Saturday, May 26, 2007
May 25. 2007 3:53PM
By AARON BEARD
AP Sports Writer
This should be Mike Pressler's moment of triumph.
The Duke lacrosse program he spent more than a decade building into a power is two wins away from its first national championship. The players he recruited, all-Americans among them, are eager for another shot at the title that eluded them two years ago by just a single goal.
But Pressler is not here.
He is instead moving into his family's new home in Rhode Island this weekend, forced by a since-discredited rape allegation to watch another coach lead the Blue Devils' pursuit of a trophy that many feel belongs on his mantle.
Pressler remains guarded about his feelings. But in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on the eve of the NCAA lacrosse championships, he admits to cherishing his former players' success from afar.
"I don't think 'pride' or 'proud' even describes how I feel about these young men and what they've accomplished in spite of what they've been through," Pressler said. "It's an amazing story and the story should be focused on them.
"For me, I get gratification to see them succeed at the highest level with everything they've been through. That, to me, is an amazing thing."
In some ways, it seems little has changed for the Blue Devils (16-2) since they last reached college lacrosse's final weekend. All-American attacker Matt Danowski and prolific goal scorer Zack Greer are among the veterans of the 2005 team still on a roster that remains fiercely loyal to Pressler.
"We're his kids, no doubt about that," senior defenseman Tony McDevitt said. "He watches and he wants to be so happy for us because we're succeeding. But at the same time, he's not there with us. And we feel the same way sometimes. He'll always be my coach."
And that's fine with first-year coach John Danowski, who left Hofstra last summer to inherit his friend's job.
"This is Mike's team. Who are we kidding here?" he said. "He brought them here. He's responsible for the development of this team, and I'm just kind of the caretaker."
Pressler appeared to have Duke on track to return to the national title game last season. The Blue Devils were 6-2 and highly ranked when allegations emerged in March 2006 that three players raped a woman at a team party where she had been hired to perform as a stripper.
The allegations wrecked the life Pressler had built in 16 seasons on Duke's gothic-styled campus, where the expectations of winning are set high by the school's best-known face - men's basketball coach and three-time national champion Mike Krzyzewski. The university canceled the remainder of the season and accepted Pressler's resignation the following month, shortly before players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans were indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense.
Pressler told his players their season and his time at Duke were over in an emotionally wrenching meeting. It was the final move in a Blue Devil career that that included 153 wins, three Atlantic Coast Conference championships and 10 trips to the NCAA tournament - including the one-goal loss to Johns Hopkins in the '05 final that at the time seemed to be the start of so much more.
Nearly a year later, when North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all remaining charges and declared the three players "innocent" victims of a "tragic rush to accuse," Pressler became one of the biggest victims of the case.
"I don't think there's any question of that," senior defenseman Casey Carroll said. "Since Day One, if you asked any of the alumni or anyone who's played for him, he always treated us as adults, but also looked out for us. Everything that happened wasn't a lapse of his judgment at all. It was just an unfortunate occurrence of events that he couldn't control. I think the reasons why he left were completely unfounded."
He remains the only official at Duke to lose a job as a result of the case, even though an internal investigation concluded he was the only university employee to take significant action when accusations of wrongdoing - including disorderly conduct and public urination - emerged about the lacrosse team.
Now the coach at Division II Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., Pressler has helped write a book about his experience that goes on sale next month. It will arrive in stores the same day the prosecutor who labeled the lacrosse players "hooligans" goes on trial for several ethics violations tied to his handling of the case.
But while others might, Pressler refuses to call himself a victim. And he won't dwell on all that was lost, saying he and his family have moved on and that he wants the focus to be on Duke's players.
He even hopes to attend Monday's championship game should Duke beat undefeated Cornell in Saturday's semifinals. Still, it's clear the wound hasn't completely healed as he talks with wistful pride about their tournament run.
"It's been a very difficult situation," Pressler said. "We're getting through it. The parents had a difficult situation. They're getting through it. The players had one and they're getting through it. We're all doing our best to make the right thing happen."
"It's about the players and their day in the sun," he said. "They've earned this."
May 25, 2007 12:00 AM
It is a mistake to think that war history is unimportant.
America as we know it might not exist were it not for the battles of Saratoga and Yorktown, Gettysburg, and Antietam. The world the United States shaped so decisively in the 20th century might have looked different were it not for Normandy and Midway.
Battles are so important to history that their names alone — Vienna, Waterloo, Stalingrad — can evoke the beginning or end of epochs and empires. Violent conflict is one of the most persistent characteristics of human history, and warfare features the interplay of strategy, weaponry, chance, logistics, emotion, and leadership. It is an occasion for folly and brutality, and — as we remember on Memorial Day — heroism and sacrifice.
It is for all these reasons that books and TV programming on warfare are so popular; their subject is both fascinating and important, history at its most consequential and dramatic. Nonetheless, military history has been all but banished from college campuses. In an article on this strange deficit in National Review, John J. Miller chalks it up to “an ossified tenure system, scholarly navel-gazing, and ideological hostility to all things military.”
History departments are dominated by a post-Vietnam generation of professors for whom bottom-up “social history” is paramount, and the only areas of interest are race, sex, and class. History focusing on great events and the “great men” central to them is retrograde — let alone military history that ipso facto smacks of militarism. Hence, the rout of military history in the academy that Miller catalogs.
Edward Coffman, a former military historian at the University of Wisconsin, studied the 25 best history departments according to U.S. News & World Report rankings and found that a mere 21 professors out of more than 1,000 listed war as their specialty. A Notre Dame student complained recently: “We have more than 30 full-time history faculty members, but not one is a military historian. Even in their self-described interests, not a single professor lists ‘war’ of any era, although half list religious, gender and race relations.”
Even professors who supposedly specialize in military history do it through the prism of trendy academic obsessions. Miller notes a professor at West Virginia University who lists World War I as one of his “teaching fields,” but his latest work is on “the French hairdressing professions” and the “evolving practices and sensibilities of cleanliness in 20th century France.”
The gatekeepers of the profession practically proscribe traditional military history. John A. Lynn recently looked back at the past 30 years of the prestigious academic journal The American Historical Review. He found no articles on the conduct of World War II, the American Revolution, or the Napoleonic Wars. There were articles that discussed atrocities in the English Civil War and in the American Civil War and an article on World War I — on women soldiers in the Russian army.
One frustrated teacher of military history jokes that military historians have become “exactly the types of marginalized people that the social historians are supposed to be championing.”
That military history has been chased from the academic field is especially perverse given that, when the classes are offered, they are popular with students. And military history, as a discipline, is as vital as ever. Writing on the American Heritage’s website, Sarah Lawrence College professor Frederic Smoler argues that “the past 30 years have seen a brilliant expansion in the intellectual and methodological breadth of military history,” beginning with the publication of John Keegan’s 1976 classic The Face of Battle.
None of this is enough to overcome the deep intellectual bias against military history. New Republic contributing editor David A. Bell locates that bias deep in the social sciences: “The origin of these sciences lie in liberal, Enlightenment-era thinking that dismissed war as primitive, irrational and alien to modern civilization.” This represents a fundamental misapprehension of human nature and thus the nature of history.
Brave men always will be necessary to defend freedom, and what they have done deserves to be remembered, and studied.
© 2007 by King Features Syndicate
May 26, 2007 12:00 PM
I remember when I was a kid; one thing was clear to me. The more I learned about the rest of the world, the luckier I felt just having been born in America. The more I learned about America, the more I appreciated what those who came before us built; and how exceptional they were.
Not that there aren’t other great places to live, but America is unique. It’s not just that we are the freest and most prosperous county the world has ever seen. America has also freed more people than any other nation in history.
A lot of people have done their part to see that we are blessed with the advantages we enjoy — from hardworking pioneer mothers to the Framers of the Constitution. Memorial Day is coming up, though, and I’m thinking more about American soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice — those who died to protect our way of life and make the world safe for democracy.
There are some people, though, who don’t think that’s such a good idea. Some people even want to use Memorial Day to protest our military’s presence in Iraq. The irony is that their right to protest was paid for by people willing to risk everything to keep the forces of tyranny at bay — here as well as Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Korea, Burma, Vietnam, the Philippines, and dozens of other countries.
Over the years, a lot of people have tried to talk us out of feeling about America the way we do. Instead of pride in what America has done, they want us to feel guilty — generally because we have so much more than rest of the world. Of course, it wouldn’t help the rest of the world one whit if we had less — either of freedom or of prosperity. On the contrary, it’s our liberties that have made us prosperous and there’s no reason the rest of the world couldn’t be just as well-off — if they embraced freedom as well.
Almost always, when I talk to people who see America as the problem, their arguments are based on ignorance or an outright tangling of history. What they thought they knew about America and the world came second- and third-hand through people with axes to grind.
That’s why I was troubled recently when I came across a report by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. The report’s conclusion was that American colleges and universities are failing to increase their students’ knowledge of America’s history and institutions.
Students polled in a wide range of colleges and universities showed no real improvement in their historical knowledge. Some actually forgot part of what they’d learned in high school by the time they graduated — and I’m talking about some of our best-known Ivy League schools.
Less than half of college seniors knew that, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” is from the Declaration of Independence. Less than half knew basic facts about the First Amendment. Half didn’t know that the Federalist Papers were written in support of the Constitution’s ratification. Only a quarter of seniors knew the purpose of the Monroe Doctrine.
This is our quandary. Memorial Day is about remembering. It’s about remembering those who died for our country; but it’s also about remembering why they believed it was worth dying for. Too many Americans, though, have never been taught our own history and heritage. How can you remember something that you’ve never learned?
— Fred Thompson is an actor and former United States senator from Tennessee.
© PAUL HARVEY SHOW, ABC RADIO NETWORKS
"Here you don't know what will solve a problem. It's about looking for a key." Sheik Reda Shata, the imam of a thriving mosque in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
May 25, 2007
The Orlando Sentinel
What a relief to read in a new Pew Research Center study that Muslims in America are "largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world."
Phew. Praise Allah. No more worries.
On the other hand, the study's findings may depend on how you define "largely."
Here's another way of putting the Pew results: While a majority of older U.S. Muslims have largely assimilated, more than a few younger Muslims think suicide bombings are justified.
Having trouble remembering where you put those pompoms? Stick around. Despite the upbeat treatment of the Pew study -- and headlines that conveyed a positive message -- the devil in the details is less reassuring.
In fact, the survey found that though a majority of the 1,050 surveyed (a fraction of the Pew's estimated 2.35 million Muslims in this country) are prospering, a significant minority are not assimilating and sympathize with radical Islam.
There is good news among the survey results, to be sure, especially if you're Muslim. In classically American fashion, 71 percent think that one can get ahead by working hard and 78 percent report being happy. In delightful news, those who report being happiest are young Muslims ages 18-29, who also comprise 30 percent of the total U.S. Muslim population.
In less happy news, these young Muslims are also more accepting of Islamist extremism. Add to that disconcerting note the following:
Sixty percent of the young group consider themselves Muslim first, American second. Among all young Muslims, 26 percent think that suicide bombings are justified often, sometimes or rarely. Another 5 percent said they "don't know" or refused to answer.
Don't know? To kill civilians or not to kill civilians is not a tricky question.
If 26 percent are fine with suicide bombing and another 5 percent probably are, then we may reasonably conclude that 31 percent of young American Muslims -- or roughly 219,000 -- support murdering innocents in the name of Islam. Peachy. Given that 9/11 was a supersized suicide bombing, it would seem we have a problem.
In another finding of Muslim American disconnect, fewer than half of all American Muslims believe that Arabs engineered the 9/11 attacks. Another third expressed no opinion or refused to answer.
That means that the vast majority of Muslims in America think ... what? That the U.S. attacked itself? That Israel did it?
While a majority of Muslims of all ages view al-Qaeda "very unfavorably" (58 percent), an alarming number seem to be ambivalent. A whopping 27 percent said they didn't know how they felt toward the terrorist organization or refused to answer the question. An immigrant population that does not recognize the enemy of its adopted country cannot be said to have assimilated.
Nevertheless, the Pew study authors tell us that compared to Europe, we're in good shape. Yes, sure, "there is somewhat more acceptance of Islamic extremism in some segments of the U.S. Muslim public than others," concede the authors. " ... Nonetheless, absolute levels of support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans are quite low, especially when compared with Muslims around the world."
In other words, presumably, we should be grateful that only 200,000 or so local Muslims support terrorism. In Europe, where many young Muslims are unemployed and alienated, things are much worse. True, but seldom does America measure success according to a things-could-be-worse standard.
Not so great is bad enough for reasoned alarm.
All of the study's conclusions depend, meanwhile, on whether one trusts its population figures, which Pew warns should be interpreted with caution. Since this was a telephone survey using only landlines -- and given that 48 percent of Americans age 18-29 use cells phones exclusively -- the number of young Muslims could be much higher than estimated. The truth is, no one knows how many Muslims live in the U.S. because the Census Bureau doesn't ask about religious identity. Muslim organizations put the figure at closer to 7 million based on mosque attendance.
If there are 7 million Muslims in the U.S., 30 percent of whom are young, 31 percent of whom do not forswear suicide bombings, then that could mean that as many as 651,000 young Muslim Americans sympathize with radical Islam and terrorism.
All things considered, it may be too soon to celebrate Muslim assimilation. Let's do hold the fireworks.
Friday, May 25, 2007
The Washington Times
May 25, 2007
Former President Jimmy Carter is a clever rascal. The other day, when he esteemed the presidency of George W. Bush "the worst in history," he was naturally intent on bold-faced headlines. He is always covetous of attention. But there was more to it.
Assigning the Bush presidency the "worst in history" is now a major theme among leading Democrats, and it cannot have been lost on Jimmy that if President Bush's presidency becomes known as the "worst," Jimmy's presidency will only be runner-up. So Jimmy rather brazenly joined his fellow Democrats and made yet another attempt to rise from history's cellar.
Unfortunately he keeps writing books. With his 2006 blunderbuss, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," he has now written 21. With each book, he emerges anew in all his cheesiness, his hollowness, his ignominious smallness.
It is difficult to believe the American people ever raised him to the presidency, but then he was elected in the middle of the 1970s, a decade when America was on the run. The Soviet Union was taking advantage of the Democrats' recent foreign policy bug-out, Vietnam. Moscow's agents and allies were busily advancing the Marxist-Leninist hooey in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. At home, the moribund liberals were putting the final touches on their governmental monstrosity, the welfare state, thus ensuring stagflation, ungovernable cities, and continued wretchedness for their victims, the poor.
Jimmy was an exemplary leader for them. When he bewailed America's "malaise," they imagined still more social engineering, higher taxes and government bureaucracies to treat the malaise. Unfortunately for Jimmy and his liberal friends, Gov. Ronald Reagan, a man Jimmy has always considered his moral and intellectual inferior, knocked him off in 1980. Jimmy turned to writing books and serving as a professor at Emory University. The books have all been insipid and occasionally remarkably bad.
His first book, "Keeping Faith," won him the J. Gordon Coogler Award for the Worst Book of the Year in 1982. For the next two decades, his infantile books were merely childish. Then in 2005 there was a dropping off. He copped another Coogler for his "Our Endangered Values." In this book, he seemed to be taking credit for the foreign policy achievements of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and the pope, whom he accused of alienating Latin American Catholics with his ferocious anti-communism. Jimmy's fantasies often are not even amusing.
His 2006 book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," is probably his worst and least amusing. It is mendacious and anti-Semitic and has attracted charges of plagiarism. It caused Professor Kenneth Stein to resign from the Carter Center because of its inaccurate and unfair depiction of Israel through three decades of diplomatic and military dealings with the Palestinians. Mr. Stein had served as an aide to Mr. Carter during most of those years. He considers the book deceitful and malicious. As the book's incendiary title adumbrates, Jimmy compares Israel with the white supremacist regime of old South Africa. Fourteen members of the Carter Center's advisory board have resigned over the book. In March, Jimmy explained these resignations to an audience at George Washington University by saying, "They all happen to be Jewish Americans."
Many years ago an early biographer of Jimmy, Betty Glad, pointed out that he began his political career appealing to Georgia's Ku Klux Klan. It is fitting that today Jimmy is charged with one of the Klansmen's key bigotries, anti-Semitism.
For his efforts with this book, the judges on the J. Gordon Coogler Prize Committee are awarding Jimmy his third Coogler. No one else has won this award that many times, though the Clinton sycophant, Jeffrey Toobin, won it twice, back to back in 1999 and 2000. If he writes a book on Hillary, Mr. Toobin will probably win his third Coogler.
Yet Jimmy has now won his last Coogler. Members of the Committee have decreed that Coogler Awards for the Worst Book of the Year shall be limited to three in a lifetime. I think they suspect Jimmy of writing these bad books as a publicity stunt. I disagree with them. Taking in the whole sweep of this little scamp's life, I think he really means every mean, stupid and treacherous sentiment in "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." He has been insincere in many of his endeavors, but when he is cheap and nasty in a book he is being true to himself.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His "The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President's Life After the White House" has just been published by Thomas Nelson.
Dick Cheney's daughter Mary Cheney, left, is bringing out the political extremes in people with the announcement that she is going to raise a child with her partner, Heather Poe.
Today, in Washington, D.C., Mary Cheney gave birth to Samuel David Cheney. The baby, the product, apparently, of artificial insemination has no known father, apart from Ms Cheney’s girlfriend Heather Poe. Up the road from Washington, in Hackensack, N.J., 60-year-old Frieda Birnbaum, described as a “mid-life counsellor,” gave birth to twins. Ms Birnbaum does have a husband and three children, but the twins are the product of in vitro fertilization arranged in South Africa.
Mary Cheney’s father says he is delighted. Four years ago, when the subject of his daughter’s lesbianism was brought up, Cheney declared the new moral code of the Republican Party: “Freedom does mean freedom for everybody. People ought to be free to choose any arrangement they want. It’s really no one else’s business.” Ms Birnbaum’s party affiliation is not known, but she obviously agrees. The oldest new mother on record, she told ABC News: “Age has been redefined” an warned anyone who thinks otherwise “need to get ready for what’s coming up in our society.”
The fact that she will be over 80 when the twins graduate from college does not bother Ms Birnbaum one whit. The three Cheneys, for their part, do not seem bothered by the fact that their child will be reared, without a father, by a pair of Lesbians. Babies in our society are not potential adult human beings. They are merely toys to be played with by morally retarded freaks.
In roaming briefly in the blogosphere, I find some disapproval but almost exclusively on pragmatic grounds. “There’s nothing wrong with artificial insemination/in vitro fertilization per se, but under the circumstances–Lesbian couple, 60-year-old woman–it is inappropriate in this case.” To take only the example of in vitro fertilization, this procedure normally depends on the implantation of many fetus, hence the likelihood of multiple births. It also means that human lives are being created as procreational cannon fodder: bear two, kill three or four.
I sometimes wonder what alien planet I have landed on. It does not require a papal encyclical (Humanae vitae) to tell Christians that playing God is always wrong, even in the best of cases. But non-Christians with a moral sense beyond Christopher Hitchens might reach the same conclusion. What is it environmentalists are always warning us against–the human presumption that we humans have the right to subjugate nature to our personal whims. For ancient pagans, the bottom line of their moral code was summed up by a famous poet (Pindar): Do not try to be a god. That is the true meaning of the Delphic injunction, Know Thyself.
But today we are all a bunch of freaking (I mean it literally, not as a euphemism) Frankensteins. We want our children to have designer genes inside their designer jeans, we want to have sex with whatever we like whenever we like, and we want to go on being stupid spoiled children, thanks to face-lifts, breast-lifts, and penis-lifts, until the ultimate cosmetic surgeon–the undertaker–mummifies us for earthy eternity.
“Here pickled in formaldehyde and painted like a whore
Shrimp-pink incorruptible, not lost or gone before.”
That’s from the poet Dennis Barlow (Waugh’s hero in The Loved One).
These people cannot give birth naturally, live naturally, or die naturally. Or, put more simply, they can never really die because they can never really live. Scott records the witticism of a French actress who described divorce as the only Jacobin sacrament. In a similar sense, the liberals’ only sacrament of death is not a funeral, but Lenin-style preservation, and for them life is the virtual reality of videoporn, virtual sex, and text-messaging. I feel sure the libertarians will be congratulating Ms Birnbaum on the courage to express her freedom, and conservative Republicans, with whatever reservations they have, will applaud the Cheneys for their family values.
Bob Shrum v. John Edwards
by Michael Crowley
The New Republic
Post date 05.23.07
Political junkies have been awaiting the new memoir by Bob Shrum, the famed consultant to a string of Democratic presidential candidates, including Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. After compiling an 0-8 record in presidential campaigns, Shrum has taken something of a beating from the political and media establishment of late, and he has been conspicuously absent from the 2008 campaign thus far. But it seems he's determined to play a role after all, as is clear from his forthcoming book, No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner.
As befits a canny campaign veteran, the book is self-serving in some places and remarkably tough in others. Shrum devotes several passages, for instance, to his feuds with Kerry's initial 2004 campaign manager, Jim Jordan, who was eventually forced out. Among other things, Shrum blames Jordan for a "rancid" mood inside the campaign and for dismissing the value of the Internet even as Howard Dean was harnessing it to historic effect.
But no one comes in for rougher treatment in this book than Shrum's former client, John Edwards.
Shrum discovered Edwards during the North Carolinian's first Senate campaign in 1998. Shrum writes that, after his encounter with Edwards, he telephoned his business partner and declared, "I think I just met a future President of the United States." But that view would change dramatically.
Shrum went on advising Edwards for several years, including as Edwards was contemplating his vote on the fall 2002 Iraq war resolution. In the one passage of the book already widely leaked, Shrum recounts how he and other political advisers pushed Edwards into a vote for the resolution that Edwards--and, even more so, his wife, Elizabeth--didn't want to cast. The episode didn't make Shrum look great. But the real damage is to Edwards, who comes across as a cipher taking orders from his handlers. As Shrum puts it: "[H]e was the candidate and if he was really against the war it was up to him to stand his ground. He didn't."
(Edwards aides have said Shrum exaggerates the importance of this meeting and wasn't in other pivotal meetings where Edwards deliberated. But, as an aide to a rival campaign recently pointed out to me, in a moment that passed largely unnoticed, Edwards seemed to confirm the basic thrust of this story during the first Democratic presidential debate last month in South Carolina. "I was wrong to vote for this war," Edwards said. "And the lesson I learned from it is to put more faith in my own judgment." It does sound as though Edwards is admitting that he allowed handlers to overrule his conscience.)
By early 2003 Shrum faced a choice: Would he work for Edwards's presidential 2004 campaign? Or would he go with another longtime client and friend, John Kerry? (Shrum had already ruled out two other would-be candidates seeking his services: Joe Lieberman had become "too monochromatic ... the Republicans' favorite Democrat," while Dick Gephardt's "time had passed.")
Shrum decided to go with Kerry. By now, he was coming to see Edwards as a lightweight--"a Clinton who hadn't read the books," as he puts it. Edwards didn't take the news well. Shrum writes that, in a dramatic early 2003 phone call, Edwards told him: "I can't believe you would do this to me and my family. I will never, ever forget it, even on my deathbed." The relationship has been poisoned ever since.
That surely helps to explain why No Excuses repeatedly portrays Edwards as a hyper-ambitious phony. Nowhere is that clearer--and more startling--than in a passage recounting Kerry's first meeting with Edwards during the summer 2004 running-mate selection process.
Kerry had qualms about Edwards from the start, Shrum writes, but grew
even queasier about Edwards after they met. Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he'd never told anyone else--that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he'd do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade's ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before--and with the same preface, that he'd never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn't pick Edwards unless he met with him again.
It's a stunning story--enough so to strain credulity. When I asked one person close to Edwards about it, he argued that Shrum's account makes no sense because Edwards had publicly recounted similar versions of the funeral home story before--and thus wouldn't possibly have claimed on either occasion that he was telling it for the first time. The person cites a 2003 Boston Globe story in which Edwards's pollster, Harrison Hickman, recalls warning Edwards that his first run for the Senate could be a nasty experience: "And John looked at me and said, 'If you've ever had to get up on a medical examiner's table and hug your son goodbye, you know that there's nothing worse that can happen to you,'" Hickman recalled. Whether this disproves Shrum's account will be up to readers to decide. (An Edwards campaign spokesman adds that, as with other instances in the book, Shrum wasn't present and is relaying secondhand information.)
Regardless, Kerry wasn't too creeped out to choose Edwards as his running mate after further meetings. One reason, Shrum suggests, was that Edwards agreed "absolutely" not to run against Kerry in 2008--an assurance Shrum considers to have been insincere. (Edwards, meanwhile, has previously denied saying this.)
But the two men didn't coexist happily. The Kerry campaign was upset that Edwards didn't use more aggressive rhetoric on the campaign trail, Shrum writes. And Shrum portrays Edwards as not entirely ready for prime time. In a prep session before Edwards's one debate with Dick Cheney, Shrum writes, "Edwards came across as unsure and nervous." The session adjourned so Edwards could spend more time reading his briefing books. Shrum writes that Kerry later told him "that Edwards called [Kerry] before the debate in a state of 'panic.' He was worried; maybe he wasn't ready; could he pull this off? Kerry, who thought Edwards was suffering a peculiar but baffling case of stage fright, told his running mate that he'd ... do a great job." (Though Kerry was ultimately disappointed in Edwards's performance, Shrum writes.)
Shrum says that, in the end, Kerry "wished that he'd never picked Edwards, that he should have gone with his gut" and selected Dick Gephardt. And the feelings between Kerry and Edwards seem fairly mutual. After Kerry reached out to Edwards in the wake of his wife's disclosure of a recurrence of cancer, Shrum writes, "Kerry told me that the Edwardses simply stopped returning calls or talking to him and Teresa."
Kerry, by contrast, comes off fairly well. Shrum paints his 2004 candidate as a good man--albeit one prone to maddening gaffes (including one about a "global test" for military action that prompts Shrum to hurl his cellphone against a wall, smashing it to bits). "When his back was plainly against the wall ... Kerry was bold and decisive. At other times, he tended to second-guess, revise, fiddle, confer with anyone in sight, and try to placate everyone around him. For him, I think the easier days in the White House might have been harder. But in a crisis, I believe Kerry would have shown the right stuff as president."
Given that Shrum doesn't seem interested in causing added pain for Kerry, incidentally, it seems reasonable to assume that the anti-Edwards material in this book--like the story involving the mortuary--are included with Kerry's assent. In other words, it may be both Shrum and Kerry who are knifing Edwards here.
It's hard to say whether the ghost of Shrum will have a real impact on Edwards's campaign. No Excuses does tend to reinforce nagging doubts about whether Edwards is a manufactured candidate with outsized ambitions but muddy convictions.
Needless to say, the Edwards campaign doesn't appreciate Shrum's literary debut. "Bob is obviously more interested in selling books than reporting honestly and accurately about what happened. It's just kind of sad," Edwards spokesperson Mark Kornblau said in an e-mail statement.
And it's true that Shrum's constant swipes at Edwards feel like axe-grinding. Why the bitterness? The source close to Edwards cautions that Shrum had sought a bigger role in Edwards's campaign than the candidate was willing to grant. (Shrum himself hints at this in the book, saying Elizabeth Edwards had feared he would be "too visible and dominant a force in the campaign.") Thus, Shrum may have signed up with Kerry only after feeling maligned by the "future president" he'd discovered in North Carolina back in 1998. It's hard to know for sure. Which is, after all, the essential quality of a tell-all Washington memoir--and especially one from a spinner as experienced as Bob Shrum.
Michael Crowley is a senior editor at The New Republic.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Andy Pettitte pitches in the first inning against the Red Sox in New York's 8-3 win at Yankee Stadium.
NEW YORK – No one dared to call it Game 7 of the World Series – who'd be crazy enough to say the season was actually on the line in May? – but even the lowest-calibrated radar could pick up on adrenaline (or was it anxiety?) in the ballpark.
Even before Andy Pettitte threw his first cut-fastball in an 8-3 win over the Red Sox, the Yankees' news cycle was moving at a frantic pace. Jason Giambi nervously danced around questions about his visit to the commissioner's office, where he was interviewed about his recent comments in USA Today.
Giambi's future is now further complicated by a Daily News report that said the Yankee slugger failed an amphetamines test in 2006. ESPN, however, refuted that story late Wednesday.
The Yankees also announced that Carl Pavano's career in the Bronx is all but over, now that he's been given the go-ahead for Tommy John surgery. Tests revealed damage in Pavano's elbow, and he could, if he chooses, continue to rehab without an operation. But the Yankees are already speaking of Pavano in the past tense; that's how certain they are that he will run (not walk) to the operating table and collect the remainder of his $40 million contract from the disabled list.
Hideki Matsui strokes a RBI single scoring Derek Jeter in the seventh inning.
A far more benevolent form of charity was announced soon after, as the Yankees donated $1 million to Virginia Tech and promised to play an exhibition game against the school's baseball team in March.
Still, on this busy night, the most important item on the Yankees' agenda was Game 3 of this miniature Armageddon with the Sox. The gaze the Bombers turned in Andy Pettitte's direction needed no translation, not as they were contemplating an 11½-game deficit with just nine games remaining against Boston.
Save us, is what the Yankees were asking of Pettitte, who took the mound with his three weapons of choice: fastball, cut-fastball, heart.
"Andy rose to the occasion," is what Joe Torre was saying after the game.
It was a rich compliment, considering there are Yankee pitchers who throw harder (Chien-Ming Wang), who have deeper arsenals (Mike Mussina) and who exploit the element of surprise (like rookie Tyler Clippard did against the Mets).
Pettitte, in fact, is the first to admit he doesn't throw as hard as he did in his 20s, which his why, in one scout's words, "Hitters feel so comfortable against him."
Pettitte doesn't disagree. With a self-deprecating laugh, he said, "It seems like everyone is hitting .300 against me."
Yet, Pettitte has that unquantifiable ability to avoid disaster – hard-hit grounders that turn into double plays, or long fly balls that are caught on the warning track. Pettitte did it again, snuffing out the Red Sox without much of a fastball and only two strikeouts.
Of course, the odds of a complete comeback are still against the Bombers; the Sox will have to degrade to a .500 team for a real race to emerge. But the Yankees nevertheless "sent a message" both to Boston and themselves, in Torre's words, suggesting not all early season disasters are irreparable.
Derek Jeter slides into third base with a triple in the seventh inning.
Crazy, isn't it, how a season can be boiled down to nine innings, even this early in the year. After Mussina was outpitched by Julian Tavarez on Tuesday, the Yankees had every reason to feel those rivulets of sweat. As Derek Jeter said of a potential 11½-game deficit, "It would've been tough for us. Very tough. This was a big win because when you're playing the team ahead of you, every game counts for two."
Pettitte agreed, saying, "I knew this was important. If we didn't win this series, I'm not saying we couldn't have come back from it, but it would've made it a lot tougher."
Big series? A crossroads game? It was if you think Torre's job has been on the line this month, or if Roger Clemens' comeback is to have any meaning or if general manager Brian Cashman intends to keep his power base intact.
Turns out Pettitte rescued the Yankees with an efficiency that drove the Sox crazy. There were only two strikeouts, few swings and misses and the Sox always looked like they were ready to break out. Yet, the outs kept piling up, one inning after the next, while the Yankees were busy taking advantage of Curt Schilling's sub-par fastball.
Derek Jeter celebrates the end of the game as the last out is made on a stirkeout by Coco Crisp.
In the second inning, Pettitte allowed Kevin Youkilis a one-out double, then took a deep breath and retired Mike Lowell on a fly ball to right before getting Jason Varitek to foul out to Alex Rodriguez. It was the same tease in the third inning: Pettitte got David Ortiz to line out to Robison Cano with two on and two out, and in the fourth, Pettitte turned a double play on Youkilis' line drive back to the mound.
By the seventh inning, Pettitte had finished frustrating the Sox, giving the Yankees renewed hope for the summer. If the Bombers are still around in October – if they somehow recover from this monstrous deficit – they'll be able to look back on this miniature Armageddon and remember the night Pettitte survived on that trio of weapons.
Fastball, cut-fastball, heart.
Jerry Falwell held "I Love America" rallies across the nation as he tested the ground between religion and politics. At this 1980 rally in Charleston, West Virginia, Falwell declared that they would save America from moral decay.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
It was almost exactly 28 years ago that, freshly out of college, I toyed with the idea of my first professional writing adventure. My college roommate Joe Duggan had approached me with the proposition that we freelance a profile piece on the man who was grabbing national headlines with his political activism. We drove down to Lynchburg Va., attended a service at the Thomas Road Baptist Church and then settled in for an hour-long interview with its founder, the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Yesterday, along with my son, I returned to that church for another service, this time joined by the 6,000 packed inside the building, and thousands more seated at Liberty University's Vines Center and Williams Stadium, to pay my final respects.
Macel Falwell wipes her eyes as she is escorted by her son Jerry, Jr. from the Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center where the body of Reverend Jerry Falwell lies in repose at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, May 17, 2007. U.S. evangelist Jerry Falwell, who helped turn the religious right into a powerful political force and fired controversy with his battles against abortion and homosexuality, died on Tuesday at age 73.
His story is one of extraordinary professional accomplishments: The Thomas Road Baptist Church, with 24,000 members; Liberty University, with 27,000 students and 125,000 graduates; "The Old Time Gospel Hour" radio and television programs -- on and on it goes, a ministerial enterprise that operated on a $200 million annual budget. And along the way, he also founded the Moral Majority, the political juggernaut critically instrumental in the election of Ronald Reagan.
That was the professional Falwell. Over years, I came to know Jerry Falwell on a personal basis, not nearly as well as others, but well enough to know -- and say unequivocally -- that he was one of the most gracious, kindly, modest men in the public arena, deeply in love with Jesus Christ, his country and his fellow man.
Which brings sadness. What, then, evokes the sheer venom aimed at him by so many who couldn't wait, and wouldn't allow his family and followers a moment of privacy before unloading broadsides of hate-filled vitriol?
It wasn't hard to disagree with Jerry Falwell. As a Catholic, I could easily differ with many of his theological positions. I didn't always side with him on politics, either. But these disagreements never reached the point of enmity because I could applaud him for so much more. Yet Falwell had many real enemies, men and women who refused to applaud him for anything during his lifetime, instead reserving their ovations for the news of his death.
Falwell, like any great leader, was controversial. True leadership by its very definition always generates controversy. Falwell was controversial because he dared reintroduce morality into the public square, with rhetorical passion -- and sometimes with excessive rhetorical passion.
Every obituary in the mainstream press has regurgitated Falwell's ill-timed statement after 9-11, for which he was condemned by liberals and conservatives alike, and for which he would later apologize. That is part of the historical record and deserved inclusion. But for his enemies, it should be the centerpiece of his obituary -- that which by its essence would define Falwell as an extremist, at the virtual exclusion of his manifold achievements.
National Review Online's Kathryn Lopez provides insight. A reporter was in one of the congressional galleries when word of Falwell's death arrived. He emailed her this: "The reaction from the reporters? Grins and chuckles mostly. One grizzled journalist said, 'I hope they (CNN) remember all the horrible things he said.' Another reporter simply said, 'It is a good day.'"
Those sentiments were then made public by others. With the headline "Sigh of Relief Over Falwell's Death," Chicago Sun-Times columnist Cathleen Falsani wrote, "In fact, my very first thought upon hearing of the Rev. Falwell's passing was: Good ... 'good' as in 'Ding-dong, the witch is dead.'"
Vanity Fair's professional atheist Christopher Hitchens to CNN's Anderson Cooper the night Falwell died: "I think it's a pity there isn't a hell for him to go to. ... The empty life of this ugly little charlatan. ... Such a little toad. ... This horrible person. ... I'm glad to see he skipped the rapture, just found on the floor of his office. ... He was a bully and a fraud."
Amanda Marcotte, the former official blogger for the Edwards for President campaign: "The gates of Hell swing open, and Satan welcomes his beloved son."
Bill Maher on HBO: "And now, New Rule: Death Isn't Always Sad. ... Millions asked why, why, God, why didn't you take Pat Robertson with him? ... I know you're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but I think we can make an exception."
On and on it goes, sadly. In the end, God will sort things out, and at the moment of His choosing will pass judgment on us all. As one eulogist reminded his audience yesterday, "God doesn't promise us tomorrow, but He does promise eternity." It is a paradise that must be earned, however. At the end of the day, Jerry Falwell was controversial to so many simply because he loved God unconditionally. That alone will earn him that eternity, in Paradise.
Lecturer, syndicated columnist, television commentator, debater, marketer, businessman, author, publisher and activist, L. Brent Bozell III, 51, is one of the most outspoken and effective national leaders in the conservative movement today.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Whose problem is the immigration bill in Congress supposed to solve? The country's problem with dangerously porous borders? The illegal immigrants' problem? Or politicians' problems?
It has been painfully clear for years that the country's problem with insecure borders and floods of foreigners who remain a foreign -- and growing -- part of the American population has the lowest priority of the three.
Virtually every step -- even token steps -- that Congress and the administration have taken toward securing the border has been backed into under pressure from the voters.
The National Guardsmen who were sent to the border but not assigned to guard the border, the 700-mile fence on paper that has become the two-mile fence in practice, and the existing "tough" penalties for the crime of crossing the border illegally that in practice mean turning the illegal border crossers loose so that they can try, try again -- such actions speak louder than words.
The new immigration bill that supposedly secures the borders first, before starting the process of legalizing the illegal immigrants, in fact does nothing of the sort.
It sets up various programs and procedures -- but does not wait to see if they in fact reduce the flow of illegal immigrants before taking the irrevocable step of making American citizenship available to 12 million people who came here illegally.
This solves the problem of those illegal immigrants who want to get citizenship. The steps that they have to go through allow politicians to say that this is not amnesty because these are "tough" requirements.
But, whether these requirements are "tough" or not, and regardless of how they are enforced or not, there is nothing to say that the 12 million people here illegally have to start the process of becoming citizens.
Those who do not choose to become citizens -- which may well be the majority of illegal immigrants -- face no more prospect of being punished for the crime of entering the country illegally than they do now.
With the focus now shifted to the process of getting citizenship, those illegal immigrants who just want to stay and make some money without being bothered to become part of American society can be forgotten, along with their crime.
This bill gets the issue off the table and out of the political spotlight. That solves the problem of politicians who want to mollify American voters in general without risking the loss of the Hispanic vote.
The Hispanic vote can be expected to become larger and larger as the new de facto amnesty can be expected to increase the number of illegal border crossers, just as the previous -- and honestly labeled -- amnesty bill of 1986 led to a quadrupling of the number of illegals.
The larger the Hispanic vote becomes, the less seriously are the restrictive features of the immigration bill likely to be enforced.
The growth of the illegal population is irreversible but the means of controlling the growth of illegals are quite reversible, both de facto through the watering down of the enforcement of "tough" requirements and de jure through later repeals of requirements deemed too "tough."
One of the remarkable aspects of the proposed immigration "reform" is its provisions for cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Employers are to be punished for not detecting and excluding illegal immigrants, when the government itself is derelict in doing so.
Employers not only lack expertise in law enforcement, they can be sued for "discrimination" by any of the armies of lawyers who make such lawsuits their lucrative specialty.
But no penalties are likely to be enforced against state and local politicians who openly declare "sanctuary" for illegal immigrants. Officials sworn to uphold the law instead forbid the police to report the illegal status of immigrants to federal officials when these illegals are arrested for other crimes.
This is perfectly consistent for a bill that seeks above all to solve politicians' problems, not the country's.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.
The Washington Post
A History of Empty Words, Claims on Immigration
WASHINGTON -- Compromise is incessantly praised, and has produced the proposed immigration legislation. But compromise is the mother of complexity, which, regarding immigration, virtually guarantees -- as the public understands -- weak enforcement and noncompliance.
Although the compromise was announced the day the Census Bureau reported that there now are 100 million nonwhites in America, Americans are skeptical about the legislation, but not because they have suddenly succumbed to nativism. Rather, the public has slowly come to the conclusion that the government cannot be trusted to mean what it says about immigration.
In 1986, when there probably were 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants, Americans accepted an amnesty because they were promised that border control would promptly follow. Today the 12 million illegal immigrants, 60 percent of whom have been here five or more years, are as numerous as Pennsylvanians; 44 states have populations smaller than 12 million. Deporting the 12 million would require police resources and methods from which the nation would rightly flinch. So, why not leave bad enough alone?
Concentrate on border control, and workplace enforcement facilitated by a biometric identification card issued to immigrants who are or will arrive here legally. Treat the problem of the 12 million with benign neglect. Their children born here are American citizens; the parents of these children will pass away.
Under current immigration policies, America is importing another underclass, one "with the potential to expand indefinitely," according to Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute. To sentimentalists who cling to "the myth of the redeeming power of Hispanic family values, the Hispanic work ethic, and Hispanic virtue," she says:
From 1990 to 2004, Hispanics accounted for 92 percent of the increase in poor people. Only 53 percent of Hispanics earn high school diplomas, the lowest among American ethnic groups. Half of all children born to Hispanic-Americans in 2005 were born out of wedlock -- a reliable predictor of social pathologies.
The legislation supposedly would shift policy from emphasizing family unification to emphasizing economic criteria (skills) when setting eligibility for immigrants. Critics will say this will sunder families. But the sundering has happened; it was done by illegal immigrants who left family members behind and are free to reunite with their families where they left them.
Anyway, the supposed shift from emphasizing family relations -- the emphasis that results in "chain migration" -- to economic merit may be diluted to nothingness. It is highly suspicious that there was a rush -- fortunately stymied -- to pass this legislation through both houses and get it to conference, where the majority of participants will be Democrats eager to court Hispanic votes.
Some Democrats argue that liberalism's teetering achievement, the welfare state, requires liberal immigration policies. The argument is: Today there are only 3.3 workers for every retiree. In January, the first of 77 million baby boomers begin to retire. By the time they have retired, in 2030, there will be 2.2 workers for every retiree -- but only if the work force is replenished by 900,000 immigrants a year.
On Monday, however, Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation stunned some senators who heard his argument that continuing, under family-based immigration, to import a low-skilled population will cost the welfare state far more than the immigrants' contributions to the economy and government. He argued that low-skilled immigrants are costly to the welfare state at every point in their life cycle, and are very costly when elderly. Just the 9 million to 10 million illegal adults already here will, if given amnesty, cost an average of $300,000 -- cumulatively, more than $2.5 trillion -- in various entitlements (Social Security, food stamps, Medicaid, housing, etc.) over 30 years.
To those who say border control is impossible -- often these are the same people who said better policing could not substantially reduce crime, until it did -- one answer is: It took just 34 months for the Manhattan Project to progress from the creation of the town of Oak Ridge in the Tennessee wilderness to the atomic explosion at Alamogordo, N.M. That is what America accomplishes when serious.
In an attempt to anesthetize people who sensibly say "border control and workplace enforcement first," important provisions of the legislation would supposedly be "triggered" only when control of the border is "certified" by the president. But in what looks like a parody of the Washington mentality, certification would be triggered not by border control but by the hiring of border control agents and other spending. So, the supposedly hardheaded aspects of the legislation actually rest on the delusion that spending equals the achievement of the intention behind the spending. By that assumption, we have long since tranquilized and democratized Iraq.
The suicide-murders and roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan sicken Americans. Soon-to-be nuclear Iran seems loonier than nuclear North Korea. American debt keeps piling up in China and Japan. And we think of angry Venezuela, the Middle East and Russia every time we fill up -- if we can afford to fill up.
Then listen to Al Gore on global warming. Or hear Jimmy Carter on the current president. The common denominator is American "decline."
Books by liberals assure us that our "empire" is kaput. Brace for the inevitable fate of Rome. Conservatives are just as glum. For them, we are also Romans -- but the more decadent variety, eaten away from the inside.
In response, many bored Americans turn instead to the la-la land of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
Yet American Cassandras are old stuff. Grim Charles Lindberg in the late 1930s lectured a Depression-era America that Hitler's new order in Germany could only be appeased, never opposed.
After World War II, it wasn't long before the Soviet Union ended our short-lived status as sole nuclear superpower. And when Eastern Europe and China were lost to communism, it was proof, for many, that democratic capitalism was passé. "We will bury you," Nikita Khrushchev promised us.
After the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991, America proclaimed itself at the "end of history" -- meaning that the spread of our style of democratic capitalism was now inevitable. Now a mere 16 years later, some are just as sure
we approach our own end.
But our rivals are weaker and America is far stronger than many think.
Take oil. With oil prices at nearly $70 a barrel, Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez seem invincible as they rally anti-American feeling.
But if we find alternate energy sources, or reduce slightly our oil hunger, we can defang all three rather quickly. None of their countries have a middle class or a culture of entrepreneurship to discover and disseminate new knowledge.
Russia and Europe are shrinking. China is an aging nation of only children. The only thing the hard-working Chinese fear more than their bankrupt communist dictatorship is getting rid of it.
True, the economies of China and India have made amazing progress. But both have rocky rendezvous ahead with all the social and cultural problems that we long ago addressed in the 20th century.
And European elites can't blame their problems -- a bullying Russia, Islamic terrorists, unassimilated minorities and high unemployment -- all on George Bush's swagger and accent. The recent elections of Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France suggest that Europe's cheap anti-Americanism may be ending, and that our practices of more open markets, lower taxes and less state control are preferrable to the European status quo.
In truth, a never-stronger America is being tested as never before. The world is watching whether we win or lose in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Middle East is either going to reform or remain an oil-rich tribal mess that endangers the entire world.
A better way to assess our chances at maintaining our preeminence is simply to ask the same questions that are the historical barometers of our nation's success or failure: Does any nation have a constitution comparable to ours? Does merit -- or religion, tribe or class -- mostly gauge success or failure in America? What nation is as free, stable and transparent as the U.S.?
Try becoming a fully accepted citizen of China or Japan if you were not born Chinese or Japanese. Try running for national office in India from the lower caste. Try writing a critical op-ed in Russia or hiring a brilliant female to run a mosque, university or hospital in most of the Middle East. Ask where MRI scans, Wal-Mart, iPods, the Internet or F-18s came from.
In the last 60 years, we have been warned in succession that new paradigms in racially pure Germany, the Soviet workers' paradise, Japan Inc. and now 24/7 China all were about to displace the United States. None did. All have had relative moments of amazing success -- but in the end none proved as resilient, flexible and adaptable as America.
That brings us to the United States' greatest strength: radical self-critique. We Americans are worrywarts, always believing we're on the verge of extinction. And so, to "renew," "reinvent" or "save" America, we whip ourselves up about "wars" on poverty, drugs and cancer; space "races;" missile "gaps;" literacy "crusades;" and "campaigns" against litter, waste and smoking.
In other words, we nail-biters have always been paranoid that we must change and improve in order to survive. And thus we usually do -- just in time.
Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author, most recently, of "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War." You can reach him by e-mailing email@example.com.
May 24, 2007
Apparently, my position on immigration is that we must deport all 12 million illegal aliens immediately, inasmuch as this is billed as the only alternative to immediate amnesty. The jejune fact that we "can't deport them all" is supposed to lead ineluctably to the conclusion that we must grant amnesty to illegal aliens – and fast!
I'm astounded that debate has sunk so low that I need to type the following words, but: No law is ever enforced 100 percent.
We can't catch all rapists, so why not grant amnesty to rapists? Surely no one wants thousands of rapists living in the shadows! How about discrimination laws? Insider trading laws? Do you expect Bush to round up everyone who goes over the speed limit? Of course we can't do that. We can't even catch all murderers. What we need is "comprehensive murder reform." It's not "amnesty" – we'll ask them to pay a small fine.
If it's "impossible" to deport illegal aliens, how did we come to have so much specific information about them? I keep hearing they are Catholic, pro-life, hardworking, just dying to become American citizens, and will take jobs other Americans won't. Someone must have talked to them to gather all this information. Let's find that guy – he must know where they are!
How do we even know there are 12 million of them? Why not 3 million, or 40 million? Maybe we should put the guy who counted them in charge of deporting them.
If the 12-million figure is an extrapolation based on the number of illegal immigrants in public schools or emergency rooms and well-manicured lawns in Brentwood, then shouldn't we be looking for them at schools and hospitals and well-manicured lawns in Brentwood?
I believe the shortage of unskilled, non-English-speaking Mexicans we experienced in the '60s has been remedied by now.
Since Teddy Kennedy's 1965 Immigration Act, more than half of all legal immigrants have been unskilled, non-English-speaking Mexicans. America takes in roughly 1 million legal immigrants each year. Only about 30,000 of them have Ph.D.s. Why on earth would any rational immigration policy discriminate against immigrants with Ph.D.s in favor of unskilled, non-English-speaking immigrants?
Say, don't Ph.D.s and other skilled workers have more influence on government policy than unskilled workers? Aren't they more likely to bend a president's ear? Yes, I believe they are! Noticeably, the biggest proponents of the government's policy of importing a huge underclass of unskilled workers are not themselves unskilled workers.
The great bounty of cheap labor by unskilled immigrants isn't going to hardworking Americans who hang drywall or clean hotel rooms – and who are having trouble getting jobs, now that they're forced to compete with the vast influx of unskilled workers who don't pay taxes.
The people who make arguments about "jobs Americans won't do" are never in a line of work where unskilled immigrants can compete with them. Liberals love to strike generous, humanitarian poses with other people's lives.
Something tells me the immigration debate would be different if we were importing millions of politicians or Hollywood agents. You lose your job, while I keep my job at the Endeavor agency, my Senate seat, my professorship, my editorial position, or my presidency. (And I get a maid!)
The only beneficiaries of these famed hardworking immigrants – unlike you lazy Americans – are the wealthy, who want the cheap labor while making the rest of us chip in for the immigrants' schooling, food and health care.
These great lovers of the downtrodden – the downtrodden trimming their hedges – pretend to believe that their gardeners' children will be graduating from Harvard and curing cancer someday, but 1) they don't believe that; and 2) if it happened, they'd lose their gardeners.
Not to worry, Marie Antoinettes! According to Alien Nation author Peter Brimelow, "There is recent evidence that, even after four generations, fewer than 10 percent of Mexicans have post-high school degrees, as opposed to nearly half of non-Mexican-Americans." So you'll always have the maid. As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, our golf fairways would suffer without illegal immigrants: "You and I both play golf; who takes care of the greens and the fairways on your golf course?"
We fought a Civil War to force Democrats to give up on slavery 150 years ago. They've become so desperate for servants that now they're importing an underclass to wash their clothes and pick their vegetables. This vast class of unskilled immigrants is the left's new form of slavery.
What do they care if their servants are made citizens eligible to vote and collect government benefits? Aren't the fabulously rich happy in Venezuela? Oops, wrong example. Brazil? No, no, let me try again. Mexico!...Well, no matter. What could go wrong?
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Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is Godless: The Church of Liberalism.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Web Posted: 05/23/2007 02:12 AM CDT
San Antonio Express-News
Last in a four-part series
BROWNSVILLE — The human smuggler offering to help Aamr Bahnan Boles and his two friends cross the border into America was tall, dark and pricey.
"I can get you to Texas, no problem," he told them. "For a thousand dollars each."
Boles and the others had just walked out of the detention center for immigrants in Mexico City. The guards, knowing the three were about to be freed after three months in custody, had arranged the rendezvous with a smuggler.
Boles would recall later how the smuggler — in street parlance a coyote, or someone who makes a living helping undocumented immigrants cross the border — was leaning against a tractor-trailer rig outside the jail gates.
He said his name was Antonio.
"Where are you from and where do you want to go?" the smuggler asked.
"We are Iraqis," Boles said in halting Spanish, "and we want to go to America."
Boles, a Chaldean Christian determined to escape the Iraq war, is categorized by the U.S. government as a "special-interest alien," those from 43 countries where terror groups are known to operate. As such, they can be subjected to extra screening and harsher treatment than other immigrants when caught crossing illegally.
Near the end of his journey to America — born in the shadows of a Damascus, Syria, restaurant and culminating nearly a year later with the final push into Texas — Boles ran smack into this post-9-11 security net.
But the system is fallible, and just as likely to punish the benevolent as to release the dangerous.
On the U.S. side, authorities are feeling their way sometimes blind and scared. Once over the Texas border, Boles would encounter various jail cells, a skeptical magistrate, a distrusting government lawyer and a bizarre courtroom quiz about his biblical knowledge where his very freedom hinged on the right answers.
Boles managed to cling to his last couple thousand dollars after Mexican immigration agents plucked him off a bus from Guatemala, where he had arrived eight months earlier after an air trip from Damascus to Moscow and through Cuba. His new traveling companions, Ammar Habib Zaya and Remon Manssor Piuz, also had money.
Zaya and Piuz, like Boles and many Iraqis caught traveling through Mexico, said they were members of a Christian minority who had fled their homes in Iraq after Islamic extremists began killing and kidnapping men in their community. Zaya said he had worked on an American military base in Iraq, doing laundry for the troops.
The United States was giving few visas to Iraqi refugees, so they'd struck out for America and were caught by Mexican immigration. Mexican and U.S. intelligence agents interviewed them in custody as part of a secret counterterrorism program aimed at capturing immigrants from places such as the Middle East.
While other Middle Easterners who provoke some level of suspicion get deported to their homelands, Boles and his two new friends eventually were released with papers ordering them to either leave the country or apply for Mexican residency within two weeks.
The choice was clear.
It made sense that the three young men would band together for the final leg of their journey. There was safety in numbers, but they also had much in common. They were from the same Iraqi province of Mosul and all in their early to mid-20s. All had fled the war.
In the Mexican jail, Zaya and Piuz incorrectly told Boles about a surefire way to get legal status after they crossed into America. All they'd have to do was plant their feet on U.S. soil, find a government representative and claim political asylum. The Americans would have to give them a fair hearing on claims of religious persecution in Iraq, and maybe they could get permanent residency and a path to citizenship.
Before the end of their first day of freedom in Mexico, Boles and his compatriots sat crowded together in the sleeper compartment of Antonio's tractor-trailer cab. The truck was barreling northeast from Mexico City toward the northern industrial city of Monterrey, nearly 600 miles away.
In Monterrey, the men transferred with Antonio to a different truck, this one bound for Matamoros, another 200 miles north and just across the border from Brownsville.
Nearly a full year after flying out of Damascus, Boles was almost to his goal now.
His excitement and apprehension grew.
In Matamoros, Antonio handed the travelers over to another man. They were driven by car over dirt roads that wound through farmland and came to a stop a half-mile from the Rio Grande. It still was dark. Boles and his two companions followed the coyote over dirt trails.
The smuggler told them not to talk; Border Patrol agents could be just over the other side. They stripped to their shoes, bundled their clothes and shuffled down the riverbank to the neck-deep, fast-moving green water of the Rio Grande. At 5:20 a.m. April 29, 2006, they waded across to Texas one at a time using an inner tube.
The men scrambled back into their clothes. They were about 6 miles east of the rural town of Los Indios.
"America!" Boles thought as he faced towering sugar cane fields. "I'm finally here. I've made it to America."
His joy would be short-lived.
Boles' small group triggered a motion detector while hiking up a dirt road toward U.S. 281. U.S. Border Patrol agents in three SUVs rumbled out of their hiding places to check the area.
Boles and his companions were hiding in brush when they saw the green and white vehicles coming toward them. They leapt out with hands raised and ran toward what they thought was salvation.
"Iraqi Christians! Iraqi Christians! Iraqi Christians!" they shouted over and over, jumping up and down. "Political asylum! Political asylum!"
None of them could have known they already were marked men.
A flawed system
Federal agents from Texas to California and from Maine to Washington go on red alert whenever a special-interest immigrant gets caught crossing the border — or at least they are supposed to.
The goal is to put everyone captured, regardless of nationality, into deportation proceedings or immediately send them back. The routine is to run the fingerprints and names of apprehended border crossers through interlocking government databases that look for criminal history, outstanding warrants or past immigration violations.
But apprehensions of border jumpers hailing from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia trigger under-the-radar procedures that go well beyond these first rudimentary checks.
Border Patrol agents are supposed to run these names through the agency's National Targeting Center database, which looks for any link to terrorism or flags when other agencies have an investigative interest in the name.
The next step is to notify the nearest FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which has its own more extensive databases and access to counterterrorism and intelligence resources. The Border Patrol has logged hundreds of such referrals to the FBI each year since 9-11.
Border Patrol agents made 644 referrals in 2004, 647 in 2005 and 563 in 2006, according to agency data requested by the San Antonio Express-News. If sufficient suspicions are aroused, the FBI can place a national security "hold" on an immigrant to keep him in custody while agents investigate further.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Ralph Diaz, who oversees bureau activities in South Texas from his San Antonio headquarters, said an effort then is made to interview every special-interest immigrant in person.
"They're not all necessarily a threat," Diaz said. "But we don't have the luxury of presuming that. The flag goes up and we say, 'Let's take a look at this.'"
The workload is not insubstantial. More than 1,500 special-interest immigrants have been captured in Texas since 9-11, including nearly 300 between March 2006 and April, among them Boles and his two companions, along with Iranians, Yemenis and Afghans. Diaz and other FBI officials familiar with special-interest immigrant assessments said the vast majority are determined to be economic refugees or people fleeing wars and political persecution.
"It's not reached a level where we've had a threat to national security in the San Antonio district," said Diaz, who has been on the job about a year.
Other federal counterterrorism authorities, however, say they have connected some border jumpers to terrorism. Among them was a South African woman of Middle Eastern descent whose July 2004 arrest at the McAllen airport with wet clothes, thousands in cash and a mutilated passport made international headlines.
Farida Goolam Ahmed eventually was charged with a simple illegal entry offense and quietly deported, but key documents remain sealed. A Dec. 9, 2004, U.S. Border and Transportation Security intelligence summary, accidentally released on the Internet, states that Ahmed was "linked to specific terrorist activities."
Government officials familiar with the case now confirm Ahmed was a smuggler based in Johannesburg, South Africa, who specialized in moving special-interest immigrants into the United States along a United Arab Emirates-London-Mexico City-McAllen pipeline.
Houston-based federal prosecutor Abe Martinez, chief of the Southern District of Texas national security section in the U.S. attorney's office, was asked if Ahmed or anyone she smuggled might have been involved in terrorism.
"Were they linked to any terrorism organizations?" Martinez said. "I would have to say yes."
Martinez and a number of Texas-based FBI officials declined to elaborate. But an August 2004 report that appeared in the Washington-based Homeland Security Today quoted several unnamed government counterterrorism officials as saying Ahmed also was found to be ferrying "instructions" from a Mexico al-Qaida cell to another cell in New York.
The article reported Ahmed's arrest led the CIA to capture two al-Qaida members in Mexico and several Pakistani al-Qaida members in Pakistan and in Britain who all were part of the plot to attack targets in New York.
The Express-News couldn't independently corroborate the Homeland Security Today report.
Other immigrants who have prompted some level of uncertainty or suspicion end up deported to their home countries.
Kyle Brown, an immigration attorney in McAllen, said two Afghans he represented had their asylum applications denied and were deported after the FBI discovered "a series of telephone numbers" in their possession.
"One of them (telephone numbers) led back to a link to terrorism," Brown said.
But FBI officials, including San Antonio's Diaz, acknowledge the bureau's current system of assessing whether someone is a terrorist is far from error-free.
Often, immigrants show up with no documents or with fakes. FBI agents could have little to run through terror watch list databases, or, when a name is real, it might not be entered.
"You interview them, run every database possible, fingerprints, watch lists, check their stories. You get some sort of a feel of their sophistication," said an FBI official who works along the Southwest border. "Could we be fooled? Of course."
Last year, a Homeland Security Department audit cited weaknesses in the government's ability to differentiate between persecuted political asylum seekers and terrorists.
"The effectiveness of these background checks is uncertain due to the difficulty verifying the identity, country of origin, terrorist or criminal affiliation of aliens in general," the audit report stated. "Therefore, the release of these (migrants) poses particular risks."
FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents concede they can't get around to interviewing every captured special-interest immigrant. Until thousands of new detention beds were ready last year, Border Patrol and ICE routinely released special-interest immigrants on their own recognizance, usually never to reappear, simply because there was nowhere to keep them.
New detention space lets the government hold more undocumented immigrants for deportation proceedings. But even then, some are let go and not fully investigated, according to a review of hundreds of intelligence summary reports showing law enforcement activity along the Texas-Mexico border.
The reports suggest the FBI is not always getting referrals, and full investigations aren't being conducted.
One of many such examples occurred Dec. 1, according to an intelligence summary report from that day. "Sudanese detained at Carrizo Springs station. Released." The State Department lists Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Three days later, agents picked up a Pakistani at a checkpoint in Val Verde. "No derogatory," the report stated, referring to a watch-list check. "Released." Two days after that, Border Patrol agents picked up an Iraqi and had a watch-list check run on his name, too. "No derogatory info. Released."
Sometimes Border Patrol agents exercise a new authority provided by Congress to simply expel undocumented immigrants back to Mexico without court oversight, a process known as "expedited removal."
While helping to reduce congestion in detention centers and courtrooms, expedited removal also loses opportunities to investigate the immigrants and their smugglers.
In a typical such instance, on June 20, Border Patrol agents arrested an Eritrean national in McAllen.
"Subject stated that he flew from Sudan to Mexico City using a photo-substituted French passport," the report stated. "He was processed for expedited removal."
The Lord's Prayer
To American agents, Boles and his two fellow Iraqi travelers were big question marks. Like many special-interest immigrants, they were captured with no identification or documents, just a story about being persecuted Christians in need of safe harbor. Their inability to back their story with evidence — even to prove the validity of their given names — would bode ill.
Border Patrol officers who caught Boles transported him to one of their facilities in Brownsville, where his name once again was run through the databases. Those checks came out clean. The FBI was notified that Iraqis had been caught at the river. But still no one could say for sure who they were.
Before Boles' first day in American custody was over, immigration authorities in Brownsville charged him and his two compatriots with the federal misdemeanor of illegal entry, which carries a maximum punishment of six months in prison.
Boles' appointed attorney, Humberto Yzaguirre Jr., recalls assuring his three clients that the charge was routine and they would serve no time. They would plead guilty, be given time served and then get out on bond to pursue political asylum claims — assuming the FBI quickly cleared them.
Yzaguirre had seen it happen this way a thousand times, he told them.
But it wasn't to be.
No one in the Brownsville federal court system was ready to believe that Boles, Zaya and Piuz were Christians.
All three Iraqis had pleaded guilty and were awaiting their sentencing before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Felix Recio, scheduled for May 5, 2006.
In the meantime, the court had ordered probation officers to interview the three Iraqis to collect their stories and make recommendations to the judge.
Attorney Paul Hajjar, a Lebanese American hired as a defense interpreter for the proceedings, recalled overhearing the Iraqis talking among themselves in a dialect that was not Arabic. He recognized it as a contemporary derivative of the ancient Aramaic language dating to the days of Jesus Christ. It is spoken only by Middle East Christians.
Hajjar asked Piuz about the language. Just then, the Iraqi broke out with a heartfelt rendition of the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic, loudly enough for all to hear.
Piuz closed his eyes as he continued slowly, bowed his head and spoke the words of the prayer with what appeared to be deeply felt angst, Yzaguirre recalled, as though he hoped God could help him out of the situation. When he finished, Hajjar turned to the probation officers. These men, he said, could not be Muslims.
"See? They are exactly who they say they are," he said. "I don't see Muslims saying the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic. A Muslim wouldn't speak Aramaic to begin with, and they certainly wouldn't know the Lord's Prayer."
The display wouldn't help the group. It wasn't included in the report that would go to the judge. And the FBI still hadn't shown up.
Taking no chances
Magistrate Judge Recio already had decided he wasn't taking any chances with Iraqis.
"Mr. Boles," the judge said at their sentencing hearing, "good morning. Do you have anything you wish to say to the court?"
"No," Boles replied in Arabic, then added, "If you could just give us some consideration."
"Mr. Piuz, do you have anything you want to say to the court?"
Meekly, Piuz replied, "Just, if you could take care of us."
Next, Recio asked Yzaguirre the same thing. Yzaguirre assured the judge that no evidence had surfaced indicating that his clients were Muslims instead of Christians.
The judge then turned to the government's prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Marposon, for his opinion.
Marposon, who has declined several interview requests, said he concurred with the pre-sentence report's recommendation of minimal punishment, the usual time served.
But Recio, who didn't respond to three interview requests for this report, was about to surprise the government's prosecutor and everyone else in his courtroom.
"We know that this country is in war in Iraq," he said. "We know the problems associated with all of that, and it gives reason for this court to be cautious and to take things into consideration carefully and to apply the law to them as carefully as possible."
Recio went on to express skepticism about the Iraqis' stated motives for coming to the United States when they could have stayed in Europe or gone elsewhere much more easily. He said he doubted their story that they'd all met for the first time in Mexico when the three men came from the same province.
"It would be highly unlikely that if you're released from any Mexican prison that you would be released with any money whatsoever," the judge said. "So someone is financing you, or you're receiving funds from someplace. We have no idea where those funds are coming from."
The judge reserved special ire for the government.
"I might add the government has been very lax in coming forth with any evidence to either support or go against the claims of these individuals," he said. "Who did they check? What did they check? What did they verify? Who did they talk to? I don't know."
Recio sentenced them to six months in prison.
"We want to promote respect for the law. We want to protect the public from further crimes, and we want to provide a deterrence for other criminal conduct," he said.
The gavel came down with a crack.
The hearing had lasted 15 minutes.
Boles, Piuz and Zaya were devastated. The U.S. marshals handcuffed them and led them away to prison.
About a week later, the FBI showed up. The experience would not be pleasant.
Two men from the bureau, an ICE agent and a Lebanese interpreter arrived at the jail where the prisoners were being held.
Boles found their questions insulting and their manner brusque and intimidating, unlike his experience with the Americans who had questioned him in Mexico.
The agents, he later recounted, demanded to know why he had come to America, and the names of the smugglers who brought him.
They began asking personal questions, like if he had sampled tequila while in Mexico and what it had felt like, knowing that practicing Muslims who don't drink alcohol wouldn't have an answer.
Agents demanded to know about his military experience. Boles believed his three-month incarceration in Mexico was the result of admitting he'd been a conscript in Saddam Hussein's army. So he lied this time.
"No, I never served in the military," Boles told the agents.
But the agents had his statements from Mexico. They pounced, hoping to break down a possible cover story.
"Don't you think we know what you said in Mexico? You're a liar!"
For the next five hours, they grilled Boles.
They threatened to charge him with lying to federal law enforcement officers, a felony that could bring a five-year sentence, unless he told them who he really was and what he was doing sneaking into America.
They threatened to send him back and force him to join the new Iraqi army, where he would probably suffer a violent death.
At last, the agents left Boles, exhausted and feeling hostile toward the country he hoped would adopt him.
New agents would return three weeks later and interview him again about the details of his life and travels, most likely looking for inconsistencies.
That was the last he heard from the FBI and ICE.
Boles spent his 26th birthday behind bars.
After he completed his sentence in November 2006, he was remanded to the custody of immigration authorities and transferred to a federal detention facility near Port Isabel. Once again, Pakistanis, Jordanians and Yemenis were among his cellmates.
Most immigrants in similar situations probably would be deported at this point or be eligible to pay a bond and be freed while pursuing a political asylum claim. But the FBI still had not cleared Boles, and until it did he would remain in limbo.
Relatives in Detroit hired Harlingen immigration lawyer Thelma Garcia, and she began pushing government lawyers to secure a ruling from the FBI. Finally, toward the end of the year, the FBI notified the court that it had cleared Boles. He was not a national security risk.
But suspicion can be hard to overcome in Texas, at least when it comes to Iraqis during a war. There was still no proof of his Christian identity and his story of persecution at the hands of Muslims.
Boles would be asked one last time to prove his credibility with a test of his religious faith.
Garcia quickly moved to get a hearing date that would allow Boles to bond out and go to Detroit.
U.S. Immigration Judge William C. Peterson presided over the hearing Jan. 3. The government's lawyer was Assistant Chief Counsel Sean Clancy.
Clancy, who some people think resembles actor Randy Quaid, is a classic Irishman. He has fair features and reddish hair. He wore a crisp suit.
Clancy put Boles through his final test, opening with a battery of questions designed to ascertain, finally, whether he was who he said he was. Garcia's notes from the proceeding chronicle this unusual courtroom exchange:
"What's a Christian?" the prosecutor asked.
Clancy was assertive without being confrontational.
"We believe in Jesus as our savior and we believe in God," Boles replied.
Clancy seemed to accept the answer, Garcia thought.
"Who is Jesus and where did he come from?" Clancy asked Boles.
"He is the son of God, son of Joseph and the son of David."
"Was he just another man?"
"No, he was the son of God."
"How often do you pray?"
"I pray every Sunday, three times a day."
"What do you do on Sunday?
"I go to morning Mass."
"We pray with a Bible."
"We take the body of Jesus Christ."
"In what form do you take Communion?"
"Bread. Wafers. The priest prays over it and then we eat it."
Clancy turned to the judge.
"That's all I have," he said. "It's up to the court, your honor."
Peterson set Boles' bond at $1,500. Relatives paid it a couple days later and then wired money for bus fare to his lawyer in Harlingen. It was enough for a one-way trip to Detroit aboard a Greyhound.
The next night, on Jan. 6, a Border Patrol agent drove Boles to a bus station in Brownsville and let him off at 11 p.m. with all of his worldly possessions: a bag filled with a few basic toiletries, extra socks and underwear and some documents. He wore a red Nike baseball cap, a brown corduroy sport coat and a grim expression.
Boles felt bitter. He did not think the FBI and the U.S. judicial system had treated him well.
But he was ready to get on with his new life.
"My feelings about America are all mixed up," he said as he ate his first American meal as a free man, a cheeseburger and fries at the Brownsville Cafe. "We knew they'd do an investigation of us, but why did it have to be a criminal investigation? I believe it was an unfair sentence for him to send us to jail."
But Boles, who had not had much to laugh about in a long time, couldn't contain his dry sense of humor.
Casting a sideways glance, he said with the measured delivery of a standup comic:
"I know they have to protect your country.
"But why take so long to do it?"
The long journey of Aamr Bahnan Boles from Iraq had consumed almost three years of his life. Along the way, some of his enthusiasm had been lost, the joy of second chances tempered, the burden of freedom, loneliness of secrecy and imperfections of America all driven home.
"I feel lost," he said. "It's the first time I've been free."
Boles probably will remain free, though his claim for political asylum continues wending its way through the system. Returning to a Texas courtroom, which Boles must do in August, needn't worry him, said Martinez, the prosecutor who oversaw the FBI's handling of Boles.
"His story," Martinez said, "is true."
On a Saturday morning in January, that story, a refugee's story, entered its final chapter as Boles stepped onto a Greyhound bus in Brownsville. It took him north through Harlingen into the vast expanse of Texas and then into America's heartland.
Forty-four hours and many stops later, the odyssey from Damascus to Detroit ended at another Greyhound depot, and Boles began a new life.
News Researcher Julie Domel contributed to this report.