Saturday, February 20, 2010

Arrest of Duke Rape Accuser Crystal Mangum Exposes the Left’s Insincerity & Lies

by Jenn Q. Public
http://frontpagemag.com/category/newsreal/
2010 February 20

“She was black, they were white, and race and sex were in the air.” That’s how a Washington Post columnist described the atmosphere that led to the brutal gang rape of Crystal Mangum by a group of Duke University lacrosse players in 2006. You remember, right? That was the violent, racially motivated hate crime that never happened.

Mangum, 31, accused three Duke University lacrosse players of sexual assault in March 2006. State Attorney General Roy Cooper cleared them.
HARRY LYNCH -
hlynch@newsobserver.com

Mangum is in the news again, but this time she won’t find an army of race-obsessed charlatans, Marxist demagogues, and pandering politicians speeding to her defense. The Left only rolls out that treatment for struggling black single mothers when their harrowing tales bolster an ideological agenda. Pulling off the “virtuous victim of white privilege” shtick won’t be easy when Mangum faces charges of child abuse, arson, and attempted murder.

Guilty or innocent, the stripper who cried wolf is on her own this time. She was only worthy of the support of Jesse Jackson, NOW, the New Black Panther Party, and the Duke University “gang of 88” as long as she was able to help weave a compelling narrative of misogyny, class warfare, racial inequity, and systemic injustice.

Two weeks after Crystal Mangum falsely accused the Duke athletes of rape, English Professor Houston Baker publicly condemned the University’s “moral response to abhorrent sexual assault, verbal racial violence, and drunken white male privilege loosed amongst us.” In a letter to University Provost Peter Lange, he wrote:

The lacrosse team – 15 of whom have faced misdemeanor charges for drunken misbehavior in the past three years – may well feel they can claim innocence and sport their disgraced jerseys on campus, safe under the cover of silent whiteness. But where is the black woman who their violence and raucous witness injured for life? Will she ever sleep well again?

If Professor Baker and his Duke colleagues cared so much about Crystal Mangum getting a good night’s sleep, what did they do to prevent her from landing in prison on attempted murder and child abuse charges? If her race and socioeconomic status were enough to merit destroying the lives of a “scummy bunch of white males,” why did they abandon this underprivileged black woman without getting her the help she so obviously needed?

Mangum was a deeply troubled woman long before she falsely accused the Duke University athletes of rape. Her history of mental illness and unsubstantiated rape and violence claims began in her teenage years, and alcohol abuse has been part of the picture as well.

But that didn’t matter to the Duke faculty members who seized upon her false rape account to stir up racial animosity and resentment of “white, male, athletic privilege.” She made a convenient weapon in the race, class, and gender warfare waged by academics and abetted by the media and the reprehensible former district attorney, Mike Nifong.

Malik Zulu Shabazz, national chairman of the New Black Panther Party proclaimed, “to us she is a righteous and divine woman by nature.” 88 Duke faculty members jumped to her defense (and all but convicted the athletes) in a full-page ad that described a poisonous environment of racial hatred. And of course, the Rev. Jesse Jackson showed up to highlight the plight of a black single mother terrorized by a culture of rampant racism and sexism.

Mangum’s affirmative action qualifications became less valuable when evidence clearing the lacrosse players forced her to turn in her righteous victimhood card. To the Left, she was a cause, not a human being. When she couldn’t maintain the hoax, she wasn’t any less black or any less female. But she was no longer a politically useful black single mother, and thus, no longer of value to the race hustlers and class warmongers who rushed to her aid.

Once Crystal Mangum outlived her usefulness as the personification of social injustice in their heavy handed race baiting immorality play, the Left moved on without apology. And Mangum returned to her troubled life as just another ex-poster child for the leftist agenda, a mentally unstable, alcohol soaked liar who was chewed up and spit out by people in a position to help stop her from ruining more lives, including those of her three young children.

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More NewsReal analysis of Crystal Mangum’s arrest:
Lori Ziganto: In Crystal Mangum, Duke Rape Accuser, Leftist Tactics Come Home To Roost

Follow Jenn Q. Public on Twitter and read more of her work at JennQPublic.com.

Related Link
Raleigh News & Observer: Lacrosse accuser faces charges

Maher Channels His Inner Obama

By Hugh Hewitt
http://www.townhall.com
2/19/2010

There is a difference between rotten and wrong, and it is crucial in politics to note when an opponent is just the latter but not the former.

Sometimes, though, they are both.

Which brings us to Bill Maher. As regular as Punxsutawney Phil but with far less of an audience, the fading HBO carnival barker plays a regular cable circuit in a reprise of the Monty Python skit “I’m not dead yet.” This year Maher appears to be feeling particularly desperate as Keith Olbermann bids to overtake him as idol of the spinning head set. The sports announcer turned avenger-of-the-nutroots has slipped the loose cords that MSNBC puts over its “talent” and is rampaging across Maher’s turf of the disaffected from the disaffected. Maher’s outburst on Larry King on Tuesday night is best understood as a day old Valentine to the muttering class, a display of solidarity with that part of the left that feels Rahm is a secret conservative, and that Axelrod has never actually been seen in a room with Roger Ailes.

“Democrats never understand that Americans don’t really care what position you take,” Maher told King. “Just stick with one. Just be strong. They’re not bright enough to really understand the issues. But like an animal, they can sort of sense strength or weakness. They can smell it on you.”

It is usually best to leave the frenzied left to its own corner of the room, but here Maher lets the mask drop on the central vanity of the left: They are smart and everyone else is stupid. This is actually an organizing principle of the left, and has been since the birth of the modern. It is a core conceit at the heart of every big government solution and every disdainful dismissal of danger from abroad. “You just don’t understand the nuance” is the genteel expression of this conceit. Maher upped the volume and used primary colors as part of his campaign to remind the public that bores are often given television shows, and we should thank him for it. Maher was presenting the inner Obama, and providing a clue why 2010 will not be different from 2009. Massive vanity is not easily laid aside.

I asked historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson for reactions to Maher’s pronouncement, and he replied that “[I]t’s this old Hitlerian argument that people are stupid, they have no ideology.” Hanson noted it is the same argument that bin Laden made “in almost the exact same terms,” –the “strong horse” argument advanced by the terrorist years ago.

“And they really do believe,” Hanson continued, “that they are Platonic guardians, they’re so much smarter than everybody else.”

(The transcript of the interview with Hanson is here.)

The president, his inner circle, Speaker Pelosi, Barney Frank and Chuck Schumer –it is hard, really, to ascribe vanity to Harry Reid’s haplessness—these are ideologues convinced that they are vastly more intelligent than not only the American people but also their political opponents. Thus they cook up threadbare ruses like the health care summit and expect the public to believe they are bipartisan and the GOP obstructionists.

They find a billion spent here or there and ascribe hypocrisy to Republican House members in whose districts the dollars were spent, and people beyond the Manhattan-Beltway media elite to conclude that the conservative critique of the stimulus-that-wasn’t is simple a pose.

They send Joe Biden on the Sunday shows and expect him to deflect Dick Cheney’s criticism. They leak a story that the underpants bomber Abdulmuttallab is “cooperating” and believe that Americans will put aside their disgust with the terrorist being read his Miranda rights.

Again and again they live the creed that Maher gave voice to. They cannot do otherwise, even when greeted with everything from rolling eyes to peals of laughter. They are who they are.

And voters who forgot this through the years since 1994 turned the Congress over to the GOP, or who had allowed Bill Clinton’s incredibly long run as an impersonator of a populist to cloud their memory now see on display every day the ocean of contempt in which they are held by the left that holds the White House and Congress.

Bill Maher is their town crier, even though the left is generally much more discreet than Maher's professional desperation obliges him to be. For once, break your studied indifference to all things Maher and listen to him. He is channeling the president. Hold that thought, at least until November.

(58 comments so far)

- Hugh Hewitt is host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Hugh Hewitt's new book is The War On The West.

Why the West is going down the drain

By MARK STEYN
The Orange County Register
http://www.ocregister.com/sections/opinion/
2010-02-19 10:05:28

News from around the world:

In Britain, it is traditional on Shrove Tuesday to hold pancake races, in which contestants run while flipping a pancake in a frying pan. The appeal of the event depends on the potential pitfalls in attempting simultaneous rapid forward propulsion and pancake tossing. But, in St. Albans, England, competitors were informed by Health & Safety officials that they were "banned from running due to fears they would slip over in the rain." Watching a man walk up the main street with a skillet is not the most riveting event, even in St. Albans. In the heat of the white-knuckle thrills, team captain David Emery momentarily forgot the new rules. "I have been disqualified from a running race for running," he explained afterwards.

In Canada, Karen Selick told readers of The Ottawa Citizen about her winter vacation in Arizona last month: "The resort suite I rented via the Internet promised a private patio with hot tub," she wrote. "Upon arrival, I found the door to my patio bolted shut. 'Entry prohibited by federal law,' read the sign. Hotel management explained that the drains in all the resort's hot tubs had recently been found not to comply with new safety regulations. Compliance costs would be astronomical. Dozens of hot tubs would instead be cemented over permanently." In the meantime, her suite had an attractive view of the federally-prohibited patio.

Anything else? Oh, yeah. In Iran, the self-declared nuclear regime announced that it was now enriching uranium to 20 percent. When President Barack Obama took office, the Islamic Republic had 400 centrifuges enriching up to 3.5 percent. A year later, it has 8,000 centrifuges enriching to 20 percent. The CIA director, Leon Panetta, now cautiously concedes that Iran's nuclear ambitions may have a military purpose. Which is odd, because the lavishly funded geniuses behind America's National Intelligence Estimate told us only two years ago that Tehran had ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Is that estimate no longer operative? And, if so, could we taxpayers get a refund?

This is a perfect snapshot of the West at twilight. On the one hand, governments of developed nations microregulate every aspect of your life in the interests of "keeping you safe." If you're minded to flip a pancake at speeds of more than 4 miles per hour, the state will step in and act decisively: It's for your own good. If you're a tourist from Moose Jaw, Washington will take pre-emptive action to shield you from the potential dangers of your patio in Arizona.

On the other hand, when it comes to "keeping you safe" from real threats, such as a millenarian theocracy that claims universal jurisdiction, America and its allies do nothing. There aren't going to be any sanctions, because China and Russia don't want them. That means military action, which would have to be done without U.N. backing – which, as Greg Sheridan of The Australian puts it, "would be foreign to every instinct of the Obama administration." Indeed. Nonetheless, Washington is (altogether now) "losing patience" with the mullahs. The New York Daily News reports the latest get-tough move:

"Secretary of State Clinton dared Iran on Monday to let her hold a town hall meeting in Tehran."

That's telling 'em. If the ayatollahs had a sense of humor, they'd call her bluff.

The average Canadian can survive an Arizona hot tub merely compliant with 2009 safety standards rather than 2010. The average Englishman can survive stumbling with his frying pan: You may get a nasty graze on his kneecap, but rub in some soothing pancake syrup, and you'll soon feel right as rain. Whether they – or at any rate their pampered complacent societies in which hot-tub regulation is the most pressing issue of the day – can survive a nuclear Iran is a more open question.

It is now certain that Tehran will get its nukes, and very soon. This is the biggest abdication of responsibility by the Western powers since the 1930s. It is far worse than Pakistan going nuclear, which, after all, was just another thing the CIA failed to see coming. In this case, the slow-motion nuclearization conducted in full view and through years of tortuous diplomatic charades and endlessly rescheduled looming deadlines is not just a victory for Iran but a decisive defeat for the United States. It confirms the Islamo-Sino-Russo-everybody else diagnosis of Washington as a hollow superpower that no longer has the will or sense of purpose to enforce the global order.

What does it mean? That a year or two down the line Iran will be nuking Israel? Not necessarily, although the destruction of not just the Zionist Entity but the broader West remains an explicit priority. Maybe they mean it. Maybe they don't. Maybe they'll do it directly. Maybe they'll just get one of their terrorist subcontractors to weaponize the St. Albans pancake batter. But, when you've authorized successful mob hits on Salman Rushdie's publishers and translators, when you've blown up Jewish community centers in Buenos Aires, when you've acted extra-territorially to the full extent of your abilities for 30 years, it seems prudent for the rest of us to assume that when your abilities go nuclear you'll be acting to an even fuller extent.

But, even without launching a single missile, Iran will at a stroke have transformed much of the map – and not just in the Middle East, where the Sunni dictatorships face a choice between an unsought nuclear arms race or a future as Iranian client states. In Eastern Europe, a nuclear Iran will vastly advance Russia's plans for a de facto reconstitution of its old empire: In an unstable world, Putin will offer himself as the protection racket you can rely on. And you'd be surprised how far west "Eastern" Europe extends: Moscow's strategic view is of a continent not only energy-dependent on Russia but also security-dependent. And, when every European city is within range of Tehran and other psycho states, there'll be plenty of takers for that when the alternative is an effete and feckless Washington.

It's a mistake to think that the infantilization of once-free peoples represented by the microregulatory Nanny State can be confined to pancakes and hot tubs. Consider, for example, the incisive analysis of Scott Gration, the U.S. special envoy to the mass murderers of Sudan: "We've got to think about giving out cookies," said Gration a few months back. "Kids, countries – they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement."

Actually, there's not a lot of evidence "smiley faces" have much impact on kids in the Bronx, never mind genocidal machete-wielders in Darfur. So much for the sophistication of "soft power," smiling through a hard-faced world.

So, Iran will go nuclear and formally inaugurate the post-American era. The Left and the isolationist Right reckon that's no big deal. They think of the planet as that Arizona patio and America as the hotel room. There may be an incendiary hot tub out there, but you can lock the door and hang a sign, and life will go on, albeit a little more cramped and constrained than before. I think not.

©MARK STEYN

Friday, February 19, 2010

Art Review | 'Rome After Raphael'

A Window Into the Turbulence of 16th-Century Rome

By KAREN ROSENBERG
The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com
January 29, 2010

Early in the 16th century Rome and Florence were locked in a heated rivalry. Florence had the Medicis, or what was left of them; Rome was in ruins — it had been sacked in 1527 — but it had the papacy, and with it the promise of rebuilding. The best artists were frequently caught in between.

That contest is now playing out at two New York museums. The Met has a magnificent survey of drawings by the Florentine mannerist Bronzino, and the Morgan Museum & Library has unveiled “Rome After Raphael,” a show of some 80 Italian drawings from its collection.


Morgan Library & Museum

Giulio Clovio’s illuminated manuscript the “Farnese Hours,” with “The Crucifixion of Christ” and “Moses and the Brazen Serpent.”


The Morgan’s exhibition is the clear underdog — the Met’s Bronzino includes rare loans and new attributions — but it covers a lot of ground. The show moves, in fits and starts, from the High Renaissance to Mannerism and the nascent Baroque.

And it’s enlivened by a competition of its own: the classic match-up of Raphael versus Michelangelo. Drawings by both artists, and their followers, pit Raphael’s sprezzatura, or relaxed refinement, against Michelangelo’s vein-popping muscularity.

A sketch after Michelangelo’s “David,” made shortly before Raphael left Florence for Rome, transforms the hero into an ancient caryatid. He holds a stone in his palm, but also supports a vessel on his head. His pose, angular in the sculpture, becomes one long, gentle curve.

Another Raphael drawing, of a male figure symbolizing an earthquake, is a study for a set of tapestries in the Sistine Chapel. Here the artist, perhaps mindful of the competition on the ceiling, adopted a brawnier and more vigorous style. The effect is disconcerting, especially when you think about the subject matter.


Morgan Library & Museum

A sketch by Michelangelo of David and Goliath.


Also in Raphael’s camp is Parmigianino, who enjoyed just three years in Rome before the sacking forced him and other artists to flee to the countryside. In his characteristically wispy drawing after Michelangelo’s “Pietà,” the Virgin wilts over her son. It’s easy to see why Vasari referred to Parmigianino as “Raphael reborn.”

The show includes only two drawings by Michelangelo: a hefty “Annunciation” in black chalk and a more casual page of sketches of David and Goliath. But you can see some of his other compositions ably handled by his followers, Giulio Clovio and Daniele da Volterra. Clovio’s study of Michelangelo’s “Dream of Human Life” surrounds a nude youth with vignettes of vice: gluttony, greed, sloth and so on. Michelangelo’s original, in the Courtauld, is thought to have been a gift for the young nobleman and object of his affection, Tommaso Cavalieri.

“Rome After Raphael” was organized by Rhoda Eitel-Porter, a curator and head of the drawings and prints department at the Morgan. The show has no catalog, but there is plenty of information on the walls and at the museum’s Web site, http://themorgan.org.

Just as interesting as the constant one-upmanship of Rome’s artists is the fact that the city was newly flush with sacred and secular capital. Free-spending popes and bankers employed large numbers of artists as they rebuilt the city, after Charles V’s depredations, in the image of its antiquarian glory.


Morgan Library & Museum

Giulio Clovio's study of Michelangelo's “Dream of Human Life.”


Among the many classically themed works at the Morgan is a fascinating manuscript by the French artist Étienne Dupérac, which pairs drawings of Roman ruins with imagined reconstructions. The album (dated 1569-75) is thought to have been made as a gift for Pope Gregory XIII.

Few projects were more lavish than the Villa Farnese, the country home of, as the Romans called him, Gran Cardinale Alessandro Farnese and a benchmark of Late Mannerism. Farnese commissioned the Zuccaro brothers, Taddeo and Federico, to paint extravagant and highly illusionistic frescoes. The Morgan owns several of their studies, which are fluid (Taddeo) and feverish (Federico).

Farnese also commissioned, from Giulio Clovio, a spectacular illuminated manuscript known as the “Farnese Hours.” The Morgan owns this too and has opened it to a folio that shows the Crucifixion on the left and an image of Moses and the Brazen Serpent on the right. Both are based on works by Michelangelo.

The Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation also brought numerous artistic commissions, as styles changed to suit evolving definitions of piety. On view alongside the drawings are two indulgences, granted by Popes Julius II and Leo X; one has a blank space left for the purchaser’s name.

Among the sketches for portentous biblical scenes are lighter and more expressive figure and nature studies. Consider the pair of resting cows drawn by Raphael’s follower Polidoro da Caravaggio, or the head of a curly-bearded man by Francesco Salviati.

Many other works of similar vivacity appear in the final and most enjoyable section of the show. Here drawings by Annibale Carracci and Giuseppe Cesari edge Late Mannerism into the Baroque.

Carracci’s “Eroded Riverbank With Trees and Roots” anticipates the naturalism of 17th-century Dutch landscapes. But it’s his “Flying Putto,” a dimple-kneed cherub swiftly rendered in black chalk, that leaves papal pomp and circumstance in the dust.

Cesari’s charming “Portrait of a Lady Holding a Book,” which dates from around 1588, could pass for a Watteau. And the figures in his “Expulsion of Adam and Eve From Paradise” aren’t really leaving Eden; they’re saying good riddance to the tumult of 16th-century Rome.

“Rome After Raphael” continues through May 9 at the Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street; (212) 685-0008, http://themorgan.org.

The absurd trial of Geert Wilders

by Mark Steyn on Thursday, February 18, 2010 7:00am - 49 Comments
Maclean's
http://www2.macleans.ca/


At a certain level, the trial of Geert Wilders for the crime of “group insult” of Islam is déjà vu all over again. For as the spokesperson for the Openbaar Ministerie put it, “It is irrelevant whether Wilders’s witnesses might prove Wilders’s observations to be correct. What’s relevant is that his observations are illegal.”

Ah, yes, in the Netherlands, as in Canada, the truth is no defence. My Dutch is a little rusty but I believe the “Openbaar Ministerie” translates in English to the Ministry for Openly Barring People. Whoops, my mistake. It’s the prosecution service of the Dutch Ministry of Justice. But it shares with Canada’s “human rights” commissions an institutional contempt for the truth.

As for “Wilders’s witnesses,” he submitted a list of 18, and the Amsterdam court rejected no fewer than 15 of them. As with Commissar MacNaughton and her troika of pseudo-judges presiding over the Maclean’s trial in British Columbia, it’s easier to make the rules up as you go along.

And in Amsterdam the eventual verdict doesn’t really matter any more than it did here. As Khurrum Awan, head sock puppet for Mohamed Elmasry, crowed to the Canadian Arab News, even though the Canadian Islamic Congress struck out in three different jurisdictions in their attempt to criminalize my writing, the suits cost this magazine (he says) two million bucks, and thereby “attained our strategic objective—to increase the cost of publishing anti-Islamic material.” Likewise, whether Mijnheer Wilders is convicted or acquitted, a lot of politicians, publishers, writers and filmmakers will get the message: steer clear of the subject of Islam unless you want your life consumed.

But at that point comparisons end. Had the CIC triumphed at our trial in Vancouver, the statutory penalty under the B.C. “Human Rights” Code would have prevented Maclean’s ever publishing anything on Islam, Europe, demography, terrorism and related issues by me or anybody of a similar disposition ever again. I personally would have been rendered legally unpublishable in Canada in perpetuity. But so what? I’m an obscure writer, and my fate is peripheral to that of the Dominion itself.

Geert Wilders, by contrast, is one of the most popular politicians in the Netherlands, and his fate is central to the future of his kingdom and his continent. He is an elected member of parliament—and, although he’s invariably labelled “far right” in news reports, how far he is depends on where you’re standing: his party came second in last year’s elections for the European Parliament, and a poll of the Dutch electorate in December found it tied for first place. Furthermore, if you read the indictment against him, you’ll see that among other things Wilders is being prosecuted for is proposing an end to “non-Western immigration” to the Netherlands: the offending remarks were made in response to a direct question as to what his party would do in its first days in office. So the Dutch state is explicitly prosecuting the political platform of the most popular opposition party in the country, and attempting to schedule the trial for its own electoral advantage. That’s the sort of thing free societies used to leave to Mobutu, Ferdinand Marcos and this week’s Generalissimo-for-Life.

To put it in Canadian terms, it’s like the Crown hauling Michael Ignatieff into court. Well, except for the bit about being the most popular politician in the country and ahead in the polls and whatnot. But imagine if Iggy was less tin-eared and inept and his numbers were terrific—and then the Ministry of Justice announced it had decided to prosecute him for his policy platform. That’s what’s happening in the Netherlands.

It gets better. The judge in his wisdom has decided to deny the defendant the level of courtroom security they afforded to Mohammed Bouyeri, the murderer of Theo van Gogh. Wilders lives under armed guard because of explicit death threats against him by Mr. Bouyeri and other Muslims. But he’s the one put on trial for incitement. His movie about Islam, Fitna, is deemed to be “inflammatory,” whereas a new film by Willem Stegeman, De moord op Geert Wilders (The Assassination of Geert Wilders), is so non-inflammatory and entirely acceptable that it’s been produced and promoted by a government-funded radio station. You’d almost get the impression that, as the website Gates of Vienna suggested, the Dutch state is channelling Henry II: “Who will rid me of this turbulent blond?”

There’s no shortage of volunteers. In the Low Countries, whenever anyone seeks to discuss Islam outside the very narrow bounds of multicultural political discourse, they wind up either banned (Belgium’s Vlaams Blok), forced into exile (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) or killed (Pim Fortuyn).

It’s remarkable how speedily “the most tolerant country in Europe,” in a peculiarly repellent strain of coercive appeasement, has adopted “shoot the messenger” as an all-purpose cure-all for “Islamophobia.” To some of us, the Netherlands means tulips, clogs, windmills, fingers in the dike. To others, it means marijuana cafés, long-haired soldiers, legalized hookers, fingers in the dike. But the contemporary reality is an increasingly incoherent polity where gays are bashed, uncovered women get jeered at, and you can’t do The Diary of Anne Frank as your school play lest the Gestapo walk-ons are greeted by audience cries of “She’s in the attic!” Speaking as a bona fide far-right nutcase, I rather resent the label’s export to Holland: Pim Fortuyn wasn’t “right-wing,” he was a gay hedonist; Theo van Gogh was an anti-monarchist coke-snorting nihilist; Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a secular liberal feminist; Geert Wilders says he’s opposed to Islam because of its hostility to gay equality, whereas the usual rap against us far-right extremists is that we want the godless sodomites to roast in hell.

It’s not “ironic” that the most liberal country in western Europe should be the most advanced in its descent into a profoundly illiberal hell. It was entirely foreseeable. Geert Wilders is stating the obvious: a society that becomes more Muslim will have fewer gays. Last year, the Rainbow Palace, formerly Amsterdam’s most popular homo-hotel (relax, that’s the Dutch word for it), announced it was renaming itself the Sharm and reorienting itself to Islamic tourism. Or as the website allah.eu put it: “Gay Hotel Turns Muslim.” As a headline in the impeccably non-far-right Spiegel wondered: “How much Allah can the Old Continent bear?” It’s an interesting question, albeit if an increasingly verboten one. The Wilders show trial is important because it will determine whether the subject can be discussed openly by mainstream politicians and public figures, or whether it will be forced underground and manifest itself in more violent ways.

Yet, despite its significance, the trial has received relatively little coverage in the Western media, in part because, for those of a multiculti bent, there’s no easy way to blur the reality—that this is a political prosecution by a thought police so stupid they don’t realize they’re delegitimizing the very institutions of the state. Still, the BBC gave it their best shot, concluding their report thus: “Correspondents say his Freedom Party (PVV), which has nine MPs in the lower house of parliament, has built its popularity largely by tapping into the fear and resentment of Muslim immigrants.”

Gotcha. This democracy business is all very well, but let’s face it, the people are saps, gullible boobs, racist morons, knuckle-dragging f–kwits. One-man-one-vote is fine in theory, but next thing you know some slicker’s “tapping into” the morons’ “fears and resentments” and cleaning up at the polls.

Strange how it always comes back to a contempt for the people. Whenever the electorate departs from the elite’s pieties, whether in the Netherlands or in Massachusetts last month, it’s because some wily demagogue like, er, Scott Brown has been playing on the impressionable hicks’ “fears and resentments.” To the statist bullies at Canada’s “Human Rights” Commissions, their powers to regulate speech are necessary to prevent hate-mongers like me tapping into the fears and resentments of the Dominion’s millions of birdbrained boobs. Yes, that would be you, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Schmoe of 22 Dufferin Gardens. Sure, you’ve voted for the Liberals every year since Expo, but c’mon, in your heart you know even you might be…susceptible…impressionable.

In the old days—divine right of kings, rule by patrician nobility—it was easier. But today’s establishment is obliged to pay at least lip service to popular sovereignty. So it has to behave more artfully. You’ll still have your vote; it’s just that the guy you wanted to give it to is on trial, and his platform’s been criminalized.

To return to where we came in, what does it mean when the Ministry of Justice proudly declares that the truth is no defence? When the law stands in explicit opposition to the truth, freeborn peoples should stand in opposition to the law. Because, as the British commentator Pat Condell says, “When the truth is no defence, there is no defence”—and what we are witnessing is a heresy trial. The good news is that the Openbaar Ministerie is doing such a grand job with its pilot program of apostasy prosecutions you’ll barely notice when sharia is formally adopted.

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It's nonsense to say the U.S. is ungovernable

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Friday, February 19, 2010; A19

In the latter days of the Carter presidency, it became fashionable to say that the office had become unmanageable and was simply too big for one man. Some suggested a single, six-year presidential term. The president's own White House counsel suggested abolishing the separation of powers and going to a more parliamentary system of unitary executive control. America had become ungovernable.

Then came Ronald Reagan, and all that chatter disappeared.

The tyranny of entitlements? Reagan collaborated with Tip O'Neill, the legendary Democratic House speaker, to establish the Alan Greenspan commission that kept Social Security solvent for a quarter-century.

A corrupted system of taxation? Reagan worked with liberal Democrat Bill Bradley to craft a legislative miracle: tax reform that eliminated dozens of loopholes and slashed rates across the board -- and fueled two decades of economic growth.

Later, a highly skilled Democratic president, Bill Clinton, successfully tackled another supposedly intractable problem: the culture of intergenerational dependency. He collaborated with another House speaker, Newt Gingrich, to produce the single most successful social reform of our time, the abolition of welfare as an entitlement.

It turned out that the country's problems were not problems of structure but of leadership. Reagan and Clinton had it. Carter didn't. Under a president with extensive executive experience, good political skills and an ideological compass in tune with the public, the country was indeed governable.

It's 2010, and the first-year agenda of a popular and promising young president has gone down in flames. Barack Obama's two signature initiatives -- cap-and-trade and health-care reform -- lie in ruins.

Desperate to explain away this scandalous state of affairs, liberal apologists haul out the old reliable from the Carter years: "America the Ungovernable." So declared Newsweek. "Is America Ungovernable?" coyly asked the New Republic. Guess the answer.

The rage at the machine has produced the usual litany of systemic explanations. Special interests are too powerful. The Senate filibuster stymies social progress. A burdensome constitutional order prevents innovation. If only we could be more like China, pines Tom Friedman, waxing poetic about the efficiency of the Chinese authoritarian model, while America flails about under its "two parties . . . with their duel-to-the-death paralysis." The better thinkers, bewildered and furious that their president has not gotten his way, have developed a sudden disdain for our inherently incremental constitutional system.

Yet, what's new about any of these supposedly ruinous structural impediments? Special interests blocking policy changes? They have been around since the beginning of the republic -- and since the beginning of the republic, strong presidents, like the two Roosevelts, have rallied the citizenry and overcome them.

And then, of course, there's the filibuster, the newest liberal bete noire. "Don't blame Mr. Obama," writes Paul Krugman of the president's failures. "Blame our political culture instead. . . . And blame the filibuster, under which 41 senators can make the country ungovernable."

Ungovernable, once again. Of course, just yesterday the same Paul Krugman was warning about "extremists" trying "to eliminate the filibuster" when Democrats used it systematically to block one Bush (43) judicial nomination after another. Back then, Democrats touted it as an indispensable check on overweening majority power. Well, it still is. Indeed, the Senate with its ponderous procedures and decentralized structure is serving precisely the function the Founders intended: as a brake on the passions of the House and a caution about precipitous transformative change.

Leave it to Mickey Kaus, a principled liberal who supports health-care reform, to debunk these structural excuses: "Lots of intellectual effort now seems to be going into explaining Obama's (possible/likely/impending) health care failure as the inevitable product of larger historic and constitutional forces. . . . But in this case there's a simpler explanation: Barack Obama's job was to sell a health care reform plan to American voters. He failed."

He failed because the utter implausibility of its central promise -- expanded coverage at lower cost -- led voters to conclude that it would lead ultimately to more government, more taxes and more debt. More broadly, the Democrats failed because, thinking the economic emergency would give them the political mandate and legislative window, they tried to impose a left-wing agenda on a center-right country. The people said no, expressing themselves first in spontaneous demonstrations, then in public opinion polls, then in elections -- Virginia, New Jersey and, most emphatically, Massachusetts.

That's not a structural defect. That's a textbook demonstration of popular will expressing itself -- despite the special interests -- through the existing structures. In other words, the system worked.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Album Review- Johnny Cash: American V1: Ain't No Grave

By Fiona Shepherd
The Scotsman
http://www.scotsman.com/
16 February 2010

JOHNNY CASH: AMERICAN VI: AIN'T NO GRAVE
****
LOST HIGHWAY, £13.99



THIS is your lot. Rick Rubin has absolutely, positively, definitely cleared out every last recording he made with the venerable Johnny Cash before his death in 2003. With the release of American VI: Ain't No Grave, the vault is now empty and he's out of here.

But these ten valedictory songs are far from barrel scrapings. Collectively, they last just a shade over half an hour and every second confirms, as if further confirmation were needed, that Cash was making some of his greatest music right up until he met his maker.

Rubin naturally deserves a portion of the credit. When he first started working with Cash in the 1990s, they were an unlikely pairing: the grand old man of country music and the hirsute alchemist behind the rock/rap crossover of the 1980s, who was as comfortable working with Run DMC as with Metallica. But this odd couple forged a very special relationship. Rubin sourced the songs, Cash put his stamp of ownership on them and Rubin simply captured the magic. There is no doubt that the music they made together revitalised Cash creatively and commercially in the twilight of his career. According to Rubin, it was the only thing that kept Cash going after the death of his beloved wife, June Carter.

Anyone who has dipped into any of the five preceding albums in the series knows the deal: here you will find sparse, stark, emotional, intimate renditions of songs from all over the musical map – most famously, a devastating interpretation of the Nine Inch Nails' track "Hurt" – delivered by one of the most fabulously evocative voices in the canon.

And so it is again on this final stage of the journey. American VI: Ain't No Grave is a companion piece to American V: A Hundred Highways, hewn from the same sessions in 2002 and 2003 and shot through with elegance, dignity, fragility, often exuding a hymnal quality. Mortality and the afterlife are prevalent themes; so is saying farewell.

There are no last-ditch stunt covers. Songs by Kris Kristofferson, Tom Paxton and Sheryl Crow are firmly in the Cash ballpark. The rest of the material comprises country and folk standards and one original written around the time of the recordings, which took place right up until Cash's death.

According to Rubin, Cash was calm and matter-of-fact about facing death – an impression borne out on the title track. "There ain't no grave can hold my body down," he testifies in a frail yet authoritative voice over a doomy arrangement of scraping, twanging guitar, tolling bells and an inexorable clanking beat, which contrasts with the upbeat faith of the lyric, written by the Pentecostal preacher brother, Claude Ely.

His own composition reprises the theme. "First Corinthians" is inspired by the Bible verse of 1 Corinthians 15:55 which asks: "Death, where is your victory?" From this, Cash spins a sweet and tender meditation about sailing to the other side and finding sanctuary.

Knowing with hindsight that Cash was about to make that journey adds an extra layer of sadness to many of the songs. He perfectly captures the plaintive soul-searching of Tom Paxton's "Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound", tapping intuitively into the simple poetry of the lyrics. His version of Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day" is mournful and elegiac, while its anti-war reflection on individual accountability is complemented by the peace anthem "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream", a song which was sung as the Berlin Wall was being dismantled.

He leaves us with the wise words of a couple of country standards – Bob Nolan's "Cool Water", about temptation and deliverance, and the wonderful "A Satisfied Mind" with its evergreen counsel which the world's bankers would do well to heed: "How many times have you heard someone say, 'If I had his money I could do things my way', but little they know that it's so hard to find one rich man in ten with a satisfied mind". As for Johnny, he sounds sure that "when it comes my time, I'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind".

If you hate goodbyes, then this is maybe not the album for you. The Kris Kristofferson song "For The Good Times" is ostensibly about saying goodbye to a relationship, but Cash invests the opening line – "don't look so sad, I know it's over" – with such pathos that it feels like a heartbreaking reassurance to his listeners. When the end comes, it is with a soothing Polynesian twang. "Aloha Oe" was written by the Hawaiian queen Lili'uokalani. The title translates as "farewell to you", but the lyric crucially adds "until we meet again".

With Cash crooning in English and Hawaiian, it's a gorgeous, comforting way to sign off.

It's been a privilege, Mr Cash.



Pop Notes

Cashed Out


by Ben Greenman
The New Yorker
http://www.newyorker.com/arts
March 1, 2010


There are several good things about “American VI: Ain’t No Grave” (American Recordings), the second posthumous release from Johnny Cash and the final page in Rick Rubin’s final-chapter reclamation project. The title song demonstrates admirable defiance in the face of death. Cash’s heartbreaking cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times” both recalls the passing of Cash’s wife, June Carter, and forecasts his own impending end. Cash is frail in voice, but strong in spirit. You couldn’t ask for a more dignified farewell.


Singer Johnny Cash is shown in producer Rick Rubin's Los Angeles studio in this 2002 publicity photo released to Reuters February 18, 2010.
REUTERS/Martyn Atkins/American Recordings/Handout


You could, however, ask for a more accurate one. This volume is a stark reminder of how the Rubin years have shifted our sense of Cash, and not for the better. Rubin’s Cash has become an indelible character, an aged seer given to stark pronouncements on faith, love, and mortality. But he is also a poor representative of all the other Johnny Cashes—the one who drove the Tennessee Two through the boom-chicka-boom Sun singles, the historian of American song, the sometimes goofy “Old Golden Throat,” the prison activist, the Man in Black, the Highwayman.

It’s that versatility that’s lost here; if the first few records in the series were more varied, later ones find Cash narrowed if not quite flattened. Accepting Rubin’s version of the man is like reducing Picasso to lickerish drawings of Jacqueline or Eliot to “Four Quartets.” Cash may now seem like a John Wayne figure, but he was closer in spirit to Robert Mitchum, always restless and always changing, and here each stark, lovely cover (Sheryl Crow’s “Redemption Day,” Tom Paxton’s “Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound”) begs for a “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog” or “Put the Sugar to Bed.” Cash could always do solemnity, but he could also do comedy, character sketches, and cornpone philosophy. And he could do it in his own write: the Rubin reboot frames Cash primarily as an interpreter, but he was also a prolific songwriter. Here, the sole Cash original, “I Corinthians 15:55,” a gentle piece rooted in Scripture (“O, Death, where is thy sting?”), hits the same valedictory note as the rest of the collection. Rubin shouldn’t be blamed for leaving us with this Cash. But he shouldn’t be allowed to run away with the thing, either. Cash’s American period should go down in history as a triumph of record making and a cautionary tale about remaking image.


Johnny Cash album holds final works with Rick Rubin

By Greg Kot / Chicago Tribune
Monday, February 22, 2010

In the final decade of his life, Johnny Cash revived his career by collaborating with producer Rick Rubin on a series of recordings that yielded five studio albums and a box set — one of the great final chapters authored by any pop icon in the last half-century.


Photo by AP file

Now, more than six years after Cash’s death in 2003, 10 additional songs from those sessions have been collected on "American VI: Ain’t No Grave" (American Recordings/Lost Highway, 3 ½ stars). Skepticism would be in order, given that the legacies of artists from Elvis Presley to Tupac Shakur have been marred by countless ill-considered posthumous releases.

That is not the case with "VI." Cash was determined to record as much as possible soon after the love of his life, June Carter Cash, died in May 2003.

Over the next four months until his death in September, the singer hunkered down with Rubin at Cash’s home studio in Tennessee, working against time and his own declining health. Rubin helped make Cash relevant again in the ’90s by serving as a low-key cheerleader and facilitator; he helped pick the songs and the musicians for each of Cash’s "American" recordings. He recorded Cash in small-group settings, an approach that only enhanced the singer’s gravelly conviction.

On his last recordings, Cash wore his mortality like one of his black suits, with a comfortable dignity.

In the traditions he grew up with — country, gospel, blues — death was a subject that came up frequently, serious yet matter of fact. It cloaked Cash’s first posthumous studio album, the 2006 release "American V: A Hundred Highways." That record was a difficult listen; his voice sounded like a shipwreck, echoing Billie Holiday’s audible deterioration on her penultimate album, "Lady in Satin," or the ravaged croon of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker in his final years.

Death remains the big subject on "VI," and Rubin magnifies the drama. The music casts long shadows, packed with foreboding.

But Cash’s voice isn’t particularly morbid or self-pitying. Instead, it’s tinged by longing — not for what he’s leaving behind, but for what’s next. Just as he explored new sounds until the day he died, Cash paints death not as an end, but as the start of his next road trip.

The title track that opens "Ain’t No Grave" was originally a gospel rave-up recorded by the Pentecostal preacher Claude Ely in 1953. In Cash’s version, a spectral organ hovers and a bell tolls, as if announcing the violent climax of a Sergio Leone Western, and the drums trudge like a dead man walking. It’s all meant to suggest that for Cash, the term "eternal rest" will be anything but.

In songs such as Tom Paxton’s "Where I’m Bound" and especially Sheryl Crow’s "Redemption Day," Cash amplifies his restlessness. The chug of Crow’s original is cut to a crawl, with earthly turmoil juxtaposed with what’s in store at "heaven’s gate.’ "Freedom ... freedom ... freedom," Cash mutters as the song fades, as if removing unseen shackles.

As the album winds down, Cash turns positively psychedelic: His music sounds like it was made in a semiconscious state, blurring the lines between the temporal and spiritual. He drifts into reveries such as Ed McCurdy’s protest classic "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," transformed into a twinkling, narcotized lullaby that imagines a world without war. The old country hit "Cool Water" centers on a mirage, the narrator stumbling through the desert with a thirst that can’t be quenched. The sole original, Cash’s chamber-pop interpretation of the biblical passage "I Corinthians 15:55," finds him tracing a path through darkness toward the white light of redemption.

He bids farewell with a 19th century Hawaiian song, "Aloha Oe." Elvis Presley recorded a souped-up version of it for his 1961 movie "Blue Hawaii." But Cash just rides the gentle melody over a bottleneck guitar, as if he were swinging in a hammock with a bottle of rum, biding his time until the next great adventure comes along.

What a way to go.

___

Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at http://www.chicagotribune.com/


Cash, delivered

By LARRY GETLEN
New York Post
http://www.nypost.com/
February 21, 2010

By 2003, Johnny Cash had already suffered a lifetime of pain and loss. As a boy, he’d witnessed the suffering of his brother Jack after a gruesome table-saw accident, and later saw his life and marriage whirl out of control due to drug addiction and infidelity. But the legendary Man in Black never felt deeper despair than when his soul mate, June Carter Cash, died that May.

In the hours following June’s death, Cash spoke to producer Rick Rubin, who had been recording him for 10 years. In discussing his agony, his message to Rubin was clear: Keep me working. Keep me recording and singing and making music. Because if I sit around dwelling on June’s death, I will die.

In those awful hours following June Carter Cash’s death, Rubin asked Cash if he thought he’d be able to find his faith.

The producer has compared that moment — Cash’s answer — to the flick of a switch. In a voice as willful and steady as if answering to the Lord himself, the singer declared his faith “unshakable.” From then on, the Man in Black, confined to a wheelchair and nearly devoid of sight, proceeded with a steady hand and a willful heart.

Cash’s vocal frailty, combined with his unmistakable optimism and faith, make his final album with Rubin, “American VI: Ain’t No Grave,” not just a collection of songs but a brilliant, heart-wrenching act of defiance and humanity.

“He had good days and bad days, mainly based on his level of physical pain and his ability to sing,” Rubin tells The Post. “But when he sang well, he felt purposeful. He seemed to feel good after feeling he made progress with his art.”

The album, out on Friday — which would have been Cash’s 78th birthday — hangs heavy with the weight of the troubadour’s personal troubles. The title track opens the collection with an ominous, finger-picked acoustic guitar and Cash’s weary baritone. When the beat kicks in, it’s courtesy of a wooden box with a chain inside.

“Gabriel don’t you blow your trumpet until you hear from me,” he sings. “There ain’t no grave can hold my body down.”

Rubin and Cash met backstage at a concert in 1992. As Cash told “Fresh Air” in 1997, Rubin invited the singer to sit in his living room with just a guitar and two microphones, and “sing to your heart’s content everything you ever wanted to record.”

Their first album, 1994’s “American Recordings,” took shape over three weeks. With songs by writers as diverse as Kris Kristofferson, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Nick Lowe, and a video starring Kate Moss, “American Recordings” won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album and opened a surprising new chapter in Cash’s storied career.

Over the next decade, the pair recorded anywhere from 30 to 80 songs each for five more albums, including some 60 tunes during the final year of Cash’s life. Never starting with a plan, they experimented with unexpected songs choices. For 1996’s “Unchained,” Rubin suggested Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage,” but Cash was unable to get past singer Chris Cornell’s howling heavy metal vocals. But the famed producer eventually persuaded Cash to focus on the lyrics, and his version dripped with a whiskey-soaked, hard-driving brand of countrified, don’t-tread-on-me attitude.

It was during the recording of this album that Cash began feeling dizzy, or would sometimes be too tired to work. Thus began the battle with diabetes that would lead to his death just four months after June.

“Faith made him strong. It was inspiring,” says Rubin. “We were friends and I loved him. It’s sad to see this chapter close, but it feels good to know the music lives on.”



Johnny Cash sings one more time, from the "Grave"

By Dean Goodman
Reuters
Thu Feb 18, 5:50 pm ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – When producer Rick Rubin awkwardly describes Johnny Cash's latest album as "otherworldly," he's not kidding.

The country titan has been dead for almost seven years, and Rubin's American Recordings label will mark the 78th anniversary of Cash's birth on Friday next week by releasing a second posthumous album of new material.

"American VI: Ain't No Grave" is the sixth and final installment in a series of acoustic-oriented albums that sparked one of the unlikeliest comebacks in living memory.

Rubin, the hirsute tastemaker who worked with speed-metal band Slayer and rap trio the Beastie Boys, rescued Cash from a creative and commercial slump in 1993. Together they pored over hundreds of spirituals, folk tunes and challenging rock material by Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails.

Cash, suffering from a range of ailments, instantly became the darling of hipster rockers who reveled in his well-deserved outlaw image. The pop-leaning country music establishment, meanwhile, looked down on his critical success. The albums were not huge sellers, but yielded a total of six Grammys,

The new album comes from the same sessions as "American V: A Hundred Highways," which was released in 2006 and became Cash's first pop chart-topper in 37 years. They were recorded at Cash's lakeside house near Nashville right up until his death in September 2003, aged 71.

"PHOENIX RISING FROM THE ASHES"

"I feel like 'V' is a little more depressing or a little more about death, and 'VI' seems to be more of a phoenix rising from the ashes," Rubin told Reuters in a recent interview.

"After having not listened to this material for a long time, and hearing it fresh and hearing his voice and his commanding presence and knowing that people haven't heard this material before, it does seem like a voice coming from another place. I don't know if I'm explaining it well! It feels otherworldly."

Rubin held back the release of "VI" so that it would not have to compete with all the Cash reissues in the marketplace.

The new album features the Cash original "1 Corinthians: 15:55," whose opening lines are derived from the titular bible verse: "Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?"

Knowing that Cash was physically enfeebled if still mentally agile in his last months, it's tempting to read deathly premonitions into the songs -- even if they do not exist. Like the title of "I Don't Hurt Anymore," or the line "Life goes on and this whole world will keep turning" in Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times."

Both of those were chosen by Cash, while Rubin suggested to him the title track, a traditional field holler piece. Other tunes include Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day."

Crow said Cash frequently called her on the phone to gain insights into the lyrics, an experience she described as one of the greatest of her life.

"If he was going to sing a song, it was going to be a part of his molecular makeup," she told Reuters. "He was going to deliver it as if he wrote it. The questions that he asked and his concern for whether I would like what he was doing, it was just really humbling."

While Cash's recordings with Rubin achieved glowing praise at the time, there has been some contrarian grumbling recently. Bob Dylan last year told Rolling Stone the series was "notorious low-grade stuff."

"Interesting," said Rubin, who is nominally Dylan's boss as co-chairman of Columbia Records. "I had not seen that. Wow, interesting!"

The albums also depicted Cash in a Gothic, dark fashion, perhaps most notably with his grim remake of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" and the accompanying Grammy-winning video. Cash's friends said this was not a true representation of his fun personality.

Rubin pleads guilty as charged, saying he wanted to perpetuate Cash's image as the stern "Man in Black" who saves mankind, rather than as the goofball behind "A Boy Named Sue" and "Everybody Loves a Nut."

"I really thought of him more as a mythological figure than as the flesh-and-blood funny guy," Rubin said.

A new image for fans to consider is the one on the cover: a boyhood photo of a smiling Cash, years before Sun Records owner Sam Phillips first called him Johnny.

"I feel like this album is a rebirth in some ways because I don't think anyone's expecting a great new Johnny Cash record at this point," Rubin said. "But to see that image, it just seems like a great bookend for his career. It's like an end and a new beginning."

(Editing by Jill Serjeant)

The good and bad of Olympic hockey

By Joe Starkey, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/
Thursday, February 18, 2010

I don't know about you, but I lost track of my NBC's while attempting to locate Sidney Crosby and the Canadian hockey team in their Olympic opener Tuesday. I think I wound up on MSNBC — or was it CNBC? — watching a bunch of women sweep a gymnasium floor.

Oh, wait, that was curling.

Meanwhile, the U.S. hockey opener, against Switzerland, was shown on USA Network earlier in the day, and Sunday's U.S.-Canada game will be televised on MSNBC.

There is no truth to reports that Food Network has secured rights to the gold medal game, but a question arises:

The NHL abandoned its regular season for this?

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 17: Fans of Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Republic cheer him on against Slovakia during the ice hockey men's preliminary game on day 6 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 17, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

I'm actually fine with hockey being relegated to cable offshoots of the real NBC. I like hockey — especially Olympic hockey — and I'm going to find the games. But anyone who believes the Olympics are some sort of grand advertisement for the NHL is out of his mind.

Aside from the fact that the gold medal game will be the only hockey game shown on regular NBC, there is this: Olympic hockey is a false advertisement for the NHL's regular season. That is because Olympic hockey is an infinitely better product, even if it will take a few days to get up to speed.

What you'll have in Vancouver is a collection of all-star teams, fueled by nationalism, playing a passionate, physical, highly skilled brand of hockey without the attendant NHL mediocrity and silliness. Team USA's "fourth line" includes Bobby Ryan, Ryan Callahan and David Backes, who've combined for 56 goals this season. Your average NHL fourth line might not combine for that many in their careers.

You'll see some sloppy play in the Games, too, because the teams were thrown together about five minutes after their NHL season was interrupted. But it'll be nothing like the sloppiness and monotony than accompany the endless, 82-game regular season.

What's more, in the Olympics you won't see some talentless hack line up for a faceoff and invite another talentless hack to fight at the drop of the puck. Olympic hockey is proof that fighting is not necessary when the sport is played at its highest level.

But let's be honest about one other thing: Even hockey in its purest form does not have mass television appeal in this country.

Hockey isn't what moves the meter at the Winter Olympics, that's for sure. It can't come close to figure skating, for example, and as NBC spokesman Chris McCloskey told me Wednesday, the Winter Games are one of three major sporting events that attract more female television viewers than males. The other two are the Summer Olympics and the Kentucky Derby.

As such, NBC would be insane to broadcast a two-and-a-half-hour hockey game in prime time, no matter who's playing. The network instead jumps from event to event and tries to capture the seminal moments of each, interwoven with an endless stream of human-interest stories.

That's great. I hope the masses sit transfixed, in tears, as they watch the figure skating and the speedskating and maybe even people sweeping gymnasium floors.

I'll be watching hockey, and I'm betting that by the end of the week, I'll know my NBC's.

The Preposterous Stimulus Bill

Special Report

By on 2.18.10 @ 6:08AM
The American Spectator
http://spectator.org/

Only 6 percent of Americans believe the stimulus bill passed a year ago this week has created jobs, a CBS News/New York Times poll reported last week. Six percent. Nearly six times as many Americans believe in ghosts as believe President Obama's jobs claims. It isn't hard to see why. All you have to do is go to the government's own website, www.recovery.gov, and look at the numbers. The site reports 1.2 million jobs funded by the stimulus bill by the end of 2009. Note the terminology. That's jobs funded, not created. The administration switched from jobs "created or saved" to jobs "funded" for accuracy's sake. Or maybe to stop the mockery. Either way, it's a telling methodology.

President Obama would have us believe that the stimulus is working because the government spent a bunch of money, and that money funded 1.2 million jobs. And he has the nerve to complain that dividing the number of jobs funded into the amount spent to come up with a price per job is simplistic.

If creating jobs were that easy, the government could simply tax the country into endless prosperity. But the money has to come from somewhere. For the stimulus bill, it was borrowed. That borrowing, combined with the rest of the massive government debt-taking in the past year, has left less money available for investors. Which means fewer jobs funded by the private sector than otherwise would have been.

The question is not: How many jobs were funded by the stimulus bill? The question is: How many jobs would have been funded if that same money had been put to other uses? The American people seem to think, not unreasonably, that more jobs would have been created without the stimulus bill than with it.

They also seem to understand that there is a big difference between a permanent private-sector job and a temporary stimulus job. Recovery.gov reports that of the 634,000 stimulus jobs funded from Feb. 17 to Oct. 1, 2009, 601,000 were funded by grants. The largest grant recipient was the Governor's Office of Planning and Research in Sacramento, Calif. The second-largest was the Executive Office of the State of Washington. The third largest was "New York, State of." Go down the list. They're almost all state offices.

The bulk of the stimulus money was given to governors to spend on shoring up their state budgets. That money went primarily to employ government workers. A small fraction went to vendors.

The fraction of stimulus funds that were contracts, not grants, and went to "shovel-ready" projects went, of course, to short-term construction projects. When those projects are done, those jobs will cease to exist. The same can be said for many of the government jobs funded this past year. Many school districts, for instance, have already burned through their stimulus money. A lot of teachers will get pink slips this spring.

Much of the stimulus amounted to a "cash for clunkers" for jobs. "Cash for clunkers" basically moved car purchases from the future to last summer, meaning it delayed many auto industry layoffs. The stimulus bill moved the date of a lot of other layoffs. Instead of coming last year, they'll come this year.

So even though the Obama administration can point to specific jobs and say they were funded by the stimulus spending, it cannot say the jobs are permanent, or that the stimulus was the most effective way to create the largest number of jobs.

If the American people don't believe the stimulus bill created jobs, it's not just because of the inflated numbers in early reports of jobs "created or saved" last year. It's because the very idea of politicians creating lasting economic strength by borrowing $787 billion and doling it out to other politicians is simply preposterous. Even more preposterous than ghosts.

topics:Unemployment, Job Creation

- Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.

AHMADINEJAD: 'YEP, I'M NUCLEAR!'

By Ann Coulter
http://www.anncoulter.com/
February 17, 2010

The only man causing President Obama more headaches than Joe Biden these days is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who, coincidentally, was right after Biden on Obama's short-list for V.P.).

Despite Obama's personal magnetism, the Iranian president persists in moving like gangbusters to build nuclear weapons, leading to Ahmadinejad's announcement last week that Iran is now a "nuclear state."

Gee, that's weird -- because I remember being told in December 2007 that all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that Iran had ceased nuclear weapons development as of 2003.

At the time of that leak, many of us recalled that the U.S. has the worst intelligence-gathering operations in the world. The Czechs, the French, the Italians -- even the Iraqis (who were trained by the Soviets) -- all have better intelligence.

Burkina Faso has better intelligence -- and their director of intelligence is a witch doctor. The marketing division of Wal-Mart has more reliable intel than the U.S. government does.

After Watergate, the off-the-charts left-wing Congress gleefully set about dismantling this nation's intelligence operations on the theory that Watergate never would have happened if only there had been no CIA.

Ron Dellums, a typical Democrat of the time, who -- amazingly -- was a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, famously declared in 1975: "We should totally dismantle every intelligence agency in this country piece by piece, brick by brick, nail by nail."

And so they did.

So now, our "spies" are prohibited from spying. The only job of a CIA officer these days is to read foreign newspapers and leak classified information to The New York Times. It's like a secret society of newspaper readers. The reason no one at the CIA saw 9/11 coming was that there wasn't anything about it in the Islamabad Post.

(On the plus side, at least we haven't had another break-in at the Watergate.)

CIA agents can't spy because that might require them to break laws in foreign countries. They are perfectly willing to break U.S. laws to leak to The New York Times, but not in order to acquire valuable intelligence.

So it was curious that after months of warnings from the Bush administration in 2007 that Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program, a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was leaked, concluding that Iran had ceased its nuclear weapons program years earlier.

Republicans outside of the administration went ballistic over the suspicious timing and content of the Iran-Is-Peachy report. Even The New York Times, of all places, ran a column by two outside experts on Iran's nuclear programs that ridiculed the NIE's conclusion.

Gary Milhollin of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control and Valerie Lincy of Iranwatch.org cited Iran's operation of 3,000 gas centrifuges at its plant at Natanz, as well as a heavy-water reactor being built at Arak, neither of which had any peaceful energy purpose. (If only there were something plentiful in Iran that could be used for energy!)

Weirdly, our intelligence agencies missed those nuclear operations. They were too busy reading an article in the Tehran Tattler, "Iran Now Loves Israel."

Ahmadinejad was ecstatic, calling the NIE report "a declaration of the Iranian people's victory against the great powers."

The only people more triumphant than Ahmadinejad about the absurd conclusion of our vaunted "intelligence" agencies were liberals.

In Time magazine, Joe Klein gloated that the Iran report "appeared to shatter the last shreds of credibility of the White House's bomb-Iran brigade -- and especially that of Vice President Dick Cheney."

Liberal columnist Bill Press said, "No matter how badly Bush and Cheney wanted to carpet-bomb Iran, it's clear now that doing so would have been a tragic mistake."

Naturally, the most hysterical response came from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. After donning his mother's housecoat, undergarments and fuzzy slippers, Keith brandished the NIE report, night after night, demanding that Bush apologize to the Iranians.

"Having accused Iran of doing something it had stopped doing more than four years ago," Olbermann thundered, "instead of apologizing or giving a diplomatic response of any kind, this president of the United States chuckled."

Olbermann ferociously defended innocent-as-a-lamb Mahmoud from aspersions cast by the Bush administration, asking: "Could Mr. Bush make it any more of a mess ... in response to Iran's anger at being in some respects, at least, either overrated or smeared, his response officially chuckling, how is that going to help anything?"

Bush had "smeared" Iran!

Olbermann's Ed McMahon, the ever-obliging Howard Fineman of Newsweek, agreed, saying that the leaked intelligence showed that Bush "has zero credibility."

Olbermann's even creepier sidekick, androgynous Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe, also agreed, saying American credibility "has suffered another serious blow."

Poor Iran!

Olbermann's most macho guest, Rachel Maddow, demanded to know -- with delightful originality -- "what the president knew and when he knew it." This was on account of Bush's having disparaged the good name of a messianic, Holocaust-denying nutcase, despite the existence of a cheery report on Iran produced by our useless intelligence agencies.

Olbermann, who knows everything that's on the Daily Kos and nothing else, called those who doubted the NIE report "liars" and repeatedly demanded an investigation into when Bush knew about the NIE's laughable report.

Even if you weren't aware that the U.S. has the worst intelligence in the world, and even if you didn't notice that the leak was timed perfectly to embarrass Bush, wouldn't any normal person be suspicious of a report concluding Ahmadinejad was behaving like a prince?

Not liberals. Our intelligence agencies concluded Iran had suspended its nuclear program in 2003, so Bush owed Ahmadinejad an apology.

Feb. 11, 2010: Ahmadinejad announces that Iran is now a nuclear power.

Thanks, liberals!

COPYRIGHT 2010 ANN COULTER

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Hour and a Lifetime with C.S. Lewis

An IgnatiusInsight.com Interview with Dr. Thomas Howard
November 16, 2005
http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/

Dr. Thomas Howard was raised in a prominent Evangelical home (his sister is well-known author and former missionary Elisabeth Elliot), became Episcopalian in his mid-twenties, then entered the Catholic Church in 1985, at the age of fifty.

Dave Armstrong writes of Howard: "He cites the influence of great Catholic writers such as Newman, Knox, Chesterton, Guardini, Ratzinger, Karl Adam, Louis Bouyer, and St. Augustine on his final decision. Howard's always stylistically-excellent prose is especially noteworthy for its emphasis on the sacramental, incarnational and ‘transcendent’ aspects of Christianity."

Howard (pictured at left) is a highly acclaimed writer and scholar, noted for his studies of Inklings C.S. Lewis (C.S. Lewis: Man of Letters [1987]) and Charles Williams (The Novels of Charles Williams [1991]), as well as books including Christ the Tiger (1967), Chance or the Dance? (1969), Hallowed be This House (1976), Evangelical is Not Enough (1984), If Your Mind Wanders at Mass (1995), On Being Catholic (1997), and The Secret of New York Revealed. Howard’s story of his how and why he became Catholic, Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome, was published last year by Ignatius Press. His book on T.S. Eliot’s "The Four Quartets" will be published by Ignatius Press in 2006.

Carl E. Olson, editor of IgnatiusInsight.com, recently interviewed Dr. Howard about apologist and author C. S. Lewis and the approaching release of the cinematic adaptation of Lewis’s famed Chronicles of Narnia.

IgnatiusInsight.com: When did you first discover the work of C. S. Lewis and what attracted you to it?

Dr. Thomas Howard: I first heard of, and then began to read, Lewis in the mid-l940’s when an older sister of mine came home from college with Mere Christianity. I was only ten or twelve, but I seem to recall knowing that here was a writer whose work I would like to pursue. Later, when I was an undergraduate, the Narnia Chronicles were coming out, and since they became a sort of fad immediately, I, rather perversely, put off reading them. I read them while I was in the Army in the late l950’s, and was utterly overwhelmed, shedding copious tears.

IgnatiusInsight.com: You had a correspondence with C. S. Lewis many years ago. How did that come about? Did you ever meet Lewis in person?

Howard: While I was in the Army, a friend sent me the Tolkien trilogy. I was so swept away that on an impulse I fired off a letter to Lewis, whom I knew to be a fellow of Magdalen (I didn’t know how to find Tolkien). I just addressed it to "C. S. Lewis, Magdalen College, Oxford, England. He wrote back a most gracious letter all about Tolkien, and then thanking me for liking "my own little efforts." An intermittent correspondence ensued, and some years ago I gave all the letters to the Wade Collection at Wheaton College, Illinois, where there is the best collection of Tolkien, Lewis, Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers, Owen Barfield, and other writers, outside of Oxford.

While I was living in England in the early l960’s, I arranged to pop out to The Kilns [Lewis’s residence] one time when I was in Oxford visiting a friend at Queen’s College. Lewis received me most jovially, and we sat and chatted for just under an hour, as I recall it. I asked him about hell: "There might be such a place," he said. We talked of Purgatory, too. I can’t remember the whole conversation since I could not bring myself to sit jotting notes, and I don’t think we had tape recorders in those days (which I wouldn’t have used anyway). Lewis looked just as you would hope he’d look: stout; rubicund face; twinkly eyes; baggy tweeds; and a magnificent bell-like voice.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Lewis was one of the most popular Christian writers of the 20th century, perhaps the most read Christian author of the past fifty years. Why has he been so popular among a diverse readership that includes non-Christians, Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox? What sets him apart as an author and communicator?

Howard: Lewis’s popularity derived, I am sure, from the remorseless clarity of everything he wrote, plus his glorious imagination, plus his splendid mastery of the English language. Of course his gigantic intellect and his rigorous training in argument from his mentor the "Great Knock" [W.T. Kirkpatrick] set his work altogether apart from most other writers, especially popular writers, whose "intellects are not so hard at work as they suppose" (Lewis’s remark about some schoolboys). His vast readership, drawn from non-religious types, and from every ventricle of Christendom (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Calvinist, fundamentalist, and everything else) testifies to the qualities I have mentioned above. He refused to be partisan in any cheap sense, although of course his robust Christian orthodoxy no one could escape.

IgnatiusInsight.com: You recently wrote, in your regular "Ashes to Ashes" column in Crisis magazine (Nov. 2005), that you "have read every syllable Lewis ever wrote, including all the books no one else has read. What are some of the lesser-known books of Lewis? Which of Lewis's books do you think deserves a wider readership? Why?

Howard: Of Lewis’s lesser-known books, I would mention: The Discarded Image, a glorious book about the Mediaeval outlook on the universe; A Preface to Paradise Lost, which I would say is infinitely worth reading even if you never get around to Milton; his Poems, which incline me to say that they are his best work; The Allegory of Love, about the whole nettlesome topic of "courtly love" in the late Middle Ages–and beautifully readable even for non-scholars; and then his huge English Literature in the Sixteen Century Excluding Drama, which I open at random just for the sheer delight of it. I often find myself laughing at Lewis’s obvious hilarious delight in the works he is treating. I would say any of these books would reward readers who have read only his most famous works.

IgnatiusInsight.com: The Chronicles of Narnia, of course, are very well known and have sold over 85 million copies since first appearing in the 1950s. Why do you think that series has been so popular? What distinguishes it from other works of children's literature?

Howard: The Narnia Chronicles owe their worldwide popularity, surely, both to Lewis’s love for the genre fairy tale, and to his unpatronizing delight in children, knowing, as he did, what would draw them in to his world. They differ from most other children’s literature in that they draw us all into the precincts of sheer Goodness (without sentimentalism), and Joy, and, finally, Holiness. That is an achievement when you are writing for children. I would put his work in a class with Pooh and Alice and Beatrix Potter’s books, and The Wind in the Willows.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Do you plan on seeing on seeing the movie adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia? If so, what do expect, or hope to see?

Howard: Yes, I most certainly plan to see the movie. I have already seen excerpts (I think they are called "trailers" now). The film is good beyond one’s wildest hopes. It will take its place with The Lord of the Rings, I predict. After the somewhat abortive, not to say pathetic, efforts to get up a film of Narnia over the past twenty or more years, this one is a prize.

IgnatiusInsight.com: You mentioned some of the strengths of Lewis and his writing. Did he have any notable weaknesses as a thinker or writer? Are there any topics that he avoided or didn't address that you wish he had?

Howard: Any weaknesses in Lewis? Who would wish to find himself saying Yes to that! The only case in point I can think of is, perhaps, the "defeat"(if it was a defeat–I think Lewis thought it was) at the hands of Elizabeth Anscombe in a debate about, I think, Miracles, in which she seems to have found some wobbly spots in his argument.

But are there topics he avoided? Most emphatically Yes! He avoided, like the black pestilence, the whole topic of The Church. He hated ecclesiology. It divided Christians, he said (certainly accurately). He wanted to be known as a "mere Christian," so he simply fled all talk of The Church as such. He would not participate in anything that remotely resembled a discussion of matters ecclesiological. He was firm in his non- (or anti- ?) Catholicism. People ask me if he would by now have been received into the Ancient Church, and I usually say yes. I don’t see how, as an orthodox Christian apologist, he could have stayed in the Anglican Church during these last decades of its hasty self-destruction.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Do you have a favorite book or series of books by Lewis? For those who haven't yet read Lewis, where do you suggest they begin? What Lewis books should be read?

Howard: My favorite Lewis books? I would say his Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet; Perelandra; and That Hideous Strength) and the Narnia books. In these books we find, clothed in drama, all of the ideas that he treated in his more strictly discursive works. The remorseless clarity with which he saw Good and Evil is prophetic. What he wrote in the l940’s could have been written tomorrow. I would invite any newcomer to his work to start here

Today's Tune: Ryan Bingham - Country Roads



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