Saturday, May 31, 2008

Michelangelo for Readers With Deep Pockets


The New York Times
Published: May 31, 2008

BOLOGNA, Italy — The gala presentation of “Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano” (“Michelangelo: The Wise Hand”), a volume of photographs of this Renaissance master’s sculptures, may well have been the most lavish book debut in history.

Aurelio Amendola/FMR
A photograph of Michelangelo’s “Pietà” by Aurelio Amendola from the art book “Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano.”
More Photos »

Slide Show
‘Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano’

With Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s main square, as the backdrop, a short video depiction of the volume, which can be seen on, was followed on Thursday night by an hourlong spectacle that included dozens of costumed dancers, a string quartet playing from a stage suspended in midair, suckling pigs roasted over a pit, a fake snowfall and a foppishly dressed acrobat walking Spiderman-style up the facade of San Petronio, the city’s cathedral.
But then, this is no ordinary book, starting with its retail price of 100,000 euros, or around $155,000, at Friday’s exchange rate.
Included in the price of what its publishers are calling “the most beautiful book in the world” is a sleek black case, its own stand and a 500-year guarantee.

“This isn’t an appliance,” Marilena Ferrari, chairman of the book’s publisher, Gruppo FMR, told Bologna’s mayor and guests at the book’s official presentation in a grand salon in City Hall on Thursday morning. “That’s the amount of time we feel we can guarantee the materials we used to craft it.”

Using the high standards of the privately published books in the 19th century — an ideal known as the “book beautiful” — as a starting point, FMR sought expert artisans from various fields to create something Ms. Ferrari described as “a work of art in itself.”

Aurelio Amendola’s black-and-white photographs were printed on paper made exclusively for the project. There are detachable reproductions of Michelangelo drawings on handmade folios created according to centuries-old traditions. And then there’s the cover: a scale reproduction in marble of the “Madonna della Scala” (“Madonna of the Steps”), a bas-relief of the Virgin and Child sculptured by Michelangelo when he was still in his teens. The original is housed in the Casa Buonarroti in Florence.

It took two white-gloved attendants to lug around the 46.2-pound book at its City Hall debut.

The marble cover was the trickiest aspect of production.

“It was difficult to find the right depth,” said Nanni Tamar, the project’s production manager. Six sculptors of marble are working on the first 33 copies in a limited edition of 99. “We broke a lot of slabs along the way,” Mr. Tamar said.

This isn’t the most expensive book ever made. There are books incorporating precious metals or gemstones that increase the price, like that of the entrepreneur Roger Shashoua, whose memoir, “Dancing With the Bear,” according to its Web site,, comes in a diamond-encrusted “special oligarch” edition that ranges in price from $1 million to $6 million.

Luxury publishing in general seems to be on the upswing. “From my experience, it’s growing,” said Ovais Naqvi, chief executive of Gloria, a new luxury publisher that this year came out with a book about New York City that sells at $2,500 to $15,000.

“There are a certain amount of people who are testing how far the market can be pushed,” Mr. Naqvi said.

Because production of the Michelangelo book is so labor-intensive (Ms. Ferrari likened the process to a Renaissance workshop), aspiring buyers can expect a six-month wait, the same as for a Ferrari (the car), said Pietro Tomassini, FMR’s commercial director.

“We think it will sell out in a very short time,” he said. Customers in the United States, Europe and Russia have already reserved copies, he added, though he declined to say how many.

Cristiano Collari, the book specialist for Christie’s auction house in Milan, was a little taken aback by the price, which he said was comparable to that of good copies of rare ancient texts like the “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili” (1499), which he described as the “bibliophile’s prime fetish.” But even contemporary art books can turn out to be good investments, Mr. Collari said, though the market is always hard to predict.

For this first title in its “Book Wonderful” series — apart from a forthcoming book about Catherine de Medici, the rest are top secret — FMR chose to pay homage to Michelangelo and to time its publication to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the first painted stroke on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the Vatican, which took place in May 1508.

The question remains, who would pay so much for such a book?
Franco Negretto, a financial consultant here who was awed by Thursday night’s spectacle — “I’ve seen a lot of shows in this square, but this was one of the best” — said he’d been sold by FMR’s pitch, despite the price tag.
“I’ll do everything I can to buy it,” he said solemnly.

Texas Rangers' Hamilton could get hotter

By Tim Cowlishaw
The Dallas Morning News
10:36 PM CDT on Thursday, May 29, 2008

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 04: Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers looks on against the Oakland Athletics on May 4, 2008 at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Ian Kinsler is ready to take issue with the latest issue of Sports Illustrated.

The cover shows that now-familiar follow-through of the sweet left-handed swing of the Rangers center fielder. Above him the words: "The Unbelievable Josh Hamilton."

"I don't know if it's unbelievable," Kinsler said. "He is what I expected. What I saw in Arizona in the spring, that's what was unbelievable."

Here's what Kinsler saw.

Hamilton, a left-handed hitter, was stroking drive after drive to left field deeper than anything Kinsler, a right-handed hitter, was able to.

"I thought, 'What's the deal with this guy? He hits the ball to the opposite field harder than I can pull it there?' So after that, I haven't really been surprised by anything that he has done."

What Kinsler saw was the awesome power of the one-time No. 1 overall pick in the June draft whose drug abuse and personal decline kept him out of baseball for 3 ½ seasons. It was just July, 2006 that Hamilton was allowed to return to the minor leagues.

He played in all of 15 games that summer.

Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton points toward the Tampa Bay Rays dugout before batting during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, May 26, 2008 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Hamilton, the 1999 number one draft pick overall by the Rays, was playing his first game ever at Tropicana Field.
(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Last year with Cincinnati, injuries limited Hamilton to 90 games, but he showed signs of the power that had made him Tampa Bay's first pick in the 1999 draft. Among rookies, his .554 slugging percentage was second to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun.

In the first third of this season, Hamilton was nothing short of the best player in the majors.

His 13 homers are second to Chicago's Carlos Quentin (14) among American League players. His .324 batting average has him six points behind the Yankees' Hideki Matsui (.330), the AL leader. And he is the major leagues' runaway RBIs leader with 58.

A triple crown?

No one has done it since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Hamilton probably will have the hardest time staying around the top in batting average. But the home runs and RBIs should just keep coming.

"Tools wise, he is the best player I have ever seen," Kinsler said. "Here's the thing about Josh. He was out of the game three years, almost four, and his baseball instincts are great. I've seen him put his head down and run after balls in center field. You can't do that without having a great feel for the game."

Hamilton's middle-of-the-lineup heroics came to the Rangers at a steep price. General manager Jon Daniels traded the team's top pitching prospect, Edinson Volquez, to get him.

In fairness, Volquez could just as easily be on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week if he had as compelling an off-the-field tale as Hamilton. Volquez is 7-2 for the Reds and his 1.31 earned run average is the best among starting pitchers in the majors.

Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton hits a grand slam in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, May 27, 2008, in St. Petersburg, Fla.
(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

But it was a good trade because I would always trade a potentially good pitcher for a more proven (even if it was just a half-season in Cincinnati) hitter.

Pitchers, as valuable as they are and as much as we all know the Rangers need them, are simply too hard to predict.

It would be great if Volquez were still in Arlington. But Hamilton has been otherworldly and should only get better.

The Rangers open a 10-game homestand against Oakland tonight. In the American League, only Chicago has played fewer home games than Texas. And the weather is just starting to heat up.

That's when the balls really start carrying in that jet stream to right-center. And that's where Hamilton loves to launch the ball.

"We haven't really been home that much," Kinsler said. "Wait until it heats up. Wait until you see what Josh does then."

Maybe that will qualify as ... unbelievable.

Mark Steyn: Sexism, not Obama, beat Hillary

Orange County Register
Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Someone wins, someone doesn't win, that's life," Nancy Kopp, Maryland's treasurer, told The Washington Post. "But women don't want to be totally dissed." She was talking about her political candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Democratic women are feeling metaphorically battered by the Obama campaign. "Healing The Wounds Of Democrats' Sexism," as the Boston Globe headline put it, will not be easy. Geraldine Ferraro is among many prominent Democrat ladies putting up their own money for a study from the Shorenstein Center at Harvard to determine whether Sen. Clinton's presidential hopes fell victim to party and media sexism.

How else to explain why their gal got clobbered by a pretty boy with a resume you could print on the back of his driver's license, a Rolodex apparently limited to neosegregationist race-baiters, campus Marxist terrorists and indicted fraudsters, and a rhetorical surefootedness that makes Dan Quayle look like Socrates.

"On this Memorial Day," said Barack Obama last Monday, "as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes – and I see many of them in the audience here today."

Hey, why not? In Obama's Cook County, Ill., many fallen heroes from the Spanish-American War still show up in the voting booths come November. It's not unreasonable for some of them to turn up at an Obama campaign rally, too.

But what of the fallen heroine? If it's any consolation to Sen. Clinton, she's not the only female to find that social progress is strangely accommodating of old-time sexism. There was a front-page story in London last week about a British Indian couple in Birmingham – she's 59, he's 72 – who'd had twins through in vitro fertilization and then abandoned the babies at the hospital when they turned out to be daughters, announcing their plans to fly back to India for another round of IVF in hopes of getting a boy.

In the wake of the media uproar, the parents now claim something got "lost in translation" and have been back to the hospital to visit the wee bairns. But think of Mom and Dad as the Democratic Party and the abandoned daughters as Hillary, and it all makes sense.

There's a lot of that about. Sex-selective abortion is a fact of life in India, where the gender ratio has declined to 1,000 boys to 900 girls nationally, and as low as 1,000 boys to 300 girls in some Punjabi cities. In China, the state-enforced "one child" policy has brought about the most gender-distorted demographic cohort in global history, the so-called guang gun– "bare branches." If you can only have one kid, parents choose to abort girls and wait for a boy, to the point where in the first generation to grow to adulthood under this policy there are 119 boys for every 100 girls. In practice, a "woman's right to choose" turns out to mean the right to choose not to have any women.

And what of the Western world?

From 2000-05, Indian women in England and Wales gave birth to 114 boys for every 100 girls.

A similar pattern seems to be emerging among Chinese, Korean and Indian communities in America. "The sex of a firstborn child in these families conformed to the natural pattern of 1.05 boys to every girl, a pattern that continued for other children when the firstborn was a boy," wrote Colleen Carroll Campbell, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and former Bush speechwriter, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the other day. "But if the firstborn child was a girl, the likelihood of a boy coming next was considerably higher than normal at 1.17-to-1. After two girls, the probability of a boy's birth rose to a decidedly unnatural 1.51-to-1."

By midcentury, when today's millions of surplus boys will be entering middle age, India and China are expected to account for a combined 50 percent of global GDP. On present trends, they will be the most male-heavy societies that have ever existed.

As I wrote in my book "America Alone," unless China's planning on becoming the first gay superpower since Sparta, what's going to happen to all those excess men? As a general rule, large numbers of excitable lads who can't get any action are not a recipe for societal stability. Unless the Japanese have invented amazingly lifelike sex robots by then (think Austin Powers' "fembots"), we're likely to be in a planetwide rape epidemic and a world of globalized, industrial-scale sex slavery.

And what of the Western world?

Canada and Europe are in steep demographic decline and dependent on immigration to sustain their populations. And – as those Anglo-Welsh statistics suggest – many of the available immigrants are already from male-dominated cultures and will eventually be male-dominated numbers-wise, too: circa 2020, the personal ads in the Shanghai classifieds seeking "SWF with good sense of humor" will be defining "must live locally" as any ZIP code this side of Mars.

Smaller families may mean just a boy or a girl for liberal Democrats, but in other societies it means just a boy. The Indian writer Gita Aravamudan calls this the "female feticide." Colleen Carroll Campbell writes that abortion, "touted as the key to liberating future generations of women," has become instead "the preferred means of eradicating them." And, while it won't eradicate all of them, Philip Longman, a demographer of impeccably liberal credentials, put the future in a nutshell in the title of his essay: "The Return of Patriarchy."

Enlightened progressives take it for granted that social progress is like technological progress – that women's rights are like the internal combustion engine or the jet airplane: once invented they can't be uninvented.

But that's a careless assumption. There was a small, nothing story out of Toronto this week – the York University Federation of Students wants a campuswide ban on any pro-life student clubs. Henceforth, students would be permitted to debate abortion only "within a pro-choice realm," as the vice-president Gilary Massa put it.

Nothing unusual there. A distressing number of student groups are inimical to free speech these days. But then I saw a picture of the gung-ho abortion absolutist: Gilary Massa is a young Muslim woman covered in a hijab.

On such internal contradictions is the future being built. By "The Return of Patriarchy," Philip Longman doesn't mean 1950s sitcom dads. No doubt Western feminists will be relieved to hear that.


Today's Tune: Michael Jackson - Dirty Diana

(Click on title to play video)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Italy at War
May 30, 2008 4:00 AM

Cleaning up the garbage.

By Michael Ledeen

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Do not envy Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He’s got a multifront war to fight, and it is not at all clear that he’s got the troops with which to do it. His political party, the Freedom People, swept into power with what seems to be a solid majority, and even his opponents expect this government to serve the full five years. He promised Italians that he would bring order to replace the extraordinary (even by Italian standards) confusion of his center-left predecessors, reduce taxes, and impose decent security in cities increasingly characterized by petty crime, hooliganism, and violence of all sorts, ranging from the European plague of drunken soccer fans picking fights with anyone in uniform, to xenophobic eruptions against illegal immigrants, many living in shanty towns on the outside of major cities like Rome, Milan, and Naples, and finally to the scourge of organized crime, especially the Neapolitan camorra (mafia) and the ‘ndrangheta (gangsters) in nearby Calabria (the Sicilian mafia has been badly weakened in recent years and is much less of a threat to law and order). Security always trumps more abstract political issues, and if Berlusconi’s going to succeed he’s got to get a grip on these matters.

This is certainly not the longstanding stereotype of Italy, the land of the sweet life and charming people, but it’s what they’ve got nowadays, and in private conversations over the past month I learned that most Italians want Berlusconi to act quickly and forcefully, even though the chattering classes continue to preach soothing multicultural sermons. And the symbol of the security problem, from illegal immigration to organized crime, is Naples, which has dominated recent Italian news with two dreadful stories: the mountains of garbage in the streets (a problem intimately connected to the camorra), and a brief eruption of vigilante attacks against the gypsies who have set up camps around the city.

A few days ago, a gypsy girl was caught running down the stairs of a suburban apartment, carrying a newborn baby girl in her arms. The mother screamed, the neighbors appeared, the gypsy was surrounded, and the police had to save the kidnapper from a lynching. Within hours, the gypsy camp was targeted with Molotov cocktails by young men on motorcycles, and most of the gypsies — most of whom had come from Romania — were forced to flee. In succeeding days, the papers were full of stories with headlines like “So they DO steal children,” citing official sources to confirm the age-old belief that the gypsies not only traffic in little children, but also force them to beg and steal on behalf of the tribe.

Gypsies in Florence, Italy

The fate of the gypsies understandably provokes a lot of passion; after all, they were sent to the Nazi death camps along with Jews, people with birth defects, political foes of the Third Reich, and homosexuals. Given the simplistic, politically correct, one-page version of the history of fascism (fascism is bad, is right-wing, defends the status quo, and is racist, while antifascism is good, is left-wing, calls for revolution, and is super-tolerant) that is presented to most European students nowadays, it is easy to understand why Spanish socialist politicians would righteously denounce an Italian government that has called for tougher measures against illegal immigrants. And yet, it’s a real problem, and, with the exception of Eastern Europe, very few countries have attempted to integrate the gypsies, or even to pass laws in favor of common education for gypsy children. The European parliament recently granted all of one minute to a Hungarian liberal deputy to discuss the matter.

There are between 12-15 million gypsies in the 27 countries of the EU, and of these, a mere 200,000 are in Italy. Eighty thousand of them are legal Italian citizens, having fled from oppression, starvation, and unemployment in their “home” countries. Most Italian-based gypsies have been in the country for years, if not decades, and rarely have family or friends back in Romania, Bulgaria, or Hungary, where most of them started their wanderings. They need education, protection, and discipline, but these are in short supply in today’s Europe. The new government is unlikely to launch a major drive for assimilation, and will deal with the issue as part of the overall security problem.

Italians are relatively free of chauvinism, and the eruption of violence against the Neapolitan gypsy camp is best understood in the context of the city’s other intimately related main problems: the garbage crisis, and the power of organized crime.

The garbage crisis is an old one, and is part and parcel of the city’s history. Naples is famous for filth and disease, having endured many infamous episodes of plague and cholera, and Neapolitans have seen several failed efforts to “modernize” the many slums in and around the town. Fifteen years ago, putrid black water started flowing from faucets in two of the poor neighborhoods, producing a public outcry that led the central government to take the extraordinary step of firing the city council. A few months later, the left-wing reformist, Antonio Bassolino, was elected mayor on a platform of clean hands and urban renewal. Alas, if anything, the Left has been even more corrupt than its predecessors, and Bassolino, now the president of the region around Naples, has become the universally despised symbol of that corruption. Mounting evidence of collusion with the local mafia and his manifest inability to cope with the garbage crisis (even after being granted extraordinary authority and billions of euros by the Rome and European governments) ended the dream, and he will spend many hours facing criminal charges in the years to come. He’s even lost his political touch: At the height of the recent garbage crisis, with uncollected bags of refuse piled high all over town, local papers showed a picture of Bassolino’s street . . . clean as can be. It’s hard to find a Neapolitan who will admit to voting for Bassolino in the last election.

Meanwhile, undoubtedly stimulated by the imminent arrival of the council of ministers, emergency cleanup trucks were at work throughout the night. I saw them in several different neighborhoods, including the infamous slums known as the Spanish Quarters, and two others considered so dangerous that even the locals stay away: Forcella and the Sanità. Two nights before Berlusconi’s arrival, Forcella was pretty good, and the Sanità was sparkling clean, while better neighborhoods, including, sad to say, the comfortable middle-class one where my hotel is located, seemed worse than ever. By the time the ministers arrived, the central city was pristine, and even the traffic was orderly.

You may well wonder, how can this be? The official explanation is that the garbage has been loaded on trains headed for Germany. And it’s even true. So far as it goes. But even so, it’s pretty clear that the city could have been cleaned up well before the arrival of Berlusconi and his cabinet. It wasn’t, because the authorities either didn’t want it to, or were so incompetent they just couldn’t. But, as we all saw, they are competent; the city got cleaned up in 48 hours. So they didn’t want to. Why?

Because the whole garbage thing, as so many of Naples’s current problems, has to do with organized crime. In one of those eery coincidences that convince me that life really does imitate art, the film Gomorra debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in the midst of this catastrophe, and won second prize. The film is based on a best-selling book written by a brave and very talented young journalist named Roberto Saviani. It may yet cost him his life; the government has provided him with round-the-clock bodyguards, and his movements are kept secret until the very last minute.

Gomorrah- US cover

Gomorra is technically a novel (and a pun) about the Neapolitan mafia, the camorra, although it’s impossible to read it without the conviction that it’s serious reportage, and in fact some of the camorra thugs named in the “novel” are awaiting sentencing at this very moment.

One of the revelations in the book the movie is based on (now a few years old) has to do with the garbage crisis. According to Saviani, the camorra got into the business of collecting toxic waste from the north, and burying it in caves and empty volcano craters around Naples, thereby polluting the soil for generations to come, and poisoning those unlucky enough to live in the area.

Everyone is affected; American sailors at the nearby NATO base are being tested to identify a medical problem thus far labelled with the technical medical term “Naples Crud,” which some doctors apparently think may be caused by the dioxin produced by bonfires of garbage. The mob doesn’t care. The criminals obviously do not want this lucrative business taken over by the forces of national law and order, and it is widely believed — although as yet without concrete proof — that many of the uprisings are organized by the camorristi. It sure makes sense. As one of the characters in the movie puts it, “morality is for losers.” For the mob, it is all about money and the power that money brings. The camorra is one of the wealthiest organizations in the world, and does not hesitate to kill anyone who gets in its way. Saviano really needs protection.

The murderous power of the camorra was demonstrated just the other day, when one Domenico Novello, a middle-aged entrepreneur who testified against them from 2001 to 2003, was assassinated in front of his favorite coffee bar in the suburb of Castelvolturno, shortly after breakfast. Five years ago, the police concluded that Novello was no longer in grave danger, and the bodyguards were withdrawn. His assassins were patient. Not for nothing do Italians say that vendetta is a plate best eaten cold. Such stories emphasize why Saviano is so closely protected. The good news is that he has some reason for optimism; the police rounded up two leading camorristi a week ago. But now you can understand why the authorities were not eager to “solve” the garbage problem.

Gomorra- Italian cover

All of which brings us to the big picture, which is the failure of the Italian state, from the national government in Rome, to the local governments in the Campania region and the city of Naples, to provide decent security to the citizenry. And without decent security, nothing else really matters. There is a new mood of desperation in the streets these days, a mixture of frustration and fatalism that a local prosecutor has termed “highly explosive.” There is no doubt that the mood is ugly, and the people are turning for help in a new direction. Neapolitans have hated “the North” ever since the 1860s, when the kingdom of Naples was conquered by Giuseppe Garibaldi and the armies of the king of Piedmont and Savoy, and annexed to the new Italy. But today they are praying for Silvio Berlusconi, a quintessential northerner from Milan, to save them. The day before Berlusconi’s arrival, some brilliantly inventive poster makers plastered the city’s walls with a proclamation that, if the prime minister solved the garbage and camorra crises, they’d call for “Immediate Sainthood” (using the phrase Santo Subito that the faithful chanted at the funeral of John Paul II). In typical Neapolitan fashion, the poster makers knew that only a miracle could save the city, and so they used religious language.

Berlusconi no doubt appreciated the nice touch (he’s sufficiently observant to have built his own chapel and his own tomb on his estate in the north), and his first steps looked good to me. He announced that his government would treat the crisis as a national-security matter, that a top security person would be appointed to manage it, and report directly to him, and that the army would be used to guarantee security at the disposal sites. Moreover, an ambitious program of building incinerators was announced, the first one — which was supposed to be completed in 2001 — to be operational by the end of the year.

First steps are important, and these were good ones, but there’s a long way to go. If Naples, and the new government, are going to succeed, they will have to enlarge the battlefield to confront the camorristi and other mafiosi. And that’s a big fight indeed.

— Michael Ledeen is author of The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots’ Quest for Destruction.

Horror In Hamburg

By Stephen Brown

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sixteen-year-old honor killing victim Morsal Obeidi: a daily struggle to be the kind of person she wanted to be

A young female form lying crumpled on a sidewalk. Blood flowing from multiple stab wounds. Police cars. Ambulances. Flashing lights. Emergency personnel working frantically to save an innocent life that had barely begun.

It is a scene that is becoming all too common in Western Europe with its growing Muslim population, as the northern German city of Hamburg experienced in May yet another horrifying honor murder of a young female.

Morsal Obeidi, barely 16, arrived in Hamburg from the war-torn country of Afghanistan when she was three, probably barely remembering her country of origin in her new homeland. The German Muslim student, who had won a prize in her multicultural school for tolerance and peaceful co-existence with others, was stabbed 20 times by her 23-year old brother, Ahmed, who ambushed her at a commuter train station.

The reason for Morsal’s murder is a common one for female Muslim victims of honor killings who emigrate to the West with their families and grow up between two cultures: she was living too western a lifestyle.

“She had a different life than the family wished,” admitted Ahmed, who assaulted his sister so severely that he wounded himself and had to be treated in hospital.

According to one report, Ahmed’s younger sister started her teenaged rebellion when she was 14. The schoolgirl was tired of living by the rules of the family’s Afghan-Muslim culture that see the daughters confined at home and made to do housework when not at school while the sons have all the freedom they want.

Such girls from South Asian and Muslim communities are also monitored very carefully after reaching puberty, as the male members of the family are very concerned that they remain virgins until marriage, since this involves their “honor.” One German Muslim woman wrote that the physical attributes she developed upon turning 13 filled her Turkish father with “deep worry.” This male obsession with virginity is manifested in the expression, common in these traditional cultures, that “…a man’s honor lies between a woman’s legs.”

Ahmed was most likely one of those male family members concerned about his sister’s chastity. It was reported he watched Morsal very closely and, when he was not available, he had cousins, uncles and aunts do it for him.

Morsal’s rebellion against such strict control included such normal, western behaviour for teenaged girls as wearing “uncovered hair, makeup and jeans” as well as smoking, drinking and staying out late, all of which brought her into conflict with her family. But all in all, it was reported the young schoolgirl simply wanted the same freedoms her German classmates had.

Like in many families where honor murders occur, violence was already extensive in Morsal’s. Before her death, the teenager had suffered numerous assaults at the hands of her father, Ahmed and a 13-year-old brother, who had once knocked her tooth out. An older sister is also suspected of mistreating her.

“You dress like a tramp,” Ahmed said to his sister once before beating her up, his sense of moral superiority being somewhat misplaced, since he himself has an extensive criminal record, starting when he was 13. This ‘man of honor’ is a thief and had already knifed others in fights, once being stabbed eight times himself in an argument involving prostitutes outside a brothel.

The confessed killer, Morsal Obeidi's brother Ahmad Obeidi: He resented her for her uncovered hair, her makeup and her short skirts.

Such domestic violence had caused the tormented Afghan-German girl to spend nights at youth shelters. But like many immigrant teenagers from traditional cultures, with their deep sense of family which they do not want to give up overnight, she always returned home. But the final straw leading to her tragic death may have been the young girl’s staying away from home for three nights in a row.

Sadly, Morsal’s was not the only honor murder to occur in Germany this year.
Last March in Berlin, an 18-year old boy stabbed his grandparents to death after his German mother had separated from his Turkish father and got a new boyfriend. The murders were carried out at the behest of the father, according a newspaper report, to restore his honor. The father and son had already assaulted the grandfather and boyfriend earlier in separate instances, while the father had threatened his wife’s family many times with death, causing his spouse to flee to a women’s shelter.

The wife’s unavailability is probably what caused her parents to be targeted as well the fact the grandmother approved of the separation (no surprise there). The son carried out the killing, since, like in other honor murders in Germany, the Muslim families often get the underage sons to do the killing because the maximum sentence for a minor for murder is only ten years, and often less.

Like in the Berlin case, a Kurdish man from Iraq murdered his wife for leaving him, for which he received a life sentence at his trial last fall in Munich. Leaving the husband can often be a death sentence for the wife in traditional Muslim families.

This particular killer showed no remorse whatsoever and was even smiling in the court room. Only three hours after a successful divorce court hearing in 2006, the murderer ambushed his ex-spouse on the street, stabbed her twelve times (the knife broke, stopping the assault) and then poured gasoline over her prostrate body lying on the sidewalk, burning her alive. This was all done before the eyes of their five-year-old son with the sadistic killer telling the court you can’t take children into consideration when it concerns honor.

Also at his trial, the Kurd said he had killed his wife because she had betrayed him and that his “religion and culture” forbid that. Laughably, he also partly blamed German laws for his murderous rage. He whined that in Germany “…only women have rights. So they become stuck-up and believe they can do whatever they want.”

The killer also admitted he first received permission from his wife’s father in Iraq to murder his daughter. When it is believed a woman has dishonoured the family, even if married, it is usually her birth family that kills her, since it was responsible for her upbringing and thus it is the one “dishonoured.”

This ongoing clash between the religious and cultural values of Muslim societies with those of western civilization manifested themselves in two other honor murder trials in Germany.
In Monchengladbach, a city in the Rhineland, a Turkish immigrant received a life sentence last February for shooting his wife and daughter to death on the street in 2007. Again, it was a case of a wife leaving her husband with their children after years of brutal treatment that included rapes and beatings.

Like the Kurd in the Munich case, this criminal also showed no remorse and also murdered his wife in dramatic fashion. After she had fallen to the ground with the first shot, the ‘man of honor’ put his foot on her and fired twice more directly into her head. One female Muslim lawyer at the trial said such theatrical executions are meant to show “…that the man is doing everything to restore his honor and that he defended himself against the rebellious wife.”

And last March in Bonn, a father was facing a life sentence for having murdered his 17-year-old daughter in 1993. The native Syrian, along with two nephews, strangled the young victim with a cord because, like Morsal Obeidi, she wanted to “live like German girls.” They later buried the body in a wood.

The father’s undoing was that he made his other daughter witness the murder as a warning as to what would happen to her if she ever decided to determine her own life.

“If you don’t behave according to our rules, the same thing is going to happen to you,” she was told.

Racked by guilt that made her life a living hell, the surviving sister informed the police of the honor killing 14 years later.

Like after the Hatun Surucu honor murder in Berlin in 2005 that awoke Germany to this social horror in their midst, German politicians and authorities are again falling all over themselves after the Morsal Obeidi killing in Hamburg. They say they will examine the youth shelters’ role in failing to prevent the tragic murder (as if they are to blame), as well as nebulously promising to do more to protect women facing such danger as well as explain to them their rights.

In reality, while these measures will help somewhat, much like a band aid, the real problem has to do with the values the murderers acquire in their countries of origin. As long as these men believe they have a cultural and religious right to control women, determine their lives (especially their sexuality), treat them like eternal minors, and even murder them when they transgress some archaic, tribal code of honor, then it appears there is not much Western countries can do after they arrive within their borders, since they despise our culture and, like the Kurd in the Munich trial, hold our laws in contempt.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that parts of western European cities, where Muslims form the majority of the population, are now ruled by sharia law where these anti-civilization values can grow and spread.

But every voice, especially those of victims like Morsal, makes a difference. A spirit of change exists in every culture, including the Muslim. It is the Muslim women that have to be compulsorily educated in massive fashion if honor murders are ever to be stopped. Making Muslim womens’ visas and those of their family members’ contingent on this understanding of compulsory education would benefit enormously in this effort. No half measures. More Muslim women would determine their own lives if they were not so afraid of honor killings. And a real sense of urgency is needed to deal with this social nightmare facing these young female souls.

But in the end, it is we Westerners who have to stand up for the life-affirming values we hold dear and change our laws substantially to reflect this. Western legal codes were written when the predatory and barbaric practice of honor murder was unknown due to the absence of these immigrant groups. This must be rectified and the new reality reflected in new laws, since the bottom line is that we cannot have women being killed at sixteen if we are to call ourselves human.

- Stephen Brown is a columnist for A scholar and former news reporter, his field of expertise is Muslim forced marriages and honor killings. Email him at

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Today's Tune: Jay & The Americans - This Magic Moment

(Click on title to play video)

Meanwhile, Back at Trinity United


The Wall Street Journal

May 29, 2008

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan embraces father Michael Pfleger before speaking at Saint Sabina Catholic Church Friday, May 25, 2007 in Chicago.

Blogger Armando Llorens of the pro-Clinton site has an eye-opening video from the Trinity United Church of Christ, which remains Barack Obama's church. The video was uploaded to YouTube this past Sunday, though it is unclear if it was shot then or earlier. But to judge by the subject matter, it is quite recent.

The video features Father Michael Pfleger, with an introduction by the Rev. Otis Moss, Jeremiah Wright's successor at Trinity United. As we noted last month, the Democratic presidential front-runner described Moss as a "wonderful young pastor" after Obama renounced Wright.

Blogress Michelle Malkin has transcribed the video, in which Pfleger, described by Moss as "a friend of Trinity . . . a brother beloved . . . a preacher par excellence . . . a prophetic, powerful pulpiteer . . . our friend . . . our brother," delivers a hateful rant against Hillary Clinton:

When Hillary was crying [gesturing tears, uproarious laughter from audience]--and people said that was put-on--I really don't believe it was put-on.

I really believe that she just always thought "This is mine" [laughter, hoots]. "I'm Bill's wife. I'm white. And this is mine. And I jus' gotta get up. And step into the plate." And then out of nowhere came, "Hey, I'm Barack Obama." And she said: "Oh, damn! Where did you come from!?!?!" [Crowd going nuts, Pfleger screaming]. "I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show." [Sobs.] She wasn't the only one crying! There was a whole lotta white people cryin'!

Who is Michael Pfleger? As we noted last month, he is a strong supporter of Louis Farrakhan and has been described as a "spiritual adviser" to Obama. He also publicly threatened the life of a Chicago businessman and, according to one report, "is known for climbing ladders to deface liquor billboards."

In his Trinity United oration, Pfleger asserted that white people have a moral obligation to surrender their assets, which, he suggested, properly belong to blacks (the video clip begins in midsentence):

--honest enough to address the one who says, "Well, don't hold me responsible [gesticulating] for what my ancestors did." But you have enjoyed the benefits of what your ancestors did and unless you are ready to give up the benefits [voice rising], throw away your 401 fund, throw away your trust fund, throw away all the money you put into the company you walked into because yo' daddy and yo' granddaddy and yo' greatgranddaddy--[screaming at the top of his lungs]--unless you're willing to give up the benefits, then you must be responsible for what was done in your generation 'cuz you are the beneficiary of this insurance policy!

Pfleger is white. Many Illinois taxpayers are black. The New York Times reported earlier this month that the latter have been forced to subsidize the former, through the good offices of one state Sen. Barack Obama:

Mr. Obama more eagerly met the demands for spending earmarks for churches and community groups in his district, said State Senator Donne E. Trotter, then the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. "I know this firsthand, because the community groups in his district stopped coming to me," Mr. Trotter said.

Typical of Mr. Obama's earmarks was a $100,000 grant for a youth center at a Catholic church run by the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a controversial priest who was one of the few South Side clergymen to back Mr. Obama against [Rep. Bobby] Rush.

Father Pfleger has long worked with South Side political leaders to reduce crime and improve the community. But he has drawn fire from some quarters for defending the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and inviting him to speak at his church. Father Pfleger, who did not return calls for comment, is one of the religious leaders whose "faith testimonials" Mr. Obama has posted on his presidential campaign Web site.

We searched the Obama Web site in vain for Pfleger's endorsement. It appears the campaign has suppressed it, although a copy appears on the Michelle Malkin page linked above.

Llorens, the TalkLeft blogger who posted the video, says twice in his short post that "this has nothing to do with Barack Obama." It seems to us Llorens is quite wrong about this, although possibly he is being ironic. For one thing, it raises serious questions about Obama's moral judgment that he not only attends but sends his two young daughters to a church whose pulpit regularly features such hatred.

It also renders doubtful one of the most frequent arguments for an Obama presidency: that he would diminish anti-American sentiment around the world through his conciliatory mien and tough diplomacy. His response to the political crisis over his spiritual advisers has been vacillatory, not conciliatory: first he stood by them, then he distanced himself from them. Now he pretends they don't exist--which differs from the putative Bush administration approach to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad & Co. how exactly?

Obama does not appear to have succeeded in diminishing anti-American sentiment in his own church, from religious leaders who fervently support him. The danger is that he would show similar weakness on the world stage, and that America's enemies would find such weakness provocative rather than meliorative.

Mark Steyn: Just to be clear, folks, it's a novel

There's an emerging sub-genre of Islamotopian fiction, and it's not my fault
May 28, 2008

The Dominion of Canada. It was nice while it lasted:

"Nineteen Regular Army divisions, one dozen divisions of the Army National Guard, plus the Second and Fourth Marine Divisions, rolled across the border just before dawn on 11 May, 2020.

"Despite the gallant resistance put up by the main elements of the Canadian Forces, notably the Royal 22nd and Twelfth Armored, which died in defense of Quebec City, the Royal Canadian Regiment and Royal Canadian Dragoons, shattered in the forlorn defense of Ottawa, and the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and Lord Strathcona's Horse, butchered in detail in a hopeless defense of the long western border, Canada — rather the thin strip of well-populated area that roughly paralleled the border with the United States — fell quickly."

Oh, dear. Only 12 years of "Canadian values" to go. If you want to put in for your hip replacement now, they may just get to you before the tanks roll. It's going to be mighty expensive once the Princess Margaret Hospital is renamed for whichever Halliburton subsidiary winds up running it. The author of the above passage, Tom Kratman, adds:

"It is both interesting and sad to note that it was only those most despised by the government of Canada, and its ruling party, who actually proved willing to defend that government. Those who had most despised their own forces, and who had themselves signally failed to fight, soon found themselves the center of attention of a country-wide sweep."

Hmm. Do you think he means Grits and Dippers and Péquistes and whatnot? Hey, at least they don't wind up at Gitmo:

"Almost as quickly they found themselves in various well-guarded logging and mining camps in the cold, cold lands of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories . . ."

Oh, well, could be worse. Don't ask me how. The lurid and loving description of the fall of the peaceable kingdom comes from Mr. Kratman's new novel. No, it's not about Canada. Although the author specializes in military science fiction, a U.S. invasion of the friendly neighbour to the north doesn't require a lot of imagination — unless, that is, the Canucks win, and the beaten demoralized Yanks wind up retreating across the 49th parallel vowing never again to be so foolish as to take on the genetically augmented warriors of big government: "All those stories about more MRI machines in Philadelphia than in the whole of Canada," sighed President Chelsea Clinton Obama. "Why didn't we figure out, if they're not spending the budget on MRI machines, they must be doing something else with it. To think we swallowed that hooey about the 'Toronto General' and the 'Royal Victoria' being just hospitals . . ." She was about to fire the CIA director but at that point Field Marshal Khadr of the Ontario Human Rights Commission Mounted Division entered the Oval Office on a SARS-breathing winged moose . . .

Alas, no. Mr. Kratman's novel is called Caliphate, and is set more or less a century hence in a Muslim Europe at war with an imperial America. The fall of Canada's little more than a bit of backstory to explain how things got that way. On the press release, the publisher includes a recommendation from the technothriller writer John Ringo describing Caliphate as "Mark Steyn's America Alone with a body count."

Gulp. That's not the kind of quote that's terribly helpful right now. Insofar as I understand the complaints against Maclean's before the various "human rights" commissions, it's that my hate speech could lead to body counts all over Canada, and now here comes Tom Kratman to pretty much prove the point. The thesis of my book is that the Western world is becoming more Muslim, and that this will change the nature of our societies. But an emerging sub-genre of Islamotopian fiction is beginning to delineate some of the options. Robert Ferrigno has just published Sins of the Assassin, the second novel in his trilogy set circa 2040 in the Islamic Republic of America. He recently took time out of his hectic schedule of book promotion south of the border to profess bewilderment at finding himself part of a "human rights" case up north. As evidence of my "flagrant Islamophobia," the Canadian Islamic Congress claims I "asserted" the following:

1. America will be an Islamic Republic by the year 2040 — there will be a Muslim/Islamist takeover;

2. As a result of the Muslim takeover, there will be a break for prayers during the Super Bowl, the stadium will have a stereotypical Muslim name, and the fans will be forced to watch the game in a Muslim prayer posture;

3. As a result of the Muslim takeover there will be oppressive religious police enforcing Islamic/Muslim norms on the population, important U.S. icons [such as the USS Ronald Reagan] will be renamed after Osama bin Laden, no females will be allowed to be cheerleaders, and popular American radio and television talk-show hosts will have been replaced by Muslim imams . . .

Er, no. I didn't "assert" that any of the above will happen. Robert Ferrigno did — in the plot of his splendid novel, Prayers for the Assassin. As Mr. Ferrigno put it, "It's as if that hall monitor saw the two of us walking to class and decided that it was Steyn with the squeaky shoes. Sorry pal, c'est moi." The author was as perplexed as any citizen of any free nation should be at the idea that the plot points of a work of fiction — a creative art form, an act of imagination — apparently constitute a hate crime in Canada. But he took particular umbrage at being described by the Canadian Islamic Congress plaintiffs as a "recognized Islamophobe." "For the record," he says, "I am neither Islamophobic nor recognized."

He's right. The hero of his trilogy — and, as the Islamist enforcers at the CIC apparently aren't on top of this whole fiction-type deal, I should explain that the "hero" is the chap that you the reader are meant to identify with — is a Muslim: Rakkim Epps, a veteran of the Fedayeen, "a small, elite force of genetically enhanced holy warriors." He's a cynical fellow — Joel Schwartz in The Weekly Standard recently described him as a kind of Muslim Bogart, which is the right general territory; he's Philip Marlowe crossed with certain cabinet ministers I've met from Islamic countries — decent fellows under no illusions about the societies they serve. Ferrigno's second novel puts Rakkim undercover in the part of the old United States that didn't go Muslim — the southeastern "Bible Belt," a wild raucous land of rough liquor and cartoon religiosity in which the biggest tourist attraction is the daily re-enactment of the Waco siege. Mr. Ferrigno's Belt sometimes feels like a televangelist theme park writ large. So, if Christian groups were as willing to bandy around accusations of Christophobia, they'd have as much to work with as the Canadian Islamic Congress does. And, to one degree or another, both inheritors of the old United States — the Islamic Republic and the Belt — are societies in decline, living off the accumulated capital of a lost past.

If you're minded to spot Islamophobia in everything, Tom Kratman's Caliphate may offer easier pickings. His Islamic Europe is in serious decay — a land of rutted tracks and crumbling ruins. His protagonist is a post-CIA undercover operative in Germany who hooks up with a Catholic cutie sold into slavery and then into an elite brothel. Ferrigno is stronger on character and motivation, but Kratman's dystopia is a brisk page-turner full of startling twists and bad sex. I don't just mean the pneumatic bouts of hooker sex; even the good sex comes off as bad. Whether or not Mr. Kratman is an expert in this field, I cannot say. But he's a professional military man who retired as lieutenant-colonel and was director, Rule of Law at the U.S. Army War College, so he's certainly up to speed on the military and geopolitical conceits of the book.

What I found most intriguing was not so much the 22nd-century thriller but the short 21st-century interludes between chapters, featuring the great-grandparents of Petra, the child prostitute at the heart of the novel. Robert Ferrigno inaugurates his dystopia with a big bang — simultaneous nuclear detonations that precipitate America's embrace of Islam. Tom Kratman also has bombs, but his 21st-century episodes attempt, in an impressionistic way, to capture a subtler societal transition. These scenes are set in the Germany of the here and now, beginning with an Iraq war demonstration and the aftermath of the London Tube bombings. And then slowly and subtly the recent past turns into Kratman's imagined future, as the remorseless Islamization of Europe accelerates.

We'll be seeing a lot more novels like this — although perhaps not in Canada, if the Canadian Islamic Congress and their dopey enablers in the "human rights" commission succeed in their campaign to get fictional plots rendered actionable. But, even if they do, the Islamization of Europe goes on. It's a lopsided valse macabre between two left-footed dancers.

"Why are you so certain everything's going down the tubes?" Gabi, a young German of conventional anti-American post-nationalist views, asks her Muslim boyfriend as he decides to get out of Europe.

"Because my people could f--k up a wet dream," Mahmoud answers. "And I'm beginning to think that yours can, too."

Ann Coulter: You Can't Appease Everybody....
Thursday, May 29, 2008

After decades of comparing Nixon to Hitler, Reagan to Hitler and Bush to Hitler, liberals have finally decided it is wrong to make comparisons to Hitler. But the only leader to whom they have applied their newfound rule of thumb is: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

While Ahmadinejad has not done anything as starkly evil as cut the capital gains tax, he does deny the Holocaust, call for the destruction of Israel, deny the existence of gays in Iran and refuses to abandon his nuclear program despite protests from the United Nations. That's the only world leader we're not allowed to compare to Hitler.

President Bush's speech at the Knesset two weeks ago was somewhat more nuanced than liberals' Hitler arguments. He did not simply jump up and down chanting: "Ahmadinejad is Hitler!" Instead, Bush condemned a policy of appeasement toward madmen, citing Neville Chamberlain's ill-fated talks with Adolf Hitler.

Suspiciously, Bush's speech was interpreted as a direct hit on B. Hussein Obama's foreign policy – and that's according to Obama's supporters.

So to defend Obama, who – according to his supporters – favors appeasing madmen, liberals expanded the rule against ad Hitlerum arguments to cover any mention of the events leading to World War II. A ban on "You're like Hitler" arguments has become liberals' latest excuse to ignore history.

Unless, of course, it is liberals using historical examples to support Obama's admitted policy of appeasing dangerous lunatics. It's a strange one-sided argument when they can cite Nixon going to China and Reagan meeting with Gorbachev, but we can't cite Chamberlain meeting with Hitler.

There are reasons to meet with a tyrant, but none apply to Ahmadinejad. We're not looking for an imperfect ally against some other dictatorship, as Nixon was with China. And we aren't in a Mexican standoff with a nuclear power, as Reagan was with the USSR. At least not yet.

Mutually Assured Destruction was bad enough with the Evil Empire, but something you definitely want to avoid with lunatics who are willing to commit suicide in order to destroy the enemies of Islam. As with the H-word, our sole objective with Ahmadinejad is to prevent him from becoming a military power.

What possible reason is there to meet with Ahmadinejad? To win a $20 bar bet as to whether or not the man actually owns a necktie?

We know his position and he knows ours. He wants nuclear arms, American troops out of the Middle East and the destruction of Israel. We don't want that. (This is assuming Mike Gravel doesn't pull off a major upset this November.) We don't need him as an ally against some other more dangerous dictator because ... well, there aren't any.

Does Obama imagine he will make demands of Ahmadinejad? Using what stick as leverage, pray tell? A U.S. boycott of the next Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran? The U.N. has already demanded that Iran give up its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad has ignored the U.N. and that's the end of it.

We always have the ability to "talk" to Ahmadinejad if we have something to say. Bush has a telephone. If Iranian crop dusters were headed toward one of our nuclear power plants, I am quite certain that Bush would be able to reach Ahmadinejad to tell him that Iran will be flattened unless the planes retreat. If his cell phone died, Bush could just post a quick warning on the Huffington Post.

Liberals view talk as an end in itself. They never think through how these talks will proceed, which is why Chamberlain ended up giving away Czechoslovakia. He didn't leave for Munich planning to do that. It is simply the inevitable result of talking with madmen without a clear and obtainable goal. Without a stick, there's only a carrot.

The only explanation for liberals' hysterical zealotry in favor of Obama's proposed open-ended talks with Ahmadinejad is that they seriously imagine crazy foreign dictators will be as charmed by Obama as cable TV hosts whose legs tingle when they listen to Obama (a condition that used to be known as "sciatica").

Because, really, who better to face down a Holocaust denier with a messianic complex than the guy who is afraid of a debate moderated by Brit Hume?

There is no possible result of such a meeting apart from appeasement and humiliation of the U.S. If we are prepared to talk, then we're looking for a deal. What kind of deal do you make with a madman until he is ready to surrender?

Will President Obama listen respectfully as Ahmadinejad says he plans to build nuclear weapons? Will he say he'll get back to Ahmadinejad on removing all U.S. troops from the region? Will he nod his head as Ahmadinejad demands the removal of the Jewish population from the Middle East? Obama says he's prepared to have an open-ended chat with Ahmadinejad, so I guess everything is on the table.

Perhaps in the spirit of compromise, Obama could agree to let Iran push only half of Israel into the sea. That would certainly constitute "change"! Obama could give one of those upbeat speeches of his, saying: As a result of my recent talks with President Ahmadinejad, some see the state of Israel as being half empty. I prefer to see it as half full. And then Obama can return and tell Americans he could no more repudiate Ahmadinejad than he could repudiate his own white grandmother. It will make Chris Matthews' leg tingle.

There is a third reason to talk to dictators, in addition to seeking an ally or as part of a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur talked with Japanese imperial forces on Sept. 2, 1945. There was a long ceremony aboard the USS Missouri with full press coverage and a lot of talk. It was a regular international confab!

It also took place after we had dropped two nukes on Japan and MacArthur was officially accepting Japan's surrender. If Obama plans to drop nukes on Ahmadinejad prior to their little chat-fest, I'm all for it. But I don't think that's what liberals have in mind.

- Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is Godless: The Church of Liberalism.

Today's Tune: Tom Petty - Straight Into Darkness (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Israel's Staticide

By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addresses his ministers in Jerusalem on May 25. A US millionaire testifying in a corruption probe that could end Olmert's career said he gave him envelopes stuffed with cash to fund his political ambitions and perhaps his taste for high living.
(AFP/Pool/File/David Silverman)

There is a Greek tragedy unfolding today in the Middle East. In response to past mistakes and as a result of hubristic political calculation, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is setting in motion forces that promise to lead inexorably to grief for his nation. The result could be staticide, the destruction of the Jewish State, with incalculably serious repercussions for the Free World in general and the United States in particular.

In the pursuit of peace with its neighbors, Israel has made one strategic concession after another. In 1979, it surrendered the Sinai to Egypt when Anwar Sadat promised peace and then was murdered for doing so. In 1993, Israel adopted the Oslo accords, legitimating one of its most virulent enemies, the PLO terrorist chief Yasser Arafat, and setting the stage for Palestinian control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Eight years ago this month, Israel unilaterally withdrew from South Lebanon, creating a vacuum promptly filled by Iran’s proxy army there, Hezbollah. Then, in 2005, Israel forcibly removed its citizens living in Gaza and turned the Strip over – temporarily – to Arafat’s right-hand man and successor, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Space constraints will not permit a full rendering of the costs associated with these serial mistakes. The “peace” with Egypt proved to be a very cold one. In Sadat’s stead, the government of Hosni Mubarak has promoted virulent hatred for Israel among its people and assiduously armed for renewed conflict with the Jewish State. It has also used the Sinai to funnel ever-longer-range missiles and other advanced weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip – now under the control of another Palestinian terrorist faction, Hamas.

The latter and its friends, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al Qaeda and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, are now using Gaza as a safe-haven for planning and executing terrorism against Israel. It is a safe bet that Israel’s most important ally, the United States, is being targeted from there, as well.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has not just taken over South Lebanon – its dominance of which was greatly strengthened when Olmert’s government proved incapable of decisively defeating the forces of this so-called “Army of God” in 2006. In recent days, Hezbollah launched attacks in Beirut that effectively produced a coup d’etat. The hopes for a democratic Lebanon, free of Syrian and Iranian interference, have given way to a dark future for the Lebanese people and their neighbors in Israel, alike.

Tragically, despite this sorry record of retreat followed by intensified danger, Ehud Olmert is making further and even more strategic territorial and political concessions to Israel’s enemies. By so doing, the Israeli prime minister evidently hopes to stave off accountability for these past mistakes. He also appears to be calculating that “peace-making” will spare him prosecution on myriad corruption charges.

Unfortunately, there is now no basis for depicting such a policy as one in which Israel trades “land for peace.” Today, Israel is giving up land for war.

In the illusion that that there is any appreciable difference between Fatah and Hamas, Olmert’s government is trying to turn over nearly all the West Bank and even parts of Jerusalem to Abbas and his faction’s Palestinian police force. A similar illusion is causing the United States to give Fatah’s troops training, intelligence collection equipment and arms. The latter have already used their American-supplied know-how and weapons to kill Israelis.

Olmert is also allowing the Egyptians to broker a cease-fire with Hamas. The result is predictable: Hamas will be legitimated, effectively ending international efforts to relegate it to pariah status and probably producing a unity government whereby the two Palestinian factions join forces once again. The stage will then be set for the ultimate defeat of Fatah by Hamas in the West Bank as well, putting all of Israel within range of its weapons.

These tragic steps are now being compounded by one further, potentially staticidal act: Olmert has just launched negotiations to surrender all of the Golan Heights to Syria.

This concession would place Syrian – and quite possibly Iranian – forces on high ground which, in Israeli hands, has kept the peace for 35 years. If once again at the disposal of Israel’s enemies, these heights will put northern Israel at risk of, at best, harassing fire and, at worst, a new invasion in force.

Moreover, as my esteemed colleague, Caroline Glick, observed in her Jerusalem Post column last week, if Israel can no longer use the Golan to threaten Syria, Damascus and Tehran may feel free to redouble their subversion in Iraq. Iran may even conclude the Golan can allow it to checkmate any lingering Israeli willingness to interfere with the mullahs’ pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Importantly, the Israeli people finally seem to have had enough of false peace processes. Recent polls indicate that two-thirds of Israelis oppose their country’s surrender of the Golan; a majority believe it is motivated by Olmert’s efforts to stave off prosecution. Even the Bush Administration is said to be unhappy about his Golan initiative.

This weekend, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – universally known as “the Israel lobby” – holds its annual Policy Conference in Washington. The organization exists to support the Israeli government. At this juncture, however, attendees have an opportunity and an obligation to object to that government’s increasingly reckless, and predictably tragic, conduct. After all, friends don’t let friends commit staticide.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is the founder, president, and CEO of The Center for Security Policy. During the Reagan administration, Gaffney was the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy, and a Professional Staff Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John Tower (R-Texas). He is a columnist for The Washington Times, Jewish World Review, and and has also contributed to The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, and Newsday.

Che on the Silver Screen

By Humberto Fontova
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Puerto Rican actor Benicio Del Toro, left, and American director Steven Soderbergh pose at the 'Che' photo call during the 61st International film festival in Cannes, southern France, on Thursday, May 22, 2008.
(AP Photo/Carlo Allegri)

Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh unveiled his four-and-a-half-hour Che Guevara Biopic at the Cannes Film Festival last Thursday. One reviewer described the movie as “maniacally anticipated” - and Variety hailed it as Cannes' “most-anticipated” film.

But based on reviews thus far, it looks like Soderbergh blew it. After suffering what some critics described as the film's “butt-numbing” duration, Variety's Todd McCarthy branded the movie “defiantly nondramatic” and “a commercial impossibility.”

New York Magazine calls it, “something of a fiasco.” Everyone seemed bored if not actually catatonic while viewing the film. Time's Richard Corliss described Benicio Del Toro in the starring role as “seemingly sedated.” Bloomberg News wrote of the “viewers' bleary eyes.”

These reviewers, as usual, miss the point and bash the director unfairly. Director Stephen Soderbergh said flat out that the purpose of his movie was “to give you a sense of what it was like to hang out with [Che Guevara].”

Well? What did the reviewers expect? As usual, they know very little about the film's subject. In fact, Soderbergh has accomplished his goal with bells on. As exhibit one, I submit a sample of Che Guevara's sparkling conversation:

"The past makes itself felt not only in the individual consciousness – in which the residue of an education systematically oriented toward isolating the individual still weighs heavily – but also through the very character of this transition period in which commodity relations still persist, although this is still a subjective aspiration, not yet systematized."

Splash some cold water on your face and stick with me for just a little more:

"It is still necessary to deepen his conscious participation, individual and collective, in all the mechanisms of management and production, and to link this to the idea of the need for technical and ideological education, so that we see how closely interdependent these processes are and how their advancement is parallel.”

These passages come straight from the Che diaries that form the basis of the film's script. "I have no home, no woman, no parents, no brothers and no friends," wrote Guevara. "My friends are friends only so long as they think as I do politically."

To everyone familiar with the real Che Guevara it's abundantly clear that Soderbergh directed masterfully. He was not giving us Jerry Lee Lewis or John Belushi. No honest and educated reviewer can deny him massive kudus for so expertly transmitting this insufferable personality and presence to a soon snoring audience.

Soderbergh and Benicio Del Toro, who stars as Che and shares production credits, actually had an intriguing and immensely amusing theme if only they'd known how to plumb it. Soderbergh hails Guevara as "one of the most fascinating lives in the last century." Almost all who actually interacted with Ernesto Guevara (and are now free to express their views without fear of firing squads or torture chambers) know that the The Big Question regarding Ernesto, the most genuinely fascinating aspect of his life, is: how did such a dreadful bore, sadist and and epic idiot attain such iconic status?

The answer is that this psychotic and thoroughly unimposing vagrant named Ernesto Guevara had the magnificent fortune of linking up with modern history's top press agent, Fidel Castro, who for going on half a century now, has had the mainstream media anxiously scurrying to his every beck and call.

Had Ernesto Guevara De La Serna y Lynch not linked up with Raul and Fidel Castro in Mexico city that fateful summer of 1955--had he not linked up with a Cuban exile named Nico Lopez in Guatemala the year before who later introduced him to Raul and Fidel Castro in Mexico city-- everything points to Ernesto continuing his life of a traveling hobo, panhandling, mooching off women, staying in flophouses and scribbling unreadable poetry.

While making their film, Soderbergh and Del Toro repeatedly visited Havana to coo and peck away as anxiously as Herbert Matthews, Dan Rather or Barbara Walters while the regime tossed out its crumbs. Though rarely meeting with the Maximum Leader himself, the filmmakers, on top of relying on Che's diaries (edited by Fidel Castro) for the script, also obtained recollections from Che's widow and many of his former underling executioners. These all currently serve as ministers in a totalitarian regime. “We wanted to show the real character” boasts Soderbergh.

"I met him (Fidel Castro) for about five minutes," Del Toro said. "He knew about the project and he said to me that he was very happy that we had spent so much time researching the subject.”

“I'm here in Cuba's hills thirsting for blood,” Che wrote his abandoned wife in 1957. “Dear Papa, today I discovered I really like killing,” he wrote shortly afterwards. Alas, this killing very rarely involved combat, it come from the close-range murder of bound and blindfolded men and boys.

“When you saw the beaming look on Che's face as the victims were tied to the stake and blasted apart,” said a former political prisoner to this writer, “you knew there was something seriously, seriously wrong with Che Guevara.” In fact the one genuine accomplishment in Che Guevara's life was the mass-murder of defenseless men and boys. Under his own gun dozens died. Under his orders thousands crumpled. At everything else Che Guevara failed abysmally, even comically. Yet Soderbergh and Del Toro skip over these fascinating quotes and Che's one genuine accomplishment as a revolutionary.

He's lauded as the century's most celebrated guerrilla fighter but he never fought in a querrilla war. “The Guerrilla war in Cuba was notable for the marked lack of military skills or offensive spirit in the soldiers of either side," writes military historian Arthur Campbell, in his authoritative, Guerrillas: A History and Analysis. "The Fidelistas were completely lacking in the basic military arts or in any experience of fighting.”

"In all essentials Castro's battle for Cuba was a public relations campaign, fought in New York and Washington," writes British historian Hugh Thomas.

Yet Soderbergh and Del Toro, obsessively wary of lapsing into the slightest historical inaccuracy, relied on the Castro regime as primary source -- and came up with a shoot-'em up war movie! -- albeit an apparently boring one.

He's lauded as a rebel and free-spirit yet he denounced the very "spirit of rebellion" as "reprehensible!" -- and he boasted that under his watch "individualism must disappear!" This was no idle boast either. Che Guevara co-founded a regime that jailed more of its subjects than Stalin's and murdered more people in its first three years than Hitler's in its first six. In 1959, with the help of KGB agents, the man celebrated by the beautiful people at Cannes helped found, train and indoctrinate Cuba's secret police. "Always interrogate your prisoners at night," Che ordered his goons. "A man's resistance is always lower at night." Today the world's largest Che mural adorns Cuba's Ministry of the Interior, the headquarters for Cuba's STASI and KGB trained secret police.

Too bad Soderbergh and Del Toro didn't interview the former CIA officers who revealed to this writer how Fidel Castro himself, via the Bolivian Communist party, constantly fed the CIA info on Che's whereabouts in Bolivia. Including Fidel Castro's directive to the Bolivian Communists regarding Che and his merry band might have also added drama. “Not even an aspirin,” instructed Cuba's Maximum Leader to his Bolivian comrades, meaning that Bolivia's Communists were not to assist Che in any way—“not even with an aspirin,” if Che complained of a headache.

Alas, utterly starstruck by their subject and slavishly compliant to Fidel Castro's script and casting calls, all these fascinating plots and subplots flew right over Soderbergh and Del Toro's heads.

- Humberto Fontova is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him. Visit

Today's Tune: The McCoys - Hang on Sloopy

(Click on title to play video)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thomas Sowell: Mascot Politics

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Years ago, when Jack Greenberg left the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to become a professor at Columbia University, he announced that he was going to make it a point to hire a black secretary at Columbia.

This would of course make whomever he hired be seen as a token black, rather than as someone selected on the basis of competence.

This reminded me of the first time I went to Milton Friedman's office when I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago back in 1960, and I noticed that he had a black secretary. This was four years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and there was no such thing as affirmative action.

It so happened that Milton Friedman had another black secretary decades later, at the Hoover Institution-- and she was respected as one of the best secretaries around.

When I mentioned to someone at the Hoover Institution that I was having a hard time finding a secretary who could handle a tough job in my absence, I was told that I needed someone like Milton Friedman's secretary-- and that there were not many like her.

At no time in all these years did I hear Milton Friedman say, either publicly or privately, that he had a black secretary.

William F. Buckley's wife once mentioned in passing, at dinner in her home, that she had been involved for years in working with a school in Harlem. But I never heard her or Bill Buckley ever say that publicly.

Nor do conservatives who were in the civil rights marches in the South, back when that was dangerous, make that a big deal.

For people on the left, however, blacks are trophies or mascots, and must therefore be put on display. Nowhere is that more true than in politics.

The problem with being a mascot is that you are a symbol of someone else's significance or virtue. The actual well-being of a mascot is not the point.

Liberals all across the country have not hesitated to destroy black neighborhoods in the name of "urban renewal," often replacing working-class neighborhoods with upscale homes and pricey businesses-- neither of which the former residents can afford.

In academia, lower admissions standards for black students is about having them as a visible presence, even if mismatching them with the particular college or university produces high dropout rates.

The black students who don't make it are replaced by others, and when many of them don't make it, there are still more others.

The point is to have black faces on campus, as mascots symbolizing what great people there are running the college or university.

Many, if not most, of the black students who do not make it at big-name, high-pressure institutions are perfectly qualified to succeed at the normal range of colleges and universities.

Most white students would also punch out if admitted to schools for which they don't have the same qualifications as the other students. But nobody needs white mascots.

Various empirical studies have indicated that blacks succeed best at institutions where there is little or no difference between their qualifications and the qualifications of the other students around them.

This is not rocket science but it is amazing how much effort and cleverness have gone into denying the obvious.

A study by Professor Richard Sander of the UCLA law school suggests that there may be fewer black lawyers as a result of "affirmative action" admissions to law schools that are a mismatch for the individuals admitted.

Leaping to the defense of black criminals is another common practice among liberals who need black mascots. Most of the crimes committed by black criminals are committed against other blacks. But, again, the actual well-being of mascots is not the point.

Politicians who use blacks as mascots do not hesitate to throw blacks to the wolves for the benefit of the teachers' unions, the green zealots whose restrictions make housing unaffordable, or people who keep low-price stores like Wal-Mart out of their cities.

Using human beings as mascots is not idealism. It is self-aggrandizement that is ugly in both its concept and its consequences.

- Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.

CAIR's Continuing Mystery

by Robert Spencer
Posted: 05/27/2008

CAIR Representative Ahmed Bedier speaking to media in Tampa (2006).

Some mysterious dealings at the Tampa chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) highlight some of the peculiarities of that unsavory group. As terror expert Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project has noted, Ahmed Bedier, up until recently a rising star in the organization, has left his position as the executive director of CAIR-Tampa, and no one is saying why. Since Bedier has espoused numerous questionable positions in the past, could this parting of the ways could herald a new attempt by CAIR to leave behind some of its more radical positions?

CAIR has for years presented two faces to the American people. It says that its mission is “to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” And it is a high-profile, active, successful organization. Law-enforcement officials all over the country have received sensitivity training from CAIR. The mainstream media routinely seeks it out for a moderate Muslim perspective.

But there is another side to this organization as well. CAIR is “unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect,” according to Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has said of CAIR that “we know it has ties to terrorism,” and “intimate links with Hamas.” CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation jihad terror funding case. Several of its former employees and board members are now doing hard time on various terrorism-related charges.

And CAIR’s co-founder and former Board Chairman, Omar Ahmad, told a Muslim audience in 1998 that “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran ... should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.” In 2003, when these words started to get publicity, Ahmad denied saying this. He denies he said it, and he denies that he believes this. However, the original reporter stands by her story.
Bedier has been a superb embodiment of the double face of CAIR. On the Glenn Beck Show in 2005, he declared: “We condemn any nation, country or group that uses Islam or misuses and misinterprets Islam in violent ways.” Announcing his depature from CAIR, he explained his future plans in terms to warm any multiculturalist’s heart: “I’m going to expand on and build upon my work as a civil rights and human rights leader into broader areas of peace building, interfaith dialogue and reconciliation.”

Yet Bedier has also said that before 1995, when the State Department declared Palestinian Islamic Jihad a terrorist group, there was “nothing immoral” about associating with the group. The anti-terror advocacy group Americans Against Hate notes that “Bedier’s answer is startling, given the fact that, prior to 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad took credit for five terrorist attacks, which resulted in the murders of eight innocent people. This includes a suicide bombing in the town of Netzarim Junction, in November of 1994.”

And when two Muslim college students, Youseff Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed, were found with pipe bombs (and one of whom has admitted to making a video about how to use remote-controlled bombs against American soldiers), Bedier claimed that the pipe bomb material was just fireworks and said, “Both of them are really naïve kids.” On a Florida TV show several months ago, Bedier sidestepped numerous opportunities to condemn the barbaric practice of stoning.

So what does Bedier’s departure from CAIR mean at a point when he seemed to have a bright future with the national organization? Does it mean that the organization is finally going to make an attempt to live up to its self-definition, and become a truly moderate group that will work against the jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism in the American Muslim community?

That’s unlikely: the Investigative Project is correct that Bedier was “one of CAIR’s most high-profile local executive directors, publicly commenting frequently on a variety issues ranging from the staunch defense of convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist Sami Al-Arian to the wearing of Islamic garments such as the hijab in public schools.” Despite the mysterious circumstances surrounding his departure for the organization, there is no indication that any of CAIR’s remaining personnel have changed course.

And that is why government, law enforcement, and the media would be well advised to treat CAIR with extreme caution, a caution they have not shown up to now.

Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)" , "The Truth About Muhammad" and "Religion of Peace?" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).