Saturday, January 09, 2010
The Orange County Register
Not long after the Ayatollah Khomeini announced his fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the British novelist suddenly turned up on a Muslim radio station in West London late one night and told his interviewer he'd converted to Islam.
Marvelous religion, couldn't be happier, Allahu Akbar and all that.
And the Ayatollah said hey, that's terrific news, glad to hear it. But we're still gonna kill you.
Well, even a leftie novelist wises up under those circumstances.
Evidently, the president of the United States takes a little longer.
Barack Obama has spent the past year doing big-time Islamoschmoozing, from his announcement of Gitmo's closure and his investigation of Bush officials, to his bow before the Saudi king and a speech in Cairo to "the Muslim world" with far too many rhetorical concessions and equivocations. And at the end of it the jihad sent America a thank-you note by way of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's underwear: Hey, thanks for all the outreach! But we're still gonna kill you.
According to one poll, 58 percent of Americans are in favor of waterboarding young Umar Farouk. Well, you should have thought about that before you made a community organizer president of the world's superpower. The election of Barack Obama was a fundamentally unserious act by the U.S. electorate, and you can't blame the world's mischief-makers, from Putin to Ahmadinejad to the many Gitmo recidivists now running around Yemen, from drawing the correct conclusion.
For two weeks, the government of the United States has made itself a global laughingstock. Don't worry, "the system worked," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Incompetano. Don't worry, he was an "isolated extremist," said the president. Don't worry, we're banning bathroom breaks for the last hour of the flight, said the TSA. Don't worry, "U.S. border security officials" told the Los Angeles Times, we knew he was on the plane, and we "had decided to question him when he landed." Don't worry, Obama's counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, assured the Sunday talk shows, sure, we read him his rights, and he's lawyered up but he'll soon see that "there is advantage to talking to us in terms of plea agreements."
Oh, that's grand. Try to kill hundreds of people in an act of war, and it's the starting point for a plea deal. In his Cairo speech, the president bragged that the United States would "punish" those in America who would "deny" the "right of women and girls to wear the hijab." If he's so keen on it, maybe he should consider putting the entire federal government into full-body burkas and zipping up the eye slit so that, henceforth, every public utterance by John Brennan will be entirely inaudible. Americans should be ashamed by this all-fools' fortnight.
On Thursday, having renounced over the preceding days "the system worked," the "isolated extremist," the more obviously risible TSA responses, the Gitmo-Yemen express checkout and various other follies, the president finally spoke the words: "We are at war." As National Review's Rich Lowry noted, they were more or less dragged from the presidential gullet by Dick Cheney, who'd accused the commander in chief of failing to grasp this basic point. Again, to be fair, it isn't just Obama. Last November, the electorate voted, in effect, to repudiate the previous eight years and seemed genuinely under the delusion that wars end when one side decides it's all a bit of a bore, and they'd rather the government spend the next eight years doing to health care and the economy what they were previously doing to jihadist camps in Waziristan.
On the other hand, if we are now at war, as Obama belatedly concedes, against whom are we warring? "We are at war against al-Qaida," says the president.
Really? But what does that mean? Was the previous month's "isolated extremist," the Fort Hood killer, part of al-Qaida? When it came to spiritual advice, he turned to the same Yemeni-based American-born imam as the Pantybomber, but he didn't have a fully paid-up membership card.
Nor did young Umar Farouk, come to that. Granted the general overcredentialization of American life, the notion that it doesn't count as terrorism unless you're a member of Local 437 of the Amalgamated Union of Isolated Extremists seems perverse and reductive.
What did the Pantybomber have a membership card in? Well, he was president of the Islamic Society of University College, London. Kafeel Ahmed, who died after driving a burning jeep into the concourse of Glasgow Airport, had been president of the Islamic Society of Queen's University, Belfast. Yassin Nassari, serving three years in jail for terrorism, was president of the Islamic Society of the University of Westminster. Waheed Arafat Khan, arrested in the 2006 Heathrow terror plots that led to Americans having to put their liquids and gels in those little plastic bags, was president of the Islamic Society of London Metropolitan University.
Doesn't this sound like a bigger problem than "al-Qaida," whatever that is? The president has now put citizens of Nigeria on the secondary-screening list. Which is tough on Nigerian Christians, who have no desire to blow up your flight to Detroit. Aside from the highly localized Tamil terrorism of India and Sri Lanka, suicide bombing is a phenomenon entirely of Islam.
The broader psychosis that manifested itself only the other day in an axe murderer breaking into a Danish cartoonist's home to kill him because he objects to his cartoon is, likewise, a phenomenon of Islam. This is not to say (to go wearily through the motions) that all Muslims are potential suicide bombers and axe murderers, but it is to state the obvious – that this "war" is about the intersection of Islam and the West, and its warriors are recruited in the large pool of young Muslim manpower, not in Yemen and Afghanistan so much as in Copenhagen and London.
But the president of the United States cannot say that because he is overinvested in a fantasy – that, if only that Texan moron Bush had read Khalid Sheikh Mohammed his Miranda rights and bowed as low as Obama did to the Saudi king, we wouldn't have all these problems. So now Obama says, "We are at war." But he cannot articulate any war aims or strategy because they would conflict with his illusions. And so we will stagger on, playing defense, pulling more and more items out of our luggage – tweezers, shoes, shampoo, snow globes, suppositories – and reacting to every new provocation with greater impositions upon the citizenry.
You can't win by putting octogenarian nuns through full-body scanners.
All you can do is lose slowly. After all, if you can't even address what you're up against with any honesty, you can't blame the other side for drawing entirely reasonable conclusions about your faintheartedness in taking them on.
After that cringe-making radio interview, Salman Rushdie subsequently told The Times of London that trying to appease his would-be killers and calling for his own book to be withdrawn was the biggest mistake of his life. If only the president of the United States was such a quick study.
Friday, January 08, 2010
Recorded: 1969/01/13, first released on "From Elvis in Memphis"
(Words & Music: Vern Stovall / Bobby George)
There's a long line of mourners
Driving down our little street
Their fancy cars are such a sight to see, oh yea
They're all rich friends who knew you in the scene
And now they've finally brought you
Brought you home to me
When you left you know you told me
That some day you'd be returnin'
In a fancy car, all the town to see, oh yea,
Well now everyone is watching you
You finally had your dream, yea
You're ridin' in a long black limousine
You know the papers told of how you lost your life, oh yea
The party, the party and the fatal crash that night
Well the race along the highway, oh the curve you didn't see
When you're riding in that long black limousine
Through tear filled eyes I watch as you pass by oh yea
A chauffeur, a chauffeur at the wheel dressed up so fine
Well I'll never, I'll never love another
Oh my heart, all my dreams yea, they're with you
In that long black limousine
Yea, yea, they're with you in that long black limousine
Yea, yea, they're with you in that long black limousine
Posted by Chris Herrington on Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 7:00 AM
How do you put together a four-disc introduction to Elvis Presley? Ask my advice, and I'd probably tell you to seek out four separate but almost equally essential discs: Start with The Sun Sessions, which compiles all the essential music (and then some) that Presley recorded in Memphis with Sam Phillips to launch his career. Next comes 30 #1 Hits, the self-descriptive compilation that captures Presley the genius pure singer and mutable pop superstar across a 20-plus-year span. The third choice would be The Memphis Record, a 1987 disc that pulls together the very best of his 1969 Memphis homecoming sessions (initially released across multiple albums and singles). The final pick is a tough one. I'd be tempted to tab Elvis is Back!, the most recent CD issue of Presley's first post-Army LP which also includes the separate singles from those sessions. But really I'd hate to miss out on the casual yet often overpowering live material he recorded for his 1968 "comeback" television special. And you can hear one of those full sets — with no fat — on the 1998 Tiger Man release.
Not bad, but not without problems. Whichever way you go on that fourth disc, you're missing some classic stuff. And even with both there are pockets of material crucial to the Elvis story unrepresented.
A bigger problem is that The Sun Sessions and The Memphis Record are long out of print, replaced in the catalogue by double-disc sets (Sunrise and last year's From Elvis In Memphis reissue, respectively) packed with alternate versions and lesser songs nice for completists but unnecessary for normal everyday listening.
So it isn't easy. But the powers that be at RCA have attempted to tell Presley's story in four discs with Elvis 75: Good Rockin' Tonight, a 100-song boxed set timed to coincide with what would have been Presley's 75th birthday today.
Given all the constant repackaging of the King's catalogue and my own inherent skepticism toward single-artist boxed sets, I'm happy to report that Elvis 75 is not consumer fraud. True, if you already have a pretty full Elvis collection, this probably isn't for you. But if you're starting from scratch or if you're a novice wanting to dig beyond 30 #1 Hits (all but two of which — the admittedly expendable "Wooden Heart" and "Wonder of You" — are included) but don't want to struggle too hard to find those superior out-of-print collections, this is the way to go.
The chronological set hits most of the key periods in Presley's career in acceptable fashion, with one glaring exception (more on this in a bit), and shines new light on some nice moments still not well known. Unlike my cobbled-together four-disc suggestion, it acknowledges passages that are crucial to the Elvis story but not exactly "highlights" — the movie music, Vegas, Hawaii.
Sure, four discs is an awful lot of music for a newcomer or novice to wade through, but in this case it's not overkill. Elvis' career, however disappointing in its well-established way, could hardly be contained by less. Though not tightly thematic, Elvis 75's four discs divide into relatively self-contained segments of Presley's career.
Disc one is the most obvious and most essential, covering the Sun years and his earliest pre-Army work with RCA, first in Nashville (the Sun trip augmented by drums and piano, featuring the breakthrough but somewhat overrated "Heartbreak Hotel"), then New York ("Don't Be Cruel"), and finally Hollywood ("All Shook Up").
The disc contains only six recordings from the Sun sessions, which seems skimpy considering it's both Presley's best and most important work. Though I cherish it, I can understand leaving out the whispery, spooky version of "Blue Moon," but "Tomorrow Night" and "Milkcow Blues Boogie" ("Let's get real, real gone") should really be here.
Elvis Presley on stage at the International in 1969
The second disc starts with some stray pre-Army singles that couldn't fit on the first disc, but really focuses on his post-Army re-entry in the early Sixties, an explosion of rich, diverse recordings he made in Nashville ("Stuck On You," "It's Now or Never," "Crying in the Chapel," "Reconsider Baby").
The third disc opens heavy with pure movie music ("Bossa Nova Baby," "Viva Las Vegas") and reflects Presley's diminishing artistry, featuring only one recording each from 1964 and 1965, when Presley should have been in his prime, but rebounds in the late Sixties with six selections from those "Memphis" sessions. As with Sun, six seems too skimpy, and the absence of Presley's personalized reading of "Long Black Limousine" is a head-scratcher. But even that isn't as questionable as the treatment Elvis 75 gives the "’68 Comeback" special, including only two orchestral selections ("If I Can Dream," "Memories") and not a single example of raw, casual live performances that are among Presley's most compelling music.
The final disc, with no more obvious glories to survey, contains the least essential music — big hits "Burning Love" and "Way Down" — but in pulling together the stray strands of Presley's final years, it's a compelling listen: "Polk Salad Annie" live in Vegas. "Funny How Time Slips Away" in a Nashville studio. "Always on My Mind," an inevitable, towering match of song and singer. Three songs — including a take on Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" — from a little-known 1973 session at Stax.
Though it's hard to imagine leaving "Milkcow Blues Boogie" or "Long Black Limousine" off a 100-song Elvis overview, Elvis 75 is a pretty well executed compilation. If you or someone you know is starting an Elvis collection from scratch, this is now probably the way to go.
By Mona Charen
January 8, 2010
Great swaths of Britain are buried under more than a foot of snow as the country shivers through its coldest winter since 1981. Airports have been shut down, trains have been canceled, and the army had to be called out to rescue more than 1,000 motorists stranded in Hampshire.
In Germany, most of which is also blanketed in white, temperatures have dipped to record lows of -7.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In Norway, reports the AP, the thermometer read -42 F degrees on January 5, the coldest reading since 1987.
The eastern two-thirds of the United States is coping with unusually severe cold. Atlantic, Iowa, posted a temperature of 29 below zero, breaking a record set in 1958. Florida’s $9.3 billion citrus crop hangs in the balance as the coldest weather in years is draping palm fronds with icicles and causing iguanas to drop frozen from the trees.
Could it be global cooling? A Tory MP was jeered for suggesting as much in parliament. If the members had been hooting the unscientific use of particular weather to draw vast conclusions about climate, the derision would have been justified. But the avatars of climate change have been over-interpreting changeable weather for years. So the members were probably just toeing the climate-change party line with their catcalls.
The cold snap has spurred the “warmists” to spin control. Here’s a typical AP headline: “Cold Weather Doesn’t Disprove Global Warming: Experts.” And this from the Voice of America: “Meteorologists: Global Warming and Cold Weather Go Hand-In-Hand.” The World Meteorological Organization is at pains to distinguish between weather and climate. “I think we have to be careful not to interpret any single event as a proof of either warming or the fact that warming has stopped,“ cautioned Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
Ah. Where has he been? As recently as eleven months ago, when brushfires raged across Australia, the “experts” were ready with interpretations. “Why Global Warming May Be Fueling Australia’s Fires,” reported Time magazine. The Huffington Post quoted Neville Nicholls, “an expert on climate change and wildfires” at Australia’s Monash University: “The terrible events of the past couple of weeks are, without doubt, partly the result of global warming and the greenhouse effect.” Can’t have doubt, can we?
CBS’s morning show chimed in with this report from correspondent Daniel Sieberg:
A dire new warning from scientists says the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide is higher than predicted. . . . Scientists say those higher temperatures are fueling the intensity of wildfires, now raging in places like Australia. . . . [It's] a vicious cycle. Each changing ecosystem affecting the other and made worse by human activities. For environmentalists and many others, it's a cycle that needs to be broken. And soon.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, “warmist” gnomes were thick on the ground, inviting us to conclude that Katrina’s deadly force resulted from global warming and that the world was entering an era of fierce storms, fires, and floods — a green apocalypse. Al Gore mentioned Katrina in An Inconvenient Truth, asking, “How in God’s name could that happen here? There had been warnings that hurricanes would get stronger. There were warnings that this hurricane . . . would cause the kind of damage that it ultimately did cause. And one question that we, as a people, need to decide is how we react when we hear warnings from the leading scientists in the world.”
Those scientists (whether they are “leading” or not is a subjective matter) supplied their own panicky conclusions. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that “global warming caused by humans is largely responsible for heating hurricane-forming regions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, probably increasing the intensity of the storms.” The Boston Globe quoted lead scientist Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, “Natural variability doesn’t cut it for the observed ocean temperatures. The study suggests we are responsible.”
Just by the way, the 2009 hurricane season was unusually mild.
For more than a decade now, the climate avengers have seized upon every warm summer, forest fire, hurricane, and tornado to grind their axe. Here’s one last example from the Washington Post exactly two years ago.
Last year was the warmest in the continental United States in the past 112 years — capping a nine-year warming streak 'unprecedented in the historical record' that was driven in part by the burning of fossil fuels, the government reported yesterday. . . . Many researchers are concerned that rising temperatures could lead to widespread melting of the polar ice caps, resulting in higher sea levels and more extreme droughts and storms.
They hooted when a British politician cited the cold weather as evidence of a “cooling trend.” But she learned her “science” from the masters.
— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
January 6, 2010
Someone mentioned Christianity on television recently and liberals reacted with their usual howls of rage and blinking incomprehension.
On a Fox News panel discussing Tiger Woods, Brit Hume said, perfectly accurately:
"The extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, depends on his faith. He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So, my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
Hume's words, being 100 percent factually correct, sent liberals into a tizzy of sputtering rage, once again illustrating liberals' copious ignorance of Christianity. (Also illustrating the words of the Bible: "How is it you do not understand me when I speak? It is because you cannot bear to listen to my words." John 8:43.)
In The Washington Post, Tom Shales demanded that Hume apologize, saying he had "dissed about half a billion Buddhists on the planet."
Is Buddhism about forgiveness? Because, if so, Buddhists had better start demanding corrections from every book, magazine article and blog posting ever written on the subject, which claims Buddhists don't believe in God, but try to become their own gods.
I can't imagine that anyone thinks Tiger's problem was that he didn't sufficiently think of himself as a god, especially after that final putt in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year.
In light of Shales' warning Hume about "what people are saying" about him, I hope Hume's a Christian, but that's not apparent from his inarguable description of Christianity. Of course, given the reaction to his remarks, apparently one has to be a regular New Testament scholar to have so much as a passing familiarity with the basic concept of Christianity.
On MSNBC, David Shuster invoked the "separation of church and television" (a phrase that also doesn't appear in the Constitution), bitterly complaining that Hume had brought up Christianity "out-of-the-blue" on "a political talk show."
Why on earth would Hume mention religion while discussing a public figure who had fallen from grace and was in need of redemption and forgiveness? Boy, talk about coming out of left field!
What religion -- what topic -- induces this sort of babbling idiocy? (If liberals really want to keep people from hearing about God, they should give Him his own show on MSNBC.)
Most perplexing was columnist Dan Savage's indignant accusation that Hume was claiming that Christianity "offers the best deal -- it gives you the get-out-of-adultery-free card that other religions just can't."
In fact, that's exactly what Christianity does. It's the best deal in the universe. (I know it seems strange that a self-described atheist and "radical sex advice columnist faggot" like Savage would miss the central point of Christianity, but there it is.)
God sent his only son to get the crap beaten out of him, die for our sins and rise from the dead. If you believe that, you're in. Your sins are washed away from you -- sins even worse than adultery! -- because of the cross.
"He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross." Colossians 2:14.
Surely you remember the cross, liberals -- the symbol banned by ACLU lawsuits from public property throughout the land?
Christianity is simultaneously the easiest religion in the world and the hardest religion in the world.
In the no-frills, economy-class version, you don't need a church, a teacher, candles, incense, special food or clothing; you don't need to pass a test or prove yourself in any way. All you'll need is a Bible (in order to grasp the amazing deal you're getting) and probably a water baptism, though even that's disputed.
You can be washing the dishes or walking your dog or just sitting there minding your business hating Susan Sarandon and accept that God sent his only son to die for your sins and rise from the dead ... and you're in!
"Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9.
If you do that, every rotten, sinful thing you've ever done is gone from you. You're every bit as much a Christian as the pope or Billy Graham.
No fine print, no "your mileage may vary," no blackout dates. God ought to do a TV spot: "I'm God Almighty, and if you can find a better deal than the one I'm offering, take it."
The Gospel makes this point approximately 1,000 times. Here are a few examples at random:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23.
In a boiling rage, liberals constantly accuse Christians of being "judgmental." No, we're relieved.
Christianity is also the hardest religion in the world because, if you believe Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead, you have no choice but to give your life entirely over to Him. No more sexual promiscuity, no lying, no cheating, no stealing, no killing inconvenient old people or unborn babies -- no doing what all the other kids do.
And no more caring what the world thinks of you -- because, as Jesus warned in a prophecy constantly fulfilled by liberals: The world will hate you.
With Christianity, your sins are forgiven, the slate is wiped clean and your eternal life is guaranteed through nothing you did yourself, even though you don't deserve it. It's the best deal in the universe.
COPYRIGHT 2009 ANN COULTER
Thursday, January 07, 2010
New Music Express
November 2, 2009
Glasvegas have revealed that producer Rick Rubin has invited the band to record the drum parts for their second album in his Los Angeles house.
The four-piece are set to record the follow-up to last year's self-titled debut with Rich Costey, who helmed their first effort. However, frontman James Allan told NME.COM that Rubin, who has produced Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash, Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers, wants some input.
"I'm going to leave all the stuff about which studio to use to Rich Costey but Rick Rubin wants us to record the drums at his house," he explained.
"We were supposed to go over there a few days ago but we've put it off for a couple of weeks because it felt like it was going too well [demoing the album] in Glasgow."
Allan was speaking backstage at an intimate London club gig at the Parker McMillan venue where he and guitarist Rab Allan played an acoustic show on Friday (October 30).
Speaking about the demo sessions he said: "We're working on the new album right now. We've got this small rehearsal room in Glasgow and we've been recording the new album in demo form. I'd like to get the entire album done like that in demo form before going to LA to record it in big studio."
He added that the theme of love was set to dominate the album. "Love gained and love lost," he explained. "The idea of finding love and losing love. I still think I'm clueless when it comes to songwriting and describing how I'm feeling, what I've seen and what comes to me in the middle of the night. But it is an album of love songs. It is a definite follow on from the debut, which also had love songs on it, but was mainly about having aspirations to love."
Boston Globe Columnist
January 6, 2010
PRESIDENT OBAMA is a great admirer of the Mayo Clinic. Time and again he has extolled it as an outstanding model of health care excellence and efficiency.
“Look at what the Mayo Clinic is able to do,’’ the president proclaimed at a rally in September. “It’s got the best quality and the lowest cost of just about any system in the country. . . . We want to help the whole country learn from what Mayo is doing.’’ On the White House website, you can find more than a dozen examples of Obama’s esteem.
So perhaps the president will give some thought to the clinic’s recent decision to stop accepting Medicare payments at its primary care facility in Glendale, Ariz. More than 3,000 patients will have to start paying cash if they wish to continue being seen by doctors at the clinic; those unable or unwilling to do so must look for new physicians. For now, Mayo is limiting the change in policy to its Glendale facility. But it may be just a matter of time before it drops Medicare at its other facilities in Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota as well.
Why would an institution renowned for providing health care of “the best quality and the lowest cost’’ choose to sever its ties with the government’s flagship single-payer insurance program? Because the relationship is one it can’t afford. Last year, the Mayo Clinic lost $840 million on its Medicare patients. At the Glendale clinic, a Mayo spokesman told Bloomberg News, Medicare reimbursements covered only 50 percent of the cost of treating elderly primary-care patients. Not even the leanest, most efficient medical organization can keep doing business with a program that compels it to eat half its costs.
In breaking away from Medicare, the Mayo Clinic is hardly blazing a trail. Back in 2008, the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission reported that 29 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who were looking for a primary-care doctor were having difficulty finding one willing to treat them. A survey by the Texas Medical Association that year found that only 38 percent of the state’s primary-care physicians were accepting new Medicare patients.
But if you think that sounds grim, wait until Congress enacts the president’s health care overhaul. A central element of both the House and Senate versions of ObamaCare is that Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and doctors - already so low that many providers lose money each time they treat a Medicare patient - will be forced lower still.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services, estimated last month that the Senate bill would squeeze $493 billion out of Medicare over the next 10 years. As a result, it cautioned, “providers for whom Medicare constitutes a substantive portion of their business could find it difficult to remain profitable and . . . might end their participation in the program (possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries).’’ In short, the Democratic understanding of health care reform - more government power to set prices, combined with reduced freedom for individuals - will make medical care harder to come by: an Economics 101 lesson in the pitfalls of price controls.
Nearly six months ago, the Mayo Clinic tried to sound an alarm. Instead of making American health care better and more affordable, it warned, the legislation working its way through Congress “will do the opposite’’ and “the real losers will be the citizens of the United States.’’
Each year Medicare loses tens of billions of dollars to fraud and abuse. The program’s long-term deficit is a staggering $38 trillion. Its expenditures have raced ahead of inflation from the day it was created: Medicare’s price tag has skyrocketed from $3 billion in 1966 to $453 billion this year. Yet its reimbursement of medical providers is so meager that more and more of them cannot afford to treat Medicare patients. Whatever else Medicare might be, it is no model for rational reform.
Obama says he wants the country to “learn from what Mayo is doing.’’ What Mayo is doing is trying to provide high-quality medical care in the face of Washington’s compulsively misguided interference. As 3,000 Mayo patients have just learned, government interference can hurt. Ratchet up that interference with ObamaCare, and the pain will grow worse.
Jeff Jacoby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Bruce Bawer
5 January 2010
Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to an article entitled “Eurabian Follies” on the website of the journal Foreign Policy. The author, Justin Vaïsse, took to task several authors, including me, who have warned in recent years of the Islamization of Europe. Vaïsse countered these authors’ mountains of hard facts with a big helping of the usual supercilious sneering. His thesis: Europe is chugging along just fine; Islam poses no real challenge to the continent’s freedom and prosperity; after all, the “experts” say so. Never mind the draining of European welfare systems by Muslim families, the explosion in rapes and gay-bashings and Jew-baitings, the proliferation of honor killings and forced marriages and no-go zones; never mind the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh by fanatics who objected to those men’s positions on Islam; never mind the threats directed at critics of Islam, such as Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Robert Redeker, which have obliged them to live in hiding or with round-the-clock bodyguards.
The timing of Vaïsse’s article was unfortunate—for him, anyway: it appeared around the time of the Christmas Day terrorist attack on Detroit-bound Northwest Flight 253 and the New Year’s Day assassination attempt on Kurt Westergaard, creator of the famous Mohammed-in-a-bomb-turban cartoon published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. (Only a bathroom that had been converted to a panic room in Westergaard’s house saved the artist from an axe-wielding Islamist maniac.) Let’s not even mention the over 1,000 cars torched in French cities on New Year’s Eve, which is becoming an annual tradition among that nation’s Muslim youth.
As it happened, I received the link to Vaïsse’s article on the same day that I discovered that my dear friend Hege Storhaug had once, like Westergaard, been a target of violence, apparently because of her criticism of Islam. Hege is a former journalist and longtime women’s rights activist in Oslo whose concern about the treatment of women and girls in Muslim communities made her a pioneering critic of Islam in Norway. Time and again she has taken extraordinary personal risks to stand up for females who are confined to their homes, who are denied educations and careers, and who are the victims (or potential victims) of honor killing, genital mutilation, forced marriage, and sundry forms of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
In 2006, her book But the Greatest of All Is Freedom: On the Consequences of Immigration became a huge—and controversial—best-seller in Norway. At the time, Hege lived in a neighborhood called Kampen, a part of Oslo that brings to mind the Haight-Ashbury or East Village of the 1960s. Hege notes that after her book began to sell big—and draw harsh media attacks—her neighborhood was papered over with posters featuring a photo of her with an X drawn over her face, along with the slogan NO TO RACISTS IN KAMPEN. Then one day—as Hege revealed in a powerful account posted yesterday on the website of Human Rights Service, the small foundation where she works—one or more people broke into her home, beat her, and left her bruised and unconscious in a pool of blood on the floor. Nothing was stolen. The date was January 1, 2007—three years to the day before the attempted murder of Westergaard.
At first, Hege kept the crime secret, for fear that publicizing it would discourage other critics of Islam from speaking out. Not until a month later did she report the brutal event to the police, and then only after a lawyer friend had secured a guarantee that the report would not be made public. But the steady rise in Muslim violence in Europe, culminating in the Westergaard attack, helped changed her mind about publicly revealing the assault. She also wanted to underscore the fact that many in the media—people like Vaïsse, I might add—were by their see-no-evil approach to the subject encouraging physical attacks on people like her and Westergaard. This state of affairs, she felt, needed to be addressed publicly and its real-world consequences made clear.
The fact is that for years Hege has been the target of a ruthless, tireless, and breathlessly mendacious campaign of criticism by the far-left Norwegian media. She’s become Public Enemy Number One among not only radical Muslims but also Communists, socialists (whose numbers in Norway’s capital are not insignificant), and what Hege calls “organized anti-racists.” These are members of Scandinavia’s many government-funded organizations who claim to be liberal opponents of racism but are in fact largely concerned with defending even the most illiberal aspects of immigrant cultures. Indeed, Hege doesn’t believe that her assailants were Muslims; she suspects that they were far leftists of the sort who proliferate in neighborhoods like Kampen and who have made common cause with European Islamists. Hege is also convinced—as am I—that the media’s concerted effort to identify her as a racist and Islamophobe influenced her attackers. This is not difficult to believe: it was, after all, the Dutch media’s demonization of Fortuyn that helped put him in an early grave instead of in his country’s prime ministership.
In her Monday post, Hege suggested that if all the influential newspapers in Europe had published the Danish cartoons, “it would have been much more difficult to build up the increasingly brutal climate we see now all over Europe: the fact that people are not just the subjects of attacks, and of attempted murder, but are denied virtually all personal freedom in their daily lives, so that Westergaard cannot set foot outside his home without the police on his heels, just as Robert Redeker is living underground in the homeland of Voltaire.” And she asked: “Will Europe manage to set its foot down strongly enough . . . that there will be no doubt that the continent never will give up its founding values? Or will the commentariat and political elite continue to give way, inch by inch . . . ?” Any of us, she warned, can end up a Kurt Westergaard if we dare to speak our minds. But don’t tell that to the “experts” at Foreign Policy.
- Bruce Bawer is the author of Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom. He blogs at brucebawer.com.
Despite the mainstream media’s best efforts to cover up the jihadist elements in both attacks, informed Americans know that Major Nidal Hasan murdered thirteen Americans in a jihad attack at Fort Hood in November, and that another Muslim, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried to explode Northwest Flight 253 as it landed in Detroit in another jihad attack on Christmas Day. But another major recent jihad assault has not been understood as such – although it was a manifestation of exactly the same deadly belief system that motivated Hasan and Abdulmutallab.
Both Hasan and Abdulmutallab were linked to the New Mexico-born, Yemen-based Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who boasted in October 2009 that Yemen would soon become a center of the global jihad – and has been doing his best to bring that about by preaching violence and hatred against Jews and Christians for years.
Al-Awlaki has also recently decried the cartoons of Muhammad that caused worldwide riots after being published in a Danish newspaper in late 2005. He characterized the cartoons as “one of the worst events or incidents of cursing Muhammad. In fact it might be the worst in our history.” He warned that the cartoonists, “by committing blasphemy against our beloved Muhammad have actually walked straight into a hornet’s nest, and that the dust of this will never settle down.”
Indeed, it hasn’t settled down. In Denmark last Friday, as if taking his cue from al-Awlaki’s words, a Muslim man used an axe to smash through the bullet-proof glass front door of the home of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. Entering the house, he began to smash at the steel door of Westergaard’s safe room until finally police arrived and subdued him.
While few Western analysts realized it, in fact the attack on Westergaard was part of the same jihad as that of Hasan and Abdulmutallab. The latter two hoped to gain a place in the Paradise of heavenly virgins that the Koran guarantees to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah (9:111). But insofar as they saw themselves as mujahedin in the classic Islamic mold, they hoped also to weaken and demoralize the Infidel enemy, with an eye toward the ultimate goal of compelling the Infidels to accept the hegemony of Islamic law.
The attack on Westergaard was in service of the same goal. Westergaard’s attacker was outraged that the cartoonist had transgressed the bounds of Islamic law by (as he saw it) mocking Muhammad. Islamic law stipulates that non-Muslims forfeit their lives when they dare to criticize Islam, Allah, or Muhammad. When he swung his axe at Westergaard’s door, this jihadist was doing his part to compel Europe and the West to accept Islamic norms for speech -- or else.
The cartoon controversy thus illustrates the gulf between the Islamic world and the post-Christian West in matters of freedom of speech and expression. Yet as Obama’s America and an equally politically correct Europe continue to pay homage to the idols of tolerance, multiculturalism, and pluralism, they may give up those hard-won freedoms voluntarily. The Flight 253 incident has led to attempts (of widely varying effectiveness) to stiffen airport security and shore up our national defense against violent jihad attacks. In the same way, the axe in Westergaard’s front door ought to lead to robust affirmations of the importance of the freedom of speech as a safeguard against tyranny, and concrete steps to defend and protect that freedom.
Freedom of speech encompasses precisely the freedom to annoy, to ridicule, to offend. If it doesn’t, it is hollow. The instant that any person or ideology is considered off-limits for critical examination and even ridicule, freedom of speech has been replaced by an ideological straitjacket. Westerners seem to grasp this easily when it comes to affronts to Christianity, but the same clarity of thought doesn’t seem to carry over to an Islamic context.
Yet such clarity is needed more than ever. Jihad attacks of all kinds have sharply increased since Barack Obama became President. Obviously his outreach to the Islamic world is taken as weakness and responded to accordingly. It is long past time for him to reverse course – and above all, to see the jihad threat in its totality.
Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)", "The Truth About Muhammad," "Stealth Jihad," and most recently "The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).
By Clifford D. May
January 07, 2010, 0:00 a.m.
A few days of vacation in the Rocky Mountains is a good time to catch up on one’s reading. But if I was looking for escape from the issues on which I spend most of my time, I didn’t find it in Churchill, the brief but penetrating biography by Paul Johnson, who is among the world’s greatest living historians. In particular, Johnson’s account of the 1930s holds up an eerie mirror to the present.
Johnson notes that when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, most Europeans failed to recognize either the nature or the gravity of the threat. Winston Churchill — retired soldier, popular writer, not very popular politician — was the exception. He understood that unless free peoples acted decisively, they would come under attack, sooner or later.
Churchill was derided as an alarmist, or even a “warmonger.” The well-known economist John Maynard Keynes argued that Hitler had legitimate grievances, in particular the unjust Versailles Treaty that had held Germany down since the conclusion of the first great war of the 20th century. Clifford Allen, a prominent British politician, “applauded Hitler,” saying: “I am convinced he genuinely desires peace.” Archbishop Temple of York agreed. Hitler had made “a great contribution to the secure establishment of peace,” he said.
Today, of course, it is the ruling Islamists of Iran who candidly express their aggressive and even genocidal intentions. In speeches and sermons, they pledge to wipe Israel off the map, and vow to bring about “a world without America.” For three decades, “Death to America!” has been the regime’s rallying cry, inscribed on the sides of missiles whose range and accuracy increase year after year.
And once again, those who would take these threats seriously and act decisively are dismissed as alarmists, or denigrated as warmongers by foreign-policy mandarins. Once again, they insist that grievances must be addressed: Did not the CIA meddle in Iranian domestic politics in the 1950s? With American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, don’t Iran’s rulers have cause for concern?
In the 1930s, the Nazis bought heavy weapons from Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator, who could not imagine that Hitler would use those weapons against him a few years later.
Iran’s Khomeinists have been working feverishly to acquire nuclear weapons and the means to protect and deliver them. They have had little difficulty buying what they can’t develop on their own from Russia, as well as from Western European countries whose leaders have persuaded themselves that a nuclear-armed Iran will be someone else’s problem.
Hitler made common cause with Fascists in Italy and Spain, and with the militarists in Japan. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has established close alliances with such anti-American leftist strongmen as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.
Iran’s war machine includes Hizbollah, which has developed not just as an armed militia inside Lebanon but also as an international terrorist proxy. Our intelligence community appears to know little about Tehran’s relations with al-Qaeda. But there can be no doubt that Shia militants and Sunni militants collaborate on occasion against their common enemies. The recent revelation that Osama bin Laden’s closest relatives — including one of his wives, six of his children, and eleven of his grandchildren — have been living in a compound outside Tehran provides additional evidence, if any were needed.
Johnson recounts that in 1930s Britain, the elites wanted to “leave everything to the League of Nations.” As German military strength grew, such top British government officials as Anthony Eden insisted that the armies of the United Kingdom and France should not expand, as Churchill urged, but should shrink instead, in order “to secure for Europe that period of appeasement which is needed.”
Finally, in 1938, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain engaged the German Führer — “supreme leader” would be a reasonable translation of that title — at Munich, returning home to announce that through his diplomatic efforts common ground had been found, and that “peace in our time” had been assured.
Churchill saw through this fog of self-deception. Chamberlain’s diplomacy, he said, had resulted in “total and unmitigated defeat.” Churchill anticipated that the nations of Central and Eastern Europe would recognize how weak the democracies had become and “make the best terms they can with the triumphant Nazi power.” Hitler would then absorb those nations, and “sooner or later he will begin to look westward.”
Today, foreign-policy elites want to rely on the United Nations — which is more corrupt and dysfunctional than the League of Nations ever was. President Obama continues to extend his hand to Iran’s rulers, apparently not perceiving the significance when a spokesman for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calls it “the hand of Satan in a new sleeve,” and — adding racist insult to injury — tells the world: “The Great Satan now has a black face.”
Adjustments are being made in the Middle East. In recent days, Ali Larijani, a top aide to Khamenei, has met with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Turkey’s leaders have signed multiple agreements with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who serves Khamenei, much as Mussolini served Hitler.
Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri has just spent two days with Assad. He paid this visit, noted journalist Michael J. Totten, with
Hizbullah’s bayonet in his back. Assad’s regime assassinated Saad Hariri’s father, Rafik, in 2005. There is no alternate universe where Saad Hariri is okay with this or where his generically "positive" statements at a press conference were anything other than forced. . . . When Hariri went to Damascus, everyone in the country, aside from useless newswire reporters, understood it meant Syria has re-emerged as the strong horse in Lebanon.
The United States, Europe, the U.N. — all had vowed that Hariri’s murderers would be brought to justice. But they haven’t been. The “international community” pledged it would not permit political benefit to derive from assassinations ordered in foreign capitals. But that’s exactly what has been permitted — and licensed for the future.
After Munich, Churchill experienced moments of intense despair. In the past, he wrote to a friend, “the peace-loving powers have been definitely stronger than the Dictators, but next year we must expect a different balance.” Indeed, he said, the democracies were unlikely to survive “unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”
Today, taking a stand for freedom would require less. We would need to impose serious sanctions on Iran: A strong bipartisan majority in Congress already has voted for legislation that would put that arrow into Obama’s quiver. The question is: Will he use it?
In addition, it would be useful to provide — at long last — moral and material support to Iran’s courageous anti-regime dissidents. Measures could be taken to isolate and ostracize those most responsible for Iran’s oppression at home and terrorism abroad: the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which may be seen as a kind of Iranian Gestapo. Military measures should remain on the table, in case all peaceful means of restraint prove inadequate.
In the end, Johnson’s Churchill is inspiring and distressing. Inspiring because Churchill was, finally, vindicated. The Anglo-American alliance recovered its “moral health and martial vigor” and took its stand for freedom. Hitler and the Nazis were decisively defeated. But it’s distressing because Churchill’s spirit is so little in evidence these days, while the views and values of his detractors echo in the speeches of too many Western policy makers.
Just after Sept. 11, 2001, the British government loaned the White House a bronze bust of Churchill created by the great sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein. Not long after he entered the Oval Office, President Obama sent it back.
— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.
© Scripps Howard News Service
The American Spectator
The canard that poverty causes terrorism just won't die. It was one thing when Nation writer David Corn and others connected the two back in 2002. The liberal default position is that poverty causes crime. It was an instant knee-jerk reaction after 9/11. But by now we all ought to know better. Except, the theory is still being peddled despite the lack of evidence to support it.
On Monday the Times of London, citing analysts, reported: "'Orchard of fighters' grows out of poverty and mistrust in Yemen."
Last week, President Obama said of the Christmas bomber, "We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies."
Yemen's crushing poverty? Abdul Mutallab isn't even Yemeni; he is Nigerian, and an affluent one, at that. Apparently, the president is suggesting that poor, unsuspecting Abdul Mutallab wound up in Yemen and was radicalized by Muslims there who were themselves radicalized by Yemen's "crushing poverty." Why mention it if that is not the general theory he is putting forth?
Yet there is a little problem with that theory. According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe is 11 times poorer than Yemen. Yet no Zimbabwean national has been caught trying to blow up U.S. airliners. There's a simple reason for that. Less than 1 percent of the population of Zimbabwe is Muslim.
Despite Zimbabwe's crushing poverty, al Qaeda has almost no one to radicalize and recruit there. In Yemen, an almost entirely Muslim nation, al Qaeda's pickings are easier.
The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and continue to do so today are not the radical poor. They're radical Muslims.
Consider this list of known al-Qaeda terrorists, and find what links all of them:
• Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (pictured at right) was a mechanical engineer
• Mohammed Atta grew up in a middle class household; his father was an attorney.
• Ramzi Binalshibh was a bank clerk.
• Mohammed Atef was an Egyptian police officer.
• Marwan al-Shehhi was a soldier studying in Germany on an Army scholarship.
• Ziad Jarrah came from a wealthy Lebanese family and attended private, Christian schools.
• Abdulaziz Alomari graduated with honors from his Saudi high school and went on to graduate from college.
• Wail M. Alshehri was a Saudi P.E. teacher and university student.
• Waleed M. Alshehri, also a student, was Wail's brother. Their father was a prominent Saudi tribal leader.
• Zacarias Moussaoui, the "20th hijacker," had an MA in international business studies.
• Major Malik Nadal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, was a psychiatrist.
• Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the underwear bomber, was the son of a bank chairman.
• Hammam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, who killed eight CIA agents in Afghanistan last month, was a physician.
A few of the "muscle hijackers" on 9/11 might have qualified as poor. Richard Reid, too, although his father was a career criminal, so poverty can hardly take all the blame in his case. But most of the 9/11 hijackers and other al Qaeda terrorists who have tried to attack the United States cannot be classified as poor.
When looking for one factor that unites all al Qaeda operatives, it is clearly not poverty. Al Qaeda's terrorists cannot be connected based on their family or personal income. The one commonality they all share is an adherence to radical Islam. (The emergence of female suicide bombers in Iraq eliminates the other commonality, that prior to that all were male.)
The absence of a causal link between poverty and terrorism goes well beyond al Qaeda, too. In 2004, Harvard professor Alberto Abadie published a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research called "Poverty, Political Freedom, and the Root Causes of Terrorism." He decided to include domestic as well as international terrorism to make his study as broad as possible. He concluded that "the risk of terrorism is not significantly higher for poorer countries." However, "a country's level of political freedom better explains the presence of terrorism."
If the left advocated overturning despotic regimes as a strategy for eliminating one of the "root causes of terrorism," it would have a much better argument. There is a clear link between political freedom and terrorism. But President Bush made a similar case, so the left won't touch that argument. Boxed in by political correctness and with nowhere left to go, the left defaults to its old scapegoat, poverty. Alas, there isn't a shred of truth to the claim that poverty is a root cause of terrorism.
Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
The Chicago Tribune
January 6, 2010 2:00 PM
Andre Dawson was one happy former Cub on Wednesday.
A jump of 59 votes from 2009 got Dawson into baseball's Hall of Fame in his ninth year on the ballot. Dawson, the only player elected this year, was thrilled.
"The wait isn't a big factor in the scheme of things,'' Dawson said. "You get frustrated when people say, 'When are you going to get in,' and you don't have an answer for that. As I sit here now, I think it was well worth the wait. ... One thing my mama always said is it's going to happen one day, just be ready when it happens.''
Dawson, who finished 44 votes short a year ago when Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were elected, was named on 420 of 539 ballots in this year's Baseball Writers Association of America election -- good for 77.9 percent of the vote.
Dawson played with the Cubs in 1987-92, winning NL MVP honors in '87. He was an eight-time All-Star and won eight Gold Gloves. But because he never played on a World Series champion, little in baseball made Dawson happier than his election to the Hall.
Dawson was almost joined by two others. Pitcher Bert Blyleven received 400 votes, only five less than needed, and first-ballot candidate and former White Sox second baseman Roberto Alomar was named on 397 ballots, eight short. That suggests that both will be elected in the future, most likely in 2011.
"This is a beautiful day for Andre Dawson,'' Blyleven told the MLB Network. "I'm surprised Roberto Alomar didn't make it. Hopefully my time is coming."
Alomar was followed by pitcher Jack Morris with 282 (52.3 percent). Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin was on 278 ballots (51.6 percent), followed by reliever Lee Smith at 255 (47.3 percent) and Edgar Martinez at 195 (36.2 percent).
"I feel disappointed, but next year hopefully I make it in," Alomar said from his home in New York. "At least I was close."
Mark McGwire received 128 votes (23.7 percent), 10 more than last year and matching the total from his first two times on the ballot.
Dawson came to Chicago in grand fashion, giving the Cubs the chance to sign him for a blank check after he languished on a free-agent market that was later judged by an arbitrator to have been manipulated by owners. He was among the players receiving damages from those collusion findings.
Dawson becomes the 46th Cub elected to the Hall of Fame. This will mark the fifth induction in the last seven years with a Cubs connection, following the election of Dennis Eckersley in 2004, Ryne Sandberg in '05, Bruce Sutter in '06 and Goose Gossage in '08.
Dawson will be inducted July 25 at Cooperstown along with manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey, elected last month by the Veterans Committee.
Former White Sox icon Harold Baines can take some stock in remaining on the Hall of Fame ballot for the fifth year. He received 33 votes, which was 6.1 percent of the ballot. Five percent is necessary to stay on the ballot.
Robin Ventura (7 votes), Ellis Burks (2 votes) and Eric Karros (2 votes) were on the ballot for the first time, and didn't receive enough support to return to the ballot in 2011
Andre Dawson receives just due with Hall of Fame election
Outfield great won MVP award with Chicago Cubs in 1987
The Chicago Tribune
January 7, 2010
Andre Dawson steals third (part of a double steal) ahead of the throw to Expos third baseman Tim Wallach at Wrigley Field. (Ed Wagner, Jr., Chicago Tribune)
Never one to sweat the details, Andre Dawson is happily on his way to Cooperstown.
A man who generated respect along with run production throughout his 21-year career, six of his most satisfying seasons coming when he was based at Wrigley Field, Dawson will take his place in the Hall of Fame alongside Ryne Sandberg, who like "The Hawk" knew Wrigley before there were lights.
There was never a real question of Dawson's Hall of Fame worthiness -- anyone who saw him dominate the National League with the Cubs and Montreal Expos knew he had earned his spot among baseball's greats. The question was how long he would have to wait, and that finally was answered Wednesday.
Dawson, whose signing with the Cubs in 1987 was one of the most amazing stories in team history, was more gracious than he needed to be on the subject of hard-to-convince voters.
"The wait isn't a big factor in the scheme of things," said Dawson, 55, who was a huge fan favorite on the North Side. "You get frustrated when people say, 'When are you going to get in?' and you don't have an answer for that. As I sit here now, I think it was well worth the wait."
One of the best outfielders of his generation, and one of nine players to win a National League Most Valuable Player Award playing for the Cubs, Dawson had to wait through eight annual disappointments before getting the good news Wednesday from the Baseball Writers Association of America. An increase of 59 votes to 420 of the 539 cast got him beyond the 75-percent threshold that is the Hall of Fame's standard.
Though no other players were elected -- Bert Blyleven fell five votes short of the 405 needed and Roberto Alomar eight -- Dawson won't go into the Hall on July 25 alone -- the Veterans Committee last month selected manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey.
Dawson, who retired after the 1996 season, didn't seem to mind the nine-ballot judgment once he knew it was over. In fact, during a conference call with voters, it was Dawson who apologized. He told writers from Chicago and Montreal he was sorry for having kept them waiting so long after games for his comments.
When Dawson kept reporters waiting, he wasn't being rude. He was consistently one of the last players out of the training room, seemingly always nursing knees that were damaged so badly on the highway-firm artificial turf of Montreal's Olympic Stadium that he first pondered retirement in 1980, when he was only 26.
"I almost quit the game after four years because I had a fractured knee," said Dawson, who would play long enough to pile up 438 home runs, 1,591 runs batted in and 314 stolen bases. "My wife sat me down, said, 'This is not something you need to do. You will regret it in a year or two. Whatever you need to do to correct it, you need to do.' ... I always was lucky to have people around me who told me what I needed to hear."
A big-leaguer at 22, Dawson would slug his way to the MVP award he won on a last-place Cubs team in 1987. But he was so much more than a slugger at the start of his career.
While helping the Expos' franchise establish itself, he was a true five-tool player. He could win games by stealing bases or throwing out runners with his strong right arm. How many people remember that he won half of his eight Gold Glove awards playing center field? He moved to right field only when a kid named Tim Raines arrived from the Expos' rich pipeline of amateur talent.
Dawson's signing with the Cubs on the eve of the 1987 season is one of the most amazing stories in franchise history. He had languished on the free-agent market so long that offseason that he authorized his agent, Dick Moss, to let Cubs general manager Dallas Green fill in the salary on a "blank-check" contract.
"For me, it wasn't about a monetary issue," Dawson said. "It was about respect."
Because no teams had stepped up to sign Dawson or any of the other top free agents that year, Moss let the Cubs know that Dawson would play for whatever figure they offered. He has a solid recollection of his negotiations with Green.
"He called me, said he had gone through (the contract) with his attorneys and that there didn't seem to be any questions about it (being valid), but that the best they could do was offer you $500,000. I said that's perfectly fine, when can I report? He paused for a moment -- I can only speculate what he was doing then -- and said I'll get back to you. He called me back an hour later and said welcome aboard."
An arbitrator later ruled that free-agent market to have been manipulated by owners, and Dawson was among the players receiving damages from those collusion findings. He went on to lead the NL with 49 homers and 137 runs batted in for the Cubs, who finished in last place with a 76-85 record.
You couldn't blame Dawson for the ending of that story.
But he gets all the credit for the latest one, which finally is receiving the final chapter it deserves.
Dawson loomed large in era that produced few legendary players
By Joe Posnanski>INSIDE BASEBALL
January 7, 2010
Andre Dawson is one of three players, along with Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, with more than 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases.
This will be about Andre Dawson, the one player chosen this year by the Baseball Writers Association for the Hall of Fame, but there has to be a bit of set up first. I have this feeling that Dawson's induction this year -- and Jim Rice's induction last year and Jack Morris' climb up the charts -- has something to do with childhood and heroes.
There are much deeper emotions tied to the Baseball Hall of Fame, I think, then for the other Halls. Questions like why Otis Taylor is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- or Jerry Kramer or Ray Guy or Jim Tyrer or Drew Pearson or Bob Kuechenberg or L.C. Greenwood or Chuck Howley or Randy Gradishar -- don't seem to excite the masses. I suspect most people think that at least some of those players ARE in the Hall of Fame.
Same is true in basketball. If I gave you a list of 10 people -- Jim Boeheim, Artis Gilmore, Gail Goodrich, Bill Packer, Jack Sikma, Eddie Sutton, Nate Thurmond, Willis Reed, Dick Vitale, Buck Williams -- you would probably have a hard time picking the five who are in and the five who are out.*
*In case you care (and didn't know off the top of your head):
In: Boeheim, Goodrich, Thurmond, Reed, Vitale.
Out: Gilmore, Packer, Sikma, Sutton, Williams.
But baseball is different. There have been groups trying to get Shoeless Joe Jackson into the Hall of Fame for about a half century, and you can expect there will be people trying to get Pete Rose into the Hall (and keep him out) forever. There have been millions of words caught in the World Wide Web about why Bert Blyleven absolutely does and does not belong in the Hall of Fame, and not only Blyleven but also Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Ron Santo, Mark McGwire, Dick Allen, Charlie Keller, Marvin Miller, Dr. Frank Jobe, Bill James and the San Diego Chicken.
Emotion. But why? I suppose that part of it is that baseball probably is more connected to its history than other sports. That's obvious. I suppose that part of it is that baseball is such a number driven sport and so it's more tempting to compare players through the decades. I'm not sure how anyone other than the great Dr. Z could compare Jerry Kramer to Will Shields. I'm not sure how you can legitimately compare Scottie Pippen to Bob Pettit.
But I can tell very easily -- and from a thousand different angles -- compare the numbers of Johan Santana and Lefty Grove. I can adjust those numbers to period. I can factor in their ballparks. Baseball just FEELS comparable in ways that other sports do not.
I think that leads into the main point ... something about timelessness and childhood and heroes. Baseball (alone, I think, among big-time American sports) can give a child the illusion that he/she is watching the sport at it's very best -- better than it was ever played before, better than it will ever be played again. I don't think that children of the 1950s or 1960s or 1970s can honestly say that the quality of football was BETTER then than it is now. I mean the players were so much smaller and slower than now. Same goes with basketball. The golfers of the 1960s may have been better than he golfers now, but they were using much different equipment and playing much shorter courses. The tennis players of the 1970s may have been more fun, but with their wood rackets and Pong-like rallies, they were playing a very different game from today.*
*I remember once, during a recent U.S. Open, they showed an old match between (I believe) Tracy Austin and Chris Evert. I think it was Austin in the studio, and she was so taken aback by how slowly the ball floated back and forth she actually shouted "Hit the ball!"
But baseball endures. Many people will tell you that Babe Ruth was the best player in baseball history -- well, he retired in 1935, the year "electronic television" was unveiled. Many people will tell you that the best pure hitter in baseball history was Ted Williams -- and he fought in World War II and in Korea.* Maybe people will tell you the best all-around player was Willie Mays, and he played long enough ago that he actually started his professional career in the Negro Leagues. Then again, it might be Oscar Charleston who played his WHOLE career in the Negro Leagues.
*Some say the best pure hitter was Ty Cobb, who started his career when Teddy Roosevelt was present.
Yes, baseball bows to its history -- and it allows us to stay forever young. It allows times to stand still. Here, for example, were the Top 25 players of the 20th Century according to the Society of Baseball Research (this was done in 1999) -- I try to break them up by the time period when they were stars:
1900-1914 (5): Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young.
1915-1929 (4): Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker, Grover Cleveland Alexander.
1930-1944 (4): Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Bob Feller.
1945-1954 (3): Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn (Yogi Berra at 26).
1955-1964 (3): Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle (Ernie Banks at 27).
1965-1974 (5): Bob Gibson, Johnny Bench, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Frank Robinson.
1975-1999 (1): Mike Schmidt.
That's it. One guy in the last 25 years. Now, of course, it's tough to judge the time you are living in -- and I'm sure that if we extended things to 2009, the group would put Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Barry Bonds in the Top 25, maybe Pedro Martinez, maybe Rickey Henderson and Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs up or near the top. But it is instructive that when the century ended, the general feeling was that 24 of the 25 best players played long ago. There were not, apparently, too many living legends.
The lull of great players seems at its apex from about 1975 to 1987 or so -- which just so happens to be my childhood. The truth is, there just weren't many legendary players during my childhood -- no Ruth, no Mays, no Feller, no Gibson, no Williams. Mike Schmidt was great -- he is pretty widely viewed as the best third baseman ever -- and George Brett was an all-timer though he got hurt a lot and Joe Morgan was for a time the best player in the game though many of his skills were so subtle that people missed them. Eddie Murray was so steady, that's what people called him. Steve Carlton and Jim Palmer were terrific pitchers.
But mostly it was a time for disappointment. Mark Fidrych got hurt. Dave Parker got involved with drugs. Dale Murphy inexplicably faded. So did George Foster. Don Mattingly's back went out. Fred Lynn was never quite the same after he left Fenway Park. Ron Guidry's body could not hold up. J.R. Richard had a stroke. On and on and on -- Pedro Guerrero, Darryl Strawberry, Jeff Burroughs, Dwight Gooden, Vida Blue, Eric Davis. All these guys and more looked like potential legends. And, for one reason or another, it didn't quite work out.
Well, wait a minute: We can't just accept that, can we? I mean: This is what I mean about baseball and childhood. We cannot just accept that, for various reasons, our time was devoid of legends. Our parents had Willie, Mickey and the Hank, their parents had Williams and DiMaggio and Musial, their parents had Gehrig and Ruth and Hornsby. Our kids had Bonds and Maddux and Unit and Pedro and Pujols. Where were our legends?
And I think that's why the last few Hall of Fame ballots have been about how we want to remember our time. Bruce Sutter was elected in 2006 -- you probably know he pitched the fewest innings of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame including Babe Ruth. His career is virtually indistinguishable from Dan Quisenberry, who pitched at the same time and got no Hall of Fame support. But we REMEMBERED Sutter as fearsome, overwhelming, a legend of his time.
Last year, Jim Rice was elected. There are at least a dozen outfielders with similar or better careers who never came close to the Hall of Fame -- including his teammate Dwight Evans. And Rice put up his numbers in large part because he played half his games at Fenway Park when it was a savage hitters park. He hit 40 points higher and slugged almost 100 points higher at home. But no matter: We REMEMBERED him as fearsome, overwhelming, a legend of his time.
Every year, Jack Morris gets more and more support -- he moved past the magical 50 percent mark this year. Never mind that his 3.90 ERA would be the highest in the Hall of Fame. We REMEMBER him as fearsome, overwhelming, a legend of his time.
And finally: Andre Dawson. There is absolutely no question that Dawson at his best was a sight to behold. He hit home runs. He stole bases. He charged after fly balls with fury. He threw like Clemente. Before his knees went bad -- I'd say from about 1979 to 1983 -- he was the closest thing we had to Clemente. He was playing in Montreal at the time, and we as a nation did not get to see him play much -- but we saw enough. Dawson in those younger days was awesome.
And then, the knees did go bad -- probably from those years playing on that miserable Montreal turf. And he stopped being quite so awesome. Yes, in 1987 he gave the Chicago Cubs a blank contract and told them to fill in the numbers, and then he played as if possessed and mashed 49 home runs and drove in 137 runs. The baseball writers were so awed they gave Dawson the MVP even though the Cubs were in last place. The managers gave Dawson the Gold Glove even though he couldn't move anymore. That was nice.
But, no, Dawson probably wasn't a great player by then. The numbers were part illusion -- the ball was juiced that year and so was Wrigley Field. He was 12th in the league in OPS+. On the road, he hit .246. Well, he was just not the player he had been. Dawson hit for lower batting averages and hardly ever walked in those days and so his on-base percentages were annually below even the league average. But it's like his defenders would shout later: "Who cares about on-base percentage?" Or: "If the Hawk wanted to walk, he could have walked, that wasn't his job." Or: "You just had to see him play."
Dawson never stopped playing hard, and he always had that aura. He was the Hawk. We needed him. Our TIME needed him.
And so now he's in the Hall of Fame, and even though I did not vote for him I'm very happy for him. I'm happy for my childhood. Dawson at his best was a truly great player. And that's the way we want to remember him ... and our childhood.
By Jonah Goldberg
January 06, 2010, 0:00 a.m.
Almost exactly ten years ago, I boarded a Northwest Airlines plane in Minneapolis. As I started toward my veal-pen seat in steerage, I saw the faces of the preboarded aristocrats in business class. But before I could glare at them with proletarian rage and envy, I heard a loud bang and felt a sharp pain on the top of my head. Everyone looked to see what the sound was; even the two flight attendants chatting like village women around the well broke off their no-doubt-vital conversation.
The source of the preflight disturbance? I’d smacked my enormous gourd of a head on a television hanging from the ceiling above the center aisle that hadn’t been stowed for boarding. I lifted my hand to my scalp and drew back a palm glistening with fresh blood.
The response from the flight attendants? A shrug from one and the faint hint of a chuckle from another. They went back to their conversation. Dumbfounded, I proceeded to my seat to nurse my head wound, fuming over the fact that customer service at even the most rancid highway-rest-stop taco joint requires providing a moist towelette for seeping head wounds.
It’s not the worst flight-from-hell story. Heck, it’s not even my worst flight-from-hell story. So what’s my point?
Well, for starters, it’s a small reminder that flying before 9/11 was already awful, and it has only become worse.
Over the weekend, an idiot walked the wrong way through a secure exit for arriving passengers at Newark airport. An entire terminal was shut down so that everybody on the “sterile” side of the security barriers could be herded back out and rescreened. The entire process took just under seven hours. The cascading delays disrupted air travel worldwide. They didn’t even catch the doofus who caused the ruckus. No doubt, if they’d announced his location over the paging system, he’d have been drawn and quartered by a mob of traveling salesmen from 3M and a gaggle of middle-school girls returning from a volleyball tournament.
Now, I should back up. When I referred to the “sterile” side of the security barrier, I was using the term narrowly, to refer to folks who’d been through the metal detectors. Because to use the word “sterile” in its usual context in a sentence with “airports” — those belching Petri dishes of bathroom effluence and unidentifiable noisome miasma — would be a grotesque abrogation of journalistic trust.
According to the latest epidemiological research, airports reside somewhere between no-frills Haitian brothels and Penn State fraternity bathrooms when it comes to hygiene. USA Today recently surveyed the health-inspection records of airport restaurants and found that serious code violations were as commonplace as rat and mouse droppings; 77 percent of 35 restaurants reviewed at Reagan National Airport had at least one major violation.
I could go on, of course. The petty humiliations, the routine deceptions from airline employees desperate to rid themselves of troublesome travelers (“Oh, they can definitely help you at the gate!”), the stress-position seats, the ever-changing rules for what can and cannot be in your carry-on, being charged for food that the Red Cross would condemn if it were served at Gitmo: Air travel is the most expensive unpleasant experience in everyday life outside the realm of words ending in -oscopy.
And speaking of unwelcome intrusions, the current debate over the “underwear bomber” is important and necessary, but it is detached from basic reality. To listen to the experts, the only relevant choice is between privacy and security. But the average person already understands that privacy is something you have to compromise to fly. The white zone has been for unloading your dignity and civil liberties for generations. This isn’t to say that retaining what’s left of our privacy isn’t an important priority. But I, for one, would gladly sacrifice more privacy in exchange for more decency and efficiency. As it stands, Shlomo Dror, an Israeli air-security expert, had it right in 2002 when he said: “The United States does not have a security system; it has a system for bothering people.”
Public-private partnerships are all the rage these days. Progressives insist the judicious application of regulations, the cooperation of “responsible” corporations, and the acquiescence of the American people are all that’s needed to deliver everything from high-quality and affordable health care to “green” cars that run on little more than love for mother Earth.
No realm of American life is as auspiciously fecund with precisely such conditions as air travel. So — put up or shut up.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
By Pamela Geller
The Washington Times
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
"The Europe as you know it from visiting, from your parents or friends is on the verge of collapsing," Geert Wilders said in a speech in the United States last year.
The leader of the Netherlands' populist Party for Freedom added: "We are now witnessing profound changes that will forever alter Europe's destiny and might send the Continent in what Ronald Reagan called 'a thousand years of darkness.' " And not just Europe, but America as well.
Been to Europe lately? Thought it was bad? You ain't seen nothing yet. The passage of the Lisbon Treaty, hailed by President Obama, nailed the coffin shut on national sovereignty in Europe. The people of Europe fought it, but were overwhelmed by their political elites and the lack of American leadership in this age of our rather Marxist, collectivist U.S. president.
Come Jan. 1, 2010, a disastrous and suicidal pact called the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Europe/Mediterranean) goes into effect with little fanfare or examination. It boggles the mind that such a consequential and seismic cultural shift could be mandated and put into play without so much as a murmur from the mainstream media.
Why should Americans care about this? Americans have to care because this global gobbledygook is coming to our shores, thanks to our globalist president.
The European human rights group called Stop the Islamization of Europe (SIOE) has been working tirelessly to expose the mass Muslim immigration plan of the Euro-Med Partnership.
A statement on the SIOE Web site criticizes the secrecy of the process: "It was shocking to hear about the plans and at the same time knowing that Danish politicians and a [cowardly] Danish press - who is otherwise proud to be critical - has told nothing to the Danish people about this project which begins in January.
This also showed clearly at the conference. Only very few politicians showed up and no media. Those politicians who showed up had obviously never heard about the Euro-Mediterranean project.
The goal of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation is to create a new Greater European Union encompassing both Europe and North Africa, with the Mediterranean Sea becoming a domestic Eurabian sea. The goal is to establish a "comprehensive political partnership," including a "free trade area and economic integration"; "considerably more money for the partners" (that is, more European money flowing into North Africa); and "cultural partnership" - that is, importation of Islamic culture into post-Christian Europe.
According to the SIOE, in the Euro-Med plan "Europe is to be islamized. Democracy, Christianity, European culture and Europeans are to be driven out of Europe. Fifty million North Africans from Muslim countries are to be imported into the EU."
Skeptical? It's already happening. The British newspaper the Daily Express reported in October 2008 on "a controversial taxpayer-funded 'job centre' " that opened in Mali at that time as "just the first step towards promoting 'free movement of people in Africa and the EU.' Brussels economists claim Britain and other EU states will 'need' 56 million immigrant workers between them by 2050 to make up for the 'demographic decline' due to falling birthrates and rising death rates across Europe."
To offset this decline, a "blue card" system is to be created that will allow card holders to travel freely within the European Union and have full rights to work - as well as the full right to collect welfare benefits.
A Muslim population from Africa moving freely into Europe threatens America. On Christmas Day, a Nigerian Muslim flew from Amsterdam to Detroit and tried to explode a bomb on the plane - after he was allowed to board the plane without a passport. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership will make jihad attacks like this one all the easier.
And once in Europe, Muslims have already begun demanding special privileges and accommodations. IslamOnline reported on Dec. 21 that "Muslims activists from 26 European countries have come together to launch the first rights council to enlighten European Muslims about their rights, monitor rising Islamophobia and defend Muslim rights in European courts of law."
Ali Abu Shwaima, a Muslim leader in Italy, explained: "We think European human rights groups are not doing enough to defend the rights of Muslims. Therefore we thought that we need this new council, especially that all laws and constitutions in Europe respect freedom of religion and oppose all forms of discrimination and racism."
"Islamophobia," "discrimination" and "racism" are all terms Muslims in Europe and America use to confuse people into thinking that the perpetrators of Islamic terrorism are the real victims. And it is working: Mr. Wilders is going on trial in the Netherlands, instead of all the Islamic hate sponsors he is fighting against. It has to be this way, to increase harmony among the Muslim and non-Muslim member states of the Euro-Med Partnership.
This internationalism is already destroying what has made Europe free and great. And now Mr. Obama seems to want to do the same to America.
Pamela Geller is the editor and publisher of the Atlas Shrugs Web site. She is the author (with Robert Spencer) of the forthcoming book "The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America" (Simon and Schuster, July 2010).
By David Hogberg
5 January 2009
In his 1988 book Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky, Paul Johnson wrote that one of the lessons of the 20th century was “beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice.”
Not long after Johnson released his book, economist Thomas Sowell appeared on the C-SPAN program Booknotes. The host, Brian Lamb, asked Sowell what his next book would focus on, and he said he was considering writing about intellectuals. When Lamb asked how his book would be different from Johnson’s, Sowell threatened, “Mine would not be as generous as his.”
With his new work, Intellectuals and Society, Sowell has finally made good on his 20-year-old promise to write about intellectuals. He has also made good on his threat. Sowell takes aim at the class of people who influence our public debate, institutions, and policy. Few of Sowell’s targets are left standing at the end, and those who are stagger back to their corner, bloody and bruised.
What makes Intellectuals and Society even more withering than Johnson’s historical-biographical work is that Sowell approaches his subject as an economist, analyzing the incentives and constraints intellectuals face. Sowell defines intellectuals as an occupation, as people whose “work begins and ends with ideas.” This includes academics, especially those in the humanities and social sciences, policy wonks, and, to a certain extent, journalists. This distinguishes them from occupations in which the work begins with ideas and ends with the application of ideas. Physicians or engineers usually start with ideas about how to approach their work, but eventually they have to put them into practice by treating patients or constructing bridges.
As a result, intellectuals are free from one of the most rigorous constraints facing other occupations: external standards. An engineer will ultimately be judged on whether the structures he designs hold up, a businessman on whether he makes money, and so on. By contrast, the ultimate test of an intellectual’s ideas is whether other intellectuals “find those ideas interesting, original, persuasive, elegant, or ingenious. There is no external test.” If the intellectuals are like-minded, as they often are, then the validity of an idea depends on what those intellectuals already believe. This means that an intellectual’s ideas are tested only by internal criteria and “become sealed off from feedback from the external world of reality.”
An intellectual’s reputation, then, depends not on whether his ideas are verifiable but on the plaudits of his fellow intellectuals. That the Corvair was as safe as any other car on the road has not cut into Ralph Nader’s speaking fees, nor has the failure of hundreds of millions of people to starve to death diminished Paul Ehrlich’s access to grant money. They only have to maintain the esteem of the intelligentsia to keep the gravy train running.
Intellectuals, of course, have expertise — highly specialized knowledge of a particular subject. The problem, according to Sowell, is that they think their superior knowledge in one area means they have superior knowledge in most other areas. Yet knowledge is so vast and dispersed that it is doubtful that any one person has even 1 percent of the knowledge available. Even the brightest intellectuals cannot possibly know all the needs, wants, and preferences of millions of people. Unfortunately, they have considerable incentive to behave as if they do.
Sowell notes another important distinction between intellectuals and other professions. “There is a spontaneous demand from the larger society for the end products of engineering, medical and scientific professions,” he writes, “while whatever demand there is for the end products of linguists or historians comes largely from educational institutions or is created by intellectuals themselves.” Members of other professions can achieve fame and fortune by finding ways to meet the demand for their end products. But for intellectuals to prosper they must create demand for their ideas by stepping outside their areas of expertise to offer “solutions” to “social problems” or “by raising alarms over some dire dangers which they claim to have discovered.” Chances are slim that Noam Chomsky would ever have achieved the acclaim that he did if he had stayed in the field of linguistics instead of venturing into U.S. foreign policy, nor the entomologist Ehrlich if he had limited himself to studying butterflies rather than making gloomy predictions of human overpopulation.
Reinforcing these incentives is what Sowell dubs the “Vision of the Anointed.” Intellectuals’ belief in their own superior knowledge and virtue leads to a belief that they are an anointed elite who are qualified to make decisions for the rest of us in order to lead humanity to a better life. Under this vision problems such as poverty, injustice, and war are not due to inherent human weaknesses, but are the products of society’s institutions. Solving those problems requires changing those institutions, which requires changing the ideas behind the institutions. And who is better suited for that task than those whose work begins and ends with ideas?
“There could hardly be a set of incentives and constraints more conducive to getting people of great intellect to say sweeping, reckless or even foolish things,” Sowell states. He warns that if “no one has even 1 percent of the knowledge currently available . . . the imposition from the top down of the notions favored by the elites, convinced of their own superior knowledge and virtue, is a formula for disaster.”
The most telling portions of Intellectuals and Society are the ones in which Sowell chronicles the disasters that occur when intellectuals succeed in getting politicians, judges, and other policymakers to impose their vision on society. In the section on crime, Sowell examines what happened to the U.S. when intellectuals imposed on the criminal-justice system their vision of crime as being as much the fault of society as of the individual. In the 1960s, the Warren Court made it more difficult to convict and imprison criminals with decisions such as Miranda and Mapp. Other judges and policymakers followed with an effort to alleviate the so-called “root causes” of crime, such as poverty and discrimination. Rehabilitation was emphasized over prolonged imprisonment. The result was a reversal of a decades-long improvement in the crime rate. For example, in 1961 the murder rate was half what it had been in 1933. By 1974, it was double that of 1961.
By the early 1990s, voters had had enough and began electing politicians who emphasized longer prison terms for convicted criminals. As incarceration rates rose, crime rates dropped. Yet this made no dent in the vision of the intellectuals. The New York Times ran numerous variations on the article headlined “Crime Keeps Falling, but Prisons Keep On Filling.” Times columnist Tom Wicker dismissed voters’ desire for tougher penalties as “panicky public fears and punitive public attitudes.” Sowell notes that this is a common tactic among intellectuals, to dismiss the differing views of others and treat them as “mere emotions (‘panicky’), rather than as arguments that had to be analyzed and answered with facts.”
To date, the biggest disaster perpetrated by intellectuals is the appeasement of Adolf Hitler. After World War I, pacifism — the belief that the real enemy isn’t other nations, but war itself — became part of the intellectuals’ vision. Being a pacifist was a badge of honor among intellectuals in the inter-war period. They were so successful in promoting pacifism in the public sphere that politicians in England and France worried about losing the next election if they advocated military action against Germany. As in other fields, intellectuals seldom addressed the arguments against pacifism, instead dismissing them as, in the words of John Dewey, “the stupidity of habit-bound minds.”
What enabled intellectuals to explain away Hitler’s increasing military aggressiveness leading up to World War II, from the Rhineland to Czechoslovakia to Austria to Poland, is what Sowell calls “one-day-at-time rationalism.” This sort of rationalism restricts “analysis to the immediate implications of each issue as it arises, missing wider implications of a decision that may have merit as regards the issue immediately at hand . . . but which can be disastrous in terms of the ignored longer-term repercussions.” Intellectuals focused on each of Hitler’s aggressions separately and considered only the immediate consequences of taking military action against Germany. For example, the French political scientist Joseph Barthélemy asked, “Is it worth setting fire to the world in order to save the Czechoslovak state?” When Hitler demanded annexation of the Polish port of Danzig, a French newspaper asked, “Do We Have to Die for Danzig?” Looking at Hitler’s actions this way obscured the larger and more important question, which, as Sowell states, “was whether one recognized in the unfolding pattern of Hitler’s actions a lethal threat.” Public- opinion polls from the summer of 1939 suggest that shortly before Hitler invaded Poland the French people caught on to what he was doing, but by then it was too late for the Third Republic.
Sowell’s book serves not only as a history of intellectuals but also as a guide to what is currently unfolding in the United States. A constant theme in Intellectuals and Society is the intellectual as a “surrogate decision-maker” who thinks his preferences should override those of the parties directly involved in a decision. For example, Sowell notes that intellectuals often complain that they do not understand why corporate executives are paid such high salaries, “as if there is any inherent reason why third parties should be expected to understand, or why their understanding and acquiescence should be necessary, in order for those who are directly involved in hiring and paying corporate executives to proceed on the basis of their own knowledge and experience, in a matter in which they have a stake and intellectuals do not.” However, companies that received TARP money do need the acquiescence of White House pay czar Kenneth Feinberg, who recently decreed that the top executives at these companies could not earn more than $500,000 annually. That Feinberg has no experience at running a company, and that it will be the employees and stockholders of those companies, and not Feinberg, who will suffer the consequences of that decision, is consistent with an administration culled from the anointed.
Sowell writes that it “was part of a long-standing assumption among many intellectuals . . . that it is the role of third parties to bring meaning into the lives of the masses.” Many people were shocked when in early 2008 Michelle Obama proclaimed, “Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. . . . That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.” Sowell probably just shook his head in knowing disgust.
Sowell also emphasizes the fact that intellectuals take their beliefs as axiomatic truths rather than hypotheses to be tested. In the current health-care debate it is axiomatic among many intellectuals that a public plan will improve the health-insurance market. As one liberal blogger put it, “If the public plan works, then private insurance will work better as well. In this telling, the simple existence of the public plan forces a more honest insurance market.” But treating that claim as a hypothesis shows that the evidence points in the opposite direction. Medicare, the “public plan” for seniors, drove private insurance for the elderly out of the market.
The intellectuals of today are continuing a long tradition, according to Sowell, going back at least to Rousseau, who dismissed the masses as “a stupid, pusillanimous invalid.” He was succeeded by John Stuart Mill, who said that intellectuals are “the best and wisest” and “those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling.” If Mill were not long dead, it would be easy to conclude that he ghost-wrote George Clooney’s Academy Awards acceptance speech for Syriana.
In a way, Clooney represents one of the few weaknesses of Intellectuals and Society. Sowell excoriates intellectuals for believing that their superior knowledge in one area can be generalized to other areas, but he states that “chess grandmasters, musical prodigies and others who are . . . remarkable within their respective specialties . . . seldom make that mistake.” Yet actors and singers seem to be making it almost every day now. The likes of Clooney, Sheryl Crow, Rosie O’Donnell, and many others never seem to tire of giving us the benefit of their ignorance. Sowell should extend his analysis further into what motivates people to pronounce on matters over which they have no expertise. After all, most celebrities already have oodles of fame and fortune and don’t need to make reckless and foolish public statements in order to get a share of the limelight.
It would also be helpful if Sowell trained his sights on some of the recent variants of conservatism. For example, one author has stated that Compassionate Conservatism makes “solving the problems of the urban underclass a top priority,” as if conservatives are qualified to guide the poor. Or consider National Greatness Conservatism, which is about more than just organizing “citizens’ resentments”; it is about “informing their hopes.” This looks eerily like intellectuals trying to bring “meaning” into the lives of the masses.
Despite the book’s gloomy tone, Sowell does offer a hopeful note. Since the 1980s, conservatives and libertarians have pushed back to the point that intellectuals’ “overwhelming dominance has been reduced somewhat.” Yet he warns that the intellectuals’ vision is still dominant: “Not since the days of the divine right of kings has there been such a presumption of a right to direct others and constrain their decisions, largely through expanded powers of government.” But now that Sowell has given us a penetrating analysis of that vision, perhaps it will be easier to fight it.
— David Hogberg is a reporter living in Washington, D.C.