids, wipe all of their records out,'' Bunning said. "Take them away. They don't deserve them. Go ask Henry Aaron. Go ask the family of Roger Maris. Go ask all of the people that played without enhanced drugs if they would like their records compared with the current records.''

On the day when a flim-flam pastime was exposed as institutionally dishonest and chemically scummy, the day when kids of all ages realized they can't trust athletes as role models, a supposed benchmark year in our land's sacred sports history -- 1998 -- officially died. May we purge all those memories from our minds, like a lemon car or a cheating girlfriend, and pretend they never happened. Starting in midmorning and continuing long past dinner, the committee plowed through a trail of deceit and mismanagement in baseball's steroids crisis. Much of it surrounded the blindness of commissioner Bud Selig, who testified he knew little about steroids until waking up seven years ago and reading that androstenedione was found in McGwire's locker -- even though Selig was quoted in published stories about steroids as early as 1993. But we already knew Bud Light was a sham.

McGwire's reticence regrettable

McGwire's performance was utterly disgraceful. I've never felt more embarrassed for an athlete in a character-defining scene. Once called "a true American hero'' by then-President Clinton, Big Fib announced in his opening statement that he wouldn't discuss steroids directly and, true to his vow, refused to answer the committee's most probing questions. He would have been better off going incognito and relocating to Mexico, especially after the anguished statements of Donald Hooton, he of the famous baseball Hootons, who believes that his 17-year-old son, Taylor, hanged himself two years ago because of the psychological effects of steroid use.

"Players that are guilty of taking steroids are not only cheaters -- you are cowards,'' Hooton said in a charged voice. "You hide behind the skirts of your union, and with the help of management and your lawyers, you've made every effort to resist facing the public today.''

Minutes later, McGwire walked right into Hooton's description. Voice shaking, words quivering, he took a long gulp of water and said, "If a player answers, 'No,' he simply will not be believed. If he answers, 'Yes,' he risks public scorn and endless government investigations. My lawyers have advised me that I can't answer these questions without jeopardizing my family, my friends or myself.'' Public scorn? Last I looked, America was forgiving to those who fess up. What is wrong with government probes when Congress, as stated often, is making sure kids don't risk their lives using steroids because their heroes are using steroids? In one breath, Big Fib acknowledged there's "a problem with steroid use in baseball.'' But he added, "What I will not do is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates.'' So he played with people who used steroids. There's a start.

But when the committee wanted to know more, McGwire clammed up. Should baseball have a zero-tolerance policy?

"I don't know. I'm a retired player,'' he said.

Does he consider steroid use to be cheating?

"That's not for me to determine,'' he said.

'Positive' spin backfires

Finally, after another "I'm here to be positive'' answer, Rep. Elijah Cummings laid into him. "I'm trying to be positive here, too,'' he challenged McGwire. "It's one thing for you to say you want to help, but it's a whole other thing when the parents [of Tyler Hooton] are sitting directly behind you, wondering if it's real.'' McGwire vowed to "redirect'' the aim of his foundation to steroids.
The committee wasn't impressed.

"Theater of the absurd,'' Rep. Tom Lantos said.

"If Enron people come in here and say, 'We don't want to talk about the past,' do you think Congress is going to let them get away with that?'' Rep. Mark Souder scolded. "If we don't talk about the past, how in the world are we supposed to pass legislation when you are a protected monopoly?''

But then, McGwire was following orders. So was Sosa, who opened the day by staring at an attorney who read the slugger's words: "Everything I have heard about steroids and human growth hormones is that they are very bad for you, even lethal. I would never put anything dangerous like that in my body.

"I am clean.''

So why am I off to take a long, hot, extra-strength-detergent bath?

Jay Mariotti is a regular on ''Around the Horn'' at 4 p.m. on ESPN. Send e-mail to inbox@suntimes.com with name, hometown and daytime phone number (letters run Sunday).

Springsteen Inducts U2 into R&R HOF


News updated March 16, 2005
http://www.backstreets.com/

"THROUGH THE DOOR WITH FISTS AND HEARTS FIRST"

U2 enters Rock & Roll Hall of Fame behind Bruce Springsteen's induction speech (3/14/05):

Uno, dos, tres, catorce. That translates as one, two, three, fourteen. That is the correct math for a rock and roll band. For in art and love and rock and roll, the whole had better equal much more than the sum of its parts, or else you're just rubbing two sticks together searching for fire. A great rock band searches for the same kind of combustible force that fueled the expansion of the universe after the big bang. You want the earth to shake and spit fire, you want the sky to split apart and for God to pour out. It’s embarrassing to want so much and to expect so much from music, except sometimes it happens: the Sun Sessions, Highway 61, Sgt. Peppers, the Band, Robert Johnson, Exile on Main Street, Born to Run... whoops, I meant to leave that one out... uh... the Sex Pistols, Aretha Franklin, the Clash, James Brown; the proud and public enemies it takes a nation of millions to hold back. This is music meant to take on not only the powers that be but on a good day, the universe and God himself, if he was listening. It's man's accountability, and U2 belongs on this list.

It was the early '80s. I went with Pete Townshend, who always wanted to catch the first whiff of those about to unseat us, to a club in London. There they were: a young Bono (single-handedly pioneering the Irish mullet), the Edge (what kind of name was that?), Adam and Larry -- I was listening to the last band of whom I would be able to name all of its members. They had an exciting show and a big, beautiful sound. They lifted the roof. We met afterwards and they were nice young men. They were Irish. Irish. Now, this would play an enormous part in their success in the States. For what the English occasionally have the refined sensibilities to overcome, we Irish and Italians have no such problem. We come through the door fists and hearts first. U2, with the dark, chiming sound of heaven at their command which, of course, is the sound of unrequited love and longing -- their greatest theme. Their search for God intact, this was a band that wanted to lay claim to not only this world but had their eyes on the next one, too. Now, they’re a real band; each member plays a vital part. I believe they actually practice some form of democracy -- toxic poison in a bands head. In Iraq, maybe. In rock, no. Yet, they survive. They have harnessed the time bomb that exists in the heart of every great rock and roll band that usually explodes, as we see regularly from this stage. But they seemed to have innately understood the primary rule of rock band job security: “Hey, asshole, the other guy is more important than you think he is!” They are both a step forward and direct descendants of the great bands who believed rock music could shake things up in the world, dared to have faith in their audience, who believed if they played their best it would bring out the best in you. They believed in pop stardom and the big time. Now this requires foolishness and a calculating mind. It also requires a deeply held faith in the work you're doing and in its powers to transform. U2 hungered for it all and built a sound, and they wrote the songs that demanded it. They’re keepers of some of the most beautiful sonic architecture in rock and roll.

The Edge, the Edge, the Edge, the Edge. He is a rare and true guitar original and one of the subtlest guitar heroes of all time. He's dedicated to ensemble playing and he subsumes his guitar ego in the group. But do not be fooled. Take Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Neil Young, Pete Townshend -- guitarists who defined the sound of their band and their times. If you play like them, you sound like them. If you are playing those rhythmic two-note sustained fourths, drenched in echo, you are going to sound like the Edge, my son. Go back to the drawing board and chances are you won’t have much luck. There are only a handful of guitar stylists who can create a world with their instruments, and he's one of them. The Edge's guitar playing creates enormous space and vast landscapes. It is a thrilling and a heartbreaking sound that hangs over you like the unsettled sky. In the turf it stakes out, it is inherently spiritual, it is grace and it is a gift.

Now, all of this has to be held down by something. The deep sureness of Adam Clayton's bass and the rhythms of Larry Mullen's elegant drumming hold the band down while propelling it forward. It's in U2's great rhythm section that the band finds its sexuality and its dangerousness. Listen to "Desire," she moves in "Mysterious Ways," the pulse of "With or Without You." Together Larry and Adam create the element that suggests the ecstatic possibilities of that other kingdom -- the one below the earth and below the belt -- that no great rock band can lay claim to the title without. Now, Adam always strikes me as the professorial one, the sophisticated member. He creates not only the musical but physical stability on his side of the stage. The tone and depth of his bass playing has allowed the band to move from rock to dance music and beyond. One of the first things I noticed about U2 was that underneath the guitar and the bass, they have these very modern rhythms going on. Rather than a straight 2 and 4, Larry often plays with a lot of syncopation, and that connects the band to modern dance textures. The drums often sounded high and tight and he was swinging down there, and this gave the band a unique profile and allowed their rock textures to soar above on a bed of his rhythm. Now Larry, of course, besides being an incredible drummer, bears the burden of being the band's requisite "good-looking member," something we somehow overlooked in the E Street Band. We have to settle for "charismatic." Girls love on Larry Mullen. I have a female assistant that would like to sit on Larry’s drum stool. A male one, too. We all have our crosses to bear.

Bono, where do I begin? Jeans designer, soon-to-be World Bank operator, just plain operator, seller of the Brooklyn Bridge -- oh hold up, he played under the Brooklyn Bridge, that's right. Soon-to-be mastermind operator of the Bono Burger franchise, where more than one million stories will be told by a crazy Irishman. Now I realize that it’s a dirty job and somebody has to do it. But don't quit your day job yet, my friend, you're pretty good at it. And a sound this big needs somebody to ride herd over it, and ride herd over it he does. His voice, big-hearted and open, thoroughly decent no matter how hard he tries. Now he's a great frontman. Against the odds, he is not your mom's standard skinny, ex-junkie archetype. He has the physique of a rugby player... well, an ex-rugby player. Shamen, shyster, one of the greatest and most endearingly naked messianic complexes in rock and roll. God bless you, man! It takes one to know one, of course. You see, every good Irish and Italian-Irish front-man knows that before James Brown there was Jesus. So hold the McDonald arches on the stage set, boys, we are not ironists. We are creations of the heart and of the earth and of the stations of the cross. There's no getting out of it. He is gifted with an operatic voice and a beautiful falsetto rare among strong rock singers. But most important, his is a voice shot through with self-doubt. That's what makes that big sound work. It is this element of Bono's talent, along with his beautiful lyric writing, that gives the often-celestial music of U2 its fragility and its realness. It is the questioning, the constant questioning in Bono's voice, where the band stakes its claim to its humanity and declares its commonality with us. Now Bono’s voice often sounds like it's shouting not over top of the band but from deep within it: "Here we are, Lord, this mess, in your image." He delivers all of this with great drama and an occasional smirk that says, “Kiss me, I’m Irish.” He’s one of the great front-men of the past 20 years. He is also one of the only musicians to devote his personal faith and the ideals of his band into the real world in a way that remains true to rock's earliest implications of freedom and connection and the possibility of something better.

Now the band's beautiful songwriting -- "Pride (In The Name of Love)," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For," "One," "Where the Streets Have No Name," "Beautiful Day" -- reminds us of the stakes that the band always plays for. It's an incredible songbook. In their music, you hear the spirituality as home and as quest. How do you find God unless he's in your heart, in your desire, in your feet? I believe this is a big part of what's kept their band together all of these years. See, bands get formed by accident, but they don’t survive by accident. It takes will, intent, a sense of shared purpose and a tolerance for your friends' fallibilities and they of yours. And that only evens the odds. U2 has not only evened the odds but they've beaten them by continuing to do their finest work and remaining at the top of their game and the charts for 25 years. I feel a great affinity for these guys as people as well as musicians.

Well, there I was sitting down on the couch in my pajamas with my eldest son. He was watching TV. I was doing one of my favorite things: I was tallying up all the money I passed up in endorsements over the years and thinking of all the fun I could have had with it. Suddenly I hear "Uno, dos, tres, catorce!" I look up. But instead of the silhouettes of the hippie-wannabes bouncing around in the iPod commercial, I see my boys! Oh my God! They sold out! Now, what I know about the iPod is this: it is a device that plays music. Of course, their new song sounded great, my guys are doing great, but methinks I hear the footsteps of my old tape operator of Jimmy Iovine somewhere. Wily, smart. Now, personally, I live an insanely expensive lifestyle that my wife barely tolerates. I burn money, and that calls for huge amounts of cash flow. But, I also have a ludicrous image of myself that keeps me from truly cashing in. You can see my problem. Woe is me. So the next morning, I call up Jon Landau (or as I refer to him, "the American Paul McGuinness"), and I say, "Did you see that iPod thing?" and he says, "Yes." And he says, "And I hear they didn’t take any money." And I said, "They didn’t take any money?" and he says, "No." I said, "Smart, wily Irish guys. Anybody – anybody – can do an ad and take the money. But to do the ad and not take the money... that’s smart. That’s wily." I say, "Jon, I want you to call up Bill Gates or whoever is behind this thing and float this: a red, white and blue iPod signed by Bruce 'The Boss' Springsteen. Now remember, no matter how much money he offers, don’t take it!" At any rate, after that evening for the next month or so, I hear emanating from my lovely 14-year-old son's room, day after day, down the hall calling out in a voice that has recently dropped very low: uno, dos, tres, catorce. The correct math for rock and roll. Thank you, boys.

- Thanks to our good friends at U2log.com for the transcription.
March 16, 2005

Dan Shaughnessy: McGwire is a Bashed Brother

The Boston Globe
March 18, 2005

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Say it ain't so, Mark. Or say it is so. Just answer the question. And don't consult with your lawyer before answering.

At the end of baseball's dark day on Capitol Hill yesterday, Mark McGwire was forever tarnished in the eyes of the nation. He would not answer questions about his alleged involvement with steroids. We'll never look at him the same way.

We live in a wonderful country governed by perhaps the most perfect document in the history of mankind. One of our constitutional laws allows an individual to refuse to answer questions on the grounds he may incriminate himself. Lawyers often advise clients to take the Fifth and doing so is not an admission of guilt.

But the court of public opinion is another matter and yesterday, on a day when Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Frank Thomas testified before Congress and emphatically denied using steriods, McGwire refused to answer the question.

In his opening statement, McGwire cried. He offered condolences to families who lost children to steroids. He offered to help the committee. He said he would dedicate himself to the problem. He said he would direct his foundation to educate children about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs. He said all the right things and did what his lawyers wanted him to do.

He still looked dirty.

"My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer any questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself," said McGwire. "I intend to follow their advice."

It sounded evasive. Transparently off topic. This wasn't about McGwire's friends, family, or teammates. It was about McGwire and his refusal to address the most fundamental question of the day -- Did you use steroids?

"Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids, in front of television cameras, will not solve the problem," McGwire said. "If a player answers `no,' he simply will not be believed. If he answers `yes,' he risks public scorn and endless government investigation."

Immediately after McGwire's opening statement, Palmeiro stared at the committee, pointed his finger, and said, "Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids. Period. I do not know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never."

The contrast was startling. And fair or unfair, many of us looked at the sequence and concluded, There you go. McGwire cheated. Palmeiro didn't.

Later, when committee members asked questions, McGwire evaded all direct queries with, "I'm here to talk about the positive and not the negative . . . I'm not here to talk about the past."

Wouldn't we all love that? . . . Bank robbers? . . . Enron executives? . . . Martha Stewart? Is McGwire going to want to talk about the past when he becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame? When we all talk about his 70-home run season in 1998? And why should young people listen to an ex-ballplayer who says he wants to help clean up baseball when that same ex-ballplayer won't answer questions about his involvement (or non-involvement) with steroids?

Sosa, like Palmeiro, flatly denied using steroids. Perhaps Sosa committed perjury and figures no one will ever be able to prove anything. Or maybe he's telling the truth. Either way, it doesn't help McGwire today. Seven years after their dramatic home run chase, Sosa and McGwire took their hits in the Rayburn Building. Sosa denied cheating. McGwire took the Fifth. You don't need to watch "Baseball Tonight" to conclude which slugger won yesterday's duel. Sosa, perhaps using the verbal equivalent of a corked bat, hit one out of the park. McGwire struck out.

Plenty of other things came out of yesterday's interminable proceeding. Curt Schilling delivered an impassioned opening statement that threatened to become the first fillibuster in the history of congressional hearings. Schilling became the go-to guy for the committee. Several congressmen noted Schilling was delivering answers that made him sound like a politician. Watching Schilling roll his eyes when Jose Canseco answered questions was also a treat. Schilling was particularly strong in his attack on Canseco. He referred to Canseco as a "so-called author," and a "disgrace." He called Canseco's book "an attempt to make money at the expense of others."

We could have done with a little less fawning by some committee members, who at times sounded like baseball groupies. They didn't get their claws out until Bud Selig, Donald Fehr, and friends answered questions as the hearing stretched past the dinner hour.

As expected, Canseco was predictably ridiculous. He said he hadn't slept in four days (though McGwire was the one who looked alarmingly sleepless). He said steroids were bad for young people. Attempting to appear thoughtful and sympathetic after his unconscionable literary effort, Canseco contradicted just about everything in his book. Kudos to South Boston Congressman Stephen Lynch (who sounds alarmingly like Al Pacino) for calling Canseco on his blatant hypocrisy. Canseco fell back on the old Rick Pitino "that's how I felt then" explanation.

But it was the lawyered-up McGwire who was the big loser yesterday. His resume is tarnished. His Hall of Fame candidacy is suddenly questionable. The 1998 home run chase has been reduced to some phony steel-cage match involving artificially inflated cartoon characters.
Feels like we were duped. Sure wish Barry Bonds had been up there with them.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

Thomas Boswell: Players of Stature, Feats of Clay

The Washington Post
Friday, March 18, 2005; Page D01

Just to get a sense of proportion concerning what happened in a hearing room on Capitol Hill yesterday, imagine that we could turn back time 70 years. Concoct a scene in the 1930s in which Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Mel Ott are subpoenaed to testify before Congress because all of them are suspected of or had admitted to massive cheating throughout their careers, which would call all their records and heroics into question.

To add diabolical spice, imagine that Ruth had confessed his sins and was accusing Gehrig of doing the fraud -- with the Babe as a witness. Or vice versa, that the Iron Horse was calling all the Babe's achievements a sham. After all, they were the Bash Brothers of the Roaring Twenties, winning pennants, greeting each other at home plate but barely maintaining civil relations.

Why, if such a thing had happened, especially if one of the four men had almost broken down, taken the equivalent of the Fifth Amendment more than a dozen times and left the hearing room with his reputation in tatters, we'd still be discussing it, churning out books and, probably, revising the history -- recasting the villains and heroes and scapegoats -- to this day.

When the indelible days and torturous portraits from baseball history are described and retold, the saga of Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and the man who accused them all, Jose Canseco, will grow in significance, depth, sadness and moral complexity. Our first impressions will almost certainly be revised by time. It is even possible that, within a few years, depending upon how many revelations from the Steroid Age finally become public, we could even see one of these men charged with perjury or contempt of Congress.

The first image of this day will always be McGwire, the popular Big Mac who carried himself with perfect grace and generosity when he hit 70 home runs in '98, as he stammered, composed himself, then plowed forward, through a brief but tortuous prepared testimony. How could anyone avoid the thought that, perhaps, he behaved so deferentially toward Roger Maris's family because he knew that a darker truth lay behind his ability to erase Maris from the record book.

"Like any sport where there is pressure to perform at the highest level and there has been no testing to control performance-enhancing drugs, problems develop," McGwire said.

Let's deconstruct. Did McGwire feel pressure to perform at the highest level in a sport that did not test for steroids, virtually winked at the practice and, in particular, longed for McGwire to hit more than 61 home runs? After all, in the late 1990s baseball desperately hoped the long ball would reclaim fans alienated by the strike that erased the 1994 World Series.

"I will use whatever influence and popularity I have," said McGwire, his words slowing, "to discourage young athletes from taking any drug that is not recommended by a doctor. What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates. . . . Nor do I intend to dignify Mr. Canseco's book. It should be enough to consider the source . . .
"Asking me, or any other player, to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve this problem," said McGwire, the committee's thumbscrews all but showing. "If a player answers, 'No,' he simply will not be believed. If he answers, 'Yes,' he risks public scorn and endless government investigations."

If, somehow, McGwire's testimony is narrowly and literally true, then he is one of the most wronged men in the history of American sport and the House Government Reform Committee has indeed hunted for an innocent witch and burned her. The far more likely case is that the verdict in the bleachers from coast to coast will be the correct one: that McGwire gave a veiled confession in the tradition of Jason Giambi's endless apologies for doing something he never named.

While McGwire's day was pure theater, the drama between Canseco and Palmeiro lay just below the surface but will remain a debate for many a long night. Canseco wrote in his tell-all book that he had introduced Palmeiro to steroids, and during a "60 Minutes" interview Canseco said that he had injected Palmeiro when they were with the Rangers. No accusation can be more direct. And no denial could be more categorical than Palmeiro's repeated assertions that he had never taken steroids in any form anywhere at any time. "Period."

Either Canseco is the most vicious and deliberate slanderer in baseball history (name anything that would even come close) or Palmeiro has lied under oath to a congressional committee. There's no third choice. One is a villain. That's why it helps to have an excellent reputation and hurts to have an atrocious one. The committee, by its tone, clearly accepted Palmeiro's word and treated him as though he had conclusively cleared his name when, in fact, he'd merely pleaded innocence.

For the next two or three years, at the least, we can expect that the cockroaches of these steroid days will continue to scurry around baseball's kitchen, just as the criminal misdeeds of Wall Street and corporate America still fill our headlines years after the bankruptcies of Enron and WorldCom.

And what of Sosa? He spoke in a soft voice. He brought an interpreter and a lawyer who read his statement for him despite the fact that those of us who know him from the baseball beat realize that he is perfectly fluent in English. That Sosa statement was a 99.9 percent total denial of any use of steroids. However, cynics may parse his words in search of legal loopholes.

"To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything. I've not broken the laws of the Unites States or the laws of the Dominican Republic," Sosa's statement read. "I have been tested as recently as 2004 and I am clean."

It is an awful world we live in. Within minutes of the statement's dissemination a veteran baseball writer said, "So, I guess that doesn't quite cover taking steroids orally if they were prescribed legally by a Dominican doctor."

Thanks to the devious tales from the world of BALCO, we've all learned to look for the weasel word, the phrase that doesn't quite mean what it says. Endemic bad behavior has this contaminating effect on the whole culture that it infects. Trust dies. Doubt flourishes. Lies grow strong legs.

And someone as discredited as Canseco can completely change his views on steroids in a blink. In his book, he champions steroids for 200 pages, even saying that they could help people live to be 120. Before Congress, he denounced them. Grilled on this preposterous flip-flop, Canseco meekly said, "I'm completely turned around." How convenient.

This day and all its twist of plot and character will not be forgotten in baseball for decades.

In fact, the cautionary scene of four of the game's greatest sluggers, all sitting at the same table with their legacy and their honor laid out before them, has barely begun to be digested.

Jayson Stark: McGwire's Legacy Possibly Beyond Repair

Updated: Mar. 17, 2005
One reputation is in tatters, another could be

By Jayson Stark, ESPN.com
Jayson Stark Archive

Once, he was compared to Babe Ruth.

Thursday, he was compared to Enron.

That's not what you call a great day on Capitol Hill. But that's the kind of day it was for a fallen living legend named Mark McGwire.

People are never going to look at him the same now. Not after a day of dodging questions the way he once dodged fastballs steaming toward his eyebrows.

Legally, of course, McGwire didn't have to answer those questions. Remember that. The men who wrote the Constitution handed him that right. So in a way, all he did was exercise his fundamental right to avoid ensconcing himself in a whole mess of trouble.

But a lot of good that will do Not So Big Mac with millions of people who once loved him, cheered him, froze their existences those four times a night when he walked toward home plate.
It was way too clear what he didn't want to talk about and why he didn't want to talk about it. Now he has to know, just as we know, what that means.

It means he drove his reputation off a cliff Thursday, and left his legacy irreparably splattered. Very possibly beyond repair.

He didn't want to talk about the past. That's what he said. But now, that part he didn't want to talk about is all anyone else will ever want to talk about. And that ain't good.

Once, we could reminisce for hours about that 70-homer magic-carpet ride seven years deep in his past. Witnessing that was the thrill of a lifetime -- at the time.

Now, that's the portion of his past we won't want to talk about anymore. That was one fairy tale that won't be ending happily ever after now.

"There's a simple way to solve this," Rep. Mark Souder lectured him Thursday, "(by saying), 'I am clean.' … The American people can figure out who's willing to say that and who isn't.

"If the Enron people came in and said, 'I don't want to talk about the past,' " Souder went on, looking McGwire straight in the eyeballs, "you think we'd let them say that?"

Well, Mark McGwire didn't steal all the savings in anybody's 401K. Let's get that straight. He has such a special compassion for children that he practically broke down talking about those parents who say they lost their sons to steroid-induced suicide. And he's a good enough human being that we're even willing to take him at his word when he says he wants to "do everything I can to turn this from a negative thing into a positive thing."

So to lump him in there with Ken Lay is a little much. Sorry, Congressman.

And let's give him one more shred of sympathy. Nobody would want to be put in the position this committee put McGwire in Thursday -- dragged in front of Congress, TV cameras rolling, essentially declaring him guilty the moment he walked into the room unless he could figure out some way to prove himself innocent.

We said last week we had a problem with Congress placing anybody in that un-American position. We still do.

But Congress has the Constitutional right to ignore every word we type, too. So it did what it did. McGwire said what he said. And when they were all through, the cloud over the sport McGwire once rescued was darker than ever.

Which doesn't mean that something good can't come of this 11-hour exercise in Congressional windbaggery. Because it can.

If the men who run baseball -- primarily commisioner Bud Selig and his union cohort, Don Fehr -- were really listening closely Thursday, they can't spend the next six months bragging about their new agreement and telling us all to give it a chance to work.

Heck, if they spend the next six hours doing that, they're making a big mistake.

Even if that policy is working -- and we'll admit we think it's had an impact -- the moral of Thursday's story was that Congress doesn't believe that. And most of the American public doesn't believe that. So that leaves Bud and Don two choices:

* They can sprint out of the hearing room, head right back into negotiations and come up with an even tougher plan.

* They can head back to the luxury boxes and let Congress work it out for them.

We know which of those choices we'd make. It's as simple as a 3-0 fastball.

We assume Bud and Don were paying attention when their good buddy, sidearming Sen. Jim Bunning, grumbled that "baseball needs to get its act together -- or else."
If they were, which part of "or else" didn't they understand?

There were lots of fun threats along the way: Watch us make your antitrust exemption disappear. Watch us amend the labor laws. Watch us pass a law that says you have to enforce the Olympic drug policies.

Bud and Don might want to heed those threats, even if they've heard them before.

There was even fire-breathing Rep. Henry Waxman's parting shot: "Maybe it's time for new leadership in baseball."

As votes of confidence go, it wasn't exactly a tickertape parade for Congress' favorite commish.
On one hand, Selig did survive the day better than he did in his 2001 competitive-balance appearance on the Hill -- when they all but ran him over with a steamroller.

On the other hand, you could see flames burning in the eyes of some of his Congressional pals Thursday, every time the commish blew an opportunity to say, at least once: "We really screwed up in the '90s -- all of us."

It's OK to say, as Selig did, that "I wish I knew in 1995, '96, '97 and '98 what I know now." We know lots of people in the press corps who feel the same way. Ourselves included.

But when you're a leader of something known as the National Pastime, you need to go beyond that. You need to say: "I should have known more. I should have done more. I should have investigated earlier." Even if he doesn't believe that, he should have said it. Taking responsibility is part of the commissioner's job description.

But nothing was sadder than the sight of Big Mac saying countless times: "I'm not here to talk about the past." Once, he was a charismatic and respectful link to the glories in baseball's past. Now he's just a living symbol of its biggest screw-up of the last half-century.

Then again, maybe the worst part of this day was that just about nobody took any responsibility.
Jose Canseco did a 180 on stuff he said in his own book, then used the alibi that it was because he wrote it two years ago. Whereupon Rep. Stephen Lynch sneered: "I'll wait for the sequel."

Curt Schilling, who otherwise comported himself better than almost anyone in the room, still backed off many of the anti-steroid quotes that got him invited to this party in the first place.
Fehr continued to defend the almost-indefensible Five Strikes And You're Out (Maybe) punishment phase of the new steroid policy.

And our good friends in Congress were a veritable Niagara Falls of mangled statistics, faulty research, misinformed criticism and stunning lack of familiarity with even baseball's recent history in this area.

But nothing was sadder than the sight of Big Mac saying countless times: "I'm not here to talk about the past." Once, he was a charismatic and respectful link to the glories in baseball's past. Now he's just a living symbol of its biggest screw-up of the last half-century.

Rep. Tom Davis, the man who chaired this committee with extraordinary dignity, started the day by saying he wanted to hold this hearing to shine "sunlight" on a sport he loves. But 11 hours later, it sure felt like baseball had a whole new hurricane on its hands.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.







Thursday, March 17, 2005

Mike S. Adams: Blind Feminists Find Nut, Details at Eleven

http://www.townhall.com
Mike S. Adams (archive)
March 17, 2005

In 2003, the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) at UNC-Wilmington embarrassed the university by placing an obscene advertisement for The Vagina Monologues (TVM) just outside the entrance to the school cafeteria. The sign, reading “p-----s unite,” was even seen by children entering the cafeteria with their parents.

Last week, the WRC decided to advertise TVM on the lighted marquee in front of the university. Wilmington residents were greeted by the word “vagina” flashing in bright lights as they passed the university on the way to work, to school, or to church. In fact, the flashing “vagina” sign was positioned right across the street from the Greek Orthodox Church and the administrative headquarters of the local Baptist Church.

Because it was located in one of the most heavily traveled thoroughfares in the city, the flashing “vagina” marquee was considered distasteful by more than just a few church-goers. Those who actually attended were even more shocked when they saw lollipops shaped like vaginas on sale in the entrance to Kenan Auditorium. The lollipops were called “p---y pops.” Several “distinguished” members of our university community walked around licking the sex-organ-shaped treats in an apparent display of feminist empowerment.

Before entering the play, attendees were handed a program, which listed various skits to be performed. The skits included “My angry vagina,” “My vagina was my village,” “The little coochie snorcher that could,” and “Reclaiming c--t.” For many, the highlight (or lowlight) of the show was a skit called “A six-year-old girl was asked.” This skit asked a child questions like “If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?”; “If it could speak what would it say?” and; “What does your vagina smell like?”

Fortunately, an actual six-year-old was not used in this particular production. Feminists occasionally make smart decisions. Even blind squirrels occasionally find nuts.

Unbelievably, the brochure passed out at TVM claimed the following: “Since the US occupation and regime change in Iraq, women have lost more freedom than they’ve gained.” Director Kathleen Berkeley continues the tradition of using the WRC to promote anti-Bush propaganda, even after the Kerry defeat.

But the most embarrassing part of the evening occurred when UNC-W Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo was recognized in public by the Vagina Warriors for establishing a domestic violence task force in the wake of the murders of two UNC-W students. This recognition was given despite DePaolo’s public admission that she spent less time on the murders of the two students than she spent on a hazing incident involving the UNC-W swim team. Both murdered women had been stalked by male students with prior criminal records.

The chancellor’s decision to attend the Vagina Monologues (and to be recognized by the Vagina Warriors) raises serious questions about her judgment. But I also wonder where the Board of Trustees stands on a few issues. For example:

1. Does the Board condemn the use of the “c-word” as degrading to women? Or do they, like (recently resigned) Colorado University President Elizabeth Hoffman, think the word is sometimes endearing?

2. Does the Board approve of the sale of sex-organ shaped lollipops at university-sponsored events?

3a) Does the Board condemn the questioning of a six-year-old girl about the smell of her vagina?

b) Do they see this as evidence of pedophilia?

c) Are they willing to condemn pedophilia, despite the campus emphasis on moral relativism?

4. Does the Board question Rosemary DePaolo’s competence? If not, do they question the competence of her advisors?

5. How long will the inmates be in charge of the asylum?

From what I understand, many campus feminists think that marching across a stage chanting the word “vagina” will eventually win them the right to vote. I think it just makes them look stupid. But, what do I know. I’m a happy man, without an angry vagina.

©2005 Mike S. Adams

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Ann Coulter: Freeze! I Just Had My Nails Done!

By Ann Coulter
http://www.frontpagemag.com/
March 17, 2005

How many people have to die before the country stops humoring feminists? Last week, a defendant in a rape case, Brian Nichols, wrested a gun from a female deputy in an Atlanta courthouse and went on a murderous rampage. Liberals have proffered every possible explanation for this breakdown in security except the giant elephant in the room – who undoubtedly has an eating disorder and would appreciate a little support vis-à-vis her negative body image.

The New York Times said the problem was not enough government spending on courthouse security ("Budgets Can Affect Safety Inside Many Courthouses"). Yes, it was tax-cuts-for-the-rich that somehow enabled a 200-pound former linebacker to take a gun from a 5-foot-tall grandmother.
Atlanta court officials dispensed with any spending issues the next time Nichols entered the courtroom when he was escorted by 17 guards and two police helicopters. He looked like P. Diddy showing up for a casual dinner party.

I think I have an idea that would save money and lives: Have large men escort violent criminals. Admittedly, this approach would risk another wave of nausea and vomiting by female professors at Harvard. But there are also advantages to not pretending women are as strong as men, such as fewer dead people. Even a female math professor at Harvard should be able to run the numbers on this one.

Of course, it's suspiciously difficult to find any hard data about the performance of female cops. Not as hard as finding the study showing New Jersey state troopers aren't racist, but still pretty hard to find.

Mostly what you find on Lexis-Nexis are news stories quoting police chiefs who have been browbeaten into submission, all uttering the identical mantra after every public-safety disaster involving a girl cop. It seems that female officers compensate for a lack of strength with "other" abilities, such as cooperation, empathy and intuition.

There are lots of passing references to "studies" of uncertain provenance, but which always sound uncannily like a press release from the Feminist Majority Foundation. (Or maybe it was The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which recently released a study claiming that despite Memogate, "Fahrenheit 9/11," the Richard Clarke show and the jihad against the Swift Boat Veterans, the press is being soft on Bush.)

The anonymous "studies" about female officers invariably demonstrate that women make excellent cops – even better cops than men! One such study cited an episode of "She's the Sheriff," starring Suzanne Somers.

A 1993 news article in the Los Angeles Times, for example, referred to a "study" – cited by an ACLU attorney – allegedly proving that "female officers are more effective at making arrests without employing force because they are better at de-escalating confrontations with suspects." No, you can't see the study or have the name of the organization that performed it, and why would you ask?

There are roughly 118 million men in this country who would take exception to that notion. I wonder if women officers "de-escalate" by mentioning how much more money their last suspect made.

These aren't unascertainable facts, like Pinch Sulzberger's SAT scores. The U.S. Department of Justice regularly performs comprehensive surveys of state and local law enforcement agencies, collected in volumes called "Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics."
The inestimable economist John Lott has looked at the actual data. (And I'll give you the citation! John R. Lott Jr., "Does a Helping Hand Put Others at Risk? Affirmative Action, Police Departments and Crime," Economic Inquiry, April 1, 2000.)

It turns out that, far from "de-escalating force" through their superior listening skills, female law enforcement officers vastly are more likely to shoot civilians than their male counterparts. (Especially when perps won't reveal where they bought a particularly darling pair of shoes.)

Unable to use intermediate force, like a bop on the nose, female officers quickly go to fatal force.

According to Lott's analysis, each 1 percent increase in the number of white female officers in a police force increases the number of shootings of civilians by 2.7 percent.

Adding males to a police force decreases the number of civilians accidentally shot by police. Adding black males decreases civilian shootings by police even more. By contrast, adding white female officers increases accidental shootings. (And for my Handgun Control Inc. readers: Private citizens are much less likely to accidentally shoot someone than are the police, presumably because they do not have to approach the suspect and make an arrest.)

In addition to accidentally shooting people, female law enforcement officers are also more likely to be assaulted than male officers – as the whole country saw in Atlanta last week. Lott says: "Increasing the number of female officers by 1 percentage point appears to increase the number of assaults on police by 15 percent to 19 percent."

In addition to the obvious explanations for why female cops are more likely to be assaulted and to accidentally shoot people – such as that our society encourages girls to play with dolls – there is also the fact that women are smaller and weaker than men.

In a study of public-safety officers – not even the general population – female officers were found to have 32 percent to 56 percent less upper body strength and 18 percent to 45 percent less lower body strength than male officers – although their outfits were 43 percent more coordinated. (Here's the cite! Frank J. Landy, "Alternatives to Chronological Age in Determining Standards of Suitability for Public Safety Jobs," Technical Report, Vol. 1, Jan. 31, 1992.)

Another study I've devised involves asking a woman to open a jar of pickles.

There is also the telling fact that feminists demand that strength tests be watered down so that women can pass them. Feminists simultaneously demand that no one suggest women are not as strong as men and then turn around and demand that all the strength tests be changed. It's one thing to waste everyone's time by allowing women to try out for police and fire departments under the same tests given to men. It's quite another to demand that the tests be brawned-down so no one ever has to tell female Harvard professors that women aren't as strong as men.

Acknowledging reality wouldn't be all bad for women. For one thing, they won't have to confront violent felons on methamphetamine. So that's good. Also, while a sane world would not employ 5-foot-tall grandmothers as law enforcement officers, a sane world would also not give full body-cavity searches to 5-foot-tall grandmothers at airports.

Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Rocco DiPippo: A Scholar For Stalin

By Rocco DiPippo
http://www.FrontPageMag.com
March 16, 2005

For twenty years, Grover Furr has been an English professor at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey, where he educates students in his peculiar worldview, which is an updated Stalinism and in which America is the world’s biggest oppressor and greatest terrorist state. While his academic expertise is English literature, he presents himself as an expert on communism, and scours academic forums like the Historians of American Communism net, defending Joseph Stalin and calling America’s role in bringing down the Soviet Empire a moral outrage. “Was there something morally wrong in trying to bring down the Soviet Union? I think the only honest answer possible is: Yes, it was wrong,” says Furr.

In a speech delivered at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex County in New Jersey, Furr said, “I think the reason Stalin is vilified is because, in his day at the helm of the Soviet Union, the exploiters all over the world had something to worry about! That's why I feel some kinship with Stalin and the communist movement of his day.” And not only his day: “What the majority of humanity needs today is an international like that one, to co-ordinate the fight against exploitation -- just as the IMF and the World Bank, Exxon and Reebok, the US and French and the other governments, coordinate the fight FOR exploitation.” A copy of the entire speech appears on his website, the same site his students must use as a study resource.

Although not a historian, Furr frequents the “Historians of American Communism”, a scholarly forum inhabited by experts on Communism like Robert Conquest, John Earl Haynes and Robert W. Cherny. There he takes up causes like denying Stalin’s well-documented campaign to liquidate the Jews: “The mass murder of Jews, but not only of Jews, by the Nazis is very well documented. In the case of the Cold-War horror stories demonizing Stalin, the shoe is on the other foot -- all the evidence points in the opposite direction...Of the hoary horror tales virtually taken for granted as true concerning Stalin, I have researched many at this point in my life, and have yet to find a single one that is true, or anywhere near it." Participants in the forum generally find Furr’s positions to be absurd.

At Montclair University, Furr teaches a “General Humanities” course described on his website as, “an introduction to Western European culture and society from the Ancient World through the Middle Ages.” Required reading for the course includes the following authors: James Axtell, whose “The White Indians of Colonial America” implies that Native American culture was better than European culture in colonial America; Ronald Takaki, a prominent multiculturalist whose views of America’s oppression of minorities is only a shade more moderate than Ward Churchill’s; Rodney Hilton, a British Marxist; G.E.M. de Ste Croix, whose “The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World” is a Marxist tract; and I.F. Stone, a Communist fellow traveler and then New Leftist who once commended the Soviet Union for “steadily expanding democracy in every sphere.”

Another of Furr’s courses, titled “The Great Books and Ideas,” offers more radical-left fare. Readings for the course include works by Karl Marx, a Marxist analysis of Shakespeare by Richard Wilson, a book by Communist Party member Ted Allen, one by Marxist feminist Silvia Federici, and one by radical-left activist Marcus Rediker, who has worked to win a new trial for convicted cop killer and leftist icon Mumia Abu-Jamal.

While Furr has no credentials as a history teacher his duties at Monclair include teaching a course on the Vietnam War. Furr’s course paints America as an oppressive, terrorist state. His Vietnam war page, and his Politics and Social Issues web page, which are course resources, feature virulently anti-U.S. material, much of it penned by him. Furr’s personal views on Vietnam reflect the views of the leftist fringe: “‘The western imperialists, the U.S. among them, are the biggest mass murderers in history’….'The U.S. is even more guilty [of genocide] than Pol Pot.’…'it was a good thing that the U.S. ‘lost’ in Vietnam…. If the US and their South Vietnamese stooges had won, South Vietnam would have been yet another place for American companies to move to. Hundreds of thousands more American workers would have lost their jobs.’…'Under no circumstances, therefore, should we ever support the US government or believe what it says.’” [emphases as in the original]

A number of Furr’s views are taken directly from Challenge, the Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party’s newspaper. Opinion pieces written by Furr on the other hand are published in the school newspaper, The Montclarion, and also posted on his Montclair University website, where he celebrates the violence that took place after the Rodney King verdict, accuses the U.S. of being behind the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II and echoing the views of Ward Churchill and Noam Chomsky implies that on Sept.11, 2001 the U.S. got what it deserved when radical Islamists slammed jetliners into the Twin Towers, killing thousands of innocents.

Furr is involved in the Modern Languages Association [MLA], the largest academic professional organization. MLA methods and recommendations are implemented across the U.S., down to the elementary school level. Professor Furr heads the MLA’s radical caucus. How much influence does he have in shaping the MLA’s agendas? Quite a bit, it appears. During the run-up to its 2003 national conference, the MLA put out a call for papers to be read and discussed at the conference. Out of the five papers submitted, four of them came from the radical caucus. One asked the MLA to work towards “the repeal of the U.S.A. Patriot Act.” A second wanted the MLA to deplore “government war-making projects” and urge “the withdrawal of troops and reallocation of funds to reverse inattention to, and grave deficits in, funding of education and other human services.” A third was concerned with pay for graduate students and faculty members. The last proposal is worth quoting, since it appears to have been penned by Furr himself:

“Whereas in wartime, governments commonly shape language to legitimate aggression, misrepresent policies, conceal aims, stigmatize dissent, and block critical thought; and

“Whereas distortions of this sort proliferate now, as in the use of the phrase ‘war on terrorism,’ to underwrite military action anywhere in the world, against whomever our government sees as opponents; and

“Whereas we are professionals committed to scrupulous inquiry into language and culture; Be it resolved that the Modern Language Association supports its members in conducting critical analysis of war talk, in public forums and, as appropriate, in classrooms.”

What do Professor Furr’s students think of him? A sampling of the views of forty of them is available on Rate My Professors, a website which allows students to rate teachers on a scale from 1-5 (Furr averaged 2.4), and gives insight into how Furr is perceived by them: “'I can't believe this man is teaching!’... ‘He sends you radical left wing propaganda almost every day through email’… ‘Pretend to be a communist and he'll think you're the greatest thing ever’…'He uses the classroom as a platform to teach his radical political views’…'Leans so far to the left he's horizontal’… ‘Hates the USA’…'Keeps on talking about his life and nothing relating to the work’…'If he spent more time concentrating on teaching his students than spewing hate in the discussion threads, maybe he would be a happier person!’...'What a bitter, hateful man!’”

Furr’s own attitude towards conservatives in academia is this: “What [American universities] need, and would much benefit from, is more Marxists, radicals, leftists – all terms conventionally applied to those who fight against exploitation, racism, sexism, and capitalism. We can never have too many of these, just as we can never have too few ‘conservatives.’”

In an academia that has become highly politicized and where conservatives are increasingly rare, Furr’s views are valued currency. His web pages are recommended as both a teaching resource and as a resource in developing curricula.

Rocco DiPippo is a free-lance political writer who publishes the Antiprotester Journal.

Jonah Goldberg: First, Kill the Cats

http://www.townhall.com/
Jonah Goldberg (archive)
March 16, 2005

Wisconsin is considering allowing the hunting of cats. Not cougars or mountain lions or tigers on the loose but putty-tats: Sylvester the cat. Morris the cat. Garfield.

The aim is to prevent the mass-killing of birds by cats, mostly of the feral - i.e., wild - variety. In other words, some people want to give granny a shotgun so she can kill Sylvester before he gets Tweety Bird.

I'm more of a dog guy, but I like cats. Nonetheless, a cat massacre makes more sense than you might think.

Let's start with the big picture. If you know anything about American environmentalism, you know that Rachel Carson, author of "Silent Spring," is a secular saint. Time magazine named her one of the "100 People of the Century." In 1992 a highfalutin panel of distinguished experts named "Silent Spring" as the most influential book of the last half-century. "More than any other (book), it changed the way Americans, and people around the world, looked at the reckless way we live on this planet," writes Philip Shabecoff in "A Fierce Green Fire," his history of U.S. environmentalism.

As the name suggests, the thesis of "Silent Spring" was that the birds were dying from the ravages of DDT and other pesticides. The chemical was found to thin the eggshells of some species of birds, most notably eagles and falcons - which, a pedant might add, are not particularly known for their contributions to melodious springs.

Carson's science was deeply flawed, partly because we've learned a lot more since then and partly because she was interested in scoring ideological points. She asserted, for example, that DDT was a carcinogen in humans, which isn't true. For a thorough debunking of the Rachel Carson myth, see Ronald Bailey's "Silent Spring at 40" in the June 2002 issue of Reason magazine.

Anyway, while Carson's cancer scare was a big deal, the part of the book which has kept "Silent Spring" on the shelves is the bit about how spring would no longer bring a symphony of songbirds.

Well, the inconvenient truth is that cats kill more American birds, particularly songbirds, than DDT and pesticides ever did.

Wisconsin is considering allowing residents to shoot feral cats in part because a respected study found that felines kill between 7.8 million and 217 million birds in Wisconsin alone. Data from a Michigan study suggest that some 75 million birds are killed there just in the summer alone.
Estimates for how many birds cats kill in the United States vary almost as widely. The lowest estimates are around 100 million and go up to the 2.5 billion, though the consensus seems to hover around half a billion. What this leaves out, of course, is that many vulnerable bird species are particularly threatened by cats (and, alas, sometimes dogs as well), a non-native predator that often kills small animals for the fun of it.

Cat defenders say that this is all bogus. If cats didn't slaughter the birds, natural predators would. Maybe, but they are, uh, natural predators, and nature's a big deal for environmentalists, right? Or have I been reading the wrong magazines? They also claim that losing habitat to development is a bigger threat than cats. OK, but even if that were true in some places, why should that get cats off the hook?

This raises an important insight into what is really going on here. The objection to DDT and pesticides has a great deal to do with the fear of technology and material "progress." For example, Carson's memory is still invoked regularly by the anti-pesticide movement today.

Anti-pesticide activists claim that some 67 million birds die every year from such chemicals. In other words, compounds that make food cheaper and more abundant for everybody kill between 10 and 20 percent of the number of birds killed by cats every year. And yet, environmentalists are terrified of making cats a major issue, because it will split the movement. An official at the World Wildlife Fund calls the cat issue a "third rail" for environmentalists.

Whether DDT was as bad for birds as Carson and her heirs claim is still the subject of great controversy. What is not controversial is that the bans and regulations Carson's work implemented came with real costs. In the Third World, malaria continues to kill millions because Carson-induced DDT phobia. The bias against pesticides produces lower food yields with no proven benefits for human health.

Meanwhile, the contribution of feral cats is 100 percent aesthetic. We like kitties. This raises an outrageous double-standard. Dogs - our closest allies in the animal kingdom - can be shot for harassing wildlife or livestock. But free-loading cats are protected when they massacre birds for sport. Where's the justice?

This isn't to say that there aren't other important reasons why spring is becoming more silent. But the loss of habitat, pesticides and the advent of wind power all bring significant social benefits. While tolerance for the multitude of feral, often diseased, wild cats is pure, spoiled self-indulgence.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online, a Townhall.com member group.
©2005 Tribune Media Services
Contact Jonah Goldberg Read Goldberg's biography

Dennis Prager: Judeo-Christian Values, Part VIII

Part VIII: Judeo-Christian values are larger than Judaism or Christianity
Dennis Prager (archive)
March 15, 2005

Some Jews and Christians object to the term “Judeo-Christian.” How can there be Judeo-Christian values, they argue, when Judaism and Christianity differ? In a previous column, I explained that one should not confuse theology with values. Theological differences are not the same as value differences.

Nevertheless there are some value differences between the religions.

But that is precisely the greatness of Judeo-Christian values: They are greater than the sum of their parts. That is why in this series of essays I have been making the case for Judeo-Christian values, not for all Christian values and not for all Jewish values.

The combination of Jewish Scripture (the Old Testament) and Christian thought and activism – as worked out mostly in America and mostly by Judeo-based Christians – has forged something larger and more universally applicable than either Judaism or Christianity alone.Let me give two examples of specifically Jewish and Christian values that are not Judeo-Christian values.

As Judaism developed, it developed a legal system (Halakha) that increasingly aimed to separate Jews from non-Jews. One purpose was to keep Jews from incorporating pagan practices and values into the one monotheistic religion. Over time, however, it was also a result of the constant decimation of the Jewish people by antisemites. Jews, for good reason, feared disappearing. Thus survival – in part through avoiding social contact with non-Jews – became the primary concern of Jewish life, not influencing the world. Whatever the reasons, Judaism retreated from the world. Judeo-Christian values bring Jewish values back into the world.

An example of a Christian value that is not Judeo-Christian is Christianity’s traditional emphasis on faith above works and on an exclusive credo. Many Christians, including those who forcefully advocate Judeo-Christian values, believe that one must profess faith in Christ in order to be saved, that no amount of good deeds a person may perform, even if that person also has a deep belief in God (the Father), suffices in God’s eyes. And though Catholicism has emphasized works along with faith, for most of Church history, the importance of works was restricted to Catholics. Non-Catholics, no matter how good, were often denied salvation and frequently persecuted solely for their different faith (e.g., Huguenots and Jews).

Until the twentieth century, European Christianity, as embodied in the Church, de-emphasized its Jewish roots, and it usually persecuted Jews (though never ordered, indeed opposed, their physical annihilation – annihilation required a secular ideology, Nazism). No Christian state referred to itself as “Judeo-Christian.” That identity arose with the Christians of America, who from the outset were at least as deeply immersed in the Old Testament as in the New. The American Christian identified with the Jews rather than saw himself as simply superseding them.

These American Christians chose a Torah verse – “Proclaim liberty throughout the land” – for their Liberty Bell; learned and taught Hebrew; adopted the Jewish notion of being chosen to be a light unto the nations; saw their leaving Europe as a second exodus; had every one of its presidents take the oath of office on an Old and New Testament Bible – and while every president mentioned God in his inaugural address, not one mentioned Jesus.

Of course, most Protestant Christians who hold Judeo-Christian values continue to believe that there is no salvation outside of faith in Christ. But precisely because they do hold Judeo-Christian values, they work hand in hand with others whose faith they deem insufficient or incorrect (e.g., Jews and Mormons). So while they theologically reject other faiths, evangelical Christians are the single strongest advocates of Judeo-Christian values.

They are what can be called “Judeo-Christians.” Since they founded America, such Christians have recognized the critical significance of the Jewish text – the Old Testament – which forms the foundation of Judeo-Christian values. It provided the God of Christianity, their supra-natural Creator, the notions of divine moral judgment and divine love, the God-based universal morality they advocate and try to live by, the Ten Commandments, the holy, the sanctity of human life, the belief in a God of history and that history has meaning, and moral progress. All these and more came from the Jews and their texts.

But while the Jews provided the text, the Christians brought the text and its values into the world at large and applied them to a society composed of Jews, Christians, atheists, and members of other religions.

Those Judeo-Christian values have made America the greatest experiment in human progress and liberty and the greatest force for good in history.

And they are exportable. In fact, they are humanity’s only hope.

©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Dennis Prager Read Prager's biography

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lawrence Toppman: A Delightful Flight With Spirit Behind Peter Pan


The Charlotte Observer
Published: Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Who'd have thought the best Christmas movie of the decade would be one that never mentions the holiday, doesn't contain a flake of snow or a strip of tinsel, and takes place a century ago during a warm British summer?

Miramax is releasing "Finding Neverland" at Thanksgiving so it'll be fresh in the minds of Oscar voters. Yet the timing is ideal for audiences, too. "Neverland" embodies concepts we associate with this season: the ability to retain childlike optimism and hope, the notion that people are essentially good if you trust and encourage them, the faith that a life after death will reunite believers.

We begin not in a church but a London theater, where the latest farce by J.M. Barrie has failed to please. American-born producer Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman) frets over lost money and Barrie's lost reputation. Barrie (Johnny Depp), the least dour Scotsman on earth, brushes off the failure, just as he's brushed off marital difficulties with his stifled wife, Mary (Radha Mitchell).

The childless author looks up from his park bench one day to see his Newfoundland romping with four kids, who turn out to be the sons of recently widowed Sylvia Davies (Kate Winslet). Barrie improvises a scene where the Newfie becomes a dancing bear and he its trainer, and all but stubbornly literal Peter Davies (Freddie Highmore) are enchanted.

Barrie and the boys inspire each other over the succeeding months. He renews their interest in play and provides a father figure for all but Peter; they stimulate him to begin a children's show about pirates, fairies, Indians and a boy who can fly but will never grow up. Two people don't share in this joy: Mary, who feels ever more isolated, and Sylvia's mother (Julie Christie), who believes her daughter should look for a real husband and dump this whimsical, sexless surrogate.

David Magee's script adapts Allan Knee's play "The Man Who Was Peter Pan." It plays fast and loose with facts: There were five Davies boys, and Barrie knew them for many years before writing "Peter Pan." More crucially, Davies' husband was alive when "Pan" premiered on Dec. 27, 1904.

If this were a biographical film, its most serious omission would be Barrie's sexual attitudes; his marriage was reportedly unconsummated, and Barrie - who was physically almost the exact opposite of the tall, handsome, assured Depp - may not have been interested in women. (That would explain the totally platonic connection between the playwright and Sylvia Davies in this film.)

But "Neverland" is not a biography. It's an allegory about creativity and imagination, about seeking in art a happiness we cannot sustain in life. (That was a common theme in Barrie's novels and plays.) It's also about the value of retaining a childlike wonder while acquiring a mature understanding of the world. On those levels, it succeeds superbly.

Director Marc Forster makes a smooth transition from the gritty Southern tragedy "Monster's Ball" to the top-hatted gentility of Edwardian England. He lets the movie slip into full-blown fantasy sequences often enough to reveal the fertility of Barrie's brain while keeping us grounded in reality.

Johnny Depp has finally won me over to rabid support after "Neverland" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." He gives the most controlled, least mannered performance of his career, staying sweet and rueful while suggesting unseen emotional depths. He also has an excellent rapport with serious young Highmore, which bodes well for their remake of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" under director Tim Burton.

Winslet, who seems maternal for the first time, stretches successfully here. The elegant Mitchell and self-possessed Hoffman fill out their small roles properly, and Christie is quietly severe as the dragon lady who finally drops some of her protective scales.

Forster and Magee are wise enough not to insist on a scene of reconciliation or apology for this old lady; she simply bursts into spontaneous applause to save Tinkerbell's life during a performance of "Peter Pan." The implication is clear: The oldest and most hidebound among us can become joyful children again, if we have proper stimulation and a mind that hasn't slammed shut.