Saturday, January 16, 2010

The suborning of American intelligence

By Melanie Phillips
http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/
http://www.melaniephillips.com/
Thursday, 14th January 2010

People in America are often shocked to discover the extent to which the authorities in Britain have been taken in by the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, to such an extent the UK government and police use them as advisers on combating Islamic extremism. Americans would be even more shocked to discover that exactly the same thing is going on in their own backyard.

Pajamas TV features two interviews with former US security people, one described merely as having been given some kind of intel-gathering assignment by the ‘joint chiefs’ and the other described as a ‘former FBI special agent’. The first describes how, when he discovered to his alarm that there was not only no evidence that Islamic radicals were wrong in Islamic law but that there were no counter-arguments to them in that law, the US intel/law enforcement community that had instructed him just didn’t want to know.

The second, the ex-FBI man, is even more alarming. He states that the American counter-terrorist establishment has allowed itself to be infiltrated by radical Islamists -- to whom counter-terrorism officials are going for advice and training in countering Islamic radicalism. Every major Muslim representative organisation in the US, he says, is a Muslim Brotherhood front. Hamas fronts such as CAIR are used by the US authorities for outreach to the Muslim community in America. They are invited to sit in on brainstorming sessions about investigative techniques, and are actually training the FBI. ‘The Muslim Brotherhood are telling us how to fight them’, he says.

The PJTV interviewer seemed stunned by this unbelievable situation. But it’s exactly what’s happening in the UK, too, where the Brotherhood are used – incredible as this sounds – as an antidote to radicalisation and as interlocutors in good faith with the Muslim community. In the US, this profound and wilful institutionalised ignorance of the religious war being waged against the free world revealed itself most catastrophically recently when seven CIA officers, amongst them some of the most experienced and valuable, were blown up by a Jordanian triple agent. Not only were they duped, but it seems their professional training went by the board in inviting such a man onto their base and with so many of them clustering around him. As the Washington Post reported:

‘The tradecraft that was developed over many years is passé,’ complained a recently retired senior intelligence official, also with decades of experience. ‘Now it’s a military tempo where you don't have time for validating and vetting sources. . . . All that seems to have gone by the board. It shows there are not a lot of people with a great deal of experience in this field. The agency people are supporting the war-fighter and providing information for targeting, but the espionage part has become almost quaint.’

Endemic ignorance, sloppiness, incompetence -- even now, even after 9/11, even after the restructuring which was supposed to remedy the dysfunctionality and turf wars between intelligence agencies but which – as was predicted at the time – has merely stuck another layer of bureaucracy on top. And if one thinks back to the systematic failure over decades to identify and analyse correctly the rise of Islamism and before that, the imminent collapse of Soviet communism, one has to ask oneself the terrifying question whether US intelligence really is fit for purpose at all.

Film Reviews: 'The Book of Eli'

REVIEW: ‘Book of Eli’ Delivers God, Guns, and Guts
by John Nolte
http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/

“One day I heard this voice, like it was coming from inside me. It led me to a place… I found this book, buried deep in the rubble… And the voice told me to carry it west…”

Credit where credit is due… Hollywood is trying. Granted, six years have passed since “The Passion” proved we Christians can be convinced to return to a medium that has spent decades taking great pleasure in insulting who we are and what we believe; and with that clinical Christmas card of a follow up called “The Nativity” it seemed as though they would never figure it out. But between the unapologetic Christian “Blind Side” and now the down and dirty “Book of Eli,” there’s reason to hope the Pagans of the Pacific might have just moved a little closer to cracking our code.

“The Book of Eli” isn’t just Christian, it’s off-the-rails Christian … literally. Heathens might as well hit the lobby at the end of the second act because the final act is all about the faith. You’re more than welcome to stick around, but I have a feeling those of you with red strings tied ‘round your wrist will be checking your watch for the last twenty-minutes. Not we Bible-thumpers, though. That’s when it all comes together; and it’s moving and smart and best of all, not some hyper-reverent snoozer.

So, thanks Hollywood. Oh, I’ll be kicking your ass again in a sec, but for now… really, thanks.

The book is the King James Bible, it’s the last one, and its protector is Denzel Washington’s Eli, a man old enough to remember life during The Before, before the last war some thirty years ago. Ever since, through a post-apocalyptic America, he has made his way west, walking alone and honing his survival skills. Gangs of marauders with robbery on their mind are no safer than the few stray animals unfortunate enough to cross Eli when he needs a meal.

Eli doesn’t understand the how or why of his mission. He just knows what God has called him to do, and in a touching act of faith has spent three decades of suffering and sacrifice to fulfill and complete something he instinctively understands is more important than himself — three decades of trudging through a desolate, colorless desert landscape where water is more precious than gold and cannibals are a constant threat. Like the book he carries, Eli is part Old Testament and New: Part Job, part St. Paul.
Carnegie (Gary Oldman) is a character right out of those great Westerns where one ruthlessly ambitious man runs a dusty old town and orders about a gang of gunslingers who cater to his every whim. Carnegie’s primary whim, however, is something he has in common with Eli: an instinct. Only the voice he hears comes from a darker place and tells him that he can fulfill a mission to widen the hold on what’s left of the world by using the Word of God as a weapon to “run the hearts and minds of the weak and desperate.” Think of him as a community organizer – the Jeremiah Wright of The After.

Carnegie runs a blown-out saloon complete with prostitutes and a bar. But his real hold on power is due to a secret water supply. Paying off his henchmen with H2O and girls, he sends them out to murder and rob innocents in the hope of finding the Good Book.

Carnegie also runs Claudia (the ageless Jennifer Beal) and her daughter Solara (the absurdly fetching Milas Kunis). As is expected, the dynamics Carnegie has become accustomed to, relationship and otherwise, will be turned on their head when Eli strolls into town. Oh, Eli’s not looking for trouble…

Like most of you, many years ago I decided that after the apocalypse it will be The Mighty Gary Oldman I’ll choose as arch-nemesis to my Road Warrior (or Tina Turner). Oldman has a high-old time here, and what a credit to this great actor that he can perfectly inhabit the buttoned-down Commissioner Gordon one day and leave no scenery left un-chewed as Carnegie the next. Every line of dialogue, facial expression and movement is delivered for maximum impact. Oldman understands this genre, what it takes to be its villain, and succeeds in finding a place of his own.
And oh how I loves me some Denzel.

After exploding on the scene with their still-just-as-powerful 1993 directorial debut “Menace II Society,” the Hughes Brothers (Albert and Allen, who have yet to make a bad film — this is their 5th) understand the iconic power of their star; the way he walks, talks, laughs, stands, and holds a weapon. In lesser hands the stoic Eli would barely register as a character. The power of an actor like Washington is in his unique and near-extinct movie star ability to fill the void of a character’s silence with an emotional inner-life without saying a word – with pure presence.

The directorial touches are everywhere. Listen for a fitting nod to “Once Upon a Time in America” and check out the posters on walls. The directors get the big things right, as well. Thank the Good Lord, no shaky-cam. The actions set-pieces are extremely satisfying, especially an early one we see only in silhouette.

But make no mistake, this is a genre film. A B-film (with kind of a silly final twist). No molds are broken. You’ve seen it all a hundred times before. But this is a Christian genre film … a very Christian genre film with a fabulous cast and stylish direction. And I’m still thinking about it, still debating which choice of the Brothers Hughes I liked most…

….the all-kinds-of-awesome casting decision to put Tom Waits in a post-apocalyptic Western, or the film’s most Christian moment – most generous moment – when a nod of respect is granted to our friends who have found God through other faiths.

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Posted Jan 15th 2010 at 9:42 am in Film, Reviews


The Book of Eli: A Proudly Christian Movie

God, guns, and Johnny Cash? Blessed be this movie.

January 15, 2010 - by John Boot
http://pajamasmedia.com/

Cross I Am Legend with The Ten Commandments and you’ve got The Book of Eli, a genuinely religious parable that inherently rebukes pointless end-of-the-world movies like The Road. This time there’s a purpose to the post-apocalypse: Eli (Denzel Washington), one of humanity’s survivors, is heeding the word of the Lord to protect the world’s only remaining Bible and bring its teachings to the West.

The Book of Eli works just fine as an action blockbuster, but it’s much more than that. Eli, who can smell lurking “highjackers” determined to rob and kill him long before they get close, is fierce with a machete — the movie is as bloody as any other contemporary R-rated kill-or-be-killed flick — and his fearless strides across the wasted scapes of a broken and infected world are reminiscent of great cowboy movies. He even walks into a small town that looks like the set of one of those backlot Westerns like High Noon.

The chief of this evil place is Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who is seen reading a book on Mussolini, and not because he’s bored. He already wields absolute authority over his little village, but using Il Duce as a model he hopes to become ruler of what remains of the planet. He has sent his illiterate henchmen out into the world with orders to bring back every book they can find. But there’s only one book (besides the Mussolin biography) that matters to Carnegie: The Book. Eli’s Book. Carnegie has heard that this volume can change the world because of its persuasive effects on people, which Carnegie hopes to harness to his own ends. But Eli isn’t giving it up.
Here the movie springs a major plot leak — Carnegie captures Eli, who surrenders to gunmen and spends a night in Carnegie’s jail cell. Carnegie sends first his girlfriend (Jennifer Beals), who is blind, and then the girlfriend’s sexy daughter (Mila Kunis of Forgetting Sarah Marshall) to Eli’s cell to find out who he is. But wouldn’t Carnegie have ordered his men to search Eli’s belongings? The wanderer carries a single backpack. It wouldn’t be hard to discover that he has the world’s only known copy of the Bible.

Yet Eli escapes and in a searing shootout scene proves to be a better shot than Carnegie’s henchmen. A much better shot: there is something about Eli that makes bullets miss.

This plot — The Good, the Bad, and the Holy? — harks back to many a classic actioner, and the third-act revelations are particularly satisfying. But what’s most effective about the movie is its sincerity. Washington, the son of a Pentecostal minister who in a Beliefnet ranking system comes in second only to Mel Gibson among Hollywood’s most powerful Christian celebrities, doesn’t play Eli with a wisp of irony or jokiness. Eli lays out the case plainly: He heard a voice inside his head that gave him his mission. He says he knows who he heard, he knows what he heard, he knows he’s not crazy, and he knows he never would have made it without divine help. He reads the Bible every day and can quote scripture by heart. “That’s beautiful,” exclaims Kunis, whose character is illiterate, when she hears a sample passage. He also quotes a passage about having the strength to carry on. The Kunis character asks if that is from The Book. “No,” says Eli. “It’s Johnny Cash. ‘Live at Folsom Prison.’” God, guns, and Johnny Cash? Blessed be this movie.

Recall The Road, in which a man and his son move ever southward across a destroyed planet for no apparent reason, and The Book of Eli seems like — well, a revelation. Reintroducing God into the equation makes the scorched earth scenario much more interesting because it promises a rebirth, gives a meaning to the destruction of civilization as the crisis that, however painful, must happen to bring about salvation. Secular viewers may cringe — can’t we have more wisecracks and nihilism, please? — but The Book of Eli is going to strike at the very center of the hearts of viewers who have faith in the God of the Bible.

For audiences who wish there were more movies that were inspired by the Bible, movies like Ben-Hur or The Greatest Story Ever Told, but have come to doubt Hollywood could ever make a big-time movie (sorry, Kirk Cameron, but you’re not the star Denzel Washington is) about it, The Book of Eli is a godsend.

John Boot is the pen name of a conservative writer operating under deep cover in the liberal media.


In This World, It Pays to Be a Loner

By MANOHLA DARGIS
The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/
Published: January 15, 2010


Denzel Washington stars in “Book of Eli.”

A road warrior of a different sort, the title character played by Denzel Washington in “The Book of Eli” spends much of the story traveling by foot across an eerie landscape, a long and quick knife at the ready. The brown, dusty environs look familiar and not, dotted with abandoned cars and the occasional corpse. When Eli pauses, the camera settles near his feet, and the sky opens above him like a sheltering hand. With his green jacket and unsmiling mouth, he looks like a veteran of an unknown war, a soldier of misfortune — though, given the fog of religiosity that hangs over the movie, he might be an avenging angel.

This is the first movie directed by the talented twins Allen and Albert Hughes since “From Hell,” their torpid, predictably hyperviolent 2001 take on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel about Jack the Ripper. Although this new one has its comic-book qualities, good and bad, the Hugheses have stanched the blood in “The Book of Eli,” making it easier to pay attention to what else is happening on screen. They stage an early fight, for instance, entirely in silhouette, so that the arcs of spurting gore appear black, not red. Like all the fight sequences, this one is highly stylized: set inside a tunnel with the camera low and the sky serving as an illuminated backdrop, it looks like a page out of a comic come to animated life.

The graphic simplicity of this scene works not only because it’s visually striking, but also because it’s a part of a meaningful piece in a story in which everything, nature and civilization included, has been stripped away. Much like the land and narrative he travels through, Eli has been similarly reduced. A loner, he doesn’t speak much, even to himself. During the first few minutes of the movie, which opens in some barren woods with either falling snow or ash, he remains silently fixed on his task: bagging a pitifully thin cat. His first companion is a mouse (he offers it some roast cat), a creature that proves friendlier company than most of the isolated people he encounters, the majority of whom, as in “The Road,” would like to cook him over a fire.

Shooting in high-definition digital (with the Red camera) and working with the cinematographer Don Burgess (a frequent shooter for Robert Zemeckis), with New Mexico standing in for America, the Hugheses have created a plausible post-apocalyptic world, one that draws from the western (Hollywood, Sergio Leone) and the tradition of science-fiction dystopia. As George Miller proved in his brilliant “Mad Max” cycle — one of the Hughes brothers’ more overt cinematic touchstones here — and as Quentin Tarantino reaffirmed with his two “Kill Bill” films, the western can be reconfigured to suit any number of contexts, themes and warriors. (In one scene, when Eli settles into a room, a poster for the 1975 cult film “A Boy and His Dog,” another post-apocalyptic fairy tale, hangs on the wall behind him.)

After hunting the cat, a little human mayhem and a lot of atmospheric preambles, Eli wanders into a deadwood town and the story kicks into gear, for better if sometimes for disappointing worse. The happiest development is the introduction of Gary Oldman as Carnegie, the leader of the outpost. Fortified by his thugs, including some bulging muscle called Redridge (Ray Stevenson, from the HBO show “Rome”), Carnegie keeps the peace, doling out the scarce supplies to the ragtag inhabitants. Among the few faces that stand out from the squinting, scurrying horde are a Mr. Fixit (an amusing Tom Waits); Carnegie’s lover, Claudia (a sympathetic Jennifer Beals); and her daughter, Solara (the miscast Mila Kunis), who despite the deprivations, appears to have swung by a Beverly Hills salon for an eyebrow wax.

Mr. Oldman gives the movie, which at its most serious veers into lugubriousness, a nice jolt and a flinty presence that Mr. Washington can spark against. But the story that the two play out, beat by beat, cliché by cliché, rarely rises to their talents. Written by Gary Whitta, with some rewriting by Anthony Peckham, the story takes a wrong turn once Solara enters the picture, first as bait for Eli (he doesn’t bite) and then as his unwanted traveling companion. Ms. Kunis can work on the big screen, as she proved in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” But, dressed up in clothes that look as if they had been distressed for sale in a TriBeCa boutique, her white, white teeth shining and glossy hair swinging, she is flatly absurd.
Ms. Kunis isn’t to blame. As Jessica Rabbit says, with knowing wit, in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” Even so, despite Solara and her manicured brows, and the increasingly pro forma action — Eli has what Carnegie wants, and so the bad man gives rabid chase — the movie keeps you watching and generally engaged. There’s a ticklish interlude at a house where Eli and Solara encounter a fine pair named Martha and George, played with energy and inviting humor by Frances de la Tour and the invaluable Michael Gambon. Despite the air of unease and wary glances, when George cranks up a phonograph, and the disco song “Ring My Bell” pours out, you’re happily, goofily hooked.


“The Book of Eli” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). The usual dystopian violence.

The Book of Eli

Opens on Friday nationwide.

Directed by Allen Hughes and Albert Hughes; written by Gary Whitta; director of photography, Don Burgess; edited by Cindy Mollo; music by Atticus Ross; production designer, Gae Buckley; produced by Joel Silver, Denzel Washington, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove and David Valdes; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes.

WITH: Denzel Washington (Eli), Gary Oldman (Carnegie), Mila Kunis (Solara), Ray Stevenson (Redridge), Jennifer Beals (Claudia), Tom Waits (Engineer), Frances de la Tour (Martha) and Michael Gambon (George).


Book of Eli

BY ROGER EBERT
http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage
January 13, 2010

I'm at a loss for words, so let me say these right away: "The Book of Eli" is very watchable. You won't be sorry you went. It grips your attention, and then at the end throws in several WTF! Moments, which are a bonus. They make everything in the entire movie impossible and incomprehensible -- but, hey, WTF.

Now to the words I am at a loss for. The story involves a lone wanderer (Denzel Washington) who wears a name tag saying "Hi! My name is Eli." It may not actually be his name tag, but let's call him Eli, anyway. Eli has been walking west across the devastated landscape of America for 30 years, on his way to the sea. I haven't walked it myself, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't take that long.

On the other hand, maybe Eli only thought he was walking west. On his final trek, he walks from right to left across the screen, which in movie shorthand is walking east. "How do you know you're walking the right way?" he's asked. "Faith," he says, a reply that takes on added resonance later in the film. Eli is a quick hand with knives, pistols, rifles, shotguns and karate. He needs to be. After a catastrophe has wiped out most of the Earth's population and left ruin and desolation behind, the remaining humans are victimized by roaming motorcycle gangs of hijackers and thieves. Each of these gangs is issued a requisite tall bald man, a short hairy scruffy one and their go-fers.

The Hughes brothers, Albert and Allen, film this story in sunburned browns and pale blues, creating a dry and dusty world under a merciless sky. Water is treasure. This wasteland Eli treks at an implacable pace. Set upon in an ambush, he kills all his attackers. He's got one of those knives that makes a snicker-snack noise all by itself, and is a one-man army. Why don't the bad guys just shoot at him? Later in the film, they try that.

Washington and the Hughes brothers do a good job of establishing this man and his world, and at first, "The Book of Eli" seems destined to be solemn. But then Eli arrives at a Western town ruled by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who, like all the local overloads in Westerns and gangster movies, sits behind a big desk flanked by a tall bald guy and, of course, a short scruffy one. How are these guys recruited? Wanted: Tall bald guy to stand behind town boss and be willing to sacrifice life. All the water you can drink.

In this town, desperate and starving people live in rusty cars and in the streets. We meet Carnegie's abused wife Claudia (Jennifer Beals) and her daughter Solara (Mila Kunis), named, for some reason, after the cause of all the destruction. She's a prostitute in Carnegie's bar, having made the mistake of coming in on Take Your Child to Work Day. Carnegie hurts Claudia to control Solara. How he controls the fearsome bald guy is hard to say.

The third act is recycled, but done well, out of many Westerns in which the hero and the girl hole up and are surrounded. So many other movies are referenced that we almost miss it when their hideout house is perforated by bullets in "L.A. Confidential" style. That allows countless beams of sunlight to shine in and function as a metaphor.

Carnegie needs Eli because Eli has maybe the last remaining copy of a book that Eli believes will allow him to expand and rule many more towns. I am forbidden by the Critic's Little Rule Book from naming the volume, but if you've made a guess after seeing numerous billboards stating RELIGION IS POWER, you may have guessed right.

The Hughes brothers have a vivid way with imagery here, as in their earlier films such as "Menace II Society" and the underrated "From Hell." The film looks and feels good, and Washington's performance is the more uncanny the more we think back over it. The ending is "flawed," as we critics like to say, but it's so magnificently, shamelessly, implausibly flawed that (a) it breaks apart from the movie and has a life of its own, or (b) at least it avoids being predictable.

Now do yourself a favor and don't talk to anybody about the film if you plan to see

One Year Out: The Fall

From Mr. Wonderful to the Grinch in twelve months.

By Charles Krauthammer
http://www.nationalreview.com/
January 15, 2010, 0:00 a.m.

What went wrong? A year ago, he was king of the world.

Now President Obama’s approval rating, according to CBS, has dropped to 46 percent—and his disapproval rating is the highest ever recorded by Gallup at the beginning of an elected president’s second year.

A year ago, he was leader of a liberal ascendancy that would last 40 years (James Carville). A year ago, conservatism was dead (Sam Tanenhaus).

Now the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in bluest-of-blue Massachusetts is surprisingly close, with a virtually unknown state senator bursting on the scene by turning the election into a mini-referendum on Obama and his agenda, most particularly health-care reform.

A year ago, Obama was the most charismatic politician on earth. Today the thrill is gone, the doubts growing—even among erstwhile believers.

Liberals try to attribute Obama’s political decline to matters of style. He’s too cool, detached, uninvolved. He’s not tough, angry, or aggressive enough with opponents. He’s contracted out too much of his agenda to Congress.

These stylistic and tactical complaints may be true, but they miss the major point: The reason for today’s vast discontent, presaged by spontaneous national tea-party opposition, is not that Obama is too cool or compliant but that he’s too Left.

It’s not about style; it’s about substance—about which Obama has been admirably candid. This out-of-nowhere, least-known of presidents dropped the veil most dramatically in the single most important political event of 2009, his Feb. 24 first address to Congress. With remarkable political honesty and courage, Obama unveiled the most radical (in American terms) ideological agenda since the New Deal: the fundamental restructuring of three pillars of American society—health care, education, and energy.

Then began the descent—when, more amazingly still, Obama devoted himself to turning these statist visions into legislative reality. First energy, with cap-and-trade, an unprecedented federal intrusion into American industry and commerce. It got through the House, with its Democratic majority and Supreme Soviet–style rules. But it will never get out of the Senate.

Then, the keystone: a health-care revolution in which the federal government will regulate, in crushing detail, one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

By essentially abolishing medical underwriting (actuarially based risk assessment) and replacing it with government fiat, Obamacare turns the health-insurance companies into utilities, their every significant move dictated by government regulators. The public option was a sideshow. As many on the right have long been arguing, and as the more astute on the left (such as the New Yorker’s James Surowiecki) understand, Obamacare is government health care by proxy, single-payer through a facade of nominally “private” insurers.

At first, health-care reform was sustained politically by Obama’s own popularity. But then gravity took hold, and Obamacare’s profound unpopularity dragged him down with it. After 29 speeches and a fortune in squandered political capital, it still will not sell.

The health-care drive is the most important reason Obama has sunk to 46 percent. But this reflects something larger. In the end, what matters is not the persona but the agenda. In a country where politics is fought between the 40-yard lines, Obama has insisted on pushing hard for the 30.

And the American people—disorganized and unled but nonetheless agitated and mobilized—have put up a stout defense somewhere just left of midfield.

Ideas matter. Legislative proposals matter. Slick campaigns and dazzling speeches can work for a while, but the magic always wears off.

It’s inherently risky for any charismatic politician to legislate. To act is to choose, and to choose is to disappoint the expectations of many who had poured their hopes into the empty vessel—of which candidate Obama was the greatest representative in recent American political history.

Obama did not just act, however. He acted ideologically. To his credit, Obama didn’t just come to Washington to be someone. Like Reagan, he came to Washington to do something—to introduce a powerful social-democratic stream into America’s deeply and historically individualist polity.

Perhaps Obama thought he’d been sent to the White House to do just that. If so, he vastly over-read his mandate. His own electoral success—twinned with handy victories and large majorities in both houses of Congress—was a referendum on his predecessor’s governance and the post-Lehman financial collapse. It was not an endorsement of European-style social democracy.

Hence the resistance. Hence the fall. The system may not always work, but it does take its revenge.


— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010, The Washington Post Writers Group

Can Obama hold Teddy's seat?

By MARK STEYN
The Orange County Register
http://www.ocregister.com/sections/opinion/
2010-01-15 10:49:17

I've been out of the country for a couple of days, so let me see if I've got this right:

America's preparing to celebrate the first anniversary of Good King Barack the Hopeychanger's reign by electing a Republican?

In Massachusetts?

In what the tin-eared plonkers of the Democrat machine still insist on calling "Ted Kennedy's seat"?

Remember the good old days when the glossy magazine covers competed for the most worshipful image of the new global colossus? If you were at the Hopeychange inaugural ball on Jan. 20, 2009, when Barney Frank dived into the mosh pit, and you chanced to be underneath when he landed, and you've spent the past year in a coma, until suddenly coming to in time for the poll showing some unexotically monikered nobody called Scott Brown, whose only glossy magazine appearance was a Cosmopolitan pictorial 30 years ago (true), four points ahead in Kennedy country, you must surely wonder if you've woken up in an alternative universe. The last thing you remember before Barney came flying down is Harry Reid waltzing you round the floor while murmuring sweet nothings about America being ready for a light-skinned brown man with no trace of a Negro dialect. And now you're in some dystopian nightmare where Massachusetts is ready for a nude-skinned Brown man with no trace of a Kennedy dialect.

How can this be happening?

You don't need to have been in an actual coma. Subscribing to The Boston Globe, the unreadable and increasingly unread Massachusetts snooze-sheet, has much the same effect. As the house organ of a decrepit one-party state, the Globe endorsed Martha Coakley with nary a thought using its Sober Thoughtful Massachusetts Election Editorial template ("[INSERT NAME OF CAREERIST HACK HERE] For Governor/Senator/Mayor/Whatever") and dutifully obscured what happened when one of the candidate's minders shoved to the sidewalk a reporter who had the lese majeste to ask an unhelpful question. If you're one of the dwindling band of Bay Staters who rely on the Globe for your news, you would never have known that a Massachusetts pseudo-"election" had bizarrely morphed into a real one – you know, with two candidates, just like they have in Bulgaria and places. On Friday, the paper finally acknowledged that something goofy was happening: As the revealing headline put it, "Race Is In A Spinout." As in "spinning out of control"? You mean, out of the control of the party and its dopey media cheerleaders? What they really mean is that the Democrats' coronation procession is in a spinout.

Now this is Massachusetts, so the Dems may yet regain control of the spinout and get back on track for victory. If not, they've already taken the precaution of tossing Martha Coakley under the bus the way her minder sent that guy to the sidewalk. Martha? Oh, hopeless candidate.

Terrible campaign. Difficult climate. Yes, but this is Massachusetts.

Tone-deaf candidates running on nothing but a sense of their own entitlement are all but compulsory: This is a land where John Kerry demonstrates the common touch by windsurfing off Nantucket in buttock-hugging yellow Spandex.

As for the "climate," that gets closer to the truth, but, as my colleague Jonah Goldberg pointed out, in this case the Democrats created the climate. If Scott Brown gives Martha Coakley a run for her money on Election Day, Jan. 19, 2010, will be a direct consequence of Jan. 20, 2009. Once upon a time, Barack Obama, in the words of Newsweek editor Evan Thomas, was "standing above the country, above the world, he's sort of God." Seeking to explain why the God of Hope had fallen farther faster than any modern president, David Brooks of the New York Times argued that the tea-party movement had declared war on "the educated class." He seemed to think this was some sort of inverted snobbery: If "the educated class" is for it – "health" "care" "reform," cap-and-trade, Miranda rights for terrorists – Joe Six-Pack and his fellow knuckledragging morons are reflexively opposed to it.

This almost exactly inverts what really happened over this past year.

"The educated class" turned out to be not that educated – if, by "educated," you mean knowing stuff. They were dazzled by Obama: My former National Review colleague Christopher Buckley wrote cooing paeans to his “first-class intellect” and “temperament.” I used to joke that “temperament” was for the Obammysoxers of “the educated class” what hair was to Tiger Beat reporters. But you don't really need analogies. As David Brooks noted after his first meeting with Obama, "I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant, and I'm thinking, a) he's going to be president and b) he'll be a very good president." And once you raised your eyes above pant level it only got better: "Our national oratorical superhero," gushed New York magazine, "a honey-tongued Frankenfusion of Lincoln, Gandhi, Cicero, Jesus, and all our most cherished national acronyms (MLK, JFK, RFK, FDR)."

Where'd that guy go? "People once thought Obama could sound eloquent reading the phone book," wrote Michael Gerson in The Washington Post last week. "Now, whatever the topic, it often sounds as though he is."

If the educated class's pant legs weren't as perfectly creased as Obama's, that's because they were soaking wet. While the smart set were demonstrating all the sober forensic analysis of a Jonas Brothers audience, the naysayers were looking at the actual policies: What is this going to cost me? And my children? And the country? A week before the presidential election, I wrote in this space:

"Settled democratic societies rarely vote to 'go left.' Yet oddly enough that's where they've all gone. In its assumptions about the size of the state and the role of government, almost every advanced nation is more left than it was, and getting lefter."

For the most part, that's just the ratchet effect of Big Government, growing, expanding, remorselessly, under cover of darkness. What happened this past year is that Obama and the Democratic Congress made it explicit, and did it in daylight. And, while Barack may be cool and stellar if you're as gullible as "the educated class," Nancy Pelosi and Ben Nelson most certainly aren't: There's no klieg light of celebrity to dazzle you from the very obvious reality that they're spending your money way faster than you can afford and with no inclination to stop.

"The educated class" is apparently too educated to grasp this insufficiently nuanced point.

It's not just the money. The notion that the IRS should be able to seize your assets if you don't arrange your health care to the approval of the federal government represents the de facto nationalization of your body, which is about as primal an assault on individual liberty as one could devise.

As Michael Barone observed, "the educated class" was dazzled by style, the knuckledragging morons are talking about substance. They grasp that another year of 2,000-page, trillion-dollar government-growing bills offers America only the certainty of decline. Just before the Senate's health care vote, Obama, the silver-tongued orator, declared that we were "on the precipice" of historic reform. Indeed. On Tuesday, we'll find out whether even Massachusetts is willing to follow him off the cliff.

©MARK STEYN

Friday, January 15, 2010

Film Reviews: 'Crazy Heart'

A Country Crooner Whose Flight Is Now Free Fall

By A. O. SCOTT
The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/
December 16, 2009
Correction Appended

“Crazy Heart,” written and directed by Scott Cooper, is a small movie perfectly scaled to the big performance at its center. It offers some picturesque views of out-of-the-way parts of the American West, but the dominant feature of its landscape is Bad Blake, a wayward, aging country singer played by Jeff Bridges.


Lorey Sebastian/20th Century Fox

Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart.”


Those last four words should be sufficient recommendation. Some of Mr. Bridges’s peers may have burned more intensely in their prime, but very few American actors over the past 35 years have flickered and smoldered with such craft and resilience. Neither blandly likable nor operatically emotional, this actor has a sly kind of charisma and a casual intelligence. You suspect that he may be smarter than some of the characters he plays — the lounge musician in “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” the deadbeat bowler in “The Big Lebowski,” the egotistical author in “The Door in the Floor,” to take just a few examples — but also that he knows every corner and shadow of each one’s mind.

Unlike Mr. Bridges, Bad, who is 57, seems to be running on the last fumes of his talent. He drives from one gig to another in a battered truck, playing bowling alleys and bars with local pickup bands and sleeping in less-than-deluxe accommodations. He smokes and drinks as if trying to settle a long-ago bet between his liver and his lungs about which he would destroy first. The chorus to his signature song (one of several written especially for Mr. Bridges) observes that “falling feels like flying, for a little while.” That time has long since passed for Bad, who is scraping the bottom and trying not to complain too much about it (except when he can get his agent on the phone).

Drinking, cheating, love gone wrong — a lot of country music expresses the weary stoicism of self-inflicted defeat. Loss and abjection are two of the chords that define the genre. A third is redemption, which has also been a theme of modest, regionally inflected American independent cinema for quite some time. So even before Maggie Gyllenhaal shows up as Jean, a New Mexico journalist with a cute young son and some disappointments of her own, you can be pretty sure that you’re in for yet another drama of second chances and late-breaking epiphanies.

But no one ever put on a country record in search of novelty or wild surprise. What you seek in those songs is honest feeling and musical skill. Even in decline, Bad has both of those things, and enough professionalism to keep complete self-destruction at bay. Performing in front of a small, appreciative crowd in Colorado, he strikes up an old hit and then hands the song off to the band so he can run offstage and vomit in the parking lot, returning just in time to sing the final chorus and make eye contact with the groupie he’ll wake up with the next morning.

What does Jean see in this wreck? Mr. Bridges, settling into Mr. Cooper’s understated script as if he’d written it himself, makes the answer both obvious and a little enigmatic. There is a playboy’s charm and an old-fashioned Southern courtliness half-hidden behind the weariness, the anger at squandered possibilities, the flabby gut and the unkempt beard. This fellow may be bad, but he’s also dignified.

Bad’s own songs express this tension, as do other selections on the soundtrack (overseen by T Bone Burnett), which help to establish this fictional musician’s place in the actual musical universe. His main connection to the current country scene is Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), a former protégé who has hit the big time and whose support Bad both desperately wants and is sometimes too proud to accept. Tommy is part of a slick new breed that pays respect to the stalwarts of the past (as any good country singer must), but whose smoothness nonetheless gets under the skin of his sandpapery former mentor.

In his first interview with Jean, Bad pays the expected homage to precursors like Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell, but really he belongs in more recent, somewhat rougher company. Bad’s home — when he’s there — is in Houston, and the voices that accompany his comings and goings are mostly drawn from the outlaws and renegades associated with Texas in the era of his early manhood. You hear songs by Townes van Zandt and Waylon Jennings, and you may also think of Willie Nelson and some others. As for Mr. Bridges: he can’t help it if he looks like Kris Kristofferson and sounds a little like David Allan Coe.

When Robert Duvall (a producer of “Crazy Heart”) turns up as one of Bad’s old friends, you might also remember Mac Sledge, the Bad Blake figure he played in Bruce Beresford’s 1983 film, “Tender Mercies.” Mr. Cooper’s movie owes an obvious debt to that one, but there can never be too many songs about drinking, loving and feeling bad, and there is always room for another version of that old song about the guy who messed it all up and kept on going. Especially when that guy can play the tune as truly and as well as Mr. Bridges.

“Crazy Heart” is rated R. (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.) Drinking, smoking, sex and swearing. If that ain’t country ...

CRAZY HEART

Opens on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by Scott Cooper; written by Mr. Cooper, based on the novel by Thomas Cobb; director of photography, Barry Markowitz; edited by John Axelrad; music by Stephen Bruton and T Bone Burnett; production designer, Waldemar Kalinowski; produced by Mr. Cooper, Robert Duvall, Rob Carliner, Judy Cairo and Mr. Burnett; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes.

WITH: Jeff Bridges (Bad Blake), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jean Craddock), Robert Duvall (Wayne), Tom Bower (Bill Wilson), James Keane (Manager), Colin Farrell (Tommy Sweet), William Marquez (Doctor), Ryan Bingham (Tony) and Paul Herman (Jack Greene).

Correction: December 31, 2009

A film review on Dec. 16 about “Crazy Heart” referred incorrectly to the crediting of the actor Colin Farrell, who plays the character Tommy Sweet. While he was not credited in the copy of the film seen by the reviewer, he is in fact given a credit in the movie, as noted in the listing of credits that accompanied the review.

More About This Movie
Overview
Tickets & Showtimes
New York Times Review
Cast, Credits & Awards
Readers' Reviews
Trailers & Clips

Multimedia
Audio Slide Show
Behind the Music

Related
Film: This Texan Knows How That Texan Sounds (December 6, 2009)
A Surprise Gets Buzz for Oscars (November 19, 2009)


Country-tuned ‘Crazy’ is all art

By Kyle Smith
New York Post
http://www.nypost.com/
December 16, 2009

Brokedown country singer tries to crawl out of the bottle and into the arms of a good woman. Supporting figures: cute kid and younger, handsomer rival singer.

“Crazy Heart” — “Tender Mercies” minus the Christianity, “The Wrestler” on bourbon instead of steroids — can’t possibly deserve your close attention. Yet it does, with distilled honky-tonk poetry and generous good humor. It’s one of the year’s best, most deeply felt films.

The first feature from director Scott Cooper, who also wrote the script based on a novel by Thomas Cobb, is a showcase for Jeff Bridges, who provides the year’s signature performance by a lead actor.

Bridges fully inhabits singer Bad Blake, from his wrecked liver to his tornado hair. His breath is combustible, his hygiene lamentable, his future brief. The '78 Suburban he drives around is livelier than he is. “I used to be somebody,” he sings in a desperation gig at a bowling alley. “But now I am somebody else.”

The departed somebody was a hit songwriter now forgotten by the public if not by such fans as a former student and current top star, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell, who must have been tempted to dial up the yee-hawing but doesn’t). The somebody else has roughly as many ex-wives as fans, and more empty bottles than either. Also there’s a grown son, somewhere. Bad doesn’t know him, and never will.

Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a journalist with a small son of her own. She won’t let him be raised by another whiskey slave, but even so she finds herself leaning in to get a closer look at what’s flickering inside Bad — dying talent, maybe, unless it’s something else. She wants to know where all his songs come from (“Life, unfortunately,” says Bad, with woeful authority). He wants to talk about how she makes the room around her feel ashamed of itself.

Gyllenhaal, though she is essentially the romantic version of a straight man, eases comfortably into the role instead of showing us how hard she’s working at it, with a sparkle in her eyes that is all the movie needs to keep Bad trying to be good. Uncertainly, she even allows the geezer to baby-sit her child for a day. What might the planned activities be? “Man stuff!” he says, and the boy agrees. “Man stuff!”

Such found moments — so elegant and mature is the screenplay that it usually doesn’t seem to have been written at all — make for genuine laughs, just as the bleak interludes involve recognizable, simple, ruinous mistakes (in the car, at the mall). Directing a picture like this one requires precision and dedication. The game is finished if we ever get the sense that our chain is being yanked, that we’re being sold a story instead of told one. But thanks to evocative settings, compassionate acting (including a brief but warm, funny appearance by Robert Duvall) and the high-caliber country songs written for the film, “Crazy Heart” is humbly radiant, a small thing gracefully done.

kyle.smith@nypost.com


Crazy Heart

BY ROGER EBERT
http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage
December 23, 2009

Some actors are blessed. Jeff Bridges is one of them. Ever since his breakthrough role in "The Last Picture Show" in 1971, he has, seemingly without effort, created a series of characters who we simply believe, even the alien "Starman." He doesn't do this with mannerisms but with their exclusion; his acting is as clear as running water. Look at him playing Bad Blake in "Crazy Heart." The notion of a broke-down, boozy country singer is an archetype in pop culture. We've seen this story before. The difference is, Bad Blake makes us believe it happened to him.

That's acting. There's a line of dialogue in the movie that I jotted down at the time, and it's been cited by several critics. Bad Blake is being interviewed in his shabby motel room by Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a newspaper reporter. She's taking him, gently, to places he doesn't want to go. He's been interviewed about the subject too many times. He doesn't say that. He says, "I want to talk about how bad you make this room look."

It's such a good line I can hardly believe I've never heard it before. Bad Blake perhaps knows it sounds like something out of an old movie. It's also the kind of line written by a singer-songwriter, the masking of emotion by ironic displacement, the indirect apology for seedy circumstances. She blushes. I can't think of a better way for the movie to get to where it has to go next. No shy apologies. No cynicism. Just that he wrote a great line of a country song, and it was for her.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 08: Actor Robert Duvall, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, actor Scott Cooper, actor Jeff Bridges and actor Ryan Bingham arrive at the premiere of Fox Searchlight's 'Crazy Heat' on December 8, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California.

Bridges, Gyllenhaal and Scott Cooper, the first-time writer-director, find that note all through the movie. It's like a country-western cliche happening for the first time. Bridges doesn't play drunk or hung over or newly in love in the ways we're accustomed to. It's like Bad has lived so long and been through so much that he's too worn out to add any spin to exactly the way he feels.

Bad Blake was a star once, years ago. He has lyrics that go, "I used to be somebody, but now I'm somebody else." His loyal manager (James Keane) once booked him in top venues. As "Crazy Heart" opens, Bad is pulling up to a bowling alley. "It's this year's 'The Wrestler,' " one of my colleagues observed after the screening. Yes. Bad still has a few loyal fans, but you get the feeling they've followed him to the bottom. He has a son he's lost touch with and hasn't written a good song in a long time. In the old days, he toured with a kid named Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell). Now Tommy is a big star, but contrary to the conventions of such stories, hasn't forgotten his old teacher and remains loyal.

Maybe, we're thinking, with the love of a good woman Bad could turn it around. It's not that simple in "Crazy Heart." Jean is a good woman, but can she afford to love this wreck 25 years older than she is? Certainly not if he continues to drink, and maybe not in any case. And it's not easy for Bad to stop drinking; he's descended below his bottom.

How does Bridges do this without making the character some sort of pitiful and self-pitying basket case? The presence of Robert Duvall here, playing his old friend and acting as one of the producers of this movie, is a reminder of Duvall's own "Tender Mercies" (1983), another great film about a has-been country singer and a good woman (Tess Harper). It's a measure of Bridges, Duvall, Gyllenhaal and Harper that they create completely different characters.

One of the ways the movie might have gone wrong is if the singing and the songs hadn't sounded right. They do. Bridges has an easy, sandpapery voice that sounds as if it's been through some good songs and good whiskey, and the film's original songs are by T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton (who died of cancer in May at Burnett's home). Bridges conveys the difficult feelings of a singer keeping his dogged pride while performing in a bowling alley.

The movie knows more about alcoholism than many films do, and has more of that wisdom onscreen, not least from the Duvall character. Gyllenhaal's character, too, is not an enabler or an alibi artist, but a woman who feels with her mind as well as her heart. Watch her as she and Bridges find the same level of mutual confidence for their characters. One of the reasons we trust the film is that neither Bad nor Jean is acting out illusions. Colin Farrell, too, is on the same page. We understand why he stays loyal, to the degree that he can. This is a rare story that knows people don't always forget those who helped them on the way up.

Jeff Bridges is a virtual certainty to win his first Oscar, after four nominations. The movie was once set for 2010 release (and before that, I hear, was going straight to cable). The more people saw it, the more they were convinced this was a great performance. Fox Searchlight stepped in, bought the rights and screened it extensively in December for critics' groups, who all but unanimously voted for Bridges as the year's best actor. We're good for something.

Cast & Credits

Bad Blake- Jeff Bridges
Jean- Maggie Gyllenhaal
Wayne- Robert Duvall
Tommy Sweet- Colin Farrell
Manager- James Keane

Fox Searchlight presents a film written and directed by Scott Cooper. Based on the novel by Thomas Cobb. Running time: 112 minutes. Rated R (for language and brief sexuality).


Hank Thompson: 'Crazy Heart's' real-life Bad Blake

Pop & Hiss
The L.A. Times music blog
December 28, 2009 3:05 pm

Jeff Bridges' star turn in "Crazy Heart" as downtrodden country music legend Bad Blake has been earning the veteran actor some of the most glowing reviews of his career, from writers who have invoked the names of many real-life musicians in their assessments of Bridges' portrayal of the fictional Blake.

"Peering into that face, you'd swear it's Kris Kristofferson," Mary Pols wrote in Time magazine. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers suggested that "Bad is an outlaw combo of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard."

And in the New York Times’ review, A.O. Scott noted that during the film, "You hear songs by Townes van Zandt and Waylon Jennings, and you may also think of Willie Nelson and some others. As for Mr. Bridges: He can't help it if he looks like Kris Kristofferson and sounds a little like David Allan Coe."

Few, however, have zeroed in on the Country Music Hall of Fame member who actually inspired the creation of Bad Blake in Thomas Cobb's 1987 novel: Hank Thompson.

"I used to be a country music writer," Cobb told me after flying out from his home in Rhode Island to attend the film's star-studded premiere in Beverly Hills. "This was in Houston, and I went to cover a show one night -- it was an arena show with Conway Twitty, and Hank Thompson opened for him."
Thompson was best known for his 1952 hit "The Wild Side of Life," which topped the country chart for 15 weeks, and had a remarkably long career, placing records on the country charts in five decades, from 1948 to 1983. He toured tirelessly, upwards of 200 to 250 shows a year until shortly before he died at age 82 in 2007.

For that early-'80s show with Twitty in Houston, Cobb recalled, "He was backed that night by a local band that I knew had been called that morning and asked 'Do you want to back Hank Thompson tonight?' I thought, 'What a horrible thing: that someone of Hank Thompson’s stature was playing with a pickup band, and a band that didn't even know they were backing him until that morning. That was part of it."

At the time, Cobb was working on his doctorate in creative writing, and wrote up the incident for one of his classes. "I had to have a story ready the next day for a workshop, when I put on a new John Anderson record and heard the song 'Would You Catch a Falling Star'."

That song, written by Bobby Braddock, certainly evokes the character that Bridges plays onscreen:

He had a silver plated bus and a million country fans
And now there's just a few of us, and he drives a little van
And they were beating down his door, the lovely women, left and right
And now he's on the hardwood floor, a-wonderin' where he'll spend the night

Would you catch a fallin' star before he crashes to the ground?
Don't you know how people are, nobody loves you when you're down
Pick me up and take me home, and I'll bring my old guitar
Sing a golden oldie song, if you'll catch a fallin' star.

With that image swirling in his mind, Cobb said, "I started thinking of Hank Thompson, sat down and wrote what was essentially first chapter of the book.

"I had interviewed Hank Williams Jr., Hoyt Axton, Lacy J. Dalton and George Strait, when he was first starting out," Cobb said. "I spent fair amount of time on their buses -- when they were parked, so I had a really good idea of what the life was about. … It took me eight months to write, writing about three pages a night. Nothing has ever come that easily again. It was one of those little bits of grace."

The book, however, wasn't a big hit, and went out of print not long after it was published. The movie rights had been optioned several times, though nothing ever materialized. When screenwriter-director Scott Cooper approached Cobb about four years ago to take another shot at turning it into a movie, the author didn’t think much about, much less that it would quickly land two Golden Globe nominations and much talk about possible Academy Award nods.

"It's been a miraculous little film," Cobb said. "Scott’s fond of saying that if it had taken one more year, he never would have gotten it made. He got financing right before Lehman Brothers [investment bank] crash. There's been all this serendipity, these wonderful accidents, with this person getting attached, then that person. I frankly after 22 years never really expected to see this film made"

--Randy Lewis

Top photo: Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake in "Crazy Heart." Credit: Lorey Sebastian/Fox Searchlight. Second photo: Country singer Hank Thompson. Credit: File

Today's Tune: Ryan Bingham - The Weary Kind (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Your hearts on the loose
You rolled them sevens with nothing lose
And this aint no place for the weary kind
You called all your shots
Shooting 8 ball at the corner truck stop
Somehow this dont feel like home anymore

And this aint no place for the weary kind
And this aint no place to lose your mind
And this aint no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try

Your body aches
Playing your guitar and sweating out the hate
The days and the nights all feel the same
Whiskey has been a thorn in your side
and it doesnt forget
the highway that calls for your heart inside

And this aint no place for the weary kind
And this aint no place to lose your mind
And this aint no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try

Your lovers wont kiss
Its too damn far from your fingertips
You are the man that ruined her world

Your hearts on the loose
You rolled them sevens with nothing lose
And this aint no place for the weary kind

Dems Feeling Heat Over Kennedy Seat

The Democrats’ “bad climate” is a direct result of how they’ve governed.

By Jonah Goldberg
http://www.nationalreview.com/
January 15, 2010, 0:00 a.m.

In August, Ted Kennedy, the Lion of the Senate, the last son of Camelot, the soul of the Democratic party, friend of the people and scourge of robber barons, fat cats, and special interests, departed this mortal coil.

Now, that’s not really my opinion of the man. But if you were inclined to imbue Tom Brokaw with pontifical authority or view the world through the prism of the New York Times, or its Mini-Me the Boston Globe, that’s how you’d see Teddy.

So it should be of more than passing interest that “Ted Kennedy’s seat” in the Senate may go to Republican Scott Brown next week. And not just any Republican, but an actual conservative, as opposed to some me-too Republican who promises to drive in the same direction as liberals.

Not long ago, Brown was down 30 points to Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley. Now it’s neck and neck, according to many polls. Brown is still the underdog, but the fact that it is even close is in itself hugely significant. It’s a bit like Tibet holding its own against China in a land war, or Abe Vigoda giving Tiger Woods a run for his money at Augusta (or, for that matter, at a Vegas nightclub).

Even more astounding, Brown is running directly against what everyone agrees was Ted Kennedy’s signature issue and legacy: health-care reform. Massachusetts is the most famously Democratic state in the union. Barack Obama’s presidency and the Democratic congressional majority are invested in health-care reform like a Bernie Madoff victim, and Brown is surging by running as the monkey wrench for the whole thing.

This is like a Democrat successfully running in Texas on tax hikes, gay marriage, and funding the Pentagon solely through bake sales.

The Democratic party is panicking like brothel patrons with the cops at the door. They’re dropping shock troops of muckety-mucks, hacks, spinners, and door-knockers into Boston like Rangers into Normandy.

Meanwhile, the liberal press establishment is in near-total denial. Yes, the race is getting a lot of attention, but Coakley’s problems are being chalked up to the fact that she is a bad campaigner and this is a bad “climate” for the Democrats.

They use “climate” to suggest that things are bad for Democrats for reasons beyond their control (ironically, they don’t talk about the climate that way when it comes to global warming). Orange growers in Florida can’t be blamed for a bad crop if the climate won’t cooperate, and Democrats can’t be held accountable for their crop failure now. It’s the economy! It’s the obstructionism of the Republicans and that satanic whatchamacallit, the filibuster. Jupiter is aligned with Mars, NutraSweet has poisoned the water supply, Lost has been on hiatus too long, Mongo likes candy: It’s the climate, you see, the horrible, horrible climate! Democrats didn’t do anything wrong!

Except they did.

The Democrats’ “bad climate” is a direct result of how they’ve governed. The populist backlash is fueled by a sense that Democrats are acting on their preferred agenda and by their own rules. From the shenanigans of the people who write our tax code and collect our taxes to special deals and secret arrangements for big businesses and legislators who play ball, the Democrats have abandoned transparency in favor of transparent arrogance.

Coakley is a creature of this climate. She hasn’t been running for “Ted Kennedy’s seat,” she’s been strolling to it like someone who knows it’s been reserved for her and all she needs to do is swing by the will-call window to pick it up.

“The people of Massachusetts” are an abstraction whose assigned role is to ratify her entitlement to that seat. As for the actual citizens of the state her campaign can’t be bothered to spell correctly in campaign ads? By all means, keep them at a safe distance.

When asked if her campaign style is too aloof, she snapped back: “As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park [the way Scott Brown does]? In the cold? Shaking hands?”

Heaven forfend the royal heir apparent descend from her carriage and actually touch the proles.

Brown has raised vast sums through the sorts of small donations that allegedly made Obama a man of the people. But Coakley attacks his fundraising as the tainted lucre of right-wing ogres lurking under America’s bridges (bridges no doubt paid for with stimulus dollars), while she shakes down health-care lobbyists eager to cash in on the “reform” she will ratify.

Coakley may still win. But Democrats should be on notice: The fault for her sad performance lies not in the climate, but in themselves.


— 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.

Proud of My Country

Observations on the cataclysm in Haiti.

By Mona Charen
http://www.nationalreview.com/
January 15, 2010 12:00 AM

As I write, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and half a dozen other U.S. Navy ships are steaming toward Haiti. They will join some 900 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division in providing emergency aid. Twenty-two hundred Marines will also be on hand.

In this Jan. 12, 2010 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson departs from the Naval Station in Norfolk, Va. The USS Carl Vinson is expected to arrive off the coast of Haiti Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010 as part of a larger international effort overseen by the United Nations, whose peacekeeping operation headquarters was destroyed in the quake.
(AP Photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Rafael Martie, U.S. Navy)


We don’t maintain the world’s largest military to provide humanitarian relief. But those who disdain our military power may want to say a private prayer of thanksgiving that we make the sacrifices to maintain it — if only because in cases such as this, there is no substitute for a military response. After the 2004 tsunami, when ports and roads were destroyed, the U.S. deployed 15,000 troops, a carrier task force, and a Marine expeditionary force. This flotilla supervised the delivery of tents, water, food, medicine, and other supplies to Indonesia and Thailand before any other aid could arrive. The chief of naval operations at the time, Adm. Mike Mullen, noted with justifiable pride: “We literally built a city at sea for no other purpose than to serve the needs of other people.”

The following year, the U.S. military deployed similar aid to Pakistan after an earthquake, to Bangladesh following a cyclone, and to the Gulf coast after Katrina. While we shouldn’t necessarily expect gratitude, we can, Michelle Obama notwithstanding, feel proud of our country.

Other notes on the cataclysm:

* Can someone muzzle Pat Robertson? Surely he forfeited all claim to be taken seriously when he agreed with Jerry Falwell that 9/11 was God’s retribution for our sins. Having learned nothing from that plunge into inanity, he now informs his viewers that Haiti is “cursed” because its people “swore a pact with the Devil.” It’s a “true story,” he insists. This man is a buffoon.

* There are times when you just wish you could evacuate entire spots on the globe. Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, was devastated by major storms in 2004 and 2005, and by almost yearly floods since 2002. In 2008, the nation was pummeled by four major hurricanes in one month. Sixty percent of the country’s harvest — in a nation that consists largely of subsistence farmers — was wiped out. The countryside, deforested by impoverished islanders who cut down trees for fuel, became a toxic sludge.

* Haiti shares the climate and natural resources of its Hispaniola neighbor, the Dominican Republic. Like East and West Germany, and North and South Korea, its plight is a vivid illustration of the importance of decent government. The Dominican Republic is no Switzerland, but its per capita GDP was estimated by the CIA to be $8,200 in 2008, compared with $1,300 in Haiti.

Corruption and execrable government have turned Haiti into a sinkhole. We speak of “failed states” in the Middle East and Africa, but we have one just a few miles to our south. Those who could manage it have emigrated. According to World Bank estimates, 82 percent of Haitians with a college degree have fled, along with 88 percent of other skilled workers. The unskilled too have sought to escape, with thousands taking to open boats in shark-infested waters every year.

* There is nothing wrong with the Haitian people. When they do reach better-organized nations, they thrive. Ria Treco of Florida International University examined the Haitian diaspora in the Bahamas and found that many Haitians take menial jobs but do not lack ambition. “Haitian children have accounted for some of the top students in the school system. Many Haitian parents walk their children to school to ensure that their children attend . . . and oversee . . . homework.” According to the 2000 Census, 58 percent of Haitians living in the United States work in a professional capacity, and 33 percent of black doctors in New York State are Haitian.

Those who’ve managed to escape have not abandoned the ones they left behind. The 1.5 million–strong Haitian diaspora contributed $1.7 billion in remittances to the island in 2008 according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

* Nature unleashes its furies indiscriminately. But Haiti’s tragedy is almost entirely manmade. Tyranny and corruption yield poverty, and poverty multiplies other woes. An earthquake of similar intensity struck Northridge, Calif., in 1994 and resulted in only 72 deaths. This catastrophe is a reminder of the tremendous importance of the rule of law, free markets, and an independent judiciary. Never take them for granted.


— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

The UN Shines in Haiti

by Joseph Klein
http://www.frontpagemag.com/
January 15, 2010

This week’s earthquake in Haiti has been a catastrophe for the island nation, with hundreds of thousands feared dead. Less well documented but equally tragic is that relief organizations, including the United Nations, have also been swept up in the disaster’s wake.

The United Nations has suffered its worst loss of life from a single incident in its history as a result of the January 12 earthquake. As of this writing, the United Nations has reported the loss of 36 lives of its personnel – 13 civilians, 4 policemen and 19 members of the UN military peacekeeping force. At least 150 members of the UN international staff in Haiti remain unaccounted for, including some of the most senior UN officials there. Some UN personnel remain under the rubble that was once the UN’s headquarters building in Haiti, the Christopher Hotel. Half of the Christopher Hotel has totally collapsed.

All the while, to the credit of the UN personnel operating as best they can on the ground, they have redoubled their efforts to maintain order and to deliver humanitarian aid to the earthquake survivors literally living in the streets. Despite the loss of life in its own ranks, the United Nations has been coordinating all rescue, safety and humanitarian efforts in Haiti.

Search and rescue teams have been using dogs and electronic sensing equipment to try to find survivors. There have been at least 8 live rescues of UN personnel, including an Estonian bodyguard who was located when scratching sounds were heard. He was given water through a rubber pipe, and was extracted from the rubble in reasonably good shape.

Reporting via video link from Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, UN humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, Kim Bolduc and senior UN official David Wimhurst described their own harrowing escapes and the human devastation that they observed all around them. There were many dead bodies piled up on the streets, with the injured lying in the road “in a state of shock.” The capital, they said, resembled a “ghost town.” Bolduc and Wimhurst could not confirm reports that fatalities in Haiti have exceeded 100,000, but they said they would not be surprised if that turned out to be the case.

Amidst all of this carnage, Haitian President Rene Preval has taken no observable leadership role. He managed to create more confusion when he claimed, without any apparent confirmation, that the head of the peacekeeping mission in Haiti, Hedi Annabi of Tunisia, was dead. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters on Thursday that he had no information on which to conclude that Annabi was in fact dead and could not reach Preval to determine the basis of Preval’s assertion.

The Haitian police have been nowhere to be found, according to the UN officials reporting from Haiti. The UN forces, supported by U.S. Marines sent by President Obama, will shoulder the burden of preventing mayhem as tensions rise in the capital and elsewhere in Haiti. A question unanswered by UN officials was whether the Marines would be expected to operate under UN command. Nor was there any clarification of the rules of engagement for the UN forces if serious rioting were to break out. For example, would live ammunition be used as it was last November, which resulted in injuries to civilians?

These questions and others will require answers sooner or later. However, the United Nations deserves full support at this critical hour for Haiti. In disastrous conditions, the bravery, dedication and sacrifice being shown by the UN personnel on the ground in Haiti have been astounding.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Relief Efforts for Haiti

Tuesday, January 12, 2010, 8:29 PM
The Anchoress
http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/theanchoress/2010/01/12/relief-efforts-for-haiti/

The Pope has activated worldwide Catholic relief for Haiti.

I will be donating to Food For the Poor, an terrific organization serving those in desperate need in the Caribbean and Latin America. I have written before about the excellent work they do, and the people they serve. And they really do serve. In 2008, over 97% of their donations went directly their programs in aid to the poor.

A donation to their General Fund “goes to where the greatest need is at the moment.” That would be Haiti, I’m sure. Food for the poor is helping to get information out:

“Everything started shaking, people were screaming, houses started collapsing … it’s total chaos,” Reuters reporter Joseph Guyler Delva said. “I saw people under the rubble, and people killed,” he added.

A local employee for the U.S. charity Food for the Poor reported seeing a five-storey building collapse in Port-au-Prince, a spokeswoman for the group, Kathy Skipper, told Reuters.

Another Food for the Poor employee said there were more houses destroyed than standing in Delmas Road, a major thoroughfare in the city.

Panic-stricken residents filled the streets desperately trying to dig people from rubble or seeking missing relatives as dark fell shortly after the quake. “People were screaming ‘Jesus, Jesus’ and running in all directions,” Delva said.

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Steroids Era Is Over? Shame On You, Bud

By Jay Mariotti
http://www.fanhouse.com/
January 12, 2009

Bud Selig's epitaph deserves to read thusly: Once a car dealer, always a car dealer. He's a flim-flam baseball commissioner who should be angry as hell after hearing Mark McGwire's delusional tale yet, somehow, insists it was all warmth and fuzz. Oh, the folly of Big Mac claiming he used steroids and human growth hormone only to recover from injuries -- and never, ever to build strength -- and that years of juicing had no influence on inflating his power numbers or giving him a competitive advantage.


Bud Selig

But Hocus Pocus Bud, the man who stuck his head in the sand when steroids whispers first surfaced in the mid-1990s, actually is trying to use the latest performance-enhancing black eye to make himself and his regime look good. Know how he responded to the first official confirmation that the Summer of Swat was a scam in 1998, that McGwire was doing steroids right under our noses when we were declaring him an American hero?

Selig thinks it means The Steroids Era is over, by God.

I think the man should resign immediately on multiple counts of ignorance, arrogance and continuing his shameful attempt to dupe the public about dope.

"The use of steroids and amphetamines among today's players has greatly subsided and is virtually nonexistent, as our testing results have shown," Selig said. "The so-called steroid era -- a reference that is resented by the many players who played in that era and never touched the substances -- is clearly a thing of the past, and Mark's admission is another step in the right direction.''

Uh, can we test the commissioner for drugs? Clearly, he's on something.

The fittingly named Steroids Era -- capital S and capital E, Bud -- is not even remotely close to being in the past tense. In fact, it sadly is just beginning, with chemists concocting new forms of juice and masking agents as we speak. As long as baseball doesn't have a reliable test for HGH, a breakthrough that might be years away, Selig is grossly irresponsible to plant any suggestion that his sport is clean.

He's a fool to think the numbers he cites -- two positive tests out of 3,722 samples during the 2009 major league season -- are a reliable gauge. First of all, given the suspiciously complicit stance of the commissioner and owners in turning their heads to steroids while records were broken and millions were raked in, I have no reason to believe Selig's numbers are accurate. Secondly, there are players using HGH right now, and we'd be naive to think otherwise when the sport has been rife with steroids use for so long. And if anyone buys into Selig's blind insistence that baseball has become super-tough on banned substances, consider that MLB granted a whopping 108 exemptions last season to players who supposedly have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder -- allowing them to use amphetamines, a performance-enhancing drug. That translates to about 9 percent of approximately 1,200 major-league players being granted exemptions when the national average, in the same basic age group, is around 4.5 percent. You mean to say big-league clubhouses have twice the number of ADD cases as the rest of American society?

Finally, until the names of 103 dirty players from The Steroids Era are revealed, Selig cannot declare an end to The Steroids Era. Alex Rodriguez came from that list. David Ortiz came from that list. Sammy Sosa, McGwire's partner in 1998 crime, reportedly is on that list. Now, what about the others, Bud? You just want us to forget about them so the grand, old game can resume graciously and you can retire -- hopefully much sooner than later -- with peace of mind?

Idiots, we are not. We see right through this man.

"I think the jury is still out on that issue and that the self-serving statements by Bud Selig do nothing to increase confidence," Dick Pound, former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, told the Associated Press. "What has emerged in the whole baseball mess is that drug use is widespread and that even the best players are involved -- and still MLB is whistling past the graveyard. If you notice, McGwire talks about steroids and HGH. MLB does not even test for HGH. These MLB positions are not indicators of a real attempt to solve the drug use problem in baseball."

What I want from Selig is fist-pounding, a demand that McGwire be more honest in confronting his steroids past, a reminder that star slugger Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games last season after records were obtained that he used a female fertility. Instead, Bud Light tries to restore his legacy when it was shot a long time ago. From now until eternity, Selig will be recalled as The Steroids Commissioner, the owners-friendly boss who let The Steroids Era be used as a springboard for his boys to increase revenues. Then, after all the money had been made and the TV contracts secured, Selig tried to save face by appointing Sen. George Mitchell to make examples of all the steroids-using pawns who jacked up the power numbers. It really is one of the all-time American business scams.


Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco

And again, I find myself thanking the most unlikely of sources for lambasting Selig. As a human being, Jose Canseco is a sad sack. But as a voice of The Steroids Era, no one has more credibility and has been more accurate in calling out alleged users in advance and seeing his predictions come true.

"I think eventually, Bud Selig has to resign. This is far from over," Canseco told ESPN Radio on Tuesday. "There's a list out there of [103] players. The last five to eight years, there may have been some players elected to the Hall of Fame that were on that list. Nonetheless, if that list is not divulged, there will continuously be players who are inducted into the Hall of Fame who will probably be on that list."

Canseco for Commissioner!

Hey, he's more honest than Selig on the subject.

The stink of the McGwire case hardly ends there. You may be wondering, as I am, why Big Mac didn't do a mass news conference Monday, instead hand-picking a succession of media outlets that included an unusually soft Bob Costas on -- ha, ha, ha -- the MLB Network. As the New York Times reported, McGwire's appearances were carefully designed by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who runs a crisis-management company and recently was hired by the hopeless Bowl Championship Series to spin a more favorable public perception. Costas, an exemplary journalist who knows better, should have removed himself from the McGwire interview. Why? As the Times pointed out, half of Fleischer's company is owned by IMG. Guess who represents Costas?

IMG.

In the end, it looks like McGwire is being protected by the big baseball/media machine, which is trying to facilitate his return to the game as St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach. As Selig said, "I am pleased that Mark McGwire has confronted his use of performance-enhancing substances as a player. Being truthful is always the correct course of action ... This statement of contrition, I believe, will make Mark's re-entry into the game much smoother and easier.''

Why would the commissioner embrace him and want to make his life easier? If Selig truly cared about the integrity of the game, he would excoriate McGwire for trashing the Summer of Swat and symbolizing the ills that soiled the game. He says he wished he'd never played in The Steroids Era. Make no mistake, Mark McGwire WAS The Steroids Era. And make no mistake, Bud Selig -- once a car dealer, always a car dealer -- IS The Steroids Commissioner.

Pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks. Which means, let the juicing begin!


Juicy details just give us ’roid rage

By Dan Shaughnessy
Boston Globe Columnist
http://www.boston.com/sports/
January 13, 2010

It makes you want to throw up your hands and say, “They’re all dirty!’’

The fallout from Mark McGwire’s carefully scripted Monday confession (Ari Fleischer!) serves only to raise more questions and bolster the theory that everybody’s dirty.

In this image from video, Mark McGwire pauses during an interview with Bob Costas on MLB Network on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010. McGwire admitted earlier Monday he used steroids when he broke baseball's home run record in 1998. McGwire said in a statement sent to The Associated Press that he used steroids on and off for nearly a decade.
(AP Photo/MLB Network)


Why wouldn’t a guy cheat? Steroids made McGwire rich and famous. The performance-enhancing drugs probably will cost him Cooperstown, but ’roids got McGwire where he wanted to go. Is there a Triple A ballplayer who’d say no to artificial help if it would elevate him to the big leagues? Is there a fringe big leaguer who’d resist an opportunity to become a full-blown star with a long-term contract?

Woe is the big league ballplayer who never cheated with PEDs. These days, they are all presumed guilty and it’s virtually impossible to prove innocence from the scourge of the Juice Era.

A lot of unfortunate remarks have been spilled since McGwire went public with his sins.

Start with Big Mac. Does anyone believe him when he says he did not do this to gain strength? Does he expect us to nod and agree when he says that he would have been just as good without the stuff? Sorry. The “I just did it to get back on the field’’ defense is the juicer’s version of “the dog ate my homework.’’ Nobody is buying.

If this junk didn’t help McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998, why was he compelled to apologize to members of the Maris family Monday?

Please, let’s have no more baseball players telling us that steroids don’t help with hand-eye coordination. That’s not the point. Professional hitters are able to square up the baseball. They don’t need the juice for that. The steroids help with bat speed, power, and confidence. Oh, and they also help a player recover from injuries - you know, to get back on the field.

We all cringe when Bud Selig says that the steroid era “is clearly a thing of the past.’’

Bud sounds like Neville Chamberlain before World War II. It’s nice that there’s testing in place, but can we ever believe that the testers will be ahead of the cheaters? There’s no testing for HGH. Players always figure out a way to beat the system. It was particularly easy when there was no testing (thank you very much, Messrs. Fehr and Orza), but even with testing in place, ballplayers will scheme to get an edge. Ask Manny Ramirez, one of the few dopes who got caught in the “testing era.’’

Tony La Russa needs to stop enabling McGwire. Barrister Tony is simply too smart to believe the things that come out of his own mouth. Tony helps no one when he says he didn’t know anything about this until Monday. He parrots the “he just did it to get back on the field’’ defense. La Russa comes off like childish Red Sox owner John Henry chiding those who question David Ortiz because “David says he didn’t do it.’’

Meanwhile, 120 years of hardball history is officially in the dumper. Take a look at the all-time home run list. In the top 15 we have Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Manny. All cheaters. It’s the same with guys on the mound from the “steroid era.’’ Anybody still think Roger Clemens was able to throw 95 miles per hour in his mid-40s because of his workout regimen?

Which brings us to the Hall of Fame ballot. What is a voter to do? Baseball asks writers to factor “character’’ and “integrity’’ when considering candidates. Cooperstown won’t have Joe Jackson and Pete Rose because of gambling scandals. McGwire has yet to receive 25 percent of votes even though he has 583 homers.

He has been held out of the Hall because of steroids and that’s not likely to change. So what happens when Bonds’s name appears on the ballot? A-Rod? Clemens? Sosa? Are they all out, or will the voting membership eventually bend on cheaters because there are so many of them and, well, it was “the Steroid Era’’?

The Steroid Era. This is the only way baseball can move forward, make itself feel better.

If everything can be wrapped up in “the Steroid Era,’’ we don’t have to blow up the record book and start over.

This way, the Red Sox championship of 2004 doesn’t have to be tainted, even though the ultimate message becomes “our cheaters were better than your cheaters.’’

Seventy-three homers in a season? Don’t worry about it. It happened during the Steroid Era.

Very tidy. But what if the era never ended? What if the Steroid Era morphed into the HGH Era? What if it’s just the Cheating Era, which extends to infinity?

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.


Despite admitting steroid use, Mark McGwire is no better than Barry Bonds

By Mike Lupica
The Daily News
http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/index.html
Wednesday, January 13th 2010, 4:00 AM



Finley/AP

Mark McGwire may have come clean about using steroids, but he is no better than Barry Bonds.


If Mark McGwire can get back into the good graces of baseball then so can Barry Bonds. Maybe the only difference is that Bonds is much too proud - or defiant - to cry and beg for forgiveness the way McGwire did. Even though it is still a little murky what McGwire was asking to be forgiven for.

Bonds told his nuanced story to a grand jury in the BALCO case. All this time later, that testimony has the feds trying to make a case against him it now seems they will never make. McGwire told a different kind of story, even more nuanced, to the country on Monday, through a series of hand-picked reporters. And was no more believable than Bonds was in that grand jury room in San Francisco. And is no better.

If McGwire is no longer an enemy of the state in baseball, neither is Bonds.

Bonds shouldn't have to cry, because if his "confession" is going to be as ridiculous as McGwire's was, then what is the point, really? To see Bonds humble himself the way McGwire did, all the way to his seat in the living room with Bob Costas?

This isn't meant to forgive Bonds on steroids anymore than you forgive McGwire, who apparently thought going to the needle was almost some kind of religious experience, like going to Lourdes. They both knew what they were doing and why they were doing it.

But McGwire doesn't get off the hook, and leave Bonds hanging on one of his own, because people like him more. Or because Cardinals manager Tony La Russa - who starts to come across as some unindicted coconspirator with McGwire - wants to rewrite his personal history as much as Mc-Gwire does.

Nobody is defending what Bonds did with his own drug use, ever. But Bonds didn't start the "steroid era." McGwire is the one who did that. He doesn't get cleared now because of a crying jag that started to make you think he was watching some kind of all-day "Old Yeller" movie marathon.

The guy sure did do a lot of crying, before he ever got to Costas. It was reported in the St. Louis paper that he cried on the phone. It was reported in USA Today by Mel Antonen that he cried on the phone. Tim Kurkjian reported that McGwire cried on the phone with him. Everybody who watched the Costas interview saw what happened there. But the question that doesn't go away is why he was so broken up if all he was doing was taking "low dosages" of steroids to heal.

Only that's not what was reported by this newspaper's I-Team five years ago. At the time, the I-Team reported that McGwire's laundry list of hard-core steroids wasn't so tremendously different from Bonds':

One-half cc of testosterone cypionate every three days.

One cc of testosterone enanthate per week.

The veterinary steroids Equipoise and Winstrol V, one quarter cc every three days, injected in the buttocks.

Now he says he did this for "health reasons." Well, yeah, maybe if he just fell out of a second-story window. He says that he has been wanting to come clean since 2005. But when ESPN's Bob Ley asked him why he didn't talk to Sen. George Mitchell, Mc-Gwire blamed it on his lawyers, said he was retired, said nobody else was talking, anyway. So he kept this terrible secret bottled up inside him for three more years.

Is this the best McGwire could do with Ari Fleischer, the former George W. Bush press secretary, calling the shots as his crisis - and stage - manager? Is this the best version they could come up with, that Mc-Gwire did this for only faster recovery and those home runs were the result of a shorter batting stroke?

Here is a question that somebody needed to ask McGwire on Monday:

If you can't recall what you were taking, how come you know you were taking a low dosage?

Another good question he didn't have to answer while choking back tears:

Who supplied you?

Another question:

We're supposed to believe you took steroids for years and can't recall the actual names of the specific drugs?

This is all no better than Alex Rodriguez saying he didn't know what he was taking, he didn't know what it did for him, he let his "cousin" inject him - but he did all that for three years in Texas. But you know what? Ari Fleischer, crisis manager, and client McGwire actually used A-Rod's version of things as some kind of blueprint for success on Monday.

Act contrite and they won't really care whether you're telling a fish tale or not. But why not, here is the mission statement of Ari Fleischer Sports Communications:

"The way the press treats athletes and sports executives has become increasingly adversarial and conflict-driven. Athletes who are trained to give it all and leave it all on the field now face a public and media that demand more...

"Ari Fleischer Sports Communications can help you handle the bad news and take advantage of the good."

It's unclear from the mission statement of Mr. Fleischer - who must think if he could sell Bush he could sell anything - if he thinks the demand for "more" includes the truth.

But all is now forgiven as far as baseball is concerned, even though it is already pretty clear that the majority of people who watched McGwire the other night thought he doesn't come close to clearing the fences anymore, not with material like this.

You know Barry Bonds won't beg, and he won't cry. He might not ever apologize. Or tell the truth himself, since he is still facing a perjury rap. But McGwire is no better than him. Maybe Bonds just needed to play for an enabler like La Russa.