Saturday, August 23, 2008

Today's Tune: Bruce Springsteen - Souls of the Departed (Live in Charlotte 2008)

(Click on title to play video)

Review: Bruce Springsteen in Nashville

Springsteen proves himself as 'future of rock' - over and over

Nashville Tennessean
Staff Writer
August 22, 2008

Here’s what Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band left out of Thursday night’s show at the Sommet Center:

1. Thirteen of the 18 songs on Springsteen’s greatest hits album.

2. Any pre-recorded video, the likes of which runs at nearly every major concert on every major stage.

3. Even a whit of irony or condescension.

A great Springsteen show – and that’s how we’ll file this one away – isn’t about hits or gags or any of the other staples of modern, big-venue concert life. Every night is unique, nothing is choreographed, and the Boss takes requests from fans who hold up signs with the names of preferred songs.
And, 35 years into his recording career, Springsteen still trades on surprises. While most big-time concerts are like Broadway shows, with little changing from venue-to-venue, Springsteen’s Nashville set list included 14 songs he didn’t play at the concert 48 hours prior in Pennsylvania.

But the set list isn’t the big deal here. The remarkable thing is the way that this man and his band command a stage, playing nearly three hours of material with the kind of intensity that fills chiropractors’ schedules with patients. By the concert’s midway point, Springsteen’s black shirt was heavy enough with sweat to rival the weights of Nashville great Porter Wagoner’s rhinestone suit jackets.

Plenty of musicians, including Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn and singer-songwriters Victoria Shaw and Danny Flowers, came to observe, but there was nothing in the set that could be co-opted or lifted. Springsteen opens his doors, invites everyone in and turns his back on his belongings, but his stuff seems too heavy to steal.

Anyone else would look silly doing what makes Springsteen look remarkable. He’s a 58-year-old man running around like an Olympian, shouting in a voice that would make anyone else hoarse after a couple of songs, and insisting on spontaneity and passion. As songs neared their conclusions, he jogs around to the E Street players, shouting out the next song and the key signature like Peyton Manning hollers audibles at the line of scrimmage.

The result of all this is that no one left wondering, “Where was ‘Hungry Heart?” or “Why didn’t he play ‘Darlington County?’” Instead, the audience reveled in rare hearings of “Held Up Without A Gun,” “Loose Ends” and an abbreviated “I Walk The Line.” Springsteen’s show was about the power and importance of individual moments. That’s what rock ‘n’ roll used to be about, as well. Country, too, and R&B.

More than three decades ago, critic Jon Landau declared that Springsteen was the future of rock ‘n’ roll. The Boss proved Landau correct, and all that is in the history books. But what if Landau is still right? What if Springsteen remains the future? What if video synchs and programmed tempos and vocal tuning are phases that can be grown out of? What if audiences re-learn a basic musical truth, which is that beauty and imperfection can, should and do coexist?

Well, then, Springsteen could be a model rather than an aberration. But that's Pollyanna talk. It won't happen. "We made a promise we swore we'd always remember," he sang. "No retreat, baby, no surrender."

Most of them have long since forgotten, and long since retreated. Springsteen put another step forward on Thursday night at the Sommet Center. It was a really good show.

Thursday night's set list

"Out In the Street"

"Radio Nowhere"

"No Surrender"

"Lonesome Day"

"Spirit In The Night"

"Good Rockin’ Tonight"

"Growin’ Up"

"I’m Goin’ Down"

"Held Up Without A Gun"

"Loose Ends"


"Murder Incorporated"

Short version of Bo Diddley's "Mona" segues into "She's The One"

"The Promised Land"

"Mary’s Place"

"I Walk The Line" (abbreviated version, accompanied by Nils Lofgren)

"I’m On Fire"

"The Rising"

"Last To Die"

"Long Walk Home"



"Girls In Their Summer Clothes"

"Thunder Road"

"Born To Run"

"I Fought The Law"

"Rosalita," accompanied by the E Street Band and Dave Bielanko of Marah

"American Land"

"Dancing In The Dark"

Peter Cooper writes about music for The Tennessean. He can be reached at 615-259-8220 or

Players Were Lucky to Have Upshaw as Union Chief

By Michael Wilbon
The Washington Post
Saturday, August 23, 2008; E01

Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue

Gene Upshaw had the most difficult job in professional sports. Represent a group of men who had nowhere near the leverage they fancied against the most ruthless management in the history of the industry. The head of the NFL Players Association needed to have the intelligence and orneriness of a guard, the pride of a champion, the sense of accomplishment of a Hall of Famer and the respect of a giant. The players, though many of them never knew it, were damn lucky to have Upshaw lead them for 25 years.

They were lucky to have him through two chaotic work stoppages, through skillful negotiation that bumped their average salary from $90,000 per year in the early 1980s when Upshaw took over to an average of $1.75 million last year. They were lucky to have not just a union leader but an insider, somebody who had sense and savvy enough to take the only road that was going to improve and maintain the life of the modern day football player.
And the union would be very hard-pressed to find someone with Upshaw's stature and skill to run the operation now that he's gone. In fact, turning to longtime legal counsel Richard Berthelsen, Upshaw's capable lieutenant, beyond the interim basis is probably the way to go.

It was annoying to hear, increasingly in recent years, dissatisfaction with Upshaw from the rank and file, much of it directed at his amicable relationship with commissioners Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell. Of course, Upshaw wasn't infallible as a union chief. The NFLPA should have and could have done even more than it has to address pension and health issues for the players of, well, Upshaw's era and before. But this notion that Upshaw had somehow sold out and become too cozy with management was as stupid as it was insulting.

Somewhere along the line, football players took a peek at their professional peers in baseball and basketball and got jealous. They apparently saw the wages and commercial endorsements and no-cut contracts and wanted a bigger slice of the professional football pie, bigger than the 60 percent of the gross cut Upshaw had negotiated.

A bigger slice wasn't forthcoming. In fact, it might get just a touch smaller. Somebody needs to remind today's players of what happened in 1987 when a 24-day strike caved mostly because 89 players crossed the union picket line.

The NFL staged replacement games, and while attendance in some cities was nonexistent and some were hammered with derisive nicknames (like the San Francisco Phoney Niners), other teams (like the replacement Redskins) drew big crowds, the networks were willing to televise it, and the owners, no matter how unseemly the games were, were quite content fielding teams and breaking the union.

NFL owners proved in 1987 beyond a shadow of a doubt that professional football players, with the exception of quarterbacks and a handful of others, are anonymous and that Americans don't care who's in the jerseys as long as somebody is wearing them on Sundays.

The NFL players waved bye-bye to their leverage that fall when 15 percent of them crossed picket lines. Famous and influential players caved, including Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor, Steve Largent, Tony Dorsett and Randy White. The Cowboys' quarterback, Danny White, even crossed the picket line.

Today's players probably don't know that. But you think the owners have forgotten what kind of leverage they have and how easily the players' resolve melted? Upshaw never forgot. It was a small but meaningful group of players, 21 years ago, who sold out Upshaw. And while he never complained publicly about it, Upshaw went about every future negotiation knowing the owners would put their foot on the players' neck. He knew he could never make the demands Don Fehr could make for baseball players or Billy Hunter could make for basketball players.

You think Upshaw, a Raider, a Hall of Famer, a guard at a time when defensive players enjoyed every rules advantage, was less competitive than Fehr and Hunter? I'd make the counter argument, that Upshaw cared about his league in a way neither cared about theirs because he invested much more than they had in the way of blood and sweat.

He gave so much more of himself physically and emotionally than other union chiefs. As Tagliabue said yesterday, Upshaw "never lost sight of the big picture." Upshaw had to be a partner with the NFL in ways Fehr and Hunter never would have accepted. No matter how it might have looked, Upshaw's constituents were better served.

Players prospered. As former Vikings running back Robert Smith, now an analyst for ESPN, told The Post's Mark Maske: "A lot of people forget there's no such thing as unanimous support in any body you represent. But from a results standpoint, what more could you want? The retired players, some of them are getting four times what they would have gotten if Gene hadn't been there. The stuff about being too close to [Paul] Tagliabue, I'd like to have anyone explain to me how the players haven't been served by Gene. The owners just opted out of this labor deal because it was such a bad deal for them and such a good deal for the players."

Upshaw planned to be front and center for another negotiation, but pancreatic cancer took him Wednesday night at age 63. Nobody knew in recent weeks, perhaps nobody beyond Gene, Terri and their sons, exactly what the weight loss meant, what the back pain meant. A decrease in his usual number of rounds of golf in the summer just meant he probably had too much work on his plate.

Upshaw was one of the former players who seemed physically invincible even in his early 60s. He looked years younger than he was, was fitter and a lot more youthful than most men his age. It didn't seem possible his Hall of Fame career with the Raiders had started more than 40 years ago or that he had been so prominent and devoted a figure in professional football for all his adult life.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dark Knight of the Soul

By Terry Mattingly
August 13, 2008

For many years, Marc Newman used a simple test when asking college students if they thought some actions were always right and others were always wrong -- slavery.

Then something strange happened in his philosophy of communication classes. Students began arguing that slavery might be acceptable in certain cultures and under certain conditions. Besides, who were they to judge others?

So here's a new question. What if you had two ferries and each contained a bomb. One ferry is full of criminals, while the other contains ordinary citizens and, there's a catch, each contains a remote control that can trigger the other boat's bomb. Then there is this sick Joker who vows that he will destroy both, if one doesn't destroy the other.

Wouldn't it be moral for the good guys to destroy the bad guys?

This is, of course, a soul-wrenching scene in "The Dark Knight," the Batman sequel that is soaring toward the $500 million dollar mark at the U.S. box office.

"The audience is torn between these two choices and that's the point," said Newman, who teaches courses on the rhetoric of film at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. "You want to see good triumph over evil, somehow. But just look how far these movies have to ratchet up the nature of these violent acts so that the whole audience can agree that they're evil."

Newman believes that one reason that consumers are paying -- over and over -- to see this dark, distressing movie is that they are drawn to its depiction of a culture in which violence has become senseless, random and all but unstoppable.

In one nihilistic sermon, the villain with a death-mask smirk tells the powers that be, "Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I am a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it. I just do things." Later, he proclaims: "Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I am an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair."

This note of despair fits the times. Thus, the movie strikes a chord.

"We see in 'The Dark Knight a fictional expression of our own world gone mad," argues Newman, at his website. "Under interrogation, The Joker rejects the idea that his is some alien ideology. Providing his analysis of the bastions of rules and laws -- the police department -- The Joker explains, 'You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster ... I'm just ahead of the curve.' "

The question religious believers have to ask, he said, is "whether The Joker is right."

Newman is not alone in hailing "The Dark Knight" as -- like it or not -- a must-see epic for clergy and others who want to keep their fingers on the cultural pulse. But there are strong voices of dissent.

No movie I've ever seen has been so emotionally disturbing and spiritually oppressive," warned Brian Fitzpatrick of Human Events. While some claim that the movie's tale of good and evil contains essentially "conservative" values, he argued that it "showcases violence, betrayal and sadism in the name of frivolous entertainment. The movie is morally corrupt."

The key to this tension, noted Newman, is that "The Dark Knight" leaves viewers yearning for its anti-hero -- Batman is aware of his own flaws and mixed motives -- to find a way to remain true to his personal vow to defend the innocent, even if that means bending society's rules.

As this movie lurches to its conclusion, it becomes clear that the Joker has only one goal and that is to strip Batman of his moral convictions, to shatter his belief that good can defeat evil without being corrupted.

This implies that some kind of moral absolutes do exist.

"But we are left," Newman added, "with an important question: Where does Batman get his convictions about what is right and what is wrong? He has a moral vision, but where did it come from? That isn't in the movie. There are no answers there."

The Softer Side of Schools?

Abu Ghraib-i-fying American education.

By Michelle Malkin
National Review Online
August 22, 2008 12:00 AM

The citizens of the world who hate America are going to love the latest agitprop released this week by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. In a document titled “A Violent Education: Corporal Punishment of Children in U.S. Public Schools,” the left-wing groups seek to paint a horrifying portrait of the nation’s classrooms as Abu Ghraib-like torture chambers.

The report compiles sob stories of students humiliated after being disciplined by school officials for unruliness, and claims that minority students are “disproportionately targeted” for punishment. Citing international law and threatening lawsuits, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU are demanding that the White House and Congress ban physical discipline in all public schools.

The report says that “more than 200,000 U.S. public school students were punished by beatings during the 2006-2007 school year,” but makes no distinction between “beatings” that take the form of mere knuckle-rapping versus swats on the backside versus over-the-line violent confrontations. In several of the anecdotes cited, it wasn’t bruised bottoms that upset the supposedly brutalized students. It was bruised egos.

Peter S., a middle-school student from the Mississippi Delta, whined to the researchers: “The other kids were watching and laughing. It made me want to fight them. When you get a paddling and you see everyone laugh at you, it make you mad and you want to do something about it.” How about ending your bad behavior and flying right?

Of course educators must use common sense when punishing bad apples. Of course they should be held accountable if they cause undue harm. But the agenda of these outfits is not to ensure the safety of everyone in the classroom. Their agenda is to demonize unapologetic enforcers of order and to impose international dictates on American public institutions.

The main author of the report is a special fellow with the Open Society Institute, funded by George (America must be “de-Nazified”) Soros. Replete with references to the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the report declares in sweeping terms: “All corporal punishment, whether or not it causes significant physical injury, represents a violation of each student’s rights to physical integrity and human dignity. It is degrading and humiliating, damaging the student’s self-esteem and making him or her feel helpless.” It’s Gitmo all over again.

As usual, the Human Rights Watch/ACLU activists inject claims of racial discrimination into the mix — repeatedly underscoring that many of the remaining states that allow corporal punishment are in the south. They infer deliberate targeting of black students based on statistics that reportedly show that “in the 13 southern states where corporal punishment is most prevalent, African-American students are punished at 1.4 times the rate that would be expected given their numbers in the student population, and African-American girls are 2.1 times more likely to be paddled than might be expected.”

But that disproportion does not automatically equal discrimination. What they don’t tell you are the races or ethnicities of the victims of the thugs being disciplined. What they don’t bother to mention — because it doesn’t fit the America-as-torturer-of-minorities narrative — is the unmitigated violence perpetrated in American classrooms against minority teachers.

The recent videotaped beating of black Baltimore teacher Jolita Berry by a black female student — as other black students cheered and screamed, “Hit her!” — exposed the continuing chaos in inner-city districts. In that school system alone, 112 students were expelled for assaults on staff members this school year.

Federal education statistics show that between 1996 and 2000, 599,000 violent crimes against teachers at school were reported. On average, the feds say, in each year from 1996 to 2000, about 28 out of every 1,000 teachers were the victims of violent crime at school, and three out of every 1,000 were victims of serious violent crime (i.e., rape, sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated assault). Violence against teachers is higher at urban schools.

America’s problem isn’t that we’re too tough and cruel in the classroom. It’s that we’ve become too soft and placative, too ashamed and timid to assert authority and take unilateral action to guarantee a secure environment. Exactly where the human-rights groups want us.

Michelle Malkin is author of Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild.

“Hadith of Hate” Banned at USC

By Reut R. Cohen
Friday, August 22, 2008

As Muslim Student Association (MSA) chapters have become increasingly influential at universities and colleges around the country, critics have charged that it is a hate group that sympathizes with the international jihad and promulgates an anti-American and anti-Semitic ideology in its campus actions. In response, the MSA has claimed that it is merely another religious and cultural group similar to Hillel, a club for Jewish students, or the Newman Club for Catholics. That deception has been now unmasked at the University of Southern California, where the school’s Provost, Chrysostomos L. Max Nikias, reacting to a call from the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has ordered the campus MSA to remove a “despicable” hadith calling for Muslims to murder Jews as a condition for redemption from its website.

David Horowitz, President of the Freedom Center, hails this as a breakthrough moment when the double standards that control the political and intellectual culture of most universities have finally been challenged.

“Up to now, the slightest criticism of radical Islam on campus has been slammed as ‘Islamophobia,’ while Muslim groups and their radical fellow travelers have been allowed to say the most hateful things imaginable about Christians and Jews without any reaction from university administrators whatsoever,” Horowitz says. “Provost Nikias has called the hadith on the MSA website for what it is: despicable. Given the atmosphere that prevails on most campuses today, it was an act of integrity on his part to make this call and to demand that the MSA live up to basic standards of civility that should govern the university.”

The hadith (sacred teaching) reads as follows:

“Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him….”

Its presence on the MSA website is consistent with other actions the Muslim group has initiated on the USC campus. In 2005, for instance, it hosted a conference featuring a speech by Islamist Ahmed Shama, who praised Hizbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and told his listeners that the terrorists in post-Saddam Iraq were part—as was the Muslim Student Association itself—of a “global Islamic movement” and that it was “necessary to rise up against the occupation there.”

The David Horowitz Freedom Center worked with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to draft a letter to Alan Casden, a USC trustee, about the “hadith of hate,” as it is often called. Disturbed that a call for genocide should be on the USC server, Casden contacted Provost Chrysostomos Nikias to express his concern. Nikias investigated the matter and sent Casden the following letter:

“…The passage you cited is truly despicable and I share your concerns about its being on the USC server. We did some investigations and I have ordered the passage removed.

“The passage in the Hadith that you brought to our attention violates the USC Principles of Community, and it has no place on a USC server.”

The University of Southern California Principles of Community states in part: “No one has the right to denigrate another human being on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, etc. We will not tolerate verbal or written abuse, threats, harassment, intimidation or violence against person or property.” No student group other than the Muslim Student Association has posted any kind of material, religious or otherwise, calling for the destruction of a race or group.

USC’s decision to remove the hadith from the school’s server marks the first time that an American university has acknowledged that the Muslim Student Association’s agenda involves the promotion of ethnic hatred. It is also the first time that an administrator has acted quickly to censure “despicable” material. Rabbi Aron Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center hailed Provost Nikias’ decision: “We commend USC for having the moral courage to stand up against those who hijack speech and religious freedoms and the goodwill of the campus community in order to spread hate and extremist violence.”

“This episode shows that fighting injustice can produce results,” Freedom Center President David Horowitz added. “It also shows what kind of an organization the Muslim Students Association is, which is why the Freedom Center has launched a nationwide campaign, Stop the Jihad on Campus Week, which will culminate the week of October 13.”

The goals of Stop the Jihad on Campus Week are to rally students across the country to sign a petition against the “hadith of hate” and to convince student governments to defund the Muslim Students Association.

For more information, please visit

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Obama's Lost Annenberg Years Coming to Light

By Thomas Lifson
August 21, 2008

Marc PoKempner

Barack Obama in 1995 in his office at the University of Chicago Law School, where he taught part time. On the wall is a portrait of the late Mayor Harold Washington.

The cloak of media invisibility is slowly beginning to lift from Barack Obama's most important administrative leadership experience, helming an expensive educational reform effort in Chicago that failed to produce any measurable academic gains, according to the project's own final report.

Add in the fact that former Weatherman and admitted terrorist William Ayers (whom Obama described in the Philadelphia debate as merely a "neighbor") was head of the operating arm of the CAC, working with Obama on distributing scores of millions of dollars to grantees in the wards of the city, and you have a topic that the Obama campaign wishes to avoid at all costs. A compliant media has averted its eyes so far. A timeline of Obama's career from George Washington University omits it. Why the McCain campaign has not raised more questions on the subject is a question beyond my pay grade. But there are signs it is on the case.

The four plus years (1995-1999) Barack Obama spent as founding chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) represent his track record as reformer, as someone who reached out in a public-private collaboration and had the audacity to believe his effort would make things better. At the time he became leader of this ambitious project to remake the public schools of Chicago, he was 33 years old and a third year associate at a small Chicago law firm, Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland.

This was a big test for him, his chance to cut his teeth on bringing hope and change to the mostly minority inner city school children trapped in Chicago schools. And he flopped big time, squandering lots of money and the time of many public employees in the process.

Given Senator Obama's lack of any other posts as leader of an organization, someone unschooled in the ways of the American media might expect that for months reporters have been poring over the records of the project to get an idea of how it managed to fail so badly. Examining the track record of the guy who wants to lead the federal government would seem to be part of the campaign beat for media organizations.

But as a matter of fact, until recently, only a few bloggers were looking into the most important organized effort ever led by Barack Obama, prior to his successful campaigns for public office.

The Cover-up

Now, it appears a cover-up is underway, in order prevent journalists and researchers from getting access to the records of this charitable project housed in a taxpayer supported library. And there is a mystery:
The UIC Library says it is acting on behalf of the donor, whom it refuses to name.

It took Stanly Kurtz, of National Review Online to ask permission to see the files held by the publicly-funded University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). After initially agreeing, The Richard J. Daley Library withdrew permission. Kurtz writes:

"The Special Collections section of the Richard J. Daley Library agreed to let me read them, but just before I boarded my flight to Chicago, the top library officials mysteriously intervened to bar access. Circumstances strongly suggest the likelihood that Bill Ayers himself may have played a pivotal role in this denial. Ayers has long taught at UIC, where the Chicago Annenberg Challenge offices were housed, rent-free. Ayers likely arranged for the files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge to be housed in the UIC library, and may well have been consulted during my unsuccessful struggle to gain access to the documents."

It is highly unusual and legally questionable for a publicly-funded archive to deny access to records in its collection, particularly when they have a bearing on matters of intense public interest: the qualifications of a man seeking to be Commander in Chief.

But even if the university manages to stall release of the records until after the election, it is only drawing attention to the project. Already, the nation's mainstream media have taken notice (however imperfectly) of the University's unusual actions, albeit without exploring the subject in any depth yet.

In the midst of a heated presidential campaign, it is going to be hard to keep this interest in Obama's Annenberg years contained, now that it has surfaced.

A blogger, Steve Diamond, has put together enough data from public sources to seriously embarrass Obama over the closeness of his association with Ayers in the project, and to describe the wrong-headed and politicized approach taken by the project. Anyone can go to this page and look at the latter half of the very lengthy post to see the data uncovered by this intrepid researcher. At a minimum, it proves that Obama has seriously misled the public about his association with Ayers. And it documents and analyzes some of the complex left wing politics underlying the effort.

As the public begins to notice this outlines of the history of the CAC presented by Diamond, more questions are bound to be asked.

The First Cover-up

Diamond examined public documents, receiving cooperation from the Brown University Library, where the Annenberg Challenge Program national headuarters had been housed. Until, that is, Diamond's requests for further information fell on deaf ears following publication of a post highlighting a grant to one of Ayers' former revolutionary cohorts in the Weathermen. He writes:

"...while the representative from the university I originally corresponded with had been quite friendly and accommodating prior to my June 23 post, afterwards my additional requests for further information went unanswered. I did not pursue it at the time because I felt I had told a significant part of the story already. Thanks to the diligent work of Dr. Kurtz, however, we now know there is much more to know."

So the appearance of a cover-up actually began in June.

If Ayers were the sole point of interest in seeking the Annenberg Challenge files promised to Kurtz, all "132 boxes, containing 947 file folders, a total of about 70 linear feet of material", then the Obama camp might claim it was merely guilt-by association and persuade at least some of its own partisans. But the fact that Obama was in charge of a massive expensive project makes it indisputably a matter of proper vetting to examine his track record at delivering on promises of hope and change.

The Obama camp has already noted that it does not control the archives at UIC. All well and good, though it would be nice for the candidate to plead with the university and the mystery donor to let the sun shine on his track record. After all, he is a new kind of politician.

But even if he doesn't, the Annenberg Challenge is slowly entering the national consciousness, and that's very bad news for Barack Obama.

Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.

Reign continues for Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh

Dynamic American duo win their 108th consecutive match and second consecutive gold medal in women's beach volleyball.

By Bill Plaschke
Los Angeles Times
August 21, 2008

BEIJING -- The sand was wet, the bikinis were soaked, the cheers were muffled, the sky was falling.

Amid sheets of morning gray, the only thing that made sense was the gold.

It's around the necks today of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, for a second consecutive Olympics, in their 108th consecutive victory.

One day, that medal may even dry.

"This is just another reason why we play in bathing suits," May-Treanor said with a grin.

Just when you thought Southern California's best sports dynasty could spike it no farther, the pair claimed a beach volleyball championship while rolling around under a cold shower with thousands cheering against them.

In a driving rainstorm, the Americans defeated China's Tian Jia and Wang Jie in straight sets, 21-18, 21-18, identical scores for seemingly identical champions.

After playing flawlessly together, Walsh and May-Treanor collapsed in tears together in the sand, hugging for the longest time, one giant white bikini under one giant wet ponytail.

Said Walsh to her teammate: "I don't know what to say, you're so great."

Said May-Treanor later: "Kerri and I love each other."

Then, standing on the podium, just before the playing of the national anthem, Walsh put her hand behind her back and wiggled her fingers.

May-Treanor, standing behind her, reached out and clutched those fingers, the two champions standing hand-in-hand throughout the national anthem.

Said Walsh: "I'm a blessed girl. To have such an amazing partner and do this amazing thing with her . . . so many emotions."

Said May-Treanor: "I thought I wouldn't be as emotional as I was, there's no words to describe this."

Well, here's a word.


There is some thought that this could be the final act for one of the greatest duos in sports history. Walsh is 30, May-Treanor is 31, both are married and both have said they would like to have children.

Before the Olympics, when asked by Times reporter Chris Hine what they thought they would be doing a year from now, Walsh said, "Hopefully, we'll both be pregnant. Pregnant, but with two gold medals."

Well, now that the pesky medals business has been dealt with, could it be time for the really important stuff?

Watching them work flawlessly together in the worst of conditions -- isn't it dumb that beach volleyball plays in the rain? -- one wonders if this wasn't their farewell.

May-Treanor said afterward she thinks this is her last Olympics, but Walsh wouldn't commit, which means their retirement breakup cannot be official.

But it sure sounds like it.

"I was taking this as my last Games," said May-Treanor. "I was putting everything into it as my last Games. It's too far ahead to look ahead. I would like to come back and have my kids see me play. But I'd like to start a new journey and see my husband too."

If this match was the end of their current journey, it was certainly more fitting than the end of another recent sports dynasty.

The New England Patriots of the beach world didn't blow this Super Bowl, even though most everyone at Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground was cheering against them.

"Chi-na" shouted the thousands of brightly colored ponchos, their cheers actually led by the public address announcer.

But in the first set, the Americans broke a 17-17 tie to score four of the last five points for the victory, with May-Treanor diving and spiking and dinking.

"They're a lot better than us," said Tian later.

The steady rain worsened in the second set, soaking the leaky facility, water shooting out from underneath the bleachers, drenching the competitors from headband to painted toenails.

Yet the Americans also survived a second-set rally by the Chinese, breaking an 18-18 tie to score the last three points for the match.

"Definitely you didn't want to look up too much," said May-Treanor. "You would lose the ball with rain dropping in your eyes."

The Chinese fans also didn't want to look at their team too much, as Wang and Tian broke the Chinese teamwork tradition by arguing with each other, scowling at each other, and sometimes just ignoring each other.

Walsh and May-Treanor are that good.

When seemingly every spike is returned, when every serve is shot back, when every big effort is rebuffed, well, it's no day at the beach.

"They're too strong," reiterated Tian.

Only in the end did they break down. Perhaps because, for the tough and talented cover girls for Southern California's coolest sport, maybe it really is the end.

"This win really hit me deep, I understand what we did to accomplish this," said Walsh. "We beat China at home. It was so loud out there, and with crazy conditions."

Walsh was so excited, as she walked into the post-match news conference, she screamed. "I apologize for that," she said in her opening statement. "I just had to let it out."

No apology necessary. Of course it was loud. She was screaming for two.

Bill Plaschke can be reached at To read previous columns by plaschke, go to


New York Post
August 21, 2008

Barack Obama has ad mitted it was "boneheaded" to get involved in a land deal with Tony Rezko, his friend and fund-raiser. But the media's focus on that deal has distracted from the bigger question: Why would Obama become involved in any deal with a man like Rezko, who made his living sponging off taxpayers and corrupting public officials? Because, by the time of the deal, the two already had a long relationship of mutual benefit.

The deal's details are well-known: On June 15, 2005, Obama bought a gorgeous house in Hyde Park for $1.65 million - $300,000 below the list price. Rezko bought the empty but attractive lot next door from the same seller at the same time; Obama would later buy part of Rezko's lot, overpaying him.

The transaction was shady, but not obviously corrupt. The overall Obama-Rezko relationship looks worse.

After Rezko's 2006 indictment on unrelated federal corruption charges, Obama denied unequivocally that he'd ever helped the man: "I've never done any favors for him."

Rezko: Obama backing brought big bucks.

That's simply false. Rezko was a genius of corporate welfare who enriched himself at taxpayers' expense, both legally and illegally, via his multiple political connections. Yes, he went to others for the illegal deals that landed him in prison. But Rezko depended on Obama when he wanted legal access to the state treasury. The arrangement was a far cry from Obama's image of "change and hope."

It's impossible to know Obama's motives. But several of his official acts benefited Rezko, who in turn raised some $250,000 for Obama's campaigns.

In October 1998, Obama wrote city and state officials, urging them to give Rezko $14 million to build an apartment complex outside of Obama's state Senate district. The Chicago Sun-Times noted last year that Obama's request included $855,000 in "development fees" for Rezko and for another developer, Allison Davis, who happened to be Obama's old law-firm boss. Obama's spokesman said it was just a coincidence that the state senator wrote letters to obtain millions of dollars for his two longtime friends.

In fact, Obama was a dependable ally of subsidized developers in the Legislature, giving Rezko and others broader help as well. In "The Case Against Barack Obama," I identify and parse six housing bills with which Obama was closely involved. A few examples:

* In 2001, Obama cosponsored a bill allowing developers to sell state tax credits to others and pocket half of the proceeds.

* In 2002 and 2004, he was chief cosponsor of a bill to authorize a rent-subsidy fund giving "grants . . . directly to developers" of low-income housing. Seventy percent of the money was earmarked for the Chicago area.

* Obama cosponsored the Illinois Housing Initiative Act of 2003, which required the governor to develop a plan for more low-income housing and "provide[d] for funding for housing construction and rehabilitation and supportive services."

* In 2003, Obama voted for the Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act, which required Illinois municipalities to make 10 percent of their housing units "affordable" (by definition, this included subsidized housing). This forced 46 communities just outside of Chicago to create more than 7,000 new "affordable" units - a huge boost in demand for area developers. The bill also provided loopholes for developers to circumvent local ordinances and regulations.

After voting for this measure (it passed narrowly), Obama then cosponsored a new bill that moved up its implementation by more than a year.

These and the other Obama-backed bills helped make millionaires of Rezko and other slum developers at taxpayers' expense. The developers - including his former law boss and an adviser to his current campaign - reciprocated, together giving and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama's campaigns.

To sum up: Obama got them subsidies to build. He secured them a steady income of government rent subsidies. He arranged special tax credits and abatements for them. He backed measures that increased demand for their services, and helped them legally circumvent local laws.

Perhaps Obama acted with only the poor in mind. Yet some of his developer friends weren't so conscientious - especially Rezko.

Notably, Rezko's company claimed that it lacked the funds to heat one of its 11 buildings in Obama's state Senate district from December 1996 to February 1997. But Rezko still managed to write a $1,000 check to Obama's campaign fund on Jan. 14. That month, his tenants shivered as 19 inches of snow fell on northern Illinois.

With his early and large investments in Obama, Rezko helped the Democratic nominee get to where he is today. Obama, meanwhile, helped Rezko with his legislative work and his letter-writing. Given this close working relationship, the Obama-Rezko land deal is far less surprising.

- David Freddoso, a political reporter for National Review, is the author of "The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate."


By Ann Coulter
August 20, 2008

This week, Barack Obama's challenge is to select a running mate who's young, hip, and whose accomplishments in life don't overshadow Obama's. Allow me to suggest Kevin Federline.

The only thing we can be sure of is that Obama will choose someone who is the polar opposite of all his advisers until now. In other words, it will be a very, very white male who was probably proud of his country even before being chosen as Obama's running mate.

Obama's got a lot of ground to make up following that performance last weekend at the Saddleback presidential forum with pastor Rick Warren.

After seeing Obama defend infanticide with the glib excuse that the question of when life begins is above his "pay-grade," Rev. Jeremiah Wright announced that although he's known Obama for 30 years, he only recently became aware of how extreme the senator's viewpoints were. Wright, after all, has his reputation to consider.

Network heads responded by dashing off an urgent memo: During the main presidential debates this fall, ask NO questions about abortion, ethics or evil! Morality isn't the Democrats' forte.

Obama's defenders spin his abominable performance in the Saddleback forum by saying he's just too smart to give a straight answer. As Rick Warren charitably described Obama's debate performance: "He likes to nuance things ... He's a constitutional attorney." The constitutional lawyer "does nuance," as Bill Maher said on "Larry King Live," "and you saw how well that goes over with the Rick Warren people."

If that's Obama's excuse, he ought to know a few basics about the Constitution.

Did the big constitutional lawyer whose "nuance" is too sophisticated for Rick Warren's audience see the letter his wife sent out on his behalf in 2004? Michelle Obama denounced a federal law banning partial-birth abortion, writing that "this ban on a legitimate medical procedure is clearly unconstitutional." Clearly!

The Supreme Court later found the law not "unconstitutional," but "constitutional" -- which I believe may have been the precise moment when Michelle Obama realized just how ashamed she had always been of her country.

But most stunningly, when Warren asked Obama if he supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, Obama said he did not "because historically -- because historically, we have not defined marriage in our Constitution."

I don't care if you support a marriage amendment or not. That answer is literally the stupidest thing I've ever heard anyone say. If marriage were already defined in the Constitution, we wouldn't need an amendment, no?

Say, you know what else was "historically" not defined in the Constitution? Slavery. The words "slavery" and "slave" do not appear once in the original Constitution. The framers correctly thought it would sully the freedom-enshrining document to acknowledge the repellent practice. (Much like abortion!)

But in 1865, the 13th Amendment banned slavery throughout the land, in the first constitutional phrase ever to mention "slavery": "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

On Obama's "historical" argument, they shouldn't have passed the 13th Amendment because the Constitution "historically" had not mentioned slavery.

Do we know for a fact Barack Obama has read the Constitution? Obama's Facebook profile: "I'm pro-infanticide, I love sunsets, and I don't get the 13th Amendment!"

This is the guy who thinks he can condescend to Clarence Thomas? Asked at the Saddleback forum which Supreme Court justice Obama would not have nominated, Obama said ... the black one!

In Obama's defense, he said he thought Thomas wasn't experienced enough "at the time." So I guess Obama thinks Thomas should have to "wait his turn."

By contrast, Obama has experience pouring out of those big ears of his. Asked last year by Robin Roberts on ABC's "Good Morning America" about his lack of experience in foreign policy, Obama took umbrage.

Swelling up his puny little chest, Obama said: "Well, actually, my experience in foreign policy is probably more diverse than most others in the field. I'm somebody who has actually lived overseas, somebody who has studied overseas. I majored in international relations."

He actually cited his undergraduate major as a qualification to be president.

But on Saturday night, Obama said he didn't think Clarence Thomas was a "strong enough jurist or legal thinker" to be put on the Supreme Court.

I bet Thomas has heard of the 13th Amendment!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Obama Played by Chicago Rules

The Wall Street Journal
August 20, 2008; Page A19

Democrats don't like it when you say that Barack Obama won his first election in 1996 by throwing all of his opponents off the ballot on technicalities.

By clearing out the incumbent and the others in his first Democratic primary for state Senate, Mr. Obama did something that was neither illegal nor even uncommon. But Mr. Obama claims to represent something different from old-style politics -- especially old-style Chicago politics. And the senator is embarrassed enough by what he did that he misrepresents it in the prologue of his political memoir, "The Audacity of Hope."

Barack Obama talks with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, June 6.

In that book, Mr. Obama paints a portrait of himself as a genuine reformer and change agent, just as he has in this presidential campaign. He attributes his 1996 victory to his message of hope, and his exhortations that Chicagoans drop their justifiable cynicism about politics.

When voters complained of all the broken promises politicians had made in the past, Mr. Obama writes that he "would usually smile and nod, and say that I understood the skepticism, but that there was -- and always had been -- another tradition to politics, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another, and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done."

Mr. Obama writes that even if the voters were not impressed by this speech, "enough of them appreciated my earnestness and youthful swagger that I made it to the Illinois legislature."

In real life, it did not matter what Mr. Obama said on the stump or whether South Side voters were impressed. What mattered was that, beginning on Jan. 2, 1996, his campaigners began challenging thousands of petition signatures the other candidates in the race had submitted in order to appear on the ballot. Thus would Mr. Obama win his state Senate seat, months before a single vote was cast.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Obama's petition challengers reported to him nightly on their progress as they disqualified his opponents' signatures on various technical grounds -- all legitimate from the perspective of law. One local newspaper, Chicago Weekend, reported that "[s]ome of the problems include printing registered voters name [sic] instead of writing, a female voter got married after she registered to vote and signed her maiden name, registered voters signed the petitions but don't live in the 13th district."

One of the candidates would speculate that his signature-gatherers, working at a per-signature pay rate, may have cheated him by signing many of the petitions themselves, making them easy to disqualify.

In the end, Mr. Obama disqualified all four opponents -- including the incumbent state senator, Alice Palmer, and three minor candidates. Ms. Palmer, a former ally of Mr. Obama, had gathered 1,580 signatures, more than twice the 757 required to appear on the ballot. A minor, perennial candidate had gathered 1,899 signatures, suggesting the Obama team invested much time working even against him.

The act of throwing an incumbent off the ballot in such a fashion does not fit neatly into the narrative of a public-spirited reformer who seeks to make people less cynical about politics.

But Mr. Obama's offenses against the idea of a "new politics" are many, and go well beyond hardball election tactics. It is telling that, when asked at the Saddleback Forum last weekend to name an instance in which he had worked against his own party or his own political interests, he didn't have a good answer. He claimed to have worked with his current opponent, John McCain, on ethics reform. In fact, no such thing happened. The two men had agreed to work together, for all of one day, in February 2006, and then promptly had a well-documented falling-out. They even exchanged angry letters over this incident.

The most dramatic examples of Mr. Obama's commitment to old-style politics are his repeated endorsements of Chicago's machine politicians, which came in opposition to what people of all ideological stripes viewed as the common good.

In the 2006 election, reformers from both parties attempted to end the corruption in Chicago's Cook County government. They probably would have succeeded, too, had Mr. Obama taken their side. Liberals and conservatives came together and nearly ousted Cook County Board President John Stroger, the machine boss whom court papers credibly accuse of illegally using the county payroll to maintain his own standing army of political cronies, contributors and campaigners.

The since-deceased Stroger's self-serving mismanagement of county government is still the subject of federal investigations and arbitration claims. Stroger was known for trying repeatedly to raise taxes to fund his political machine, even as basic government services were neglected in favor of high-paying county jobs for his political soldiers.

When liberals and conservatives worked together to clean up Cook County's government, they were displaying precisely the postpartisan interest in the common good that Mr. Obama extols today. And Mr. Obama, by working against them, helped keep Chicago politics dirty. He refused to endorse the progressive reformer, Forrest Claypool, who came within seven points of defeating Stroger in the primary.

After the primary, when Stroger's son Todd replaced him on the ballot under controversial circumstances, a good-government Republican named Tony Peraica attracted the same kind of bipartisan support from reformers in the November election. But Mr. Obama endorsed the young heir to the machine, calling him -- to the absolute horror of Chicago liberals -- a "good, progressive Democrat."

Mayor Richard M. Daley -- who would receive Mr. Obama's endorsement in 2007 shortly after several of his top aides and appointees had received prison sentences for their corrupt operation of Chicago's city government -- was invested in the Stroger machine's survival. So was every alderman and county commissioner who uses the county payroll to support political hangers-on. So was Mr. Obama's friend and donor, Tony Rezko, who is now in federal prison awaiting sentencing after being convicted in June of 16 felony corruption charges. Rezko had served as John Stroger's finance chairman and raised $150,000 for him (Stroger put Rezko's wife on the county payroll).

Mr. Obama has never stood up against Chicago's corruption problem because his donors and allies are Chicago's corruption problem.

Mr. Obama is not the reformer he now claims to be. The real man is the one they know in Chicago -- the one who won his first election by depriving voters of a choice.

Mr. Freddoso is the author of the just-published "The Case Against Barack Obama" (Regnery).

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

Today's Tune: Steve Forbert - I Blinked Once (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Refusing to do harm

By David Warren
The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In the time since I last wrote on the topic, Canada's various "human rights" kangaroo courts have publicly retreated on several fronts. Several ludicrous cases brought against Mark Steyn's writings in Maclean's magazine, Ezra Levant's editorial judgments in the (now defunct in print) Western Standard, and Fr. Alphonse de Valk's in the magazine Catholic Insight -- have been dismissed by the tribunals. This, after more publicity had been given to the cases than the human rights bureaucracies felt comfortable with.

It should be mentioned that none of the defendants got off easily. Each was compelled to spend large amounts of money and time in the extremely aggravating process of dealing with large, faceless bureaucracies, staffed with their political enemies, functioning free of traditional legal restraints. By dismissing each case, after long drawn-out proceedings, the kangaroo courts were able to run up their chosen victims' costs, while finally denying them the possibility of an appeal against judgment to a legitimate court of law, in which they might conceivably have recovered their expenses. "The process is the punishment."

Canada's taxpayer-supported "human rights" apparatchiks have decided that it is not yet time to directly challenge freedom of the press. They will bide their time, and return to the routine business of staging quasi-legal proceedings against defenceless victims, with no resources for lawyers, and no access to media publicity, until they have acquired more power.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty addresses a party faithful breakfast meeting in Ottawa, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007. McGuinty became the first Liberal leader since Mitch Hepburn in 1937 to win back-to-back Liberal majorities.(AP Photo by FRED CHARTRAND)

That power is on the way. For instance, Dalton McGuinty's government has recently committed many millions to a huge expansion of the Ontario kangaroo-court system, opening new star chamber facilities across the province, and providing a fresh supply of publicly funded lawyers and activists to assist the enemies of freedom in making their prosecutions. The argument behind all such "public investments" is the same: that complainants need a "resolution process" that is less "formal" than the one in our legitimate court system. In other words, they need kangaroo courts in which their victims are stripped of due process.

But a much more significant advance has now been proposed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, to bring the tyranny of "political correction" to bear on its own membership. As usual, the process was being advanced in the dark, away from the possibility of public discussion, and was only pried open in the course of the last week when a large number of physicians, surgeons, and even politicians found out about it.

As I've written before, the "human rights" revolution that has been sweeping through Canada's law schools and legal establishment depends on an Orwellian inversion of the term, "human rights." For human rights were traditionally conceived as the individual's legal and moral resort against the arbitrary power of unaccountable organizations. In the new definition, "human rights" become a device by which unaccountable organizations may crush that individual. "Human rights" have been ideologized, and collectivized. They now belong to groups, exclusively, and include principally the right not to be "offended" by the existence of an individual with a mind of his own.

In the case of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the targets are doctors who refuse to perform abortions on healthy women, prescribe morning-after pills, help same-sex couples conceive children, and so forth. The idea is to strip a doctor of his licence, should he or she allow moral conscience to stand in the way of delivering any state-sanctioned "medical services."

The measure would also complete the inversion of the Hippocratic Oath, from the original "first do no harm," to the position we previously associated with such doctors as Josef Mengele and Jack Kevorkian. Indeed, it would compel the physician to breach the Hippocratic Oath as a condition of practising.

The measure was -- no surprise here, either -- being advanced as a "pro-active" response to Premier McGuinty's recent "human rights" "reforms." As ever, each evil done creates scope for more evil.

The College's measure promises to turn every conscientious doctor in this province into a Mark Steyn or Ezra Levant. Practically speaking, it would tend to drain the province's already strained socialist "health care" system of its best doctors, leaving faithful Christians, Jews, Muslims, and all others of like mind, facing actual medical emergencies, exclusively in the hands of doctors they know to be either opposed to the sanctity of human life, or self-serving hypocrites.

The scandal here is not that doctors have the right in conscience to refuse "medical services" they find morally abhorrent. The scandal is rather that nurses, and all other health-care workers, were deprived of this right a long time ago. (Maurice Vellacott, MP for Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, has long been promoting a private-member's bill that would rectify this enormity.)
Vigilance is the price of our freedom. We must all become much better informed, and more "pro-active" ourselves, at a time when evil is making extraordinary strides under the cover of bureaucratic darkness.

David Warren's column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

Reagan in the Sky

Streetcar Line

By Quin Hillyer
The American Spectator
Published 8/20/2008 12:08:28 AM

In this week leading into unprecedented back-to-back national conventions, there is almost no good excuse for not writing about current politics. Almost. But a visit to the Reagan Ranch provides a rare exception.

Last Wednesday the Ranch, saved for future generations (and especially for student enlightenment) by the Young America's Foundation, celebrated the anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's signing of his famous tax-cut bill in 1981 with a wonderful barbeque and a speech by Wall Street Journal economics writer Stephen Moore. It was a worthy occasion on a shining day, at a beautiful place that ought to be hallowed ground for patriotic Americans for years to come.

(Click photo to enlarge)

By necessity, the Rancho del Cielo (Ranch in the Sky) is available for student groups but not open to the general public (as will be explained shortly), but the public may visit the Foundation's Reagan Center in downtown Santa Barbara -- a town on the Pacific, framed by mountains, that seems to approximate Eden itself in its sunny loveliness. The Center, graced with an impressive piece of the Berlin Wall, is full of wonderful pictures of the memorably photogenic Gipper, and promises to boast a fascinating little museum when all the exhibits are ready this fall.

Only by means of small tour buses, though, can the Ranch itself be accessed after a 45-minute ride. Fifteen minutes of a ride along the beach highway (U.S. 101) is easy enough, but then the climb up the mountains begins. And what a climb it is! Gentle enough only at first, Refugio Road narrows into what amounts to a single lane of asphalt, sometimes only moderately well maintained, as it turns into a steep and stunning drive that quite obviously could not bear much public traffic.

The road snakes, swerves, and switchbacks (if "switchbacks" can be a verb!) at often breathtaking angles, sometimes with amazingly steep drop-offs, overlooking sunlit mountain vistas alternated with vegetation surprisingly more lush than that of some of the lower hills seen from above during the climb. Occasionally the sightlines are good enough to provide a view of the Pacific, now a good eight miles away. A solid half-hour of this ascent makes one understand the reference to "sky" in the Ranch's name.

THEN, THROUGH AN UNASSUMING GATE (combination required to get through the lock), the road suddenly leaves the steep mountainside and enters a broad plateau, 2,200 feet above see level, that a visitor would never imagine could exist after such a sharp and craggy climb. The Ranch, 688 acres full of a plethora of the soul-enriching hiking- and riding-trails that Reagan and wife Nancy so famously enjoyed, is remarkably tranquil -- and the ranch house itself is a modest 1,500 square-foot bungalow overlooking a bucolic pond called "Lake Lucky." From the outside, the little house is so plain as to seem almost devoid of all character. (Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly said it was not a habitation fit for a president.) But one step inside the door, and Reagan's personality infuses the place so thoroughly as to be quite palpable.

The books that line the shelves show Reagan's quintessentially inquisitive mind and myriad interests. Classics on political theory, quite obviously well read and re-read, are interspersed with books on local flora and fauna and history, Louis L'Amour westerns, and a great big book on football authored by former Ram and Redskin Coach George Allen (father of the former Virginia governor and senator). Wall hangings and decorative art celebrate local native American heritage, while much of the functional furniture betrays a 1970s sensibility (not the gaudy disco-influenced variety but the middle-American, inexpensive sturdiness of the decade that is too often forgotten). Diverse collectibles suggest the Reagan's private lifestyle at the ranch, and often show signs of Reagan's personal attachments and friendships. It is a house utterly devoid of artifice. It lacks pretense, too -- except for occasional evidence that the man was indeed president, such as an artful presidential seal made by a neighbor out of 1600 nails mounted on a wooden placard, and the shower head in the shape of the Liberty Bell.

One small room had been an outdoor porch until Reagan himself enclosed it, installing the linoleum floor with his own hands. The kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom are amazingly small, and closet space is almost nonexistent. But the homey comfort-level of the place, its relaxation quotient, is high. It's almost impossible to visit without feeling, in one's bones, that this president was an immensely likable man.

Ronald Reagan rides his horse "El Alamein" at his California Ranch, Rancho del Cielo.

Outside the bungalow, a delicious tri-tip beef and chicken barbeque preceded Stephen Moore's speech. Worthy of a column in itself, Moore's remarks reminded those assembled just how bad the economy was before Reagan signed his tax-cut law, just how dramatic the cut was, and just how successful it was at revitalizing the entire American (and eventually the free world's) economy. Particularly classic was Moore's story of a White House senior staff meeting he attended late in 1987 as Treasury Secretary James Baker reported back on budget negotiations in which congressional Democrats, feeling their oats, thought they had Reagan on the hook for a tax hike. Baker himself recommended accepting the deal. A great silence descended on the room as Reagan spent quite a bit of time cogitating on Baker's report. Then, in a mock-James Cagney voice, Reagan smiled and asked who was going to tell those "dirty rats" that there would be no deal. Even in the wake of a (temporary) 25 percent drop in the stock market in one day, Reagan would not surrender essential principle.

In truth, it was again and again the case that the Gipper won another one for us.

OF MANY OTHER FOND IMPRESSIONS from the ranch visit, one does seem now to have particularly current relevance. Outside the house's front door, an endless-loop video showed all of the network newscasts from 1981 that described the tax-cut signing ceremony held right there at the ranch. The event had turned into an unscripted mini-press conference, and the subjects ran afield from economics. Reagan was asked to defend himself against strong Russian criticism of his then-decision to go ahead with development of the "neutron bomb." Time magazine reported at the time that "TASS, the government news agency, said that the decision illustrated Ronald Reagan's 'cannibalistic instincts,' and was 'an extremely dangerous step toward the further spiraling of the arms race and enhancing the threat of nuclear war.'" But Reagan was unperturbed.

"They are squealing like they're sitting on a sharp nail," he said, "simply because we now are showing the will that we are not going to let them get to the point of dominance where they can someday issue to the free world an ultimatum of 'Surrender or die.'"

As the Russians' aggressiveness suddenly seems to have returned this month, one could be forgiven for wishing that Reagan were still around to handle the situation. Surely he could take care of it, with aplomb, from his ranch, on vacation.

Quin Hillyer is an associate editor at the Washington Examiner and a senior editor of The American Spectator. He can be reached at

The Dems’ Hidden Soros Slush Fund

Leftist activist groups would be first in line for Obama’s “social investment” seed money.

By Michelle Malkin
National Review Online
August 20, 2008, 0:00 a.m.

The Democratic Party platform is like a bag of pork rinds. You never know what high-fat liberal government morsel you’re gonna get.

Buried in the 94-page document is a noble-sounding proposal to create a “Social Investment Fund Network.” The program would provide federal money to “social entrepreneurs and leading nonprofit organizations [that] are assisting schools, lifting families out of poverty, filling health care gaps, and inspiring others to lead change in their own communities.” The Democratic Party promises to “support these results-oriented innovators” by creating an office to “coordinate government and nonprofit efforts” and then showering “a series of grants” on the chosen groups “to replicate these programs nationwide.”

In practice, this Barack Obama brainchild would serve as a permanent, taxpayer-backed pipeline to Democratic partisan outfits masquerading as public-interest do-gooders. This George Soros Slush Fund would be political payback in spades. Obama owes much of his Chicago political success to financial support from radical, left-wing billionaire and leading “social entrepreneur” Soros. In June 2004, Soros threw a big fundraiser at his New York home for Obama’s Illinois Senate campaign. Soros and family personally chipped in $60,000. In April 2007, Obama was back in New York for a deep-pocketed Manhattan fundraising soiree, with Soros lurking in his shadow.

No doubt with Soros’s approbation (if not advice from the hands-on “progressive” activist or his advisers), Obama fleshed out his Social Investment Fund Network plan last December. In concert with his mandatory volunteerism pitch and $6 billion anti-poverty plan, Obama called for the creation of a “Social Entrepreneurship Agency” to dispense the funds in unspecified amounts. The agency would be a government-supported nonprofit corporation “similar to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” which runs public television. (And we’ve all seen how fair and balanced that lib-dominated, Bill Moyers–boosting private-public enterprise turned out.)

Obama cites the Harlem Children’s Zone, which provides after-school activities and mentors to children in New York, as an example of a program that should be funded. (HCZ’s former senior leader Shawn Dove is now an official at Soros’s Open Society Institute.) The problem with such initiatives, as Mitchell Moss pointed out in the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal several years ago, is that these private-public partnerships formed under the guise of economic renewal often become nothing more than fronts that coordinate “an enormous safety net for social services.” Private donations give the illusion of self-help and philanthropic independence, but in reality, the “clients” are never weaned from the teat of the welfare state. They simply learn how to milk it more efficiently.

Obama at fund-raiser at Steven and Judy Gluckstern's home, April 9, 2007. George Soros is seated to the right of the stairs.
(Photo: Michael Edwards)

Even more troubling is how the Democratic Party/Obama plan would siphon untold millions or billions of public tax dollars into the Soros empire without taxpayer recourse. Obama promises “accountability” measures to ensure the money is spent wisely. But who would assess effectiveness of the spending? Why, experts in the social entrepreneurship community, of course. Fox, meet henhouse.

Soros has donated some $5 billion of his fortune to left-wing nonprofit groups through the Open Society Institute — an institution committed to Soros’ militant ideology of toppling the “fascist” tyranny of the United States, which he says must undergo “de-Nazification” in favor of “justice.” The mob at Obama-endorsing MoveOn, purveyors of the “General Betray Us” smear against Commanding General, MNF-I, David Petraeus, is the most notorious Soros-backed political arm. But scores of other activist nonprofits have received Soros funding under the guise of doing nonpartisan “community” or “social justice” work — and it is exactly such leftist activist groups that would be first in line for the Democratic Party/Obama’s “social investment” seed money.

Point in case: ACORN. As I’ve reported before, Obama’s old friends at the Chicago-based nonprofit now take in 40 percent of their revenues from American taxpayers. They raked in tens of millions in federal antipoverty grants while some of their operatives presided over massive voter fraud, and others were implicated in corporate shakedowns and mortgage scams across the country. Soros has donated at least $150,000 to the group, according to Investor’s Business Daily, and “heads a secretive rich-man’s club called ‘Democracy Alliance’ that has doled out $20 million to activist groups like ACORN.” Once the spigot is turned on, there’s no turning back.

Where are fiscal conservatives on this far-left boondoggle? Well, if you’re wondering why the McCain campaign doesn’t raise hell over this proposed left-wing nonprofit/government pipeline, it’s because McCain himself is a Soros beneficiary. His “Reform Institute,” a tax-exempt, supposedly independent 501(c)(3) group focused on campaign-finance reform, was funded by the Soros-funded Open Society Institute and Tides Foundation.

Birds of a Big Government feather flock together — and look out for each other. Watch your wallet.

Michelle Malkin is author of Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Satan loves the Olympics

By Janet Albrechtsen
The Australian
August 17, 2008
Janet Albrechtsen Blog

NOTHING makes Satan happier than the Beijing “bikini” Olympics says Saudi cleric Muhammad Al-Munajid. In an interview aired on Al-Majd TV on August 10 and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, the unhappy cleric slammed the Olympic Games - past and present - for its debauched display of women’s bodies. “The world’s worst display of women’s clothing is the women’s Olympics,” he said. “No exposure of women’s private parts on a global scale could make Satan happier than Olympic games that include women’s sports.”

“What women wear in the Olympic games are among the worst clothes possible. The inventions of Satan, with regard to the exposure of the body in gymnastics, in swimming, in whatever, in tennis… Women have never got naked for sports like they do in the Olympics. It is aired to billions of people worldwide. The problem is not just with the spectators who are present. The whole thing is aired on TV...”

As the Wall Street Journal’s Olympics blog pointed out, with record numbers of women competing in Beijing, Satan must be one very happy man. Forty two per cent of the 11,000 athletes competing in Beijing are women, a nice scorecard for equality given that only 26% of competitors in 1988 were women.

The cleric is entitled to his views – and to express them.

It’s a pity then that Sherry Jones was not given the same chance to express hers. Her first novel, The Jewel of Medina, due to be published in early August was pulled by Random House after concerns were raised that the book would offend Muslims and become a new “Satanic Verses.” The publishing house described the book as "a fascinating portrait of Aisha, child bride of the prophet Mohammed, who overcame great obstacles to reach her full potential as a woman and a leader’’.

Then it spiked the book. Not after receiving threats from radical Muslims, mind you. Just “cautionary advice” said Random House deputy publisher Thomas Perry, from “credible and unrelated sources” that “publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community… [and]…incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.” Notice how we no longer wait for actual death threats or violence to erupt, as was the case with Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and the Danish cartoons, before we chisel back the right to freedom of expression? Now our western sensitivities lead us to anticipatory surrender - just in case.

History professor and Islam scholar Denise Spellberg, who was asked to review Jewel of Medina described it as “a very ugly, stupid piece of work” which made fun of Muslims and their history. She said “there is a long history of anti-Islamic polemic that uses sex and violence to attack the Prophet and his faith” and claimed the novel “follows in that oft-trodden path, one first pioneered in medieval Christian writings.” So The Jewel of Medina was quickly canned in the name of political correctness, the principle of free speech once again sacrificed at the modern altar of hurt feelings.

Christianity and its believers are robust enough to endure vigorous criticism – be it serious or salacious. Think Nietzsche’s The Antichrist. Or Freud’s Future of an Illusion. Or Bertrand Russell’s essay “Why I am a not a Christian”. Or the endless scribbling about Christian fascism. Or the enchanting work of Andres Serrano who stuck a plastic crucifix in a glass of his urine to create Piss Christ. The journal, Arts & Opinion, described the ensuing controversy as “a clash between the interests of artists in freedom of expression on the one hand, and the hurt such works may cause to a section of the community on the other.”

It’s a shame that each time a clash of interests involves Muslim hurt, the West raises the white flag with increasing alacrity. When does Western surrender end? Fencing off Islam from critique and curtailing the West’s long-cherished right to freedom of expression won’t help anyone. If aspects of Islam need to confront modernity, it won’t happen by tiptoeing around Muslim sensibilities, treating them like children too vulnerable to deal with the tough questions. That treatment will only encourage victimhood and more censorship. And it will undermine the core reason for the West’s success: its commitment to testing ideas – and religion is just that, after all - by holding them up to challenge.

One blogger had this to say: “Listen, Christianity is central to my life, but if you want to write a novel attacking it or dump a crucifix in urine and call it art, my feeling is: knock yourself out, you brave thing, you. I’ll argue with you here, and again at the gates of heaven, in perfect faith that the truth will win out in a free market of ideas.”

Let cleric Muhammad Al-Munajid talk about Satan smiling about skimpy bikinis at Beijing all he wants. And, please, let Ms Jones write about Muhammad’s child bride. If not for the sake of Islam, then for the sake of the West.

'Finally, Farewell To Pakistan'

By Steve Schippert
Tuesday, August 19, 2008

“Finally, farewell to Pakistan.” So were the final words of Pervez Musharraf in his address to the Pakistani people as he ultimately chose to resign rather than face impeachment before an unfriendly Pakistani parliament. They may also be America’s final words, with its most trusted Pakistani conduit now gone and the future status of the Pakistani-American relationship up in the air.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf salutes as he leaves the presidential house after his resignation in Islamabad August 18, 2008.(Mian Khursheed/Reuters)

There has been much criticism of Musharraf’s actions – and at times inaction – as the leader of an unlikely but crucial American ally since 9/11. The criticism has generally been warranted: he selectively confronted Islamic radicalism in his own country, rounding up hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, but often failing to keep them in custody. In fact, with growing al Qaeda and Taliban control in tribal areas of Pakistan, especially the Northwest Frontier Province, Musharraf has increasingly sought to negotiate with terror, rather than to eliminate it. Now, significant areas of Pakistan have become safe-havens from which terrorists can launch their jihad at either Afghanistan or the regional and federal governments of Pakistan itself.

Yet there is simply no clear alternative to Musharraf – either from a US policy standpoint or from the standpoint of proven, trustworthy stewardship of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Pakistan itself is also likely to suffer growing instability in the coming months. While Pakistanis joyously celebrated Musharraf's departure in the streets, lawyers had already given the Pakistani coalition government a 72 hour ultimatum to reinstate the judges sacked by Musharraf as he tried in vain to retain power. If their ultimatum is not met, this newly elected government will surely meet with the same mass protests of displeasure. And if that happens, a ‘coalition’ government with deeper differences than unifying positions could fracture even more. Their greatest unifying factor – the removal of Musharraf – is now expended.

So now what? No one, least of all Pakistanis, really knows for certain. For all his faults, Musharraf was neither saint nor sinner as an American ally. Time will likely prove him to have been the best possible option, both then and now. For all his attributes, he could never truly win over the Pakistani people, who live in a constitutional democracy, despite its coups and rampant corruption.

In the coming post-Musharraf era, either former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (PML-N), the object of Musharraf’s 1999 bloodless coup, or Asif Zardari (PPP), husband of assassinated Benazir Bhutto, could be the successor to the Pakistani presidency. However, it is unlikely that the Pakistani military will permit a Nawaz Sharif presidency. And the public likely will not stomach an Ali Zardawi presidency, since he is seen as the embodiment of corruption among a population exhausted by generations of corruption.

The current Pakistani government may well be now settling in for its most bitter power struggle yet, with one unifying factor removed in Musharraf and the open seat of an empty presidency before them to open new political bloodsport. If they cannot resolve the struggle ahead, and Pakistan begins to sink under the weight of a ‘coalition’ government incapacitated by infighting, the military may well step in again, nearly ten years after the last time – under Musharraf.

While he does not appear inclined to pursue such a path immediately in order to fulfill any of his own ambitions for power and control, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani may feel compelled to take power. It’s essentially up to the ‘coalition’ government.

And if they exist in extended disarray, it may have us meeting a President Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, an American-trained chain smoker who rose to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in steep trajectory under Musharraf. Perhaps you should get to know him; he may come to hold the keys to power in the Muslim world’s only nuclear state.

- Steve Schipper is co-founder of the Center for Threat Awareness and managing editor for