Monday, June 29, 2009

Obama's EPA Quashes Climate Change Science

Posted by John Hinderaker at 7:28 AM

June 28, 2009

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has obtained an EPA study of the "endangerment" to human well-being ostensibly caused by carbon dioxide emissions, together with a set of EPA emails indicating that the study, which concludes that carbon dioxide is not a significant cause of climate change, was suppressed by the EPA for political reasons.

You can read the comments that the CEI submitted to the EPA on EPA's proposed endangerment finding here, along with the emails. The censored report, by Alan Carlin and John Davidson, is here.

In their report, Carlin and Davidson point out that the EPA has not done its own evaluation of the global warming theory. Rather, it has relied on analyses by others, mostly the U.N.'s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report. That report, however, was a political document, not a scientific one. Knowing that current scientific research disproves the anthropogenic global warming theory, the U.N. ordered that no recent research be considered in the IPCC report. This is a scandal of which too few people are aware. As science, the U.N. report is a bad joke.

Carlin and Davidson go on to recite the scientific work that shows rather clearly that human activity is a minor factor, at most, in climate change--which has, of course, been occurring from the beginning of Earth's history to the present. Their report is a useful summary of the evidence for those who are not familiar with it.

If the Obama administration gets its way, Americans will not become aware of the scientific evidence: Obama's EPA suppressed the Carlin/Davidson report and tried to keep it secret for political reasons. The emails obtained by the CEI are revealing. Here, the two scientists' superior declines to make their report public because "the administration has decided to move forward on endangerment." Click to enlarge:

Here, Carlin and Davidson are ordered not to communicate to the public their conclusion that the global warming theory is bunk:

Global warming zealots are a bit like Iran's mullahs. They are fanatically devoted to a series of false propositions. Unable to win an open scientific debate, they consistently resort to bullying and brute force to suppress their opposition. Once again, we see the Obama administration taking the lead in this regard, putting political ideology above scientific truth and demanding that all others do likewise.

Via the Examiner.

UPDATE: Newsbusters notes the almost complete media blackout of this story, and contrasts it with the news media's treatment of the Bush administration.

The Stoning of Soraya M.: An Unflinching Look at the Unconscionable

A courageous film — based on a true story — unveils a brutal Islamic custom still practiced in Iran and elsewhere.

by Christian Toto
June 26, 2009

The pivotal scene in director Cyrus Nowrasteh’s new film unfolds slowly, letting the audience absorb every soul-crushing second.

First, a hole is dug in the ground. Then, the accused adulterer is lowered into the empty space and workers bury her up to her waist in dirt.

Then, the woman’s neighbors, young and old — as well as her immediate family — start collecting stones to throw at her until she dies.

The Stoning of Soraya M. is unlike any film we’ve seen before. It’s an unflinching glimpse at the very worst side of Iranian culture, an indictment of a barbaric ritual defended and embraced by an entire village.

And it’s based on a real-life incident.

Nowrasteh, best known for writing the ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11, gives away the story in the film’s title. That he keeps the audience engaged up until the final scene is a testament to his measured approach.

In clumsier hands, like Oliver Stone circa 2009, Soraya M. would have played out with thunder, brimstone, and more than a few overt political messages.

Nowrasteh — who also co-wrote the film with his wife, screenwriter Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh — tackles the material in a straightforward fashion. The only razzle dazzle on display is the powerhouse performance by House of Sand and Fog actress Shohreh Aghdashloo as the doomed woman’s confidante.

Aghdashloo plays Zahra, an Iranian woman who corners a journalist (Jim Caviezel) when his car breaks down in her dusty village. She insists he listen to the story she must tell an outsider. Their discussion serves as the film’s perfunctory framing device.

Soraya (Mozhan MarnĂ²) is married to Ali (Navid Negahban), a cruel partner with a wandering eye. Local customs won’t allow him to follow said eye, so he conjures up an adultery charge against Soraya in the hopes the scandal will set him free. The male dominated legal system — aided and abetted by Sharia law, which demands a public execution of the guilty — does the rest.

The townsfolk aren’t the black and white lot one might fear from a film of this nature. Even the man responsible for overseeing the stoning does so from a deeply conflicted place.

The film’s unabashed villain is Ali — the story’s depiction of him is almost totally inhuman. He might as well twist his moustache and cackle toward the heavens with glee as his hateful plot falls into place.

The performances are more or less solid throughout Stoning, with Aghdashloo being a remarkable exception. She’s flat-out terrific as Zoraya’s closest friend and protector, a feminist in the truest sense of the word.

It’s likely the film’s creators will defend the extended stoning sequence — it’s meant to convey the full brutality of the event. But even taking that into account doesn’t justify its length. If audiences don’t grasp the horror of what they’re witnessing during the first ten minutes, then nothing will illuminate them after that.

Just the sight of young children picking up stones for the execution is horrifying enough.

A scene from The Stoning of Soraya M. with Shohreh Aghdashloo

The movie’s final scenes succumb to some unnecessary Hollywood theatrics, but the small, humane touches spread through the rest of the movie more than make up for the excess. Before the stoning begins, the mullah in charge of the process is seen trimming his beard in a gross display of misplaced egotism. Earlier in the movie, the death of a kindly village woman sets in motion a wave of visitors to her home, each eager to pilfer what they can from her belongings.

Film critics are mostly embracing Nowrasteh’s approach to the challenging material. But not everyone thinks it’s wise to remind audiences that such atrocities exist in the Muslim world. Film critic Cole Smithey faulted the director for not blaming the West at some point in the narrative:

But there is something condescending and judgmental in the filmmaker’s subtext that seems to exonerate Western culture as somehow less complicit in the atrocious murders that it commits against innocent and guilty citizens alike.

Nowrasteh remains one of Hollywood’s more reliable envelope pushers, although in a perfect world revealing the atrocities depicted here wouldn’t be such a courageous act.

His Path to 9/11 shook a former president from his slumber. Bill Clinton rallied an entire broadcast network against releasing the film on DVD.
Nowrasteh’s Stoning dares to call into question a barbaric act defended by some Muslims … and doesn’t separate the act from their faith. It takes a village to stone an innocent.

- Christian Toto is a freelance writer and film critic for The Washington Times. His work has appeared in People magazine, MovieMaker Magazine, The Denver Post, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Scripps Howard News Service. He also contributes movie radio commentary to three stations as well as the nationally syndicated Dennis Miller Show and runs the blog What Would Toto Watch?

'Oldest' image of St Paul discovered

Archaeologists have uncovered a 1,600 year old image of St Paul, the oldest one known of, in a Roman catacomb.

By Nick Pisa in Rome
The London Daily Telegraph
Published: 5:46PM BST 28 Jun 2009

The fresco, which dates back to the 4th Century AD, was discovered during restoration work at the Catacomb of Saint Thekla but was kept secret for ten days.

During that time experts carefully removed centuries of grime from the fresco with a laser, before the news was officially announced through the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

There are more than 40 known Catacombs or underground Christian burial places across Rome and because of their religious significance the Vatican's Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archeology has jurisdiction over them.

A photograph of the icon shows the thin face of a bearded man with large eyes, sunken nose and face on a red background surrounded with a yellow circle – the classic image of St Paul.

The image was found in the Catacomb of St Thekla, close to the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, which is said to be built on the site where he was buried.

St Thekla was a follower of St Paul who lived in Rome and who was put to death under the Emperor Diocletian at the beginning of the 4th Century and who was subsequently made a saint but little else is known of her.

Barbara Mazzei, the director of the work at the Catacomb, said: "We had been working in the Catacomb for some time and it is full of frescoes.

"However the pictures are all covered with limestone which was covering up much of the artwork and so to remove it and clean it up we had to use fine lasers.

"The result was exceptional because from underneath all the dirt and grime we saw for the first time in 1600 years the face of Saint Paul in a very good condition.

"It was easy to see that it was Saint Paul because the style matched the iconography that we know existed at around the 4th Century – that is the thin face and the dark beard.

"It is a sensational discovery and is of tremendous significance. This is then first time that a single image of Saint Paul in such good condition has been found and it is the oldest one known of.

"Traditionally in Christian images of St Paul he is always alongside St Peter but in this icon he was on his own and what is also significant is the fact that St Paul's Basilica is just a few minutes walk away.

"It is my opinion that the fresco we have discovered was based on the fact that St Paul's Basilica was close by, there was a shrine to him there at that site since the 3rd Century.

"This fresco is from the early part of the 4th Century while before the earliest were from the later part and examples have been found in the Catacombs of Domitilla."

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister, said:"This is a fascinating discovery and is testimony to the early Christian Church of nearly 2000 years ago.

"It has a great theological and spiritual significance as well as being of historic and artistic importance."

The Catacomb of St Thekla is closed to the public but experts said they hoped to be able to put the newly discovered icon of St Paul on display some time later this year.

Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, Rome

St Paul was a Roman Jew, born in Tarsus in modern-day Turkey, who started out persecuting Christians but later became one of the greatest influences in the Church.

He did not know Jesus in life but converted to Christianity after seeing a shining light on the road to Damascus and spent much of his life travelling and preaching.

St Paul wrote 14 letters to Churches which he founded or visited and tell Christians what they should believe and how they should live but do not say much about Jesus' life and teachings.

He was executed for his beliefs around AD 65 and is thought to have been beheaded, rather than crucified, because he was a Roman citizen.

According to Christian tradition, his body was buried in a vineyard by a Roman woman and a shrine grew up there before Emperor Constantine consecrated a basilica in 324 which is now St Paul Outside the Walls.

St Paul's Outside the Walls is located about two miles outside the ancient walls of Rome and is the largest church in the city after St Peter's.

His feast day is on Monday along with St Peter and it is a bank holiday in Rome where they are patron saints of the city.

Officials are considering opening the tomb below St Paul's in the Basilica's crypt which is said to hold his remains.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

For Radical Islam, the End Begins

By Joshua Muravchik
The Washington Post
Saturday, June 27, 2009 7:41 PM

Is history ending yet again?

Much as the hammers that leveled the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked the end of the Cold War, so might the protests rocking Iran signal the death of radical Islam and the challenges it poses to the West.

No, that doesn't mean we'll be removing the metal detectors from our airports anytime soon. Al-Qaeda and its ilk, even diminished in strength, will retain the ability to stage terrorist strikes. But the danger brought home on Sept. 11, 2001, was always greater than the possibility of murderous attacks. It was the threat that a hostile ideology might come to dominate large swaths of the Muslim world.

Not all versions of this ideology -- variously called Islamism or radical Islam -- are violent. But at the core of even the peaceful ones, such as that espoused by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, is the idea that the Islamic world has been victimized by the West and must defend itself. Even before the United States invaded Iraq, stoking rage, polls in Muslim countries revealed support for Osama bin Laden and for al-Qaeda's aims, if not its methods. If such thinking were to triumph in major Muslim countries beyond Iran -- say, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- violent extremists would command vast new stores of personnel, explosives and funds.

This is precisely the nightmare scenario that is now receding. Even if the Iranian regime succeeds in suppressing the protests and imposes the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by force of bullets, mass arrests and hired thugs, it will have forfeited its legitimacy, which has always rested on an element of consent as well as coercion. Most Iranians revered Ayatollah Khomeini, but when his successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, declared the election results settled, hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets, deriding his anointed candidate with chants of "Death to the dictator!"

"Even if they manage to hang on for a month or a couple of years, they've shed the blood of their people," says Egyptian publisher and columnist Hisham Kassem. "It's over."

The downfall or discrediting of the regime in Tehran would deal a body blow to global Islamism which, despite its deep intellectual roots, first achieved real influence politically with the Iranian revolution of 1979. And it would also represent just the most recent -- and most dramatic -- in a string of setbacks for radical Islam. Election outcomes over the past two years have completely undone the momentum that Islamists had achieved with their strong showing at the polls in Egypt in 2005 and Palestine in 2006.

This countertrend began in Morocco in 2007. The Justice and Development Party (PJD), a moderate Islamist group that had registered big gains five years before, was expected to win parliamentary elections. But it carried only 14 percent of the vote, finishing second to a conservative party aligned with the royal palace. And in municipal elections earlier this month, the PJD's vote sank to 7 percent.

Jordanians also went to the polls in 2007 and handed the Islamic Action Front "one of its worst election defeats since Jordan's monarchy restored parliament in 1989," as The Washington Post reported. The party won only six of the 22 seats it contested in the parliamentary vote -- a precipitous drop from the 17 seats it had held in the outgoing legislature.

Forged from diverse ethnic groups linked only by Islam, Pakistan would seem fertile soil for radical Islamism. Nonetheless, Islamist parties had not done well until 2002, when -- with military strongman Pervez Musharraf suppressing mainstream political forces -- Islamists won 11 percent of the popular vote and 63 seats in parliament. But in a vote last year, on a more level field, the Islamists' tally sank to 2 percent and six out of 270 elected seats. Moreover, they were turned out of power in the North West Frontier Province, previously their stronghold.

In April, Indonesian Islamist parties that had emerged four years earlier to capture 39 percent of the vote lost ground in parliamentary elections this time around, falling to below 30 percent. "You can't pray away a bad economy, unemployment, poverty and crime," one voter, a 45-year old shop assistant, told Agence France Press.

Then in May came parliamentary elections in Kuwait, where women had won the right to vote and hold office in 2005 but had never yet won office. Even though the Islamic Salafi Alliance issued a fatwa against voting for female candidates, four captured seats in parliament. Adding insult to injury for the Islamists, their representation fell from 21 seats to 11. "There is a new mindset here in Kuwait," the al-Jazeera network reported, "and it's definitely going to reverberate across the Gulf region."

Finally, Lebanon held a tense election earlier this month that many expected would result in the triumph of Hezbollah and its allies over the pro-Western March 14 coalition. Instead, the latter carried the popular vote and nailed down a commanding majority in parliament.

Of course, each election featured its own dynamics, reflecting local alignments and issues, but they all point in the same direction for radical Islam -- a direction reinforced by recent opinion polls in the Muslim world.
Last year, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that from 2002 to 2008, the proportion of respondents saying that suicide bombing was sometimes or often justified dropped from 74 percent to 32 percent in Lebanon, from 33 percent to 5 percent in Pakistan, from 43 percent to 25 percent in Jordan and from 26 percent to 11 percent in Indonesia. As a food stand operator in Jakarta put it: "People are less supportive of terrorist attacks because we know what terrorism does, we're afraid of attacks."

Military and social developments in Iraq and Pakistan also seem to be bending to the same wind. Whatever the contribution of the U.S. military "surge" of 2007, the tide of battle shifted in Iraq when broad swaths of the Sunni community that had supported or participated in the resistance to U.S. occupation turned their guns against the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. And this year, the moderate government in Pakistan finally seems to have turned decisively against the Taliban. Although many critics believed that the central government lacked the will and the ability to subdue the radicals, it has suppressed them in the Swat region and is now carrying the battle into their Waziristan heartland.

What explains this broad reversal for the forces of Islamic extremism?

Clearly, citizens in Pakistan and Iraq were repelled by the brutality of the radicals, as have been many in such other Muslim countries as Jordan, Egypt and Indonesia, which have suffered domestic terrorism attacks. Nor has the Islamists' performance in power in Afghanistan, Sudan and Gaza won any admiration. The Internet and other communications technology is entangling the younger generation of Muslims more thoroughly with their Western counterparts than their elders, making appeals to turn away from the West ring hollow.

Others point to U.S. influence as well. As developments in Iran have unfolded over the past weeks, a minor Washington debate has emerged -- along partisan lines -- over whether President George W. Bush's tough policies blunted the force of the radicals, or whether President Obama's open hand has assuaged anti-American anger and inspired anti-regime forces. Both might be true. Or neither.

Regardless of the underlying causes, a defeated or merely discredited Islamic Republic of Iran could mark the beginning of the end of radical Islam. Until now, Iran has offered the only relatively successful example of Islamist rule, but the bloody events there are strengthening the momentum against radicalism and theocracy in the Muslim world. If the regime hangs on, it will depend increasingly on the militia and other security forces and less on its religious stature.

Of course, the fading of radicalism would not necessarily mean the disappearance of Islamic politics. The Egyptian intellectual Saad Edin Ibrahim noted in the Wall Street Journal last week that Islamist parties are being "cut down to size," and he hopes that they "evolve into Muslim democratic parties akin to the Christian Democrats in Europe."

That would be a result the West could live with.

Joshua Muravchik is a Foreign Policy Institute fellow in the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and the author of "The Next Founders: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East."

A Health 'Reform' To Regret

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Sunday, June 28, 2009

"In the beginning," says a character in a Peter De Vries novel, "the earth was without form and void. Why didn't they leave well enough alone?" When Washington is finished improving health care, Americans may be asking the same thing. Certainly the debate will compel them to think more clearly about this subject.

Most Americans do want different health care: They want 2009 medicine at 1960 prices. Americans spent much less on health care in 1960 (5 percent of gross domestic product as opposed to 18 percent now). They also spent much less -- nothing, in fact -- on computers, cellphones, and cable and satellite television.

Your next car can cost less if you forgo GPS, satellite radio, antilock brakes, power steering, power windows and air conditioning. You can shop for such a car at your local Studebaker, Hudson, Nash, Packard and DeSoto dealers.

The president says that his health plan is responsive "to all those families who now spend more on health care than housing or food." Well. The Hudson Institute's Betsy McCaughey, writing in the American Spectator, says that in 1960 the average American household spent 53 percent of its disposable income on food, housing, energy and health care. Today the portion of income consumed by those four has barely changed -- 55 percent. But the health-care component has increased while the other three combined have decreased. This is partly because as societies become richer, they spend more on health care -- and symphonies, universities, museums, etc.

It is also because health care is increasingly competent. When the first baby boomers, whose aging is driving health-care spending, were born in 1946, many American hospitals' principal expense was clean linen. This was long before MRIs, CAT scans and the rest of the diagnostic and therapeutic arsenal that modern medicine deploys.

In a survey released in April by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard, only 6 percent of Americans said that they were willing to spend more than $200 a month on health care, and the price must fall to $100 a month before a majority are willing to pay it. But according to Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, Americans already are paying an average of $400 a month.

Most Americans do not know this because the cost of their care is hidden. Only 9 percent buy health coverage individually, and $84 of every $100 spent on health care is spent by someone (an employer, insurance company or government) other than recipients of the care. Those who get insurance as untaxed compensation from employers have no occasion to compute or confront the size of that benefit. But it is part of the price their employers pay for their work.

The president says that the health-care market "has not worked perfectly." Indeed. Only God, supposedly, and Wrigley Field, actually, are perfect. Anyway, given the heavy presence of government dollars (46 percent of health-care dollars) and regulations, the market, such as it is, is hardly free to work.

As market enthusiasts, conservatives should stop warning that the president's reforms will result in health-care "rationing." Every product, from a jelly doughnut to a jumbo jet, is rationed -- by price or by politics. The conservative's task is to explain why price is preferable. The answer is that prices produce a rational allocation of scarce resources.

Regarding reform, conservatives are accused of being a party of "no." Fine. That is an indispensable word in politics because most new ideas are false and mischievous. Furthermore, the First Amendment's lovely first five words ("Congress shall make no law") set the negative tone of the Bill of Rights, which is a list of government behaviors, from establishing religion to conducting unreasonable searches, to which the Constitution says: No.

The president may have been too clever when he decided, during an economic crisis that was sending federal expenditures soaring and revenue plummeting, to push the entire liberal agenda on the premise that every item on it is essential to combating the crisis.

Now the health-care debate is coming to a boil just as public anxiety about the deficit is, too. As cost estimates pass the $1 trillion mark, the administration is reduced to talking about financing its reforms with mini-measures such as a 3-cent tax on sugary sodas. The public, its attention riveted by the fiscal train wreck of trillion-dollar deficits for the foreseeable future, may be coming to the conclusion that we should leave bad enough alone.

70 Years Later, Gehrig’s Speech Still Resonates With Inspiration

The New York Times
June 28, 2009

In any anthology of memorable farewell speeches, the brief oration by the humble baseball player Lou Gehrig on July 4, 1939, still rates considerable mention.

Lou Gehrig says goodbye on July 4, 1939.

I was at Yankee Stadium on that melancholy afternoon, an 18-year-old sitting in the faraway right-field bleachers, and I was deeply touched by his words. But I thought only that Gehrig’s long career with the Yankees had come to an end. It never crossed my mind that his death was imminent.

How many in that attentive audience of 60,000 suspected that Gehrig’s speech would be forever etched in the game’s history?

Marvin Miller, the former chief of the baseball players union, said he saw Gehrig play many times.

“It’s clear to me that a player today who played in 2,130 straight games, as Lou did, might immediately be suspect,” he said. “But that never would have been the case with Lou.”

Major League Baseball will honor the 70th anniversary of Gehrig’s farewell at 15 games on Saturday, when his speech will be read during the seventh-inning stretch.

“It’s an honor to pay tribute to this American legend,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in initiating the leaguewide celebration.

The purpose is to raise awareness and money for research of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., the incurable neurological disease that took Gehrig’s life and now commonly bears his name.

Gehrig chose to remain with the team after retiring as a player. As the 1939 summer wore on, he found it increasingly difficult to walk from the dugout to home plate, where, as the Yankees’ captain, he would present the lineup card to the umpire.

After the World Series, in which the Yankees defeated Cincinnati as Gehrig watched from the bench, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York offered him a job with the city’s parole commission. Gehrig’s wife, Eleanor, encouraged him to accept. Gehrig’s salary was $5,700 a year — not bad for the times and about what he had received for his nonplaying role in the Series.

A year later, Gehrig’s body was failing. His mobility was increasingly limited. He could not sign his name, tie his shoelaces or grip cards to play bridge. Reluctantly, he resigned from his parole job.

Gehrig died June 2, 1941, about two years after he received the A.L.S. diagnosis and 17 days short of his 38th birthday. The nation was stunned. Gehrig had been the seemingly indestructible Iron Horse. People from all walks of life, from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the hot dog vendors at Yankee Stadium, shared their grief.

Associated Press

Lou Gehrig, who played in 2,130 consecutive games, made a 277-word farewell speech at Yankee Stadium.

Today, Gehrig’s 277-word speech, immortalized by Gary Cooper in the 1942 movie “The Pride of the Yankees,” continues to have an effect on the American psyche. Gehrig’s words have become more meaningful as time goes on.

They have also had a profound effect on many of those who have A.L.S.

“He taught me that the human spirit can transcend any affliction,” said Chris Pendergast, a former schoolteacher in Miller Place, N.Y., who has battled A.L.S. for more than 16 years. Communicating through his wife, Pendergast said: “I am now a quadriplegic, using a feeding tube and an external ventilator for part of the day. But with Lou as a model, I still feel I have an awful lot to live for.”

Those who face other challenges have also found inspiration in Gehrig’s life. Joshua Prager, a journalist and author, sustained a disabling spinal cord injury in a 1990 bus accident when he was 19. Prager, who wrote “The Echoing Green,” about Bobby Thomson’s 1951 home run at the Polo Grounds, said he admired Gehrig before the accident. In time, his appreciation of Gehrig, who like Prager attended Columbia University, grew deeper.

“In the face of death, he remained defiant,” Prager said. “He hated any maudlin displays, and as he said in his July 4 speech, he still considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

The broadcaster and baseball historian Bob Costas has reflected on Gehrig’s legacy as a role model.

“His qualities as a person were always admired,” Costas said. “But that admiration grows when contrasted with the graceless, self-regarding personas of so many present-day public figures.”

Ray Robinson is the author of “Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig in His Time.”

Dillinger Captured by Dogged Filmmaker!

The New York Times
June 28, 2009

IT’S a Hollywood truism that for every movie that sees the light of day, a hundred others languish in the purgatory (or worse) of development. But how many movies owe their very existence to a roster of films that never happened? Such is the case with Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies,” a dual portrait of the bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), the young, ambitious F.B.I. agent who took him down.

Frank Connor/Universal

Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard star in Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies.”

The film, which opens Wednesday, is unusual on many fronts. Its Depression-era setting, R rating and dense storytelling make it an anomaly, an Oscar hopeful planted in the middle of a season traditionally more accommodating to the shape-shifting robots of “Transformers” than to J. Edgar Hoover. It refurbishes a genre — the 1930s gangster movie — that studios have left largely unexploited in the two decades since Brian De Palma’s “Untouchables.” And, appropriately, it leaves a trail of cinematic corpses in its wake: two feature films, an HBO mini-series and a prison epic starring Mr. Depp. With its portrayal of two men clenched by obsession and its meticulous visual sheen, “Public Enemies” plays as if it were intended to be a Michael Mann movie all along. But it got there the hard way.

The project began its life, sort of, in the mind of Mr. Mann before he had even embarked on his directorial career, which now runs to 10 movies over 29 years. Mr. Mann, 66, grew up in Chicago, not far from where Dillinger spent his last months hiding out. In the 1970s, he recalled, “my wife and I used to go to art films at the Biograph,” the movie house where Dillinger spent his last night watching the Clark Gable gangster film “Manhattan Melodrama” before F.B.I. agents gunned him down on the street outside.
Fascinated by the period, Mr. Mann began work on a screenplay, not about Dillinger but about Alvin Karpis, one of the last of that era’s criminals to be captured.

The Karpis project “got me into the period,” Mr. Mann said, “trying to understand the history, imagining the tough, tough existence of these guys being pressed on both sides by twin evolutionary forces — on the one hand, J. Edgar Hoover inventing the F.B.I., and on the other, organized crime evolving rapidly into a kind of corporate capitalism” that had no room for independent criminals either. But despite several attempts to get the screenplay into filmable shape, Mr. Mann said he was never satisfied enough to proceed. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, as he directed several films that showcased his strong interest in cops and criminals — “Thief,” “Manhunter,” “Heat” — he began shifting his attention from Karpis to Dillinger, whose clean-cut looks and savvy control of his publicity made him a more movie-friendly subject.

Years later, in 1999, the author and journalist Bryan Burrough (“Barbarians at the Gate”) was at home in Maplewood, N.J., watching a documentary about another set of outlaws from the period, the Ma Barker gang. Intrigued, Mr. Burrough started reading everything he could on the subject and realized that he had found a great story: the astonishing chronological convergence from 1932 to 1934 of a rogue’s gallery comprising Dillinger, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly and the Barkers, just as Hoover was attempting to create America’s first centralized law enforcement system.

Mr. Burrough said he loved the idea of “a joint narrative of the period,” but not as a book. “I had two young sons, 7 and 5 at the time, and I didn’t relish the idea of spending the next five years of my life crisscrossing the Midwest in a rental car with McDonald’s bags piling up.” So he pitched it to Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Films, which sold the idea to HBO as a multicharacter eight-hour mini-series, with Mr. Burrough as executive producer and writer.

Michelle Litvin for The New York Times

The director Michael Mann in Union Station at Chicago.

Mr. Burrough said he quickly figured out that he didn’t “know the first thing about writing screenplays.” Beyond that the F.B.I. case files on those crimes and investigations had now become public in Washington and had made a book (and less travel) possible. By 2000 he had amicably left the HBO project, which continued in development without him, and begun researching a manuscript about the same material. Enter Kevin Misher, the studio executive who in 2001 left his job as president for production at Universal Pictures to become an independent producer.

Like Mr. Burrough and Mr. Mann, Mr. Misher was an aficionado of the era. “The cars are cool, the guns are cool, the girls are beautiful, the guys are dressed” in sharp suits, he said. “It has much more cool factor than just a quaint sepia-toned history.” Eager to revive the genre, Mr. Misher acquired the life rights to Purvis, the agent who, under Hoover’s mentorship, led the pursuit of Dillinger but broke with Hoover soon after Dillinger’s death and, disillusioned, resigned from the F.B.I. in 1935, when he was 31.

While Mr. Misher began work on a Purvis project, Mr. Burrough’s book “Public Enemies” was coming together, and the HBO mini-series was falling apart. HBO returned the rights to be resold by Mr. Burrough’s agents at the Creative Artists Agency, and Mr. Mann and Mr. Misher, now working together, quickly jumped in with an offer. Their plan: to jettison any material that didn’t concern Dillinger or the formation of the F.B.I. and use what remained as what Mr. Misher called a “research bible” for a Dillinger film. In mid-2004 they sold the project to Universal, thanks in some measure to a powerful partner: Appian Way, Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, which stepped in when Mr. DiCaprio expressed a desire to play Dillinger.

Over the next three years Mr. Mann supervised several drafts of the script written by Ronan Bennett, the Irish novelist (“The Catastrophist”) whose qualifications for the job included time spent in Long Kesh prison as a teenager for an I.R.A. bank robbery. (The conviction was later overturned.) Eventually Mr. Mann and Ann Biderman (the creator of “Southland” on NBC) took over; the final screenplay is credited to all three.

Mr. Burrough assumed the film would never happen. “There are a million different ways for a Hollywood project to die,” he said, “and this had already died once. Then, in December 2007, I get an e-mail from C.A.A. saying not only that the movie had been green-lit, but that it was going to star Johnny Depp. I thought it was a joke.”

It was no joke. The now-or-never mentality under which every studio was operating at the end of 2007 had cost the project Mr. DiCaprio. Production of “Public Enemies” — in fact, of all movies — had to finish by June 30, 2008, before the start of an anticipated Screen Actors Guild strike. With Mr. DiCaprio committed to Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” (opening this fall), Universal turned to Mr. Depp, whose own project, an adaptation of Gregory David Roberts’s novel “Shantaram,” about a robber and heroin addict who escapes from prison, was about to be postponed.

Mr. Bale signed on soon after, fascinated, “not only by Purvis’s pursuit of Dillinger,” he said, “but by his pursuit to achieve the vision of Hoover, and his reaction when Hoover seemed to compromise his vision of how to enforce the law.”

Despite its tortuous history, “Public Enemies” looks, on screen, as if Mr. Mann intended all along to reshape the material as a fresh chapter in his remarkably cohesive body of work. Like “Heat” (1995), which paired Mr. De Niro as a master thief and Al Pacino as a police lieutenant, the new film positions two A-list stars on opposite sides of the law — and like “Heat,” it’s a film in which the two stars barely share a scene. Like “The Insider” (1999), Mr. Mann’s most acclaimed film, “Public Enemies” looks closely at two skilled professionals who each struggle with personal codes of honor. And as in “Manhunter” (1986) Mr. Mann seems enthralled by the subject of a lawman so willing to pursue a criminal that he endangers his sense of himself.

“Honestly, no,” Mr. Mann said, laughing when asked whether the thematic consistencies are deliberate. “From my point of view, which is maybe not other people’s, it isn’t a mano-a-mano movie. What I was taken with was the love affair between Dillinger and Billie Frechette,” his girlfriend, played by the Oscar-winning French actress Marion Cotillard. “They’re symbiotic. He didn’t have a mother and was desperate for love of women. She needed a father. They were preformed for each other.”

Peter Mountain/Universal

Mr. Mann with crew on the set of "Public Enemies."

His movies are known for many things, from technological virtuosity to narrative complexity, but prominent roles for women are not among his trademarks. The character of Billie is something of an exception. Several American actresses wanted the part; Ms. Cotillard won it even though her English was less than rock steady. “But she’s ferocious,” Mr. Mann said. “She’s so focused and artistically ambitious that you knew that come hell or high water she was going to get there.”

Her character features prominently in a memorable scene, the film’s most overt nod to contemporary issues, specifically the use of torture to obtain information. That resonance, Mr. Mann said, was intentional. “In the movie when Hoover says, ‘Take off the white gloves,’ what he means is, turn informants using extortion, round up innocent family members and make their lives miserable, set aside habeas corpus, be pre-emptive,” he said. “And when Purvis, who doesn’t believe that, starts to go against his native self, it’s disastrous.”

As the start date of “Public Enemies” neared, Mr. Mann was coming off the exhausting experience of writing, directing and producing the 2006 film adaptation of “Miami Vice,” the 1980s television series that made his reputation. That film, plagued by production difficulties, threatened to spiral out of control, and disappointed at the box office, where it brought in just $63 million domestically (less than half its estimated production budget). This time Mr. Mann had to cram preproduction into 11 weeks, an unusually short time for a $100 million period movie that would be shot largely on Midwestern locations. “And then we had radical weather,” he said. “Hailstorms. So the movie became a race, in a way. Not a rush, but a race to get what I had to get.” He finished with a couple of days to spare.

Mr. Mann is known as a perfectionist, someone who wants every visual and technical detail nailed down. Surprisingly, he said that wasn’t the primary challenge on “Public Enemies.” “The biggest struggle, for me is always: Get the story to land,” he said. “Get it to work.

“You know John Dillinger is going to die in front of the Biograph. So by then the story has to have hijacked the show-and-tell nature of the plot. The story has to be about the inner experience of the guy, so that by the end, it’s not about him getting shot. Do you understand his inner experience? Is your heart with him? Do you know him? That’s the battle.”