Saturday, April 24, 2010

Today, Jon Stewart - Free Speech Warrior - Is My Hero

[Link to the video at the bottom of the article...it's well worth watching. - jtf]

by Larry O'Connor
http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/
April 23, 2010

In the past year, we’ve had plenty of opportunities (and reasons) to criticize Jon Stewart’s routine attacks on conservatives, talk radio, Fox News and other opponents of reflexive liberalism.

But not today.

Put in the difficult position to address his network’s controversial decision to censor a “South Park” episode that mocked Islamic extremists, he deftly put the network’s decision in context, back-handedly criticized it but summed it up with an adroit, “But hey, they write the checks.”

Then Jon Stewart performs a spectacular pivot reminiscent of Wes Unseld in his prime and focuses his rage exactly where it should be: on the animals who used their unhinged interpretation of Islam to threaten the lives of Stewart’s colleagues, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. He goes on to show highlights of how The Daily Show has targeted all religions from the Amish to the Jews, from Methodists to Wiccans.

Backed by a gospel choir, he sums up this celebration of free speech and true tolerance with a musical message “to anyone threatening death in the name of religion or politics” with the pithy and resonant lyrics: “Go F*ck Yourself!”

Today, Jon Stewart is my hero. He should be a hero to every weak-kneed, lily-livered, cowardly member of the American media, from the reporters who meekly submit to arbitrary authority to the jellyfish executives who cower in their Sixth Avenue towers over threats from guys living in some cave or Brooklyn basement.

And he should be yours too.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Posted Apr 23rd 2010 at 4:08 pm in Political Humor, Politics, Television

Link: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-april-22-2010/south-park-death-threats

Next Earth Day, Thank a Hunter

By Humberto Fontova
http://www.americanthinker.com/
April 24, 2010

"In 1970, a Senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson raised his voice and called on every American to take action on behalf of the environment," reads President Obama's Earth Day proclamation. "In the four decades since, millions of Americans have heeded that call and joined together to protect the planet we share."

Well, I've got news for our president. Millions of Americans who had never heard of Gaylord Nelson "took action on behalf of the environment," decades before the good senator "raised his voice." More newsworthy still, most of these belonged to those insufferable rustics who "cling to guns and bibles." To wit:

The Pittman-Robertson Act (1937) imposed an excise tax of 10 percent on all hunting gear. Then the Dingell-Johnson act (1950) did the same for fishing gear. The Wallop-Breaux amendment (1984) extended the tax to the fuel for boats. All of this lucre goes to "protect the environment" in the form of buying and maintaining National Wildlife Refuges, along with state programs for buying and maintaining various forms of wildlife habitat.

For the last couple of decades, hunters and fishermen have contributed over $1.5 billion per year toward Senator Gaylord Nelson's lofty goal. To date, hunters and fishermen have shelled out over $20 billion "on behalf of the environment." A study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found that for every taxpayer dollar invested in wildlife conservation, hunters and fishermen contribute nine.

So please note: To "preserve nature," they don't tax Birkenstock hiking boots and Yin-Yang pendants -- but do tax my shotgun. They don't tax Yoga manuals and Tofu tidbits wrapped in recycled paper -- but do tax my 30.06 deer rifle. They don't tax binoculars or birding field guides with cutesy photos of the red-cockaded woodpecker and spotted owl -- but do tax the shotgun shells I blast at Mallards before arraying them on my grill as Duck-K-Bobs (cooked rare and lovingly basted with plenty of butter, Cajun seasoning, and teriyaki sauce).

Going further, they don't tax Kayaks and rock-climbing picks and ropes -- but do tax my compound bow and rifle scope. They don't tax the plastic water bottles on mountain bikes (or the mountain bike itself, come to think of it) or the cutesy spandex shorts these yo-yos wear -- but do tax my duck decoys and camo pants. They don't tax Yanni and Enya CDs -- but do tax the arrows I fling at Bambi before he sizzles on my grill as Bambi-burger (lovingly draped with thick bacon slices that dribble their appetizing fat into the meat while cooking. Then a chunk of cheddar cheese melted on top.).

You talk about a "Cheeseburger in Paradise," Jimmy Buffet! Try one from Bambi!

Ten cents of every dollar I spent on my hunting and fishing toys (I'd cite the total, but my wife might read this) funds federal and state "conservation" programs. From my guns and ammo to my duck calls and decoys, from my rods and reels to my lures and gaffs, from my trolling motor to the very fuel for my outboard -- ten cents of every dollar in this ghastly expenditure funds habitat for spotted owls, red cockaded woodpeckers, bald eagles, ospreys, manatees, snail darters, black-footed ferrets, California condors, Florida panthers, and sea otters.

None of these creatures (from what I hear) makes a decent gumbo or even a passable chili. I must be crazy. But I have no choice. And this avalanche of tax dollars comes on top of those I fork over for the stacks of licenses and permits and stamps I'm required to have before I set a foot afield or set my boat afloat. Last season, these totaled $500. (But sweetie! There are huge fines for hunting and fishing without them!)

And all the above is on top of my voluntary dues and assorted donations to such as Ducks Unlimited. (But snookums! I thought you loved the duck print I brought home at 2: 45 AM from the DU Banquet/auction! And especially the picture of me with the nice Hooters girl who worked the keg in her camo bikini!) According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, these donations to such as DU, Pheasants Forever, etc. total $300,000,000* a year.

As mentioned, just last year, hunters and fishermen (not birdwatchers, not rock-climbers, not kayakers, not nature-hikers) "contributed" $1.5 billion "big ones," "dollarinies," "donuts" (to quote Steve Martin as The Jerk) to purchase and maintain places for greenie-weenies to frolic and nature-watch.

You'd think some thanks might be in order from these freeloaders -- from the smarmy crowd not forced to buy any "bird-watching stamp" or "hiking stamp," or "kayaking stamp," or "rock-climbing stamp," or Yanni-listening stamp," or "quartz-crystal-gazing stamp." You'd think that Tofu-munchers might appreciate us hunters' funding habitat for their spotted owls, kangaroo rats, snail darters and louseworts, and bankrolling the scenery on their "nature trails" as they self-righteously plod along in their "earth-friendly" Birkenstocks and granola-flecked frocks., quartz crystals rattling in their pockets en route to a hillside sunrise-worship, crystal-gaze, and Enya-listen.

We pay our way -- in fact, we pay the hikers' and bird-watchers' way, too. But rather than go afield as passive voyeurs, rather than regard nature as a Disney cartoon, we accept nature's diktats. We revel in our role as full-fledged participants in her cycle of fang and claw (but add bullets, buckshot, broadheads, treble hooks, and gaffs to the primal drama).

You'd think that the voyeurs might throw us a bone every now and then. Well, think again. Here's the Sierra Club's official position: "Wild animals should not be valued principally in terms of whether they can serve as targets. As members of the family of life, we should respect the moral right of all creatures to exist, to be free of unnecessary predation, persecution, and cruel and unduly confining captivity."

Anyway, you're quite welcome, Greenies!

*corrected, with thanks to a reader.

Humberto Fontova is the author of four books, including Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant and Exposing the Real Che Guevara. Visit hfontova.com.

Rush Limbaugh, Patriot

By Roger Kimball
http://pajamasmedia.com/
April 23rd, 2010 7:43 am


Even if you don’t read anything else today (apart, of course, from this not-to-be-missed column), you will want to read Rush Limbaugh’s superlative reflections in The Wall Street Journal on the latest liberal libel, the idea that criticizing the Democrats’ big-government agenda is tantamount to 1. sedition (a fancy word for “treason”) and 2. inciting violence.

I know, I know: to hear them tell it, Rush Limbaugh is a barely articulate (or is he a demonically super-articulate?) neanderthal, one of those “bitter” chaps addicted to “guns and religion” that candidate Obama warned about on the campaign trail.

Yet here he is on the editorial page of the nation’s most serious newspaper sounding like a cross between James Madison and George Orwell. How can that be?

Limbaugh begins by recalling that in 1995 President Bill Clinton accused “loud and angry voices” on the airwaves—i.e., folks like Rush Limbaugh—of inciting the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. As Limbaugh puts it, “What self-serving nonsense.”

And the nonsense is not only self-serving, it’s also malignant. I mean, it’s not just this week’s prime example of liberal hypocrisy—“Liberals,” Limbaugh points out, “are perfectly comfortable with antigovernment protest when they’re not in power.” Then dissent is “the highest form of patriotism,” it’s OK to festoon walls with Bush=Hitler posters, etc., etc. But move the shoe onto the other foot and suddenly it is “unpatriotic,” even (if you—per impossibile—believe Chris Matthews and Joe Klein) “seditious” to raise questions about the growth of government and the fiscal and national security policies of the present administration.

Purely from a theatrical point of view, you have to admire the way the Alinsky-Left has deployed what Limbaugh calls “the violence card.”
Virtually all the real violence has been committed by the Left: The SEIU goons send Kenneth Gladney to the hospital because they don’t like what he says at Russ Carnahan’s town hall meeting. Karl Rove goes to Claremont College to talk and someone phones in a bomb threat. Allee Bautsch, Bobby Jindal’s campaign finance director, and her boyfriend are attacked leaving a fundraiser in New Orleans. She suffers a broken leg, he a concussion, fractured nose, and broken jaw.

When it comes to theoretical violence, though, the Left is sure that conservatives are just bursting with it. According to folks like Keith Olbermann, for example, the GOP generally and anyone who has anything to do with the tea party demonstrations in particular are inciting racism and violence. “If racism is not the whole of the Tea Party, it is in its heart, along with blind hatred, a total disinterest in the welfare of others, and a full- flowered, self-rationalizing refusal to accept the outcomes of elections, or the reality of democracy, or the narrowness of their minds and the equal narrowness of their public support.”

It is perhaps worth noting that Mr. Olbermann meant “uninterest” not “disinterest” in “the welfare of others,” but the inability to distinguish between disinterested acts and selfishness is characteristic of a certain species of left-liberal.

But let me return to Rush Limbaugh. In his column today, he points out what should be obvious to us all: that Obama and his left-liberal confrères are “using their power to implement their radical agenda.”

Mr. Obama and his party believe that the election of November 2008 entitled them to make permanent, “transformational” changes to our society. In just 16 months they’ve added more than $2 trillion to the national debt, essentially nationalized the health-care system, the student-loan industry, and have their sights set on draconian cap-and-trade regulations on carbon emissions and amnesty for illegal aliens.

Limbaugh is quite right that, had Obama campaigned on these policies, “he wouldn’t have garnered 30% of the popular vote.”

Indeed. There’s a lot of buyer’s remorse going around and that—not some deep, dark repository of racism and violence—is what explains the sudden rise of the tea party movement. Limbaugh eloquently captures the mood and the substance of the movement:

Like the millions of citizens who’ve peacefully risen up and attended thousands of rallies in protest, I seek nothing more than the preservation of the social contract that undergirds our society. I do not hate the government, as the left does when it is not running it. I love this country. And because I do, I insist that the temporary inhabitants of high political office comply with the Constitution, honor our God-given unalienable rights, and respect our hard-earned private property. For this I am called seditious, among other things, by some of the very people who’ve condemned this society?

I reject the notion that America is in a well-deserved decline, that she and her citizens are unexceptional. I do not believe America is the problem in the world. I believe America is the solution to the world’s problems. I reject a foreign policy that treats our allies like our enemies and our enemies like our allies. I condemn the president traveling the world apologizing for America’s great contributions to mankind. And I condemn his soft-peddling the dangers we face from terrorism. For this I am inciting violence?


Yes, precisely for that. And why? Again, Limbaugh gets it exactly right. The agenda behind the headlines is increasing government power. They say “health care,” what they mean is arrogating another sixth of the economy and your medical care to Washington bureaucrats. They say “a green environmental policy,” what they mean is more government control of business and your life. The say “bailout,” they mean sell-out of the American taxpayer. In the end, “the Obama/Clinton/media left are comfortable with the unrest in our society today.” Why? Because “it allows them to blame and demonize their opponents (doctors, insurance companies, Wall Street, talk radio, Fox News) in order to portray their regime as the great healer of all our ills, thus expanding their power and control over our society.”

A clear majority of the American people want no part of this. They instinctively know that the Obama way is not how things get done in this country. They are motivated by love. Not hate, not sedition. They love their country and want to save it from those who do not.

Amen.

Tournament expansion will be tolerable as long as it's limited

by John Feinstein
The Washington Post
Saturday, April 24, 2010; D07
http://www.washingtonpost.com

So as it turns out, there will be at least one more Selection Sunday that matters.

The announcement Thursday that the NCAA tournament field will only expand to 68 teams next season under a new television agreement with CBS and Turner is simply delaying the inevitable, but even if it's only for one more year, it is something to celebrate.


Limited expansion of the NCAA tournament could continue to make the annual event meaningful for mid-major programs such as Winthrop and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Anything more could prove disruptive. (Skip Peterson/associated Press)

Let's not think for one second that this was done for any of the right reasons. It certainly has nothing to do with what's best for the "student-athletes," or what's best for college basketball or for the tournament itself. It probably has as much to do with the logistical problem of tearing up existing contracts with arenas and rewriting them to add two more days of rental next season than anything else.

It may have a little to do with the NCAA not wanting to take the massive public-relations hit that will come when the field expands to 96 in one fell swoop. Do it gradually and the hammer comes down a bit less quickly.

In all likelihood, this is a one- or two-year delay before the expansionists get their way. In fact, it wouldn't be at all shocking if -- sometime before the end of the new 14-year, $10.8 billion contract announced on Thursday -- the field expanded to 128 teams. That would eliminate those pesky byes brought on by a 96-team field.

Next year's tournament -- and the NCAA is only committing to a 68-team field for now -- will probably start with four play-in games instead of one in Dayton, Ohio, on the Tuesday after Selection Sunday. If the basketball committee has any sense of the game or any inclination to do the right thing, those four games will involve the last eight at-large teams picked for the field, with the four winners moving on to a first-round game as a No. 12 seed.

Had that system been in place this year, the Dayton matchups might have looked like this: Missouri-Rhode Island, Florida-Virginia Tech, Minnesota-San Diego State and UTEP-Mississippi State. Virginia Tech, Rhode Island and Mississippi State were considered by many to be the last three teams to not make the field in 2010.

More likely, because the committee almost always goes out of its way to help the big guys -- and Butler's success this season will undoubtedly make that even more acute going forward -- the last eight automatic-bid teams will be sent to Dayton. Again, if that had been the case this season the matchups would have been something like this: Lehigh-Winthrop, North Texas-Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Morgan State-East Tennessee State and Robert Morris-Vermont.

The scenario that would send the at-large teams to Dayton is better in almost every way: It is better TV (name teams); it is fairer because the teams from one-bid leagues have to work much harder to get into the tournament, because they can go undefeated in conference play and still have to win their tournament to make the field; and it ensures the kids from smaller schools get to go a full-fledged first- and second-round site. Players from the larger schools are more likely to get another chance.

What's more, the three added at-large teams in a 68-team field will mean the one-bid teams will be seeded even lower than in the past. If Virginia Tech, Mississippi State and Rhode Island had been in this year's field, they would have been seeded no lower than 13th in a region (the lowest at-large seed this year was UTEP at No. 12). That means that three of this year's No. 15 seeds would become No. 16 seeds. One more insult to the little guys.

All that said, making the field will still mean something in 2011. The impending 96-team field will reward mediocrity and encourage teams from major conferences to schedule even more cupcake games early in the season to pad their records, knowing that finishing above .500 (overall) will almost certainly get them into the tournament.

The biggest winner in Thursday's announcement was Turner. Not only does it get a piece of the tournament beginning next season, it gets the Final Four every other year beginning in 2016. That's an incredible breakthrough for any cable network and the fact that it is Turner, not ESPN, must be a real blow to ESPN's pride. It is one thing for ESPN to sit on the sidelines while an over-the-air network televises a major event, but to do so while a cable competitor does so has to hurt. Apparently Disney's dollars are not completely unlimited. Turner must be putting in a hefty amount to get CBS to agree to give up the Final Four in alternate years, even if it is five years down the road.

In all likelihood, this also means the National Invitation Tournament survives for at least one more year, which is a good thing even if most big-time coaches view it on about the same level as the plague. It still matters to mid-majors such as Dayton, which will undoubtedly revel in its victory over North Carolina in this spring's championship game for years to come.

From a basketball point of view, this was the best possible scenario that could have been hoped for under the circumstances. There was little doubt that -- when NCAA Vice President Greg Shaheen began laying out how a 96-team field would work during a Final Four news conference -- the NCAA was just waiting for someone to make it an offer it couldn't refuse. If CBS and Turner had demanded a 96-team field right away, the NCAA would have found a way to do it.

More likely, the new deal is backloaded financially. CBS and Turner will pay less the first few years of the deal and begin paying more when the expanded field kicks in either in 2012 or 2013. If the field hasn't expanded to 96 (or more) by 2014 at the latest, check to see if the earth has slipped off its axis.

In the meantime, we don't have to contemplate a first-round game between the 12th-best team in the ACC and the 10th-best team in the Big East. And we can argue for at least one more spring about whether the second-best team in the Missouri Valley or the Colonial Athletic Association is more worthy of a bid than the sixth-best team in the Southeastern Conference.

So let's all breathe a deep sigh of relief and praise the NCAA for its wisdom. Forget the fact that this has nothing to do with wisdom. Instead, let's keep patting it on the back and hope it will enjoy it so much that maybe we can squeeze one more year of a Bids-That-Matter tournament out of them.

Don't count on it. Just hope for it.

For more from the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com.

Tea Party the new front in 'war on terror'

By MARK STEYN
The Orange County Register
http://www.ocregister.com/
2010-04-23 10:24:29

I suppose the thinking runs something like this. All things considered, the polls on Obamacare aren't totally disastrous, and the president's approval numbers seem to have bottomed out in the low forties, and when you look at what that means in terms of the electoral map this November, you've only got to scare a relatively small percentage of squishy suburban moderate centrists back into the Democratic fold, and how difficult can that be?

Hence, Bill Clinton energetically on the stump, summoning all his elder statesman's dignity (please, no giggling) in the cause of comparing Tea Partiers to Timothy McVeigh. Oh, c'mon, they've got everything in common. They both want to reduce the size of government, the late Mr. McVeigh through the use of fertilizer bombs, the Tea Partiers through control of federal spending, but these are mere nuanced differences of means, not ends. Also, both "Tim" and "Tea" are three-letter words beginning with "T": Picture him upon your knee, just Tea for Tim and Tim for Tea, you're for him and he's for thee, completely interchangeable.

To lend the point more gravitas, President Clinton packed his reading glasses and affected his scholarly look, with the spectacles pushed down toward the end of his nose, as if he's trying to determine whether that's his 10 a.m. intern shuffling toward him across the broadloom or a rabid armadillo Al Gore brought along for the Earth Day photo op.

Will it work? For a long time, Tea Partiers were racists. Everybody knows that when you say "I'm becoming very concerned about unsustainable levels of federal spending" that that's old Jim Crow code for "Let's get up a lynching party and teach that uppity Negro a lesson." Frank Rich of The New York Times attempted to diversify the Tea Party racism into homophobia by arguing that Obamacare opponents were uncomfortable with Barney Frank's sexuality. I yield to no one in my discomfort with Barney Frank's sexuality but, with the best will in the world, I find it hard to blame it for more than the first four or five trillion dollars of federal overspending. Eschewing such cheap slurs, Time's Joe Klein said opposition to Obama was "seditious," because nothing says sedition like citing the U.S. Constitution and quoting Thomas Jefferson. Unfortunately for Klein, thanks to "educator" William Ayers' education reforms, nobody knows what "seditious" means anymore.

So enough with all the punch-pulling about seditious racist homophobes.

It was time to go for broke, and bring out Bill Clinton to explain why the Tea Party is the new front in the "war on terror." Don't worry about Iran's nuclear program, but , if you meet a Tea Party supporter waving some placard about the national debt, try not to catch his eye and back away slowly without making any sudden movements lest he put down his placard and light up his suicide belt.

As longtime readers know, I have enormous respect for the Democrats as masters of the politics of personal destruction. What a track record!

"Bushitler" ... "General Betray-Us" ... Excellent stuff, up there with Oscar Wilde. But this is, like, a whole new level: Bill Clinton is on the road, demonizing (and with an impressively straight face) half the American people as the express lane to ka-boom! And the poodle media are taking it seriously.

Meanwhile, Comedy Central – you know, the "hip" "edgy" network with Jon Stewart from whom "young" Americans under 53 supposedly get most of their news – just caved in to death threats. From a hateful 83-year-old widow who doesn't like Obamacare? Why, no! It was a chap called Abu Talhah al Amrikee, who put up a video on the Internet explaining why a "South Park" episode with a rather tame Mohammed joke was likely to lead to the deaths of the show's creators. Just to underline the point, he showed some pictures of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film director brutally murdered by (oh, my, talk about unfortunate coincidences) a fellow called Mohammed. Mr. al Amrikee helpfully explained that his video incitement of the murder of Matt Stone and Trey Parker wasn't really "a threat but just the likely outcome." All he was doing, he added, was "raising awareness" – you know, like folks do on Earth Day. On Earth Day, lame politicians dig a hole and stick a tree in it. But aggrieved Muslims dig a hole and stick a couple of comedy writers in it. Celebrate diversity!

Faced with this explicit threat of violence, what did Comedy Central do?

Why, they folded like a Bedouin tent. They censored "South Park," not only cutting all the references to Mohammed but, in an exquisitely post-modern touch, also removing the final speech about the need to stand up to intimidation. Stone & Parker get what was at stake in the Danish cartoons crisis, and many other ostensibly footling concessions: Imperceptibly, incrementally, remorselessly, the free world is sending the message that it is happy to trade core liberties for the transitory security of a quiet life. That is a dangerous signal to give freedom's enemies. So the "South Park" episode is an important cultural pushback.

Yet in the end, in a craven culture, even big Hollywood A-listers can't get their message over. So the brave, transgressive comedy network was intimidated into caving in and censoring a speech about not being intimidated into caving in. That's what I call "hip" "edgy" "cutting-edge" comedy: They're so edgy they're curled up in the fetal position, whimpering at the guy with the cutting edge, "Please. Behead me last. And don't use the rusty scimitar where you have to saw away for 20 minutes to find the spinal column."

Terrific. You can see why young, urban, post-modern Americans under 57 get most of their news from Comedy Central. What a shame 1930s Fascist Europe was so lacking in cable.

Fifteen years ago, Bill Clinton set out to hang Timothy McVeigh around the necks of talk radio and, with a further stretch, Newt and the congressional Republicans. It was an act of contemptible but undeniably brilliant opportunism. It worked out so well for him, that a couple of years later, after the Princess of Wales' fatal car crash, George Stephanopoulos enthused to Christopher Hitchens: "Tony Blair's handling this really well. This is his Oklahoma City." As Hitchens remarked, this is the way these people think.

Which works fine when you're up against phantom enemies of the kind Clinton preferred to take on, while giving real threats the run of the planet. If the Tea Partiers were truly the murderous goons they've been portrayed as, they would draw the obvious lesson from the kid gloves with which Comedy Central strokes Islam. They would say, "Enough with peaceful rallies where we pick up the litter afterwards. Let's just threaten to decapitate someone. You get more respect that way. At least from the media."

But they won't do that. Because, notwithstanding their outrageous demonization by the media, they're not terrorists. So, in the end, Comedy Central has incentivized Islamic violence and nothing much else.

Nevertheless, we should be grateful to its jelly-spined executives for reminding us that the cardboard heroes of the American media are your go-to guys for standing up to entirely fictitious threats. But for real ones? Not so much.

©MARK STEYN

Blagojevich sends not-so-subtle message to Obama

By John Kass
Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/all/
April 23, 2010

Rod Blagojevich finally made good on a promise: He put President Barack Obama right in the middle of Blagojevich's own political corruption case.

And now it's finally clear why, from the moment of Blagojevich's arrest in December 2008, White House spinners loudly portrayed our former Gov. Dead Meat as some drooling, raving lunatic.

A lunatic is not to be believed, and Dead Meat will continue to be characterized as such by Obama defenders. But raving lunatics care little for their own survival. And in an amazing defense motion filed Thursday, Blagojevich proved once again that he is quite sane.

He wants Obama to testify in his federal criminal case. The feds allege that Blagojevich conspired to sell off Obama's old U.S. Senate seat, among other charges.

Obama's former patron and real estate fairy, the convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, is a key player in the government's case. Blagojevich's aim is to undercut what Rezko has told investigators.

And now Blago wants the president to do the undercutting from the witness stand, with the nation riveted to his every recollection of his days in Chicago politics, hanging with Tony and the guys, with the midterm November elections approaching.

"President Obama has pertinent information as to the character of Mr. Rezko," the Blagojevich filing states. "President Obama can testify to Mr. Rezko's reputation for truthfulness, as well as his own opinion of Mr. Rezko's character. Based on the relationship that President Obama and Mr. Rezko had, President Obama can provide important information as to Mr. Rezko's plan, intent, opportunity, habit and modus operandi."

Though Thursday's new information is quite fascinating, remember that it comes from the same defense team that has turned the case into a circus from day one.

And demanding the president take the stand in a corruption trial is all three rings, and the dozens of tiny little clowns pouring out of the diminutive car, and the bearded lady. Oh, and let's not forget the dog-faced boy.

Thursday's filing quotes an account by Rezko suggesting that when Obama was an Illinois state senator, his campaign received political cash from Rezko. It also points to assertions by Rezko insinuating that he and Obama had conversations about a casino deal in Rosemont that Rezko stood to make a killing on.

"Rezko has stated to the government that he and the public official [believed to be Obama] had certain conversations about gaming legislation and administration, which the public official denies having had," the filing states.

"President Obama is the only one who can testify as to the veracity of Mr. Rezko's allegations above."

It's no secret that some in journalism get offended when anyone dares mention that the president was involved in Chicago politics. But the filing is not only a legal document, it's a political message from Blagojevich to Obama. So allow me to translate the Chicago Way.

"Dear Barack, my old friend. I want you to use all your powers, all your skills, to make me an offer I can't refuse. I'm Mr. Celebrity-get-me-out-of-here, and you better get me out of here. Thanks, Rod."

The most interesting portions of the filing were supposed to be kept secret. Whole sections were redacted (i.e., blacked out) and remained so for hours.

But there appears to have been a clerical error. And Rich Miller of The Capitol Fax Blog revealed a way to unlock the redacted parts. So we followed Mr. Miller's easy instructions, pressed a few keys on the computer, and presto!

All the redacted material was magically reinstated.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel surely isn't happy. He hauled lawyers from both sides into his chambers for a little private chat Thursday evening. There were no reports of piteous shrieks emanating from behind closed doors, but I've got to think that Blago's guys left the room whimpering and biting their lips.

While this is believed to have been a technical glitch by the defense, the thing is, this is Chicago. Do you believe in coincidence?

It's not good for Obama. But whether you agree or disagree with his politics, it's clear that he's in a difficult position.

His former close buddy, Rezko — "That's not the Tony Rezko I know" — still swings like some albatross from his neck, and it's getting quite stinky. It's hard to transcend the old politics of the past with that dead bird weighing you down.

And his political guys, who were sent from Mayor Richard Daley's City Hall to run his administration, have served him poorly. They shouldn't have let this get anywhere near the president.

In January 2009 — just weeks after the FBI came knocking at his door — Blagojevich threatened to bring everyone down with him.

As he was being booted from the governor's office in his impeachment trial, Dead Meat complained that he wanted to call witnesses to clear his name.

"I'm talking about every single witness named in the criminal complaint," Dead Meat said. "I'm talking about (White House Chief of Staff) Rahm Emanuel, and Sen. (Dick) Durbin … and others who were engaged in conversations with me on a variety of different things, all appropriate and all legal, and I'd like every one of them to testify under oath here at this impeachment trial."

Dead Meat said then the witnesses were necessary so that he could clear his name. And now, he wants Obama on the stand.

Does Dead Meat really want the ultimate witness, or is he merely playing a dangerous game of "Let's Make a Deal"?

jskass@tribune.com


Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune

Friday, April 23, 2010

Liberals and the Violence Card

Conservative protest is motivated by a love of what America stands for.

By RUSH LIMBAUGH
The Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/home-page
April 23, 2010

The latest liberal meme is to equate skepticism of the Obama administration with a tendency toward violence. That takes me back 15 years ago to the time President Bill Clinton accused "loud and angry voices" on the airwaves (i.e., radio talk-show hosts like me) of having incited Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. What self-serving nonsense. Liberals are perfectly comfortable with antigovernment protest when they're not in power.

From the halls of the Ivy League to the halls of Congress, from the antiwar protests during the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq to the anticapitalist protests during International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, we're used to seeing leftist malcontents take to the streets. Sometimes they're violent, breaking shop windows with bricks and throwing rocks at police. Sometimes there are arrests. Not all leftists are violent, of course. But most are angry. It's in their DNA. They view the culture as corrupt and capitalism as unjust.

Former President Bill Clinton smiles as he receives a medallion from Cathy Keating, wife of former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, as a part of the Reflections of Hope Award ceremony in Oklahoma City.(AP)

Now the liberals run the government and they're using their power to implement their radical agenda. Mr. Obama and his party believe that the election of November 2008 entitled them to make permanent, "transformational" changes to our society. In just 16 months they've added more than $2 trillion to the national debt, essentially nationalized the health-care system, the student-loan industry, and have their sights set on draconian cap-and-trade regulations on carbon emissions and amnesty for illegal aliens.

Had President Obama campaigned on this agenda, he wouldn't have garnered 30% of the popular vote.

Like the millions of citizens who've peacefully risen up and attended thousands of rallies in protest, I seek nothing more than the preservation of the social contract that undergirds our society. I do not hate the government, as the left does when it is not running it. I love this country. And because I do, I insist that the temporary inhabitants of high political office comply with the Constitution, honor our God-given unalienable rights, and respect our hard-earned private property. For this I am called seditious, among other things, by some of the very people who've condemned this society?

I reject the notion that America is in a well-deserved decline, that she and her citizens are unexceptional. I do not believe America is the problem in the world. I believe America is the solution to the world's problems. I reject a foreign policy that treats our allies like our enemies and our enemies like our allies. I condemn the president traveling the world apologizing for America's great contributions to mankind. And I condemn his soft-peddling the dangers we face from terrorism. For this I am inciting violence?

Few presidents have sunk so low as Mr. Clinton did with his accusations about Oklahoma City. Last week—on the very day I was contributing to and raising more than $3 million to fight leukemia and lymphoma on my radio program—Mr. Clinton used the 15th anniversary of that horrific day to regurgitate his claims about talk radio.

At a speech delivered last Friday at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., the former president said: [T]here were a lot of people who were in the business back then of saying that the biggest threat to our liberty and the cause of our domestic economic problem was the federal government itself. And we have to realize that there were others who fueled this both because they agreed with it and because it was in their advantage to do so. . . . We didn't have blog sites back then so the instrument of carrying this forward was basically the right-wing radio talk show hosts and they understand clearly that emotion was more powerful than reason most of the time."

Timothy McVeigh was incensed by the Clinton administration's 1993 siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. It's no coincidence that the bombing took place two years to the day of the Waco siege. McVeigh was not inspired by anything I said or believe and to say otherwise is outright slander. In the aftermath of the bombing, I raised millions of dollars for the children of federal employees killed in that cowardly attack through my association with the Marine Corp Law Enforcement Foundation.

Let me just say it. The Obama/Clinton/media left are comfortable with the unrest in our society today. It allows them to blame and demonize their opponents (doctors, insurance companies, Wall Street, talk radio, Fox News) in order to portray their regime as the great healer of all our ills, thus expanding their power and control over our society.

A clear majority of the American people want no part of this. They instinctively know that the Obama way is not how things get done in this country. They are motivated by love. Not hate, not sedition. They love their country and want to save it from those who do not.

Mr. Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host.

John S. McCain, Will You Please Go Now?

Entrenched incumbency is not an argument for more entrenched incumbency.

By Michelle Malkin
http://www.nationalreview.com/
April 23, 2010 12:00 A.M.

I need a Dramamine to cover Sen. John McCain’s reelection bid. With his desperate lurch to the right, he’s inducing more motion sickness than a Disneyland teacup. McCain’s campaign represents the same self-serving political cynicism that American voters have grown tired of stomaching from the current White House. We need choices, not carbon copies.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., speak about a border security plan to fight illegal immigration and criminal activity along the Arizona-Mexico border during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, April 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

After decades of embracing the liberal-media moniker “maverick,” for his frequent derision of the conservative wing of the Republican party, McCain has now abandoned the label. He told Newsweek magazine earlier this month: “I never considered myself a maverick.” But countless YouTube videos show McCain and vice-presidential running mate Sarah Palin invoking the “M” word. Here’s a typical bit of self-puffery from a McCain stump speech on Oct.14, 2008:

It’s well known that I have not been elected Miss Congeniality in the United States Senate, nor with the administration. I have opposed the president on spending, on climate change, on torture of prisoners, on . . . on Guantanamo Bay. On a . . . on the way that the Iraq War was conducted. I have a long record, and the American people know me very well, and that is independent and a maverick of the Senate, and I’m happy to say that I’ve got a partner that’s a good maverick along with me now.

With veteran tough-on-illegal-immigration primary challenger J. D. Hayworth (whom I support) just five points behind McCain in the latest Rasmussen poll, Not-Maverick has now abandoned (or rather re-abandoned) his notoriously long-held open-borders stance. Just a few short years ago, Not-Maverick was attacking Rush Limbaugh as a “nativist” for opposing the Bush-Kennedy-McCain amnesty plan. When Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) introduced an amendment to bar illegal aliens from receiving the earned income tax credit, McCain likened it to Jim Crow laws.
Sessions: “I do not believe we should award people who have entered our country illegally, submitted a false Social Security number, worked illegally. . . . I do not believe we should reward them with $29 billion of the taxpayers’ money. That is a lot of money.”

McCain: “What’s next — are we going to say work-authorized immigrants are going to have to ride in the back of the bus?”


When Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.) called for a cap on the number of visas for legal permanent residents at 650,000, McCain called it un-American and accused Bingaman of “discriminating” against poor foreigners (never mind that the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill itself had a visa cap of 290,000). Like the true progressive he is, McCain never lets the facts get in the way of his playing the race card. Unless it’s an election year, that is.

When McCain’s friend Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) put forth an amendment to “require the enforcement of existing border security and immigration laws and congressional approval before amnesty can be granted,” McCain refused to take a position and sat out the vote. The amendment failed 42–54.

Just how beholden and deferential were McCain and his illegal-alien-shamnesty Republican twin Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to Teddy Kennedy? During floor debate on an amendment that would have required illegal aliens who get legal status to have a minimum level of health insurance, the Washington Times reported, the pair scurried over to check with Kennedy before voting, to ensure their votes all matched. The amendment went down.

Actions speak louder than the pro-enforcement, strong-borders rhetoric McCain adopted for his failed 2008 presidential run — and which he has now resurrected to save his seat in his border-violence-plagued state of Arizona.

More words you can’t believe in: In a fundraising e-mail sent out this week, McCain pledged that he’s “determined to return to the Senate to continue fighting against the massive expansion of government under President Obama.” Yet, to this day, McCain refuses to admit his own individual responsibility for supporting the presocialization of the economy started under George W. Bush and continued under Obama. McCain has never admitted he was wrong about his support of the $700 billion all-purpose, earmark-stuffed TARP bailout; the $25 billion auto bailout; the first $85 billion AIG bailout; and his proposed $300 billion mortgage-entitlement bailout (which dwarfed Obama’s plan).

His latest, McLame-est excuse for supporting TARP? He was “misled.” But all the warning signs and red flags about Bush Treasury secretary Henry Paulson’s incompetence and untrustworthiness were there before McCain joined the Chicken Little crowd. McCain is trying to have it all ways — refusing to admit he was wrong, blaming Paulson for duping him, and creating the illusion that he’ll be competent enough to resist the next inevitable bailout temptation when the feds hit the panic button.

Asked by a conservative constituent at a recent town-hall meeting why the four-term senator deserved to be elected, McCain stammered before giving his best argument: He had more “standing” than anyone else. Entrenched incumbency is not an argument for more entrenched incumbency. Stop this ride. It’s time for McCain to get off.

Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies (Regnery 2010). © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Capitalism vs. Capitalists

Capitalists are fine with government’s acting as referee, but the ref shouldn’t suit up and play the game.

By Jonah Goldberg
http://www.nationalreview.com
April 23, 2010 12:00 A.M.

Five years ago this week, my former boss William F. Buckley started a column thusly:

“Every ten years I quote the same adage from the late Austrian analyst Willi Schlamm, and I hope that ten years from now someone will remember to quote it in my memory. It goes, ‘The trouble with socialism is socialism. The trouble with capitalism is capitalists.’”

Well, Bill is gone now, but his memory lives, and I’m sure he’d forgive me for taking up his request five years early.

Schlamm’s point is still relevant, even though the kind of socialism we’re dealing with is less doctrinaire. But it also distorts the issue somewhat. One might just as easily say that the problem with socialism is capitalists, too.

If by “capitalist” you mean someone who cares more about his own profit than yours; if you mean someone who cares more about providing for his family than providing for yours; if you mean someone who trusts that he is a better caretaker of his own interests and desires than a bureaucrat he’s never met, often in a city he’s never been to: then we are all capitalists. Because, by that standard, capitalism isn’t some far-off theory about the allocation of capital; it is a commonsense description of what motivates pretty much all human beings everywhere.

And that was one of the reasons why the hard socialism of the Soviet Union failed, and it is why the soft socialism of Western Europe is so anemic. At the end of the day, it is entirely natural for humans to work the system — any system — for their own betterment, whatever kind of system that may be. That’s why the black-market economy of the Soviet Union might have in fact been bigger than the official socialist economy. That is why devoted socialists worked the bureaucracy to get the best homes, get their kids into the best schools, and provide their families with the best food, clothes, and amenities they could. Just like people in capitalist countries.

It’s why labor unions demanded exemptions and “carve-outs” from Obamacare for their own health-care plans. And why very rich liberals still try their best to minimize their taxes.

The problem with socialism is socialism, because there are no socialists. Socialism is a system based upon an assumption about human nature that simply isn’t true. I can design a perfect canine community in which dogs never chase squirrels or groom their nether regions in an indelicate manner. But the moment I take that idea from the drawing board to the real world, I will discover that I cannot get dogs to behave against their nature — at least not without inflicting a terrible amount of punishment. Likewise, it’s easy to design a society that rewards each according to his need instead of his ability. The hard part is getting the crooked timber of humanity to yield to your vision.

And it’s also why the problem with capitalism is capitalists. Some people will always abuse the system and take things too far. Some will do it out of the hubris of intellect. Some will do it out of the venality of greed.

I bring all of this up because many in Washington seem convinced that the solution to the problem with capitalists is always less capitalism. To be sure, a free-market society is in some sense a government program. The government must prosecute criminality, enforce contracts, and demand that the rules be observed. Few lovers of free markets are so laissez-faire as to want to strip the government of its role as referee.

But few should want the ref to suit up and play the game.

Washington’s solution to Wall Street’s problems is to get Washington deeply, deeply involved in Wall Street. So involved that the savvier capitalists will recognize — once again — that the safest bets are not to be found in the vicissitudes of a fickle marketplace, but in gaming the system run from Washington. The “reform” coming down the pike will put bureaucrats in charge of investors. If bureaucrats were better than investors, they wouldn’t be bureaucrats. The government will decide which firms are worthy — “systemically important” — and which are not. Those that are will use their official “importance” to game the system. Instead of eradicating “too big to fail,” we will systematize it.

We are fond of saying that the answer to free-speech problems is more free speech. But we seem incapable of grasping that sometimes — and only sometimes — the solution to capitalism’s problems is more capitalism.

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

License to Massacre

Posted by Ralph Peters on April 23rd, 2010
http://frontpagemag.com/

Skyrocketing to the top of the prime-ministerial polls, sleek-but-shallow Brit politician Nicholas Clegg (pictured at right) apparently misses Saddam. And Clegg’s not alone in the resurgent dictators’ fan club.

The shiny young face of the UK’s usually lagging third party, the Liberal Democrats, Clegg may upend British politics in the May 6 elections. One key to his stunning rise has been his dismissal of the “special relationship” with the US as out of date and worthless.

President Obama’s cool with that, but it’s hard to see who would respect a decoupled-from-Washington UK in the morning. Anti-Americanism plays well in Britain, though. (What, no Obama effect?).

Anti-Americanism is the first refuge of the scoundrel.

Still, the real danger from Nick Clegg isn’t that he’s going to change everything, but that, behind the campaign flash, he’s the most ideologically backward party leader Britain’s seen since the 1970s. He damns Cold-War thinking, even as he wallows in it.

And Clegg isn’t alone. Around the world, bright-young-thing politicians are turning back the clock. While fashionably damning nukes, they embrace the worst practices of the past with enthusiasm.

To wit: Clegg made a very public point of calling the intervention in Iraq “illegal.” To the likes of Clegg (a perfect name for a Dickensian villain), it was legal for Saddam to torture, rape and massacre his own countrymen—under the bloody notion that whatever happens within a country’s borders is that state’s business alone.

Of course, Clegg and Co. also overlook Saddam’s two wars of aggression against neighboring states, while averting their polished gazes from the budding democracy in Iraq. Clegg’s point is just that “America is bad.” It’s lazy, destructive—but effective—politics.

Does Clegg truly believe that Saddam deserved to remain in power? Or that the world would be a better place if he still ruled?

At 43, Clegg’s even younger than our own new-model president. But the two men have in common a heartbreaking (and bone-breaking) sympathy for murderous dictatorships–as long as the dictator’s roots are on the left.

The immoral notion that a strongman can seize power, then do anything he wants to his countrymen with impunity because his state’s borders are sacrosanct—what I’ve called “the sovereignty con”–has excused immeasurable suffering.

President Bush, for all his practical errors, grasped that a genocidal dictator’s claims of sovereignty are bogus, that the only true legitimacy comes from the will of the people.

Bush did a great thing inexcusably badly in Iraq. Still, for a few years, dictators shaped up. In the end, though, a critical new ideal—that dictators can be held accountable for their inhumanity—was discredited by incompetence on the ground and the stunning bias of the media—whose propagandists, once suckled by Saddam, would sacrifice the lives of others to “get Bush.”

The Bush-haters won (Congratulations! Why not visit a few mass graves on your next eco-friendly vacation?). Now we’re back in the old, monstrous tradition of tolerating dictators.

The establishment media are fine with that. When a journalist of authentic conscience, such as the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl, does get into print with a column describing “Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista thugocracy” in Nicaragua, he gets a grand total of six column inches.

Where’s the outrage, either from our elected leaders, or from wannabes such as Clegg, or from the media over Hugo Chavez’s destruction of Venezuela’s once-proud democracy? At this month’s Nuclear Vanity Summit in D.C., Obama literally embraced Argentina’s corrupt and scheming President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Clegg’s pure white-bread, but Obama would be the perfect man to take on African dictators, such as Zimbabwe’s barbarous Robert Mugabe. And what has our president done for human rights in Africa? Nothing.

This convenient, murderous belief that what happens in Country X stays in Country X condemns billions of human beings to political slavery and, too often, to death. It means that we continue to pretend that Afghanistan and Somalia are an actual countries, or that the brutal oppression in Eritrea is nobody’s business but that of the country’s dictatorship. Or that Tehran’s butchers have every right to gun down, imprison, rape and torture protesters.

Well, Nick Clegg, who has an unexpected shot at becoming Britain’s next prime minister, may miss Saddam. But Iraqis don’t.

As for the US, it seems that the only borders we don’t regard as sacred are our own.

The Foie Gras Bears

The Nation's Pulse

By on 4.23.10 @ 6:07AM
The American Spectator
http://spectator.org/

Black bears are emerging from hibernation now, and Aspen has a bear problem, one that it shares with other upscale Colorado mountain towns (Vail, Telluride, Durango, etc.). Bear populations are growing in these areas, even as resort and real estate development shrinks their habitat. Aspen police and wildlife officials fielded 460 bear-related calls in 2009. Two people were attacked inside posh homes in separate incidents last summer. Around the same time a 74-year-old woman named Donna Munson was killed by a bear on her rural property near Ouray. Despite warnings from authorities, she had persisted in feeding bears in her backyard. "She was dead set on continuing to feed the bears, and unfortunately, she paid the ultimate price," Ouray County Sheriff's Investigator Joel Burk told the Los Angeles Times. Nearby Durango, Colorado reported 627 local bear sightings in 2009.

These ski towns have a trash problem in that their prosperity produces a lot of it. Dumpsters behind opulent homes, restaurants, or a McDonald's are ursine food magnets. In the last year in the Aspen area 42 bears have died, not counting the normal harvest of the hunting season. Of that number, twenty have been shot by cops or otherwise euthanized by Colorado Division of Wildlife personnel. The other 22 were hit by motor vehicles. Summertime Aspen is "bear season." New municipal ordinances demanding secure -- "bear-proof" -- dumpsters are increasingly seen in resort towns. Pitkin County (Aspen) has increased fines for "unsecured" dumpsters and trashcans. Aspen has a municipal program called "Bear Aware." Durango's is called "Bear Smart."

Eastern states have also seen a population explosion of bruins in the last few years, even requiring a controversial hunting season in New Jersey, for instance. The bears seem to be thriving nationwide thanks to changes in their habitats and diet. And like coyotes and deer (and in the West, mountain lions), they are strangely at home in suburban America. When a bear ransacks a dumpster in the middle of the night in your neighborhood cul-de-sac, it is simply adapting to its environment, as bears have done in North America for the past four million years.

The black bear (Ursus americanus) is found from Alaska to Mexico, including all wooded areas of the United States from the Appalachians to the Midwest and beyond to the Rockies and Pacific Coast Ranges. They're so numerous that there are twice as many black bears in North America as there are all other bear species (grizzlies, brown bears, polar bears, etc.) found worldwide. They are omnivorous, that is, they'll eat anything: berries, acorns, decomposing carrion upon emerging from hibernation, honey from beehives, fish, potato salad and candy bars swiped off your picnic table, or the remnants of a fast food feast in a dumpster. Their numbers point to the fact that they increasingly don't die in hibernation, an evolutionary population check common when they entered that period underweight from a lack of natural food. The females -- or sows -- not only enjoy the higher survival rates, but breed more often and produce more cubs. Bears historically raided dumps when there was a dearth of natural plant food due to drought. Now it seems that their evolutionary appetite is pointing to huge amounts of available human food. Why bother with roots and berries when you can visit the dumpster behind a chic new restaurant in Aspen at 3 a.m.?

Bear hunters in Colorado only fill 5% of tags issued; 95% fail to kill a bear. Black bears are mostly nocturnal, and legal hunting occurs during daylight hours, so it actually requires hunting skill to kill a bear in the wild (that's the point). The Colorado Division of Wildlife hopes to increase annual hunter success this fall from an average of 33 to 55 bears in a large section of territory on the White River National Forest from Aspen to Vail and Vail Pass, so it's almost doubling the number of permits available this year from "630 to about 1,050 starting this fall," spokesman Randy Hampton told New West. And they are doing this in other sections across much of western Colorado.

It will be relatively quiet until August. At that time the bears will heed their instinctual call (hyperphagia) to start packing in 20,000 calories a day to prepare for the rigors of hibernation, which is actually more than a pleasant six-month snooze. Pregnant sows will give birth to -- and nurse -- an average of two cubs in the winter den, and literally need a good layer of fat to propagate the species. As the first frosty nights nip the mountains, and the glitterati and tourists put away their golf clubs and dream of snowy ski slopes, the hungry foie gras bears will lumber into Aspen, once again arrogantly neglecting to phone in their reservations.

Bill Croke, formerly of Cody, Wyoming, is a writer in Salmon, Idaho.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chicago central part of crime thriller ‘Third Rail’

By Vick Mickunas, Contributing Writer
Dayton Daily News
5:30 PM Friday, April 16, 2010
http://www.daytondailynews.com

“The Third Rail” by Michael Harvey (Knopf, 285 pages, $24.95)


Crime fiction can be a rather location specific literary genre. Many crime writers tend to prefer certain metropolitan settings for their novels; locales such as the Los Angeles freeways or the steel canyons of New York City. Sometimes location exerts a power that is as crucial as any other element in the story.

The novelist Michael Harvey sets his stories in Chicago. His latest, “The Third Rail,” could not have been set anyplace else — this book is 100 percent Windy City inspired. This is his third book featuring the private investigator Michael Kelly.

“The Third Rail” begins in classic crime novel style, with a murder. A crowd is waiting for the elevated train to arrive. An unfortunate woman is randomly chosen by a killer who hopes to be observed as he commits the act. Kelly witnesses the crime and chases the shooter.

The killer wanted Kelly to chase him. That was all part of the plan. This criminal is a serial killer who has been recruited to embark on a shooting spree that will inspire fear in the hearts of Chicagoans. Kelly is drawn into the investigation after he witnesses that first shooting.

The killer targets more victims. As the carnage escalates, our private investigator begins to sense something almost personal about these crimes. What could they have to do with him? When Kelly was 9 years old he was riding on an elevated train when something tragic happened. Could there be some possible connection between that accident and this current crime spree? Some odd coincidences make him wonder.

Kelly gets ensnared in a sinister web that only he can untangle. Meanwhile, beneath the city a terrorist pauses along a desolate stretch of subway tracks to unscrew a light bulb from the wall. He switches that bulb with one of his own. The new bulb contains weaponized anthrax.

He leaves the bulb slightly loosened inside the light socket. The vibrations from the trains rumbling past will eventually loosen the bulb. The terrorist hopes that the bulb will finally vibrate out of the socket, shattering on the floor and releasing a deadly cloud of anthrax.

The author was inspired to create these convergent plot lines by some real events. The incident Kelly experienced at age 9 was based on an actual disaster that took place Feb. 4, 1977, when four CTA elevated train cars flew off the rails and down onto the street. There were 11 fatalities.

The idea of a light bulb filled with anthrax came out of an actual Pentagon report that was called “Terror 2000.” Harvey took those events and folded them into an action-packed story that takes many circuitous twists and strews many clues. The plot thickens; the tension builds. Down in the subway a government agent observes: “Then the train was past. The bulbs continued to rock, in a subtle, declining arc ... ”

I had no clue until the end who might have actually conspired to commit these crimes. “The Third Rail” is an electric, high-voltage page turner that smokes, sizzles and scorches.


Contact book reviewer Vick Mickunas at vick@vickmickunas.com.



PW Talks with Michael Harvey

Second City Sins


by Lenny Picker -- Publishers Weekly, 2/22/2010 12:00:00 AM
http://www.publishersweekly.com/

Ex-Chicago cop Michael Kelly pursues a nasty killer in Michael Harvey's crime thriller The Third Rail (Reviews, Feb. 1).


Is there something about Chicago that makes it more corrupt than other big U.S. cities?

If you ever watched the Chicago Bears, you know all there is to be learned about the city. The Bears play smash-mouth football, with an emphasis on smash. Bears fans love defense, and concussions, and watching players from the other team leave the field on a parade of stretchers. Chicago plays by its own rules and keeps its own score. Chicago is going to inflict its pain, take its pound of flesh, and tell you about it all day. If you substitute politicians and politics for “da Bears” and football, you'll have an idea of how the power brokers in this city operate.

How much of an effort have you made to be true to life about the way Chicago works?

I've been an investigative journalist and a documentary producer in Chicago. I think my take on the city's power brokers and the way various layers of media operate rings pretty true. Truth, of course, is a relative term, depending largely on where you sit and how hard you really want to look.

What led you to use the 1977 el crash in The Third Rail?

I was aware of the incident and always wondered how it happened and the effect it had on the people who were walking through the Loop that day. As I got into the details of the accident, I thought it could serve as a nice vehicle for the story's plot line. The first article I read on the crash was the Trib's next day, page-one story, written by a guy named David Axelrod, then a beat reporter, now Barack Obama's right-hand man in the White House.

How did your other work affect your fiction?

Being a journalist and documentary producer has helped me write clearly and with an economy of words. When you write for television, you also learn to write cinematically, to use muscular language and create pictures with language. My background as a lawyer helps most in organizing my thoughts and dealing with complex background material and/or convoluted plot lines. What has helped me the most is my background in Latin and ancient Greek, which made me familiar with some of the best observers of human nature in the history of western civilization. Growing up, I translated all of these guys and wound up absorbing a lot of their ideas.

Today's Tune: Son Volt - Windfall (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Now and then it keeps you running
It never seems to die
The trail's spent with fear
Not enough living on the outside

Never seem to get far enough
Staying in between the lines
Hold on to what you can
Waiting for the end
Not knowing when

May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel,
May the wind take your troubles away

Trying to make it far enough, to the next time zone
Few and far between past the midnight hour
Never feel alone, you're really not alone...

Switching it over to AM
Searching for a truer sound
Can't recall the call letters
Steel guitar and settle down
Catching an all-night station somewhere in Louisiana
It sounds like 1963, but for now it sounds like heaven

May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel,
May the wind take your troubles away.

TRIAL BALLOONS

Mark Steyn on People
http://www.marksteyn.com/
Tuesday, 20 April 2010

HAPPY WARRIOR from the April 19, 2010 issue of National Review
http://www.nationalreview.com/

You’ve probably heard of Geert Wilders, the “far right” Dutch politician currently on trial in Amsterdam for offending Islam. But have you heard of Guy Earle? He’s a Canadian stand-up comedian currently on trial in Vancouver for offending lesbians. Two lesbians in particular. They came to a late-night comedy show he was hosting and got a table near the stage. They were drunk, and began disrupting the act, and so he did the old Don Rickles thing and put down the hecklers. So, naturally, the aggrieved party went to the British Columbia “Human Rights” Tribunal, and Mr Earle has now been hauled into the dock for the “homophobic” nature of his putdowns.

Between them, these two trials symbolize where most of the western world is headed, and very fast. Geert Wilders is an elected member of parliament and the leader of what, since last month’s local elections, is the second biggest political party in the Hague and, according to recent national polls, tied for first place as the most popular party in the country. So, although he’s invariably labeled “far right” in European and US news reports, how far he is depends on where you’re standing: When the “extreme right” “fringe” is more popular than the “mainstream”, maybe the mainstream isn’t that mainstream, and the center isn’t exactly where the European establishment would like it to be.

A while back, Wilders was asked what his party would do in its first days in office after winning the election (to be held later this year). He replied that it would pass a bill ending “non-western immigration” to the Netherlands. This remark is now one of the “crimes” listed on the indictment against him. So the Dutch state is explicitly prosecuting the political platform of the most popular opposition party in the country. Which is the sort of thing we used to associate with your average banana-republic caudillo rather than free societies.

So a man who lives under armed guard because Muslims want to kill him is now on trial for “incitement”. But, of course, this was a fight the famously provocative Wilders chose to pick: He feels Islamization puts a question mark over the continued existence of his country, and that therefore he is bound to resist it. He knew what he was doing.

By contrast, Guy Earle had no idea what he was doing. Until the aggrieved Sapphists consumed his life, he was a man of conventionally Canadian views. He’s not a rightwing blowhard like me or Ezra Levant or Geert Wilders. When he first found himself ensnared by the “human rights” circus, he got some comedy colleagues to organize a fundraiser for him, and they all said “f—k” a lot and did anti-Bush jokes. If that’s not “mainstream”, what is? He offered to make a kind of apology and a donation to a "woman advocate group", whatever that is. In other words, he didn’t react like Ezra and me and go nuclear on the whole ugly racket.

But they screwed him over anyway, and in the three years since all the cool comedians who pride themselves on their “edginess” and “transgressiveness” and their courage in speaking truth to power seem to have fallen by the wayside, and the business as a whole has decided that discretion is the better part of valor. To fund his stay in Vancouver for the trial, he suggested a possible booking to a promoter he knew. But the promoter figured he didn’t need a lot of trouble from “the gay community”: “A lot of people don’t want to have anything to do with me,” Earle told radio host Rob Breakenridge. “I don’t know what the silver lining is.” After three years on the receiving end of Canadian “human rights”, he’s out of dough, out of laughs, and facing a $20,000 shakedown from the aggrieved lesbian.

Under Canada’s “human rights” regime, members of preferred identity groups – women, gays, Muslims – can sue and get their tab picked up by the taxpayer, and defendants have their lives and savings destroyed, regardless of the verdict, which by the time it comes is all but irrelevant. Canadian “liberals” are generally satisfied with the system, because they assume it’s just rightwing haters like me and Levant who get clobbered. But in fact most of the victims are fellows like Guy Earle – they hold all the correct views on the Iraq war, gay marriage and everything else, but they get destroyed anyway. All tyranny is whimsical, and, with the state ever more aggressive in its role as the only legitimate mediator between identity groups, its whimsicality will inevitably fall on those just trying to keep their heads down and get on with life without catching the commissar’s eye.

If Geert Wilders is convicted and jailed, there will be consequences. Significant numbers of Dutch citizens understand that something important is at stake in this trial – even if the media don’t quite know how to cover it. No matter what evasions and euphemisms you deploy, the awkward reality glares through: Wilders is being prosecuted for his opinions, and that truth is simply too shaming, even to the Dutch poodle media.

The Earle trial is attracting even less coverage, perhaps because it’s even more embarrassing: Canada is now a land that prosecutes comedians for their jokes. But there is no equivalent sense that anything big is at stake. It’s just an incremental increase in the state’s reach. Mr Earle will be convicted, few people will pay any attention, and the next case will be more absurd, and the one after that even more so. The lesson for the overreaching Dutch establishment is that, if you’re going to extinguish the lamps of liberty, do it one by one, and no one will notice.

WOULDN'T A MINI SERIES ON ATTILA THE HUN EXPLAIN NANCY PELOSI?

By Ann Coulter
http://www.anncoulter.com/
April 21, 2010

Rachel Maddow's MSNBC special on Timothy McVeigh this past Monday night did not come a moment too soon. As Maddow explained in the introduction to her show: "Nine years after his execution, we are left worrying that Timothy McVeigh's voice from the grave echoes in the new rising tide of American anti-government extremism."

After months of hysterically warning viewers that cheerful, well-dressed tea partiers carrying "I Can See November From My House" signs could suddenly erupt into wanton violence, MSNBC finally had proof: Timothy McVeigh.

How about a special on the KGB to help us understand what makes Henry Waxman tick? We're just trying to seek answers ...

On her April 14 show, Maddow gave a "War of the Worlds" report on gun rights activists whom she claimed were planning tributes to Timothy McVeigh's bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. "On the anniversary of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh," she said, "there will be two marches on Washington."

After reminding viewers that McVeigh was "an anti-government extremist with ties to the militia movement" (his only "ties" being that he tried to join the Michigan Militia, but was rejected) Maddow said one of the groups, the Second Amendment March, had "been holding armed rallies at state capitols from Kentucky to Montana to Virginia -- anti-government marches and rallies at which participants are encouraged to wear and display their guns."

So if I have this straight, the pro-Second Amendment marchers were both armed ... AND displaying guns!

Having received an "A plus" from the Department of Redundancy Department, a deadly earnest Maddow continued: "Also on the occasion of the Oklahoma City bombing anniversary," there would be an Open Carry rally.

Participants, she said, "are being encouraged to bring guns" (you know, just like the guns Timothy McVeigh used to shoot up the federal building in Oklahoma City).

True, April 19 is the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. It's also the anniversary of Lexington and Concord.

Once upon a time, the skirmish that sparked the Revolutionary War was a date that every schoolchild knew. When British soldiers moved to seize the gunpowder and arms of voluntary militias, armed citizens defended themselves, firing upon the British in "the shot heard 'round the world" -- as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it in his "Concord Hymn."

Hmmm, I wonder if the gun rights activists chose April 19 for their rallies because it was the anniversary of Lexington and Concord -- or because it was the anniversary of Oklahoma City?

Unless the organizers of the Second Amendment March and the Open Carry rally specifically told Rachel, "Oh no, we picked April 19 to honor the bombing in Oklahoma City -- gosh, we had no idea it was date of Lexington and Concord!", I'm pretty sure they picked April 19 because that was the day armed patriots defended themselves from British troops.

Maddow's idiotic attempt to ascribe the date of the gun rights marches to Oklahoma City rather than Lexington and Concord is so Olbermanic that -- to paraphrase Truman Capote -- it is now apparent that you lose a point of your IQ for every day you spend at MSNBC.

We have enough U.S. history by now that there's not a day on the calendar that isn't the anniversary of something. In fact, the very day that Maddow was attacking gun rights groups on her show -- April 14 -- was the 235th anniversary of the founding of the first anti-slavery society in America!

It is also the anniversary of an anti-war actor's murder of a crusading, anti-slavery Republican president. (In addition -- like I have to tell any of you -- it was National Restless Leg Syndrome Awareness Day, but I don't think that had anything to do with Rachel's report.)

Oh sure, Rachel may claim that she had no idea what April 14 was the anniversary of, and that the date of her attack on our constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms was just a coincidence. But given the long and ugly history of gun control laws in America being used to keep guns out of the hands of free blacks, it was a shockingly insensitive date for Maddow to engage in such extremist anti-gun rhetoric.

What's curious about the left's current obsession with Timothy McVeigh is that it proves that -- despite a frantic search for 15 years -- liberals have come across no better evidence of burgeoning "right-wing extremist" violence than a drug-taking, self-described "agnostic" who was thrown out of the Michigan Militia and who proclaimed, "Science is my religion."

That sounds more like Bill Maher than Rush Limbaugh.

COPYRIGHT 2010 ANN COULTER

'Avatar' on Earth Day

A blockbuster film showcases the contradictions of organic liberalism.

By Thomas S. Hibbs
http://www.nationalreview.com/
April 22, 2010 4:00 A.M.

James Cameron’s record-shattering film Avatar is being released on DVD today. Today is not a Tuesday, the day DVDs normally hit the stores, but a Thursday, to coincide with the 40th annual Earth Day: Avatar highlights the threats posed by an advanced, war-mongering, and artificial society to a primitive, pacific, and organic culture.

Ironically, the film has received accolades for both this ideological vision of a pristine world untouched by industrial man and the high-powered technology evident in its mesmerizing 3-D visuals. The contradiction here is deeper and more instructive than the inconsistencies involved in Earth Day celebrations that leave tons of rubbish behind, or in the hypocrisy of Hollywood stars’ cavorting about the globe in private jets to lecture the rest of us on conservation.

The visual quality of the film is indeed stunning, but mere artistry would have proven tiresome were the world of the Na’vi not such a fascinating one. In the journal Image, Jeffrey Overstreet aptly comments, “Pandora is a whole new world of breathtaking beauty, exploding with wild new life forms that soar, spark, prowl, pounce, gallop, and graze. Borrowing heavily, and brilliantly, from what he’s seen in deep-sea exploration, Cameron has built the most enchanting magic kingdom since Dorothy first stepped into Technicolor Oz.”

In some ways, the film is not so much a departure as a continuation of a trend in recent filmmaking. In the last decade, in the annual ranking of box-office success, large-scale, mythic quest stories have most often dominated: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and now — one mythic blockbuster to rule them all — Avatar.

The hero of the story, and the vehicle through which the audience comes to experience the world of Pandora, is a partially paralyzed marine named Jake Sullivan — who takes on an avatar, an artificial body of the Na’vi, in the Avatar Project. His goal is to infiltrate a tight-knit community, uncover information about it, and perhaps even persuade its people to relocate so that the military can secure a desirable natural resource called “unobtainium.” When Sullivan’s efforts aren’t as successful as hoped, the military commander threatens “shock and awe” and promises to fight “terror with terror.”

The connection of the inhabitants of Pandora to one another is woven into their biological constitution; they possess ponytail tendrils that enable them to bond with each other. They are also intimately bound, in this life and beyond, to the Tree of Souls, wherein dwells the goddess Eywa. The malevolent pursuers of unobtainium are nothing more than caricatures of evil, but the plight of the Na’Vi is a sympathetic one, and the Na’vi characters are engaging and even admirable.

The threat of irrevocable loss is quite credible. Here the film taps into a sentiment that has often been at the heart of conservatism: the worry that gambling on cosmopolitan forces of progress not only carries with it unintended consequences but also exacts a cost in the erosion of traditional customs and the destruction of intermediate institutions.

Despite its ideological ambitions, however, the film has little time for Tocqueville-like reflections on the dangers of modernity, let alone its blessings. For a film that was many years in the making, it is remarkably void of self-awareness. It never faces squarely the way in which technology is necessary to allow viewers to experience and come to know this primitive world.

The word "avatar" has religious origins (it’s a Hindu term referring to the descent of a deity), but its more common contemporary use has to do with artificial or second lives and role playing in social media. From its title and from the fact that its main character takes on an artificial body and identity through the use of highly developed technology, then, one might have expected the film to probe this issue.

This lack of clarity about technology is palpable in the course of the final battle, during which the Na’vi, in collaboration with their earthling defenders, seem willing to use whatever technology is available to them to defeat the bad guys. Consider furthermore that the film has sparked lengthy online discussions on how to cope with post-Pandora depression, including suicidal thoughts. Many viewers, in other words, retreat into the very technology the film decries.

Our world is unlikely to become any less complex, the questions about technology any more tractable, in the near future. On the left, there is fear and trembling about the exploitation of natural resources and ecological devastation; on the right, there is a concern about cloning — the brave new world of genetic manipulation. These two crises may well arise from the same source: a conception of the external world and the body itself as mere property, raw material to be manipulated to satisfy untrammeled human desire.

As captivating as it is, Avatar is unlikely to be of much help in solving or even understanding the most important questions we face. In the end, it only helps to illustrate the Left’s imperfect faith in organic liberalism.

— Thomas S. Hibbs, an NRO contributor, is the author of Shows about Nothing.

America Already a Green Exemplar

Posted by Rich Trzupek on Apr 22nd, 2010
http://www.frontpagemag.com/

On this Earth Day, like every Earth Day, you’ll hear an awful lot about what you ought to do in order to save a planet supposedly in peril, but precious little about what you have already done. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day, along with the fortieth anniversary of the passage of the Clean Air Act and the thirty-eighth anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act in their modern forms. Congress passed other environmental legislation, before and after, but nothing really compares to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts when it comes to the scope of sweeping changes that these two environmental mandates have imposed on our lives and the unprecedented, almost unbelievable, record of achievement that these two Acts represent. Activists spend so much time instructing us to “go green” that the fact that we turned green forty years ago, and have done nothing but get greener ever since, is lost to all but the most astute observers.

Any dispassionate analysis of the record – and we’ll get to that in a bit – makes it clear that the United States has done a truly remarkable job of cleaning up the air, water and soil in this country. Every one of us has been a part of that and the money that we have expended to make green happen, should anyone ever account for those costs, would boggle the mind. You pay for green every time you purchase a vehicle chock full of the latest and greatest emissions controls. You pay for green with every check you write to your local utility, for without your increased financial obligations the utility could not pay for all of the new pollution controls that they have had to install. You pay for green in every gallon of paint you buy, with every trip to the grocery store and every time you crack a water faucet, for all of these acts, and hundreds more, factor in the cost of going as green as we have chosen to go. Yet, in spite of all you have done simply by tacitly accepting the need to “save the planet” and quietly paying whatever price was demanded, it’s not nearly enough for the environmental movement. On this Earth Day, like every Earth Day, they’ll metaphorically their wag their fingers and tell you that you need to do more. What organizations like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council never do on Earth Day, because it would constitute financial suicide if they did, is to extend a hand and say “thank you” in recognition of all that you have accomplished.

Just what have you accomplished? In less than half a century you have funded a series of initiatives that has proven to, should someone actually dare to employ any objective means of measurement, forever shattered the image of America as the world’s cesspool. When the Clean Water Act was passed, lakes were declared “dead” and rivers were burning. Thirty eight years later, such images have disappeared in popular culture. Public and private sewage treatment plants are subject to such stringent standards and tight oversight that regulatory agencies have increasingly been forced to turn their attentions to stormwater run-off in order to find a purpose. Before the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) was passed in 1980, unlicensed landfills and “midnight dumping” created scores of toxics hot spots each year. Today, such occurrences are so rare that a generation of attorneys who made their livings negotiating CERCLA settlements are desperately looking for something else to do. But nowhere has the green progress we have made been so evident, if so roundly ignored, than in terms of air pollution.

In 1970 Congress identified six air pollutants, the so-called “big six,” that represented the biggest threat to human health and the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency was charged with the task of reducing emissions of these air pollutants. In turn, USEPA developed comprehensive programs that you and I ultimately paid for, not just in terms of tax dollars, but in the costs of the goods and services we use every day. The results have been stunning. Though we use about double the amount of energy today as compared to 1970, while driving our cars and using our electronic gadgets, the amount of air pollution – in terms of the big six – has been cut in half as compared to 1970. Way to go America. Thanks are most definitely in order, but don’t hold your breath waiting for Greenpeace to express its gratitude.

The core reason that global warming is an issue at all in 2010 is directly connected to all of the progress we have made since 1970. Environmental groups are big businesses and the product that they sell is fear. The more successful the Clean Air Act was, the harder it became for groups like the Sierra Club to sell the apocalyptic scenarios necessary to keep donations rolling in. Thus a once obscure theory, ultimately disowned by its originator – that an inert, relatively weak greenhouse gas would result in catastrophic climate change – resonated among the environmental groups. This “issue,” such as it was, was so big that it would guarantee that donations would continue to roll in for years to come.

Many conservatives view greenhouse gas initiatives as another manifestation of leftist, statist control fantasies. Ultimately, that’s the effect, but I don’t think that reflects the origin of this particular liberal love affair. A few scientists had a theory and some leftists and environmentalists (same thing) realized that supporting and funding “research” about that particular theory would help them advance their agenda in all sorts of interesting new ways. In my view, global warming hysteria has been a matter of opportunism, not careful planning.
But then global warming hysteria is just the latest variation on a tired theme: that human beings are a pox on the planet. The environment of the United States need some work in 1970. Forty years later, we’re in pretty good shape and the fact that we can say so is almost entirely because to you. Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council and all the rest can’t bring themselves to say it, but allow me to offer my gratitude. You’ve done a good job America. Don’t let anyone tell you that you haven’t.