Saturday, June 21, 2008

Today's Tune: Ramones - Do You Remember Rock 'N Roll Radio?




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Obama and the Giant Blogosphere Conspiracy

By Melanie Phillips
http://www.spectator.co.uk/
Wednesday, 11th June 2008

Malik Obama (Barack's half-brother) holds a photo of Barack Obama and him in Muslim dress, reportedly when the two first met in 1985.

Today’s Guardian reports that Barack Obama is setting up an entire unit to combat ‘virulent rumours’ about him on the internet. Doubtless one of the blogs in the sights of team Obama is Little Green Footballs, which in the last few days has been excavating examples of wildly anti-Jewish and anti-American prejudice and conspiracy theories posted up by fans on Obama’s own website. LGF is making hay with the fact that the Obamanables are belatedly taking (some of) this stuff down from the site while simultaneously insisting that its presence is nothing to do with them because the website has no moderators. Yeah, right.

The Guardian quotes the director of some monitoring outfit as saying that the blogosphere’s smears about Obama are particularly vicious.

He added that one of the most persistent is that Obama, a Christian, is ‘some kind of Muslim Manchurian candidate, planted by Islamic fundamentalists to betray the country and it is very widespread’.

Well now. Crazed Jew-hating American-loathing moonbats posting comments on Obama’s website are one thing. But the fact is that there are serious and troubling questions about Obama’s ancestry and associations and what he himself has said about them, which have surfaced in the blogosphere but have been almost wholly ignored by the mainstream media in its collective Obamanic swoon.

First is his childhood background. Last November, his campaign website carried a statement with the headline:

Barack Obama Is Not and Has Never Been a Muslim

followed by:

Obama never prayed in a mosque. He has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian.

Obama has also said:

I've always been a Christian

and

I've never practised Islam.

But none of this is true. As is explored in detail on Daniel Pipes’s website, Obama was enrolled at his primary schools in Indonesia as a Muslim; he attended the mosque during that period; his friends from that time testify that he was a devout Muslim boy. A former teacher at one of these schools, Tine Hahiyary, remembers a young Obama who was quite religious and actively took part in ‘mengaji’ classes which teach how to read the Koran in Arabic. The blogger from Indonesia who reported this commented:

‘Mengagi’ is a word and a term that is accorded the highest value and status in the mindset of fundamentalist societies here in Southeast Asia. To put it quite simply, "mengaji classes" are not something that a non practicing or so-called moderate Muslim family would ever send their child to... The fact that Obama had attended mengaji classes is well known in Indonesia and has left many there wondering just when Obama is going to come out of the closet.

His father was a Muslim, as was his stepfather. His grandfather was a Muslim convert. His wider family appear to have been largely devout Muslims. Yes, we only know about Obama’s early years as a Muslim; and yes, twenty years ago he became a Christian. The issue, however, is why he has been less than candid about his early background and his family. Indeed, he appears to have actively deceived the public about it. That is why the blogosphere is so exercised about it.

Now here’s another curious thing. Much has been made of his membership of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago whose former pastor and his long-standing mentor, Jeremiah Wright, Obama was forced finally to renounce on account of his obnoxious views (although he has signally failed unequivocally to denounce those views themselves and the no less obnoxious philosophy of the Trinity United black power church). But according to a passing reference in a profile in The New Republic last year, Pastor Wright was himself a Muslim convert to Christianity. He seems to have moved from being a Muslim black power fanatic to a Christian black power fanatic – which might go some way to explaining his close affinity to the Muslim black power ideologue Louis Farrakhan.

Then there is also Obama’s troubling support for the Kenyan opposition leader -- and his cousin -- Raila Odinga, the leader of the violent uprising a few months ago against the newly elected Kenyan government and who signed a memorandum of understanding with Kenyan Muslims to turn Kenya into an Islamic state governed by sharia law. At the time, the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya released a statement in which church leaders said Odinga

comes across as a presumptive Muslim president bent on forcing Islamic law, religion and culture down the throats of the Kenyan people in total disregard of the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of worship and equal protection of the law for all Kenyans.

As the Atlas Shrugs site reported, Obama actually went to Kenya in 2006 and spoke at rallies in support of Odinga, causing the Kenyan government to denounce him as ‘Raila’s stooge’. Why was Obama supporting such a person? Why has no-one bothered to find out?

Daniel Pipes makes another highly significant point about Obama’s Muslim background. He points out that, in the eyes of the Muslim world, Obama remains a Muslim regardless of what religion he now professes because he was born to a Muslim father. By his own admission (of Christianity) therefore, he is a Muslim apostate – a status regarded by the Muslim world as a sin to be punished by death. Pipes thinks this would put his life in danger and undermine his initiatives towards the Muslim world. But surely the more significant point is that much of that Muslim world has actually embraced him. Indeed the Muslim Brothers of Hamas – who most certainly would regard any Muslim apostate as someone to be eliminated – actually came out publicly in support of him (until Obama blotted his copybook by professing undying support for Israel).

We are entitled therefore to ask whether the Muslim world supports him because it believes he is still a Muslim. We are entitled to ask precisely when he stopped being a Muslim, and why. Did Obama embrace Christianity as a tactical manoeuvre to get himself elected? Why indeed has he dissembled about his family background if not for that end?

These multiple known deceptions by someone who may become President of the United States are deeply alarming. The concealment is the issue. To dismiss such concerns and the related questions they provoke as a smear campaign is to attempt to browbeat into silence those who legitimately raise them and require urgent answers as a matter of the most acute public interest.

Update: In this entry I originally included the following quote from the American Expatriate in Indonesia blog quoted above: 'Another of Obama’s former classmates, Emirsyah Satar, now CEO of Garuda Indonesia, has been quoted as saying: At that time, he was quite religious in Islam but after marrying Michelle, he changed his religion.' It has been pointed out to me that comments posted on that blog claimed that this was a mistranslation, and that the quote attributed to Satar was written instead by the author of the article.

Islam’s War Doctrines Ignored

by Raymond Ibrahim
MESH (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
http://www.victorhanson.com
June 19, 2008



At the recent inaugural conference for the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA), presenter Ltc. Joseph Myers made an interesting point that deserves further elaboration: that, though military studies have traditionally valued and absorbed the texts of classical war doctrine — such as Clausewitz’s On War, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, even the exploits of Alexander the Great as recorded in Arrian and Plutarch — Islamic war doctrine, which is just as, if not more, textually grounded, is totally ignored.

As recent as 2006, former top Pentagon official William Gawthrop lamented that “the senior Service colleges of the Department of Defense had not incorporated into their curriculum a systematic study of Muhammad as a military or political leader. As a consequence, we still do not have an in-depth understanding of the war-fighting doctrine laid down by Muhammad, how it might be applied today by an increasing number of Islamic groups, or how it might be countered.”

This is more ironic when one considers that, while classical military theories (Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, et. al.) are still studied, the argument can be made that they have little practical value for today’s much changed landscape of warfare and diplomacy. Whatever validity this argument may have, it certainly cannot be applied to Islam’s doctrines of war; by having a “theological” quality, that is, by being grounded in a religion whose “divine” precepts transcend time and space, and are thus believed to be immutable, Islam’s war doctrines are considered applicable today no less than yesterday. So while one can argue that learning how Alexander maneuvered his cavalry at the Battle of Guagamela in 331 BC is both academic and anachronistic, the same cannot be said of Islam, particularly the exploits and stratagems of its prophet Muhammad — his “war sunna” — which still serve as an example to modern day jihadists.

For instance, based on the words and deeds of Muhammad, most schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that the following are all legitimate during war against the infidel: the indiscriminate use of missile weaponry, even if women and children are present (catapults in Muhammad’s 7th century, hijacked planes or WMD by analogy today); the need to always deceive the enemy and even break formal treaties whenever possible (see Sahih Muslim 15:4057); and that the only function of the peace treaty, or hudna, is to give the Islamic armies time to regroup for a renewed offensive, and should, in theory, last no more than ten years.

Quranic verses 3:28 and 16:106, as well as Muhammad’s famous assertion, “War is deceit,” have all led to the formulation of a number of doctrines of dissimulation — the most notorious among them being the doctrine of taqiyya, which permits Muslims to lie and dissemble whenever they are under the authority of the infidel. Deception has such a prominent role that renowned Muslim scholar Ibn al-Arabi declares: “[I]n the Hadith, practicing deceit in war is well demonstrated. Indeed, its need is more stressed than [the need for] courage” (The Al Qaeda Reader, 142).

Aside from ignoring these well documented Islamist strategies, more troubling is the fact that the Defense Department does not seem to appreciate Islam’s more “eternal” doctrines — such as the Abode of War versus the Abode of Islam dichotomy, which in essence maintains that Islam must always be in a state of animosity vis-à-vis the infidel world and, whenever possible, must wage wars until all infidel territory has been brought under Islamic rule. In fact, this dichotomy of hostility is unambiguously codified under Islam’s worldview and is deemed a fard kifaya — that is, an obligation on the entire Muslim body that can only be fulfilled as long as some Muslims, say, “jihadists,” actively uphold it.

Yet despite all these problematic — but revealing — doctrines, despite the fact that a quick perusal of Islamist websites and books demonstrate time and time again that current and would-be jihadists constantly quote, and thus take seriously, these doctrinal aspects of war, apparently the senior governmental leaders charged with defending America do not.

Why? Because the “Whisperers” — Walid Phares’ all-too-apt epithet for many Middle East/Islamic scholars, or, more appropriately, apologists — have made anathema anyone who dares imply that there may be some sort of connection between Islamic doctrine and modern-day Islamist terrorism, such as in the recent Steven Coughlin debacle. This is a long and well known tale for those in the field (see Martin Kramer’s Ivory Towers on Sand: the Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America).

But consider for a moment: though there are today many Middle East studies departments, one will be sorely pressed to find any courses dealing with the most pivotal and relevant topics of today — such as Islamic jurisprudence and what it has to say about jihad or the concept of Abode of Islam versus the Abode of War — no doubt due to the fact that these topics possess troubling international implications and are best buried. Instead, the would-be student will be inundated with courses dealing with the evils of “Orientalism” and colonialism, gender studies, and civil society.

The greater irony — when one talks about Islam and the West, ironies often abound — is that, on the very same day of the ASMEA conference, which also contained a forthright address by premiere Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis (“It seems to me a dangerous situation in which any kind of scholarly discussion of Islam is, to say the least, dangerous”), the State Department announced that it had adopted the recommendations of a memo stating that the government should not call al Qaeda-type radicals “jihadis,” “mujahidin,” or to incorporate any other Arabic word of Islamic connotation (“caliphate,” “Islamo-fascism,” “Salafi,” “Wahhabi,” and “Ummah” are also out).

Alas, far from taking the most basic and simple advice regarding warfare — Sun Tzu’s ancient dictum, “Know thy enemy” — the U.S. government is having difficulties even acknowledging its enemy.

- Raymond Ibrahim is the editor of The Al Qaeda Reader, which contains many never-before-translated texts written by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

McCain’s Partial Fix

An energy-policy change Americans can — and do — believe in.

By Charles Krauthammer
http://www.nationalreview.com/
June 20, 2008, 0:00 a.m.

Gas is $4 a gallon. Oil is $135 a barrel and rising. We import two-thirds of our oil, sending hundreds of billions of dollars to the likes of Russia, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia. And yet we voluntarily prohibit ourselves from even exploring huge domestic reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

At a time when U.S. crude oil production has fallen 40 percent in the last 25 years, 75 billion barrels of oil have been declared off-limits, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That would be enough to replace every barrel of non-North American imports (oil trade with Canada and Mexico is a net economic and national-security plus) for 22 years.

That’s nearly a quarter century of energy independence. The situation is absurd. To which John McCain is responding with a partial fix: Lift the federal ban on Outer Continental Shelf drilling, where a fifth of the off-limits stuff lies.

This is a change for McCain, but circumstances have changed. When the moratorium was imposed in 1982, gasoline was $1.20 and oil was $30 a barrel. Since the moratorium was instituted, we’ve had two wars in the Middle East, and in between a decade of garrisoning troops in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE to preserve the peace and keep untold oil riches out of the hands of the most malevolent of our enemies.

Technological conditions have changed as well. We now are able to drill with far more precision and environmental care than a quarter-century ago. We have thousands of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, yet not even hurricanes Katrina and Rita resulted in spills of any significance.

McCain’s problem is that he’s only able to go halfway on energy production because he has locked himself into opposition to the other obvious source of domestic oil — the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

His fastidiousness on this is inexplicable. “I believe that ANWR is a pristine area,” he explains. Is it more pristine than the ocean, where he now wants to drill? More pristine than the Arabian Desert from which we daily beg the Saudi princes to pump more oil?

The entire Arctic refuge is one-third the size of the United Kingdom (which includes Scotland and Wales). The drilling site would be one-seventh the size of Manhattan Island. The footprint is tiny. Moreover, forbidding drilling there does not prevent despoliation. It merely exports it. The crude oil we’re not getting from the Arctic we import instead from places like the Niger Delta, where millions live and where the resulting pollution and oil spillages poison the lives of many of the world’s most wretchedly poor.

Our environmental imperialism does not just redistribute pollution to people who can least afford it. It generally increases the total overall damage because oil extraction in the wealthier and more technologically advanced U.S. is far more environmentally sensitive.

McCain’s unwillingness to include ANWR lacks even political logic. His policy on offshore drilling is a flip-flop from his past positions. Perfectly justified, but a reconsideration nonetheless. If you are going to take the hit for flip-flopping and for offending environmentalists, why go halfway?

The oil crisis handed McCain an unexpected and singularly effective campaign issue. A majority of Americans now favor drilling in the Arctic and offshore. Democrats stand in the way of increased production just as they did 13 years ago when President Clinton vetoed drilling in ANWR. Domestic oil production would be about 20 percent higher today if the Republican Congress had been allowed to prevail.

As expected and right on cue, Barack Obama reflexively attacked McCain. “His decision to completely change his position” to one that would please the oil industry is “the same Washington politics that has prevented us from achieving energy independence for decades.” One can only marvel at Obama’s audacity in characterizing McCain’s proposal to change our policy as “old politics,” while the candidate of “change” adheres rigidly to the no-drilling status quo.

McCain is a lot of things, but the man who opposed ethanol in Iowa — as Obama shamelessly endorsed the most abysmally stupid of our energy policies — is no patsy of the energy producers. Americans know that increased production is needed to complement reduced consumption as the only way to get us out from oil shocks, high prices and national security blackmail.

Alas, McCain’s proposed reform is only partial. Still better than Obama, however, who refuses to deviate from liberal orthodoxy. But that is the story of his campaign, is it not?

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist.

Today's Tune: Emmylou Harris - Waltz Across Texas Tonight



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Friday, June 20, 2008

Her Career Seems a Rebuke to Contemporary Country

CULTURAL CONVERSATION

By JIM FUSILLI
The Wall Street Journal
June 19, 2008; Page D7

Nashville: Emmylou Harris is treating me to a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and moves directly to "the well from which it all springs," as she put it, Maybelle Carter's big-bodied 1928 Gibson L-5 guitar. We study, in the next display case, the most famous mandolin in American music history, the 1923 Gibson F-5 that belonged to bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, a friend and mentor of Ms. Harris until his death in 1996. When we're invited behind the scenes, we see materials for a coming Kitty Wells exhibition spread on a table, but Ms. Harris's eye is drawn to a mustard-yellow guitar that Ira Louvin built, placed near an original copy of his only solo album.



Getty Images
Musician Emmylou Harris performs during the Stagecoach Music Festival last May in Indio, Calif.


By showing me these seminal instruments, the wispy, silver-haired 61-year-old is commenting, however inadvertently, on her 35-year career -- as well as on her induction into the Hall of Fame in April and on her album "All I Intended to Be" (Nonesuch), issued earlier this month. Ms. Harris delivers her songs with Mother Carter's passion and unadorned directness; knows that Monroe's musical adventurism trumps the homogeneous sound of contemporary country; and in the early 1970s, with Gram Parsons, studied the Louvins' vocal harmonies.

Her new disc features "She Could Sing the Wildwood Flower," co-written with Kate and Anna McGarrigle, which references the Carter Family hit "Wildwood Flower." Monroe compositions have been part of her sprawling repertoire, and her first solo hit was a cover of the Louvin Brothers' "If I Could Only Win Your Love."

Not that Ms. Harris has always been deeply steeped in country music. As a young folk singer, she'd toss in a few country tunes in her shows -- "tongue in cheek, I have to admit," she told me. She was performing Wells's "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels" in a Washington, D.C., club when members of the Flying Burritos Brothers were in the audience. They told their former colleague Parsons about her, and he hired her to sing harmony for his first solo album, "GP." She said Parsons taught her to respect a country song.

"There's something about country music where you lock in with the words and you lock in with the melody and you let the song carry you," she said, which is a pretty fair description of her approach on "All I Intended to Be," a lovely, somber disc that made its debut on the country charts at No. 4 and on the pop charts at No. 22, the highest debuts of her career.

Parsons' death from a drug overdose in 1973 "came as a shock," Ms. Harris told me as we neared a case holding his Nudie suit festooned with images of pills and marijuana leaves. "I thought he was on his way to reclaiming himself." Back in Washington, she started her own group, playing country, pop and rock. "It was the first time I ever fronted a band," she said. "I was terrified for the first half of the first song, but I don't think I've been nervous since."

Ms. Harris issued two albums in 1975 -- "Pieces of the Sky" and "Elite Hotel" -- that foreshadowed her career, placing country classics alongside songs by pop writers and Nashville newcomers. Her affinity for pop has given her career a second track as a harmony vocalist and co-partner to some of rock's elite. Neil Young hired her in 1975, beginning a long and fruitful relationship. Bob Dylan brought her in for his "Desire" album. "I found out later that he just wanted a girl," she told me. "He didn't know who I was." Recently, she performed with Elvis Costello and Mark Knopfler.

Her varied career also comprises two hit albums of pop standards with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt titled "Trio" and "Trio II," a bluegrass phase, a prominent appearance on the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack, and some innovative music with producer Daniel Lanois, including the gorgeous 1995 release "Wrecking Ball." Her two solo albums that preceded "All I Intended to Be" -- "Red Dirt Girl" and "Stumble Into Grace" -- skew toward the experimental folk-rock sound she developed with Mr. Lanois and his colleague Malcolm Burn, who produced both discs.



Zina Saunders

Her new album is a blend of country and folk. Ms. Harris composed three of its songs and co-wrote two others with the McGarrigles. The rest of the songs she's been saving for years -- compositions by Merle Haggard, Billy Joe Shaver, Jack Wesley Routh, Tracy Chapman and others. She first heard Mark Germino's "Broken Man's Lament" 25 years ago. "I've been a song finder for most of my career," she said. "The song is the gemstone and everything else is the setting."

After leaving the Hall of Fame, we drive to her white-columned house, built in 1926. She apologizes for the chaos in the kitchen, but its disarray suggests family life. A niece greets us with news of Ms. Harris's mother, who's recovering upstairs from a fall. Ms. Harris takes me to meet her dogs, Bella and Keeta, and to show me the headquarters of Bonaparte's Retreat, her organization that provides foster care to shelter dogs facing euthanasia. We settle in a cozy parlor filled with family photos and a scattering of memorabilia. None of her gold or platinum albums is in sight.

For "All I Intended to Be," Ms. Harris reunited in the studio with her ex-husband Brian Ahern, who produced her first 11 albums, and old friends John Starling, Tom Gray and Mike Auldridge, whom she's known since the early 1970s; Ms. Parton and Vince Gill, who sing harmony; and keyboard player Glen D. Hardin, who was on her early albums. But loss is the album's theme.

"From a very young age, I was always attracted to songs about loss, and I don't know why," she said. "I had the happiest childhood. My parents were wonderful." She pointed out that romantic heartbreak is addressed in only one tune -- Patty Griffin's "Moon Song." "Most of them are about growing older, and the inevitability of death. And yet," she said, "I don't think of myself as a sad person. . . . When it's all said and done, we're going to lose the people we love." But, she added, to understand that is to embrace life. "It's about living."

Her new album's personal statement, and its organic underpinning that at times harkens back to the acoustic sound of the Carter Family and folk music, seems a rebuke to contemporary country, whose stars seem more like actors playing singers than people relating genuine experiences. As we wound up our conversation -- she was awaiting a phone call from Mr. Costello and then would hop on the bus with Bella, Keeta and her band to resume a U.S. tour that runs through July -- I asked Ms. Harris if her career would be possible if she were starting out in Nashville now. "I don't think so," she said after a moment's thought. "I came at exactly the right time. But right now, I just can't imagine it."

"It could be that country as we knew it is gone," she added. "But the great thing about the Country Music Hall of Fame is you can trace it back."

That's the great thing about Ms. Harris too. Through her music, we find the roots of country.

Mr. Fusilli is the Journal's rock and pop music critic. Email him at jfusilli@wsj.com.

Emmylou Harris is charmed and charming

By David Menconi, Staff Writer
Raleigh News & Observer
June 20, 2008



Emmylou Harris has the sort of life and career that lesser mortals can only dream about. She moves in rarefied circles, gliding with seeming effortlessness from one incredibly cool project to the next. Recent years have found Harris touring, recording and singing with an array of big wheels including Mark Knopfler, Neil Young, Dolly Parton and Patty Griffin -- dear friends all. Harris was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this past April.
Remarkably, all of this just seems to happen more or less on its own. A large part of that is Harris' voice, versatile and dulcet, which is a welcome addition to almost any musical context. But part of it also comes down to Harris herself, a universally beloved figure who seems to be proof that you get back what you put out into the world.

"It does seem to just kind of happen, yes," Harris says, calling from New York City. "I'm lucky that way. I'm not out there trying to drum up business, if you know what I mean. Like Mark Knopfler, who is so easy to sing with. He's really good friends with Paul Kennerley, my ex-husband, who is still like my best friend. So we ran in the same circles and it just sort of happened organically. It wasn't this music business thing of, 'Let's put these two together!' It started with him wanting me to sing a couple of songs on his album and grew from there."

Harris performs Wednesday in Raleigh at the N.C. Museum of Art, touring behind her just-released album "All I Intended to Be" (Nonesuch Records). That follows up her 2006 collaboration with Knopfler, "All the Roadrunning," on which Harris and the Dire Straits frontman conjure up vocal harmonies you just might not think possible.

Harris' angelic, lighter-than-air voice seems an odd match for Knopfler's gruff pub-rock bray, yet they fit together wonderfully. One has to wonder: Is there anybody Harris can't sing with?

"Oh, it usually works," she says with a laugh. "Sometimes it's better than others, of course. But usually you can come up with something that's at least ... interesting."

Singing with friends

Plenty of Harris' friends turn up on "All I Intended to Be," including Parton, the McGarrigle Sisters, Vince Gill, Buddy Miller (recently anointed "Artist of the Decade" by No Depression magazine) and John Starling from The Seldom Scene. Also back in the fold is producer Brian Ahern, Harris' former husband, who produced her first 11 albums in the 1970s and early '80s. This is their first full-length work together in 25 years.



"All I Intended to Be" gives a bit more prominence to acoustic instruments than has been typical for Harris in recent years. But for the most part, it continues in the vein of spectral, ethereal country-folk that Harris staked out with 1995's Daniel Lanois-produced "Wrecking Ball."

"I do think every producer puts a stamp on things," Harris says. "This might be more of a return to the simpler sound I had at the beginning. As everybody grows and changes, you add to your repertoire whether you're a singer or producer or songwriter. This is where Brian and I are at this point. But it wasn't any grand thing. We'd worked together off and on since the breakup. After the dust settled and we got to raising our daughter, certain projects would come up where I'd ask Brian for help. This was our first full project since then. Since we both live in Nashville, it just seemed like time."

Also serving an old-friend role are some of the songs on "All I Intended to Be" (a line from Billy Joe Shaver's "Old Five and Dimers Like Me"). The opening track, "Shores of White Sand," is a song Harris has had her eye on since Karen Brooks first recorded it in 1982. A few Harris originals are on the album, but most of the track list comes from other writers including Griffin, the McGarrigle Sisters, Tracy Chapman and Merle Haggard.

"I've been collecting songs for so long, I don't even know how I go about it anymore," Harris says. "It's just something I do, gather them up. I've always been a collector and coverer of songs. When I went to make this album, I didn't have a lot of songs written. Just a few. So I thought it was maybe time to address some of these gems I'd been meaning to get to."

'Like a shining star'

Particularly striking is "Broken Man's Lament," written and originally recorded by North Carolina native Mark Germino more than 20 years ago and a song Harris says is "like a shining star." It's a shatteringly tragic meditation on lost loves and wasted lives falling apart, narrated by a man whose stifled wife left him:

Now I live my life in silence,

Though I'm not quite in a shell.

I drink and listen to the song

"A Whiter Shade of Pale,"

Oh, "A Whiter Shade of Pale."

This doesn't seem like a song Harris could relate to. And yet she sells it.



"Well, it happens to everybody, doesn't it?" Harris says. "I have had a charmed life, but that doesn't mean I'm cut off from the universe and what people have to go through. That song is very specific in the details, but that doesn't keep you from being able to relate to it. I can relate to the mistakes one makes in relationships, including the other character who's not fully fleshed out but is definitely present, the wife.

"It's like telling a short story, reading aloud," she concludes. "Reading aloud is a lovely thing. Sometimes I'll read a passage aloud to myself if it's really stunning, to hear the sound of the words. But mostly, I read to our children. 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' is more my speed."

Info
Who: Emmylou Harris with Jimmy Gaudreau and Moondi Klein.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Where: N.C. Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh.
Cost: $22-$45 ($12.50 for children 7-12, lawn only).
Details: 839-6262, ncartmuseum.org.

Springsteen, the sonic craftsman, burns away the darkness

by David Williamson, Western Mail
http://www.walesonline.co.uk
June 19, 2008



-Photographs by Harry Scott

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN has written songs beginning with every letter of the alphabet except X and Q.

This body of work, stretching from "A Good Man is Hard to Find" to "Zero And Blind Terry" is a colossal achievement which has blended poetry and polemics, heartbreaks and hallelujahs. He ranks alongside Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan as a lyricist, but eclipses each as a performer.

Tens of thousands of people crowded into the Millennium Stadium last Saturday to encounter the man and his music.

At a time when illegal downloading is draining the profits of the recording industry, concerts represent a financial bonanza. Fans will pay the price of five albums to hear the artist perform on one evening.

Springsteen has a veteran’s understanding of the economics of showbusiness, having been thundering along this road since releasing his first album in 1973. But the concert on Saturday was more than a cash-for-music transaction.

It was not so much a night of adoring fans straining to clasp hands with a musical hero (although there was plenty of that in the front rows) as the spectacle of an artist on fire with an insatiable desire to connect with his audience.

It takes a gladiatorial courage to step onto a stage before a audience greater than the population of most towns. But from the first song on, Springsteen glowed with a joy so bright it could be seen, probably, from Pluto.



We have grown used to the persona of the curmudgeonly musician who scarcely acknowledges the existence of the crowd. Dylan prefers to avoid entering some pseudo-conversation with his fans, whom he reasonably argues have come to hear the songs.

But Springsteen’s strength as a writer and a performer is that his work is rooted in time and place. In his canon heartfelt love songs sit beside earnest tales of unemployment, post-9/11 America and spiritual hunger.

For around three hours he lifted such numbers from his back catalogue, becoming more passionate, gleeful and determined as the sky grew dark. The stadium was the workshop of a sonic craftsman, furiously labouring in front of us.

In 2005, when inducting U2 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he described the vision with which he was born to run. He told the audience: “A great rock band searches for the same kind of combustible force that fuelled the expansion of the universe after the big bang.

“You want the earth to shake and spit fire. You want the sky to split apart and for God to pour out.

“It’s embarrassing to want so much, and to expect so much from music, except sometimes it happens...”

The late playwright Arthur Miller said he worked for the brief moments of “illumination”. And in Cardiff at the weekend something burned away the darkness in the centre of the town.



June 14 / Cardiff, UK / Millennium Stadium

Setlist:
From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
The Promised Land
Blinded By the Light
Magic
Atlantic City
The River
Gypsy Biker
Darlington County
Because the Night
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
Mary's Place
Working on the Highway
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Badlands
* * *
Jungleland
Thunder Road
Born to Run
Rosalita
American Land

Note: In the encore Springsteen sent out "Thunder Road" to the late Tim Russert:

"I'd like to do this tonight for a long time friend of the E Street Band who passed away suddenly.

"Tim Russert was an important unreplacable voice in American journalism. I watched him hold our politicians feet to the fire on many Sunday mornings. He was always a strong voice for honesty and accountability in American government .. but beyond that he was a lovely presence, a good father, husband, and good guy. He was a regular at many E Street Band shows and I'm going to miss looking down and seeing that big smiling face in the crowd.

"We send this out all the way back to the states tonight for his son Luke, his wife Maureen, his dad Big Russ, and all the Russert family.

"Tim, God Bless You, We will miss you..."

Bruce Springsteen Extends Summer Tour

Jonathan Cohen
http://www.billboard.com
June 20, 2008 , 3:35 PM ET



Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have added seven dates to their summer itinerary, which will conclude Aug. 30 with a show in Milwaukee for Harley Davidson's 105th anniversary festival.

The new shows begin Aug. 15 in Jacksonville, Fla., and wrap Aug. 24 in Kansas City, Mo. The late summer run begins with a July 27-28, 31 stand at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Springsteen and company are touring in support of the 2007 album "Magic," which has sold more than 1 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Since launching last October, the tour has grossed nearly $84 million and drawn 873,000 fans to 50 shows reported to Billboard Boxscore, 24 of them sell-outs.

Here are Bruce Springsteen's summer tour dates:


July 27-27, 31: East Rutherford, N.J. (Giants Stadium)
Aug. 2: Foxboro, Mass. (Gillette Stadium)
Aug. 15: Jacksonville, Fla. (Veterans Memorial Coliseum)
Aug. 16: Charleston, S.C. (Charleston Coliseum)
Aug. 18: Richmond, Va. (Richmond Coliseum)
Aug. 19: Hershey, Pa. (Hersheypark Stadium)
Aug. 21: Nashville (Sommet Center)
Aug. 23: St. Louis (Scottrade Center)
Aug. 24: Kansas City, Mo. (Sprint Center)
Aug. 30: Milwaukee (Harley Davidson 105th Anniversary Festival)

Today's Tune: Neil Diamond - I Am...I Said




(Click on title to play video)

Trophy goes to the toughest team

By JASON WHITLOCK
The Kansas City Star
Posted on Tue, Jun. 17, 2008 10:15 PM



The Celtics’ Paul Pierce, who scored 17 points in the game, shot the ball over the Lakers’ Ronny Turiaf in the first half of Tuesday’s game six in Boston. The Celtics won the game and their first title since 1986.

BOSTON: It’s funny the generalizations we can make without creating a fuss.

Now that the Boston Celtics have exposed the Los Angeles Lakers as frauds, much of the NBA offseason will be spent discussing why it’s nearly impossible to win pro basketball’s most prestigious title with a roster polluted with non-American players.

Oh, of course, this discussion will only transpire after we in the media finish blaming Kobe Bryant for not dragging LA’s collection of soft, spot-up shooters to the championship. The first rule in the NBA is to blame Kobe for whatever goes wrong.

Plenty went wrong for the Lakers on Tuesday night at TD Banknorth Garden. The Celtics closed out the NBA finals with a finishing kick below the belt that probably wouldn’t even fly in the UFC, blasting the Lakers 131-92.

Yeah, the Lakers quit. They had no interest in extending this series to seven games. I’m not sure they wanted to leave Los Angeles on Sunday. They did everything they could to lose game five, but the Celtics wouldn’t cooperate.

Anyway, Kobe will get blamed for all of this. He’s an easy target, far more inviting than Phil Jackson, who is 3-8 in his last 11 NBA finals games.

After we’re done trashing Kobe and ranting that a Michael Jordan-led team would never get humiliated in an elimination game, we’ll turn our attention to Pau Gasol, Vladimir Radmanovic, Sasha Vujacic and the overall lack of toughness that is a byproduct of a roster that is too international.

We Are The World works in the music industry and bombs in the NBA, or at least that’s what we’re going to hear until the Olympics tip off.

The Celtics just won their 17th title with an all-homegrown playoff roster of brothas. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, James Posey, P.J. Brown, Eddie House, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, Tony Allen and Sam Cassell developed the toughness and tenacity that lifted the Celtics on American playgrounds.

We may no longer make the best cars, but we still produce the toughest and most reliable NBA players. No one is going to question that after this series, no matter what happens in the Olympics.

A team of Americans defend, take charges and refuse to surrender the lane to high-scoring shooting guards.

When Kobe tried to get to the rim, he found Allen, Posey, Pierce, Garnett, Perkins and head coach Doc Rivers all standing in his path. When Pierce played pick-and-roll, slashed to the bucket, Vujacic, Radmanovic and Luke Walton grabbed Pierce’s free hand and escorted him to the basket.

That was the difference in this series. Pierce and the Celtics went anywhere they wanted on the court. International players are more fundamentally sound than our players at the offensive end, but they can’t match American players’ mental and physical versatility on the defensive end.

Tuesday night in the clincher, when the Celtics built a 23-point halftime lead, Garnett finally took full advantage of his freedom to roam the low post, scoring 17 first-half points on eight-of-12 shooting.

Gasol was overwhelmed. Phil Jackson tossed little-used reserve Ronny Turiaf on the court, trying to give the Lakers some in-the-paint toughness and energy. It was too Turiaf, too late. Boston was off and not to be denied.

I changed my return flight from Friday to this morning at halftime. Boston’s commitment to defense made a Lakers rally an impossibility. You don’t cough up 20-point leads when the identity of your team is defense.

Nope, offensive teams blow 24-point leads, because offensive teams have shooting slumps. Defense is pretty slump-proof. It’s dependent on effort.

Boston’s effort was superior in this series from the opening tip. Boston’s best player (Pierce) asked to guard Kobe Bryant in the second half of game four. Pierce didn’t shut down Kobe. The significance was that Pierce wanted the challenge of defending Kobe. Pierce bought into the message Doc Rivers preached all season.

“We play defense, we’re going to win a world championship,” Rivers said he told his team during their first meeting. “And that’s exactly what they did. They were phenomenal all year. They played like a team all year.”


To reach Jason Whitlock, call 816-234-4869 or send e-mail to jwhitlock@kcstar.com. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com

You're Perfect, Now Change

By Thomas Boswell
The Washington Post
Thursday, June 19, 2008; E01

SAN DIEGO - JUNE 16: Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the fifth hole during the playoff round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 16, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

When Tiger Woods and his buddies are lifting weights and approach exhaustion, somebody always asks, "How many more repetitions?"

"The answer is always, 'Four,' " Woods said on Monday after winning his third U.S. Open. "That's four as in 'forever.' " And he laughed.

That laughter, full of ambition, ego, bravery and perhaps pathology, is the soundtrack in the parallel universe of Tiger Woods. It's a world shared by the rare people in every other occupation who, for whatever reasons -- some noble, some nuts, some both -- always rebel at limits and push beyond. Beyond what?

As Marlon Brando said, when asked what he was rebelling against, the answer is always the same: "Whatdaya got?"

To fathom what Woods did at the U.S. Open, winning his national title over five days while playing on a left leg that had a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and two stress fractures in the tibia, in addition to recovering from surgery to remove cartilage eight weeks earlier, we have to go back in time 10 months.

To understand the challenges and perils, many running to the core of Woods's personality, that will face him as he tries to resume his place as the greatest golfer who ever lived, we must also look at the entire progression of decisions that Woods has made for almost the past year.

Then, perhaps, you'll agree with two conclusions. First, given his lose-lose options once he learned of his stress fractures, Woods made the right decision to gut out the U.S. Open -- a win that produces even more chills now, in retrospect, than it did in real time.

Second, however, we will see how a whole sequence of decisions has demolished Woods's left knee -- the one that absorbs the torque of his ferocious swing -- to the point where, in the words of swing coach Hank Haney, "by last week there wasn't much left to damage, frankly."

The lesson Woods should, perhaps, take from this episode is that, while his U.S. Open courage was magnificent, his attitude toward preserving and protecting his body must change or the rest of his career may be half of what it should be.

Tiger Woods hits out of a bunker on the 11th hole fairway in the 108th U.S. Open golf tournament playoff against compatriot Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California on June 16, 2008. Woods won in sudden death. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

As Woods walked the fifth hole Sunday, a fan yelled, "No pain, no gain." Sounds romantic. But remember Seve Ballesteros's back. By 35, he was history.

The red flag that began this magnificent melodramatic mess was waved in Woods's face last summer. For the first time in his career, his body offered up a menacing challenge to his own sense of limitlessness, to own destiny. His ACL had a "spontaneous rupture." It didn't snap in an accident. "Ping," it just wore out, as he was running near his home in Orlando. Yet the injury wasn't a surprise. Woods was told 10 years ago that he had a "deficient ACL." He could have exercised less stressfully -- swim, stationary bike. But he liked to run. So he did.

Tiger could have had surgery quickly, requiring the same six to eight months of rehab that he will face now. But despite constant discomfort-to-pain, he didn't. Instead, he won five of his next six events, including the PGA Championship, his 13th major. His concession to the injury was to skip a customary trip to play in Asia and rest his knee more before the 2008 season. "The hope was to have the ACL done after the '08 season," Mark Steinberg, Woods's agent, said yesterday.

For Woods, sports history has always bent to his will, in part because his body has never known the difference between "four" and "forever." Why mess up '08? Why risk missing the Open on your favorite boyhood course, Torrey Pines, a track you own? Or bypass a chance for revenge against Europe in the 2008 Ryder Cup?

But the knee disagreed. It hurt more often, probably, though not unequivocally, because of the ACL damage, according to Steinberg. Yet Woods won four of his first six events to start 2008 despite the pain.

Still, Tiger got the message. The knee was getting worse. It had to be scoped, washed out, immediately after the Masters. "The date for the surgery was set well before the Masters," Steinberg said. "Nothing new happened at Augusta."

After surgery on April 15, Woods had six weeks before Jack Nicklaus's Memorial Tournament and eight weeks before the U.S. Open. You're allowed one guess at how Woods did his rehab. Yes, at full "forever" bore.

Before the Memorial, Woods felt a sharp and different pain. "Pretty soon it became excruciating," Steinberg said. An MRI exam showed the double stress fracture. The cure: three weeks on crutches, three weeks of inactivity, then rehab.

Add up those weeks. Woods would miss the Memorial, the U.S. Open, the Buick, his own AT&T National in Washington and presumably the British Open. Then, with luck, he'd return, with four months of accumulated rust, to defend his PGA title. And, having "come back," he couldn't skip the patriotic Ryder Cup. So that ACL surgery, which still had to be done sometime, might jeopardize the 2009 Masters.

What a disaster: A ruptured ACL that goes unfixed probably leads to cartilage damage, which leads to surgery, which leads to (probably excessive) rehab, which leads to a fresh bend-you-over-in-pain double stress fracture. What do you do?

"The doctor wasn't too encouraged about him playing in the Open," Steinberg said. "It wasn't that he could do extensive new damage to the knee. The doctor just doubted anybody could stand the pain."

To which Tiger said -- cue the Greek chorus -- "I'm playing in the Open. And I'm going to win."

SAN DIEGO - JUNE 16: Tiger Woods chips onto the green with his third shot on the 12th hole during the playoff round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 16, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Not only did Woods win but, with a sense of honor worthy of Bobby Jones or Nicklaus, he kept his secrets. He didn't upstage the USGA or his two-day playing partner Phil Mickelson by making headlines. Instead, he just threw a 30 at Phil on their last nine together.

He didn't steal Rocco Mediate's one great hour of a lifetime by making himself an even bigger underdog. What vicious but effective gamesmanship that would have been. Oh, Tiger limped and grimaced and, at least twice, looked like he might not take another step. He knew some players were calling him "Oscar" for his performance and that some in the media doubted that a simple arthroscopic procedure could be so painful after two months. But he kept mum.

Until yesterday. Now, the sports world wrings its hands. Should Tiger have played the Open? Will Woods ever be the same?

There's no reason this saga can't have a happy ending. If Woods will listen to his doctors and learn to count to "four," not "forever." Stress fractures heal. NFL players recover from ACL surgery routinely. So, by next year, there's no reason on earth that Woods's left leg shouldn't be good enough to play great golf.

That is, if he reworks his swing a bit so there's less insane torque on his left knee. And if he swings slightly less hard so he's merely monstrously long, rather than epic. Can Tiger Woods, at 32, after punishing golf balls -- and his body -- since he was a toddler, accept that he's not indestructible?

Why not? It's the right shot to play.

Now, though 48 hours after the fact, the 108th U.S. Open finally makes sense. And, suddenly, rises in stature as it does. What do we think of Tiger's final-nine 30 on Friday now? What about those two eagles and a chip-in birdie on the back nine to take the lead on Saturday? What about overcoming four double bogeys, three of them on the first hole? And, of course, making birdie on the 18th hole on both Sunday and Monday when nothing less would suffice.

Did Woods just hand us the greatest performance in U.S. Open history -- all 91 holes of it, including a playoff after a playoff? Absolutely. Thanks, Tiger. We'll never forget it.

But please, promise you'll never do anything like that again.

The Legend Grows

By Thomas Boswell
The Washington Post
Tuesday, June 17, 2008; E01

Tiger Woods hits on the 11th tee in his playoff match against compatriot Rocco Mediate at the 108th US Open championship at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California on June 16, 2008. Woods won in sudden death. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)


SAN DIEGO: What might have been the greatest of all U.S. Opens, and one of the biggest upsets in the history of American sports if Rocco Mediate had somehow won, finally ended after 91 holes as merely the best triumph of Tiger Woods's imperial career. Seldom has the sublime degenerated into the merely magnificent -- with a dash of the miraculous -- and yet left no one dissatisfied, everyone proud and all amazed.

The legend of Francis Ouimet, the 20-year-old amateur who beat Ted Ray and Harry Vardon in 1913, is safe, though not by a great deal. The story of Ben Hogan, playing 36 holes on the final day in 1950 with throbbing legs after surviving a life-threatening car crash, can retain its place. Arnold Palmer, trailing by seven shots entering Sunday in 1960, can still take his bows for driving the first green at Cherry Hills and going on to win with a 65. Ken Venturi, fighting heat prostration at Congressional in 1964, then hitting the stick with a 1-iron shot on his 34th hole of a near-100-degree day, does not have to move down the list in golf's lore.

But all must shuffle sideways, make room for Tiger and Rocco, and admit their work here does not take a back seat to anyone. This was melodrama, symbolism and a gentlemanly sport raised to its apotheosis. And, for Woods, who confessed after this round that he may have reinjured his surgically repaired knee, that he played against his doctor's advice, yet has never been prouder of himself, this tournament on the Pacific bluffs completed a life-cycle circle on Father's Day weekend.

Woods led Mediate by three shots after 10 holes in this playoff, then had to make birdie at the 18th to force a playoff-to-a-playoff, which he won when Mediate bogeyed the first sudden-death hole.

SAN DIEGO - JUNE 16: Tiger Woods (R), champion, and Rocco Mediate (L), runner up, share a moment on the 18th green during the trophy presentation after the playoff round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 16, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

After the Junior World event in 1986, Woods said: "My dad treated me. He said, 'Okay, you're 10. Now you're a big boy. You can play a real golf course. Where do you want to play?' " Of course, he picked this most stunning Pacific-side track, just an hour from home.

"I said Torrey Pines South. Everything was driver, 3-wood, 3-wood, 3-wood. About like I was this week, actually," Woods said. He laughed. After all, this week, "I had four doubles, three eagles, a few three-putts, a couple of snipes off the tees, a couple of slices, some bombs, anything and everything happened this week, really.

"It was a long week, a lot of doubt, a lot of [injury] questions. And 91 holes," he said. "But I wasn't going to bag it. I don't know how to do that . . . As far as future ramifications, I'm not really good at listening to doctor's orders too well. Hey, I won this week, so it is what it is."

Did doctors warn him that he could injure his left knee, already operated on three times, further if he played? He nodded. And did he? "Maybe," he said.

Tiger Woods holds his trophy after defeating compatriot Rocco Mediate in the sudden death playoff at the 108th U.S. Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California on June 16, 2008. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

That's the sole reason that this tournament now looms so large for Woods -- slightly above his first major title at the Masters at the age of 21 and his insane 15-shot win at Pebble Beach in the 2000 U.S. Open. Those feats were done by a young and completely healthy golfer, something Woods may, or may not, ever be again. This week, he got his third U.S. Open title with -- in the ersatz "battle" of sports -- a battlefield cluster and a purple heart. It's miles from the real thing, but, for the son of a Special Forces soldier, a validation Woods has sought throughout his career, even if he may not have known it until now.

"All athletes deal with injuries. Sports isn't usually kind to your body," said Woods who, frankly, until now, has had a smooth run. Compared to Mediate, who has suffered for a dozen years with back injuries that threatened his career, he's almost had a free ride. "There's never any excuses. You just go play whether you're 100 percent or not. So, lets go."

And go Woods and the 45-year-old journeyman, ranked 158th in the world, truly did. Go and go and go.

"I'm a little tired. I'm a little old," said Mediate, who seemed utterly washed up, gabbing in the Golf Channel booth last night, yet came within an eyelash from becoming the oldest Open winner ever. "He's got me by [13] years and a thousand yards off the tee. But I kept hanging in there. And I almost got him."

SAN DIEGO - JUNE 16: Tiger Woods hits out of the bunker on the third hole during the playoff round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 16, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

When Woods came to the 90th hole, trailing by one shot, he was probably one muscle twitch or knee twinge away from defeat. Without birdie on the water-fronted par-5, he was toast. But, remember, Tiger owns the 18th, just as he owns Torrey Pines, where he has won seven times on tour. A plaque at the 18th in honor of Woods is now a foregone conclusion.

On Saturday, he finished a two-eagle-plus-birdie-chip-in 30 on the back nine by holing a 35-foot putt on the last hole to take the lead. On Sunday, he made a bumpy downhill disaster of a 12-foot putt for birdie to tie Mediate and force their friendly stroll on Monday. And, of course, because -- in Mediate's words -- "he is who he is . . . the guy is impossible," Woods birdied the 18th again with two bombs and two putts from 50 feet.

"If anybody in the world goes up against Tiger when he's at his best, they're going to lose. I don't care who it is," said Mediate, who almost became the first man in Tiger's 14 majors to beat Woods after he held the third-round lead. "Was he at his best this week? He was pretty good. Obviously, he's hurt. But there's where he's his best, always."

As they walked downhill from the ninth tee after Woods had shown one of his few knee-grimaces of the day -- the Woods camp found some better painkiller in mid-round Sunday -- Mediate began one of his comic monologues, grinning and gesturing in his buddy's face. Mediate walked fast, looking back, luring Tiger to hobble faster and take the good-buddy bait.

It almost worked. Tiger hashed up the hole and faced a 10-foot putt to avoid a bogey while Mediate had a 20-footer for birdie. Rocco three-putted; Tiger drained his. After that, the rest of the day was a highlight reel. Mediate bogeyed again to fall three back. Tiger opened the door with back-to-back bogeys at the 11th and 12th. Both birdied the 13th, then Mediate ran his streak to three straight birdies at the 14th and 15th to take back a one-shot lead and stun the crowd of about 24,000 and pin Tiger to the ropes.

After Mediate's birdie steamed into the back of the cup at the 15th, Rocco was so shocked at his good luck that, as Woods reported, "He said a few things I can't repeat." Woods thought: "Well, here's the tournament. If I miss this [four-foot] putt, it's over."

But he made it and the similar knee-knocker at the 18th. And, so, the golf world can keep spinning on its axis, not adjust to some new lunatic orbit where an old guy with a homemade swing who had to beat a bunch of kids in qualifying just to get into this Open suddenly decides that beating Tiger head-to-head is big fun and does it.

The other Open legends are not dwarfed. They just have company now, big-time competition from a day when people will ask for years, "Where were you when Rocco had Tiger out on his feet, taking a standing eight count, but couldn't knock him out?"

Even Woods, the only man who truly knows how much his knee hurts, doesn't want to claim too much credit for himself. "I was not in as bad shape as Ben [Hogan]," he said. "Geez, he was in the hospital and didn't know if he'd ever walk again. I knew I could walk."

But even Tiger Woods, after all he's done, never guessed how tall.

Knee Deep In Pain, He Plays Through

By Thomas Boswell
The Washington Post
Monday, June 16, 2008; E01

SAN DIEGO: The image that we will see replayed endlessly, even after Monday's U.S. Open playoff is finished, will be the 12-foot putt on the 72nd green that Tiger Woods made Sunday to catch Rocco Mediate at the last possible instant. We'll see Woods erupt in a quadruple double-fist pump of ecstasy and pride, bellowing as he sees the bumpy, bouncing side-hill putt curl in the side door to extend this battle for America's national golf title an extra day.

And we'll, no doubt, hear his pride that, faced with a ridiculously bumpy poa annua grass, that he simply willed himself to execute "a pure stroke" so that he could "stand tall afterwards" whether his do-or-die putt "plinkoed in or plinkoed out." But that's not what this Sunday at the Open was about, nor why it should be remembered as one of Woods's absolutely finest and most defining hours. What should absorb us, amaze us, is the way Woods's day began, the choices he faced, the pain and risk of injury -- who knows how bad -- that he simply decided to ignore out of some Special Forces code of honor he certainly inherits from his late father.

Children here, beside several greens, chanted in unison as Woods passed, "Happy Father's Day, Tiger," because he now has an infant daughter, Sam Alexis. How sweet. But that isn't the right Father's Day angle, folks. This day was about a son honoring the memory of his hard-bark dad Earl Woods, a Vietnam Green Beret. This was boot camp and jungle and show-me-what-are-you-made-of-kid for Tiger.

Time will tell if Tiger paid, perhaps, a foolish price. If the three surgeries he has had on his left knee are followed in coming years by three more, we might feel differently about how blithely we cheered him on this week.

If the five rounds of Open golf he'll have to play -- after not even walking more than nine holes in a day in preparation, just eight weeks after surgery -- are a source of new injury, not just "playing with pain," we'll need to revisit all our cheerful enthusiasm for Monday's ultimate Odd Couple playoff. Who can resist a battle between the man Mediate calls "the greatest player ever to walk on grass" and the 45-year-old frenetic journeyman himself who is ranked 158th in the world and happy just to have any career at all after a dozen years of chronic back miseries.

The defining moment of this day was not on the 18th green when, as Mediate said, Tiger "did what he does" -- focus like a fiend and put the ball in the hole when all the cash and every shred of glory are on the table. Not near the hole, mind you, the way England's Lee Westwood narrowly -- oh, shucks -- missed a similar putt to make the playoff moments earlier. Westwood actually came up short. Short!

Tiger doesn't do "nice try. Not your fault. It's a lousy green." He does "in the damn hole." He gets up and down from the spinach 101 yards out -- around water with almost no green to work with -- on the last hole of the Open.

But we knew that. What we didn't know until this week is what Woods showed us, more vividly and, perhaps, more disturbingly, each day. And it is what he will have to show us again Monday, when his knee may continue its pattern of rebelling more each day.

The moment of decision in this Open arrived for Woods on the second hole, not the 18th. As Tiger left the second tee, he looked like an athlete in extremis, a man in such pain that, if this had been a weekly PGA Tour event, he would surely have hobbled to the nearest golf cart, withdrawn from the event and headed to the doctor of his choice for a cocktail of painkillers for the surgically repaired left knee that, all the world now knows, is not remotely close to being healed or whole.

What thought filled his mind? Was it the pain that had led him -- with his first five swings of the day -- to hit a wild drive right-of-right, a crazy drive left-of-left, a recovery shot that hit a tree, another recovery that hit another tree and a wedge from the rough that missed the green? Yes, certainly that. Perhaps no great player has ever started the final round of a major championship with the lead and started the day with a sequence of shots so worthy of a 120 shooter.

Was it embarrassment? Perhaps that, too. What can it mean for the man often considered the best athlete in the world to cringe in pain after every shot, to bend almost double as he tried to walk off the second tee and to consider the possibility that he might shoot an incredibly high score. After all, in perfect health, he once shot 80 in the British Open. No, neither that nor any other normal thought crossed his mind. He knew just one thing: "I was going to finish," he said.

Then, after a pause -- because humor, usually the sardonic dark jock brand, is always close to his lips -- Woods added, "Of course, I might have been on the clock." Woods was on an entirely different kind of clock Sunday -- not one that measures slow play and inflicts penalty shots, but one in all our heads that makes us turn time backward and ask, "When have we ever seen an athlete like this? And when will we again?"

Once, a popular American debate was to ask whether golf was truly a "sport" or just a "game" because nobody tackled anybody, no bones were broken and only psyches were occasionally fractured. Woods, more than all other previous golfers combined, ended that discussion long ago. He simply obliterated the idea. If his power, precision, grace, strategic intelligence, competitive intimidation and preternatural ability to focus every Eldrick molecule on physical performance did not constitute athleticism, then what could meet the test?

However, golf has always lacked one of the defining tests of our major sports: the ability and willingness to play with pain and still excel. Sure, no one was more mentally tough that Tiger. But was he physically tough in the sense of an NFL running back?

Now we know. And, soon, another transformation in the public perception of Woods may arrive. He has always been respected, envied, admired and adulated by millions of fans. But, like Jack Nicklaus in his Fat Jack period, Woods may not quite have been loved. Or not on the same scale as the other emotions he aroused. But, just as Nicklaus worked his way into our hearts, not just our heads, as he did the handsome-guy makeover thing and showed himself to be an exemplary family man and unsurpassed role model, so Tiger -- as we see him age and face injury, as we realize that he too can limp -- might cut us even deeper.

Eventually, by the time Nicklaus was 40 and finally losing some of his gifts, America didn't watch his putts in big events so much as the sports nation prayed over them.

That might not happen here on Monday. Mediate is far too appealing a foil. But the day is coming. You could feel it on that final putt on the 72nd hole. The crowd was not holding its breath thinking simply that "Tiger will make it." They were imploring whatever forces they thought appropriate to "please let Tiger make it." That's different. And even better than the relationship we had with him before.

After this day, Woods was asked if what he was enduring now to win titles was different and harder than what he had faced before.

"Yes," he said. And no more.

And his current pain, is it residual soreness from surgery or "the way it's going to be forever?"

"It's different," he said of the current pain versus what dogged him at the Masters. And what is its future prognosis?

"I know," he said.

But he's not saying.

A Real Masterstroke

By Thomas Boswell
The Washington Post
Sunday, June 15, 2008; D01

Tiger Woods holds onto his knee as he comes out of a bunker on the fourth hole during the third round of the US Open championship at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.

SAN DIEGO Eat your heart out, Augusta National. The U.S. Open has stolen the Masters' thunder.

The mightiest, most moving roars of the golf season -- those that resound for a true athletic hero, and echo through the decades -- now carry out far over the Pacific Ocean, not through the Georgia pines. This time, it is the month of June that gets to see Tiger Woods, the quintessential swashbuckling kind of champion who prospers at the Masters, turn the often staid par-par-par Open into raw melodrama that will be retold for years.

Get Hootie and the boys a blindfold. Don't let 'em see Tiger -- the long-belting, chance-taking, Snead-Palmer-Ballesteros style of player that the Masters has always helped define -- as he etches his name into another page of U.S. Open history.

Limping, at times badly, in his first tournament after knee surgery, Woods scorched the back nine with two eagles, at the 13th and 18th holes, and holed a one-hop chip for birdie at the 17th hole to take a one-shot lead over Lee Westwood and a two-shot margin over Rocco Mediate after three rounds of this 108th Open.

However, this was no normal Woods charge, and Sunday will probably not be the familiar foregone conclusion for Tiger. On Thursday, he favored his left knee and flinched visibly on a 360-yard drive. On Friday, he tweaked the knee multiple times and was limping, or at least favoring the leg occasionally. But by the final nine Saturday, every heart went out to Woods, for his courage, his amazing gifts, but also for the risks he might be taking by playing hurt so soon after surgery.

After one drive, he buckled so completely that his hand touched the ground, where he pretended to pick up an imaginary tee to hide his pain. After his chip-in birdie, his caddie helped him out of the fringe. And after his final, 30-foot eagle putt had practically caused Torrey Pines to topple into the ocean from the force of the crowd's cheers, Woods told the truth. When did his knee hurt?

"Whenever it decides to act up," he said. And is it, as everyone can see, getting worse each day? "Yes, it is," he said.

All of this sets up a unique -- and utterly different -- kind of final round at an Open. If Woods falters, which no one wants but anybody with good sense can easily imagine, then Torrey Pines is the place for theater that golf may seldom surpass. Usually, in a dark part of our soul, where we gloat at the humiliation of our betters, we cherish Sunday at the U.S. Open, an utterly unique day on our sports calendar. For one afternoon, physical gifts become irrelevant, emotional composure is exposed as mere interior happy talk and the mightiest men of golf are, like the rest of us, reduced to placating vengeful gods whose names we only wish we knew

Now, for one brief Father's Day, all that wonderful torture-chamber entertainment has been changed -- tempered, if not truly eliminated. Here at titanically long but relatively forgiving Torrey Pines, everyone agrees that our national championship is being played on a course that is "hard but fair" with the frequent proviso that the bumpy Poa annua greens are miserably capricious. Only winds off the ocean can make this track a true misery, as was the case for some in Saturday's third round.

But Sunday calls for calm with mere 10-mph breezes. If so, semi-sanity might reign.

As a result, all our expectations for this Open should be significantly altered as we settle back to study the drama. Ironically, at the very time when the roughed-up Masters in April tends to look more and more like the hair-shirt Open, the Open has -- for this one summer -- forsaken the torments of Oakmont and Winged Foot, where 5-over-par has been the winning score the past two years.

Instead, this Open calms the nerves with infinite Pacific vistas as often as its vast greenside gorges inspire thoughts of golficide. For every Phil Mickelson who made a 9 here Saturday on the way to 76, there was a humble straight-hitting Mediate, 45, who found the place perfectly suited to his eye off the tee and managed to shoot 69-71-72 to stand two shots behind Woods.

Usually, Augusta National produces incredible roars for 70-foot eagle putts and chip shots for birdies like Tiger's. If he wins this Open, his Torrey Pines profile in courage will quickly rocket near the top of the Eldrick archives. While this may well be another glorious Tiger chapter, the page could turn to produce a far different theme. The U.S. Golf Association has provided a 7,643-yard track where a mere mortal -- with luck and a hot putting stroke -- might shoot 67 on Sunday to come out of the pack to win a title if Tiger's left knee makes him vulnerable. Or, in a Sunday scenario almost as enticing, where an aging but still-popular player -- some Davis Love III, Ernie Els or even Mediate -- whose nerves are no longer a match for a normal final-round at the Open might actually hold himself together long enough for a sentimental victory.

"I don't know the right way to put it, but it's more fun to play than the last two years," said Love, tied for 15th place, fearing that the USGA would read his words and mow the greens down to the grass roots. Did the man actually say the Open could be "fun"? "There are some opportunities out there. If you hit good shoots, you know you are going to be rewarded," he said. "And if you hit bad shots, you know that it's not the end of the world."

This, of course, goes far beyond heresy and rushes headlong into golf blasphemy. However, as Woods's score of 30 for his last nine holes proved Friday, there is a low number, maybe even a very low number, lurking here at Torrey Pines. As always, that number might alight on Tiger, whose determination seems to burn brighter as his limp becomes more pronounced.

Many players can tell themselves that they will ignore all the malicious breaks and bad bounces that narrow and punitive Open layouts normally inflict on everyone. But few can do it. To hit a dozen "good shots" -- by any normal definition -- within one round, and see them all punished, simply saps the spirit of almost every player.

On Sunday, many of the contending players here will collapse, implode, curse fate and condemn themselves. But, for once, it won't be because the course is unplayable, unfair or a disguised homage to de Sade. It will be because U.S. Open pressure and their own minds have defeated them. It won't be caused by a goofy-tough course where luck almost erases distinctions of talent.

Unlike the last two years at Oakmont and Winged Foot where "attack" was a four-letter word, there is hope here for theatrics worthy of the Georgia pines, not a bleak ode to par-par-par golf.

Our darkest golfing selves will have much to enjoy on Sunday. But maybe, just maybe, the sun will break through the June gloom here, the flags will fall becalmed on Father's Day and the rarest kind of Open battle will emerge -- one with Woods and company fighting for hours with their dignity intact and the throngs here roaring with joy. Not just groaning with our usual fake sympathy on U.S. Open Sunday.

Banning Steyn

The road to hell is in Canada.

By Jonah Goldberg
http://www.nationalreview.com
June 18, 2008, 0:00 a.m.


Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn, my friend, colleague, and arguably the most talented political writer working today, is on trial for thought crimes.

Steyn — a one-man media empire based in New Hampshire — was published a few years ago in Maclean’s. Now the magazine and its editors are in the dock before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal on the charge that they violated a provincial hate-speech law by running the work of a hate-monger, namely Mark Steyn. A similar prosecution is pending before the national version of this kangaroo court, the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Not that the facts are relevant to the charges, but here’s what happened. Maclean’s ran an excerpt from Steyn’s bestseller, America Alone.

The Canadian Islamic Congress took offense. It charged in its complaint that the magazine was “flagrantly Islamophobic” and “subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt.” It was particularly scandalized by Steyn’s argument that rising birthrates among Muslims in Europe will force non-Muslims there to come to “an accommodation with their radicalized Islamic compatriots.”

Note: Steyn’s article was published in 2006, before Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, supported that point earlier this year when he said that it is “unavoidable” that Britain will ultimately have to incorporate some elements of sharia into its law in the spirit of “constructive accommodation.”

You might think that if Steyn had been able to quote Williams or someone else who’d expressed that view, he and Maclean’s wouldn’t be in trouble. You’d be wrong. One of the council’s chief gripes with the article is that Steyn quoted an imam living in Norway who said that “the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes.” An accurate quotation is no defense when giving offense.

Indeed, it seems there is no escaping the charge of promoting “hate” in Canada at all. In 31 years, the national Human Rights Commission has never dismissed a case as unfounded.

The council first demanded that Maclean’s give it equal and unedited space in the magazine to respond to Steyn’s “Islamophobic” tract. The editors refused. So the council took the magazine to “court,” but not a real court. These tribunals have all the rigor of a student government star chamber. There are no rules of evidence and, again, truth is not a defense.

Why bother with evidence at all? Hate speech is essentially defined as anything certain “victimized” people find offensive. So, if a group is sufficiently offended to complain to a human rights commission, the burden of proof has already been met.

And what about free speech? Dean Steacy, an investigator for Canada’s national commission, explained it nicely: “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.” He gets points for honesty.

If Maclean’s (and Steyn) lose, it could face unspecified fines. Even more troubling, according to Canadian law and tribunal precedents, Maclean’s could be ordered to publish something it doesn’t want to publish, and be barred in perpetuity from publishing anything the human rights commission deems “Islamophobic.”

It might be easy for some to dismiss all of this. After all, we’re talking about Canada.

But this is just the latest in a long parade of assaults on free speech, including the aftermath of the Danish Mohammed cartoons and the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Sometimes it seems like a lot of people see free speech as “an American concept,” thus in need of rethinking.

As The Atlantic’s Ross Douthat observed, the New York Times’s only story on the case suggested “that the 1st Amendment is a peculiar and quite possibly outdated feature of the American political system, along the lines of, say, the electoral college or the District of Columbia’s lack of congressional representation.” By implication, it also lumped Steyn in with rabid Nazis and Holocaust deniers.

Without outlining what Steyn wrote, the Times launched into a discussion of how “hate speech” is treated in the U.S. and elsewhere. Quoth the Times: “Canada, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France.”

Left out of this fascinating tour of speech-control laws around the globe: Mark Steyn is no Nazi, and whatever one makes of his arguments, it is disgusting to insinuate otherwise. If Steyn were in the crosshairs for defending abortion rights, I suspect the New York Times would be more careful about leaping to Nazi comparisons.

But it seems that throughout the West, “leaders” are willing to accommodate those who would stifle, intimidate or, ultimately, ban free speech, all in the name of “tolerance.” You could read all about it in Steyn’s book. It’s not banned — yet.

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online.

Journalist Revitalized Washington Talk Shows

By Howard Kurtz
The Washington Post
Saturday, June 14, 2008



Lights, Camera, Action
During his seventeen years in the moderator's chair, Russert has interviewed every major figure on the American political scene.


Tim Russert, the NBC commentator who revolutionized Sunday morning television and infused journalism with an unrelenting passion for politics, died of a heart attack yesterday.

Russert was recording a "Meet the Press" introduction in an NBC sound booth in Northwest Washington when he collapsed and was taken by ambulance, accompanied by his longtime producer Betsy Fischer, to Sibley Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead soon afterward. He was 58.

The news swept the capital like a shock wave, with colleagues, rivals, President Bush and those vying to succeed him remembering Russert as a superb practitioner of political analysis and an irrepressible son of blue-collar Buffalo who, quite simply, loved the game. His influence was such that an appearance on the top-rated "Meet the Press" could boost or sink a candidate, and when he declared after midnight on May 6 that Barack Obama had wrapped up the Democratic nomination, that was treated as a news event in itself.

Russert wore many hats -- onetime Democratic operative, Washington insider, NBC bureau chief, MSNBC commentator, sports fanatic, committed Roman Catholic, biographer of his father, known as "Big Russ" -- but his greatest legacy was his sustained style of interrogation. Grounded in prodigious research, Russert would press his guests on past statements and contradictions, often for a full hour, spawning legions of imitators.

Friends were stunned by the news. "I just loved him," said Bob Schieffer, host of CBS's "Face the Nation." "When I scooped old Tim, I felt like I'd hit a home run off the best pitcher in the league."

"He was made for Washington because he lived and breathed politics," said Judy Woodruff, a former NBC correspondent now with PBS. But more than that, she said, he was remarkably empathetic. "When our son was sick about 10 years ago, he was right there, calling, coming over, bringing him back gifts from trips."

Russert's internist, Michael A. Newman, told MSNBC that an autopsy showed the journalist had an enlarged heart and that cholesterol plaque ruptured an artery, causing coronary thrombosis. He said Russert had been diagnosed earlier with coronary artery disease, but that it was controlled with medication and exercise and Russert had performed well on a stress test in late April.

The thread of Russert's career is laced through recent political history. His whiteboard from Election Night 2000 -- on which, early in the evening, he scribbled "Florida, Florida, Florida" -- became an iconic symbol of the disputed tally. Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Vice President Cheney chose to appear on "Meet the Press." In late 2006, Sen. Barack Obama used the Russert program to say he was considering a White House run.

Russert moved his father, a former sanitation worker, to a nursing facility last week and had escaped for a brief vacation in Italy with his wife, Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, and their son, Luke, before returning to Washington Thursday. Luke Russert, who is a sports commentator on XM Satellite Radio, had just graduated from college.

Former anchor Tom Brokaw gave MSNBC viewers the news at 3:40 p.m. "He worked to the point of exhaustion so many weeks," Brokaw said, adding: "This news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice."

Within minutes, all the cable networks were airing nonstop remembrances of Russert, as if a head of state had died, and the tributes came pouring in. Bush called him "an institution," a "tough and hardworking newsman" who "was as gregarious off the set as he was prepared on it."

Obama told reporters he considered Russert "not only a journalist but a friend. There wasn't a better interviewer on television, a more thoughtful analyst about politics. . . . I am grief-stricken with loss." Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, called Russert "the preeminent political journalist of his generation."

"He was a junkie," said Washington Post writer Sally Quinn, a close friend. "He would say, 'People find stories about the budget boring -- that's crazy.' And then he would talk about the behind-the-scenes fights, the cast of characters, and it was interesting."

NBC News President Steve Capus called Russert's death "a loss for the entire nation. Everyone at NBC News is in shock and absolutely devastated," he said in a statement.

Praise also poured in as rival network anchors issued remarks. CBS's Katie Couric, calling Russert "a big teddy bear of a guy" but "a pit bull of an interviewer," said he gave her a big break when she was a local reporter for Washington's WRC-TV. Russert told her that "he admired my work, particularly my coverage of Marion Barry, who was then the mayor of D.C. He liked my 'scrappiness' and asked if I was interested in becoming the deputy Pentagon correspondent." She did.

"No one could see Tim in a room and not smile," said ABC's Diane Sawyer. "He brought so much joy and curiosity and sheer vitality to all our lives."

Jeff Gralnick, an NBC producer, recalled going head to head with Russert one election night when Gralnick was at ABC: "He was brutal to compete against because he was always one step ahead of you. We looked up at the monitor and said, 'The S.O.B. did it to us again.' " Russert delighted in asking a politician who decried the budget deficit which programs he would cut, or an opponent of foreign aid whether he would cut off aid to Israel.



Lunch at the White House
Russert was among a group of television journalists invited to meet with President Bush before his 2008 State of the Union speech.


In a 2004 interview, Russert said he would try to preempt a guest's talking points by incorporating them into his question, "and you take away at least the first time they say it. . . . You instinctively want to lean across the table and choke 'em and say, 'Stop! We've heard it!' "

Former Clinton White House aide Paul Begala recalled on CNN how Russert once "pounded" him during a 1998 interview, but days later sent a note saying, "Brother Paul, we both did our jobs."

Russert's position as a power player was confirmed by his role in the perjury and obstruction trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former top aide. Libby testified that he had learned the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame from Russert, but the newsman, on the witness stand for two days, said they had never discussed it. The jury believed him and convicted Libby.

Russert, a graduate of John Carroll University, put himself through Ohio's Cleveland-Marshall College of Law by booking a Bruce Springsteen concert and winning big in a Buffalo pinochle game. He quickly gravitated to New York politics, becoming chief of staff for then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan at age 29. His penchant for exhaustive research paid off when he slipped to two reporters information that Moynihan's 1982 opponent, former congressman Bruce Caputo, had claimed a military record in Vietnam when he had been a civilian Pentagon employee, forcing Caputo to withdraw from the race.

By the time Russert was working for then-Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1984, the New Yorker carried a possibly apocryphal quote from presidential candidate Gary Hart -- "Get me a Russert!" -- that fueled the operative's legend.

The following year he changed careers, becoming an assistant to the NBC News president, and soon booked Pope John Paul II for an interview on "Today." Russert took over the Washington bureau in 1988, and became a "Today" commentator almost by accident, when NBC executives, amused by his political banter during daily conference calls, decided to put him on the air.

"Meet the Press" was languishing in the ratings when Russert took it over in 1991, and he first gained national attention by stumping David Duke, a Louisiana gubernatorial candidate, with a question about the state's three biggest employers. Russert later expanded the program to an hour, grabbed the ratings lead a decade ago and never relinquished it.

Russert won an Emmy in 2005 for his role in the coverage of Ronald Reagan's funeral, and this year Time magazine named him one of the world's 100 most influential people.

Russert became so valuable to NBC -- "Meet the Press" is said to have annual profits of $50 million -- that executives signed him to an extraordinary 11-year contract that was to expire in 2012. Industry insiders estimate he was earning more than $5 million a year.

Despite his eventual wealth, Russert never seemed to forget the summers he spent emptying pails of spoiled food into a garbage truck. His patter was filled with average-Joe references and constant references to his beloved the Buffalo Bills. Russert, a Washington Wizards season-ticket holder, viewed himself as a translator who made politics accessible to the average voter.

Russert wrote two best-selling books, "Big Russ & Me" and "Wisdom of Our Fathers," which brought fame to his working-class dad and enshrined Russert's reputation as a man of modest western New York roots.

At times he could be a lightning rod. Russert moderated a 2000 Senate debate between Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio, and drew criticism for pressing the then-first lady about her trustworthiness after she had blamed charges about her husband's infidelity on their political opponents.

While leading officials and politicians in both parties praised Russert as a fair-minded inquisitor, some liberal critics complained that despite his political heritage, Russert reserved his toughest questions for Democrats.

Russert always gleaned the latest political intelligence for his role as a pundit, but he could be flat wrong on occasion. Asked about presidential candidate Howard Dean on "Today" on Jan. 6, 2004, Russert said: "Right now something would have to interfere with Howard Dean's movement towards the nomination. He clearly is on his way to it unless something untoward happens." Dean's White House campaign collapsed weeks later.

On Election Night 2006, NBC gave Russert an electronic version of the whiteboard he had made famous six years earlier, but he became frustrated at its complexity and decided to stick with pen and paper.

CNBC's John Harwood said yesterday that he and the Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib taped an appearance yesterday morning on Russert's MSNBC talk show. As they left about 10:30, Harwood said, "Jerry observed that he didn't think Tim felt well."

As his shaken colleagues -- Brian Williams, David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, Keith Olbermann -- remembered Russert during hours of continuous coverage on MSNBC yesterday, it was a reminder of how ubiquitous he had become during the primaries, appearing on camera from early morning until late at night. "Nobody enjoyed covering 2008 more than Tim," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who works with NBC. "How many times did I hear him say, 'It doesn't get any better than this.' "

Staff writers Lois Romano and Patricia Sullivan contributed to this report.