Saturday, March 13, 2010

Is this why the Palestinians 'deserve' a state, Mr Biden?

By Melanie Phillips
Friday, 12th March 2010

Palestinian women walk past a banner in the West Bank town of Bireh, featuring Fatah member Dalal Mughrabi who led an attack on an Israeli bus near Tel Aviv, killing 36 people in 1978, on the anniversary of the attack. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the army to seal off the West Bank for 48 hours until midnight on Saturday, an army spokesman said.(AFP/Abbas Momani)

The New York Times reports that the Palestinian Authority and Fatah have dedicated a public square to the memory of a woman who in 1978 helped carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel’s history:

The woman being honored, Dalal Mughrabi, was the 19-year-old leader of a Palestinian squad that sailed from Lebanon and landed on a beach between Haifa and Tel Aviv. They killed an American photojournalist, hijacked a bus and commandeered another, embarking on a bloody rampage that left 38 Israeli civilians dead, 13 of them children, according to official Israeli figures. Ms. Mughrabi and several other attackers were killed.

To Israelis, hailing Ms. Mughrabi as a heroine and a martyr is an act that glorifies terrorism. But, underscoring the chasm between Israeli and Palestinian perceptions, the Fatah representatives described Ms. Mughrabi as a courageous fighter who held a proud place in Palestinian history. Defiant, they insisted that they would not let Israel dictate the names of Palestinian streets and squares.

‘We are all Dalal Mughrabi,’ declared Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, the party’s main decision-making body, who came to join the students. ‘For us she is not a terrorist’, he said, but rather ‘a fighter who fought for the liberation of her own land.’

Note in particular the last three words. This man is talking about Israel: not the West Bank, not Gaza, but Israel. It was, of course, not her land and never was, not at any time throughout history; nor were the West Bank or Gaza. The only people for whom this ever constituted their national homeland were the Jews. But it is that land, Israel, a state that was actually established by international agreement, that Fatah wants. In other words, it wants Israel destroyed: and that is the one and only cause of this conflict. This is not a boundary dispute. Fatah wants Israel destroyed – as its leaders have said over and over again down the years.

Fatah is led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian ‘President ‘and head of the Palestinian Authority. The PA stood on the sidelines at this disgusting ceremony, tattempting to minimise both their involvement and the significance of this commemoration. A PA security official who was there, General Adnan Damiri, tried to distance himself from Mughrabi's aims by claiming that

the Palestinians were ‘seeking peace’ based on a state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.

Of course this is not true. Were it really the case, they could have had a state of their own on the numerous occasions it has been offered to them over the past seven decades. What they really want is reflected rather more accurately in the words of Tawfiq Tirawi. The brutal reality is that the PA, led by Abbas, treats as a heroine a terrorist who murdered 38 Israeli civilians and thirteen children along with an American to further the aim of the destruction of Israel. No wonder the PA put off this ceremony until Joe Biden had gone back to the US.

Even though Biden's blushes were spared, however,the fact remains that the US and the west, which waxed apoplectic over Israel’s building new homes in east Jerusalem -- even though this was in fact expressly acknowledged as acceptable in previous agreements – believe that Abbas and Fatah are ‘moderates’ who ‘deserve’ a state of their own which they intend to force Israel to give them. But in naming this square after their ‘martyr’ and ‘heroine’ Dalal Mughrabi, the ‘moderate’ Palestinian leadership have demonstrated once again both their own true murderous character -- and the gullibility or worse of America and western nations, which are remorselessly bullying Israel into offering its throat to such enemies.

Is Tom Hanks Unhinged?

By Victor Davis Hanson
March 11th, 2010 5:38 pm

Much has been written of the recent Tom Hanks remarks to Douglas Brinkley in a Time magazine interview about his upcoming HBO series on World War II in the Pacific. Here is the explosive excerpt that is making the rounds today.

“Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?”

Hanks may not have been quoted correctly; and his remarks may have been impromptu and poorly expressed; and we should give due consideration to the tremendous support Hanks has given in the past both to veterans and to commemoration of World War II; and his new HBO series could well be a fine bookend to Band of Brothers. All that said, Hanks’ comments were sadly infantile pop philosophizing offered by, well, an ignoramus.

Tom Hanks, an executive producer of "The Pacific," poses at the premiere of the ten-part HBO miniseries in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010. (AP)

Hanks thinks he is trying to explain the multifaceted Pacific theater in terms of a war brought on by and fought through racial animosity. That is ludicrous. Consider:

1) In earlier times, we had good relations with Japan (an ally during World War I, that played an important naval role in defeating imperial Germany at sea) and had stayed neutral in its disputes with Russia (Teddy Roosevelt won a 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for his intermediary role). The crisis that led to Pearl Harbor was not innately with the Japanese people per se (tens of thousands of whom had emigrated to the United States on word of mouth reports of opportunity for Japanese immigrants), but with Japanese militarism and its creed of Bushido that had hijacked, violently so in many cases, the government and put an entire society on a fascistic footing. We no more wished to annihilate Japanese because of racial hatred than we wished to ally with their Chinese enemies because of racial affinity. In terms of geo-strategy, race was not the real catalyst for war other than its role among Japanese militarists in energizing expansive Japanese militarism.

2) How would Hanks explain the brutal Pacific wars between Japanese and Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, Japanese and Filipinos, and Japanese and Pacific Islanders, in which not hundreds of thousands perished, but many millions? In each of these theaters, the United States was allied with Asians against an Asian Japan, whose racially-hyped “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” aimed at freeing supposedly kindred Asians from European and white imperialism, flopped at its inauguration (primarily because of high-handed Japanese feelings of superiority and entitlement, which, in their emphasis on racial purity, were antithetical to the allied democracies, but quite in tune with kindred Axis power, Nazi Germany.)

3) Much of the devastating weaponry used on the Japanese (e.g., the B-29 fire raids, or the two nuclear bombs) were envisioned and designed to be used against Germany (cf. the 1941 worry over German nuclear physics) or were refined first in the European theater (cf. the allied fire raids on Hamburg and Dresden). Much of the worst savagery of the war came in 1945 when an increasingly mobilized and ever more powerful United States steadily turned its attention on Japan as the European theater waned and then ended four months before victory in the Pacific theater. Had we needed by 1945 to use atomic bombs, or massive formations of B-29s when they came on line, against Hitler, we most certainly would have.

We should also point out that for many Americans, initially in 1941-2, the real war was with the Japanese, not the Germans (despite an official policy of privileging the European theater in terms of supply and manpower), but not because of race hatred, but due to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Until then (Hitler would in reaction unwisely declare war on the U.S. on December 11, 1941) Germany had been careful to maintain the pretense of non-belligerency, while Japan chose to start a war through a rather treacherous surprise assault at a time of nominal peace — thus inciting furor among the American public.

Despite Hanks’ efforts at moral equivalence in making the U.S. and Japan kindred in their hatreds, America was attacked first, and its democratic system was both antithetical to the Japan of 1941, and capable of continual moral evolution in a way impossible under Gen. Tojo and his cadre. It is quite shameful to reduce that fundamental difference into a “they…us” 50/50 polarity. Indeed, the most disturbing phrase of all was Hanks’ suggestion that the Japanese wished to “kill” us, while we in turn wanted to “annihilate” them. Had they developed the bomb or other such weapons of mass destruction (and they had all sorts of plans of creating WMDs), and won the war, I can guarantee Hanks that he would probably not be here today, and that his Los Angeles would look nothing like a prosperous and modern Tokyo.

4) What is remarkable about the aftermath of WWII is the almost sudden postwar alliance between Japan and the U.S., primarily aimed at stopping the Soviets, and then later the communist Chinese. In other words, the United States, despite horrific battles in places like Iwo Jima and Okinawa, harbored little official postwar racial animosity in its foreign policy, helped to foster Japanese democracy, provided aid, and predicated its postwar alliances — in the manner of its prewar alliances — on the basis of ideology, not race. Hanks apparently has confused the furor of combat — in which racial hatred often becomes a multiplier of emotion for the soldier in extremis — with some sort of grand collective national racial policy that led to and guided our conduct.

An innately racist society could not have gone through the nightmare of Okinawa (nearly 50,000 Americans killed, wounded, or missing), and yet a mere few months later have in Tokyo, capital of the vanquished, a rather enlightened proconsul MacArthur, whose deference to Japanese religion, sensibilities, and tradition ensured a peaceful transition to a rather radical new independent and autonomous democratic culture.

5) Hanks quips, “Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?” That is another unnecessary if asinine statement — if it refers to our struggle against radical Islam in the post 9/11 world. The U.S. has risked much to help Muslims in the Balkans and Somalia, freed Kuwait and Iraq in two wars against Saddam Hussein, liberated or helped to liberate Afghanistan both from the Russians and the Taliban, and has the most generous immigration policy toward Muslims of any country in the world, ensuring a degree of tolerance unimaginable to Muslims in, say, China or Russia. Hanks should compare the U.S. effort to foster democracy in Iraq with the Russian conduct in Chechnya to understand “what’s going on today.”

In short Hanks’s comments are as ahistorical as they are unhinged. One wonders — were they supposed to entice us into watching the upcoming HBO series on the Pacific theater? But if anyone is interested in the role of race on the battlefield, one could probably do far better in skipping Hanks, and reading instead E.B. Sledge’s brilliant memoir, With the Old Breed, which has a far more sophisticated analysis of race and combat on Peleliu and Okinawa, and was apparently (and I hope fairly ) drawn upon in the HBO series. (Sledge speaks of atrocities on both sides in the horrific close-quarter fighting on the islands, but he makes critical distinctions about accepted and non-accepted behaviors, the differences between Japanese and American attitudes, and in brilliant fashion appreciates the role of these campaigns in the larger war. One should memorize the last lines of his book.)

It would be easy to say that Hanks knows about as much about history as historians do about acting, but that would be too charitable. Anyone with a high school education, or an innate curiosity to read (and Hanks in the interview references works on the Pacific theater), can easily learn the truth on these broad subjects. In Hanks’ case, he is either ignorant and has done little real research, or in politically-correct fashion has taken a truth about combat in the Pacific (perceptions of cultural and racial difference often did intensify the savagery of combat) and turned it into The Truth about the origins and conduct of an entire war — apparently in smug expectation that such doctrinaire revisionism wins applause these days in the right places (though I doubt among the general public that he expects to watch the series.)

All in all, such moral equivalence (the Japanese and the U.S. were supposedly about the same in their hatreds) is quite sad, and yet another commentary on our postmodern society that is as ignorant about its own past as it is confused in its troubled present.

Film Review: 'Michael Collins'

Mark Steyn on Stage and Screen
Friday, 12 March 2010

By popular demand, SteynOnline is launching a weekend movie column, picking out a pertinent picture or two from the last century or thereabouts that you might prefer to a trip to the multiplex. Just ahead of St Patrick's Day, here's Liam Neeson in the 1996 biopic of the Irish nationalist Michael Collins, the original IRA's director of intelligence and a member of the Irish delegation at the Treaty talks in London in 1921. (My great-uncle was lawyer to the leader of the delegation, Arthur Griffith.) Signing the agreement on Dominion status for a new Irish Free State, Collins remarked, "I have signed my own death warrant." Eight months later he was killed in the Irish Civil War:

Michael Collins is the thinking man’s Die Hard – Dail Hard maybe, given the protagonists’ habit of convening every so often in their make-believe republican parliament. These brief interruptions aside, though, the film has as many explosions and killings and thrilling escapes as any Bruce Willis vehicle. It is not especially anti-English: indeed, the English may rather enjoy it, since, unlike most republican propagandists, Neil Jordan’s film doesn’t attempt to justify the violence by boring on about ancient injustices, real or imagined, or by dredging up Yeats’ “terrible beauty” and the usual high-falutin’ guff. It comes out shooting, goes out shooting, and in between is a blarney-free zone; its answer to the Irish Question is “Hasta la vista, muthaf**ker!”

On those rare occasions when the film stops firing and starts talking, it turns to specious rubbish. Returning from London in 1921, having secured the Free State Treaty, Collins tells his pals, “The position of the North will be reviewed, but at the moment remains part of the British Empire” – a sentence which never passed Collins’ lips, for the somewhat obvious reason that, under the Treaty, the Irish Free State itself remained part of the Empire; the North remained part of the United Kingdom.

If the film seems peppered with curiously lumpy, formal references to “the British Empire”, that’s because passing Irish nationalism off as a colonial struggle rather than a secessionist movement is a canny move in America: anti-imperialism is instantly sympathetic, whereas secession, under US law, is illegal. Collins’ contribution to Ireland, we’re told in the closing caption, was that he’d “overseen its transition to democracy”. But Ireland under the British was a democracy – though, then as now, the island was riven by one giant, fundamental difference of opinion. The British take a relaxed, indulgent view of these rhetorical flourishes – as no doubt they do of the law passed in New York State in the 1990s requiring the Irish Potato Famine to be taught in school as a deliberate act of British aggression and to be included in mandatory courses “devoted to the study of genocide, slavery and the Holocaust”.

But, captions aside and Imperial asides aside, the English can relax. In Jordan’s film, they’re virtually invisible – literally so: in their one big scene, an ill-advised concoction of the director’s, an armored car bursts on to a Gaelic football match and mows down the teams and the crowd. Anonymous, faceless tyranny, geddit? But the Irish are oddly invisible, too: Jordan makes little attempt to connect Collins and his small band of volunteers with any broad populist cause. Instead, the first half of this film is a brilliant rationale for terrorism – which is presumably why Sinn Fein and the IRA have been so appreciative of it. If you watch it dispassionately, you see a small band of amoral killers destabilizing the rule of law and intentionally provoking the state into careless atrocities upon its own people. Seen in this light, even the Black and Tans get a fair ride from Jordan.

But, of course, we don’t watch it dispassionately. Liam Neeson is a big movie star and the film pressgangs even the most insignificant reaction shot into the service of his luster and loveability. He doesn’t look like Collins: I always enjoyed the historian George Dangerfield’s description of Michael’s “full cheeks and bee-stung lips”, but that’s not Neeson. So, in this film, the part of the cheeks and bee-stung lips is played by Julia Roberts as Kitty Kiernan, one-third of a lame Hollywood love triangle with Neeson and Aidan Quinn (as Harry Boland). In films like The Crying Game, Danny Boy and even Interview With The Vampire, Jordan has effortlessly conjured the sexual allure of violence, but here he can’t seem to find a way to connect up the romance and the terrorism – perhaps because, for this director, the real romance is the terrorism. His most desperate effort comes when he intercuts Bloody Sunday – the assassination of 19 government agents – with scenes of Collins and Kitty in their hotel room. By all accounts, the real Collins scattered his seed as liberally as his gunfire. But the almost chaste tenderness of this scene ennobles and dignifies the surrounding mayhem. And even the off-the-peg movie-romance banality of the relationship adds to the legend; the bottom line is this: you can be a cold-blooded, brutal thug, and still get your leg over Julia Roberts.

As to the central event in Collins’ life – his trip to London for the Treaty negotiations – the film skips it entirely: no Lloyd George, no Churchill, just Miss Roberts reading a letter about them. As a result, the second half of the movie was completely mystifying to the Americans I saw it with. In the idiot shorthand of motion pictures, all the guys in uniforms with guns had up to that point been Brits – and, therefore, the baddies. Suddenly, Collins himself is in a uniform – and he’s running around fighting other Irishmen. Five minutes earlier, he’d been a man of war; now, he’s a man of peace. The film shows nothing that could account for this transformation. But by this stage Jordan’s lack of interest in the traditional motivations and propulsions of drama is highly appropriate. Collins had returned from London with a form of independence that fell just short of a republic. As in Canada and Australia – and today in Belize and Papua New Guinea – it required only a nominal allegiance to the Crown. No sane man – even a film director – could give a plausible account of why the merest semantic detail should plunge a country into civil war. So Jordan doesn’t even try. Consequently, as a counterweight to the first half, the second half of Michael Collins is a brilliant if accidental representation of the sheer bloody pointlessness of Irish republicanism, even in 1922.

Collins was 31 when he died. He fits easily into the contours of movie heroics, though he is inevitably diminished by them. The more interesting biopic would have been of the ascetic, bespectacled de Valera (wonderfully played by Alan Rickman) – but that would have taken Jordan into modern, post-romantic Irish politics. Michael Collins is best enjoyed as an accumulation of images, particularly one ravishing, wistfully evocative scene on a half-empty dance floor in Kingstown. It seems only fitting that, when the hero dies in an ambush, we should see it from his young assassin’s point of view: having glamorized Collins, the film cannot resist glamorizing his unknown killer, too. That last image – the relish on that young face – foretells and distills the next 75 years.

Justices and politicians should boycott the State of the Union

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Friday, March 12, 2010

The increasingly puerile spectacle of presidential State of the Union addresses is indicative of the state of the union and is unnecessary: The Constitution requires only that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union." But a reaction may be brewing against these embarrassing events. Speaking in Alabama, Chief Justice John Roberts said "to the extent that" this occasion "has degenerated into a political pep rally," he is "not sure why we're there." He was referring to Supreme Court justices. But why is anyone there?

Roberts was responding to a question concerning the kerfuffle about Barack Obama's January address, wherein Obama criticized -- and flagrantly mischaracterized -- a recent Supreme Court decision that loosened limits on political speech. The decision neither overturned "a century of law" nor conferred an entitlement on foreign corporations to finance U.S. candidates. Nevertheless, the Democratic donkeys arrayed in front of Obama leapt onto their hind legs and brayed in unison, while the six justices who were present sat silently. Justice Samuel Alito, in an act of lèse majesté, appeared to mutter "not true" about Obama's untruths.

When Republican presidents deliver these addresses, Republican legislators, too, lurch up and down like puppets on strings. And Congress wonders why it is considered infantile.

Most of the blame for the State of the Union silliness, as for so much else, goes to The Root of Much Mischief, a.k.a. Woodrow Wilson. But a president whose middle name was Wilson made matters worse.

George Washington delivered his report on the state of the union in person, as did John Adams. But the third president, Thomas Jefferson, put his thoughts in writing and dispatched them to Congress. Such presidential reticence is impossible to imagine in the Age of Obama, but Jefferson disliked the sound of his voice and considered it monarchical for the executive to stand above the legislature and lecture it.

In 1913, however, Wilson, whose guiding principle was that the world could not hear too much from him, delivered his report in person. He thought the Founders had foolishly saddled the nation with a Constitution of checks and balances that made government sluggish or paralytic. Hence charismatic presidential leadership was needed to arouse public opinion that could compel Congress to bow to the president's will. The Founders thought statesmanship should restrain public opinion. Wilson's watery Caesarism preached that presidents should spur that dangerous stallion. He just knew he could control it. He learned otherwise when trying to ratify the Versailles Treaty.

George Washington considered Congress "the first wheel of the government, a wheel which communicates motion to all the rest." Wilson thought the presidency was the only office able to, or even entitled to, impart movement to the government.

Many conservatives were congressional supremacists until Ronald Wilson Reagan arrived possessing the rhetorical skills requisite for a Wilsonian presidency. His unfortunate filigree on the dramaturgy of State of the Union addresses was to begin the practice of stocking the House gallery with ordinary but exemplary people whose presence touches the public's erogenous zones.

The prolixity that is the defining characteristic of modern presidents blurs the distinction between campaigning and governing, and positions the presidency at the center of the nation's consciousness. This gives presidents delusions of omnipotence and makes Americans susceptible to perpetual disappointment and political dyspepsia.

We could take one small step toward restoring institutional equilibrium by thinking as Jefferson did about State of the Union addresses. Justice Antonin Scalia has stopped going to them because justices "sit there like bumps on a log" in the midst of the partisan posturing -- the political pep rally that Roberts described. Sis boom bah humbug.

Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president's address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.

In the unlikely event that Obama or any other loquacious modern president has any thoughts about the State of the Union that he does not pour forth in the torrential course of his relentless rhetoric, he can mail those thoughts to Congress. The Postal Service needs the business.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Disemboweling of America

by Patrick J. Buchanan

Though Bush 41 and Bush 43 often disagreed, one issue did unite them both with Bill Clinton: protectionism.

Globalists all, they rejected any federal measure to protect America's industrial base, economic independence or the wages of U.S. workers.

Together they rammed through NAFTA, brought America under the World Trade Organization, abolished tariffs and granted Chinese-made goods unrestricted access to the immense U.S. market.

Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services has compiled, in 44 pages of charts and graphs, the results of two decades of this Bush-Clinton experiment in globalization. His compilation might be titled, "Indices of the Industrial Decline and Fall of the United States."

From 2000 to 2009, industrial production declined here for the first time since the 1930s. Gross domestic product also fell, and we actually lost jobs.

In traded goods alone, we ran up $6.2 trillion in deficits -- $3.8 trillion of that in manufactured goods.

Things that we once made in America -- indeed, we made everything -- we now buy from abroad with money that we borrow from abroad.

Over this Lost Decade, 5.8 million manufacturing jobs, one of every three we had in Y2K, disappeared. That unprecedented job loss was partly made up by adding 1.9 million government workers.

The last decade was the first in history where government employed more workers than manufacturing, a stunning development to those of us who remember an America where nearly one-third of the U.S. labor force was producing almost all of our goods and much of the world's, as well.

Not to worry, we hear, the foreign products we buy are toys and low-tech goods. We keep the high-tech jobs here in the U.S.A.

Sorry. U.S. trade surpluses in advanced technology products ended in Bush's first term. The last three years we have run annual trade deficits in ATP of nearly $70 billion with China alone.

About our dependency on Mideast oil we hear endless wailing.

Yet most of our imported oil comes from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria and Angola. And for every dollar we send abroad for oil or gas, we send $4.20 abroad for manufactured goods. Why is a dependency on the Persian Gulf for a fraction of the oil we consume more of a danger than a huge growing dependency on China for the necessities of our national life?

How great is that dependency?

China accounts for 83 percent of the U.S. global trade deficit in manufactures and 84 percent of our global trade deficit in electronics and machinery.

Over the last decade, our total trade deficit with China in manufactured goods was $1.75 trillion, which explains why China, its cash reserves approaching $3 trillion, holds the mortgage on America.

This week came a report that Detroit, forge and furnace of the Arsenal of Democracy in World War II, is considering razing a fourth of the city and turning it into farm and pastureland. Did the $1.2 trillion trade deficit we ran in autos and parts last decade help kill Detroit?

And if our purpose with NAFTA was to assist our neighbor Mexico, consider. Textile and apparel imports from China are now five times the dollar value of those imports from Mexico and Canada combined.

As exports are added to a nation's GDP, and a trade deficit subtracted, the U.S. trade deficits that have averaged $500 billion to $600 billion a year for 10 years represent the single greatest factor pulling the United States down and raising China up into a rival for world power.

Yet, what is as astonishing as these indices of American decline is the indifference, the insouciance of our political class. Do they care?

How can one explain it?

Ignorance of history is surely one explanation. How many know that every modern nation that rose to world power did so by sheltering and nurturing its manufacturing and industrial base -- from Britain under the Acts of Navigation to 1850, to protectionist America from the Civil War to the Roaring Twenties, to Bismarck's Germany before World War I, to Stalin's Russia, to postwar Japan, to China today?

No nation rose to world power on free trade. From Britain after 1860 to America after 1960, free trade has been the policy of powers that put consumption before production and today before tomorrow.

Nations rise on economic nationalism; they descend on free trade.

Ideology is another explanation. Even a (Milton) Friedmanite free-trader should be able to see the disaster all around us and ask: What benefit does America receive from these mountains of imported goods to justify the terrible damage done to our country and countrymen?

Can they not see the correlation between the trade deficits and relative decline?

Republicans seem certain to benefit from the nation's economic crisis this November. But is there any evidence they have learned anything about economics from the disastrous Bush decade?

Do they have any ideas for a wholesale restructuring of U.S. trade and tax policy, for a course correction to prevent America's continuing decline?

Has anyone seen any evidence of it?

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, "The Death of the West,", "The Great Betrayal," "A Republic, Not an Empire" and "Where the Right Went Wrong."

Health-Care Hell

I’m pretty sure someone in Dante’s Inferno is condemned to spend eternity listening to C-SPAN panels on community rating.

By Jonah Goldberg
March 12, 2010 12:00 A.M.

The time for talk is over.

So proclaimed the most talkative president in modern memory. I can’t remember when Barack Obama said that. Maybe it was during the first “final showdown” on health care. Or maybe it was the third. The fifth? It’s so hard to tell when pretty much every week since the dawn of the Mesozoic Era, either Obama or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid has proclaimed that it is now Go Time for health-care reform.

So you’ll forgive me if I’m somewhat skeptical about the possibility that the health-care reform debate is about to come to an end.

The president recently said, “Everything there is to say about health care has been said, and just about everybody has said it.”

But wait. If everything, pro and con, has been said about a subject by everybody, that means someone isn’t telling the truth, right? I mean, if you’ve said X and not-X, that means you’ve probably said something that isn’t true.

That, at least, is the impression I got this week listening to Obama make his closing arguments for health care at rallies in Pennsylvania and Missouri. It’s telling that the president — long in favor of a single-payer system — is selling his health-care plan on the grounds that it will increase “choice” and “competition,” reduce “government control,” and “give you, the American people, more control over your own health insurance.”

You know your sales pitch for a government takeover of health care hasn’t worked when you have to crib rhetoric from free-market Republicans. And that’s after you’ve already tried to pin your plan’s unpopularity on the ignorance of the American people.

Obama’s talking points track reality about as well as the screenplay for Avatar. Indeed, the same week he was hawking competition, choice, and less government, Obama backed a new Health Insurance Rate Authority that would do even more to cement big health-insurance companies into their new role as government-run utilities.

This latest gambit is of a piece with the White House’s demonization of the health-insurance industry. I have no love for that industry myself, but let’s get some perspective. As of August, the health-insurance industry ranked 86th in terms of profit margins — behind anemic industries such as book publishing (38th), specialty eateries (71st), and home-furnishing stores (84th), according to data compiled by Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute.

Insurance companies account for less than 5 percent of American health-care spending — less than hospitals (31 percent), doctors (21 percent), and medicine (10 percent). But because health-insurance companies are unpopular, Democrats are beating up on them, even though if Democrats are serious about containing costs, the cuts will have to come from those other slices of the pie.

But enough with the substance. The health-care debate ceased being about substance a long, long time ago. Fair or not, the Democrats’ plan is unpopular, period. There is simply nothing Obama can say that will change that fact before Democrats vote for it. That hasn’t stopped him from talking out of every side of his mouth. But outside the Obama bunker, no serious pollster, pundit, or pol in Washington disputes this basic point: Obama cannot take the stink off this thing.

And that’s why every Democrat is contorting himself like a yoga swami in a hatbox, trying to figure out how to pass it. (Note: If it were simply popular among Democrats, it would have passed months ago.) The latest idea involves the “Slaughter Solution” — named after House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter — which would allow the House to fix-and-pass the Senate version of the bill without ever voting on the Senate version, or something like that.

But here’s the thing: There is no “over” to this debate. Obama, Pelosi & Co. have demonstrated time and again that no deadline is final if it means losing. Meanwhile, if Obamacare passes, Republicans will run on a promise to repeal it, and that means we’ll be debating health-care reform at least through 2010. Then, depending on how the election goes, the repeal debate will become part of the legislative process. That will in all likelihood carry the debate into the 2012 presidential election. In other words, there is time for talk as far as the eye can see.

Now, part of me thinks this is too cruel a future to contemplate. I can’t remember whether it was pederasts or mattress-tag removers, but I’m pretty sure someone in Dante’s Inferno is condemned to spend eternity listening to a C-SPAN panel on community rating, preexisting conditions, and rate pools.

But it’s a better prospect than losing. That’s one point that has bipartisan support.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Merlin Olsen: a fearsome Ram of gentle charisma

The Hall of Fame defensive lineman — and, later, TV star — is remembered as even more impressive off the field.

Olsen, who played defensive tackle, battles Atlanta Falcons guard Gregg Kindle during Olsen's final season in the NFL. The Rams won the game, 59-0, and took the division championship, but they fell short of the Super Bowl, losing to the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs. (Associated Press / December 4, 1976)

Merlin Olsen dies at 69; Hall of Fame football star later became actor
Merlin Olsen was a tough, gentle giant
Photos: Merlin Olsen 1940-2010

By Sam Farmer
Los Angeles Times
March 11, 2010 7:50 p.m.

Merlin Olsen left quite an impression, even on his first day with the Los Angeles Rams.

Jack Teele remembers it well. It was the summer of 1962, just before the start of training camp. Teele was the team's director of public relations and, because everyone else had the weekend off, was the Rams' highest-ranking official at the Chapman College facility.

Olsen arrived on a Saturday night with the other prized rookie, quarterback Roman Gabriel. (Gabriel had been the second player selected in the NFL draft, Olsen the third.) Teele called general manager Elroy Hirsch to give him an update.

"I told him Gabe was a little shy, and imposing physically," Teele recalled. "And about Merlin I said, ‘Elroy, if you don't get back here in 48 hours, we've got a new GM.'

"It was almost an aura he had about him, a self-assuredness. He was always in control."

Olsen, a Hall of Fame defensive lineman remembered as even more impressive off the field, died Thursday after battling mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. The tackle, a fixture in the Rams' Fearsome Foursome defensive front, was 69.

Olsen's gentle charisma — later known to millions in his career as a broadcaster and as an actor on "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy" — was in stark contrast to his ferocity as a player. He played one of the meanest positions in football and did it better than just about anyone who ever tried, earning an unmatched 14 consecutive Pro Bowl invitations.

"He was a man among men on the field," said Rayfield Wright, a Hall of Fame offensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, who typically lined up against Fearsome Foursome stalwart Deacon Jones when facing the Rams.

Occasionally during the course of a game, Wright would be the pulling tackle assigned to block Olsen, and that was always a memorable challenge.

"He was a force in that middle, no question about it," Wright said. "When you look at that Fearsome Foursome, those guys were playing at around 270 but still had the quickness and finesse. Merlin Olsen held that nose like no other tackle in the game. He got a lot of respect."

Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, counts Olsen among the three best defensive tackles in history, along with Pittsburgh's "Mean" Joe Greene and Dallas' Bob Lilly. Moreover, Sabol says Olsen and Reggie White were the game's best bull rushers, rolling through and over blockers in their path.

"They could just grab a guy straight on and push him right back," Sabol said. "When you watched them, you were really watching the essence of what line play was. And Merlin did that for 60 minutes. He was the kind of guy who was stronger at the end of the game than he was at the beginning.

"In one memorable highlight package featuring the Rams and Chargers, the late John Facenda intoned that Olsen "went through the offensive line of the San Diego Chargers like a storm surge through a sand castle."

Olsen was also a very disciplined player — so much so that Jones called him "The Eraser" because his consistency erased the deficiencies of the teammates around him. Jones and others could be more reckless because they knew Olsen could make the play if they missed it.Reached at home Thursday, Jones said he'd be happy to talk about Olsen on any other day but that doing so right away was too painful.

Jack Youngblood, another Rams star in the Hall of Fame, said he never would have enjoyed that type of success but for Olsen. The two played together from 1971-76.

"Not only did he mentor me from the standpoint of the game, but the intellectual part of it and the character aspect of it," Youngblood said. "He made you think about why we played this game. Was it just about a bunch of guys playing ball, or could we be something more?"

Like Teele, who was so taken with Olsen's maturity and poise that he instantly saw GM qualities in him, just about everyone who knew Olsen well said football was just one of his many skills. He was much more than a giant in a No. 74 jersey.

"In many ways, he was a big man with a tender soul," Sabol said. "There was a decency and professionalism. He was the most considerate, the most thoughtful, the most courteous player that I ever met. I never met another player like that.

"But when he got on the field, he could put on his intensity as if it were a chin strap. He could just change from this Father Murphy kind of person into one of the most relentless, dogged, determined defensive linemen in history."

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

As a progressive, Obama hews to the Wilsonian tradition

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Thursday, March 11, 2010; A21

There are legislative miles to go before the government will be emancipated from its health-care myopia, but it is not too soon for a summing-up. Whether all or nothing of the legislation becomes law, Barack Obama has refuted critics who call him a radical. He has shown himself to be a timid progressive.

His timidity was displayed when he flinched from fighting for the boldness the nation needs -- a transition from the irrationality of employer-provided health insurance. His progressivism is an attitude of genteel regret about the persistence of politics.

Employer-paid insurance is central to what David Gratzer of the Manhattan Institute calls "the 12 cent problem." That is how much of every health-care dollar is spent by the person receiving the care. Hence Americans' buffet mentality: We paid at the door to the health-care feast, so let's consume all we can.

John McCain had the correct prescription for health care during the 2008 campaign. He proposed serious change -- taxing employer-provided health care as what it indisputably is, compensation, and giving tax credits, including refundable ones, for individuals to purchase insurance. Instead, as the legislative endgame plods toward us on leaden feet, the sprawling bills would subsidize insurance purchases for families of four earning almost $100,000 a year, a redundant reminder of unseriousness about the nation's fiscal mismanagement.

Of course, there now is a commission of experts to recommend cures for this. It should be called the Philip Dru Memorial Commission.

In a scintillating book coming in June ("The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris"), Peter Beinart dissects the progressivism of Woodrow Wilson. Edward House, Wilson's closest adviser, wrote an awful but indicative novel, "Philip Dru: Administrator." With the nation in crisis, Dru seizes power, declares himself "Administrator of the Republic" and replaces Congress with a commission of five experts who decree reforms that selfish interests had prevented.

Wilson, once a professor of political science, said that the Princeton he led as its president was dedicated to unbiased expertise, and he thought government could be "reduced to science." Progressives are forever longing to replace the governance of people by the administration of things. Because they are entirely public-spirited, progressives volunteer to be the administrators, and to be as disinterested as the dickens.

How gripped was Wilson by what Beinart calls "the hubris of reason"? Beinart writes:

"He even recommended to his wife that they draft a constitution for their marriage. Let's write down the basic rules, he suggested; 'then we can make bylaws at our leisure as they become necessary.' It was an early warning sign, a hint that perhaps the earnest young rationalizer did not understand that there were spheres where abstract principles didn't get you very far, where reason could never be king."

Professor Obama, who will seek reelection on the 100th anniversary of Wilson's 1912 election, understands, which makes him melancholy. Speaking to Katie Couric on Feb. 7, Obama said:

"I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, academically approved approach to health care, and didn't have any kinds of legislative fingerprints on it, and just go ahead and have that passed. But that's not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately, what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people."

Note his aesthetic criterion of elegance, by which he probably means sublime complexity. During the yearlong health-care debate, Republicans such as Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have consistently cautioned against the conceit that government is good at "comprehensive" solutions to the complex problems of a continental nation. Obama has consistently argued, in effect, that the health-care system is like a Calder mobile -- touch it here and things will jiggle here, there and everywhere. Because everything is connected to everything else, merely piecemeal change is impossible.

So note also Obama's yearning for something "academically approved" rather than something resulting from "a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people," a.k.a. politics. Here, too, Obama is in the spirit of the U.S. president who first was president of the American Political Science Association.

Wilson was the first president to criticize the Founding Fathers. He faulted them for designing a government too susceptible to factions that impede disinterested experts from getting on with government undistracted. Like Princeton's former president, Obama's grievance is with the greatest Princetonian, the "father of the Constitution," James Madison, Class of 1771.

Beck, Krauthammer and the Geert Wilders perplex

By Roger L. Simon
March 10th, 2010 10:18 pm

Geert Wilders – the sometimes-libertarian Dutch politician currently on trial for “hate speech” in his country – has become a kind of Rorschach test for right-of-center American pundits. He has recently been under attack by Glenn Beck, who seems to have called him a fascist, and by Charles Krauthammer, who, while more judicious, claims Wilders does not understand, or misconstrues, the difference between Islam and Islamism (and is therefore not worthy of our support).

Beck’s criticism of Wilders is pretty dismissible since the populist TV commentator does not appear particularly versed in European affairs. Indeed, in the video linked at his name, Beck erroneously identifies French politician Dominique de Villepin as “far right” and then mispronounces his name – in fingers down a blackboard fashion – as if he had confused the Chirac protégé with the truly fascist Jean Marie le Pen. Maybe he had. Only his producers, who have served him poorly here, know for sure. And maybe even they don’t, which is the problem. (Beck should also have another look at Jonah Goldberg’s book and at Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom before he makes such simplistic conclusions about fascism, the left and the right across the pond.)

I could go on about how the American Right ought to become sophisticated about international affairs (not that the American Left is!), but I will pass on to Charles Krauthammer, a man many of us – myself included – regard as the sine qua non of conservative columnists. He too seeks to distance himself from Wilders:

What he says is extreme, radical, and wrong. He basically is arguing that Islam is the same as Islamism. Islamism is an ideology of a small minority which holds that the essence of Islam is jihad, conquest, forcing people into accepting a certain very narrow interpretation [of Islam].

The untruth of that is obvious. If you look at the United States, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the U.S. are not Islamists. So, it’s simply incorrect. Now, in Europe, there is probably a slightly larger minority but, nonetheless, the overwhelming majority are not.

Paul Mirengoff of Powerline responds:

The words “radical” and “extreme” connote the relationship between Wilders’ view and mainstream thinking (in this they differ from the word “fascist,” which connotes a specific ideology). In the politically correct West of today, I believe it is fair to characterize Wilders as radical and extreme.

But is Wilders wrong? Krauthammer says he is because the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the U.S. and Europe are not Islamists. Wilders does not deny this. As he said last week in London:

"The majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens and want to live a peaceful life as you and I do. I know that. That is why I always make a clear distinction between the people, the Muslims, and the ideology, between Islam and Muslims. There are many moderate Muslims, but there is no such thing as a moderate Islam."

Wilders is making a theological point here — his contention is that Islam, as set forth in the teachings of the Koran, “commands Muslims to exercise jihad. . .to establish shariah law [and]. . .to impose Islam on the entire world.” I’m no scholar of Islam, but I believe Wilders is correct. To show otherwise, one would have to explain away portions of the Koran. It is not enough just to call Wilders’ interpretation of that book “narrow.”

If you agree with Mirengoff – and I do -, it is important to support Wilders in his trial, if only as a supporter of fundamental free speech. The ACLU – if it existed in any honest fashion – would be behind the Dutchman in a heartbeat. Such support would seem to be obvious and an easy choice for a man like Krauthammer. So why his unease with Wilders?

I know how presumptuous (and dangerous) it is to psychoanalyze a psychoanalyst (well, psychiatrist) like Charles Krauthammer, but I am going to risk it. I suspect the columnist gave voice to those opinions of Wilders not because he thinks the Dutch politician is “extreme,” but because he is afraid the Dutch politician is right. Call it projection, but I believe this because I have the exact same fear. I think many of us do and we don’t want to face it. Who would? The resultant conclusions are too depressing.

If Wilders is correct, and the line between Islam and Islamism is as blurred as the Dutchman posits, then we in the West are in very deep trouble indeed. And nothing short of an Islamic reformation will solve it. (Well, there is something else, but it’s pretty close to global Armageddon and who wants to deal with that?) Wilders – living much closer to the fault line in Amsterdam, the city of Theo Van Gogh’s and Pim Fortuyn’s murders, than we do in Washington or L. A. – feels the confrontation in a more visceral manner on a daily basis. Indeed, much of the Dutch public seems to as well, since, according to a recent Reuters report, Wilders’ Freedom Party leads the pack in their forthcoming parliamentary elections, leaving Wilders with the bizarre possibility of being elected Prime Minister while being convicted of “hate speech.” All this in the country we most identify with the values of the Sixties. Go figure. (Well, maybe that’s actually why.)

Much of the condemnation of Wilders – and an issue that disturbed me – comes from his supposedly calling for the Koran to be banned in Holland the way Mein Kampf is restricted in that country (to scholars in libraries). He reasoned that the Islamic holy book contained the same kind of racial incitement as Hitler’s apologia; therefore, it should have the same treatment. Well, that could be, but the problem for Westerners, especially Americans, is the whole book banning thing. Wilders, however, insists that he never really wanted a true banning and that his call was to give publicity to this issue in his country.

He discusses this in more detail than I have seen elsewhere in an interesting interview with Bill Whittle for PJTV. I also asked Wilders about the banning personally when I met him at a social gathering in Los Angeles, where he said substantially the same thing.

Unfortunately, the important issues at play here may not be surfaced in his forthcoming trial, because the judges have seriously restricted the number of witnesses. They seem to want the case to go away. Perhaps they too, like Krauthammer, are terrified that Wilders is right.

Okay, I am putting words in the columnist’s mouth – or fears in his unconscious. I apologize. I already admitted I am projecting. But whatever the case, attention must be paid to Geert Wilders. He is a highly intelligent man on the front lines of the struggle for a secular and free Europe and should not be dismissed – or misunderstood.

Out of Dutch

[Mark Steyn]
March 9, 2010

These aren't words one has cause to type terribly often, but I think Charles Krauthammer is being deeply naïve in his observations on Geert Wilders (as, reportedly, was Glenn Beck, to whom I am otherwise well disposed, not least because he liked my Christmas single).

Wilders does not need to be lectured condescendingly about distinctions within Islam, because he lives with them every day. And he has concluded, notwithstanding Dr. Krauthammer's views on the precise "minority" that identifies as "Islamist," that Islam itself is the issue — and that, therefore, regardless of the "moderation" of the "overwhelming majority" of Muslims, the more Islam the less Netherlands in any recognizable sense. Are the gangs of gay bashers on the streets of Amsterdam "Islamist" by Krauthammer's definition? Maybe, maybe not. But, either way, they make the running, and the rest of the community is either indifferent or quiescent.

As for whether Wilders is "extremist," his views on the cultural compatibility of immigrants were routine and unexceptional until the 1960s, not only in Europe, but also in the U.S. And, even in North America today, they are the stated policy of the Government of Quebec. One can certainly disagree with that, but does that make Quebec also "fascist" (Beck) or even "extreme" (Krauthammer)?

Dr. Krauthammer is also incorrect to suggest there are two issues here. When the state attempts to constrain further Europe's already too shriveled bounds of public discourse, the only issue is state power. The Continental political class does not want to debate the question of its ever more assertive Muslim populations, and so has decided to criminalize that debate. Geert Wilders lives under 24/7 security because Muslims (including the killer of Theo van Gogh) have pledged to murder him. Yet he's the one on trial for incitement? The issue is not Wilders or his views, but the Dutch state and their ever more "extreme, radical, and wrong" views on core Western liberties.

03/09 03:07 PM Share

Climategate: Three of the Four Temperature Datasets Now Irrevocably Tainted

With today’s revelation on Pajamas Media, only the Japan Meteorological Agency is left to save the warmists. Don’t bet on it. (Click here to see Horner discuss this article on PJTV.)

by Christopher Horner
March 11, 2010

The warmist response to Climategate — the discovery of the thoroughly corrupt practices of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) — was that the tainted CRU dataset was just one of four independent data sets. You know. So really there’s no big deal.

Thanks to a FOIA request, the document production of which I am presently plowing through — and before that, thanks to the great work of Steve McIntyre, and particularly in their recent, comprehensive work, Joseph D’Aleo and Anthony Watts — we know that NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) passed no one’s test for credibility. Not even NASA’s.

In fact, CRU’s former head, Phil Jones, even told his buddies that while people may think his dataset — which required all of those “fudge factors” (their words) — is troubled, “GISS is inferior” to CRU.


NASA’s temperature data is so woeful that James Hansen’s colleague Reto Ruedy told the USA Today weather editor:

“My recommendation to you is to continue using … CRU data for the global mean [temperatures]. … “What we do is accurate enough” — left unspoken: for government work — “[but] we have no intention to compete with either of the other two organizations in what they do best.”

To reiterate, NASA’s temperature data is worse than the Climategate temperature data. According to NASA.

And apparently, although these points were never stressed publicly before, NASA GISS is just “basically a modeling group forced into rudimentary analysis of global observed data.” But now, however, NASA GISS “happily [combines the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) data] and Hadley Center’s data” for the purpose of evaluating NASA’s models.

So — Climategate’s CRU was just “one of four organizations worldwide that have independently compiled thermometer measurements of local temperatures from around the world to reconstruct the history of average global surface temperature.”

But one of the three remaining sets is not credible either, and definitely not independent.

Two down, two to go.

Reto Ruedy refers his inquiring (ok, credulous) reporter to NCDC — the third of the four data sets — as being the gold standard for U.S. temperatures.

But NCDC has been thoroughly debunked elsewhere — Joseph D’Aleo and Anthony Watts have found NCDC completely incredible, having made a practice out of not including cooler temperature stations over time, exaggerating the warming illusion.

Three out of the four temperature datasets stink, with corroboration from the alarmists. Second-sourced, no less.

Anyone know if Japan has a FOIA?

Christopher Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Film Review: 'Green Zone'

The Current Cinema

Under the Gun

by Anthony Lane
The New Yorker
March 15, 2010

Matt Damon searches for weapons of mass destruction in Paul Greengrass’s movie.

The fact that “Green Zone” begins with a bombing raid should come as no surprise, given that the director is Paul Greengrass. He made two of the “Bourne” films and “United 93,” and his attitude to the average viewer remains that of a salad spinner toward a lettuce leaf. You don’t so much watch a Greengrass film as cling on tight and pray. The zone of the title is the enclave from within which the Coalition Provisional Authority tried to govern Iraq after the war, in 2003, and our hero is Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon). Boy, is he a hero: fit, pensive, rough when required, and so unceasingly moral that, on entering the hotel room of a blond, unaccompanied American reporter named Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), he engages her in a constructive discussion of journalistic sources and then—I can still hardly believe this—he leaves. No shock, no awe, no combat-calming sex. All he wants is truth. Miller heads a unit that, in the wake of the invasion, is told to seek out weapons of mass destruction; with hindsight, we realize that he might have had more success looking for live unicorns, but there you go.

As one search after another comes up empty, Miller confides his doubts to senior officers, who don’t want to know. As for Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), an intelligence agent for the Pentagon (you’d never guess he was the bad guy, would you?), he treats any skepticism as unpatriotic. The only one who listens to Miller is Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), a bearish C.I.A. staffer who actually has a grasp of the region—or, in the words of the sneering Poundstone, “a lot of preconceived ideas.” Miller is seconded to Brown (the film is hazy on military-command structures), and told to bring in General al Rawi (Igal Naor), a senior Iraqi who could hold a clue to the elusive weapons. You may not buy all this, but then most of Greengrass’s audience will be neither scholars of Iraqi politics nor conspiracy theorists with damp palms and narrowed eyes; they will be natural Bourne lovers, who want the camera to start shaking and grooving in the first minute and never stop.

They have their wish. From the echoing factory that Miller scours in his first scene to the climactic wasteland through which he, his interpreter (Khalid Abdalla), and the bullish Briggs (Jason Isaacs), from Special Forces, prowl after dark—all, for different reasons, in pursuit of al Rawi—“Green Zone” approaches every human activity as if preparing to defibrillate. The wasteland is filmed on the run, under the grainy murk that you get from night-vision goggles. Nowhere is stillness permitted; even when Miller, safe in his room, Googles the reporter’s name, we are yanked into closeups of the relevant words on his screen. As for John Powell’s score, insanely drum-heavy, it reminds me of the islanders in “King Kong,” summoning their favorite ape, and Greengrass is happy to unleash the beat for something as uneventful as a passing convoy of vehicles—the plan being, of course, to make us believe that there is an event coming, probably of the incendiary kind.

This pathological wish to thrill delivers diminishing returns. It gave better value in the Bourne films, which, for all their low moods, were fired by basic fantasy, whereas the excitements of “Green Zone” sit uneasily with its examination of the real and recent past. The credits say that it was inspired by “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s nonfictional account of life within—and beyond—the Green Zone, but the book’s task was to unearth a fiasco, its comedy so black and dense that you could pump it out of the ground. Many filmmakers would have leaped at the textural contrast between life on the street and the sheen of unreality inside what Chandrasekaran calls Baghdad’s Little America, but Greengrass is too caught up in the hero’s quest to notice. What lends the film its grip and its haste is also what makes it unsatisfactory, since the end result of Miller’s hectic hunt is to “solve” the puzzle of W.M.D. “If you pull this off, you might just save the country,” Brown tells him, but that is a fantasy more lurid than anything in the Bourne franchise. One of the charges against the Bush Administration was that it sought to encase Iraq in a narrative far too naïve and restrictive for any nation to bear; and, in its small way, “Green Zone,” a left-wing movie that looks and sounds like a right-wing one, suffers from the same delusion. The story of American involvement, in the eyes of this film, is neither a monstrous folly nor a patient, difficult path to democratic peace. It’s a wrap.

Faith in Open Borders

Posted by Mark D. Tooley on Mar 11th, 2010

Joining with groups like ACORN, a wide coalition of Religious Left groups will march on Washington, D.C. on March 21 on behalf of eventual amnesty and largely open borders under the rubric of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The National Council of Churches (NCC) is even hailing CIR as a “divine mandate” and a “patriotic act.”

At least the NCC is acknowledging patriotism is a virtue of sorts. New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer is touting CIR, but no one believes it legislatively stands any chance in this year’s U.S. Congress. Maybe the Religious Left is praying for a divine miracle to enact its dream of a borderless America. The rally is titled “March For America: Change Takes Courage and Faith.” Once again, the Religious Left is exploiting “faith” to advance and echo the secular Left’s hard core agenda. Its irate activists will gather on the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn to insist that God opposes well regulated borders for the U.S.

“We hope to show the moral urgency of repairing America’s broken immigration system,” explained an immigration spokesman for the National Council of Churches and its relief arm, Church World Service. “It will be demonstrated in a dramatic display of unity among supporters of comprehensive immigration reform – people of faith, immigrant rights groups, labor groups, and others from all across the United States.” Reputedly, church immigration activists have already been “hosting prayer vigils and potluck suppers and meeting with members of Congress in their home districts for months,” laying the spiritual and political groundwork for the March 21 march on Washington. “”Help us keep this momentum by joining us for this great action in Washington,” he further implored.

United Methodist, Episcopal, and Presbyterian agencies, the National Council of Churches, Jim Wallis Sojourners types, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), and left-wing Catholic orders are endorsing the march. Phoenix United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano will provide oratory to help to rev up the marchers, as will Sharon Watkins, President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). “The event is expected to draw a crowd of 100,000 or more, including many evangelicals who have been inspired by the NAE’s resolution on immigration,” boasted the NAE’s website. “This is a critical moment in the struggle for immigration reform this year.”

But the march’s co-sponsor is the decidedly less religious “Reform Immigration for America,” whose members include ACORN, CodePink, National Council of LaRaza, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and People for the American Way, among many others, including labor groups, like the AFL-CIO. Plus, of course, the Council on American Islamic Relations and Muslim Public Affairs Council are signed on. The church groups are specifically urging support for Illinois Democratic Congressman Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act.

In their further attempt to camouflage a liberalized immigration political stance as a religious imperative, the National Council of Churches is asking its 35 member denominations to exploit the Christian pre-Easter season of Lent to mobilize for the Gutierrez CIR legislation. This exploitation of a traditional time of prayer and self-denial, in memory of Christ’s suffering, for fairly crass political purposes is not new for the NCC. Infamously, the NCC similarly exploited Lent in 1995 to rally churches against the new Republican Congress’ “Contract with America,” which of course the NCC saw as an assault on the Gospel. The NCC even asked churches to display purple ribbons during Holy Week in solidarity with Clinton Administration resistance.

This time, in a February 2010 letter from the NCC’s General Secretary, and other liberal prelates, including the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, the Religious Leftists are citing Lent as the perfect season for immigration lobbying. “As Christian leaders, we write to you on the eve of our shared Lenten journey about an issue of urgent concern to all of us in this nation: Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” They complain that “12 million immigrants living in the United States find themselves without the hope of becoming citizens, reuniting with family members or enjoying the legal protections that most of us take for granted,” without specifically admitting that these persons entered the U.S. illegally. The NCC warned: “Unless there are major policy changes enacted by the U.S. Congress, many of these people will continue to languish in the shadows and be subjected to abuse, discrimination and hardships that are contrary to the Gospel values of love, unity and the affirmation of the dignity of all people.”

According to the NCC et. al., lobbying for CIR reminds is that “our interrelatedness and interdependence with every child of God, and are called not only to come to the aid of one another, but are commanded to rise to support those who are marginalized in our society.” Apparently God’s support for CIR is very clear. “In response to this divine mandate, and as a patriotic act in the spirit of our nation’s best values and traditions, we join together with our brothers and sisters from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, National Hispanic Leadership Conference and millions of other people of faith throughout the country in calling for comprehensive immigration reform that will improve and protect the lives of millions of people, in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and international agreements.”

Of course, the NCC and crowd are unclear, or unconcerned, about how liberalized immigration and eventual amnesty will affect America’s unemployed, how it will affect millions of legal immigrants, how it will affect overall law enforcement, how it will affect countless millions overseas who endure persecution or greater poverty than most Mexican or Central American illegals but lack the ability to walk across the border, and how a virtually open border only undermines attempts at economic and political reforms south of America’s borders.

Most important, neither traditional Christian nor Jewish teaching specifically offers a political immigration policy. Divine commands for fairness and justice do not automatically equal liberalized immigration, any more than they equate to socialized medicine, global warming alarmism, or American disarmament. But the Religious Left, uncomfortable with the theology and moral teachings of its own traditions, prefers the supposed clarity and liberation of left-wing activism.


By Ann Coulter
March 10, 2010

A group of "leading conservative lawyers" -- a phrase never confused with "U.S. Marines" -- has produced an embarrassingly pompous letter denouncing Liz Cheney for demanding the names of attorneys at the Justice Department who formerly represented Guantanamo detainees.

The letter calls Cheney's demand "shameful," before unleashing this steaming pile of idiocy:

"The American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients is at least as old as John Adams' representation of the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre."

Yes, but even John Adams didn't take a job with the government for another 19 years after defending the British guards -- who, in 1770, were "the police." He also didn't take a position with the U.S. government that involved processing British murder suspects.

I'd be more interested in hearing about the sacred duty of lawyers to defend "unpopular clients" if we were talking about clients who are unpopular with anyone lawyers know.

Every white shoe law firm in the country has been clamoring to take the cases of Guantanamo detainees, while young associates line up to be put on the case. This is even more fun than defending Ted Bundy!

As The Wall Street Journal put it in a 2007 article, a list of the law firms representing Guantanamo detainees "reads like a who's who of America's most prestigious law firms" -- which conveniently doubles as Santa's "naughty" list.

The terrorists' lawyers have included Shearman and Sterling, Arnold & Porter; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr; Covington & Burling; Hunton & Williams; Sullivan & Cromwell; Debevoise & Plimpton; King & Spalding; Cleary Gottlieb, Morrison & Foerster; Jenner & Block; O'Melveny & Myers and Sidley Austin.

At least 34 of the 50 largest firms in the United States have performed pro bono work on behalf of Guantanamo detainees.

Years ago, when I nearly died of boredom working for a law firm, I heard whispered rumors about a partner, Michael Tierney, whom none of the female associates wanted to work with because his pro bono work included defending -- gasp! -- pro-life groups. (There was at least one female associate who wanted to work with him!)

I didn't hear a peep about the august "American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients" back then.

Like Hollywood actresses, lawyers need to believe they're noble and courageous to help them forget that they are corporate drones doing soul-destroying work, which mostly consists of making photocopies.

Defending terrorists gives status-conscious attorneys a chance to get standing ovations at the annual ABA convention -- much like promoting "global warming" makes climatologists feel like they're saving the world, rather than studying water vapor.

It took me exactly one Nexis search for "ABA," "award" and "Guantanamo" to find that the 2006 "Outstanding Scholar Award" at the ABA annual banquet was given to New York University law professor Anthony G. Amsterdam for his "extensive pro bono practice, litigating cases that range from civil rights claims, to death penalty defense, to claims of access to the courts for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay."

A rule I have is: You're not defending an unpopular client if you're getting awards from the ABA, particularly if the award mentions "courage."

You'll never see a pompous letter like the one attacking Liz Cheney on behalf of any lawyer defending clients who are unpopular with lawyers, which terrorists are not.

Ken Starr, a signatory to the "Please God, Let This Get Me a Good Obituary in The New York Times" letter, once, totally by mistake, had a case unpopular with the establishment: Bill Clinton's impeachment.

He's shown his mettle by saying that if he met Clinton today, he'd say "I'm sorry." Because isn't that what Jesus said? Be very concerned with the opinion of the world!

Speaking of which, I also never heard any testimonials to the sacred duty of lawyers to defend unpopular causes when every lawyer working on the Clinton impeachment was being smeared as a "tobacco lawyer."

Tobacco companies, being wildly unpopular, are in need of a lot of legal services. Scratch any litigator from a big law firm and you'll find someone who, if necessary, could be slimed as a "tobacco lawyer."

You will notice a pattern developing: We only hear paeans to the "American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients" when it's being used to defend causes popular with liberals -- serial killers, terrorists and a horny hick who promised to save partial-birth abortion.

Lawyers want to be congratulated for their courage in defending "unpopular" clients, while taking cases that are utterly noncontroversial in their social circles.

They'd be scared to death to take the case of an anti-abortion activist. Defending the guy who killed George Tiller the Baby Killer won't make them a superstar at the next ABA convention.

Not only do Americans have a right to know the legal backgrounds of lawyers setting detainee policy at the Department of Justice, but I personally demand the right not to have to listen to Eddie Haskell lawyers constantly claiming to be Atticus Finch.


Today's Tune: Rolling Stones - Rocks Off

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Today's Tune: Rolling Stones - Love In Vain (Live 1972)

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Secrets Behind the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street" Reissue

In the new issue of Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards talk about plundering their vaults for the upcoming rerelease of their 1972 masterpiece Exile on Main Street. Here's more from our conversations with the two Rolling Stones and producer Don Was.

Posted Mar 09, 2010 12:40 PM

Mick Jagger:

Tell me how this new edition of Exile on Main Street came together.

Universal wanted to rerelease Exile, and they asked me if there were any tracks that we didn't use when we released it originally. And I said, "Well, I doubt it very much." One, 'cause I thought we probably used most of the tracks anyway, 'cause it was a double album. And secondly, 'cause I couldn't really be bothered. But then they said, "Please, will you look?" I was quite surprised to find the tapes in such a good state. They all had to be baked in ovens [to] last forever. I added bits and pieces here and there.

What sort of bits and pieces did you add?

I added some percussion. I added some vocals. Keith put guitar on one or two. I added some acoustic guitar and some other things. Charlie [Watts] didn't need to come in. The drums were all perfect. "Pass the Wine," for example, was very, very long, so I edited it down. In the spirit of Exile we added some girl background vocals on "Tumbling Dice" and "Shine a Light." We had some nice background vocals on the originals. But I think in the end it's very much sounding like it was in those days, so to speak.

Tell me the process of sorting through all this old material.

Keith and I listened to it. We picked things that we rather liked. And then I started doing research on my own and I found out that quite a lot of these pieces were really not from the Exile period at all. They were either earlier or later. Some of them much later. There was one moment where Keith said to me, "God, I think Mick Taylor sounds really good on that one" and I said, "Yeah, it sounds fantastic." Then I went online and found out that it's actually B.B. King playing on it and it was done like 10 years ago.

Exile was recorded over quite a long period. Some of it was recorded in Olympic Studios in England, some was recorded in France, and then there was stuff done in L.A. So I set myself a sort of time frame for it. The first recording was "Loving Cup" in 1969, and then the last sessions for Exile were done in 1972. So that was my time period.

Are there songs on the set that you just couldn't recall making in the first place?

I recall making it all. It was just where and when and with who was another matter. Who's playing what? It wasn't always put down who's playing guitar and who's playing keyboard and that sort of thing. There are still a few mysteries. Most of it was recorded on an eight-track, some of it was recorded on a 16-track. We kind of figured it out because of that.

Tell me about "Following the River." That's a brand new vocal, right?

I just started from nothing on that. The core tape of it was the piano and the drums, bass, and guitar. There was no top line or lyric. I started from scratch — I mean, that's what I do, and I've done it many times before. And it's daunting in the beginning, but after a while you get into it.

So how do you go about writing lyrics?

You just sit down and write it as you would anything else, you know? Sometimes you write the lyrics while you're sitting down playing the piano or guitar, and the lyrics come to you while you're writing the song. And sometimes you write the melody first and you have to write all the lyrics. And sometimes you get half the lyrics. And sometimes there's a track that you didn't turn up on the session. And they say, "Mick, we've done this great track. Will you write the words?" And that was this one.

I've heard you say in the past that you thought Exile is a bit overrated. Do you still feel that way?

Well, that was like maybe when people started saying, "Is this your favorite album?" I was one to say, "Well, I don't think it really is. I'm a great fan of Sticky Fingers." This is very different album 'cause it's so sprawling. It doesn't contain a lot of hit singles for instance. Over the years a lot of the songs have been played onstage and they've acquired another life. So it's a very different kind of album than Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed in that way. The production value is a different. It's just a different vibe. But, I mean, there are really great things on it. And I spent the last six months living with it, so I know it pretty much inside out now.

Do you have more respect for it after those six months?

Nah, I always had a lot of respect for it. It was difficult, because people didn't like it when it came out. I think they just found it quite difficult because of the length of it. People didn't access it quite so easily at the time. It got kind of mixed reviews. People found it a bit impenetrable and a bit difficult. Everyone said, "It's my favorite, it's my favorite, I love it!" and I said, "Well, it's not mine." It was just sort of toss off remark and it's come back to haunt me, really.

Lives of excess: Mick Jagger listens to Keith Richards playing guitar at Nellcote in 1971.

Keith Richards:

How did this new Exile set come together?

Well, basically it's the record and a few tracks we found when we were plundering the vaults. Listening back to everything we said, "Well, this would be an interesting addition."

Are these songs you had forgotten about?

I must say yes, it's been quite awhile. That's what longevity does to you. "Start Me Up" we'd forgotten about for five years before we put it out.

And you and Mick added new parts to some of them?

There wasn't much to be done and I really didn't want to get in the way of what was there. It was missing a bit of body here and there, and I stroked something on acoustic here and there. But otherwise, I really wanted to leave them pretty much as they were. Mick wanted to sort of fix some vocal things, but otherwise, basically they are as we left them 39 years ago.

Do you think the basement cuts from France sound different than the songs you recorded in the States or in England?

Oh, definitely. That was pretty unique way of recording. We did a lot of work on the stuff when we took it to L.A., 'cause we did a lot of overdubs and stuff on it there, but there was something about the rhythm section sound down there — maybe it's the concrete, or maybe it's the dirt, but it has a certain sound to it that you couldn't replicate if you tried.

Exile was initially greeted with mixed reviews.

Oh, at first, yeah. We kind of expected that just from the fact that it was a double album. First of all, the record company wanted to cut it in half. So we said, "Oh, this is not looking good." But also we insisted, "No, this is what we did. This is Exile on Main Street, and we insist that it's a double album." So it kind of got a slow take-off, but ever since then, it's been up there. Also, it's the first album with no particular single on it, you know? There was no "Brown Sugar" or whatever. We made it as an album, rather than looking for a hit single.

Many now consider it your best album. Do you agree?

I would put it up there with 'em. It's very difficult for me to pick my babies apart, you know? But, Beggar's Banquet, Exile, Sticky Fingers, Let it Bleed — I mean, it was part of that period where we were really hitting it, you know?

As you and Mick started work on these old songs, did you start thinking about new songs?

Oh yes. You're always thinking of new songs. Or rather, the new songs are thinking of you. I never sit down and say, "Oh, it's songwriting time." But every now and again, a certain note or a certain chord sort of rings a bell, and you sort of grab a guitar and go, "I must remember that."

Does Mick want to cut a new album?

Hey, you're asking me? You better ask Mick that one [laughs]. But my feeling is that, generally, people get itchy at a certain time. I'm sort of waiting for a phone call, you know?

Read Keith Richards' response to rumors he's embraced sobriety here.

Don Was:

How did the process of sorting through the Exile outtakes begin?

They just sent me hundreds of hours of multitracks to go through, which was the best gig ever. It was all mixed up. It was labeled by number code and it wasn't an accurate directory of what it was. You'd be listening to some blues jam and then all of a sudden there's a version of "Wild Horses" with a string quartet, then another reel with all the takes of "Honky Tonk Woman" leading up to the final one. It was mind-blowing for a Stones fanatic such as myself.

I also got very involved with the guys who bootlegged the stuff. I wanted them to have some surprises too, not just better mixes of stuff that they were very familiar with. We found songs that had vocals, for example, where only instrumental tracks had ever surfaced.

Why did you have to bake the master tapes?

It's not really like a solid piece of tape, like you think of Scotch tape. It's more like sandpaper. You have all these oxide particles and they get moved over the magnetic recording heads and rearranged into patterns that when it passes over the playback head — the playback head recognizes those patterns and transduces it into sound waves. Tapes from the '50s and '60s are OK. But I guess they started saving money, and tapes from the '70s, '80s, '90s — the particles tended to coagulate together and fall off the surface. So baking somehow makes them adhere to the surface without altering the pattern. It holds the particles in place at least for one time through so you can transfer it to something digital.

How much new overdubbing did the band do?

The essence of these things never got changed from 1969 to 1971. Beyond finding the best stuff to put out, the second responsibility was really to make sure nothing happened to alter the spirit of Exile. On "Following the River," the vocal was there but he knew what he wanted to do with the words — he just never got around to it. So he sang it again. And in one case there is a great ballad that never had lyrics. He wrote it and finished it.

I heard a rumor somewhere that you guys brought in Mick Taylor to overdub some things. Is that true at all?

I'm not saying it's not true. I'm simply not going to deny.

What else can you tell me about the unheard songs?

Well, as a bass player, I can tell you that Bill Wyman is a genius. He blew my mind, the stuff I heard him play here. He really doesn't get enough credit. The drums were amazing, but everyone knows that Charlie's the greatest.

How do you pick one alternate version of "Tumbling Dice" when they spent hours and hours working on that song?

It's hard to do. That version of "Tumbling Dice" was chosen because it's got the other lyric. The actual version that's on Exile, it's got to be one of the top five all-time great rock & roll singles. There's so much wrong with it. Now a lot of the things that happened somewhat randomly, like the vocals being mixed down low, people have imitated. It's become part of the vocabulary of rock & roll record-making. But it's wrong, by all standards. But it's absolutely perfect. It's a perfect record.

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