Saturday, July 14, 2007

Film Review: "Rescue Dawn"

A Vietnam P.O.W. Story, Tangling With the Vines of Convention

Christian Bale, left, and Steve Zahn in “Rescue Dawn,” a feature written and directed by Werner Herzog.

Published: July 4, 2007
The New York Times

Correction Appended

The Navy airman Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), the hero of Werner Herzog’s Vietnam-era P.O.W. escape film, “Rescue Dawn,” at first seems a conventional action-movie hero: handsome, resourceful, brave and optimistic. But the more time spent with him, the more eccentricities he reveals. He has a geeky laugh. His sunny-side-up speechifying suggests an elementary school gym coach with a Vince Lombardi fixation. He only seems typical.

So does Mr. Herzog’s movie, which reimagines his 1997 documentary, “Little Dieter Needs to Fly,” as a drama of imprisonment, survival and perseverance. Although financed independently, it superficially resembles the likes of “Papillon” and “The Great Escape.” With its straightforward narrative, which observes Dengler being shot down during his first mission over Laos; surviving torture, isolation, confinement and starvation; and hatching a daring breakout, “Rescue Dawn” seems a departure from Mr. Herzog’s “Aguirre, The Wrath of God,” “Fitzcarraldo,” “Grizzly Man” and other cautionary tales of visionary madmen.

Dengler is also an advertisement for capitalist democracy: a German immigrant who survived Allied bombing during World War II, settled in the United States and became a baseball-and-apple-pie American. In early shipboard scenes, the film’s cinematographer, Peter Zeitlinger, lights Mr. Bale like Tom Cruise in “Top Gun,” and Mr. Bale’s gung-ho grin seals the comparison.

When Dengler’s captors demand that he sign a confession declaring himself a criminal, Dengler refuses, because to do so would be ungrateful to his adoptive country. He’s as matter-of-fact as a diabetic declining a chocolate bar. Yet these indicators of superheroism exist to be subverted. Dengler endures misery without succumbing to the despair that has crushed his cellmates, but he starts to seem as unhinged as Mr. Herzog’s Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo. Under these conditions, hope is a form of insanity.

Dengler is just one oddball among many. His comrades include best friend and mentor, Duane (the great Steve Zahn, whose ravaged face recalls Steve McQueen’s in “Papillon”), and “Gene from Eugene” (Jeremy Davies, in a boldly stylized, sure-to-be-divisive performance), a longhaired, emaciated redneck whose cadences and gestures suggest a deranged skid row preacher.

In the past, Mr. Herzog has been criticized for his tendency to treat residents of the third world as part of the scenery, but in “Rescue Dawn” he has empathy for Dengler’s captors. They are prisoners, too. They’re vicious because they’re bored and depressed, but they occasionally display kindness. When they consider executing the prisoners and abandoning the camp, Mr. Herzog makes it clear that this potential course of action is not evidence of subhuman evil, but a desperate plan hatched by men who don’t have enough food to feed themselves and their inmates and would rather just go home to their families. As Duane explains to Dengler, “The jungle is the prison — don’t you get it?”

The film is not without flaws. The story’s basis in fact doesn’t inoculate it against charges of predictability. Klaus Badelt’s score can be intrusively emphatic. And the triumphant ending — in which Dengler is welcomed back to his carrier with applause and speeches — is disappointingly conventional. For the most part, though, “Rescue Dawn” is a marvel: a satisfying genre picture that challenges the viewer’s expectations.

The film’s most daring aspect is its portrait of the love that blossoms between men in bleak circumstances. While platonic, Dengler and Duane’s relationship has the depth and detail of a great marriage — one in which the spouses understand each other so well that they can have a silent conversation with their eyes. Dengler’s commitment to helping Duane escape — despite choking vines, whizzing bullets, pounding rain and leech-infested waters — is as reflexive as the integrity he displays when he refuses to sign that confession. As Dengler literally and figuratively lets Duane lean on him, the film’s tenderness goes so far beyond male-bonding cliché that it becomes a political statement: a radical reimagining of the phrase “doing what a man’s gotta do” that rejects John Wayne as a masculine ideal and replaces him with Jesus.

“Rescue Dawn” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It has profanity, graphic violence, torture and assorted jungle miseries.


Opens today in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Werner Herzog; director of photography, Peter Zeitlinger; edited by Joe Bini; music by Klaus Badelt; produced by Steve Marlton, Elton Brand and Harry Knapp; released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Running time: 120 minutes.

WITH: Christian Bale (Dieter Dengler), Steve Zahn (Duane) and Jeremy Davies (Gene).

Correction: July 12, 2007

A film review on July 4 about “Rescue Dawn,” written and directed by Werner Herzog, misspelled the title of another Herzog film with which “Rescue Dawn” was contrasted. It is “Fitzcarraldo,” not “Fizcarraldo.”

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Severed Heads Beat Report Cards to the Truth
Saturday, July 14, 2007

Soldiers from the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Second Infantry Division, stand guard outside their Stryker vehicle in Baqouba, Iraq Friday, July 13, 2007. U.S. troops are trying to take control of Baqouba from Sunni extremists after Iraqi forces lost control of the city last year. (AP Photo/Robert H. Reid)

Nailing down a clear picture of the war in Iraq is a work in progress in Washington, D.C. Making it harder is the national media, which is misrepresenting what is happening at boot level, softening the face of the enemy.

If the public cannot get a true view of the brutality and horror the enemy is capable of, then how can it be expected to reasonably assess our involvement? Michael Yon, an independent journalist and Special Forces veteran, went over to Iraq to get the record straight. Yon, who blogs his findings at, was inspired after attending the funeral of a high school friend killed in Iraq. Servicemen at the funeral encouraged him to do what the media was not doing: get the full picture.

In December 2004, he first went to Iraq and Afghanistan to blog about what he saw, spending most of the year working as reader-supported war reporter. Yon returned to Iraq this summer and reported on the troop surge, giving readers as close to real-time battlefield reports as possible. His encouraging assessment: "Progress is palpable."

In June, Yon reported on the discovery of about a dozen women and children slaughtered by Al Qaeda and buried in a mass grave. In an abandoned village, with the main road lined with butchered animals, American and Iraqi soldiers found the dead -- including decapitated children.

"Had Al Qaeda murdered the children in front of their parents?" Yon speculated. "Maybe it had been the other way around: Maybe they had murdered the parents in front of the children. Maybe they had forced the father to dig the graves of his children."

The Associated Press, in the same area as Yon, barely reported on the discovery. If I were President Bush, faced with public -- and, increasingly, Republican Party -- opposition to the war, I'd quote from Yon: "I told the Iraqi commander, Capt. Baker, that it was important that Americans see this; he took me around the graves and showed more than I wanted to see." (Yon posted disturbing images of the gravesite.)

To let the American people know why we are still fighting, I would also quote from Yon when he relayed an account about families in Baqubah that were reportedly served their young sons, baked and stuffed, for lunch by Al Qaeda. Not for the sake of sensationalism and horror; simply because this is the evil that we face.

This is not about promoting melodrama for political gain or endorsing some ghoulish voyeurism for gore lovers. This is about not hiding or softening or obfuscating the true nature of our enemy.

This is not to say the battle for public opinion is lost. If only responsible politicians and media outlets would tell the whole story: about our progress, as well as our defeats, and about the brutality of the enemy that seeks to kill us in Iraq and in the Untied States.

For his part, Yon tells me from Baqubah: "This is a war that will be won or lost largely in the media arena." Yon says, "I stay because we might lose this war, but we can still 'win.'"
The story just has to get out before the people back home surrender.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.

Michael Gerson: What Atheists Can't Answer

Friday, July 13, 2007; Page A17

The Washington Post

G. K. Chesterton

British author G.K. Chesterton argued that every act of blasphemy is a kind of tribute to God, because it is based on belief. "If anyone doubts this," he wrote, "let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor."

By the evidence of the New York Times bestseller list, God has recently been bathed in such tributes. An irreverent trinity -- Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins -- has sold a lot of books accusing theism of fostering hatred, repressing sexuality and mutilating children (Hitchens doesn't approve of male circumcision). Every miracle is a fraud. Every mystic is a madman. And this atheism is presented as a war of liberation against centuries of spiritual tyranny.

Proving God's existence in 750 words or fewer would daunt even Thomas Aquinas. And I suspect that a certain kind of skeptic would remain skeptical even after a squadron of angels landed on his front lawn. So I merely want to pose a question: If the atheists are right, what would be the effect on human morality?

If God were dethroned as the arbiter of moral truth, it would not, of course, mean that everyone joins the Crips or reports to the Playboy mansion. On evidence found in every culture, human beings can be good without God. And Hitchens is himself part of the proof. I know him to be intellectually courageous and unfailingly kind, when not ruthlessly flaying opponents for taking minor exception to his arguments. There is something innate about morality that is distinct from theological conviction. This instinct may result from evolutionary biology, early childhood socialization or the chemistry of the brain, but human nature is somehow constructed for sympathy and cooperative purpose.

But there is a problem. Human nature, in other circumstances, is also clearly constructed for cruel exploitation, uncontrollable rage, icy selfishness and a range of other less desirable traits.
So the dilemma is this: How do we choose between good and bad instincts? Theism, for several millennia, has given one answer: We should cultivate the better angels of our nature because the God we love and respect requires it. While many of us fall tragically short, the ideal remains.

Atheism provides no answer to this dilemma. It cannot reply: "Obey your evolutionary instincts" because those instincts are conflicted. "Respect your brain chemistry" or "follow your mental wiring" don't seem very compelling either. It would be perfectly rational for someone to respond: "To hell with my wiring and your socialization, I'm going to do whatever I please." C.S. Lewis put the argument this way: "When all that says 'it is good' has been debunked, what says 'I want' remains."

Some argue that a careful determination of our long-term interests -- a fear of bad consequences -- will constrain our selfishness. But this is particularly absurd. Some people are very good at the self-centered exploitation of others. Many get away with it their whole lives. By exercising the will to power, they are maximizing one element of their human nature. In a purely material universe, what possible moral basis could exist to condemn them? Atheists can be good people; they just have no objective way to judge the conduct of those who are not.

The death of God has greater consequences than expanded golf time on Sunday mornings. And it is not simply religious fundamentalists who have recognized it. America's Founders embraced public neutrality on matters of religion, but they were not indifferent to the existence of religious faith. George Washington warned against the "supposition that morality can be maintained without religion." The Founders generally believed that the virtues necessary for self-government -- self-sacrifice, honesty, public spirit -- were strengthened by religious beliefs and institutions.

None of this amounts to proof of God's existence. But it clarifies a point of agreement -- which reveals an even deeper division. Atheists and theists seem to agree that human beings have an innate desire for morality and purpose. For the theist, this is perfectly understandable: We long for love, harmony and sympathy because we are intended by a Creator to find them. In a world without God, however, this desire for love and purpose is a cruel joke of nature -- imprinted by evolution, but destined for disappointment, just as we are destined for oblivion, on a planet that will be consumed by fire before the sun grows dim and cold.

This form of "liberation" is like liberating a plant from the soil or a whale from the ocean. In this kind of freedom, something dies.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Book Review: "The Book of Air and Shadows"

Car chases, shootouts and ... old books?
By Robin Vidimos
Special to The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 04/06/2007 10:15:59 PM MDT

What do you call a book built around a scavenger hunt that hits the ground running, accelerates the pace and raises the stakes until disparate plot threads are brought together in a heart-stopping climax? A thriller.

Some readers avoid the genre because it has a reputation, not entirely deserved, as revolving around plot while housing characters as thin as April pond ice.

"The Book of Air and Shadows," an intricately crafted and literate work, should give the genre a good shake. What Michael Gruber has omitted in car chases and shootouts (and rest easy, those elements aren't completely erased), he's more than made up for with a rich cast of characters who are difficult to leave when the final pages are turned.

The opening scenes belong to one thoroughly adrenaline-amped Jake Mishkin. He is a New York intellectual property rights lawyer. His clients are writers and musicians, his opponents are corporate entities. He's not a litigator; he moves in a polite world where heated confrontation is rare. So he is disconcerted, to say the least, to find people stalking and shooting at him.

It's all because a 17th-century letter, the Bracegirdle Manuscript, has fallen into his possession. The manuscript was brought to him by Shakespearean scholar Professor Bulstrode, who was visiting Columbia from Oxford University. But Bulstrode is no longer in the picture. He's been tortured to death.

Just how Bulstrode came to possess the manuscript is another story, and this story belongs to Albert Crosetti.

A bookstore romance

Albert seems the chronic underachiever. The youngest child of a much-honored New York City cop, at 24 he's still living with his mother in a Queens bungalow. He dreams of attending film school, but hasn't accumulated tuition. To that end, he works days at Sidney Glaser Rare Books, handling databases and Internet sales. And he passes his days with a longing eye toward a store associate, Carolyn Rolly.

A restaurant kitchen fire results in water damage to the adjacent bookstore. The greatest loss is that of a 1732 work by John Churchill, "Collection of Voyages and Travels," which is now worth only the price of the maps that can be broken out to be sold separately. Carolyn has some knowledge of bookbinding and enlists Albert's help in getting the books dried.

The discovery of part of the Bracegirdle Manuscript under the endpapers of the first volume of Churchill leads them to investigate the other five. By the time they are done, they have two documents, both written in Jacobean Secretary hand: The first, a letter dated October 1642; and the second, a document that seems written in code. And Albert believes the letter includes a reference to its author having spied on Shakespeare.

Gruber spins a deftly constructed story. He leads with Jake's first-person narrative, follows with a piece of the Bracegirdle narrative and then jumps back into a third-person voice to follow Albert and Carolyn. Each strand reveals different aspects of both plot and character.

Jake can only start his story from the point where he receives the manuscript, but his telling includes bits of personal history that have formed his character and now illuminate his actions. Albert's strand unfolds at more of a distance, and the reader shares his confusion as his possession of the manuscript uproots his once-staid life.

The young lady vanishes

Carolyn does not believe the Bracegirdle letter includes a reference to Shakespeare and, to prove it, takes Albert to visit Bulstrode. The professor agrees with Carolyn, but offers to buy the letter because it may have other historical significance. Albert isn't completely convinced by Bulstrode's arguments, but is persuaded by Carolyn to part with the letter. But not before he makes a copy of what he's selling, and not without holding back the original of the ciphered document.

Carolyn disappears the day after Bulstrode buys the letter. And, as fate would have it, some fairly nasty people would like to get their hands on both documents. Those who possess them, Jake and Albert, would like to know why. Albert is trying to track down Carolyn to find out. Jake has a slightly different dilemma; his part of the manuscript has been taken by, or perhaps kidnapped with, a young woman who bears a striking resemblance to a younger version of his estranged wife.

"The Book of Air and Shadows" is, clearly, a complicated tale. But Gruber is a master of his material. He sidesteps the obvious risks with disparate plot lines, and his remain unmuddied and ultimately join together naturally. As the story moves on, he raises the stakes not only by endangering the innocent, but by enlarging the pool of the potentially guilty.

Robin Vidimos reviews books for The Denver Post and Buzz in the 'Burbs.


The Book of Air and Shadows

By Michael Gruber


Patrick Buchanan: The Prince of Darkness

July 13, 2007

"Come here," Richard Nixon whispered.

I did -- as Nixon peeled the curtain back to reveal a group of reporters gathered for his press briefing.

"There," Nixon nodded. "That is the enemy."

Nixon had directed my attention to a swarthy fellow seated in the front row, separate from the rest, who seemed to be scowling, but at no one in particular. It was Robert Novak. That was 40 years ago, in Indiana, in the fall of that Republican year of 1966.

Formal introduction came on the first day of the 1968 New Hampshire primary. Nixon had asked me to be acting press secretary, and columnist Nick Thimmesch, a friend, suggested I join Novak and Pat Ferguson of the Baltimore Sun for a beer.

I did, and the pair lit into me, mocking that Nixon was up to his old tricks, lying to the press, sneaking off to tape campaign commercials in Hillsboro. The "new Nixon" is a bleeping fraud -- it's the same old Tricky Dick.

Fifteen minutes of this and I got up, departed and told Nixon and H.R. Haldeman I did not have the temperament for the job. Ron Ziegler was brought aboard.

This was my introduction to a man who has been arguably the best journalist in Washington in the last half century.

I write that not because, for 25 years, Novak has been a friend. Nor because we worked together for years on "The McLaughlin Group" and CNN's "Capital Gang" and "Crossfire." But because there is no better reporter-columnist and interviewer-commentator in this town. Like Billy Goodman of the old Red Sox of the 1940s, Novak can play any position and deliver a steady .300 batting average.

For decades, Novak has been known in Washington, to friend and foe alike -- both are legion -- as The Prince of Darkness, the title of his 600-page memoir published this month by Crown Forum.

Novak recounts his 50 years in journalism, beginning with his stint as an AP reporter in mid-America that brought him to Washington and The Wall Street Journal, whence he departed to join Rowland Evans of the old Herald-Tribune to form the Evans-Novak team. For three decades, Evans & Novak's Inside Report was among the best known and most widely syndicated columns in the nation.

On the first page, Novak -- the pivotal figure in the Valerie Plame-CIA leak story -- tells where and how he first met Joe Wilson, and his unprintable assessment of the ex-ambassador. That chapter explains his side of a story that made him a figure of national controversy and led to the naming of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, the investigation of Karl Rove and the Bush White House, and the conviction of Scooter Libby.

But the CIA leak story covers only a fraction of Novak's career, and a fraction of this frank and candid memoir in which Novak relates stories and renders judgment on the presidents he has known from LBJ to Bush, their adversaries, and the most controversial and famous statesmen, staffers and journalists of the last half century.

As no one has had the same experiences as Novak, none will share all of his judgments on those he regards as honorable and heroic, and those he has come to believe were or are poltroons and phonies.

From having read a hundred pages, this is both a brutally candid and important book, as well as a riveting read -- for those who have lived much of this history with him, and for those who would understand this vast slice of American history to which Novak had as privileged a seat as he is routinely given near the coach at the basketball games of his beloved Maryland Terps.

Ronald Reagan famously said of the platform he intended to run on, it should be all "bold colors ... no pale pastels." Some of Novak's opinions are scarlet. While writing, he told one and all he intended to use his memoir to clear up some matters and settle some accounts. He does not disappoint.

Often I have mentioned to friends that were I an editor of a major paper and had but one column to carry, it would be Novak's. His sources are the best. His opinions are upfront invariably, he is made privy to conversations and meetings that ring true in his telling. As few other columnists in his time, Novak continually breaks stories. That he has survived so long, after having enraged so many, is testimony that when Novak is denounced or disputed by some powerful figure, his editors believe him, not them.

At the party in his Pennsylvania Avenue apartment to celebrate his baptism as a Catholic, Pat Moynihan said to me, among others, "Pat, now that we have made Novak a Catholic, do you think we can make him a Christian?"

If the late senator were still with us, one would have to inform him that this remains a work in progress.

Justice Holmes once observed, "It is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time, at the peril of being judged not to have lived." Of Robert Novak, it may be said, he has surely done that.

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mike Lupica: Why Would He Stay?

With all that's happened here, Alex would be wise to opt out

Thursday, July 12th 2007, 4:00 AM

When the season ends, A-Rod can just sit there while Arte Moreno of the Angels or the new Cubs owners or even John Henry start throwing money at him. Why would he want to stay? "

The story is out there now, big as Alex Rodriguez's numbers and big as his need to be loved, that the Yankees, who said they wouldn't negotiate with A-Rod during this season, will negotiate with him after all. Mostly because he is having this season.

It is frankly the kind of season that must occasionally make him feel as if he is back in Texas, absolutely knocking the old cover off the ball for a bad team.

The Yankees, and that means Brian Cashman these days, would be crazy not to try to put some kind of offer to Rodriguez on the table. At least they can say they tried. But the way A-Rod is going, love him or not, it's hard to see how any kind of offer at this point will change much.

Think about this: If the Yankees ever do come all the way back on the Red Sox and he ends up hitting 60 home runs as they do, his value as a potential opt-out free agent after the season only goes up.

Then think about something else from A-Rod's point of view. Not mine or yours or Cashman's or even George Steinbrenner's:

Why would he stay?

This is a Yankee season nobody can blame on him, a season that has him right where he wants to be, which means pinstriped hero, at least for now. All he has to do is keep hitting. When the season is over he doesn't have to be bashful or phony this time, tell us it is all about the farm system the way he did when he went with the Rangers. He can just sit there while Arte Moreno of the Angels or the new Cubs owners or even John Henry start throwing money at him.

You think the Red Sox won't be in play if A-Rod is in play? Come on. They spent $51 million just to get a seat at the table with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Not only do they have the money in Boston, they have something else:

An opening at shortstop. A position Rodriguez gave up to come to New York and play next to a shortstop who sometimes seems reluctant to give A-Rod the time of day.

Scott Boras, A-Rod's bag man, is right: There is no reason for his client to negotiate with the Yankees right now. What's in it for A-Rod, except perhaps for the stroke of seeing the Yankees reverse their field and try to negotiate a new deal with him when they said they wouldn't do that for a pinstriped World Series hero such as Mo Rivera?

There is only one way for A-Rod to do what he did last time he was a free agent and go for the very biggest and baddest money available to him. And that is to find out, after the season, what the biggest, baddest offer really is.

Last time around, Boras got $252 million off Tom Hicks of the Rangers because that was twice what Kevin Garnett had gotten from the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA. This time around, you can make book on the fact that the magic number is $30 million, multiplied by however many years Boras can get off the next owner willing to let Boras walk him around the block the way Hicks did when A-Rod left the Mariners.

Maybe Boras is even looking for one year of David Beckham money at the back end. Maybe the Yankees think they have enough money to trump all the reasons A-Rod has for getting out of New York when the season is over.

And you better believe he has his reasons, whatever he says in public, and you better believe the Yankees know exactly what they are:

* The treatment he feels he has gotten, up until this season, from an awful lot of vocal Yankee fans, all the ones who wanted to drive him to the airport after the way he hit last October against the Tigers and want to carry him out to Monument Park on their shoulders now.

* The treatment he has gotten in the media, not just here and not just on the sports pages, but on the front pages when he got caught with that strip-club blond in Toronto. As A-Rod's stats get gaudier, by the way, his sidemen are now blaming his off-field problems on the tabloids for that. Right. The tabs did it! The Post must have fixed him up with the blond on

* The treatment he got from Joe Torre in last year's playoffs when Torre batted him eighth against the Tigers. A-Rod can hire skywriters to say he and Torre have kissed and made up on that one. You know when No.13 will forget where he hit that day? On the 13th of Never.

* Finally, there is the treatment he has gotten from Derek Jeter. You weigh in however you want on this relationship. But A-Rod thought that by agreeing to leave shortstop, even though he was on his way to being the greatest shortstop in history, he could get Jeter to forget the lousy things he said about him in Esquire magazine. He was as wrong about that as he was yelling at some backup third baseman in Toronto and thinking nobody would think it was a big deal.

Suddenly, without a single point added to his postseason average as a Yankee, A-Rod appears to be the one holding all the good cards. Suddenly, it is the Yankee variation of the old Bob Arum line: Yesterday I was lying, today I'm telling the truth. Yesterday they weren't negotiating. Now they are. It is easy to see how they can't let him walk without at least making him an offer.

But really: Knowing what we know about A-Rod, why would he stay?

Related Articles

Patrick J. Buchanan: Return Of The Latin Mass - Traditionalists Triumph, Despite ADL

July 09, 2007
Patrick J. Buchanan

Pope Benedict XVI

Elevated to the papacy at 78, Benedict XVI will take no action greater in significance for the Catholic Church than his motu proprio [English Latin] declaring that the Latin Mass must be said in every diocese—on the request of the faithful. Dissenting bishops must comply.

"What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us, too," said the Holy Father in his apostolic letter, as he authorized the universal use of the sole official version of the mass allowed in the four centuries between the Council of Trent and Vatican II.

To which many Catholics will respond: "Alleluia! Alleluia!"
And so the pope has come full circle. At Vatican II, the future Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Holy Office for the Defense of the Faith under John Paul II, went about in coat and tie and was seen as a radical reformer and modernist theologian in the mold of his friend Hans Kung.
Now, Kung is silent, Ratzinger is pope, and the Latin Mass, which had fallen into disuse with the introduction of the new rite in 1970, is back.

Why? Because the Holy Father knows the solemnity, mystery and beauty of the Latin Mass hold magnetic appeal, not only for the older faithful but the searching young. And he acted to advance a reconciliation with traditionalists out of communion with the Holy See, including the 600,000 followers of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, excommunicated in 1988, who belong to his Society of Saint Pius X.

The current head of SSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay, has welcomed papal restoration of the Latin Mass. But he has called it a first step toward addressing all doctrinal disputes dating to Vatican II. Among these are the issues of ecumenism and religious liberty. If the true church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic, then not all churches are equal.

Ever since Pope John Paul II issued his 1988 indult, which authorized, but did not require, bishops to allow the Latin Mass, the number of Catholics requesting the Tridentine rite—and the number attending—has steadily grown. Indeed, it was the stubborn resistance of some bishops to allow the Latin Mass to be said that brought a rising chorus of pleas to Rome from the faithful for the pope to overrule a recalcitrant hierarchy and order them to permit the old mass.
And there are other reasons Benedict XVI acted.

The introduction of the new mass has been attended by a raft of liturgical innovations by freelancing priests that are transparently heretical. And the years since Vatican II and the introduction of the new mass have been marked by a crisis of faith in Europe and the United States.

Churches have closed. Faithful have fallen away, or converted to other faiths. Congregations have dwindled. Convents have emptied out. Vocations are a fraction of what they once were. Belief in the creedal truths of Catholicism is not what it was in the years before Vatican II—the halcyon days of the great pope and future St. Pius XII.

One cannot know the effect of Pope Benedict's decision. But the ferocity with which it was fought suggests some bishops are aware of the power of the old Latin Mass and the appeal of its mystery and solemnity to the young.

Pope Benedict, raised Catholic in Nazi Germany, once a reformer, but shaken by the events of 1968 and the social, cultural and moral revolution that followed, seems to have concluded that the Catholic Church's apertura a sinistra, its opening to the left, has run its course theologically, liturgically and morally, and failed. Restored tradition can do no harm, and may offer hope for the revival of a faith that is in its deepest crisis since the Reformation.

Indeed, the term "Tridentine Mass" is derived from the Latin name, Tirdentum, of the city in which it was declared the official mass of Roman Catholicism. And the Council of Trent was the first major step in the Counter-Reformation.

Yet the Holy Father could not make everyone happy.

Liberal European bishops were said to have fought restoration of the Latin Mass. And, according to The New York Times, [Pope Eases Restrictions on Latin Mass, By Ian Fisher July 8, 2007] Abe Foxman, resident theologian at the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, is about to anathematize the whole lot of us. Declared Abe, speaking ex cathedra for ADL:

"We are extremely disappointed and deeply offended that nearly 40 years after the Vatican rightly removed insulting anti-Jewish language from the Good Friday Mass, that it would now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting words by praying for Jews to be converted." [Press Release: ADL Calls Vatican Prayer for Conversion of Jews 'A Theological Setback' and 'A Body Blow to Catholic-Jewish Relations']

What is Abe talking about?

Does he not know that Catholics are required to pray for the conversion of all peoples to Catholicism and Christ? Who duped Abe into thinking this requirement was suspended by Vatican II?

Indeed, if one believes, as devout Catholics do, that Christ and his Church hold the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, it would be anti-Semitic not to pray for the conversation of the Jews. Even Abe.

Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from

Michael Medved: Hitchens vs. God

Christopher Hitchens
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Christopher Hitchens has been abundantly blessed for attacking God.

His outrageous and entertaining book, “god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” has become a major bestseller and earned its sardonic author more than a million dollars, according to a recent estimate by the Wall Street Journal.

The sly distortions and grotesque errors that appear in every chapter of his work demonstrate the author’s carelessness and arrogance. In one especially appalling example (on page 100), Hitchens writes of “the pitiless teachings of the god of Moses, who never mentions human solidarity and compassion at all.” He thereby ignores the most celebrated commandment in the Five Books of Moses, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), identified by Jewish sages (and in Matthew’s Gospel by Jesus himself) as the very essence of the Hebrew Scriptures. Hitchens also fails to acknowledge the innumerable Old Testament injunctions to show loving-kindness and mercy in dealing with widows, orphans, strangers, and the poor. Whether one imputes these teachings to God or to Moses, they hardly qualify as “pitiless” and most certainly emphasize “human solidarity and compassion.”

Beyond its factual errors and obvious misstatements, “god is not Great” (Hitchens makes a point of never spelling the word “God” with a capital “G”) provides a frequently primitive and juvenile characterization of religious belief. Near the conclusion of his book he suggests that “religion offers either annihilation in the name of god, or else the false promise that if we take a knife to our foreskin, or pray in the right direction, or ingest pieces of wafer, we shall be ‘saved.’” This breezy dismissal obviously misrepresents Christianity (with most denominations considering a relationship with Christ more important to salvation than consumption of magical wafers) but also misses the entire thrust of Judaism, which never mandated circumcision for non-Jews nor limited a share in the afterlife to members of the House of Israel.

The countless quibbles with the book’s shoddy scholarship and clumsy mischaracterizations of Biblical tradition easily could fill a separate corrective volume or take up any opportunity for interview or debate with Mr. Hitchens. On my radio show, I therefore decided to avoid focusing on such details when he agreed to talk with me for two full hours earlier today. Rather than spending precious time proving that he shamefully misquoted the 11th Century sage Moses Maimonides, or challenging his odd insistence (emphatically and tellingly repeated on my show) that a charismatic teacher named Jesus of Nazareth never even existed, I concentrated instead on five core questions to challenge his fundamental argument that “religion poisons everything.”

1. Some 24 years ago Hitchens abandoned his British homeland and chose to make his life in the United States. This April, he proudly took the oath as a naturalized American citizen at the Jefferson Memorial. He has written movingly and persuasively of his love for his adopted country—despite the fact that throughout its history the people of the United States have proven notably more committed to their predominantly Christian faith than their Western European counterparts. A previous visiting journalist named Alexis de Tocqueville described America as “a nation with the soul of a church” and Hitchens conceded that to this day more Americans engage in regular prayer and Bible study than do the citizens of any other advanced Western nation. If religion indeed “poisons everything” then why has it so pointedly failed to poison the United States – producing, instead, a nation that Hitchens himself openly prefers to any other?

2. Throughout his book, Hitchens attacks “religion” in general, regularly dismissing the common fallacies he identifies in all major faiths, assaulting Islam, Christianity and Judaism with comparable gusto. In so doing, he inadvertently lets homicidal and self-destructive Islamo-Nazis off the hook: conflating today’s suicide bombings in the name Allah with medieval pogroms in the name of Jesus, or Biblical accounts of Israelite violence against the ancient Amalekites. The generalized indictment of “religion” fails to acknowledge the unique cruelty and insanity of contemporary Islamism; like leftist apologists for terrorist crimes, he takes the position that “all religions are guilty” so Muslim fanatics bear no unique culpability. In the style of Cold War skeptics who discerned an absurd moral equivalence between the United States and the Soviet Union, he ends up trivializing the monstrousness of current jihadist dogma by comparing it to Christian and Jewish teachings that produce no similarly bloody consequences in today’s world. In the same sense, he specifically likens the hideous, indefensible practice of female genital mutilation in “some animist and Muslim societies,” with the circumcision of baby boys which, unlike clitorectomy, boasts abundant defenders (and practitioners) within the modern medical community. By assailing all religions as similarly barbaric and primitive, Hitchens effectively denies the singular dangers and dementia of Islamism which he has vividly delineated in other contexts.

3. Hitchens emphasizes his fervent belief in Darwinian evolution as the process that produced all life forms and facilitated human advancement but in this context offers no explanation for what some scientists have identified as “the God gene.” Natural selection means that any characteristic that confers reliable advantage on a species will survive and spread, while an attribute that handicaps this organism will, ultimately, disappear. If, then, “religion poisons everything,” how can one explain the persistence throughout human history of the religious impulse, and the sturdy survival of our pious instincts throughout the modern era? In confronting that challenge today, Hitchens alluded to prehistoric times in which medicine hardly existed, but suffering individuals might consult a witch doctor or shaman for superstitious cures. Even though these ministrations provided no physiological benefit, he argued, they helped the sufferers by adding to their confidence of recovery and emotional health—thereby conferring some evolutionary advantage to the faithful. This strained explanation for the widespread survival and vigor of organized religion in effect concedes a fundamental argument of many believers --- that regardless of its theological accuracy, a strong faith can make people healthier, happier and more productive, or at least healthier and longer-lived.

4. In describing himself and his fellow atheists near the opening of his book, Hitchens declares: “We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books. Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and –since there is no other metaphor- the soul.” Ironically, all the literary giants he describes as ethical guides were themselves guided, or at least informed, by their deep belief in God—in fact two of them (Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky) were full-out religious mystics. How can Hitchens unblushingly look to these writers as the right source for handling “serious ethical dilemmas” when their lives and work showed the unmistakable influence of religious teaching which he elsewhere holds in rank contempt?

5. In discussing the reaction to his book, Hitchens describes the polite reception he’s received in debating God’s existence at various churches and synagogues around the country, and acknowledges the lack of threat or rage from those who disagree with his angry dismissal of religious faith. In other words, even deeply devout Americans have, by and large, responded with tolerance, geniality and an eagerness to debate the issues he raises. By contrast, Hitchens himself viciously denounced Jerry Falwell on the very day of the evangelist’s death, declaring him “a hateful little toad,” “a fraud” and “a charlatan” and insisting (in a televised interview on CNN) that Falwell never sincerely held the beliefs he professed over the course of his long, productive lifetime. In other words, the atheist Hitchens showed less tolerance and generosity to a just deceased preacher than religious critics and commentators display to Hitchens in responding to his furious, anti-religious book. On the air, Hitchens answered this challenge by reminding the audience that many ardent believers argue that all the irreligious will end up with the torments of hell, so they don’t need to specifically indict or denounce one outspoken author. This dodges the reality, however, of an obvious “kindness gap”: Hitchens never challenged my assertion that if Falwell had been given the opportunity to comment on Hitchens’ death, rather than the other way around, the language would have proven more measured, forgiving, and considerate of the grieving family.

This brings me to the challenge that Hitchens has posed in various debates across the country, and which he put forward once again on my radio show. He offers a prize to anyone who can come up with an ethical declaration or behavior that a religious believer could urge or demonstrate that couldn’t equally win endorsement from an ethical atheist.

This challenge undermines none of the serious arguments for faith – only a fool would suggest that all atheists will prove incapable of moral conduct or sentiments. The enduring case for associating religious teaching with human goodness doesn’t contend that Biblical truth alone makes such goodness possible, but rather that religious adherence makes that decency more likely. In his compelling recent book “Who Really Cares,” my friend Professor Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University shows that the faithful contribute to charity and volunteer their time to compassionate causes with far greater consistency and generosity than their secular colleagues.

One might quarrel that these statistical studies reflect only a coincidental connection between religious belief and good behavior, but they certainly undermine the Hitchens contention that “religion poisons everything.” Reminders of the unspeakable viciousness of the long-ago Crusades, or of the bloodthirsty and degenerate tendencies of present day Muslim fanatics, can’t erase the kindness and warm-hearted good fellowship of religious communities across the United States this week and the next, or the generosity and consideration that most of those communities display even to non-believers.

The greatness and goodness of the American experiment haven’t arisen in spite of the nation’s ardent religious heritage, but because of it. For those of us fortunate enough to enjoy the blessings of this freakishly favored society, religion hardly amounts to a poison, but represents rather the elixir of life.

Michael Medved is a film critic, best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk show host.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ann Coulter: Nappy-Headed Hoax
July 11, 2007

The New York Times alone has mentioned the Scottsboro Boys case from the 1930s nearly 20 times since 2002 (expanding the "news" part of "newspaper" just a bit), so I think I'm entitled to spend at least one more week luxuriating in the Duke lacrosse players' total vindication and the exposure of a Southern liberal prosecutor as a corrupt hack.

Twenty years ago, disbarred Duke prosecutor Mike Nifong would have been Time magazine's Man of the Year. Vanity Fair would have photographed him sitting in a Porsche under the headline: "Speaking Truth to Power."

Mike Nifong

One hundred years ago, he would have been lynching innocent black men. Southern liberals have stayed the same; only their victims have changed.

To watch the complete destruction of this foolish and evil man, Michael Nifong — despite the mainstream media's best efforts to portray him as a modern-day Atticus Finch — is as great a moment as the annihilation of Dan Rather. Katie Couric's self-immolation is just a bonus — when it rains, it pours!

It is as great as Clinton's impeachment (which The New York Times is already claiming never happened in a front-page Week in Review article by Sam Tanenhaus on May 20).

The fact that we keep catching liberals in such blatant falsehoods shows you what they used to be able to get away with.

When the falsely accused Duke lacrosse players Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were indicted, Newsweek put their mug shots on its cover.

Months after the story first broke and most of the exculpatory evidence was known, an opinion piece — I assume it was an opinion piece — in The Washington Post began: "She was black, they were white, and race and sex were in the air." No, that's not the tagline for a new reality show — it's the first line of a legitimate story in a U.S. paper. It was downhill from there. The Duke case was "reminiscent of a black woman's vulnerability to a white man during the days of slavery, reconstruction and Jim Crow."

In fact, the case was reminiscent of the Scottsboro Boys case, but this time the falsely accused rape defendants were white. If only the press had dubbed them the "Durham Boys," that would be a great title for the Lifetime TV movie about this case that will never be made.

The accuser's history of making false accusations of gang rape, the players' alibis and the prosecutor's lies were all known to The New York Times when it reported on Aug. 25, 2006, that "while there are big weaknesses in Mr. Nifong's case, there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to take the matter to a jury." By "body of evidence," the Times was apparently referring to a smattering of racial and sexual stereotypes earnestly believed in Hollywood and in newsrooms across America in defiance of the facts.

The Times article also noted, "In several important areas, the full files, reviewed by The New York Times, contain evidence stronger than that highlighted by the defense." The "stronger" evidence consisted of obvious lies told by the prosecution and lustily repeated by the Times.

Shockingly, even when the jig was up, and the attorney general of North Carolina announced that the accused were innocent, much of the mainstream media continued to withhold the accuser's name.

According to various postings on the Internet, Fox News Channel was the only national television station to show the false accuser's photo, and CNN never even revealed her name.

Crystal Gail Mangum

From my research, it appears that CBS News named Crystal Gail Mangum and showed her picture. (Of course, this being CBS, the picture may have been forged.) But the only time her name came out on CNN was by non-CNN employees during live press conferences and one time when a guest slipped it in — you should pardon the expression — during a discussion of Nifong's disbarment hearing, unaware of CNN's policy of protecting the names of women who make false accusations of rape.

The New York Times has yet to name the woman who falsely accused three men of committing a brutal gang rape.

The Times "public editor" described the paper's delusional coverage of the Duke case after the first several weeks as "basically fair." The Times Sports editor, Tom Jolly, said he was "very comfortable" with the coverage, saying the case had two main elements: "One was the allegation of rape; the other was the general behavior of a high-level sports team at a prestigious university." That's when you know your newspaper might have a wee hint of a liberal bias: when even the sportswriters are left-wing crackpots.

Apparently, the Times editor did not see this possibility as an "element" of the case: A liberal prosecutor incites a racial conflagration weeks before an election in a heavily black voting district by using the incredible claims of a stripper to falsely accuse three innocent white men of gang rape.

After the dust clears, perhaps we can expect a Mary Mapes-type book from Nifong explaining how the rape really did happen after all, or a book from Joe Conason on how the people who brought Nifong down were a conspiracy of "Nifong-haters."

You can't win a victory like this without some liberals being affected. Bush may be an ineffective communicator, but that doesn't mean all thought stops in the rest of the country. Well-educated liberals, who have wealth and homes and children, begin to freak out as they get to know their apparent allies. They have something to lose from allowing insane people to run the country.

Even now, in conservatism's darkest hour, we continue to see the transformation of responsible liberals. It happened with Clinton, with Gore's election tantrum, with 9/11, with the Swift Boat Veterans, with Dan Rather and now with Michael Nifong. The rolling reconfiguration of the country can't help but to proceed in a molecular way.

A few more victories like this, and someday the phrase "sensible liberal" may make sense again.


Bruce Springsteen to Release New E Street Band Album in Fall

By Roger Friedman

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The general disarray at Sony Music's Columbia Records may have a savior: Bruce Springsteen.

The Boss, as we still call him, is apparently planning a new album for release in late fall. Some sources insist that this will be an E Street Band album, and not another side project like the "Seeger Sessions" or a solo collection of introspective songs.

An E Street Band album means a big rock 'n' roll sound with Springsteen's featured players like Steve van Zandt, Max Weinberg and Clarence Clemons.

Sources tell me that tracks have been recorded with the group, and that the hope among Bruce insiders is that he will choose their project over several others he may have cooking.

"You never know," one observer said, "but it's looking better and better."

Sony insiders definitely confirmed in the last few days that Springsteen is scheduled to release new music before the end of the year. He would have to be, since last year, former Sony Music CEO Andy Lack helped the rock legend land a contract worth $100 million over several years.

Another and very important player would be Springsteen's wife: rocker Patti Scialfa. The timing would be perfect since Scialfa — one of my favorite female rockers — already has an album set for release in early September.

"Play It As It Lays" is Scialfa's first new set of songs since "23rd Street Lullaby," which was released three years ago. Patti is already booked on "Letterman" and the "Today" show as well as "The View," where she may have to co-host if Barbara Walters doesn't find replacements for her departed panelists.

For Bruce, a new album would be the first E Street Band release since "The Rising," his magnificent recording about 9/11. That album sold better than any previous Springsteen albums and picked up a number of Grammy nominations. Springsteen lost the award for best album to Norah Jones' debut, if you recall.

If you never tried it, pick up "The Rising" or download some of its amazing tracks like "Empty Sky" or "You're Missing."

The latter song, which had a serious message, could also be the theme song at Sony these days. Quite a few people are missing — and they're not coming back. I'm told that layoffs are continuing, with several departments in publicity and marketing gutted.

When I mentioned this to a Sony higher-up the other day, the person replied: "You are the last one writing about the record business. Don't you realize it's over?"

Maybe, but if so, what do I do with my 1,200 45s and thousands of CDs? Not everything fits in a computer. And when the Springsteen album comes out, I don't want to listen to it on earbuds, but through my Rogue tube amplifier and Sequerra Met 7 speakers. Loud, baby, loud.

Thomas Boswell: For a Brief Moment, Bonds Was Safe at Home

Barry Bonds greets fans during the All-Star Red Carpet Show.

The Washington Post
Wednesday, July 11, 2007; E01


At 5:27:02 p.m. on the scoreboard clock, the public-address announcer at AT&T Park intoned, "Batting second . . ." With that, the cheers for Barry Bonds began an instant before his name could be announced in starting lineup introductions for the 78th All-Star Game on Tuesday. The Giants' beleaguered outfielder jogged onto the field near third base and doffed his helmet slowly several times in various directions, an expression of fatigued gratitude on his face as he accepted his standing ovation.

Then, with his shaved head still bare as overcast skies produced an occasional drop of rain, Bonds began to make waist-deep bows to the crowd. Now sure of how he would be received, without a boo-bird in the house, Bonds began to smile and enjoy his moment.

Most National League players, though not all, applauded for Bonds, too, as they stood in a line between second and third base. On the American League side, arrayed between first and second base, almost no players clapped, though a few did. Any public act, especially on this night, became an instantaneous part of baseball's accidental referendum on Bonds in all his various aspects -- the prickly person, the steroid-suspected superstar and the soon-to-be all-time home run champion.

As quickly as the cheers arose, they stopped. Bonds had not yet done his bow to all four corners of the park. The scoreboard clock read 5:27:40. Could it be that a moment so precious to Bonds, so long anticipated -- the approbation of his home team's fans as the whole nation watched -- had lasted less than 40 seconds? Not even a minute to proclaim his virtues?

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in," Robert Frost wrote. This city is the place, perhaps the only place in baseball, where Bonds feels at home. Here he still can get 38 seconds of prompted pregame cheers.

From booing Philadelphia to sarcastic Boston to mocking Los Angeles, Bonds is an asterisk outcast, a symbol of a disgraced baseball age now coming to an end, a scapegoat who, almost alone, bares the sins of many others in his game. Yet in this town, there is some restoration of balance, as there probably should be. No one, certainly not a great player who has been convicted of no crime, should be without refuge. Here, Bonds can find a respite from criticism and, as this All-Star Game showed, even bask in a night full of almost unadulterated praise. The City by the Bay has forgiven or ignored his flaws, defended his tarnished honor and given him emotional cover in what might otherwise have been a shabby athletic old age.

"I can't thank the fans enough. I cannot ever, ever thank them enough. I'll never forget it. . . . It felt good for the first time in a long time to go out there and be cheered [in an all-star game]. I will be forever grateful," said Bonds, who went hitless in two at-bats, flying out weakly to right field in the first inning, then barely missing the home run that he desperately wanted when his fly ball off Josh Beckett in the third inning died in Magglio Ordoñez's glove just short of the left field wall, a few tormenting feet short of the bleachers.

Those who prefer to believe that the game's gods decree how the winds will blow when such symbolic fly balls are high in the air will note that Bonds danced down the first base line like Carlton Fisk in the '75 World Series, with the same half-dozen hopeful sideways frog hops, eyes fixed on the sailing ball. Bonds, however, did not wave his arms and, in the end, yelled his disappointment as his face became crestfallen.

In an amusing irony, the kind baseball seems to love, Bonds batted second so that he could get the most at-bats in the fewest innings. Of course, an unselfish hitter who is willing to "give himself up" for the team by advancing a teammate with a groundout usually occupies the second hole. So naturally, Bonds, one of the most self-centered stars of any era, was given exactly those give-yourself-up situation in both his at-bats with speedster Jose Reyes on second and no outs.

Instead of groundouts, Bonds went for the fences. Nobody would begrudge him his hacks in such an exhibition game before a home crowd. But perhaps only Bonds, always jockeying to put himself in the best light or defuse his critics, volunteered four times that "I was trying to get him over [to third base] both times."

"It was weird hitting second . . . I'm not used to that," said Bonds, who claimed he considered a bunt in the third inning, then decided: " 'Forget it. I'm going to swing.' I got a pitch to hit, but I just didn't it good enough."

Perhaps Bonds's most poignant and genuine words were for the Giants fans who have stood by him despite reams of grand jury leaks in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative probe and an entire book, "Game of Shadows," devoted to his alleged chemical enhancements.

"I'm lost for words," said Bonds, who participated in a pregame tribute to his godfather, Willie Mays. "With the fans -- this is my family." How true.

The reason Bonds could start in this All-Star Game was because loyal Giants fans voted often -- which is above board and good fun in baseball -- in the final days before the deadline. Nothing prevented Cubs fans from showing similar affection for their man, Alfonso Soriano, who had a 100,000-vote lead until the precincts hereabouts got busy on the Internet.

"I have 2 million friends that you guys didn't know about," Bonds said at a feisty 50-minute news conference Monday. Then, in batting practice at AT&T Park, all of Bonds's home runs, even those that did not reach McCovey Cove, were cheered as if they were as real as the 751 homers he has hit in regulation games.

Of course, much of the reason San Francisco sticks with Bonds is because fans here are so aware, and honest, that they were right beside Bonds, cheering and egging him on as he hit 73 home runs in 2001, won four straight MVP awards and took the Giants on a trip to the World Series.
Many fans in many other cities, as well as those of us in the media who seldom raised enough Cain about the obvious cheating in the sport, find Bonds a useful target. What, we didn't notice the constant offseason transformations that allowed mature sluggers to add 20 or 30 pounds of muscle in a winter?

Bonds's curse is that, for all those fans throughout the majors who taunt him with asterisk signs and Barry BALCO banners, he's the most extreme case. Bonds is not the marginal minor leaguer who decides he needs an edge in order to make the majors or the ordinary player who craves to be a star. Bonds was a three-time MVP before he ever met Victor Conte. So the analogy is to the corporate kingpin, already enormously wealthy, who games the system to get even more filthy rich.

In the end, this All-Star Game -- on a night that baseball has dreaded all season because the sport's most notorious star would be on center-stage display -- ended as well as it could. Bonds got his cheers. And, for an indisputably great career, he deserved them. But he didn't get the home run he wanted so much with its shallow appearance of vindication. Instead, his long fly ball died at the wall, much as his quest to be seen as the game's true home run king will probably also fail as the years pass .

This summer, Hank Aaron doesn't plan to attend any game in which Bonds might hit a 756th home run to pass him. And the Hammer wasn't part of this evening's Barry-centric ceremonies and symbolism. But somewhere, in the third inning as Barry's ball hung high in the sky, his breath must have been blowing straight in from left field.

Jonah Goldberg: Not a lot of life at Live Earth.

Dead on Arrival

July 11, 2007 12:00 AM

“If you want to save the planet, I want you to start jumping up and down. Come on, mother-[bleepers]!” Madonna railed from the stage at London's Live Earth concert Saturday. “If you want to save the planet, let me see you jump!”

You just can't beat that. What else could capture the canned juvenilia of a 48-year-old centimillionaire — who owns nine homes and has a “carbon footprint” nearly 100 times larger than the norm — hectoring a bunch of well-off, aging hipsters to show their Earth-love by jumping up and down like children? I suppose she could have said, “Now put your right foot in / Take your right foot out / Right foot in / Then you shake it all about…. That's what climate change is all about.”

Actually, I think the “Hokey Pokey” makes more sense.

But, hey, I don’t want to bash Live Earth, which is not to be confused with Live Aid (1985, dedicated to eradicating African famine) or Live 8 (2005, promising to relieve African nations’ debts). So with the African continent so well-fed — and debt-free! — who can blame the Celebrity Concern Industry for moving on to its next big success?

The avowed point of Live Earth was to ... can you guess? That’s right: raise awareness about global warming. Considering the energy required to put on the show, the nine Live Earth concerts doubtlessly raised more CO2 than awareness. NBC’s three-hour televised version got trounced by “Cops” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Moreover, surely most of the people who attended or tuned in already knew about global warming before they saw the video tutorial about Ed Begley Jr.’s eco-friendly home and sanctimony-powered go-cart.

Still, if fans had somehow missed the global-warming story entirely, imagine how befuddled they must have felt while listening to Dave Matthews sing the glories of cloth diapers. And, assuming they didn’t hit the mute button when Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova came to the stage, one wonders what any climate-change ingenues might have made of her remarks. The model, who nearly was killed in Thailand by the 2004 tsunami, explained that she “didn’t feel hate toward nature” because of the tsunami. “I felt nature was screaming for help.”

It’s nice that Nemcova didn’t want to blame the messenger, but it’s hard to feel a similar reluctance about Live Earth’s impresario in chief. Former Vice President Al Gore recently penned a book in which he rails against the current “assault on reason” by the evil forces of Earth-hating right-wingery. He repeatedly invokes science as if it’s his exclusive property. But the soft paganism on display in Nemcova’s faith-based assertion that a suboceanic earthquake was the result of Mother Nature sending us a message is typical of greenhouse gasbaggery.
Gore talks about the dysfunction of political discourse today. But when it comes to global warming, he and his acolytes insist that the time for debate is over. In other words, Gore’s ideal discourse would involve only discussion about how best to follow through on his prescriptions.

But such high-minded objections sail over the chief source of Live Earth’s lameness. The acts were mostly fine. But the outrage and passion felt so prepackaged, you almost expected Ludacris (who rapped about the evils of SUVs) to say, “This moral outrage is brought to you by GE’s Ecomagination.” One could say Live Earth is proof that global warming has jumped the shark, except for the fact that the phrase “jumped the shark” has jumped the shark.

Madonna, Genesis, UB40, the Police, Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam), Crowded House, Duran Duran — these were among the headliners for this supposedly cutting-edge extravaganza. I listened to these acts in high school more than 20 years ago, and some of them were already going gray by then. Phil Collins is 56. Sting is 55. Cat Stevens is pushing 60. The Rolling Stones didn’t play Live Earth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was because Mick Jagger needed a hip replacement.

Like the Rolling Stones, who define “graceful retirement” as drags on the oxygen tank between sets, these acts hawk youthful-activism nostalgia for the fans rich enough to pay for it.

Some argue that environmentalism has become a secular religion. Buying carbon offsets, they say, is the modern equivalent of purchasing indulgences for your sins from the Catholic Church. Live Earth certainly fit into that vision. The concerts seemed like Baptist hoedowns of yore, except now Gore is the Billy Sunday for the baby-boomer booboisie.

Maybe that’s in the works, too. But more likely, these were simply concerts by and for people who need to salt their sanctimony with platitudes about raising awareness. The music industry always has played fans for saps. In 1968, Columbia Records peddled the slogan “The Man Can’t Bust Our Music!” Now global warming is a brilliant way to market aging rockers too rich and famous to pass as rebels against anything save their refusal to retire with some dignity.

© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Ichiro named All-Star Game MVP

By Larry Stone

Seattle Times

July 11, 2007

Mariners center fielder Ichiro, right, celebrates his All-Star Game inside-the-park home run with American League teammate Ivan Rodriguez on Tuesday in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO — Forget about a new contract. Someone should give Ichiro his own network series.

Sorry, "Can You Top This?" has been taken.

Never mind rising to the moment. Ichiro soared to the occasion Tuesday in the All-Star Game at AT&T Park, delivering the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star history — a stand-up job — and winning the game's Most Valuable Player honors.

As the American League won yet again, 5-4, Ichiro somehow managed to upstage Barry Bonds on his home turf.

At least until the ninth, when the National League made a furious comeback to try to steal the spotlight from Ichiro, ultimately falling short with the bases loaded.

Heck, Ichiro almost upstaged Willie Mays, but on a night when the Giants' living legend was given a moving pregame tribute, that would have required Ichiro to catch a fly ball with his teeth. And then spontaneously combust in the on-deck circle.

What Ichiro did would suffice nicely on the day he was already headline news as word leaked out of an impending five-year contract that will tickle $100 million, on one side of nine figures or the other.

For warmups, Ichiro showed the softer part of his arsenal in his first two at-bats, drilling a single to right field off Jake Peavy to start the game, then tweaking a nasty down-and-away pitch from Ben Sheets delicately into left for a single in the third.

Already insanely limber, Ichiro had loosened up even more than usual before the game by dancing around questions about his impending contract extension. He followed by walking a tightrope between not lying and not answering.

And after the game, cradling the Ted Williams MVP trophy and holding the keys to a new 2008 Chevy Tahoe hybrid, Ichiro was still dancing. Asked one last time if he was now committed to Seattle with a new contract, he replied, "You'll find out sometime."

Earlier, asked essentially the same question, he had said, "I haven't signed a 15-year contract with anybody," followed by a high-pitched laugh.

After Tuesday, Ichiro might want to renegotiate his renegotiation. He'll only be 48 in 15 years, and may have even lost a step by then.

Ichiro lost no steps sprinting around the bases in the fifth inning. He drove a ball off the right-field fence that sits at the base of Willie Mays Wall, which measures 24 feet in honor of Say Hey's famous number.

Mays may have been faster in his prime, but that would be a heck of a foot race. Mays, who doesn't get around too well now at age 76, took the scenic route before the game, cruising the field in a pinkish 1958 Eldorado convertible while tossing balls to the crowd. Ichiro relished being part of the ensemble of players who escorted Mays into the ballpark.

"To be able to be on the same field that he was at that moment is something I'll never forget for the rest of my life," Ichiro said. "I know this is something that is impossible, but I'd like to have watched Mr. Willie Mays play just once."

The National Leaguers might want to sit down with Willie to remind them how the NL used to dominate in his heyday. Now it's the American League that owns the event, wrapping up its 10th victory without a loss since 1996, interrupted only by the 2002 tie.

Ichiro's homer came off the Padres' Chris Young. The pitcher may have been distracted by the nearby presence of his sparring partner, the Cubs' Derrek Lee, who was playing first base that inning.

It was the same Chris Young who on Monday, when asked about pitching to Ichiro, had replied, "You're asking the wrong guy. I haven't figured it out. I'd say he's fun to play against, but he's more fun to watch."

The home run was a real blast, though maybe not to Young. The ball caromed near the 421-foot sign at one of those quirky junctions that mark right field here.

National League right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. — who has lost a step, we can now confirm — chased down the ball while Ichiro steamed around the bases. American League third-base coach Ron Washington, who had sent Alex Rodriguez to his demise in the fourth [gunned down by Griffey] didn't hesitate to wildly pinwheel Ichiro home.

"I thought it was going over the fence," Ichiro said. "When it didn't, I got kind of bummed out."

It was no contest. Ichiro cruised in standing up as his AL teammates went wild. When he reached the bench, he was pummeled, after which Manny Ramirez jokingly fanned Ichiro with his jacket.

"As soon as I saw the ball kick out, I was thinking, 'You know what? He might have a chance,' " said Putz. "It's like he hit another gear when he went around second. That's what Washington saw."

In the dugout afterward, "It was kind of like shock," Putz said. "Like, 'Holy cow! Did that really just happen in an All-Star Game? An inside-the-park-homer?' It's awesome."

A day earlier, Putz had advocated for Ichiro to participate in the Home Run Derby.

"I would put my whole year's salary on it that he would win," Putz said then. "You've seen him in batting practice hit 12 out in a row. And not just wall scrapers, but peppering the Hit It Here Cafe off the windows seven, eight times in a row. But he says he doesn't want to disrespect the big power hitters."

What happened in the fifth inning wasn't quite what Putz had in mind. This wasn't Ichiro launching a splash shot into McCovey Cove, though he showed in batting practice he is fully capable.

It was Ichiro doing what he does best. Something a little offbeat and eye-opening, dashing and daring and different.

The sort of stuff we'll be seeing a lot of in Seattle over the next 5 ½ years.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or

MVP? It's a most valuable park

You can't beat fun at the oft-renamed park

Ray Ratto

San Fransisco Chronicle

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The flyover before the start of the 78th Annual All-Star Game.

The American League benefits again from the annual running of the All-Star Game, even though the extra home game has never actually come into play. True, an untidy little detail in the "This One Counts" campaign Bud Selig is so proud of, but hey, it's more dignified than "Loser Buys The Beer."

But when the tale of the 78th All-Star Game is actually told (after this morning, that is), the real winner will be the ballpark. Not the Americans, who had 5 to the Nationals' 4, or the Japanese, who emitted the game's most valuable player in Ichiro Suzuki, or the Venezuelans, who provided us with the ultra-nasty Johan Santana, or the Dominicans, whose Alfonso Soriano scared the AL with his ninth-inning home run.

The park. That monument to cellular communication technology and the impermanent nature of stadium naming rights. Old PBSBCATT Park, the Giants' ongoing tribute to bank financing.

Oh, the crowd got a glorious game, and the nation got three hours' entertainment that the July rating period does not normally provide. The bottom of the ninth inning alone was delicious in its tension, drama and execution, right down to the inevitable semi-informed second-guess (what, no Albert Pujols?). The city brought the setting, and the game brought the heat.

But the brightest star was the hall itself. It came into play at four pivotal moments in the game, and offered two more episodes of amusement/amazement, and if you need more than that to kill an evening, you are destined to (and richly deserve) a life of desperate dullness.

The five lesser events were as follows:

-- Carlos Beltran's long drive off the lower part of the right field inset just left of the 365-foot sign ricocheted back toward right field when Vladimir Guerrero was racing toward center to cut the ball off.

-- Carl Crawford's sixth-inning home run off Francisco Cordero, made possible by a fan leaning over the right-center field overhang and catching a ball that might well have fallen short. If the game really counted, Tony La Russa would have raced out to raise considerable hell with either second base umpire Mike Winters or right field umpire Bill Miller, and might even have become the first manager to be ejected from an All-Star Game.

-- Victor Martinez's line drive two-run homer in the eighth off Billy Wagner, hit right down the left-field line and in such a way that it probably would not have gone out at any other part of the park, not even over the annoying car cutouts.

-- Jose Reyes' double off the lip of the third-base cutout that baffled Alex Rodriguez to lead off the third inning. Reyes didn't score, but the look on Rodriguez's face as he watched the ball turn 75 degrees left was a keeper.

-- Freddy Sanchez's long run down the left-field line to make a tumbling catch in foul ground off Justin Morneau. Sanchez tumbled because he hit the bullpen cutout, one of only two sets left in major-league baseball (the two here and the two at Wrigley Field).

But the signature moment was Suzuki's fifth-inning home run, the one that earned him the free car and might help prod the Mariners to complete the rumored five-year, nearly $100 million contract extension with him.

He lined an 87-mph slider off Chris R. Young toward the Mirabelli Alley gap in right-center, but the ball struck the corner of the inset padding of the sixth archway - or the third archway if you, unlike Jon Miller, count left to right rather than right to left.

The pad was hidden by an All-Star Game vinyl banner, but it was not substantial enough to prevent the ball from shooting toward right field, giving Griffey no chance to react. Suzuki, at a dead sprint from the time he left the batter's box, raced home standing with his first inside-the-park home run ever in either North America or Asia, and the first in All-Star Game history.

"I thought it was going to go over the fence," Suzuki said, "and when it didn't, I was really bummed."

Only for a minute, though, for it turned out to be a far better moment as it was. Remember it? People at Tuesday night's game will be telling their grandchildren about it, even after the Giants begin stumping for a new park on Russian Hill because American Telepathy and Telemetry Park will be old and decayed. The ball and Suzuki's hat are going to the Hall of Fame, to be followed in due course by Ichiro himself, we must assume.

Even small things, like the frantic managing done by Jim Leyland (who had only one position player not make an appearance) and La Russa (the first manager in All-Star history to ever use one pitcher per inning for an entire game) made the chaos of a 64-player All-Star Game seem almost rhythmic.

The game reminded us that all the things we say we want to see beforehand are rarely as good as the surprise endings. Barry Bonds flied to right and put one to the warning track in left before leaving in the fourth, hitless let alone homerless, but the game far exceeded any disappointment the fans might have felt from that. They got to give their guy an extended standing ovation on national television, plus the very cool gesture of him handing Willie Mays' jacket to Griffey won him some charm points with the flint-hearted nation at large.

If any Ranger, White Sox or Royal or fans who felt cheated that Michael Young, Bobby Jenks and Gil Meche didn't get to play, well, please. If Twins fans fume that Torii Hunter came out in the ninth inning as part of a double switch, know that Leyland didn't like it either: "I didn't enjoy (managing the game) a bit. I enjoyed it about five minutes ago, and I'm dead serious about that."

And if anyone thinks the All-Star Game cannot stand alone without gimmicks like home-field advantage, or the interminable seventh-inning stretch for "God Bless America," well, shame on you for being rubes. On this night, the game did fine, the city did swell and the park did best of all. There is nothing more to be asked.

This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Mays returns to his home -- in center

Gwen Knapp

San Fransisco Chronicle

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Willie Mays stands in front of a photo of him as a young man in Harlem where he played stickball. The baseball legend spoke at a dedication ceremony of the Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club at Hunters Point.

For most of this week, Barry Bonds was the be-all, end-all, and everything-in-between of the 78th MLB All-Star Game. But for about 10 minutes Tuesday night, Bonds happily played a lesser role. He became a personal assistant, doting and solicitous, helping a 76-year-old man into a shiny 49-year-old Cadillac Eldorado convertible.

Willie Mays climbed in it and took a ride around the park, tossing baseballs to the crowd to finish the most important appearance of the evening.

It's moments like this -- not an innovation about determining home-field advantage for the World Series -- that keep the All-Star Game relevant. It's the past that keeps things fresh.

Mays' appearance didn't quite match the pomp of Ted Williams' return to Fenway Park for the 1999 All-Star Game, because Mays brushes whimsy over most occasions and, unlike Williams, he hasn't isolated himself in retirement.

Still, the Giants and MLB choreographed the event with ample symbolism and nostalgia, having Mays make his entrance in center field, turf he hadn't trod since the Giants opened the park in China Basin seven years ago. It didn't matter. Center field everywhere belongs to Willie Mays.

The ceremonial first pitch happened in shallow center field, with the current All-Stars trailing behind Mays like courtiers in a royal procession. Bonds and Derek Jeter walked by his side, and Jose Reyes, representing the Mets, Mays' last stop in baseball, got behind the temporary home plate to catch the pitch.

Willie Mays throws balls to the crowd as he rides in a 1958 Cadillac El Dorado around the field during pregame ceremonies in his honor.

Mays' impish side came out when Reyes set up for the catch. The septuagenarian motioned for the 24-year-old shortstop to move back a little, and then some more again. Mays finally let loose a throw that found Reyes' glove, not bad at all for a man who said before the tribute, "I hope I don't do anything to hurt my arm, because I just had an operation.''

He rubbed his right shoulder and rotated it a couple times, then immediately clarified: "It was just 'scoped,'' he said. "I don't want it to sound like I had a big surgery.''

Mays was settled in a chair in equipment manager Mike Murphy's office, where he turns up every now and then. His eyeglasses perched low on his forehead, hands clutching a newly autographed ball, Mays had about 15 minutes to show time. He said he didn't feel any jitters.

"You don't get nervous. You block them out,'' he said.

He'd already been through one big ceremony for the day, appearing at the dedication of the new Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club at Hunters Point in the morning. The Giants have pledged $2 million in donations to rebuild the clubhouse, near Mays' old haunt on Candlestick Point. The All-Star workouts and Home Run Derby helped raise funds for the renovation, another finer point of the Classic. It connected with the future as well as the past.

For the ceremony, a renowned picture of Mays playing stickball on the street in Harlem was blown up and used as a backdrop. "That was 1954,'' he said. The Giants, then in New York, won the World Series, and their center fielder routinely warmed up for his job by playing with the kids outside his home. "Day games, I'd play from about 10 to 11, and night games, I'd be out there about 3 to 4,'' he said.

Another copy of the photo was hanging on Murphy's wall, signed and dated by Mays. He has trouble keeping the image in his own home. "Because people always come to the house and ask, 'Can I have that picture?' " he said.

On the field Tuesday, he was handing out mementos at every turn. He signed the ceremonial ball for Reyes, a thrilling player, a constant joy to watch, very much like Mays. As he waited for the autograph, Reyes looked like a star-struck 9-year-old.

Then Mays took off his specially made All-Star jacket with "Say Hey'' on the back and gave it to Ken Griffey Jr. as a keepsake. Mays handed another jacket to Jeter. Jeter and Griffey had interviewed him for Fox Sports the day before, again connecting the present and the past, and Mays said he admired both of them. He felt a little bad that Griffey didn't get to escort him along with Jeter and Bonds.

"But I gave him my jacket, my coat to put in his house,'' Mays told the AP after the ceremony. "... We were fine. We're OK.''

The strip-down didn't appear to be rehearsed. In fact, as Mays sat in Murphy's office, he didn't know that he would be entering in center field.

"Tell you the truth, I'm out there, whatever comes up, that's what I'm going to do,'' he said.

The door to Murphy's office opened and Bonds peeked in, smiling. "I'm just making sure you're OK,'' he told his godfather. Then he gently reminded Mays that it was time to get ready.

On the field, Bonds said later, they didn't talk. He was at Mays' side to guide him, not to share the moment.

"It was Willie's stage, and ... obviously, everyone knows Willie's eyesight is not as good as it once was,'' Bonds said, "and we wanted to be there to make sure Willie got to the places he needed to get to.''

As they escorted him to the '58 Eldorado, Bonds protectively pulled the temporary home plate out of the way, then helped Mays into the seat, a hand on the older man's back. The car pulled away, and Mays started his circuit. The fans stayed on their feet and cheered. Whatever outrageous sum they had paid to see an All-Star Game in San Francisco, they had just gotten their money's worth.

This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle