Saturday, July 31, 2010

It’s About Sharia

Newt Gingrich resets our national-security debate.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
July 31, 2010 4:00 A.M.

The 2010 midterms have not happened yet, but the 2012 campaign is under way. For that we can thank Newt Gingrich. Not because Gingrich is a candidate, though he almost certainly is. And not because he can win, because that is by no means certain. We should thank Gingrich because he has crystallized the essence of our national-security challenge. Henceforth, there should be no place to hide for any candidate, including any incumbent. The question will be: Where do you stand on sharia?

The former speaker of the House gets the war on terror. For one thing, he refuses to call it the “war on terror,” which should be the entry-level requirement for any politician who wants to influence how we wage it. Gingrich grasps that there is an enemy here and that it is a mortal threat to freedom. He knows that if we are to remain a free people, it is an enemy we must defeat. That enemy is Islamism, and its operatives — whether they come as terrorists or stealth saboteurs — are the purveyors of sharia, Islam’s authoritarian legal and political system.

This being the Era of the Reset Button, Gingrich is going about the long-overdue business of resetting our understanding of the civilizational jihad that has been waged against the United States for some 31 years. It is the jihad begun when Islamists overran the American embassy in Tehran, heralding a revolutionary regime that remains the No. 1 U.S. security challenge in the Middle East, as Gingrich argued Thursday in a provocative speech at the American Enterprise Institute.

The single purpose of this jihad is the imposition of sharia. On that score, Gingrich made two points of surpassing importance. First, some Islamists employ mass-murder attacks while others prefer a gradual march through our institutions — our legal, political, academic, and financial systems, as well as our broader culture; the goal of both, though, is the same. The stealth Islamists occasionally feign outrage at the terrorists, but their quarrel is over methodology and pace. Both camps covet the same outcome.

Second, that outcome is the death of freedom. In Islamist ideology, sharia is deemed to be the necessary precondition for Islamicizing a society — for Islam is not merely a religious doctrine, but a comprehensive socio-economic and political system. As the former speaker elaborated, sharia embodies principles and punishments that are abhorrent to Western values. Indeed, its foundational premise is anti-American, holding that we are not free people at liberty to govern ourselves irrespective of any theocratic code, that people are instead beholden to the Islamic state, which is divinely enjoined to impose Allah’s laws.

Sharia, moreover, is anti-equality. It subjugates women and brutally punishes transgressors, particularly homosexuals and apostates. While our law forbids cruel and unusual punishments, Gingrich observed that the brutality in sharia sanctions is not gratuitous, but intentional: It is meant to enforce Allah’s will by striking example.

On this last point, Gingrich offered a salient insight, one well worth internalizing in the Sun Tzu sense of knowing one’s enemy. Islamists, violent or not, have very good reasons for the wanting to destroy the West. Those reasons are not crazy or wanton — and they have nothing to do with Gitmo, Israel, cartoons, or any other excuse we conjure to explain the savagery away. Islamists devoutly believe, based on a well-founded interpretation of Islamic doctrine, that they have been commanded by Allah to kill, convert, or subdue all who do not adhere to sharia — because they regard Allah as their only master (“There is no God but Allah”). It is thus entirely rational (albeit frightening to us) that they accept the scriptural instruction that the very existence of those who resist sharia is offensive to Allah, and that a powerful example must be made of those resisters in order to induce the submission of all — “submission” being the meaning of Islam.

It makes no sense to dismiss our enemies as lunatics just because “secular socialist” elites, as Gingrich called them, cannot imagine a fervor that stems from religious devotion. We ought to respect our enemies, he said. Not “respect” in Obama-speak, which translates as “appease,” but in the sense of taking them seriously, understanding that they are absolutely determined to win, and realizing that they are implacable. There is no “moderate” sharia devotee, for sharia is not moderate. Gingrich noted that in response to global outcry against the prospect of death by stoning for an Iranian woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, convicted of adultery, the mullahs’ great concession appears to be that she will be hanged instead. Islamism is not a movement to be engaged, it is an enemy to be defeated.

Victory, Gingrich said, will be very long in coming — longer, perhaps, than the nearly half-century it took to win the Cold War. Invoking JFK, he urged that the survival and success of liberty will still require an unwavering commitment to pay any price and bear any burden, for as long as it takes. Will that entail an ambitious project to democratize Islamic countries — notwithstanding that sharia dictates waging jihad against Westerners who try? Gingrich’s embrace of President Bush’s second inaugural address suggests that he may think so.

How we go about it and whether we use our military to spearhead a “forward march of freedom” are matters the former speaker did not flesh out. He also wondered aloud why, after nearly nine years in Afghanistan, we had not tasked military engineers and contractors to blanket that backward land with highways, the roads to advancement and prosperity. But we haven’t defeated the enemy yet. One can agree wholeheartedly with the former speaker that, having taken on a war against Afghan Islamists, it is imperative that America win. But in World War II, which Gingrich invoked repeatedly, and to great effect, we had our priorities straight: unambiguous victory first; then, and only then, the Marshall Plan’s ambitious reconstruction of Europe and Japan.

Debate over all of this is essential. The crucial point is that we must have the debate with eyes open. It is a debate about which Gingrich has put down impressive markers: The main front in the war is not Afghanistan or Iraq but the United States. The war is about the survival of Western civilization, and we should make no apologies for the fact that the West’s freedom culture is a Judeo-Christian culture — a fact that was unabashedly acknowledged, Gingrich reminded his audience, by FDR and Churchill. To ensure victory in the United States we must, once again, save Europe, where the enemy has advanced markedly. There is no separating our national security and our economic prosperity — they are interdependent. And while the Middle East poses challenges of immense complexity, Gingrich contended that addressing two of them — Iran, the chief backer of violent jihad, and Saudi Arabia, the chief backer of stealth jihad — would go a long way toward improving our prospects on the rest.

Most significant, there is sharia. By pressing the issue, Newt Gingrich accomplishes two things. First, he gives us a metric for determining whether those who would presume to lead us will fight or surrender. Second, at long last, someone is empowering truly moderate Muslims — assuming they exist in the numbers we’re constantly assured of. Our allies are the Muslims who embrace our freedom culture — those for whom sharia is a matter of private belief, not public mission. Our enemies are those who want sharia to supplant American law and Western culture. When we call out the latter, and marginalize them, we may finally energize the former.

It’s that simple. Not easy, but simple.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

Behind Brown Eyes

The New York Times
July 30, 2010


Listening to Van Morrison

By Greil Marcus

195 pp. PublicAffairs. $22.95

Writing about the songs of Van Morrison is rightly seen as something of a paradox. Perhaps that’s because, for all his scholarly use of multiple musical styles and his references to Yeats and Joyce, the Belfast Cowboy’s work is more sensual than it is intellectual. Which makes the renowned rock critic Greil Marcus, who’s written definitively on Elvis and Bob Dylan, the right man to plumb that work. Combining an incantatory prose style with careful reporting and inventive, sometimes infuriating judgments, Marcus manages to illuminate Morrison’s cerebral soul music — even if, as the singer once claimed, “the process is beyond words.”

“When That Rough God Goes Riding” is more a series of nonfiction short stories than a straightforward analysis. Marcus devotes virtually every chapter to a wide-ranging discussion of a Morrison album, song or live performance. Fittingly, just as the singer peppers his songs with eclectic allusions to Muddy Waters and William Blake, Marcus, too, brings in endless cultural signifiers, the better for us to understand the music. This means comparing Morrison’s version of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” to Raymond Chandler’s writing: “It begins like the first page of a detective novel, with three clipped, odd bass patterns, like a knock on the door, but with an odd fatalism.” Throughout the book, Marcus also makes reference to artists as disparate as the comic Robert Klein, the director Neil Jordan and the novelist Jonathan Lethem, so that we might get a sense of Morrison’s complex appeal. Mostly, these comparisons feel strangely accurate. Sometimes, as when Marcus compares the music to Bob Beamon’s astonishing long jump, he’s, uh, stretching things a bit.

Mick Hutson/Redferns—Getty Images

Van Morrison in 1990.

As with any critic whose strong tastes make him a maverick, occasionally you want to lasso Marcus and bring him under control. That point comes after a reverential chapter on Morrison’s magnum opus, “Astral Weeks.” It’s one thing to adore the record and write that Morrison is “saying everything in the cues of his chords, hesitations, lunges, silences, and in those moments when he loosed himself from words and floated on his own air.” It’s quite another to dismiss 16 (!) of Morrison’s recordings, from 1980 to 1996, as an “endless stream of dull and tired albums” that carry “titles like warning labels.” Marcus suggests that the slump ended only with “The Healing Game,” which contains the song that gives his book its title. This is where certain serious music critics always lose me.

Sure, the pop-jazz knockout “Astral Weeks” is deep, beautiful, painful. But it’s also become something of a shillelagh, often used to club other fine Morrison albums. O.K., Morrison explores all the ­requisite literary topics on “Astral Weeks”: sex, death, loss. Yet he is also tremendously convincing on less quirky albums. One listen to the radiant “Someone Like You,” from the “tired” “Poetic Champions Compose,” proves that. Also, Morrison showed in the course of those 16 albums that he was as interested in an evolving musical sophistication as he was in being the heartbroken Beat poet. It all depends on your mood, anyway. Sometimes you want “Cyprus Avenue.” Other days, “Have I Told You Lately” is exactly right.

Still, that’s what the most thoughtful music critics make you do: argue like crazy about their choices and ideas. And it’s what Marcus does here — reminding us, even as he antagonizes us, why we listen to Morrison in the first place. But the author might want to remember something simple. Sure, it’s great to hear Morrison sing about the dark, disturbed Madame George. Sometimes, though, all you want to listen to is “Brown-Eyed Girl” because, at that moment, “sha la la” says everything a rock fan needs to know.

Peter Gerstenzang is a humorist and a freelance journalist.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Joke's on Arizona

New York Post
July 30, 2010

Judge Susan Bolton has to get credit for her cheekiness. She took a matter of profound national concern and in jected an element of hilarity into it.

As gloriously ridiculous as a classic "Monty Python" skit, the federal judge's decision blocking Arizona's immigration law is an appropriate first volley in the legal war over the law. If our immigration system is to be defined by a judicially sanctioned lawlessness, we might as well dispense with the pretense.

Acting in keeping with federal law, court precedent and a Justice Department memorandum (not to mention common sense), Arizona said its law-enforcement officers would henceforth check the legal status of suspected illegals during the course of a lawful stop or arrest. To conclude that the law likely will be struck down for "pre-empting" federal regulations, Bolton had to engage in complicated judicial gymnastics, which she nailed with the skill of a Mary Lou Retton in robes.

Taking her cues from the Obama administration's suit against the law, Bolton worried that too many legal aliens would be caught up in Arizona's dragnet. Of course, these aliens are already required by federal law to carry proof of their legal status. But let's put that aside (as Bolton does). She claims that too many legal aliens without ready access to documents proving their lawful entry into the US will be put at risk, including visitors from visa-waiver countries.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that visitors from countries like Norway and Australia are flooding into the border areas of Arizona. And let's assume they engage in recklessly illegal conduct, daring cops to stop and arrest them. And let's assume they exhibit all the behaviors associated with illegal immigrants. How could such a visitor escape the dreaded fate awaiting him when an officer asks about his legal status? Perhaps by producing a passport stamped with the duration of his stay, possessed by every visitor from a visa-waiver country?

Bolton piles speculation atop implausible readings of the law. Say a legal alien is arrested and his release is delayed by a check on his status. Let's put aside (as Bolton does) that on average it takes the staff manning the federal database set up for such checks 70 minutes to get to an inquiry and a mere 11 minutes to answer it. Judge Bolton declares that any delay amounts to exposing legal aliens to "the possibility of inquisitorial practices and police surveillance."

This is a tautology dressed up with scare words. It's impossible as a matter of definition to get arrested without experiencing "police surveillance." As for "inquisitorial practices," blogger William A. Jacobson notes that "states already routinely run searches for a variety of statuses, including outstanding warrants, child support orders and non-immigration identity checks. Each of these checks potentially could delay release of an innocent person."

When states want to check on someone's immigration status, they do it with the aforementioned federal database. As a matter of law, the outfit running it must respond to all inquiries "seeking to verify or ascertain citizenship or immigration status . . . for any purpose authorized by law." In writing this sweeping requirement, Congress did not make an exception for requests emanating from Arizona.

Too bad, says Judge Bolton. If the state finds too many suspected illegal immigrants, it might overburden the system. Let's put aside (as Bolton does) that the system already gets 1 million inquiries a year, that it has a theoretical capacity to process 1.5 million and that, as of now, Arizona only makes 80,000 inquiries annually, meaning even a drastic increase could be accommodated. If the federal government fears a surge from Arizona, couldn't it add some positions to the 153 staffers currently assigned to the database? Think of it as stimulus.

But never mind. With emotion running high over the Arizona law, some comic relief's always welcome. Bolton has provided it.

National Health Service is coming to America

By: Cal Thomas
The Washington Examiner Columnist
July 29, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told a group of liberal activists meeting in Las Vegas they shouldn't worry about not getting the single-payer provision in the new health care law. "We're going to have a public option," Reid said. "It's just a question of when."

Remember the objections conservatives and many Republicans raised during the debate about government-run health care and the danger of eliminating private health insurance, despite its many flaws?

Recall that Britain's National Health Service was frequently cited as an example of where the U.S. health system might be headed: coverage for all, but with lower quality, long waits for major surgery and denial of care when the government decides the procedure is not "cost effective."

Anyone who believes a U.S. health care system based on the NHS model can somehow fare better than Britain's had better consider this recent headline and story from London's Sunday Telegraph: "Axe Falls on NHS Services; Hip operations, cataract surgery and IVF rationed; Cancer care, maternity, pediatric services at risk."

Rationing? Oh yes, and it is something the unconfirmed, recess-appointed U.S. health care czar, Donald Berwick, strongly favors.

British government leaders had promised to protect frontline services. The Obama administration also made similar promises in order to win enough support from members of Congress, most of whom never read the bill before they voted for it.

Here's what America can look forward to if it follows the NHS model, according to an investigation by the Sunday Telegraph: "Plans to cut hundreds of thousands of pounds from budgets for the terminally ill, with dying cancer patients to be told to manage their own symptoms if their condition worsens at evenings or weekends." Never has "take two aspirin and call me in the morning" sounded more callous.

Nursing homes for the elderly would be closed, the number of hospital beds for the mentally ill reduced and general practitioners would be discouraged from sending patients to hospitals. Accident and emergency department services would also be cut.

Thousands of jobs would be lost at NHS hospitals, reports the Telegraph, "including 500 staff to go at a trust where cancer patients recently suffered delays in diagnosis and treatment because of staff shortages." Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association called the cuts "astonishingly brutal."

She expressed particular concern at attempts to ration (that word again) hip and knee operations. "These are not unusual procedures," she said. "This is a really blatant attempt to save money by leaving people in pain."

What do politicians care about that? In Britain, as in America, top officials (including Berwick, who has lifetime health coverage given to him by the Institute for Health Care Improvement) will always have access to the best care, even while they decide the rest of us cannot.

This paragraph in the Telegraph story should send chills down the spine of every American: "Doctors across the country have already been told that their patients can have the operations only if they are given 'prior approval' by the Primary Care Trust, with each authorization made on a 'case by case' basis."

When cost, rather than the value of life, becomes supreme, rationing will inevitably lead to other cost-cutting policies. And yes, despite protestations from those who favored Obamacare that "death panels" would not be part of the equation, you can count on them.

They will, of course, be called something else. We wouldn't want to disturb any remaining moral sensibilities we might have.

It has taken the NHS 62 years to get to this point. America's journey should be a lot shorter given the declared goals of Harry Reid and Donald Berwick.

It is more than ironic that this is taking place in the year when Britain is observing the centenary of the revered nurse Florence Nightingale. Given the prevailing attitude toward the value of human life and its care, her replacement might be the likes of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Hemlock, anyone?

Examiner Columnist Cal Thomas is nationally syndicated by Tribune Media.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Forgotten soldiers

New York Post
July 29, 2010

If we needed yet another example of Washington's self-absorption, we sure got it with the WikiLeaks dump of classified data on AfPak.

Government officials promptly freaked about the political consequences. The rush to insist that "there's nothing new here" and that the leaks "really don't change anything" was dishonest even by DC standards.

Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies!

The victims of this tragic event aren't punch-drunk White House staffers or members of Congress up for re-election. They're not the wed-to-Pakistan wonks at State or even the Pentagon's hide-the-bad-news generals.

The forgotten victims are our troops on the ground. And the Afghans who've risked everything to help them.

If I hear one more senator from either party tell us that the WikiLeaks betrayal won't make a significant difference, I'm going to violate security to puke on the Capitol's steps.

No difference? These leaked documents are an immeasurably valuable gift to the Taliban and al Qaeda -- as well as to other enemies, present and potential.

An alert reader -- and the terrorists have plenty on the case -- can harvest vital information about our special operations, unit locations, logistics vulnerabilities, fire-support system, response times, medevac procedures, command-and-control weaknesses, intelligence deficiencies, physical security, weapons limitations, internal policy debates . . . and that's just the start.

American service members will die because of the WikiLeaks "service to humanity." And nobody in Washington seems to have noticed.

Afghans will die, too. A lot of them. In just a few hours of data-mining, Britain's The Times unearthed the names of hundreds of Afghans who've helped us. Information about their families and home villages is in there, too.

Think the Taliban will give a free pass to Afghans who've supported us? Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Afghan lives are newly at risk. It's a huge gift to the terrorists: Our collaborators will run for cover -- and recruiting informants will be immeasurably more difficult.

Thanks to WikiLeaks -- and the treasonous leaker himself -- our enemies will gain a more-detailed picture of how we operate than we'll ever have of them. There hasn't been a bigger war-time intelligence coup since ULTRA, when the Brits got their hands on the key Nazi encryption device in World War II.

And what troubles Washington? The administration, which blithely assured voters it knew how to fix Afghanistan, is worried about eroding poll numbers. Congressional Democrats tied to the president's AfPak policies to prove their toughness on national security are panicked about voter backlash.

Republicans, who bluster about a mission they haven't defined, worry that truth will lessen support for the war. State fears diplomatic repercussions, and the Pentagon's been caught cheating on its AfPak midterm. The

intelligence community worries (justifiably) that sources will

dry up, since we obviously can't protect our secrets.

Yet how many voices raised concerns about the increased danger to which our troops will be exposed? Precious few.

The bad, horrible, terrible news is that the WikiLeaks drama is still in its opening act. As enemies and journalists (not so concerned about our troops, either) dig through these vast files, the revelations are going to get worse.

Of course, our government lawyers wouldn't let us take WikiLeaks down. We won't even go after Mr. WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, whose release of this data will facilitate Taliban war crimes and assassinations.

Folks, don't be bamboozled: This leak is the biggest geo-strategic event in the short history of the Internet, potentially altering the course of a war and changing the dynamics of an entire region. No Web-publicized political scandal, no breathless war-crime allegations, not even those old pictures of your girlfriend that popped up on come close.

What can we do, now that the terrorists have downloaded the data? We could get a grip on the harsh new realities of war in the age of the Web. But we won't. It's too hard. It upsets too many rice bowls.

Our leaders can't even be honest about the damage done. And the troops get screwed again.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Endless War."

Behind the Lockerbie letter

New York Post
July 29, 2010

In Washington, what people say is happening and what's actually happening tend to be two different things -- especially these days.

Tuesday, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) announced that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was going to suspend its hearings on the sudden release last year of convicted Lockerbie bomber and Libyan citizen Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

Menendez claims the reason he had to stop the investigation that he, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other Democrats have been screaming for is that the British witnesses they wanted to question on the possible link between Megrahi's release and a big BP offshore-drilling deal with Libya refused to testify.

Congressional Dems stopped a probe that would have disclosed what Obama and AG Holder knew about the release of Libyan terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

The real reason is that the probe might also have had to disclose what President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder knew and when they knew it. That's because the London Times on Sunday published a letter written by deputy US ambassador Richard LeBaron in the days before Megrahi was set free, telling Scotland's first minister that, while the Obama administration opposed the terrorist bomber's release, it was nonetheless "far preferable" that he be sprung on compassionate grounds than be moved to a Libyan prison.

At the very least, the letter undermines Obama's statement that he had been "surprised, disappointed and angry" by the release last August. It turns out that he knew all along and that his anger and disappointment didn't extend so far as to make a diplomatic big deal about it.

At the time, an outraged Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said the release of the man convicted of murdering the 189 Americans on Pan Am 103 on grounds of "compassion" turned the meaning of the word on its head. It seems Obama was one of those doing the headstand.

Now that the Lockerbie hearings have been suspended, we may never get to the truth of what happened in those crucial days in mid-August or read the transcript that the White House is withholding of a conversation Holder had with his Scottish counterpart before the release.

That's unfortunate, because the truth would help us answer a more important question: How serious is this president about fighting and winning the War on Terror?

Certainly, Obama's defenders haven't been slow on damage control on that point. They say that the Times has "Sherroded" him -- that the letter was quoted out of context. They say the full text of LeBaron's letter shows that the White House demanded proof that Megrahi had only weeks to live, as the Scots were claiming. It also wanted the Libyan terrorist, if he was to be released, to be kept in custody in Scotland -- not returned home in triumph.

They also say that there's no doubt that the real culprits in the case were the British, whether BP was involved or not.

All the same, it's unimaginable that Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush or John McCain would have allowed such a letter linking "compassion" to the fate of a terrorist bomber to be sent.

It's also hard to imagine that a Republican president would have let Megrahi return to Libya unmolested. More likely, on White House orders, US fighters and a special-ops team would have diverted Megrahi's flight to an extradition-to-the-US-friendly airport.

Some might cry that such a move would've damaged our "special relationship" with Great Britain.

In fact, it's hard to see how Anglo-American relations could get any worse.

In the last few weeks, Obama has waged a campaign to vilify and cripple Britain's biggest corporation and besmirch the integrity of the British government by suggesting it has sold out to BP. Whoever was behind the letter's publication clearly was engaged in retaliation. Indeed, ever since he returned Britain's present of a bust of Winston Churchill, Obama has turned the "special relationship" into a train wreck.

But there's a more troubling issue lurking behind this scandal.

Obama's feckless handling of the Megrahi affair seems to be part of a pattern. It includes making the release of terrorists from Gitmo a top priority, his notorious apology tour and "we feel your pain" speech to a Muslim audience in Cairo and his top terrorism adviser John Brennan's May 26 pronouncement that jihad is a legitimate religious practice. It includes the effort to turn NASA into a Muslim-outreach program, Obama's steady harassment of Israel compared to his reluctance to challenge the Tehran regime and now his silence about the building of a mosque at Ground Zero.

In short, whose side is Obama really on? Is there more sympathy and compassion at the White House for Islamicist terrorists than there is for those they killed on 9/11 and over Lockerbie -- and those they're still killing in Afghanistan?

Americans need to know the answer before they can have confidence in Obama's conduct of the War on Terror. They need to know what he knew, and when, about the Lockerbie bomber release.

Unfortunately, it may take the election of a Republican Congress in November before we can get those answers.

Arthur Herman's most recent book is "Gandhi and Churchill."


By Ann Coulter
July 28, 2010

While engaging in astonishing viciousness, vulgarity and violence toward Republicans, liberals accuse cheerful, law-abiding Tea Party activists of being violent racists.

Responding to these vile charges, conservative television pundits think it's a great comeback to say: "There is the fringe on both sides."

Both sides? Really? How about: "That's a despicable lie"? Did that occur to you simpering morons as a possible reply to the slanderous claim that conservatives are fiery racists?

All the accusations of "racism" at anti-Obama rallies so far have turned out to be completely false. The most notorious was the allegation that one black congressman was spat on and another called the N-word 15 times at an anti-ObamaCare rally on Capitol Hill last March.

The particularly sensitive Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., perhaps walking too closely to a protester chanting "Kill the Bill," was hit with some spittle -- and briefly thought he was a Freedom Rider! When observers contested Cleaver's account -- with massive video evidence -- he walked back his claim of being spat upon.

The slanderous claim that a protester called the civil rights hero John Lewis the N-word 15 times was an outrageous lie -- never made by Lewis himself -- but promoted endlessly by teary-eyed reporters, most of whom cannot count to 15.

The media never retracted it, even after the N-word allegation was proved false with a still-uncollected $100,000 reward for two seconds of video proof taken from a protest crawling with video cameras and reporters hungry for an act of racism.

When St. Louis Tea Party co-founder Dana Loesch did make the point on CNN that no one spat on any black congressmen at the anti-ObamaCare rally, a liberal on the panel, Nancy Giles, told her to "shut your mouth," while alleged "comedian" Stephanie Miller repeatedly called Tea Party activists "tea baggers."

It's like watching Hitler hysterically denounce Poland for being mean to Nazi Germany while Polish TV commentators defend Poland by saying, "There are mistakes on both sides."

Meanwhile, we do have video proof of the New Black Panthers standing outside a polling station in Philadelphia in 2008 with billy clubs threatening white voters who tried to vote. And there is video footage of Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice as well as a slew of conservative college speakers being assaulted by crazed liberals.

We also have evidence of liberals' proclivity for violence in the form of mountains of arrest records. Liberal protesters at the 2008 Republican National Convention were arrested for smashing police cars, slashing tires, breaking store windows, and for possessing Molotov cocktails, napalm bombs and assorted firearms. (If only they could muster up that kind of fighting spirit on foreign battlefields.)

There were no arrests of conservatives at the Democratic National Convention.

Over the past couple of election cycles, Bush and McCain election headquarters around the country have been repeatedly vandalized, ransacked, burglarized and shot at (by staunch gun-control advocates, no doubt); Bush and McCain campaign signs have been torched; and Republican campaign volunteers have been physically attacked.

It was a good day when George Bush was merely burned in effigy, compared to Hitler or, most innocuously, compared to a monkey.

In the fall of 2008, Obama supporters Mace'd elderly volunteers in a McCain campaign office in Galax, Va. In separate attacks, a half-dozen liberals threw Molotov cocktails at McCain signs on families' front yards in and around Portland, Ore. One Obama supporter broke a McCain sign being held by a small middle-aged woman in midtown Manhattan before hitting her in the face with the stick. These are just a few acts of violence from the left too numerous to catalog.

There were arrests in all these cases. There was, however, absolutely no national coverage of the attacks by Obama supporters.

Obama is in danger from the Tea Partiers! The Poles are mobilizing on the border!

Since Obama became president, the only recorded violence at Tea Parties or Town Halls has been committed by liberals. Last fall, a conservative had his finger bitten off by a man from a crowd in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Two Service Employees International Union thugs have been charged with beating up an African-American selling anti-Obama bumper stickers at a St. Louis Tea Party in August 2009.

Respected elder statesmen of the Democratic Party have referred to Obama's "Negro dialect" (Harry Reid), said he would be getting them coffee a few years ago (Bill Clinton), and called him "clean" (Joe Biden). And that's not including the former Ku Klux Klan Democratic senator, the late Bob Byrd.

So I'm thinking that maybe when conservatives are called racists on TV, instead of saying, "There are fringe elements on both sides," conservative commentators might want to think about saying, "That is a complete lie."

Liberals explode in rage when we accuse them of being unpatriotic based on 50 years of treasonous behavior. They have zero examples of conservative racism, but the best our spokesmen can think to say when accused of racism is: "Man is imperfect."

Conservatives who prefer to come across on TV as wonderfully moderate than to speak the truth should find another line of work and stop defaming conservatives with their "both sides" pabulum.

I hear BP is looking for a new spokesman.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Into the Wild

By Bill Gifford
The Washington Post
Sunday, March 30, 2008


Into the Lawless Heart Of the Sierra Madre

By Richard Grant

Free Press. 288 pp. Paperback, $15

This intriguing and ultimately terrifying Mexican walkabout belongs to that subgenre of travel writing that can generally be summed up in four words: Should have stayed home.

It's the author's first job to persuade us why he didn't, and in the initial chapters of God's Middle Finger, Richard Grant does not quite succeed. Something about a sad divorce, a taste for risk and a desire to see the Sierra Madre, the mythical but quite lawless mountain range that forms the backbone of western Mexico.

Rugged, impoverished and all but closed to outsiders, the Sierra Madre is indeed a fine place to hide buried treasure -- or to grow marijuana and opium poppies, while murdering anyone who tries to stand in your way. The rule of law is literally a distant rumor in the Sierra Madre, where the nearest police station can be a day's drive away (and the police in question are likely corrupt). Most murders and nearly all rapes go unreported; the locals simply sort things out among themselves.

Grant, a British journalist, spends a lot of time on how-I-got-the-story, but not enough on why. "Are you looking for your death?" he is asked by a folk healer. It seems a fair question, for at the outset the author comes across smelling like a bit of an adrenaline tourist, slumming for thrills. "Here I was at last, riding an outlaw trail into the high wilds of the Sierra Madre," he declares, having arrived in the fabled mountains and feeling smug; not long afterward, he's whipping out a hunk of Italian prosciutto.

Thankfully for the reader, Grant's self-satisfaction soon withers, replaced by a genuine fascination with this isolated, violent place. He describes a small-town festival that manages to be "a solemn religious celebration, a drunken party, a social occasion, and a flea market, all rolled into one."

"Behind his tented stall," he writes, "I saw one of the vendors dip a long thin knife into a plastic bag full of white powder, administer a parakeet-blast to both nostrils and then step up to relieve his partner. 'Se¿ores y se¿oras!' he bellowed. 'I now present to you a most exquisite item of the finest quality at a price that is not to be believed! I have no boss, I have no wife, I have no children, my friends say I have lost my mind! Maybe that is why I can offer you a price of one hundred -- NO! Eighty! -- NO! Seventy! -- NO! Fifty pesos is all I ask for this beautiful, hard-wearing set of saucepans.' "

The festival is crawling with a more sinister type of character: The narcos, both real and wannabe, the former distinguished only by the heft of their gold jewelry. The narcos run everything in the Sierra Madre, which is the headwaters of the drug supply stream. In the hardscrabble mountain villages, marijuana is known as the crop that pays, and pretty much everyone grows it.

That he navigates this dangerous land safely (for the most part) is a testament to his drinking abilities -- and his thoroughgoing command of Mexican curses. ("Sons of obscene perpetrations!" is how he translates a standard Sierra Madre toast.) In one fascinating scene after another, he meets peasant marijuana farmers, very many drunks and a few Mormons and Mennonites, who fled south for various political and religious reasons. He spends time with the indigenous Tarahumara and memorably attends an Easter festival in a Tarahumara town that descends into total madness, fueled by the local corn-brewed beer, tesguino. (The local statue depicting God is missing all but one of its fingers; hence the book's title.)

But not until about page 200 do we encounter anything like a larger point: in this case, the utter futility of the war on drugs and the hypocrisy of waging it against suppliers rather than consumers. The impoverished farmer who grows marijuana is merely responding to market forces, as any good American capitalist would.

It's not a message we really want to hear, up in El Norte. When Grant volunteers to teach English in a local schoolhouse, he has his students compose a letter to their American peers, describing their lives. He shows the letter to teachers in Tucson, but they decline to use it in their classes because of the references to pistols and pot. Better to build a border fence and pretend that this Mexico doesn't exist. When an American expat activist expresses the hope that Mexico is headed toward a liberal-democratic future, Grant is doubtful: "I thought the whole nation was turning more feral, violent, and chaotic, that the Sierra Madre held glimpses of Mexico's future as well as its past."

A strong editor might have moved this up and turned it into the book's controlling thesis, but Grant is more of a rambling sort of writer, one who keeps pushing the limits. Not to give away the ending, but I think I can sum things up in six words instead of four: He got what he came for.

-- Bill Gifford is the author of "Ledyard: In Search of the First American Explorer."

The New Journalism

The consumer backlash against the House of Cronkite.

By Jonah Goldberg
July 28, 2010 12:00 A.M.

‘The high standards and wise judgments of people like Walter Cronkite once acted as a national immune system, zapping scandal mongers and quashing wild rumors,” wrote former “green jobs czar” Van Jones (pictured at right) in Sunday’s New York Times.

This may be one of the most unintentionally hilarious lines in recent memory. Jones, you may recall, left the White House when his background — not just as an alleged 9/11 truther but as a self-confessed Communist and revolutionary — became grist for the Fox News mill. Mainstream publications mostly ignored the controversy until after he was fired, and then focused on the fact that he directed an expletive at Republicans in a YouTube video.

Now Jones, with billets at Princeton and the Center for American Progress, casts himself as yet another victim, just like Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture employee fired after Andrew Breitbart released a misleadingly edited video of her. (Breitbart, a friend of mine, insists to me that he did not edit the video himself.)

You’ve just got to love a former member of STORM (Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement), a Mao-influenced organization with a professed “commitment to the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism,” giving Walter Cronkite — the dashboard saint of American bourgeois conformity — his due as the bulwark of decency. Yes, yes, Jones says he’s grown and is no longer the Red he was even a few years ago. But come on.

For generations, conservatives lamented the decline in standards. When Hollywood portrayed glandular instincts as the new moral compass of the secular age, conservatives waxed nostalgic over the lost decency of the “studio system.” When the education industry shelved the great books in favor of hugs, conservatives lamented the demise of the three R’s and the “closing of the American mind.” When the Left became enamored with a “riot ideology” that mistook lawlessness for political protest, conservatives invoked “law and order.” Name a front in the political and culture wars, and conservatives defended the authority of authority and the tradition of tradition, while liberals and leftists defended sticking it to the man.

But now that the legacy media is one of the last resources the Left still has at its disposal, even Comrade Jones isn’t immune to mossy nostalgia for Walter Cronkite (who, by the way, is easily one of the most overrated American icons).

And that’s the irony: The Left only believes in sticking it to the man when it isn’t the man. Teachers unions and tenured professors, now that they control their guilds, are darn-near reactionary in their white-knuckled grip on the status quo. Liberal legal scholars are a cargo cult to stare decisis, for the simple reason that the precedents are still on their side.

The essence of the culture war today is a battle over whose “gatekeepers” are legitimate and whose are not.

Nowhere is this more true than in the temples of journalism, where the high priests are barricading the doors with pews and candelabras to fend off the barbarians.

Among the liberal Brahmins of the legacy media, probity, standards, and restraint are the order of the day for inconvenient news. Feeding frenzies are reserved for the fun news (i.e., the news that reinforces liberal assumptions).

So, when the Climategate e-mails were released, the New York Times’s chief environmental correspondent refrained from posting private e-mails, a standard he would never have taken with internal e-mails from, say, BP. The leak of Valerie Plame’s identity: a shocking scandal that tore at the heart of the Bush administration. The leaking of vital state secrets: great journalism.

The house Cronkite built did many fine and noble things. It also locked out competing points of view, buried inconvenient bodies, spun the news with centrifugal force, and racked up a formidable list of Shirley Sherrods all its own. The New York Times whitewashed Stalin’s genocide. Cronkite misreported the significance of the Tet Offensive to say the Vietnam War was unwinnable. Dan Rather, Cronkite’s replacement, began his career falsely reporting that Dallas schoolchildren cheered JFK’s murder and ended it falsely reporting on forged National Guard memos. The Rodney King video was misleadingly edited; the Tailwind story was not true. And that’s only a snippet of the list.

The media environment today is dizzying not because of one revolution but two complementary ones. First there’s the churn of the Internet, from Wikileaks to wilding bloggers. But there’s also a second revolution that amounts to consumer backlash against the House of Cronkite. It has fueled the rise of Fox News and the new alternative media.

This pincer movement can be scary. But it’s progress.

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rebirth in Harlem

High Spirits

By Jonathan Aitken from the July 2010 - August 2010 issue of The American Spectator

Sixty-five years ago this summer, on July 27, 1945, a remarkable memorial service was held in one of London's great churches, Holy Trinity Brompton. It was in honor of a then obscure German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His life's story, as outlined by Bishop Bell of Chichester in the sermon, was the absolute antithesis of the populist slogan that had been on many British lips during the war that had ended just a few weeks earlier: "The only good German is a dead German." For Bonhoeffer was not just a good man. He was one of the moral and spiritual giants of the 20th century.

Bonhoeffer's historical reputation has been rising steadily. It will be further enhanced by an excellent new biography (the first in 40 years), Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy -- A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich. The author is Eric Metaxas, and the publisher Thomas Nelson.

This is a fast-paced portrait of a life lived courageously as well as theologically. Although Bonhoeffer's spiritual classics such as The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, and Letters and Papers from Prison are given ample attention, it is the power of the narrative material so well researched and presented by Metaxas that makes this book a page turner for the general reader as well as an essential resource for scholars.

Certain as Bonhoeffer was of his theology, he was sometimes confused about his own identity. This complexity is movingly captured in his poem "Who Am I?" written in his prison cell shortly before his execution for his involvement in an unsuccessful plot against Hitler. The last lines reflect both the
ambivalence and the authenticity of his journey:

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!

Bonhoeffer was never a "woebegone weakling." Whenever he came to a high hurdle he jumped it fearlessly. The outstanding example of his moral courage came in 1933 when as a rising 27-year-old scholar he published an essay, "The Church and the Jewish Question," which challenged the German religious establishment's acquiescence in Hitler's persecution of the Jews.

At a time when most Catholic and Protestant churches were dismissing their pastors and employees of Jewish blood, Bonhoeffer not only denounced them for their cowardice, but also called for outright opposition to a regime that was breaking the commandments of Christianity. He argued that the churches of Germany must support Hitler's victims "even if they do not belong to the Christian community." For good measure he added that Christians might be called upon not only "to bandage the victims under the wheel" of oppression but "to put a spoke into the wheel itself."

Such opposition to the evil philosophy of Nazism set Bonhoeffer on the path that would lead him to the gallows. But his audacity preceded Hitler's rise to the Reich chancellorship. A year before the notorious "Aryan Paragraph" (the law banning anyone of Jewish decent from state-funded employment) was enacted, Bonhoeffer was a revolutionary young voice crying out in the wilderness of the German church. When he preached to Berlin's most important and influential Protestant congregation on Reformation Sunday in 1932, he told the congregants that they were a disgrace to the memory of their church's founder, Martin Luther.

When and where did this fire start in the precocious Pastor Bonhoeffer? He came from a privileged background, and there were few clues in his early years of traditional theological training at Tubingen that he would become a challenger of the established church's stultifying hierarchy. This is where Metaxas's biography breaks new ground.

In a fascinating chapter, "Bonhoeffer in America," Metaxas tracks his subject's journey through New York's Union Theological Seminary and various liberal churches such as Riverside and Park Avenue Baptist. "There is no theology here" was the conclusion of the 24-year-old German observer, as he wrote home complaining of never having heard the gospel of Jesus preached in fashionable Manhattan.

But then Bonhoeffer went to the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, whose 14,000-strong congregation made it the largest Protestant church in the United States of the 1930s. He was inspired by the preaching of Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. and by the friendships he formed with his African American contemporaries in the church. Of these the most important was a fellow Union student, Frank Fisher, who traveled to Washington, D.C., and other cities with Bonhoeffer, introducing his German friend to "Negro spirituals" and "Negro literature."

There is little doubt that Bonhoeffer's American experiences, especially the appalling racial prejudice he encountered, laid the foundation for what Metaxas calls "The Great Change" in his subject's character. The aloof, patrician intellectual who had arrived in New York departed a committed churchgoing Christian on fire with the gospel and despising what he called the "religionless Christianity" of the German church. Metaxas speculates that Bonhoeffer was "born again" in his Harlem period. The book's new material suggests that a major personal and spiritual transformation took place as a result of his attendance at the Abyssinian church. Without that transformation it is unlikely that Bonhoeffer's most influential theological ideas on "cheap grace" would have been formed.

One of the most poignant sentences ever written by Bonhoeffer was "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." For him this was no abstract theological metaphor. It summed up the outcome of the sacrificial action Bonhoeffer took to join a group of conspirators, led by Admiral Canaris, who began plotting to kill Hitler in 1942.

Metaxas provides a fascinating description of the mounting pressures on Bonhoeffer and his deepening Christ-centered commitment during the last three years of his life. Ambivalence and deception were needed for a pastor of the Confessing Church who was covertly supporting the assassination of the head of state. But Bonhoeffer was too fearless to cover his tracks. So eventually he was arrested and after a painful prison journey (which produced some of his finest writing), he was executed at Flossenburg concentration camp in April 1945, just one month before the war ended.

Metaxas concludes his powerful account of this martyrdom with the words of the camp doctor who was moved by the spiritual courage of the unidentified figure he watched going to the scaffold: "At the place of execution he [Bonhoeffer] again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost 50 years that I worked as a doctor I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

Jonathan Aitken, The American Spectator's High Spirits columnist, is most recently author of John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace (Crossway Books). His biographies include Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed (Doubleday) and Nixon: A Life, now available in a new paperback edition (Regnery).

America plays the fool in Pakistan's double game

New York Post
July 27, 2010

The treasure trove of 91,000 classified AfPak documents posted by WikiLeaks suggests that our government's been deceiving us about Pakistan's murderous behavior.

But the situation's even worse than that: Our government's been lying to itself.

The documents in question aren't superclassified. They're largely low-level field reports at the "confidential" level, bottom-rung stuff, with some secret documents mixed in. Their value lies in their unfiltered quality. This is what the guys on the ground with the guns have been seeing, hearing and sensing.

It ain't good. Reports covering the five years from 2004 to 2009 cite routine Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban -- as the terrorists kill our troops. Pakistan's infamous Inter Services Intelligence, or ISI, also has been working with al Qaeda, according to the reports.

AFP/Getty Images

A SOLDIER'S PERSPECTIVE: A GI goes on patrol in Afghanistan's Kandahar province yesterday.

That's no surprise to Post readers, but our government is "shocked, shocked!" by the revelations. And the excuses for Pakistan's lethal misconduct have already started flowing.

We're told that these reports are unverified, that some can be traced back to anti-Pakistani Afghan intelligence operatives, and that American eyewitness accounts are one-offs.

Folks, I've done plenty of intelligence analysis, and here's how it works: A single report of a supposed ally's wrongdoing gets your attention, but it's regarded as an outlier until another source confirms it. After that, you actively search for further corroboration -- before you get blindsided big time.

One report might be hearsay. But hundreds of reports of Pakistani collaboration with our Taliban and al Qaeda enemies amount to a pattern. And intelligence is about patterns.

Our government's response to Pakistani complicity in the death of hundreds of our troops and the wounding of thousands? Send additional aid -- on top of the $6 billion recently committed -- and bills in Congress to grant special trade privileges to Pakistanis in Taliban-infested territories.

It's like dating someone who's wildly, flagrantly promiscuous and hoping that patience will lead to his or her sudden reform. But tolerance only encourages more bad behavior.

Gen. David Petraeus, our new commander in Afghanistan, knows that the Pakistanis are corrupt and deceitful. But he, too, continues to hope they'll see the light.

Why do Petraeus and other veteran officials continue to dream of Pakistan's magical self-reformation? Because we're out of strategic imagination, having tied ourselves to Pakistan for everything from the transit of supplies for our troops to intelligence.

We're begging the Pakistanis to make fools of us. Our troops die -- and we make excuses for their killers.

Of course, this shouldn't be too great a surprise, given that our government insists that Islamist terrorists have nothing to do with Islam and that jihad's just a peaceful inner struggle. (Check out al Qaeda's new online magazine if you want a little taste of Islamist pacifism.)

Then there's the other issue: How did a lowest-of-the-low-level player provide WikiLeaks with 92,000 classified documents, even if they weren't "highly" classified?

It was easy. Millions of soldiers, officials and contractors have access to confidential and secret-level material (only seven or eight hundred thousand have top-secret clearances, so I guess that's safe . . .). Many firewalls are a joke to keyboard jockeys. The real surprise in the Internet age is that we haven't seen more massive leaks of far more sensitive documents.

A disgruntled soldier, a bureaucrat who didn't get a promotion or a contractor given his walking papers could do massive damage in his last hour on the job.

And there are no serious penalties. Leaking classified info won't get you into much hot water when even spying just lands you a plane ticket home, a photo op and a book deal.

It would be helpful if this latest security breakdown at least provoked our government to get a teensy bit serious about cyber-security and the culture of leaks. But don't hold your breath. Pakistan will hand over Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden before our government takes its own laws seriously.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Endless War."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Illinois Politics: The Art of the Unbelievable

By Steve Chapman
The Chicago Tribune
July 25, 2010

In many places, voters become disenchanted when politicians move directly from high offices to lucrative jobs as lobbyists and consultants. Not in Illinois. Here, we are just happy when a politician doesn't go directly from high office to prison.

Of the most recent eight governors (not including the incumbent), three have been convicted of felonies. That's a batting average of .375, which is high in any league. And then we have the last governor, who got impeached and is now on trial.

It would not have been hard for Rod Blagojevich to raise the ethical standards of his office. His immediate predecessor, George Ryan, is serving a 6 1/2-year term in federal prison for bribery, extortion and other mischief.

Yet Blagojevich has managed to disappoint even the most pessimistic voters. His tenure brought to mind comedian Lily Tomlin's lament: "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

All he did was get caught on wiretapped phone calls running his office like a used car lot. Most notable was his effort to trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate for money, campaign contributions or a job -- such as secretary of Health and Human Services, which was about as plausible as his winning the Cy Young Award.

Yet last week, it came as a stunner to find we cannot believe everything he says.

For months, the state's most infamous Elvis impersonator had vowed to take the stand at his corruption trial.

In June, he told reporters, "I can't wait to testify, to set the record straight and clarify some of these conversations, and tell the people of Illinois exactly what was on my mind and what I was trying to do and what I ultimately attempted to do."

But after the prosecution rested, he elected to maintain a discreet silence. Given a choice of hanging himself in court or being exposed as a brazen fabricator, well, you know which one Rod would choose.

He's not entirely alone. The events involving that particular Senate seat, which was vacated by Barack Obama in November 2008, have generated an epidemic of mendacity.

There was Obama, who the White House said "had no contact or communication with Gov. Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat." But it emerged in the trial that Obama had personally called Tom Balanoff, head of the Service Employees International Union, to suggest the appointment of his longtime aide Valerie Jarrett. Balanoff promptly set up a meeting with Blagojevich to pass on the recommendation.

There was Roland Burris, the former state comptroller who got himself named to the vacancy. Burris originally said "there was not any contact" between his people and the governor's people about the appointment. He later amended and re-amended that claim -- with the crucial revisions coming after the Senate had agreed to let him be sworn in.

Much later came the revelation of a wiretapped call between him and the governor's brother, before Burris was chosen, in which they discussed ways an appointee might express his gratitude. He promised to send Blagojevich a campaign contribution.

The Senate Democratic leadership, including Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, originally declared that "anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus." A few weeks later -- I know this will shock you -- that promise went poof.

Gov. Pat Quinn, the Democrat who succeeded Blagojevich following his impeachment, had supported holding a special election to fill the vacancy. But seeing the possibility that the Democrats might lose, he and the legislature dropped the idea like a hot stove.

Last week, though, it was revived by a federal appeals court, which said the Constitution requires a special election. What began as tragedy has degenerated into farce: On Nov. 2, 2010, Illinoisans may get to choose someone to finish a term that will end in January 2011, at the same time they choose someone to occupy the office until January 2017.

Right now, the race includes Republican Mark Kirk, who has made a name with tall tales about his Navy career and his teaching experience, and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, who claimed to have been a major force at his family's bank but now blames others for its failure.

In Illinois politics, fiction is the only truth.