Saturday, August 11, 2007
The New York Times
August 11, 2007
ONE of the songs Elvis Presley liked to perform in the ’70s was Joe South’s “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” its message clearly spelled out in the title.
Sometimes he would preface it with the 1951 Hank Williams recitation “Men With Broken Hearts,” which may well have been South’s original inspiration. “You’ve never walked in that man’s shoes/Or saw things through his eyes/Or stood and watched with helpless hands/While the heart inside you dies.” For Elvis these two songs were as much about social justice as empathy and understanding: “Help your brother along the road,” the Hank Williams number concluded, “No matter where you start/For the God that made you made them, too/These men with broken hearts.”
In Elvis’s case, this simple lesson was not just a matter of paying lip service to an abstract principle.
It was what he believed, it was what his music had stood for from the start: the breakdown of barriers, both musical and racial. This is not, unfortunately, how it is always perceived 30 years after his death, the anniversary of which is on Thursday. When the singer Mary J. Blige expressed her reservations about performing one of his signature songs, she only gave voice to a view common in the African-American community. “I prayed about it,” she said, “because I know Elvis was a racist.”
And yet, as the legendary Billboard editor Paul Ackerman, a devotee of English Romantic poetry as well as rock ’n’ roll, never tired of pointing out, the music represented not just an amalgam of America’s folk traditions (blues, gospel, country) but a bold restatement of an egalitarian ideal. “In one aspect of America’s cultural life,” Ackerman wrote in 1958, “integration has already taken place.”
It was due to rock ’n’ roll, he emphasized, that groundbreaking artists like Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, who would only recently have been confined to the “race” market, had acquired a broad-based pop following, while the music itself blossomed neither as a regional nor a racial phenomenon but as a joyful new synthesis “rich with Negro and hillbilly lore.”
No one could have embraced Paul Ackerman’s formulation more forcefully (or more fully) than Elvis Presley.
Asked to characterize his singing style when he first presented himself for an audition at the Sun recording studio in Memphis, Elvis said that he sang all kinds of music — “I don’t sound like nobody.” This, as it turned out, was far more than the bravado of an 18-year-old who had never sung in public before. It was in fact as succinct a definition as one might get of the democratic vision that fueled his music, a vision that denied distinctions of race, of class, of category, that embraced every kind of music equally, from the highest up to the lowest down.
It was, of course, in his embrace of black music that Elvis came in for his fiercest criticism. On one day alone, Ackerman wrote, he received calls from two Nashville music executives demanding in the strongest possible terms that Billboard stop listing Elvis’s records on the best-selling country chart because he played black music. He was simply seen as too low class, or perhaps just too no-class, in his refusal to deny recognition to a segment of society that had been rendered invisible by the cultural mainstream.
“Down in Tupelo, Mississippi,” Elvis told a white reporter for The Charlotte Observer in 1956, he used to listen to Arthur Crudup, the blues singer who originated “That’s All Right,” Elvis’s first record. Crudup, he said, used to “bang his box the way I do now, and I said if I ever got to the place where I could feel all old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody ever saw.”
It was statements like these that caused Elvis to be seen as something of a hero in the black community in those early years. In Memphis the two African-American newspapers, The Memphis World and The Tri-State Defender, hailed him as a “race man” — not just for his music but also for his indifference to the usual social distinctions. In the summer of 1956, The World reported, “the rock ’n’ roll phenomenon cracked Memphis’s segregation laws” by attending the Memphis Fairgrounds amusement park “during what is designated as ‘colored night.’”
That same year, Elvis also attended the otherwise segregated WDIA Goodwill Revue, an annual charity show put on by the radio station that called itself the “Mother Station of the Negroes.” In the aftermath of the event, a number of Negro newspapers printed photographs of Elvis with both Rufus Thomas and B.B. King (“Thanks, man, for all the early lessons you gave me,” were the words The Tri-State Defender reported he said to Mr. King).
When he returned to the revue the following December, a stylish shot of him “talking shop” with Little Junior Parker and Bobby “Blue” Bland appeared in Memphis’s mainstream afternoon paper, The Press-Scimitar, accompanied by a short feature that made Elvis’s feelings abundantly clear. “It was the real thing,” he said, summing up both performance and audience response. “Right from the heart.”
Just how committed he was to a view that insisted not just on musical accomplishment but fundamental humanity can be deduced from his reaction to the earliest appearance of an ugly rumor that has persisted in one form or another to this day. Elvis Presley, it was said increasingly within the African-American community, had declared, either at a personal appearance in Boston or on Edward R. Murrow’s “Person to Person” television program, “The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes.”
That he had never appeared in Boston or on Murrow’s program did nothing to abate the rumor, and so in June 1957, long after he had stopped talking to the mainstream press, he addressed the issue — and an audience that scarcely figured in his sales demographic — in an interview for the black weekly Jet.
Anyone who knew him, he told reporter Louie Robinson, would immediately recognize that he could never have uttered those words. Amid testimonials from black people who did know him, he described his attendance as a teenager at the church of celebrated black gospel composer, the Rev. W. Herbert Brewster, whose songs had been recorded by Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward and whose stand on civil rights was well known in the community. (Elvis’s version of “Peace in the Valley,” said Dr. Brewster later, was “one of the best gospel recordings I’ve ever heard.”)
The interview’s underlying point was the same as the underlying point of his music: far from asserting any superiority, he was merely doing his best to find a place in a musical continuum that included breathtaking talents like Ray Charles, Roy Hamilton, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and Howlin’ Wolf on the one hand, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe and the Statesmen Quartet on the other. “Let’s face it,” he said of his rhythm and blues influences, “nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that.”
And as for prejudice, the article concluded, quoting an unnamed source, “To Elvis people are people, regardless of race, color or creed.”
So why didn’t the rumor die? Why did it continue to find common acceptance up to, and past, the point that Chuck D of Public Enemy could declare in 1990, “Elvis was a hero to most... straight-up racist that sucker was, simple and plain”?
Chuck D has long since repudiated that view for a more nuanced one of cultural history, but the reason for the rumor’s durability, the unassailable logic behind its common acceptance within the black community rests quite simply on the social inequities that have persisted to this day, the fact that we live in a society that is no more perfectly democratic today than it was 50 years ago. As Chuck D perceptively observes, what does it mean, within this context, for Elvis to be hailed as “king,” if Elvis’s enthronement obscures the striving, the aspirations and achievements of so many others who provided him with inspiration?
Elvis would have been the first to agree. When a reporter referred to him as the “king of rock ’n’ roll” at the press conference following his 1969 Las Vegas opening, he rejected the title, as he always did, calling attention to the presence in the room of his friend Fats Domino, “one of my influences from way back.” The larger point, of course, was that no one should be called king; surely the music, the American musical tradition that Elvis so strongly embraced, could stand on its own by now, after crossing all borders of race, class and even nationality.
“The lack of prejudice on the part of Elvis Presley,” said Sam Phillips, the Sun Records founder who discovered him, “had to be one of the biggest things that ever happened. It was almost subversive, sneaking around through the music, but we hit things a little bit, don’t you think?”
Or, as Jake Hess, the incomparable lead singer for the Statesmen Quartet and one of Elvis’s lifelong influences, pointed out: “Elvis was one of those artists, when he sang a song, he just seemed to live every word of it. There’s other people that have a voice that’s maybe as great or greater than Presley’s, but he had that certain something that everybody searches for all during their lifetime.”
To do justice to that gift, to do justice to the spirit of the music, we have to extend ourselves sometimes beyond the narrow confines of our own experience, we have to challenge ourselves to embrace the democratic principle of the music itself, which may in the end be its most precious gift.
Peter Guralnick is the author of “Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley.”
Saturday, August 11, 2007
During a recent Democratic debate, both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama indicated that all female U.S. citizens should register for the Selective Service. Neither candidate was as ridiculous as former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, who said, when it comes to men and women being drafted, "What's the difference?" But the radical and dangerous implications of the front-runners' policies are not that far from Gravel's query.
The attitude the Democrats have on this issue has already caused harm to the military. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, has been watching the feminization of military-personnel policy for decades. In an article for The Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, she explains that "gender-integrated basic training is based on the unrealistic assumption that men and women are interchangeable in all military roles. The concept tries to circumvent or disguise physical differences with gender-normed training standards that reward equal effort rather than equal results."
Yes, there are differences between genders, Mr. Gravel. According to one of Donnelly's many examples of the different scoring of supposed equals: The Navy has male trainees do a minimum of 42 push-ups for a minimum score; women must do 17. Men (ages 20 to 24) must swim 500 yards in 12 minutes, 15 seconds; women (ages 20 to 24) get 14 minutes to accomplish the same.
The radicalism of the Democrats' desire to have women in the military can be seen with a look to the legal system. In 1981, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the male-only requirement for Selective Service registration, reasoning that the whole point "was to prepare for a draft of combat troops."
Women are currently banned from combat. If we needed to draft Americans, would Clinton require women to sign up for the Selective Service in preparation for mandatory combat duty? Would you conscript America's daughters? That's the sad direction we've been heading in.
Under the Clinton administration, a Pentagon "risk rule" was eliminated, opening 80 percent of all American military jobs to women. That risk rule, prior to its repeal, prevented women from being assigned to units that posed a risk of attack or capture -- a rule that would have spared the life of supply clerk Lori Piestewa, a 24-year-old single mother of two (now 5 and 6). Piestewa's brother told a reporter that Lori felt that "she wasn't going to be anywhere near any type of dangerous situation."
But according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, it was some kind of feminist victory that she was. "There's been an acceptance of the fact that women ... are in harm's way and they are being killed," she says. "That is defining to me," said Vaught. Well, it isn't defining to me and shouldn't be to any rational-thinking human.
Sen. James Webb, D-Va., would be doing his nation a service if he made his rational view of women's role in the military his pet cause. I don't agree with Webb on everything, but the senator has written at length about the fundamental flaws with the military treating men and women the same. If he called Donnelly to the Senate and had her suggest recommendations for treating men and women differently in the interest of the safety of our troops, maybe we would realize that we shouldn't be drafting women: We should be drafting a realistic vision of women's role in the armed forces -- one acknowledging real and natural differences.
Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.
Friday, August 10, 2007
By Douglas Jones
Etching of Flannery O'Connor by Jack Coughlin
"Yes, and it takes all kinds to make the world go round," the lady said in her musical voice.
As she said it, the raw-complexioned girl snapped her teeth together. Her lower lip turned downwards and inside out, revealing the pale pink inside her mouth. After a second it rolled back up. It was the ugliest face Mrs. Turpin had ever seen anyone make, and for a moment she was certain that the girl had made it at her. She was looking at her as if she had known and disliked her all her life—all of Mrs. Turpin's life, it seemed too, not just all the girl's life. Why, girl, I don't even know you, Mrs. Turpin said silently.
Whoever thought the Holy Spirit could look like an annoyed girl's face, "blue with acne"? Or a sassy, club-footed boy? A tattoo? Or that Christ could appear as a bull? Or a carnival hermaphrodite?
That sort of list already puts off most Christians from having an interest in O'Connor. It's just all so unnecessary and ugly, they say. It's just more violence and weirdness in a culture already permeated with it.
I've found it terribly difficult to get modern Christians to read O'Connor—even in healthy Christian communities. In my case, too, secular writers first made me sit up and notice O'Connor. They praised her technique and famous opening paragraphs. They lauded her tension and dialogue. Flannery O'Connor won several notable writing awards during her life, even while the secularists didn't really have a clue about her Christian realism.
Flannery O'Connor is easily the most important and talented and self-consciously Christian short story author of the twentieth century. Nobody else is close. I've seen her stories revolutionize people's lives, and yet most Christians have never even heard her name. Sure, many Christian academics and writers sing her praises, especially of late. But we should all know her stories inside and out; they should be easy allusions in conversation; they should be common parables in our teens' mouths. And we need to master her style and absorb her insights before the next generation can build upon her gifts.
Dark and Disruptive Grace
Still, something's odd about selling Flannery to Christians. Even when people know about her superior technique and Christian frames, they still usually choke after a story or two. Too rough. Too troubling. They're not hard to read, they'll admit, but still, there's all that weirdness and death.
None of her stories, though, turns out to be as gruesome as common PG-13 fare. She places most of the ugliness off screen. Her stories do not fit in horror categories at all. Her use of the grotesque and ugly doesn't delight in power or shock value. All her stories focus on grace, grace, grace. That's what they're about. Every one of them. Real people wrestling with bodily grace.
And that's what disturbs many readers. They don't want their grace black. It feels like an alien faith to them, and they resist it. O'Connor herself heard this complaint. In her essay "The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South," she argued against that pietism typical of Christian readers: "The reader wants his grace warm and binding, not dark and disruptive."
Here's the rub: her stories might be more palatable to modern Christians if she were just writing shock-jock horror stories. Frank Peretti sells, after all. That sort of writing goes down easier because we don't really believe it. It feels like someone else's world. It's alien enough that we're not truly threatened. But O'Connor's world is too close. And if her picture of dark grace is right, then our typical take on life fails.
Since Victorian times, Christians have tended to picture grace as cottony and covered with rubber. Grace always comforts and smoothes our furrowed brows; it always, always wipes away our tears, so sorry for them. We believe God is all-good; He's pretty much a nursery-school attendant, pink and white, who doesn't want anyone to get cut. In fact, we're surprised when people actually bump their heads. Pain seems unnatural to us. It's a no-no, and God is on our side. He never touches the stuff Himself.
In short, we believe deeply that all evil is bad. That's the heart of modern Christian faith. All evil is bad. It permeates our day-to-day lives, our work, our sermons, our struggles, our analysis of disasters. All evil is bad. And if so, then grace has to be Nice. Grace and niceness become interchangeable, and Flannery sees this as a (if not the) chief source of wickedness in the modern world. It's a lie about grace.
All Evil is Not Bad
O'Connor repeats the biblical theme that "grace cuts with the sword Christ said he came to bring." Grace cuts. It hurts; it slices; it makes us bleed. It "is never received warmly. Always a recoil," she says, and her stories show this time and time again.
In fact, Flannery's favorite target tends to be nice, mild, middle class ladies, full of decent and righteous advice. Nice ladies. Elsie Dinsmore all grown up. Yet these women lie about grace all day long. They lie about Christ as they go about trying to make a utopia of niceness. Grace is much more surprising than their Victorian sensibilities could ever imagine.
Some cringe at O'Connor's disposal of these ladies. Flannery famously gets a reader to side with a decent but perhaps slightly flawed lady, and then the story slowly turns grim. We see her smile is grounded in pettiness or deep bitterness. Finally, she has a severe encounter with dark grace. Nice readers close the story quickly and refuse to go on to another. It's as if the reader herself has been roughed up unjustly.
But that's the point. Flannery just reflects Christ's priorities. He was much softer on thieves, prostitutes, and murderers than he was on polite, middle class Pharisees. Christ berates and belittles and promises death-from-heaven for the most decent citizens of Jerusalem. The good, law-abiding Rotarian sorts incense Christ's deepest anger. And, in Flannery's stories, grace hunts them down. All evil is not bad. Some evil comes to shake us out of our sin; some evil comes to liberate us. Some evil is a gift of grace. Grace gnashes.
In Scripture, too, grace often appears evil. Sometimes it comes swooping down in the form of serpents. On the journey to Mount Hor, God's people complained bitterly. Nice middle-class people, not criminals. Yet God's dark grace came in horror story fashion: "The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died" (Num. 21:6). Imagine standing with that group of believers. Fiery serpents storm your spouse and children. All the screaming. All of grace. Surely fiery serpents were a bit of divine overreaction? God doesn't want to upset anyone does He? No. Wrong God.
Dark grace came to Noah in an ancient tsunami; to Abraham in that mad command to execute; to Isaac in faux hairy arms; to Jacob in a midnight wrestling assault; to Joseph in a deep pit; to Moses, that "bridegroom of blood," at a peaceful motel. (O'Connor herself never even approaches the level of relentless dark grace the Lord plays out in the book of Job; she's a softy when set next to that story.) The list goes on. O'Connor observes, "evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured."
Go through and count up all the dark grace that nice people face in Scripture. Right from God's throne. All evil is not bad. It's heavenly. It jolts our stories in surprising ways. It brings health. It reveals the glorious danger deep inside the Godhead.
Flannery says we "don't realize how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross." The cross. Yes. The darkest grace. Right at the center. All evil is not bad.
O'Connor summarizes this at the end of her essay, "The Fiction Writer and His Country," where she explains, "St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in instructing catechumens, wrote: `The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.' No matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell."
And yet O'Connor does not think the story of life plays out as a tragedy. Cyril's dragon isn't in control. In a letter, Flannery noted, "Naw, I don't think life is a tragedy. Tragedy is something that can be explained by the professors. Life is the will of God and this cannot be defined by the professors; for which all thanksgiving." She grounds dark grace in laughter, cosmic laughter springing from the triumph of the Trinity. In our trinitarian world, the devil is always a stooge, always something of a fool tricked by Father, Son, and Spirit. O'Connor's stories are full of "devils," and she notes, "the Devil can always be a subject for my kind of comedy one way or another. I suppose this is because he is always accomplishing ends other than his own." He's always the straight man, always used for a deeper end. But this sort of comic world, too, unnerves some Christians; it's too unserious for them, too unpredictable.
Readers of Flannery's letters note her easy humor and wit; her letters reveal someone who laughs and makes others laugh easily. Explicit comic elements show up in every one of her stories. She takes particular delight in satirizing modern academic secularists, but no story passes without irony and great comic lines. Yet her comedy goes even deeper.
Writing teachers regularly note that if the writer doesn't love a character then the reader won't be able to either. It's an intangible of writing. Line up Flannery's worst protagonists and villains, and when you step back from her treatment, you realize she loves them all dearly, the serial killers and the pharisees. This is really quite an amazing feat. You can see this in contrast to someone like Walker Percy, another Catholic writer often compared to O'Connor. In Percy's Lancelot, for example, there's no doubt that Percy loathes his protagonist from beginning to end, and the reader can't help coming away with the same dragging disdain. In some ways that's too easy for a writer.
Flannery did not loathe herself or her life, and so when she identified with her characters, her sympathy for them showed up easily. She casually noted that her stories "lack bitterness," something unfathomable to those who read her too quickly. She once wrote to a friend about her characters, "Hulga is like me. So is Nelson, so is Haze, so is Enoch." Her sympathy for herself in them shows clearly. All of her characters show signs of being loved. In this way, Flannery's writing again imitates divine love for the ugly and self-righteous. This is the gospel: "While we were yet sinners. . ."
On top of this, when you read a group of her stories, a pretty amazing pattern emerges. You soon realize how her visitations of dark grace stand out as huge gifts when compared to actual life. Most people's actual lives seem to be Flannery characters who never have the privilege of meeting dark grace. Think of the people around you. Think of the secularists. Most go on for decades in their self-deception and self-righteousness and pettiness until their bitterness just grinds to a close at the end. No revolutions. The majority of people have always seemed to live tedious, small lives. But in Flannery's world, it's as if dark grace intrudes regularly. People who would have probably been handed over to let their sin slowly destroy them get this amazing explosion of grace that turns them inside out. Because of this, her stories start to read like gift after gift after gift. You start to long for more dark grace in actual life since it produces such wonderful turns of redemption. It's as if Flannery's stories are a photo album or a hall of fame of great moments in surprising grace, a pattern so far from do-the-dishes life. Maybe we have not because we ask not.
Don't be afraid of Flannery. Let her mess with your head. Let her disturb you. As she observed, "all human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful." She's not the first or the last word, but she has an amazing grasp of Christian drama, and it's hard to see how contemporary Christian culture can mature without having her stories or others like them very deep in its bones. Let her show you how surprising grace is, how dark and healthy it can be, what a gift it is. Let the ugly girl in the waiting room turn her lip inside out again, let her make a loud noise through her teeth, let her fingers clamp onto the soft flesh of your neck.
Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, San Fransisco Chronicle Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
His personal trainer sits in prison for refusing to testify against him. Major League Baseball's legal team is investigating his suspected steroid use. A federal grand jury has targeted him in an ongoing perjury probe.
In breaking baseball's hallowed career home run record Tuesday, Giants star Barry Bonds managed to overcome the intense pressures and distractions stemming from his involvement in the BALCO steroids scandal - and from the widespread belief that his late-career power surge has been fueled by banned drugs.
In San Francisco, Bonds' record-setting home run was met with cheers.
But elsewhere in the nation, it was an awkward moment that called renewed attention to baseball's so-called steroid era, a time when the sport seemed unable or unwilling to stop players from using illegal performance-enhancing drugs to become bigger and faster and put up unprecedented offensive numbers.
Hank Aaron, the Atlanta Braves star whose record was overtaken by Bonds, didn't attend the big event. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who ordered an investigation into steroids in the game in response to reports about Bonds' use of banned drugs, waffled for months. Corporate sponsors refused to underwrite the home run chase.
And as Bonds approached the record, opposing fans taunted him with chants and signs declaring him a drug cheat. The razzing was so intense that when the Giants came to town, some clubs sought to tamp it down, confiscating signs and banners referring to Bonds and steroids.
Harry Edwards, longtime sports sociologist at UC Berkeley, said fans' unease over Bonds reflected their discomfort with the rise of drugs in baseball, and the fear that the sport was locked in "a pharmaceutical arms race that no one can control," as he said in remarks at the recent National Association of Hispanic Journalists in San Jose.
Edwards said many who care about baseball worry that drugs have become so prevalent that the integrity of the game is in question, and its records are no longer meaningful - to the point that the holder of the home run record can no longer be regarded as the game's best home run hitter.
"We have our record holders, and we have our standard bearers," Edwards said, maintaining that Aaron should be considered the game's "standard bearer" for home runs because he set his mark without benefit of steroids. Of modern players, he said: "You might be allowed in the Hall of Fame, but as part of the Steroid Era."
Symbol of an era
It is ironic that Bonds would emerge as a symbol of baseball's steroid era, because people familiar with the matter say he turned to performance-enhancing drugs long after they had become common in the game.
Retired Oakland A's slugger Jose Canseco, who says he used steroids with many teammates, including Mark McGwire, contends that by the late 1980s the drugs were widely used. But people who know him say Bonds played without benefit of steroids until after the 1998 season, when McGwire, then with the St. Louis Cardinals, won national acclaim for breaking the single-season home run record held by the Yankees' Roger Maris.
According to his former girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, and other people who know him, Bonds regarded McGwire as an inferior player and a steroid user who was being celebrated simply because he could hit home runs. Deciding to remake himself into a power hitter, Bonds in the offseason sought out Greg Anderson, a boyhood acquaintance from the San Carlos Little League who, according to court records, had become a weight trainer and steroid dealer.
Anderson began supplying the Giants star with steroids, evidence seized by federal investigators shows. Anderson also introduced Bonds to BALCO founder Victor Conte, purveyor of "the clear" and "the cream" - designer steroids that couldn't be detected by conventional drug tests.
Bonds became far more muscular, and his hitting improved dramatically, even though he had reached an age when the performance of most players declines. From the start of his career through 1998, when he turned 34, Bonds had batted .290 and averaged 32 home runs per season. In the six seasons that followed, he batted .328 and averaged 49 home runs per year. In 2001, at age 37, he hit 73 home runs, shattering McGwire's single-season record. And now, at age 43, he has broken Aaron's all-time record of 755 as well.
Bonds' association with BALCO, Conte and Anderson has nagged at him since federal investigators raided the Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in 2003.
Bonds was the biggest name among more than 30 sports stars who were subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury that investigated the BALCO drug conspiracy.
And while New York Yankees star Jason Giambi admitted that he had obtained BALCO's banned drugs from Anderson, Bonds insisted the trainer had only given him flaxseed oil and arthritis balm. Bonds claimed he had never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs, even when confronted with doping calendars seized from Anderson's home that described Bonds' drug regimen, which also included human growth hormone.
The account of Bonds' testimony, first published in The Chronicle, convinced many in the game that Bonds had indeed used drugs, and eventually led Commissioner Selig to hire former Sen. George Mitchell to investigate baseball's steroid era. His report remains unfinished 16 months after the probe began. On the advice of his lawyer, Bonds has declined to speak to Mitchell.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors were convinced that Bonds lied under oath when he denied using banned drugs. Even before Conte, Anderson and the other BALCO defendants pleaded guilty to steroid charges in 2005, the government had begun investigating Bonds for perjury. That probe has gone on for more than two years. Last year, some prosecutors wanted to indict Bonds. But then-U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan decided first to subpoena Anderson to testify about Bonds and drugs.
Anderson refused, was found in contempt of court and has been in prison since before Thanksgiving. The government will not say when its probe of Bonds might be concluded, although the statute of limitations will finally run out in 2008.
Coming to terms
Giants fans, by and large, simply don't share the concerns about Bonds and drugs.
Many still say they believe Bonds never used steroids, according to a review of hundreds of e-mails sent to The Chronicle on the topic.
Others take a more legalistic view, saying that because he has never been convicted of a steroid-related crime or reported to have failed a steroid test, he should be presumed innocent.
"Have they ever caught Barry doing anything?" said former Giants outfielder Kevin Mitchell at the All-Star Game Fan Fest. "You've got to catch a person."
Still other Giants fans say they have accepted what Bonds has refused to admit - that he used banned drugs - and come to terms with it.
"I'm not one of these people who is shocked by any of this," says Jules Tygiel, a history professor at San Francisco State University and author of "Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy," an account of the integration of the game. A longtime Giants fan, Tygiel says he likes watching Bonds play.
"All records are products of the times," he says. "In this case, we have a situation where players of the '90s took advantage of trends in conditioning and loopholes in the rules.
"Seeing it was unlikely they would get caught, they figured that the risk of using drugs, some legal, some of questionable legality, some new, was very minimal.
"And in the case of Bonds, he was the best of the drug-takers, assuming that he did, and I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming."
E-mail the writers at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page A - 8 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Bergen County Record
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Now that Barry Bonds has successfully fleeced America, the only remaining intrigue is why Hank Aaron caved in and endorsed Bonds as the all-time home run champion. Or did he? The taped congratulatory speech, shown moments after Bonds hit No. 756 at AT&T Park on Tuesday night, had all the sincerity of a hostage video. All that was missing was the orange jumpsuit.
Poor Hank -- you know he wanted no part of Bonds and this illegitimate conquest. Aaron's refusal to fly to San Francisco this week was an unmistakable protest, and it kept him from having to shake hands with the man who stole his crown. Aaron likely made the tape at the request of Bud Selig, who has an equal dislike for Bonds, but understands Major League Baseball needed the appearance of a peaceful transition.
Not that it mattered to anyone who believes sports were founded upon the principles of honesty and integrity. Bonds has made history all right – and with it leaves us all with a black eye. Actually it's worse than that; black eyes eventually heal. Bonds' achievement is more like a scar. That 756th homer serves as a permanent reminder of the slugger's greed and the corrupt path that took him to the top.
Bonds is the most compelling symbol of the steroid era, when home runs became as devalued as a dunk on a 9-foot basket. With reams of anecdotal evidence pointing to Bonds' guilt, there's little doubt he cheated his way to baseball's most prestigious honor. Bonds is the long-ball king, the mightiest of them, all, having conquered Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and now, finally, Aaron. It was a sea-change moment, but there's little joy outside the Bay Area, where Giants fans have been in a state of Jonestown-like worship.
Most everyone else, however, is woozy from the moral overload. Americans love baseball too much to have ignored Bonds, but felt dirtier watching him topple Aaron. Maybe it's because we're all to blame for Bonds and everything he represents.
The steroid explosion in the mid-Nineties couldn't have happened unless Selig and the game's elders weren't looking the other way. The players' union was just as guilty, blocking every attempt at a meaningful drug policy. The press, me included, was too busy glorifying Mark McGwire's and Sammy Sosa's pursuit of Roger Maris' single-season record in 1998 to state the obvious -- that baseball's home run hitters looked like they were created in a laboratory.
All the ingredients fed our desire for bigger, faster, more outrageous eye candy -- rules be damned. Somewhere along the way, America lost its appetite for what once made baseball so unique and precious. What happened to the subtle beauty of a first baseman scooping a low throw? Or a third baseman fielding a slow roller with one hand and firing a perfect strike, across his body, to nail a speedy runner by a half-step?
When did we stop appreciating outfielders who throw runners out at the plate? When was the last time we saw a perfectly executed suicide squeeze on "SportsCenter?" Our gaze has been re-directed toward tape-measure home runs, pumped-up radar gun readings and player contracts that are now large enough to feed a Third World country.
Baseball went from a form of chess to an extension of professional wrestling; we were seduced by the strongest hitters and the hardest throwers. Our reward is a champion whose legacy is built on a lie, although it's not like we were caught by surprise. The suspense of Bonds' pursuit of Aaron flamed out years ago, when it became obvious that his chemically enhanced home runs soon total into the 700s and beyond.
Some fans have had enough of the debate; they just want to move on. Unfortunately, Bonds will have more than just 15 minutes of infamy. His record could last a decade or more, unless Alex Rodriguez, having just hit his 500th home run, stays healthy and productive.
In the meantime, baseball is shamed by a phony coronation, not to mention a superstar who's on the verge of being indicted by a Bay Area grand jury on perjury charges. But be careful in renouncing Bonds. He is, after all, our creation. He exploited the steroids climate that we endorsed, explicitly or not. Face it: If Selig was all that troubled by Bonds' 73 home runs in 2001, he would've launched an immediate investigation. If the fans thought it was fishy that baseball players resembled NFL linemen, they would've stayed away. If the game's good guys had listened to their conscience, they would've spoken up – and stood up to Bonds.
But no one did, except for Jose Canseco, a steroid user himself. So we get what we deserve while watching Bonds celebrate, a worthless grand prize that teaches kids that cheating pays, as long as you've got cutting-edge pharmaceuticals at your disposal. But the price of such a devastating revelation is steep. In fact, a respected veteran once told me that he pushed aside suspicions of Bonds' steroid use, fearing that it would impact the integrity of his own career.
"All the times I faced Barry, I thought I was facing one of the greatest hitters ever, not some guy who was juiced up," the pitcher said. "I don't know what was real and what wasn't, so it's easier for me to say, 'Barry's innocent, he hasn't tested positive for anything.' Until they prove something against him someday, this is the way I have to feel about it."
That see-no-evil attitude runs rampant in the big leagues; most players are too afraid of Bonds to say what's on their minds. Aaron, the man who was tough enough to break Ruth's record despite racist threats against his life, took a stand against Bonds -- until the eleventh hour. Too bad he yielded, because he's still America's hero.
To anyone with a conscience, there's only one home run champion and his name isn't Barry Bonds.
* * *
Taking stock of Bonds: The baseball world reacts
"The record is not tainted at all. At all. Period."
-- Barry Bonds
"I dreamed about it as a kid, but when I dreamed about it, I was the one hitting the home run and not giving it up."
-- Washington Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik
"It's all about history. Pretty soon, someone will come along and pass him."
-- Hall of Famer Willie Mays, Bonds' godfather
"I'm indifferent. My home run chase was Hank Aaron and the Babe. I'll congratulate him, but that's about it for me."
-- Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle
Thursday, August 09, 2007
It is one of the oddities of American politics that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) can describe itself as a "civil-liberties group" while crusading to crush the free-speech rights of its critics. But that's exactly what happened last week when CAIR deployed its legal arsenal in a bid to stop author Robert Spencer from speaking at a conference of the Young America's Foundation (YAF).
In a letter to YAF dispatched by its lawyer, former Democratic National Committee staff counsel Joseph E. Sandler, CAIR threatened to "pursue every appropriate legal remedy" if Spencer were not immediately silenced. In the event, the YAF honorably refused to yield. The moral of the story: If CAIR disagrees with what you have to say, it'll fight furiously to deny your right to say it. To heck with civil liberties.
CAIR is not a first-time offender in this regard. Indeed, Spencer is only the most recent target of the organization's ongoing campaign to strangle free debate, especially when it turns on Islamic extremism. Other recipients of CAIR's wrath have included scholar Daniel Pipes, conservative columnist Cal Thomas, talk radio host Michael Graham, venerable news pundit Paul Harvey, National Review magazine, Fox's 24, and Andrew Whitehead, the proprietor of the website Anti-CAIR. In a telling example of CAIR's bullying tactics, Whitehead's dogged criticism of the organization got him slapped with a defamation suit. When CAIR's suit was decisively dismissed last year, the victory of an independent critic against the 32-chapter group, with its war chest filled by millions in petrodollars from Saudi royals and Gulf sheikdoms, had a certain David-vs.-Goliath resonance.
Not that CAIR's zeal to sue critics into submission has waned. Most recently, the organization has channeled its energies into harassing Zachariah Anani, a Lebanese Islamist turned Christian activist. For the intolerable offense of speaking out against militant Islam, CAIR's Canadian chapter has worked to have Anani, a Canadian citizen, brought up on hate-crimes charges. Offend CAIR's delicate sensibilities and you, too, can expect to hear from their lawyer.
It's bad enough that CAIR has appointed itself unofficial censor of debate about Islam. Equally galling is that the group routinely engages in the kind of sleazy defamation it so righteously claims to detest. In its letter to YAF last week, CAIR smeared Spencer as a "a well-known purveyor of hatred and bigotry against Muslims." If that's true, though, the organization might have been expected to provide some basis for this ostensibly "well-known" charge. CAIR offered not a shred of supporting evidence.
That is because no such evidence exists. Spencer, who heads the site JihadWatch.org and is the author of a recent biography of the prophet Muhammed, The Truth About Muhammed, is a reputable scholar who draws on Islamic sources to substantiate his work. Contrary to CAIR's objections, Spencer does not engage in theological polemics. He simply reveals what Islamic sources say.
Which calls forth the question: Why would a group that, by its own account, has no truck with Islamic militants, take such heated issue with an authority on Islam who is guilty of nothing more than highlighting those features of that religion that inspire and sanction Islamic terror? If CAIR was genuinely opposed to Islamic terror and wanted to bring Islam into the modern and democratic world, why wouldn't it embrace individuals such as Spencer? After all, Spencer's work equips Muslim moderates and reformers with the knowledge they need to confront the Islamic extremists in their midst. Armed with that knowledge, Islamic reformers who undertake the monumental challenge of liberalizing Islam stand a much better chance. As Spencer himself says: "You can't reform what you won't admit needs reforming."
In the end, it is clear that what CAIR calls "bigotry" and "Islamophobia" is in fact a perfectly defensible historical argument, advanced by Spencer and others, that the roots of modern jihad terrorism can be found in classic Islamic theology. This is a matter of fact, not prejudice: if it is true, policymakers should take it into account, no matter how inconvenient it may be. Unless one thinks, as CAIR evidently does, that any critical analysis of Islam is a form of actionable hatred, the notion that Spencer is a bigot who must be drummed out of polite society looks like what it really is: the intellectually empty bullying of an extremist fringe.
Here one gets closer to the crux of last week's contretemps. Mention of its links to Islamic extremist groups invites effusive indignation from CAIR, but a review of the group's record leaves little room for ambiguity. CAIR's forerunner, the Islamic Association of Palestine, was considered by the FBI a front group for Hamas. CAIR's founder, Nihad Awad is on record supporting Hamas -- and, one may thus reasonably conclude, its terrorist attacks against Israelis. To dismiss these facts as ancient history is to ignore more recent evidence. This June, for instance, federal prosecutors named CAIR an "unindicted co-conspirator" for allegedly aiding an Islamic charity that was busy providing support to Hamas. Given these connections to a terrorist movement committed to the mass murder of Jews, for CAIR to accuse anyone of religious "bigotry" is chutzpah on a breathtaking scale.
That CAIR met with defiance last week is heartening. Still, no one should think that the organization has been chastened. If the past is any guide, those who do not mouth politically correct platitudes about Islamic terrorism will find themselves at the center of CAIR's litigious attentions. At which point, one hopes that they will remind the organization that those who stifle reasonable opposition and ally themselves with actual extremists don't defend civil liberties. They endanger them.
Jacob Laksin is a senior editor of Frontpagemag.com. Jamie Glazov is the managing editor of Frontpagemag.com.
New York Newsday
August 9, 2007
There's good news, bad news and worse news on the immigration issue.
The good news is that Congress and the White House are moving forward with prudent steps, gaining control of the border, securing the homeland against terrorism and reasserting American sovereignty.
The bad news is that, in the past four decades, we've lost a lot of time fighting off the open-borders advocates and the anti-Western multiculturalists. Even as we now seek elementary homeland security measures - so that we can be safe in a world awash with jihadists, narcotraffickers and weapons-of-mass-destruction peddlers - we must first undo the grievous policy choices championed, and enacted, by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) since 1965. Policies that were co-championed by quite a few Republicans, too, including George W. Bush.
Finally, the worse news is that the cheap-labor lobbyists, terrorists and world-governing globalists are all moving ahead with their various plans. That's the conclusion to be drawn from an alarming story on the front page of yesterday's Washington Times, which informed us that "Islamic extremists embedded in the United States - posing as Hispanic nationals - are partnering with violent Mexican drug gangs to finance terror networks in the Middle East, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration report."
The DEA document, written and stamped "secret" in 2005, continues with these ominous words: "It is very likely that any future 'September 11' type of terrorist event in the United States may be facilitated, wittingly or unwittingly, by drug traffickers operating on both sides of the United States-Mexico border."
The Times also revealed a second report, dated last year, from the Department of Homeland Security, that bolsters the DEA document: "Al Qaeda has been trying to smuggle terrorists and terrorist weapons illegally into the United States." The report added that terrorist outfits "seek to smuggle OTMs [Other than Mexicans] from Middle Eastern countries into the U.S."
One can assume that the Bush administration was desperate to keep a lid on all such information while pushing its "comprehensive" immigration reform, which would have "amnestied" 12 million people of unknown origin and "guest-workered" millions more. But now the truth is leaking out: In the damning verdict of Times reporter Sara A. Carter, "Nearly every part of the Border Patrol's national strategy is failing."
But at least Washington finally has woken up to the immigration-homeland security issue. Most politicians, under pressure from irate citizens, have figured out by now that more votes are to be gained by sticking up for American sovereignty than by letting it continue to be frittered away.
A case in point is Sen. Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina Republican was all primed and primped for his McCain Media Moment - defined as forsaking the dull folks back home in pursuit of newfound chums in more glamorous places, such as Manhattan and Los Angeles - when he found himself badly burned in the firestorm over "comprehensive" immigration reform, which he had strongly supported, in defiance of his constituents.
In June, Graham said of the doomed immigration bill, "This is the last, best chance we'll have as a Congress." The lawmaker's argument to conservatives was that the only way to get better border enforcement through a Democratic-controlled Congress was by coupling it with amnesty for illegal immigrants. But that wasn't true at all - as Graham himself demonstrated just weeks later when, eyeing his own re-election needs, he co-sponsored an extra $3 billion for border-enforcement and wall-building without any reference to amnesty of "guest workers." That item passed the Senate 89-1; it will soon be law.
"More incremental steps are coming," predicts Robert Rector, an anti-amnestyandpro-sovereignty strategist at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation. In particular, Rector foresees further action on border security, workplace enforcement and denying welfare to non-citizens.
So help is on the way, finally. The only question is how many more illegal immigrants - and terrorists - will get here first.
James P. Pinkerton's e-mail address is email@example.com.
August 9, 2007
Wheel barrows sit on the ground of a sophisticated clandestine tunnel that passes under the US-Mexico border. The tunnel, which is 1155 meters long (3789.37 feet) and sits 27 meters (88.58 feet) underground, is accessed through a large concrete block shaft in a warehouse labout 175 meters (574.15 feet) south of the border wall. (AP Photo/David Maung)
A ranking House Republican yesterday demanded a hearing based on recent reports that Islamic terrorists embedded in the United States are teaming with Mexican drug cartels to fund terrorism networks overseas.
Rep. Ed Royce, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs terrorism and nonproliferation subcommittee, said the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) document — first reported yesterday by The Washington Times — highlights how vulnerable the nation is when fighting the war on terrorism.
"I'll be asking the terrorism subcommittee to hold a hearing on the DEA report's disturbing findings," said Mr. Royce of California. "A flood of name changes from Arabic to Hispanic and the reported linking of drug cartels on the Texas border with Middle East terrorism needs to be thoroughly investigated."
Likewise, Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, said the DEA document revealed startling evidence that Islamic radicals are camouflaging themselves as Hispanics while conducting business with violent drug-trafficking organizations.
"I have been ringing the bell about this serious threat of Islamic individuals changing their surnames to Hispanic surnames for three to four years," Mr. Culberson said. "Unfortunately, Homeland Security's highest priority is to hide the truth from Congress and the public. I just hope we're not closing the barn door after terrorists have already made their way in."
A Mexican federal policeman stands next to packages of drugs (believed to be marijuana) that had been removed from a sophisticated clandestine tunnel which passes under the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/David Maung)
Mr. Culberson, a member of the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, yesterday wrote a letter to the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. David E. Price, North Carolina Democrat, requesting a full investigation and hearing into the matter. A spokesman for Mr. Price said the committee is contacting the law-enforcement agencies and will work closely with Mr. Culberson's office on the matter.
"We certainly want to learn more about the matter from the agencies involved," said Paul Cox, press secretary to Mr. Price.
The 2005 DEA report outlines several incidents in which multiple Middle Eastern drug-trafficking and terrorist cells in the U.S. are funding terrorism networks overseas with the aid of Mexican cartels. These sleeper cells use established Mexican cartels with highly sophisticated trafficking routes to move narcotics — and other contraband — in and out of the United States, the report said.
These "persons of interest" speak Arabic, Spanish and Hebrew fluently, according to the document.
The report includes photographs of known Middle Easterners who "appear to be Hispanic; they are in fact, all Spanish-speaking Arabic drug traffickers supporting Middle East terrorism from their base of operations" in the southwestern United States, according to the DEA.
Michael Maxwell, a senior analyst with the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, said that the report is evidence that terrorism cells exist in the U.S. and are being aided by dangerous narco-trafficking cartels.
"While the procurement of fraudulent or multiple identities by terrorists to hide criminal activity is not new, the information suggests terrorist tradecraft is evolving and relationships now exist between Mexican and Middle Eastern individuals or groups, embedded here in the United States," he added.
The ties are as deep as family, according to the DEA report, which said that a Middle Eastern member of the Muslim Brotherhood, involved in narcotics sales and other crimes, married into a Mexican narcotics family.
"One of the targets of this investigation is an Arabic man," the document said.
A 2006 Department of Homeland Security intelligence report — also obtained by The Times — said that Al Qaeda has tried and is planning on using the Southwest border to enter the U.S.
Mark Juergensmeyer, director of the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara and a terrorism specialist, said that links between terrorism and narcotics trafficking have been well-established in foreign nations, such as Afghanistan.
But Mr. Juergensmeyer said the DEA report linking terrorist organizations in the United States to Mexican drug cartels displays a new evolution in terrorist tactics and poses a serious concern in the area of security.
"In some ways, that's even more frightening to think that drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico may adopt some jihadist ideology," he said. "If it's an ideology being adopted by a drug culture then that makes this situation very dangerous."
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Jack McClellan, 45, is a pedophile. For several years, McClellan ran a Washington-based how-to website for child molesters, entitled "Seattle-Tacoma-Everett Girl Love." On the website, McClellan posted pictures of minors and offered advice to his evil colleagues. "It might seem provocative to be hanging around elementary school playgrounds these days," McClellan posted, "but I've been surprised at how close you can get to some and how long you can loiter there without being noticed (or at least questioned) … If the kids aren't out on the playground, the next recess will probably be in less than 2 hours!"
McClellan says he is attracted to girls, ages 3 to 11. "I guess the main thing is I just think they're cute, a lot cuter than women. I admit there is kind of an erotic arousal there," he told Fox News.
McClellan's notoriety in the Washington area led him to relocate to Santa Clarita, California, where he promptly began his activities anew. Last week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Melvin Sandvig placed a restraining order on McClellan, restricting him from approaching within 30 feet of any minor in the state. Judge Sandvig further ordered McClellan not to contact any minor in any way, not to take pictures of children without their parents' consent, and not to hang around areas frequented by minors.
There's only one problem. In all likelihood, the restraining order will be struck down as violative of the First Amendment.
Current Supreme Court doctrine probably protects McClellan's web postings. Sure, the postings target children. Sure, they encourage other pedophiles to engage in child molestation. Sure, they victimize minors by placing their pictures in the pedophiles' indexes. But where the First Amendment once protected political speech, it now protects some of the most degraded and evil behavior imaginable.
For the last half-century, the Supreme Court has consistently broadened protections for pornographers and child molesters. In 2002, the Supreme Court construed the First Amendment to protect virtual child pornography (Ashcroft v. The Free Speech Coalition, 2002) -- child pornography produced utilizing computer-generated minors. Striking down the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, the Supreme Court gushed about the possible artistic, literary and social value of child pornography. "[T]eenage sexual activity and the sexual abuse of children … have inspired countless literary works," blathered Justice Anthony Kennedy, author of the majority opinion, citing "Romeo and Juliet," "Traffic" and "American Beauty."
The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, said the Court, was over-broad and unconstitutional. But the same could be said of the Supreme Court's obscenity-protecting interpretation of the First Amendment. By Kennedy's logic -- and the logic of the Supreme Court in Miller v. California (1973) -- any type of speech that could conceivably have literary, political, scientific or artistic value should be protected under the First Amendment. This invalidates virtually all restrictions on speech. Actual child pornography could theoretically have some sort of literary, political, scientific or artistic value.
The Court's response to this dilemma -- a dilemma of its own creation -- has been that the Court will act as the gatekeeper with regard to obscenity. The Court is the highest judge of literary, political, scientific or artistic value.
This self-aggrandizing and unfounded interpretation of the First Amendment has led to an arbitrary and vacillating standard of protected pornography. Back in the 1970s, the Supreme Court justices used to sit in the basement of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. watching pornographic movies, determining whether each particular movie was protected by the First Amendment.
Clearly, the framers of the First Amendment would not have been interested in Justice Kennedy's artistic taste. They would have been the first in line to convict Jack McClellan. The First Amendment was never designed to protect child pornographers; it was designed to protect political speech. The framers recognized the value of "Romeo and Juliet" -- they simply relied on the American people not to ban it.
Unlike the framers, the Supreme Court sees Americans as benighted fools, storming, pitch forks in hand, to burn the local library's copies of "Romeo and Juliet." And the justices will stretch the First Amendment to protect "Romeo and Juliet," even if such protection is unnecessary, and even if that unnecessary protection results in the facilitation of child molestation.
As long as the Supreme Court arbitrarily stretches the First Amendment beyond its original bounds, monsters like Jack McClellan can sleep worry-free. Meanwhile, America's parents will continue to sit up nights as their neighborhoods crumble around them.
Mr. Shapiro is a student at Harvard Law School. He is the author of "Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future" (Regnery, a Human Events sister company) and "Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctinate America's Youth" Thomas Nelson).
Bonds holds the home run record, but he's no hero
Posted: Wednesday August 8, 2007 2:41AM; Updated: Wednesday August 8, 2007 10:43AM
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds had just unloosed a wickedly hard swing Tuesday night, the ball already lining its way deep toward the stands in right-center field and into its place in baseball history, when he dropped his bat, thrust both fists into the cool night air and stood, tall and unmoving, for all the world to see. Immediately, we all were forced to deal with a question that we've been wrestling with for years.
What do you think of Barry Bonds now? What do you think of the new home run king?
After years of streaking toward this moment, more rapidly in the past few seasons than anyone had thought humanly possible, Bonds finally arrived on the summit he had so desperately sought with his typical bang and bravado. The Giants' controversial slugger crushed a fifth-inning, full-count fastball from the Nationals' Mike Bascik to the deepest recesses of AT&T Park, a superhuman 435 feet away, to supplant Hank Aaron at the top of Major League Baseball's list for most home runs in a career.
The San Francisco fans, so loyal and forgiving, went wacko when No. 756 pierced through the night. Fireworks popped over McCovey Cove as Bonds made his accustomed slow trek around the bases. He touched home plate, the record now all his, thrust his gloved fists again skyward and held them there as his 17-year-old son, Nikolai, embraced him.
Bonds then waded slowly into a subdued group of teammates, bowed and blew kisses to the crowd, greeted his family, hugged godfather and Giants great Willie Mays and thanked the fans at AT&T Park in a brief on-field ceremony. A few minutes later, after one last nod to the fans in left field, Giants manager Bruce Bochy pulled Bonds from the game.
And now, we are left to reflect on the man, the moment and the significance of it all. Bonds has millions of fans, as his selection to this year's All-Star game indicates. His supporters are vocal and relentless. But there are millions of fans today, too, that are completely, radically disgusted at baseball and at the idea of Bonds, of all people, holding this important record. They call him a cheat. They call him a disgrace. They call this whole thing a sham.
Think about that and what that means. Even if Bonds' record is not a sham -- and an overwhelming body of evidence points to the fact that's exactly what it is -- Bonds as home run king is, without any doubt, a shame. The most magical number in baseball, the most recognized record in sport, now belongs to a 43-year-old man who has broadly split the baseball-loving public.
"If they feel that way, I feel for them," Bochy said of the Bonds' critics. "I feel this is a time to celebrate. I would hope that everybody that loves this game and has a passion for it would celebrate. I think it's time to move on."
Barry Bonds was all smiles as he passed Hank Aaron on the all-time home run list.
We can argue -- baseball fans have been at it for years -- the relative merits of the performance-enhancing drug charges that Bonds has been sidestepping for years. The tirelessly reported and researched book Game of Shadows paints a picture of a man obsessed with getting the same kind of attention and adulation that former slugger Mark McGwire received during the great home run chase of 1998, and one who went chemical to achieve it. It's almost impossible to read that book, written by two investigative reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle, and come away with the impression that Bonds wasn't into a lot that he shouldn't have been into.
But even giving Bonds every benefit of the doubt, the new record-holder has been way less than we expect of our best, way less than what we should get. Record holder? Absolutely. Hero? Not in a million years.
At best, Bonds has made a lot of stupid, arrogant choices, associated himself with exactly the wrong type of people, played stupid when it served him best -- c'mon, Barry, flaxseed oil? -- and shown no regret for any of his actions. At best, as comedian Chris Rock told Bob Costas recently, Bonds has pulled a fast one.
At worst, Bonds has blatantly worked around and above the game's current drug policy and ignored the spirit and intent of baseball's rules against performance-enhancing drugs when they weren't enforceable. At worst, he took the drugs even though he knew he shouldn't, tried to hide that fact and cheated his way to this record.
The best is not good. The worst is reprehensible. Is this the man that baseball fans want holding the most glamorous record in sports? A surly, sometimes outright mean cuss of a player who also has been, at times, hated by his teammates, at odds with the players' union, nasty and condescending to fans and a disaster as a family man?
"This record is not tainted at all. At all," a defiant Bonds said in a postgame press conference. "You guys can say whatever you want."
There's no choice now, of course, when it comes to recognizing the new record holder. Bonds has a grand jury holding a possible indictment for perjury over his head. His former trainer and overly loyal friend, Greg Anderson, convicted of steroids distribution and money laundering, sits in a prison cell for refusing to testify about Bonds before the grand jury. Yet when the record books come out next year, Bonds' name will be atop the list, scot-free and asterisk-free.
Shortly after he was pulled from Tuesday's game, to another loud ovation from the crowd of more than 43,000, Bonds was caught by television cameras on the bench in the Giants' dugout. Most of his teammates were in the field or standing against the rail next to the field. Bonds sat, with no one near him on either side, staring blankly into space.
It was a poignant scene and completely fitting for the moment. The new home run king, on top of his world, all alone with his thoughts.
Updated: August 8, 2007, 1:12 PM ET
The pitch left the hand of journeyman Mike Bacsik at exactly 8:50 PT Tuesday evening, reached home plate going 84 miles per hour, and then, as camera flashes turned AT&T Park into the world's largest photo shoot, the specially marked baseball met its maker.
For the 756th time in his singularly spectacular and conflicted career, Barry Lamar Bonds turned a pitcher's best intention into a home run. On a 3-2 count in the bottom of the fifth inning, Bonds swung that custom-made, double-lacquered, Canadian toothpick of a maple bat of his and sent Bacsik's fastball about six rows into the right-center field seats -- and into baseball history.
Bonds is now the all-time major league leader in home runs and controversy. He did it 14 days after his 43rd birthday and 21 years after his first dinger. He did it on his own exacting and mysterious terms.
As the ball arched toward the waiting sea of humanity, Bonds dropped his bat and then raised both arms in triumph and perhaps relief, too. He stood at home plate for several seconds, took four steps toward first base, and then began his familiar 360-foot tour of the base paths. His smile was as wide as the bill of his cap.
The San Francisco Giants fans roared loud enough to set off sensor warnings at earthquake centers. That stadium, that city and those fans remain Bonds' refuge, and he rewarded them with The Home Run and, if you believe in such things, The defining moment in all of sports.
Bacsik, the 29-year-old Texan who had clawed his way back to the big leagues after years in such places as Burlington, Buffalo and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, tipped his cap to Bonds. The left-hander had given up a double and a single to Bonds earlier in the game. This time, with one out in the fifth, he gave up the home run that allowed Bonds to end Henry Aaron's 33-year reign as the major league home run king.
Fireworks exploded above the center field scoreboard. Teammates waited at home plate for handshakes and hugs. Bonds' family assembled for kisses.
Bonds then bowed and blew kisses to the AT&T sold-out crowd. His godfather, the great Willie Mays, was escorted to the field. A prerecorded video from Aaron was played.
You can admire or despise him, but you can't deny Bonds' ability to make us watch. It was spellbinding stuff and -- wait ... I'm sorry. I can't do this anymore.
I can't pretend what Bonds did Tuesday night in front of a national television audience and his adoring but myopic Giants fans is anything more than a make-believe piece of baseball drama.
I can't pretend Bonds' 756 homers truly matter because there's no way of knowing how many of them were hit by Barry The Clean or Barry The Cream.
I can't pretend Bonds is the legitimate successor to Aaron because there are simply too many questions and too much evidence to suggest otherwise.
And in the end, I can't pretend because I believe in the purity of Aaron's numbers, but not in coincidences. What Bonds has done, as his body has morphed from a lithe, ungodly, athletic rookie into a Silver Surfer look-alike, was no coincidence. I believe it was cheating. Rationalize and justify all you want, but Bonds had a choice. And I believe he chose to cheat.
The disconnect between Bonds and actual baseball immortality has never been more obvious. Commissioner Bud Selig wasn't in attendance. His absence wasn't out of spite, but let's face it, Selig has looked like he'd rather be doing anything -- giving congressional testimony ... going to the Westminster Dog Show with Michael Vick -- than wait for Bonds to hit No. 756. By skipping Tuesday night's game, he saved everyone the sight of him with his hands in his pockets again.
Of course, Aaron took a pass on the trip. Was it because he didn't want to schlep around the country as the one-dimensional Bonds labored to reach 756? That's the official Pravda stance, and Aaron has stuck by it. But you wonder what would have happened if it had been anyone other than Bonds who was breaking his record.
But maybe he can't pretend, either.
"It is a great accomplishment," said Aaron in the video, "which required skill, longevity and determination."
And a chemist's skill.
This isn't about Bonds himself. This isn't about his being as embraceable as a cactus. And while I hate to disappoint the racial-conspiracy theorists, this isn't about his being an African-American. If this were the very freckled and very white Mark McGwire in Bonds' cleats, I'd be saying the very same thing: that you can't celebrate the accomplishments of someone who allegedly used illegal performance enhancers.
No, this has to do with who Bonds is, not what he is. Who cares if he's a self-absorbed control freak (Gary Sheffield's words, not mine) with a martyr syndrome? What matters is his moral DNA. And in Bonds' case, he traded his baseball ethics for the money and for Aaron's record.
Bonds and his career numbers are a fraud. Just like McGwire's. Just like Rafael Palmeiro's. Just like Sammy Sosa's. Bonds wasn't the first to be connected with steroids or performance enhancers, but he's the first to overtake Aaron. And that's why you should care.
There was a time, regardless of how you felt about Bonds, when you couldn't ignore the width and breadth of his talent. Those were during his days with the Pittsburgh Pirates and early in his Giants career. Now you can't ignore the width and breadth of his cap size.
For all intent and purpose, he is the closest thing to a designated hitter in the National League. He can't run. His arm is modest at best. He is a defensive liability.
But the man knows what to do with a bat. The realities of middle age have forced him to downsize to a preferred 34-inch, 31.6-ounce maple model, but it's still fascinating to watch as Bonds tries to coax his body into keeping up with his baseball mind. It was so much simpler a few seasons ago, when he was using Victor Conte's miracle flaxseed oil.
As usual, Bonds continues to miscalculate his appeal. He thinks a great injustice has been done to him, when really it's the other way around. He is the master of inflicting collateral damage and then pretending none of it was his own doing. Just watch, he'll spin the new record into a passion play.
Last month, during a pre-All-Star Game media session in a downtown San Francisco hotel, Bonds was nearly enveloped by reporters and TV cameramen. At the end of the hour-long session, Bonds stood up and, in a satisfied, smug tone, said to no one in particular, "They all say I'm the most disgusting thing, but they all stand here for me."
We all stand, but not to honor him. That's reserved for players who did it the right way, the honest way.
Take a bow, Mr. Aaron.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He hits blast at home, among the faithful
San Fransisco Chronicle
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
This was where it had to happen, in his haven at China Basin, among the true believers. Barry Bonds launched a ball into history Tuesday night, sending the only 756th home run ever hit by a major-leaguer into the center-field bleachers and setting off a celebration more rapturous than anyone could have expected.
Rejected by large portions of the baseball-loving public as a chemically enhanced fraud, Bonds found himself enveloped in an adoring crowd of Giants fans, his family and teammates, plus applauding opponents and, most heartwarmingly, an aristocracy of sluggers.
Among the top seven home-run hitters of all time, the four who could be present, in some form or another, came together to celebrate the moment. Frank Robinson attended as a representative of Major League Baseball, and 76-year-old Willie Mays emerged from the warmth of a suite to join his godson on the field.
Then came the deposed king, Henry Aaron, whose face appeared on the park's enormous scoreboard, offering videotaped congratulations full of warmth and goodwill. Aaron had said long ago that he would not try to be in the park when Bonds broke the record. His statements, though very limited, were widely interpreted as a rebuke to Bonds, who has been linked to performance-enhancing drugs and remains under investigation by the federal government and Major League Baseball.
But when the time came, Aaron passed the torch with all the dignity he displayed when he overtook Babe Ruth 33 years ago.
"I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement," Aaron said. "My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams."
The audience cheered Aaron vigorously, drowning out almost half of his message. "It meant everything," Bonds said of the video. "It meant absolutely everything."
He took Aaron's crown at 8:51 p.m., hitting a 3-2 pitch from Washington Nationals lefthander Mike Bacsik in the fifth inning, just after the packed house of 43,154 started the familiar chant of "Barry, Barry, Barry" in earnest for the first time all night.
Bonds touched home plate and pointed to the sky, a gesture that used to punctuate his home-run trots regularly but has been noticeably absent this season. Later, as he stood next to Mays, Bonds pointed to the sky one more time, adding a final name to the list of people he was thanking. "My father," he said, doubling over as he held his arm aloft. Bobby Bonds, a major-league star during Barry's youth, died of cancer four years ago.
During the 10-minute celebratory delay, several Nationals remained on the field, quietly applauding Bonds. When Bacsik finally returned to the mound, he tipped his cap toward the Giants dugout.
A 29-year-old who spent the last two seasons in the minor leagues, Bacsik is the son and namesake of a former Texas Ranger who pitched to Aaron in 1976, when, like Bonds on Tuesday night, he had 755 home runs to his name. The younger Bacsik had said the day before that he could live with becoming the first major-league pitcher to allow No. 756.
"Me and Al Downing can do card shows together and sign famous autographs for being the guy," he told reporters Monday, referring to the pitcher who allowed Aaron's 715th home run, which took him past Ruth.
With his historic swing, Bonds unified both significant home-run records for the first time in 46 years, since Roger Maris hit 61 to replace Ruth as the single-season king.
Bonds hit 73 homers in 2001, becoming a prodigious slugger 15 years into his career. "There are some things I can't understand right now," he said at the time. "The balls I used to line off the wall are lining out (of the park). I can't tell you why. Call God. Ask him."
Since then, a laboratory in Burlingame and a personal trainer who did time for steroid dealing have been identified as the alleged sources of his transformation, putting Bonds in a national crucible of hostility and the entire sport under scrutiny it should have faced years ago.
Commissioner Bud Selig, who infamously acknowledged 755 on Saturday night in San Diego with his hands tucked in his pockets and a yawn on his face, was absent for the record-breaker. Robinson was one of his surrogates.
The commissioner did place a call to Bonds and issued a statement of congratulations, which referenced the MLB investigation by saying: "While the issues which have swirled around this record will continue to work themselves toward resolution, today is a day for congratulations on a truly remarkable achievement."
In several gatherings with the media since Bonds drew close to Aaron, Selig had avoided uttering the slugger's name aloud. But his conflicted reactions didn't extend to the profit motive.
On its Web site, MLB had already arranged to sell apparel commemorating No. 756. The T-shirts and caps, unlike the commissioner, actually say the words "Barry Bonds," and at $19.99-$29.99 a pop, they will repeat the name as often as you want.
Barry Bonds, with his godfather, Willie Mays, alongside, tears up as he talks about his late father, Bobby, while addressing the crowd at AT&T Park. Chronicle photo by Lance Iversen
He is the king now, at the pinnacle all by himself. How he got there, and how baseball will change because of the dirty secrets that he embodied and inadvertently exposed, will be a question for the ages. On Tuesday night, the exhilaration of the crowd, and of the moment, masked the uncertainty and doubts of the world outside Bonds' happy bubble by the bay.
Does he belong alongside the disgraced Pete Rose, the banished Shoeless Joe Jackson and the reclusive Mark McGwire? Will Bonds' connections to doping become a footnote rather than an impediment to the Hall of Fame? What does it all mean?
In the words of the new home-run king: Call God. Ask him.
E-mail Gwen Knapp at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
It's a tainted celebration as Bonds hits homer No. 756
New York Daily News
Wednesday, August 8th 2007, 4:49 AM
Barry Bonds hit No. 756 last night, hit it against a former Met named Mike Bacsik, hit it in the one place in this world, San Francisco, where he is cheered more than booed and loved more than hated.
He hit No. 756 over a Bank of America sign in AT&T Park, the official capital of Barry Bonds, where all who cheer him seem to believe he passed Henry Aaron and became the all-time home run king of baseball without the help of enough performance-enhancing drugs to keep a battleship afloat.
Bonds finally passed Aaron at the age of 43, did it looking like some bloated version of the sleek and splendid talent he was when he was young. It does not change who he is or how he got here.
There has never been a sports moment quite like this, never a record broken under circumstances such as these, never a more polarizing star than this in all of sports history.
The commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, was under no obligation to cheer Bonds when he tied Aaron last weekend, and you are under no obligation to cheer him now and neither am I.
This is No. 756 but with a bullet, from a ballplayer who hit 292 home runs over the first 10 years of his major-league career and now has hit 464 since.
Bonds finally stops chasing Aaron now, all this time after Aaron stopped chasing Babe Ruth in old Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta in April of 1974. Bigots were after Aaron in those days.
The United States government is after Bonds. Why? Because the government clearly thinks Bonds lied in front of a grand jury once when he said he never knowingly used steroids.
A ball hit off the 29-year-old lefthander Bacsik - he goes into history with Bonds the way an old Yankee went in with Aaron the night Aaron hit No.715 - does not change the fact that Bonds' former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, sits in a jail cell because he refuses to answer questions from the feds about the new home-run king of baseball.
Bonds passes Aaron in San Francisco last night at a time when you can go into a bookstore and read about the laundry list of performance-enhancing drugs from the authors of "Game of Shadows," Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams.
Ask yourself a question now that he has the record: If Fainaru-Wada and Williams made it all up, if they have told all these terrible and slanderous lies about Barry Bonds, why hasn't he sued them all the way into that famous McCovey Cove out beyond the ballpark he practically built for the Giants himself in San Francisco?
Ask yourself why his trainer would spend month after month in a jail cell if he has nothing to hide.
If you don't think they made it up in that book, and it sure would be a lot to make up, then you think what Bonds did is all right because a lot of other guys were doing it along with him.
"I ain't public enemy No. 1," Bonds said to me once, a long time ago, just the two of us sitting in the visitors' clubhouse at Shea Stadium for a magazine interview.
Nobody is saying he is public enemy No. 1 now. Or that he is the only one whose body grew along with his home-run totals over the last decade in baseball. He is just the best one. He was the best all-around player in the game, a Hall of Fame combination of speed and power. It wasn't enough for him.
He needed to be bigger, in all ways. He has made his history now. How he is judged by it is another matter altogether.
You don't have to believe he took everything from female fertility drugs to human growth hormones as his body grew the way it did, got him to 73 home runs in a season at the age of 37, on his way to 756 last night. I do.
Bonds was always going to hit a lot of home runs, for a long time, because he is one of the great talents to come along in 50 years in baseball. He was never going to pass Aaron without help. Two-hundred-ninety-two home runs in his first 10 years, 756 now. Go figure.
"I'll tell you something," Bonds said to me that day in Shea, at a time in his career when he had done nothing to indicate he would hit more home runs someday than his godfather, Willie Mays, or Ruth, or Aaron. "At this stage in my life, in my career, I'm more comfortable with myself than I've ever been. I'm a very happy person, except when I'm in a slump. I know the truth about myself."
He knew the truth about himself then. And he knows the truth about himself now. He knows how he got bigger, and stronger, and showed even more bat speed than he had when he was young. Bonds says that steroids don't hit a baseball for you. Maybe he can explain why he looks the way he does now and his numbers look the way they do after the first 10 years he had in baseball.
"The only thing I ever used was chewing gum," Aaron said once to a friend of mine.
The most Aaron ever hit in a season was 47 home runs. He did what he did at 6 feet and 180 pounds. Look at him. Look at Bonds. You cheer Bonds if you want to. Maybe the real reason Aaron wasn't there last night to stand next to Bonds was this: Somebody as big as Aaron should never look small.
Barry swats Aaron aside
The crime of the century?
Kid from Queens' catch of lifetime
Deep thinking on HR record
It's a curveball & congrats from Hank
Bonds' new home run record draws mixed reaction
Local fan defends Bonds
MIA Bud at 'roid summit
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Islamists in Oakland have been waging a campaign of intimidation and violence to carve out a section of the "progressive" city that conforms to Islamic law -- and the far-Left municipal leadership has looked the other way. It appears, however, they have finally gone too far.
Last Friday, August 3, Oakland police arrested figures associated with “Your Black Muslim Bakery”. In pre-dawn raids, Oakland Police SWAT team searched the bakery and three related locations finding several weapons and placing seven Muslims under arrest. They quickly recovered guns they believed to be the murder weapon used to kill Chauncey Bailey, Editor of the Oakland Post. Police say a 19-year-old bakery handyman named Devaughndre Broussard confessed, stating, "I am a good soldier."
The raids came just hours after Bailey, 57, was gunned down in broad daylight at a busy downtown Oakland intersection as he walked to work. Preparing an article for the Post, a black community weekly, Bailey had been investigating charges that the Muslims were involved in several recent Oakland murders.
Among the arrested was Yusef Bey IV, son of bakery founder, Yusef Bey. The other five arrested were not initially named. Police are still searching for two individuals who they also declined to name.
Shamir Yusuf Bey speaking in front of the bakery August 4 said: "This is not a reflection of Dr. Yusuf Bey." The organization's members all take the last name Bey. Explained Shamir Bey: "We are all sons of Dr. Yusuf Bey. He has taught us morals; he has taught us how to be advocates in our community."
Shamir Bey is correct about the source of his ‘morals.’ The elder Yusuf Bey died of cancer in 2003 awaiting court hearing on charges of rape, sodomy, and lewd acts with a child stemming from a 1992 case involving an impregnated 13 year old girl. Like the “prophet” Mohammed, Yusuf Bey was reputed to have fathered as many as 50 children–many by underage girls.
The bakery briefly made national news in November 2005, when members attacked two Oakland liquor stores, smashing bottles and demanding that the owners stop selling liquor. This follows a pattern established by the Taliban and other Islamist movements which form religious police squads for the “Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue.”
Bay Area leftists responded by saying, “Liquor stores are a blatant symbol of racism in America.” Oakland’s then-Mayor Jerry Brown gently criticized the attacks pointing out that, “not all liquor store owners should be tarred by the bad ones." According to the Oakland Tribune, “The clerk on duty (at the New York Market on San Pablo Ave) Sunday night was reported missing early Monday afternoon. He was found around 2 p.m., locked inside the trunk of a car in a supermarket parking lot in El Cerrito.”
Threatening and trashing local businesses wasn’t the only activity overlooked by the Politically Correct Oakland authorities operating under Mayor Brown’s replacement, open socialist Ron Dellums. After the murder of Chauncey Bailey, the New York Times reported August 3:
Oakland police officials said they suspected that the men were part of a group operating “a very violent criminal enterprise” out of a neighborhood bakery….
The police said the raid came after a lengthy investigation of other crimes, including two kidnappings on a single day in May, and two killings in July that occurred in the same north Oakland neighborhood where the bakery is located. The police had connected those crimes and put the bakery under surveillance before Mr. Bailey was killed.
“During our investigation, Chauncey Bailey was murdered, and it turns out that the evidence in that case also linked the same individuals we were looking at in the other two prior murders to that case,” said Lt. Ersie Joyner of the Oakland Police Department.
Asked whether there were any regrets about not moving faster to arrest the suspects before Mr. Bailey was killed, Assistant Chief Howard Jordan said that the Oakland Police Department’s resources were “very thin” and that the long-term investigation involved the cooperation of neighboring departments.
“Today was the best day we had, that we could have done this with the coordination of our allied agencies,” Mr. Jordan said. “We weren’t just kind of waiting around.”
Mr. Jordan said it was “very disheartening” to hear about Mr. Bailey’s killing, “and it was particularly disheartening to know it was connected to our investigation.”
Lieutenant Joyner said that many residents of the neighborhood surrounding the bakery had been afraid of the Muslim group, whose members sometimes shot automatic rifles in the air in a show of intimidation. Other members of the group, the police said, flaunted their defiance of outstanding warrants on assault and gun charges.
The incident that prompted the investigation, Lieutenant Joyner said, occurred last November. The police suspect that members of the group shot up a local car; no one was injured. The gun used in that shooting was linked to the recent killings, the police said.
In spite of its lengthy criminal ties, “Your Black Muslim Bakery” was able to establish retail locations at Oakland International Airport and the Oakland Coliseum. While they allegedly murdered Oakland residents, they sold “natural,” “reinvigorating” baked products through several Bay Area health food stores.
Journalist Adrian Morgan explains the origins of the group:
When Elijah Muhammad died in 1975, Nation of Islam members in California continued under one of the NoI's alternative names - the Black Muslims. These were led by Yusuf Bey, who typified the sort of person who led the NoI in its heyday, an entrepreneur who wanted to be a politician, with a decidedly sinister side.
While the Nation of Islam was riven into factions, following the 1975 death of Elijah Muhammad, Yusuf Bey, a captain of the group, negotiated a meeting in 1979 between Farrakhan and Silis Muhammad, leader of a breakaway faction. When Farrakhan revived the NoI in 1981, Yusuf Bey was not a part of the movement.
Born Joseph H. Stevens in Greeneville, Texas, in 1935, Bey moved with his parents to Oakland at the age of 5. He joined the US Air Force at age 17, and after four years he was honorably discharged. A qualified cosmetologist, Bey ran beauty salons in Oakland Santa Barbara, before opening a bakery in Santa Barbara in 1968 which later became "Your Black Muslim Bakery". He became involved with the Nation of Islam in 1964, and in 1971 moved his bakery to the East Bay. The bakery sold produce free of artificial colorants, with no refined sugar, fats or preservatives.
Bey had a weekly cable show called True Solutions, a platform for Elijah Muhammad's brand of Islam. He even ran for the position of Mayor of Oakland. He died on September 30, 2003, of colon cancer, having established an empire running housing, a school, a security firm and retail businesses, including Your Black Muslim Bakery. At the time of his death, he was engaged in a legal battle with a woman who claimed he had first raped her in 1982 when she was 13. She claimed she had been sexually abused by Yusuf Bey since the age of 10.
As members of Bey's family vied for the position of successor, violence broke out. On February 27, 2004 Waajid Aljawwaad Bey, president and CEO of the bakery, vanished. His rotting corpse was later found in a shallow grave in the Oakland Hills. In June 2005, Bey's adopted son John was wounded by a gunman in an ambush, and on October 25, Yusuf's 24-year old son Antar Bey was shot dead at a gas station. Nineteen-year old Yusuf Bey IV appeared to have taken over the leadership - he was indicted for smashing up Muslim-owned liquor stores in Oakland, events which happened a month after Antar Bey was killed. One store was torched, and an employee was locked in the trunk of a car. The tactic of wrecking premises had been employed under the leadership of Bey senior - in 1994 a rival laundry had been trashed by Black Muslims.
Why is this group still in business? It is not because the accused child-molester Bey was popular, he won only 5 percent of the vote in his 1994 run for Oakland mayor. Politically Correct Bay Area authorities have a long history of coddling gangsters who attach political rhetoric to their crimes. Publicly and openly.
A 2002 article by Chris Thompson in the East Bay Express explained criminal allegations against “Your Black Muslim Bakery” including the March 4, 1994, kidnapping, torture and extortion of Nigerian immigrant Olasunkanmi Onipede over a real estate deal with a Bakery associate. Presiding over the torture and extortion was, “Nedir Bey, the public face of Oakland's most prominent Black Muslim organization, the man who lobbies the City Council, orchestrates media events, and runs interference for the group's elusive leader….”
As the Express explained: “A group of up to six soldiers in the Black Muslim organization, led by a senior member of the Bey family, allegedly tortured two men for up to four hours – and were allegedly transporting him under armed escort when police arrived. When Oakland police tried to arrest the men involved in this incident, thirty Black Muslims mounted an organized assault on the officers – and the leader allegedly rallied his troops by calling for the death of white cops.”
These were not the only criminal accusations against Bey associates pointed out by the Express. “While acting as managers of a North Oakland apartment complex, four Black Muslims allegedly beat a tenant unconscious during an argument about his daughter.” Also, “prominent family member Nedir Bey has been accused of stalking his estranged lover, threatening to hurt her or steal their children.”
Al-Taqiyyah is a Muslim doctrine which allows Muslims to do anything as long as it furthers the power of Islam. The elder Bey built a multi-million dollar property and business empire following these methods. But after his death, his amoral followers’ narcissistic impulses began pulling the empire apart. As the Express explained:
According to court records, (Oakland drug dealer Lavelle) Stewart looked in his car and noticed that someone had stolen $1,200 worth of drugs. Turning on the crowd (outside the Omni Nightclub), he said he shouted, "One of you motherfuckers know what happened to my weed.
We've been out here enjoying ourselves all day, and my shit didn't just come up missing like this." As (Akbar) Bey and his friends began arguing, Stewart said, "It's like this," pulled a .357 "bulldog" Magnum from his waistband, and shot Bey four times. Two bullets smashed his jaw and passed through his brain, and two rounds hit him in the chest. Stewart was sentenced to sixty years in prison. According to court records, the pathologist concluded that Akbar Bey was high on heroin or morphine at the time of his death.
Even after decades of murder and mayhem, pseudo-intellectual academic frauds can still make up conspiracy theories and excuses. Quoted by AP August 4, California State University–East Bay professor Benjamin Bowser claims:
The group has deep roots in Oakland's life and politics, and for decades it played a positive role in Oakland's black community, said Cal State East Bay professor Benjamin Bowser, a sociologist who has chronicled the city's history.
The group served as an example of upward economic mobility in an impoverished community, and its members tried to serve as a buffer against the rising drug trade, Bowser said. The bakery has also long provided ex-convicts with one of the few places they could work after being released from prison.
"The Black Muslims along with the Black Panthers were instrumental in really keeping the widespread mass marketing of drugs out of east and west Oakland in the late 1960s, until the government focused on taking the Panthers out," Bowser said.
Ironically Bowser is listed as a “Journalists’ Resource” by the Association of American University Presses.
Most leftists are too effete to physically enforce their own ideology. This is why they need thugs to do it for them. Substantial portions of Hillary Clinton’s 1969 senior thesis are about the benefits of “test(ing) whether the mechanisms of (Chicago) gang structures could not assist in shifting attitudes toward productive adult citizenship.” (p. 34.) Hillary’s mentor, Saul Alinsky, spent years working with Al Capone’s Chicago gang.
It was not a problem when the victims were other members of the Bey group or private citizens in Oakland, but with the murder of Chauncey Bailey, the thugs made the mistake of taking out one of the elite – a journalist. Suddenly the “very thin” Oakland police find themselves permitted to make multiple arrests and shut down the bakery. It is not yet clear whether Oakland authorities will actually finish the job and dismantle the Islamist monster which they have for years cultivated in their midst. But a line has been crossed. With the murder of Chauncey Bailey, the Islamists have killed one of the cultural elite.
The Express asks: “Why has it taken so long for all these allegations, the torture and rapes and beatings, to come before the public? Why has Bey commanded the respect and admiration of so many people – and why were so many civic leaders eager to call him friend? Countless Oakland leaders have offered the Bey family their services. It's time for them to answer for it.”
That was written five years ago.