Saturday, June 04, 2011

Today's Tune: Bruce Springsteen - Stolen Car (Live)

Today's Tune: Bruce Springsteen - Soul Driver (Live)

Hang on, Tar Heels, it's going to be wild

BY ROB CHRISTENSEN - Staff Writer
The News & Observer
http://www.newsobserver.com/
June 4, 2011

Former U.S. Senator John Edwards and his daughter Cate make their way through the media to a waiting car in front of the Hiram H. Ward Federal Building in Winston-Salem, N.C. where he was arraigned Friday June 3, 2011
(CHUCK LIDDY - cliddy@newsobserver.com)


It was in courtrooms like the federal building in Winston-Salem that a country-boy-on-the-make that everyone called Johnny began carving out his legendary law career.

Who knew back in the 1980s that it would lead to a string of million-dollar verdicts, to the U.S. Senate, to two runs for president, and to the Democratic vice presidential nomination?

Or that in the blink of an eye, it would all come crashing down upon John Edwards, not only dispatching his political career to the dust bin, but leading on Friday to a criminal indictment and his name on an arrest warrant.

So hard has been Edwards' fall that it is hard to find a person who has a kind word to say about him in his home state. Many would just as soon forget Edwards.

But ready or not, North Carolina is about to get a full immersion in the Edwardian scandal - weeks of testimony about an illicit affair, a love child, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of hush money passed in a box of chocolate.

The trial will likely be a media circus unlike the state has ever seen. It will make the criminal proceedings surrounding former House Speaker Jim Black (sentenced to prison) and former Gov. Mike Easley (who accepted a plea bargain) look like traffic court. Think the Rod Blagojevich trial on steroids.

With the Edwards trial this year, and the national Democratic convention next year, political reporters from Japan to Finland will be setting their GPS to Interstate 85 during the next 16 months.

Even though he was the subject of a lengthy grand jury investigation in Raleigh, it seems likely the trial itself will be in Greensboro or Winston-Salem, which is in the U.S. Middle District, where Edwards' Chapel Hill home is and where his campaign headquarters was located.

Edwards faced a difficult decision - whether to accept a plea deal from federal prosecutors on a felony count or to fight the case in court.

To fight the case, Edwards will likely have to spend millions of dollars of his own money, put his family through the bright glare of a highly publicized trial that will splatter the scandal all across the nation's TV screens again. And he risks losing. More than most people, Edwards knows that facing a jury is a game of roulette, and jurors may simply decide to punish a guy who cheated while his wife was battling cancer.

In Edwards' favor, the prosecutors' case is far from a slam dunk. Numerous legal commentators have remarked on how the federal prosecutors seem to be reaching. Campaign law violations usually involve unreported donations to a campaign - not gifts made by supporters to a candidate's girlfriend and former aide.

"A remarkably weak case," was how Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal a watch dog group, described the case.

I have talked to conservatives who are troubled by the indictment as well, comparing the Edwards case to the prosecution of former Bush White House aides Karl Rove and Scooter Libby as an example of overzealous prosecution.

While various groups and individuals expressed reservations about the Edwards prosecution, there were few voices coming to his defense Friday - no statements from North Carolina political figures, or former campaign aides, or former Senate colleagues.

Edwards was always a political loner; he didn't work his way up through politics, but financed his 1998 Senate campaign out of his own pocket. Many Democrats were attracted to his politics, and saw him as a progressive voice for the poor. His most ardent backers even saw him for a while as the second coming of Bobby Kennedy.

But many of those same people became disenchanted with his hubris; and then disillusioned with his recklessness and his treatment of his late wife Elizabeth.

In his autobiographical book, "Four Trials," Edwards talks about how much he relied on Elizabeth as a sounding board for his big cases.

But now that he faces his biggest trial, Edwards seems a man alone.

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

James Arness dies at 88; TV's Marshal Dillon on landmark 'Gunsmoke' series

James Arness is best known for his role as Marshal Matt Dillon in 'Gunsmoke,' one of the longest-running prime-time series in network TV history. He was a towering symbol of frontier justice in the series that broke the mold for TV westerns.

By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com
June 4, 2011


James Arness, the towering actor best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon, the strong and commanding symbol of frontier justice on the landmark TV western series "Gunsmoke," died Friday. He was 88.

Arness died of natural causes at his home in Brentwood, said family spokeswoman Ginny Fazer.

"Gunsmoke" debuted Sept. 10, 1955, on CBS and, with the start of "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" on ABC four days earlier, a new era in television horse operas was launched: the adult western.

But whereas "Wyatt Earp," starring Hugh O'Brian, ended its run in 1961, "Gunsmoke" ran until 1975, far outdistancing its many competitors and becoming one of the longest-running prime-time series in network TV history.

In the process, Arness became one of television's most enduring stars returning as Dillon in a handful of "Gunsmoke" TV movies in the late '80s and early '90s.

At 6 feet 7, Arness was a bigger-than-life actor who amply filled the boots of the mythic Dodge City lawman in the series, which earned praise for breaking TV western-genre conventions with its strong dramatic stories and psychologically complex characters.

"Matt," Arness once said, "is very human and has all the failings and drives common to anyone who is trying to do a difficult job the best he knows how."

Arness was nominated for Emmys three times during the show's early years. Like John Wayne on the big screen, Arness was an imposing presence on the small screen.

"I absolutely believe any pantheon of enduring, well-crafted and memorable television characters would have to include James Arness," David Bushman, then the television curator at what is now the Paley Center for Media in New York, told The Times some years ago. "He became part of the national psyche."

"Gunsmoke" had been a groundbreaking hit radio show, with William Conrad providing the authoritative voice of Matt Dillon, for three years when CBS began looking for an actor to star in the TV version.

At the time, Arness, a Minnesota native and World War II Army combat veteran, had amassed a string of film credits, including playing the alien monster in the 1951 science-fiction classic "The Thing From Another World." He also co-starred in the 1954 sci-fi thriller "Them!"

Then under contract to John Wayne's production company, Arness also appeared in four pictures starring Wayne: "Big Jim McLain," "Island in the Sky," "Hondo" and "The Sea Chase."

Fearful that starring in a television series would damage his fledgling movie career, Arness agreed only reluctantly to test for the part of Dillon; he was the last of a sizable number of actors who were auditioned for the role.

When CBS offered him the part, Arness hesitated in signing the contract. But Wayne urged him to take the role, saying it was a tremendous break.

To give Arness and "Gunsmoke" a publicity boost when it debuted, Wayne provided an on-camera introduction in which he praised the new TV western series for being honest, adult and realistic.

"I knew there was only one man to play in it, James Arness," Wayne told viewers. "He's a young fella and may be new to some of you. But I've worked with him, and I predict he'll be a big star. So you might as well get used to him, like you've had to get used to me."

Arness became a welcome visitor in the homes of millions of viewers — as did the show's supporting cast members: Dennis Weaver as Dillon's stiff-legged deputy, Chester Goode; Amanda Blake as Kitty Russell, the proprietress of the Long Branch Saloon; and Milburn Stone as the weathered and wise Doc Adams.

Boyd Magers, editor and publisher of Western Clippings, a western film publication, attributed the show's enduring popularity to the strong writing, direction and ensemble cast. Indeed, the focus would often be on the show's various regular characters and guest stars.

"Arness, in particular, said, 'Let's move it off of me,' " Magers told The Times some years ago. "He didn't have this star complex. He let the other people have an episode to themselves. So you didn't get tired of one character, and they were all good, well-rounded characters because of this strong writing."

Considered a reticent interview subject by the press, Arness had an innate shyness, a trait he believed was shaped by his self-consciousness about his height while growing up.

"I was the tallest guy in the school," he once recalled, "and I was very conscious of being larger than anybody — classmates and teachers."

Of Norwegian descent, Arness was born James Aurness in Minneapolis on May 26, 1923. His brother, future actor Peter Graves, was born three years later.

After being drafted into the Army during his freshman year at Beloit College in Wisconsin, in early 1943, Arness was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division and took part in the landing at Anzio, Italy, in 1944. (Because of his height, he was chosen to be the first off his landing craft to test the depth of the water.)

Later, while walking point on a night patrol through a vineyard, Arness walked into a German machine-gun nest, and rounds severely splintered the bones in his lower right leg. The wound resulted in his leg being shortened by about 5/8 of an inch, and he thereafter wore a lift in his shoe.

After undergoing months of rehabilitation in a stateside hospital, Arness was honorably discharged from the Army in January 1945 with a $56-a-month disability pension.

At the suggestion of his brother, Arness enrolled in a radio announcing school in Minneapolis. He quickly found work as a disc jockey at a local station.

But after several months, he quit to join a friend on a trip to Los Angeles. He figured he'd spend a few weeks out West and then return home.

Instead, after making a few show business contacts, he decided to stay in L.A. and try his hand at acting.

Using the GI Bill, he joined the acting program at the Bliss-Hayden Theater, an established little theater school in Beverly Hills, where he was discovered by an agent.

That led to his being introduced to producer Dore Schary. The result: Arness' 1947 screen debut playing a small part as one of Loretta Young's three Scandinavian brothers in "The Farmer's Daughter." Small roles in William Wellman's "Battleground," John Ford's "Wagon Master" and other films followed.

On the "Gunsmoke" set, Arness was known for his sense of humor. He enjoyed practical jokes and was prone to uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Off the set, he was known to avoid journalists and the Hollywood scene, preferring instead the company of stagehands and fellow pilots.

A surfer since he arrived in California, he learned to fly in the late 1960s so he could easily get to remote surf breaks in Baja California. Arness, who also skied and sailed, flew his own plane to "Gunsmoke" locations; his buzzing of the sets became legendary.

After "Gunsmoke" ended in 1975, Arness starred as a mountain man in the 1976 TV movie "The Macahans." His Zeb Macahan character reappeared in a miniseries, "How the West Was Won," in 1977; and in a TV series in 1978-79.

Arness also starred as a contemporary lawman in the 1981-82 series "McClain's Law."

In 1987, he returned to his old Matt Dillon role in "Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge," the first of five "Gunsmoke" TV movies that continued into the mid-'90s.

Arness' 1948 marriage to actress Virginia Chapman ended in divorce in 1958. They had three children: Rolf Aurness, winner of the 1970 World Surfing Championship; Craig Aurness, a photographer, who died in 2004; and Jennie Aurness, who died in 1975.

He is survived by his wife, Janet; two sons, Rolf and Jimmy; and six grandchildren. His brother Peter died in March 2010.

dennis.mclellan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times


Appreciation: James Arness, 1923-2011

By Robert Lloyd
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/
June 3, 2011 | 3:57pm

In his size -- he was 6-foot-7 -- and his centeredness, James Arness suggested John Wayne, to whose production company he was under contract before he became the star of “Gunsmoke.” For 20 years, from 1955 to 1975, Arness, who died Friday at the age of 88, played Marshal Matt Dillon in what, along with “Law & Order,” is the longest-lived drama on American television. There was also in Arness something of the other tall men of the range, actors like James Stewart and Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea; and if he lacked their foregrounded complexity, their implicit darkness and latent violence -- there was a lot of “noir” in the postwar Western -- these were not things his role demanded, or which, indeed, could have reasonably sustained a character over two decades. Matt Dillon was not battling inner demons, making amends for past wrongs, or out to revenge wrongs done to him; indeed, he was for all intents and purposes a man without a past.

Like his sound-alike brother Peter Graves, the Mr. Phelps of “Mission: Impossible,” Arness projected an air of inborn authority. Matt Dillon was not so much the subject of “Gunsmoke” as the solid rock against which lesser mortals -- flawed, broken, bad, searching -- swirled and crashed or clung, a bulwark of reassurance and capability and rectitude, a law not unto himself, but, as it were, a self unto the law. Although “Gunsmoke” was conceived as a thoughtful, adult drama, Arness' Dillon was also close kin to child-friendly cowboys such as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, good-humored heroes whose unassailable purity of heart was taken as read. (Oddly, or perhaps not, the TV lawman Arness most recalls to me is Andy Griffith's Sheriff Taylor.)

Arness played other parts in his career, including two post-"Gunsmoke" TV series, the short-lived detective series “McClain's Law” in the early '80s and the less short-lived “How the West Was Won” in the late '70s. (That he was, unrecognizably, the monster in the 1951 “The Thing from Another World” is widely known movie trivium.) But to rate him as an actor is almost beside the point, so completely and inextricably does he belong to a single character. He was in his early 30s when he took on the role -- which had been originated on radio by William Conrad, who was the wrong shape to play it on TV -- and in his 50s when the series was canceled. But he was in his 70s when he last played Matt Dillon, in the 1994 “Gunsmoke” TV movie “One Man's Justice.” There were several of these films, which play off the “gunfighters at twilight” theme that Clint Eastwood was already exploring; the mileage suits and does not diminish him, and one gets a hint of the messier character that may have always lived within the well-kempt man of the series.

Still, while it may be that Arness was born to play Dillon, you do not keep a character alive and interesting across five decades without some application of real art; it takes substance to keep goodness from becoming blandness, from growing tiresome with time. Could any other actor have carried that weight as long, with as much grace and as little groaning? Maybe. But this one did.


Shaquille O'Neal and Lakers could have done so much more

Yes, O'Neal and Kobe Bryant teamed for three championships, but their differences, and Shaq's issues with owner Jerry Buss, cost them the ultimate glory.

By Bill Plaschke
Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/sports/
June 4, 2011

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, and center Shaquille O'Neal sit on the bench during Game 6 of the 2004 Western Conference finals against the Minnesota Timberwolves. What would have happened if O'Neal stayed with the Lakers until his retirement? (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2004)


The retirement announcement was made on a grainy video shot in his Orlando home and sent to the world through a social media service.

So typical of Shaquille O'Neal, it was cute, cutting edge … and sad.

The retirement announcement should have been on the Staples Center court in front of thousands. His eight Lakers championship rings should have been displayed in front of him. The beginnings of a statue should have been visible beyond him.

And Kobe Bryant should have been standing beside him.

Amid a national outpouring of love and respect for basketball's most entertaining big man, I must add two more overpowering emotions that Lakers fans will surely understand.

I cannot say goodbye to Shaq without a bit of anger and plenty of regret.

He should have worked harder here. He should have acted more maturely here. And, despite even these issues, he never, ever should have been allowed to leave.

If Shaquille O'Neal remained here beyond 2004 instead of being traded away after eight memorable seasons, he might have become basketball's greatest center and the Lakers would have become basketball's greatest champions.

But he acted like a baby. And Kobe Bryant acted like a baby. And, to be honest, owner Jerry Buss acted like a bit of a baby. All this whining cost the Lakers all sorts of winning, making the end of the Shaq saga the most regrettable in the history of Los Angeles sports.

Not that Shaq Daddy wasn't fun. He was a blast. The eight years I spent covering him were among the most memorable of my career here. He was a superstar who acted like a schoolboy, a giant who reveled in the little things, a celebrity who would have made a perfect next-door neighbor.

Once, when he was happy with a column I wrote, he grabbed me in the locker room, pulled me into his chest and danced with me in circles. My back and neck were sore for a week.

Another time, when he was angry with one of my columns, he printed my name in a derogatory fashion on a T-shirt that he passed out to teammates. The shirt inexplicably pictured me as a frog. I might have been insulted if I could have stopped laughing.

Sadly, though, the childishness that was Shaq's blessing was also his curse. He not only joked like a teenager, he was filled with the sudden anger and unwarranted jealousy and, yes, the occasional laziness of a teenager.

And eventually, the wonderful what-nexts of Shaquille O'Neal's career here became the what-ifs.

What if Shaq had ignored the billboard?

Early in the Lakers' Shaq-Kobe dynasty, the Lakers' team bus was driving into downtown Portland from the airport when it passed a five-story billboard featuring an advertisement for Bryant. At the time, O'Neal was more celebrated and accomplished than Bryant. Yet the billboard made him realize he would never be more popular. It was the beginning of an envy that eventually destroyed everything.

What if Shaq had toed the line?

After the Lakers' third championship, O'Neal required toe surgery immediately, yet refused it until September, causing him to miss the first 12 games of the season and hampering him throughout the year.

"Since I suffered the injury on company time, why shouldn't I be able to get surgery and do recovery on company time?" he said.

Lakers officials never forgot that quote, nor the message that O'Neal would never work hard enough to last long enough to make his antics worth it.

What if Shaq had not kicked Kobe when he was down?

At the opening of the 2003-04 training camp, with Bryant missing because of injuries and his impending sexual assault trial, O'Neal looked around and said, "The full team is here."

As if there were any confusion, he later said, "I want to be right for Derek [Fisher], Karl [Malone] and Gary [Payton]."

In Bryant's darkest days, O'Neal turned his back on him, and the two could rarely face each other again.

What if Shaq had not yelled at the boss?

In the Honolulu exhibition opener before O'Neal's final season here, Shaq blocked a shot and then ran back screaming at Buss as the owner sat at midcourt.

"Now you gonna pay me?" he shouted, referring to a desired contract extension.

Buss, who had always treated O'Neal fairly, was embarrassed in front of his friends and family. It was the beginning of the end.

What if everyone had just grown up?

In the summer of 2004, just before O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat, it all could have been stopped.

Bryant could have shrugged off past slights and realized the potential for greatness and told the Lakers that he wanted Shaq back. He did not.

Buss could have ignored O'Neal's brashness and taken a chance that Shaq's work ethic would improve with age. He did not.

O'Neal could have shown signs that he was willing to grow up and stay in shape for the sake of continuing a historic championship run. He could not.

Three decisions, all scented with the foulness of pride and ego, all of them wrong. Even though the Lakers have won two titles since, and O'Neal has won one with Miami, his legacy here will be forever marked by the three decisions that ultimately prevented a great NBA team from being the greatest.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke



Weiner helping junk the country

By MARK STEYN
Syndicated columnist
The Orange County Register
http://www.ocregister.com/
June 3, 2011

After the tumult of the First World War, noted Winston Churchill, only the intractability of the Irish Question had emerged unscathed:

"Great Empires have been overturned. The whole map of Europe has been changed," he told the House of Commons. "But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short, we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again."

And so it goes after another tumultuous week in American politics. Nearly a third of homeowners are "underwater" – that's to say, they owe more on their mortgages than the property is worth. Private-sector job growth has all but vanished. The House of Representatives voted not to raise the debt ceiling.

But as the debt ceiling subsides – or, at any rate, stays put – we see the dreary steeple of Anthony Weiner emerging from his Twitpic crotch shot.

For the benefit of the few remaining American coeds Rep. Weiner isn't following on Twitter, the congressman's initial position when his groin Tweet went viral was that his Twitter had been hacked. Could happen to anyone. From last Thursday's edition of The Daily Telegraph:

"British intelligence has hacked into an al-Qaida online magazine and replaced bomb making instructions with a recipe for cupcakes."

True. If MI6 can break into a Yemeni website run by Anwar al-Awlaki and infect it with home-baking favorites from "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," I don't doubt that the same spooks could easily hack into Anthony Weiner's computer and Tweet his cupcake to that poor college girl in Seattle.

But Congressman Weiner then retreated from the sinister hacking line, and protested that all this fuss about a mere "prank" involving a "randy photo" (his words) was an "unfortunate distraction" from real issues like raising the debt ceiling. Like Bill Clinton in the Nineties, Rep. Weiner needs to "get back to work for the American people."

It's the political class doing all this relentless "work for the American people" that's turned this country into the brokest nation in the history of the planet, killed the American Dream and left the American people headed for a future poised somewhere between the Weimar Republic and Mad Max. So, if it's a choice between politicians getting back to work for the American people or Tweeting their privates round the planet, I say, Tweet on, MacDuff. Tough on our young college ladies. But, as Queen Victoria advised her daughter on her wedding night, lie back and think of England. Download and think of America.

Congressman Weiner's next move was to tell NBC News that he "can't say with certitude" whether the Tweeted crotch is his. "I don't know what photographs are out there in the world of me," he told CNN. He seems to be saying that this could be one of his, but, until an appraiser from Sotheby's can establish the provenance, it might just be a doppelganger. Saddam Hussein had a lot of lookalikes on the payroll to confuse his enemies, and it wouldn't be a surprise to discover our Congressional princelings were trending in the same direction.

So we're drifting from outrageous cybercrime to "prank" to "Hey, who doesn't have snaps of his genitalia out there in the world?" To revive another Clintonian line: Everybody does it. "Everyone lies about Twitter-flirting," wrote the blogger Little Miss Attila, "and everyone knows that everyone lies about Twitter-flirting." "Flirting"? Why, yes: I'm assured by correspondents more au courant in "social media" that there's nothing unusual about Tweeting your nether regions to people you've never met in distant time zones. Get with the beat, daddy-o, it's a widely accepted courtship ritual of the 21st century: the flower of American maidenhood wants to see a prospective swain straining his BVDs at what I believe the lads at the TSA call Code Orange alert before they'll agree to meet him for a chocolate malt at the soda fountain.

To each her own. In my day it was "A White Sport Coat And A Pink Carnation," as Marty Robbins sang (Billboard Country & Western Number One, 1957). But apparently these days that leaves the ladies cold, and the pink carnation can prompt titters, unless it's artistically positioned across one's crown jewels, and you'd probably need to get in a professional photographer and some double-sided Scotch tape.

According to Christopher Hitchens, politics is show business for ugly people. If Anthony Weiner is anything to go by, it seems more like high school for ugly people. As the story evolves, the logic seems to favor the blogger Ann Althouse's explanation – that Weiner's cavalcade of daily Tweets are too droll to be written by him. He favors cute hashtags: For the Republican presidential field, "#TargetRichEnvironment"; for Newt Gingrich, upon entering the race, "#TallestPygymy." "So terribly clever and edgy," writes Professor Althouse. "Why does a Congressman have time for that?" Her conclusion is that Weiner has a ghost-Tweeter, and the ghost-Tweeter uploaded the crotch shot, but that, because the "terribly clever and edgy" Tweets are essential to Weiner's sense of his own indispensability, he cannot admit that he's lip-synching. It would be like Charlie Sheen confessing that it was a body-double under the bevy of hookers and suitcase of coke.

Between Occam's Razor (it's Weiner's junk, and he Tweeted it) and Occam's Lip-Syncher (the ghost-Tweeter did it) lies a third possibility – that the Tweets aren't by Weiner but the Twitpic crotch shot to the cute co-ed is. The republic's "citizen-legislators" do hardly anything for themselves these days, starting with reading the thousand-page legislation they cheerily pass, but if they can't even perform their own sex scandals there really is no point to them. For the last quarter of 2010, Weiner listed 19 staffers, a few with highly specific job descriptions ("Deputy Director of Immigration Affairs") but most with the kind of blandly nebulous titles ("Staff Assistant") that could cover almost anything, including in-house ghost-Tweeting. For the sake of argument, let us take it as read that American men are emailing their genitals across the fruited plain all day long, and that in the nature of these things one or two attachments go awry and wind up in the in-box of the elderly spinster who runs the quilting bee and you have to make a rather sheepish apology. Congressmen are among the few in this land who, in such a situation, can breezily say, as Weiner did to CNN's Dana Bash, "You have statements that my office has put out... ." Herein lies the full horror of American politics in the death throes of the republic: A Congressman has nothing better to do of an evening than Tweet his crotch to coeds, but he requires an "office" with "staffers" to "put out" "statements" on the subject.

When Weiners have staffers, it's very difficult to have limited government: You cannot have a small state run by big Weiners. If you require an "office" to issue "statements" about your Tweets, it's hardly surprising you're indifferent to statist bloat elsewhere.

In the end, the Congressman was not so "distracted" that he wasn't able to vote to raise the debt limit. Confronted by his Twitpic, one is tempted to channel Mae West: Is that a debt-ceiling increase in your Fruit of the Looms or are you just pleased to see me? Alas for America, it's both.

©MARK STEYN

Thursday, June 02, 2011

CRIMINAL COMEDY

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Mark Steyn on Books  
http://www.marksteyn.com/
Wednesday, 01 June 2011
   
HAPPY WARRIOR
from National Review
http://www.nationalreview.com 

I read The Joke, Milan Kundera’s first novel, when I was a schoolboy. Bit above my level, but, even as a teenager, I liked the premise. Ludvik is a young man in post-war, newly Communist Czechoslovakia. He’s a smart, witty guy, a loyal Party member with a great future ahead of him. His girlfriend, though, is a bit serious. So when she writes to him from her two-week Party training course enthusing about the early-morning calisthenics and the “healthy atmosphere,” he scribbles off a droll postcard:
Optimism is the opium of the people! A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky! Ludvik.

A few weeks later, he’s called before a committee of the District Party Secretariat. He tries to explain he was making a joke. Immediately they remove him from his position at the Students Union; then they expel him from the Party, and the university; and shortly thereafter he’s sent to work in the mines. As a waggish adolescent, I liked the absurdity of the situation in which Ludvik finds himself.
Later, I came to appreciate that Kundera had skewered the touchiness of totalitarianism, and the consequential loss of any sense of proportion. It was the book I read on the flight to Vancouver, when Maclean’s magazine and I were hauled before the British Columbia “Human Rights” Tribunal for the crime of “flagrant Islamophobia.” In the course of a week-long trial, the best part of a day was devoted to examining, with the aid of “expert witnesses,” the “tone” of my jokes.

Like Ludvik at the District Party Secretariat, I faced a troika of judges. Unfortunately, none of them had read Milan Kundera, or apparently heard of him. So immediately after my trial they ensnared a minor stand-up comic, Guy Earle, who had committed the crime of putting down two drunken hecklers. Alas for him, they were of the lesbian persuasion. Last month, he was convicted of putting down hecklers homophobically and fined $15,000. Mr. Earle did not testify at his trial, nor attend it. He lives on the other side of the country, and could afford neither flight nor accommodation. Rather touchingly, he offered to pay for his trip by performing at various comedy clubs while in town, before he eventually realized that no Vancouver impresario was going to return his calls ever again. Ludvik would have recognized that, too. Comrade Zemanek, the chairman of the plenary meeting that decides his fate, participated with him in earlier jests with the same girl, but he makes a brilliant speech explaining why Ludvik has to be punished, and everyone else agrees:

No one spoke on my behalf, and finally everyone present (and there were about a hundred of them, including my teachers and my closest friends), yes, every last one of them raised his hand to approve my expulsion.

And so it went for Guy Earle, hung out to dry by his comrades at the plenary session of the Canadian Collective of Edgy Transgressive Comedians. I speak metaphorically. But, if you’d like something more literal, let’s move south of the border. Recently, Surgery News, the official journal of the American College of Surgeons, published a piece by its editor-in-chief, Lazar Greenfield, examining research into the benefits to women of . . . well, let Dr. Greenfield explain it:

They found ingredients in semen that include mood enhancers like estrone, cortisol, prolactin, oxytocin, and serotonin; a sleep enhancer, melatonin; and, of course, sperm, which makes up only 1%-5%. Delivering these compounds into the richly vascularized vagina also turns out to have major salutary effects for the recipient.

As this was the Valentine’s issue, Dr. Greenfield concluded on a “light-hearted” note:

Now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.

Oh, my. When the complaints started rolling in from lady doctors, Surgery News withdrew the entire issue. All of it. Gone. Then Dr. Greenfield apologized. Then he resigned as editor. Then he apologized some more. Then he resigned as president-elect of the American College of Surgeons. The New York Times solemnly reported that Dr. Barbara Bass, chairwoman of the department of surgery at Methodist Hospital in Houston, declared she was “glad Dr. Greenfield had resigned.” But Dr. Colleen Brophy, professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University, said “the resignation would not end the controversy.”

Dr. Greenfield is one of the most eminent men — whoops, persons — in his profession, and, when it comes to vascularized vaginas, he would appear to have the facts on his side. But, like Ludvik, he made an ideologically unsound joke, and so his career must be ended. An apology won’t cut it, so the thought police were obliged to act: To modify the old line, the operation was a complete success, and the surgeon died.

Years later, Ludvik reflects on the friends and colleagues who voted to destroy him. I wonder if, in the ruins of his reputation, Dr. Greenfield will come to feel as Kundera’s protagonist does:

Since then, whenever I make new acquaintances, men or women with the potential of becoming friends or lovers, I project them back into that time, that hall, and ask myself whether they would have raised their hands; no one has ever passed the test.

Who would have thought all the old absurdist gags of Eastern Europe circa 1948 would transplant themselves to the heart of the West so effortlessly? Indeed, a latter-day Kundera would surely reject as far too obvious a scenario in which lesbians and feminists lean on eunuch males to destroy a man for disrespecting the vascularized vagina by suggesting that semen might have restorative properties. “Give it to me straight, doc. I can take it”? Not anymore. Kundera’s Joke is now on us.

Today's Tune: Rumer - Come Saturday Morning

Carter's cancer all too familiar

Thursday, June 02, 2011


Major League Baseball and its ever truculent players union share a grand tradition of historic disagreement, but perhaps they should consider a collaboration on what now seems inescapably a worthwhile project: looking hard, clinically hard, at the diagnosis of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter.

Inoperable Stage 4 glioblastoma is the published description, and the series of tumors at the back of the 11-time All-Star's brain is a heartbreaking reality for Carter, his family and anyone who reveres his contributions to the national pastime.

Were that not sufficiently sickening, Carter's case is just plain too similar to too many people who were around the game in the 1970s and '80s. Brain cancer has too soon taken from us Tug McGraw, Ken Brett, Dan Quisenberry, Johnny Oates, Dick Howser, John Vukovich, Bobby Murcer and perhaps others whose premature deaths had brain cancer as a secondary condition.

Robert Tufts, a former San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals pitcher who went on to take a Columbia MBA, has discussed this statistical paradox frequently at examiner.com but, if anything, Carter's situation seems only to cloud it.

Some working theories have centered on the artificial playing surfaces in Kansas City and/or Philadelphia, likely because six of the aforementioned deceased played for either the Royals or the Phillies, and five of them -- McGraw, Brett, Quisenberry, Oates and Vukovich, played for teams that reached the 1980 postseason that culminated in a Phillies-Royals World Series.

Carter, obviously, joins Murcer as the only ones on the list with no connection to either the Phillies or Royals, but Carter finished a game short of that same postseason and played in Philadelphia frequently with National League East rivals Montreal and the New York Mets. Murcer also played both stadiums in that same era.

Carter's family indicated this week that "The Kid," as he was called by teammates, will bring the same smiling competitiveness to this fight that he brought to National League baseball over 19 summers.
That's a certainty.

Though he lacked the defensive giftedness of Johnny Bench (as did 100 percent of your humans) and the beauteous switch-hitter's stroke of Ted Simmons, Carter otherwise defined catching excellence in his era.

It's often alleged that baseball writers favor nice guys in their Hall of Fame balloting and that they discriminate against the jerks, so how come Carter hung on the ballot for six years before 78 percent of writers finally agreed he was a Hall of Famer in 2003?

Players genuinely nicer than Carter were very few. Questioning him at his locker during the last days of the 1980 pennant race in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, I was stunned to be offered a beer.

"Well, the thing about that," he was saying to whatever I'd asked, "is that -- hey, wanna beer?"

"No thanks," I lied.

Carter had driven in 101 runs and swatted 29 home runs for those Expos, finishing second in the Most Valuable Player voting to Mike Schmidt. Had the Expos taken two of three from the Phillies on that final weekend and won the division, it might have been different.

Fortunately, Carter's career didn't end without postseason glory. Traded to the Mets for four players in December '84, Carter drove in 205 runs over the next two summers and emerged as the reliably professional leader of the hard-partying Dwight Gooden-Darryl Strawberry-Lenny Dykstra 1986 Mets.

Without Carter, the Mets might not have been able to stretch the Boston Red Sox to a sixth game of that World Series, as it was he who mashed two homers over Fenway's monster in Game 4. It was Carter, with the Mets down to their final strike, who started the two-out rally in the 10th inning of Game 6. He singled to left. It was Carter whose sacrifice fly two innings earlier had erased a 3-2 Red Sox lead. If you make a full disc of everything that has crossed the mind of Bill Buckner in the 25 years since that night, one of them has to be, "If it hadn't been for that Carter ... "

After he retired in '92, Carter started the Gary Carter Foundation, which buttresses the educational needs of underprivileged kids near where he lives in Florida.

God Bless and keep Gary Carter. We should know better than to count him out.

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com. More articles by this author

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11153/1150818-150-0.stm#ixzz1O7qKTRev

WEINER'S PENIS PHOTO DISPUTE TO BE SETTLED IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT

By Ann Coulter
http://www.anncoulter.com/
June 1, 2011

Sometimes I wonder if Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., is too nice for his own good.

An evil swine hacks into Weiner's Twitter account and posts an embarrassing photo of spindly legs topped by a small erect penis draped in dingy gray briefs no male over the age of 11 would wear -- and Anthony just wants to forget the whole thing!

Instead of angrily demanding an investigation like anyone else would, Anthony has gone all St. Francis of Assisi on us.

He doesn't want an investigation! How big-hearted is that? Talk about a forgiving nature! He's almost too magnanimous. I wish I had that kind of forbearance.

Maybe he's ready to live and let live, but speaking as one of Anthony's biggest Twitter followers, I am not. Otherwise, Weiner's hacker is just going to go out and hack and hack again.

So while I admire Anthony's selfless refusal to be "distracted" by this issue, I would urge him to reconsider.

Only a full and complete investigation will show that he had absolutely nothing to do with that humiliating photo of the tiny stub of a male organ sent to a 21-year-old coed from his Twitter address last Friday night.

Anthony needs to remember that hacking is a serious crime. In fact, there probably will have to be a federal investigation whether or not our gentle Anthony requests one.

Another example of Anthony's amazing forbearance is how he has not retaliated against CNN for its malicious editing of Weiner's press conference on Tuesday.

CNN obviously sabotaged the tape to make it look as if he was refusing to answer the simplest, most direct questions. (I confess I did not see the entire conference live; I was too busy sending private messages to the hundreds of college coeds I follow on Twitter, just like Anthony.)

Through sheer trickery, CNN made it appear as if Anthony kept lurching back to the same irrelevant story about a heckler in an audience of 45,000 people.

Anyone could see there was something off about the video because no matter what reporters asked him, CNN kept looping back to that clip of Anthony telling his long, pointless parable about a heckler in an audience and how he'd respond and then demanding that he be allowed to finish, when he obviously had already finished.

This falsely suggested that he was stonewalling reporters. Perhaps the CNN tape was hacked, too.

It's time for Anthony to stand up for himself, if you'll pardon the expres -- Hey, wait a minute! Now my column is being hacked!!! -- and demand an investigation of both the hacker and CNN.

You don't need to apologize for anything, congressman. Your only problem is, you're just too damn nice.

But knowing Anthony, he'll probably forgive CNN. There's a reason why, year in and year out, Anthony Weiner has been voted Congress' most forgiving person.

I try to be a good Christian, but it took Anthony Weiner to show me what true mercy is. I salute you, congressman! ...

The preceding several paragraphs are what we call "irony," i.e. saying one thing while meaning the opposite.

What I meant to say is: OF COURSE ANTHONY WEINER DOESN'T WANT AN INVESTIGATION BECAUSE IT WOULD SHOW THAT HE HIMSELF POSTED THE PHOTO OF HIS SMALL ERECT PENIS.

The reason the congressman is so eager to forgive the hacker is that there is no hacker. He cannot have an investigation for the simple reason that it will show that he posted the photograph himself.

In a panic when he saw he had hit the wrong button and sent a private tweet of his pecker to his entire Twitter following, Weiner blurted out the hacker defense, quickly typing: "FB hacked. Is my blender gonna attack me next?"

Unfortunately, there was no lawyer in the room to tell him: "Don't say that! They'll have to investigate!"

On Sunday, his staff followed up with a press release, saying: "Anthony's accounts were obviously hacked."

So he can't now claim he didn't say it.

After hiring a lawyer, Weiner quickly backpedaled from the "hacker" claim and began insisting, in another press release: "This was a prank. We are loath to treat it as more."
If it was a prank, then why did he hire a lawyer?

Weiner isn't a celebrity: He's a CONGRESSMAN. Whoever can hack into his Twitter account may be able to hack into other congressmen's accounts -- or into Weiner's briefing files from, say, the Department of Defense.

(Indeed, unless the alleged hacker is arrested, who knows how many Anthony Weiner penis shots could start circulating on Twitter?)

But when one of Weiner's colleagues, Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., requested a congressional investigation into cybersecurity based on Weiner's self-proclaimed computer attack on his Twitter account, Weiner denounced and insulted Stearns.

The best Weiner can do now is try to take his utterly humiliating penis photo out of the realm of criminal law by eliding "hacked" into "pranked." Legally, it's not clear what the difference is.

He's stuck angrily announcing that he wants to move on, there's important work to be done, and calling a CNN reporter a "jackass" merely for asking if Weiner sent the penis photo or not.

For a guy who's suddenly taking the position that this was all just a harmless prank, he seemed pretty bent out of shape at that CNN press conference. If that condition persists for more than four hours, congressman, consult your doctor.

COPYRIGHT 2011 ANN COULTER

The Arctic Light

The Arctic Light from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Today's Tune: Dwight Yoakam - Ring of Fire (Live)

Congress Has War Powers, Too


By Andrew C. McCarthy
http://www.nationalreview.com
Jume 1, 2011


Which is worse: bad leadership or no leadership? That’s a question for a Congress that remains AWOL while young Americans continue to be placed in harm’s way in military missions increasingly divorced from American national interests. Like developments in Afghanistan and Iraq that cry out for a public examination of what U.S. forces are doing overseas, President Obama’s incoherent war in Libya brings increasing urgency to the question.
To recap, the president unilaterally ordered air strikes in Libya despite the fact that Moammar Qaddafi’s regime had neither attacked nor threatened the United States and that the regime was considered a valuable American ally in the war on terror by the Obama administration, just as it had been by the Bush administration. Indeed, the Bush State Department had opened the foreign-aid spigot to Qaddafi, and settled past terrorism claims against him, after the dictator forswore the pursuit of nuclear weapons and shared intelligence on al-Qaeda supporters in his country. Those supporters largely hail from eastern Libya, which — surprise! — is now the stronghold of an opposition affectionately called “the rebels” by pro-interventionists. That opposition is better understood as the Libyan mujahideen — Libya having sent more jihadists to fight against American forces in Iraq than any other country proportional to its population.

If you’re not dizzy enough yet, President Obama started out even more enthusiastic about Qaddafi (an Obama admirer) than was his predecessor. Foreign aid, including military aid to the brutal regime, was increased. Moreover, when violent unrest broke out, Obama gave Qaddafi the same kid-gloves treatment he extended to anti-American dictators repressing their opponents in Iran and Syria.

Soon, though, Obama convinced himself that Qaddafi was about to fall. This misimpression was compounded by European pressure (driven by the continent’s dependency on Libyan oil reserves) and by what Victor Davis Hanson sagely diagnosed as a desire to avoid being seen as once again trailing rather than leading events, as in the case of Egypt. All this together induced a lethal flip-turn, and the president announced that it was time for Qaddafi to go.

Yet, Obama’s unprovoked military offensive, in conjunction with NATO, is ostensibly divorced from this stated American goal. We began attacking Qaddafi’s forces and his compound while disavowing any intention to oust him. We are there only to protect civilians, administration officials maintain. Meanwhile, attacks against Qaddafi intensify, “rebel” atrocities against black Africans are ignored, and intervention hawks like Sen. John McCain (until recently a supporter of the U.S. embrace of Qaddafi) advocate that the rebels be armed and trained, notwithstanding their known terrorism ties.

Obama did not seek congressional authorization to commence combat operations in Libya. In compliance with the 1973 War Powers Act (WPA), however, he notified Congress about his commitment of U.S. forces. This triggered the 60-day time limit within which the WPA instructs a president to either obtain congressional approval or withdraw U.S. forces. That deadline came and went on May 21 with no congressional authorization and no movement to wind down the mission — even though, when he began bombing, Obama had assured Americans that the mission would last “days, not weeks.”

The WPA is probably unconstitutional. It was enacted over the veto of an embattled Pres. Richard Nixon, and, ever since, presidents of both parties have regarded it as non-binding, though they have substantially complied with its terms to avoid a constitutional showdown. I could exhaust you with a couple of thousand words on the relative merits of the arguments pro and con, but that would be pointless, for two reasons. First, WPA disputes between the political branches are not justiciable. The federal courts are not going to intervene, certainly not with a left-wing Democrat in the White House. Such controversies were meant by the Framers to be worked out politically, not by resort to the courts.

Which gets us to the second and more important point: The WPA is craven. It is designed to allow Congress to carp from the sidelines or stay silent without being accountable. Presidents are implicitly encouraged to initiate hostilities, and the issue becomes whether they comply with the WPA’s arbitrary deadlines. Of course, in the absence of an attack (or at least the threat of an attack) on the United States, presidents should never take the nation to war without the approval of the people’s representatives; the salient issue in debates over the use of force is whether war is necessary to advance some vital American interest. If the stakes involve something important enough to go to war over, fidgeting over 60-day time frames is frivolous.

The WPA is sideshow. The Framers vested Congress with not only the power to declare war but also with the power of the purse. Federal legislators don’t need to wait 60 days. They can vote at any time to deny public funds to a presidentially initiated war, and they can deny the aggression political legitimacy by voting against the use of force. But such congressional action requires leadership rather than gamesmanship. With rare exceptions, today’s lawmakers would rather lie low in the tall grass.

Our young men and women deserve much better. In the absence of congressional debate over the Libyan intervention, the administration has not been compelled to clarify American goals. If the true objective is protecting civilians, how does doing so in Libya advance American interests? Are there limiting principles, or is our financially strapped nation now obliged to be the world’s policeman and, ultimately, the world’s nation-builder? Why Libya but not Iran, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Bahrain, Sudan, etc.? And if, as Stanley Kurtz persuasively argues, the Obama administration is stealthily sowing a novel “responsibility to protect” doctrine into international law, what are its ramifications? Why wouldn’t it, for example, justify other uninvolved nations to impose their policy preferences on American allies (such as Israel) under the cover of protecting “oppressed civilians” (such as the Palestinians)?

The road to jihadist terror is paved from here to Afghanistan, Gaza, and Kosovo with good intentions toward besieged Muslim “rebels” who invariably turn out to be virulently anti-Western and allied with Islamic militants. How do we know Libya is not a rerun of that costly error?

With a few honorable exceptions, Congress is sitting on its hands rather than pressing for answers. Meanwhile, President Obama takes the imperial presidency to warmaking heights George W. Bush would have been flayed for even contemplating, much less trying. The antiwar Left has gone mute — proving yet again that its main objection is not to war but to commanders-in-chief whose names are followed by the designation “R.” The Republican leadership is feckless — making very little noise, and doing even less.

As we learned in the Bush years, lawmakers love to yap about Congress’s constitutional war power. That power, however, is a duty not a debating point. It’s a duty on which the current Congress is derelict.

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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Profits of doom

By KYLE SMITH
New York Post
http://www.nypost.com
May 29, 2011

Ha ha. Harold Camping — what an idiot! He predicted the end of the world on May 21. Last week, the Christian radio station owner said he was kind of right, though no one else noticed, and anyway the judgin’ will continue until (new date!) Oct. 21 of this year, when the world really and truly will be destroyed, probably.

What you didn’t know is that after his loony prediction, Camping was promoted to full professor at Stanford and rewarded with adoring mainstream press coverage, more than a dozen appearances on “The Tonight Show,” prestigious awards and praise from the Obama administration’s chief science advisor.

Sorry, I got one detail wrong. It wasn’t Camping who reaped those earthly rewards for his cosmic wackiness. It was Paul Ehrlich.

In his psychedelically doomy 1968 catastrophe tract, “The Population Bomb,” Ehrlich argued that birthrates were out of control and would cause worldwide crisis.

He came by this not through Divine Revelation but through Divine Equation, a k a the liberal scripture of pseudo-science. Ehrlich “calculated” using the equation I = P x A x T. This means that Human Impact (I) on environment equals the product of Population, Affluence and Technology.

No room for imprecision there!

Conclusion: “In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death . . . nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the human death rate.” Ehrlich predicted England would cease to exist by 2000. (N.B. he meant the whole country, not just that pathetic soccer squad.)

In 1970 he thundered, “In 10 years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.” He boomed that by 1980, life expectancy in the US would decline to 42 years.

Not quite getting the message, the world population both a) continued to grow and b) lived longer and healthier than ever.

Ehrlich has groused that he was kinda sorta right, and the worst you can say is that, like preacherman Camping, he was a little early.

President Obama’s point man on science, John Holdren, is an Ehrlich man. A text version of a speech Holdren gave in 2006 was accompanied by a footnote in which he praised Ehrlich’s call to end population growth “a key insight

. . . the elementary but discomfiting truth of it may account for the vast amount of ink, paper and angry energy that has been expended trying in vain to refute it.”

There are Ehrlich-men everywhere, and that ehrlich is German for honest just makes it so much richer, doesn’t it?

In 1970, when the first Earth Day caused the first spike in atmospheric baloney, Life “reported” that “In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution . . . by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half . . .” (Note to younger readers: Visible smog was the thing we were all afraid of before we became afraid of invisible carbon emissions.)

Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson wrote at the time, quoting with approval Dr. S. Dillon Ripley of the Smithsonian Institute, that “In 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80% of all the species of living animals will be extinct.” Time quoted ecologist Kenneth Watt as saying there wouldn’t be any crude oil left by 2000. A scientist named Harrison Brown at the National Academy of Sciences said the world would be out of lead, zinc, copper, tin, gold and silver by now.

“Dead Heat” author Michael Oppenheimer, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, said in 1990 that by 1996, the greenhouse effect “would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots . . . a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers.” More recently he said, “On the whole I would stand by these predictions.”

Dr. David Viner, senior research scientist at England’s climatic research unit of the University of East Anglia, said in 2000 that because of global warming, within a few years, “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is” and flurries will be “a very rare and exciting event.” Heavy snowfall in England last year was, of course, also attributed to global warming.

Scientists love to see their names in print, don’t they? Coincidentally, they also love grant money, book deals, awards. The easiest way to obtain these things is by alarmism. No one ever made a buck saying, “The situation in the future will be pretty similar to what it is now.”

All Harold Camping has to do to be treated as a genuine visionary is to change the words at the beginning of his doom sermons from “the Bible says” to “science says.”

Kyle.Smith@nypost.com

Today's Tune: The Killers - When You Were Young (Live)

Egypt Rushes Toward Sharia and War

by Robert Spencer
http://www.humanevents.com 
05/31/2011

A man tears up a poster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as several hundred pro-Islamic demonstrators hold a protest in show of solidarity with protestors in Egypt, after Friday prayers outside the Beyazit Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Feb. 4, 2011.(AP Photo/Ibrahim Usta)

How hopelessly at odds with America’s best interests is Barack Obama? Less than two weeks ago he declared his support for “political and economic reform in the Middle East,” warmly endorsing the “Arab Spring” uprisings there. Then Sunday, Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Hazem Abu Ismail announced his candidacy for the presidency of Egypt, promising to transform Egypt into an Islamic state and go to war with Israel. Reform that would indeed be, but not the kind any American president should be applauding.

Maybe Obama is still listening to his ruinously incompetent Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who at the height of the Egyptian uprising characterized the Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular.” Secular they’re not, but they’re certainly influential, and Obama knows it: he specifically requested that Muslim Brotherhood representatives attend his speech in Cairo in June 2009. Speaking in a mosque on Saturday, Abu Ismail said that he was confident of victory -- precisely because, unlike the other candidates, he presented a clear call to institute Islamic law in Egypt. “Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi, the liberal candidates, will be unable to present a clear vision.”

Abu Ismail was sure all Egyptians would love his pro-Sharia platform: “If I could apply sharia in Egypt, all people, including non-Muslims, would applaud me four years later.” He dismissed all who opposed him as perverts and libertines: “We seek to apply Islamic law, but those who don’t want it prefer cabarets, alcohol, dancers and prostitution, as the implementation of Islamic law will prohibit women to appear naked in movies and on beaches.”

He also promised to go to war with Israel: “The Camp David peace treaty is insulting to the Egyptian people, so it must be canceled, and I will do my best to convince people to cancel it.” Abu Ismail made this pledge as Egypt reopened the Rafah crossing -- the only official point of entry into Gaza other than from inside Israel. Egypt had closed it in 2007 after Hamas took power in Gaza, as part of its uneasy observance of the Camp David Accords, since the Rafah crossing had been an easy route into Israel for jihadis and their weapons suppliers.

But now it appears that peace with Israel is no longer such a high priority. And it is no wonder that Abu Ismail thinks ripping up the Camp David accords is a winning issue. Last week the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi predicted that the “Arab Spring” would lead to the destruction of Israel. Clearly he knows the direction of events in Egypt: man-on-the-street interviews conducted during the Egyptian uprisings found ordinary Egyptians explaining that they hated Mubarak was that he maintained peace with Israel. “He is supporting Israel. Israel is our enemy,” protestors explained. “If people are free in Egypt...they gonna destroy Israel.” Many demonstrators carried posters of Mubarak with a Star of David drawn on his forehead.

In January, Mohamed Ghanem, another Muslim Brotherhood leader, said in an interview on Iran’s Al-Alam television station that Egypt should prepare to go to war with Israel. That same month, Iran’s Press TV interviewed an Egyptian international lawyer Marwan al-Ashaal, who explained the popular discontent with Mubarak as a direct consequence of his keeping the peace with Israel: “The American-Egyptian relationships were based on Israeli security and I think Mubarak has been very dedicated to Israeli security more even than to his own people's security or the national interests.” Al-Ashaal claimed that “we see the deals with Israel that provoked people and took them to the edge.” He declared that Egypt is “never going to be a friend of Israel.”

Whether or not Abu Ismail is elected President of Egypt, the opening of the Rafah crossing indicates that Egypt has decided to adopt a belligerent stance toward Israel, and more is certain to come as Egypt marches toward Sharia. Obama in his recent Mideast policy speech proclaimed his ardent support for “free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law.” There is, however, no indication that the revolutions in the Middle East will lead to regimes that will have any interest in protecting any of those rights.

Hazem Abu Ismail’s presidential campaign in Egypt is just the latest indication that when it comes to analyzing the “Arab Spring,” the Obama Administration is engaged yet again in fantasy-based policymaking.


Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad, Stealth Jihad and The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran (all from Regnery-a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

Energy Myths of the Left

The Energy Spectator


From confused "peak oil" theorists to confused Congressmen, it's all but impossible to hear a discussion of US energy policy without hearing the left's tired refrain: "The United States currently uses 25% of the world oil production but has only 2% of world reserves." The left uses this misinformation to argue against domestic oil drilling, claiming that with only two percent of the world's reserves, we can't possibly have enough oil in the ground to matter.

It's a line which reminds me of Mark Twain's wisdom (which he attributed to Benjamin Disraeli) that "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." Twain would be proud of these haters of fossil fuels whose "statistics" fall apart upon examination of a couple of definitions and a few pieces of data.

First, the word "reserves." As the Congressional Research Service notes, there are several different types of reserves, classified based on their official discovery, as well as "concentration, quality, and accessibility." The top of the "resource pyramid" is made of "proved" reserves, namely reserves of oil, natural gas, coal, or other fuel "which geological and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions."

This is the most limiting definition of reserves, and of course it is the one which the left relies on when saying that we have "only two percent of the world's oil reserves." Specifically, the U.S. has 20.7 billion barrels of proved crude oil reserves as of the end 2009. (That's actually up from 2008 numbers which by itself should be a clue how meaningless the left's two-percent argument is.)

The problem with the use of the "proved reserves" statistic is that it ignores the many more billions of barrels of oil which we know exist and are likely to be recoverable on American land and just off our coasts. Since our government prevents exploration, there are massive deposits of oil (and other fuels) which are prevented from being measured adequately to be defined as "proved." But that doesn't make them less real.

A broader measure of fossil fuel deposits is UTRR, undiscovered technically recoverable resources. Marcus Koblitz, energy analyst at the American Petroleum Institute, sent me this "short" definition of the term: "UTRR are estimated byUSGSand/or BOEMRE using advanced modeling techniques that apply knowledge of geologic formations and technical access capabilities to currently unexplored formations that are similar to producing formations in order to determine the amount of oil and natural gas in a specific area or basin."

The UTRR numbers are remarkably high for the United States; indeed they demolish the left's anti-drilling pseudo-logic. Or they would if the media's talking heads would stop just accepting the 2% lie-statistic.

In particular, the United States' UTRR for onshore oil is currently about 38 billion barrels, with the offshore technically recoverable resources coming in at a stunning 86 billion barrels. (Of this, just over half is in the Gulf of Mexico, a third in Alaska, and the rest off our Pacific and Atlantic coasts.) Our real but not "proved" resource of oil is thus about 125 billion barrels. Furthermore, the offshore numbers are based on a report that used data from 2003, at which time oil discovery and drilling technology were far behind what they are today, the BP disaster notwithstanding. It is likely that a new survey would conclude with a substantially higher UTRR number.

Even with the outdated offshore figures, the U.S.'s total technically recoverable oil, including current proved reserves and 10 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, is estimated by our government at 163 billion barrels, eight times the number thrown around by the left.

Yes, our total recoverable oil reserves (including proved) are at least eight times our proved reserves alone. It's just that government keeps us from proving them. And if that's not enough, our UTRR for natural gas is five times our proven reserves of that resource.

Using only the proved oil reserve number of 20.8 billion barrels, the U.S. ranks 12th in the world in that category. However, America's UTRR of oil and natural gas combined is likely the largest in the world. (Although Saudi Arabia has more oil than we do, the majority of it is already classified as proved.) Current data for other nations is difficult to find, but a U.S. Geological Survey report from 2000 (and again, this is likely to be pessimistic from a U.S. perspective) showed the U.S. to have about one-eighth of the world's UTRR of oil, and even a larger share of the world's natural gas UTRR.

Thus, ranking by UTRR would put the U.S. roughly around fifth in the world for oil alone. Including all fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), the U.S. probably has the world's largest total energy resources and is certainly in the top three. I bet you won't hear that from a Congressman anytime soon (or at least not a Democratic Congressman). Unfortunately, you won't hear it even on "fair and balanced" news channels, allowing an important distortion in the critical debate over our nation's energy policy.

There are broader discussions to be had about substitution possibilities among natural gas, oil, and coal and the appropriate use of the three. What needs to be remembered, however, as we discuss an "all of the above" energy strategy for the nation is that America has abundant endowments of each. For at least a generation the U.S. will not and cannot substantially reduce its use of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel made from oil. It's fortunate, then, that we have so much more oil than the anti-drilling left would like us to believe since solar, wind, and biomass will not and cannot be competitive with the reliability or efficiency of fossil fuels. (Nuclear power is, but following the disaster in Japan, that debate is probably off the table for at least a couple of years.)

Now let's address the other part of the liberal misinformation, namely the statement that America uses 25% of the world's oil. It's true that total consumption of energy by the U.S. hovered around 24% from 1990 through 2000. It's been steadily declining since then as India and China's economic growth increase their absolute and relative share of energy use. In 2007, the U.S. used about 20.5% of the world's energy. It's estimated to drop to 18% by 2020 as the developing world actually develops.

But the energy use figure tells you almost nothing by itself. After all, energy is used to do things and to make things. It's the key input into economic output. Therefore, a sensible question is: "What percentage of the world's GDP does America produce?"

The answer, according to government data, is that the U.S. share of world GDP has been in a narrow range around 27%-28% since 1990 and is forecast to drop to about 24% by 2020. We produce more of the world's GDP than we use of the world's energy. By comparison, in 2007, China used almost 16% of the world's energy to produce 7.4% of the world's GDP. China is expected to surpass the U.S. in total energy use in about 5 years. At that time, it will produce an estimated 9% of the world's GDP.

The U.S.'s use of energy is remarkably efficient, and particularly in comparison to what the world is about to experience from China and India in coming years. If environmentalists are worried about the dangers of carbon dioxide (aka "plant food") now, just wait until they get their wish and the U.S. is using relatively less of the world's energy.

The left's mantra that the U.S. "has only two percent of the world's oil reserves but uses a quarter of the world's oil production" reminds me of another Mark Twain quip: "Carlyle said 'a lie cannot live.' It shows that he did not know how to tell them." The anti-capitalist left and their useful idiot-parrots in Congress and the media know how to tell the lie about America's energy resources, and tell it often enough that it has become common, though incorrect, wisdom.

Ross Kaminsky is a self-employed trader and investor and is a fellow of the Heartland Institute. He blogs at Rossputin.com and is the host of Backbone Radio on Sunday evenings.

Jim Tressel resigns at Ohio State having paid the price for his sins of omission

By Bill Livingston
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
http://www.cleveland.com/sports/
May 31, 2011

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel watches his team from the sideline as quarterback Terrelle Pryor looks on during an NCAA college football Spring Game, Saturday, April 23, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio.(AP)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The greatest football coach at Ohio State since Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel leaves under the cloud of scandal, just as Hayes did in 1978.

The difference between the two is that Hayes was fired after he lost his temper and threw a punch in the Gator Bowl on national television at a Clemson player named Charlie Bauman. Tressel's wrongdoing was private until Ohio State officials unearthed incriminating emails and phone records in the coach's cover-up of the memorabilia sale scandal. It was deliberate. It was a calculated attempt to evade the rules by playing ineligible players.

Woody Hayes was a genuine educator who was brought down by his emotions. His fall was almost preordained by highly public tantrums in the past.

Tressel's downfall surprised true believers who felt his sins of omission in the monitoring of first Maurice Clarett, then Troy Smith and finally Terrelle Pryor and the rest of the memorabilia hawkers were aberrations, not the norm. Those who knew Tressel were skeptical of this.

His every hair was always in place. His American flag pin was always skewered to a stylish lapel. His organizational skills were formidable. His planning was impeccable. Negligence was not an option in his lifestyle.

But hypocrisy proved to be.

Tressel, too, was an educator. The academic record of the football team improved dramatically after the shambles of his predecessor, John Cooper.

Tressel also wrote books, teaching life lessons. His latest is "The Winner's Manual: For the Game of Life." Released by a Christian publisher, it includes inspirational stories and the "Block O of Life," a Buckeye take on the late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden's "Pyramid of Success." Nowhere in it does Tressel suggest that withholding information on player wrongdoing from superiors, lying to the NCAA in writing, and knowingly playing ineligible players are behaviors worthy to be emulated.

From the start, Tressel promised strict accountability for wrongdoers. "The only excuse for missing a class is a death in the family -- your own," he said in his role as the new sheriff in town on the day he was hired.

The accountability was always overstated for the players, though.

Tressel was in the business of winning football games. The inattention that verged on willful ignorance of Clarett's lavish lifestyle was followed by "Minimum Jim's" absurdly lenient one-game suspension of linebacker Robert Reynolds in 2003 for choking Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi on the bottom of a pile of tacklers. It was a mean, nasty game on both sides of the ball, with players spitting at each other, but that is no excuse for such a dirty play nor is it justification for such a ridiculously light penalty. OSU was still in the hunt to defend its national championship then, and expediency trumped severity in punishment.

For nine months in 2010 and early 2011, Tressel covered up the particulars of the memorabilia sale scandal. He signed a preseason NCAA form, averring that he knew of no rules violations. He emailed and telephoned star quarterback Terrelle Pryor's hometown mentor, as well as the Columbus whistle-blower who alerted him to the scandal. He said he was uncertain whom to contact at Ohio State with the same information, although the compliance office and that of his boss, Athletic Director Gene Smith, were only steps away in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Tressel's alleged motives for the cover-up -- the players' safety, confidentiality for the tipster, chain-of-command uncertainty -- seemed to shift and change with every telling, like the earth above a growling, buckling fault line.

It is hard to ascribe lofty motives to his duplicity. Tressel thought last season that the Buckeyes were going back to the BCS Championship Game, the "little hump" over which Pryor promised to get him. The hump would have looked like the Himalayas without the five players involved in the memorabilia scandal.

Arrogance, not good intentions, finally undid Tressel. He thought he could get away with the cover-up because he had gotten away, untainted, in the other scandals that involved his elite players, both at Ohio State and Youngstown State before that. Powerful men have been tripping over that little hump since the ancient Greek playwrights made "hubris," or pride, the tragic flaw of great men.

Now it has all crumbled. The "death in the family" was the exile of the man who was the face of the flagship program in an iconic conference's flagship sport.

Ohio State's reputation is damaged, after only grudgingly increasing a series of wrist-slap measures to him. The chance is gone for the second national championship that would have put Tressel in a tie with Joe Paterno and other elite coaches, and in far less time than the almost geological scale of the Penn State coach's career.

In flames is Tressel's legacy as a winner with a moral compass and the Big Ten's view of its own exceptionalism in ethical conduct.

On the field, Tressel was indisputably a great coach. He was 9-1 against Michigan. It was a Christmas present record, only to be dreamed of before him, a vision dancing like sugar plums in Ohio State fans' heads.

The Michigan program went through convulsive changes when it committed to the doctrinaire game plan of a spread offense guru named Rich Rodriguez. But Tressel arrived at OSU in the noon-time of coach Lloyd Carr's ascension, on the heels of John Cooper's atrocious 2-10-1 record against Michigan. Tressel soon eclipsed Carr and drove him into retirement.

A conservative man, often criticized for buttoning down his players' flair when he got the lead, Tressel in fact used surprise plays to win some of his biggest games.

In 2002, the only option play Ohio State used all season, originating in a formation inviting Michigan to overshift the wrong way, resulted in Maurice Hall's 2-yard game-winning run with Craig Krenzel's pitchout.

In the epic 2006 Michigan game, pitting No. 1 OSU vs. No. 2 Michigan, on second-and-inches at the Michigan 39 -- from a formation heavy with tight ends, power blockers and thundering running back Beanie Wells -- Troy Smith faked to Wells and threw to a wide-open Ted Ginn Jr., hiding as a tight end, for a critical touchdown. All season, OSU had run Wells up the middle from that formation in short yardage, but this time, on a quick count, Ginn went unobserved by the Wolverines' defense. A season of patiently setting up Michigan for one moment and one play had been rewarded.

A breakneck, hurry-up offense for the entire first half staked the Buckeyes to a halftime lead that barely held up in Tressel's last game, a thrilling Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas.

After Tressel's fall, a lot of northeast Ohioans are hurting. Tressel was one of our own. The son of a coaching father, Lee Tressel, who himself won a Division III national championship at Baldwin-Wallace, Jim Tressel was connected to the fans by shared loyalties to Cleveland teams and a lifelong fascination with Cleveland sports legends. As a boy, Tressel held the ball when no less than Lou "The Toe" Groza, his neighbor in Berea, practiced kicking field goals.

In Ohio, the birthplace of the NFL, the forum for the Buckeyes' 60 years of Big Ten dominance, football is hard-wired into the populace. Jim Tressel was practically part of the game's DNA. He was an underdog, hauled from the old Division I-AA ranks at Youngstown State, in an unheard-of promotion for a school as prominent as Ohio State. His best team, in 2002, won half its 14 games by a touchdown or less, coming from behind time and again, and won the national championship in double overtime over the Miami Hurricanes, the era's dynasty.

It was Tressel who puffed Cleveland fans' chests with pride after all the years of downtrodden teams and disappointed sports hopes. The Impossible Dream had become the art of the possible.

The only evidence in Tressel's defense was not to exculpate, but to mitigate. Tressel has done good work out of the limelight for good causes for years. He has touched many players' lives and made a positive difference to many people outside the white lines as well.

Fiercely patriotic, he has visited the troops in the Middle East. He could summon many character witnesses to his substantial acts of generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness. Tressel took Ohio State to heights unscaled since Hayes was the coach. Of course Tressel, like Hayes, was not without flaws. Neither angel nor demon, Tressel is only a human being. Still, on the question of his active involvement in a major ethics scandal, he is really, most sincerely guilty.

Many coaches in the past probably handled player violations in the same way. But the times have changed, and the mania to say "Gotcha!" in the media has intensified. The time for Tressel's own accountability arrived today.

That such grubby, small violations by his players led to Tressel's resignation saddens those of us who liked and admired him. A good man in many ways, Tressel had to pay with the things he valued most, outside his family and his faith -- his job and his reputation.

On Twitter: @LivyPD

Related:

Sports Illustrated Cover Article: "How Deep it Went" -
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/magazine/05/30/jim.tressel/index.html?eref=sihp&sct=hp_t11_a5

Monday, May 30, 2011

What We Might Remember This Memorial Day

Our willingness to intervene overseas has made the world a better place.

By Victor Davis Hanson
http://www.nationalreview.com
May 30, 2011 4:00 A.M.

The world is a better place because Adolf Hitler did not preserve his conquest of the European continent, and because the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere of Hideki Tojo and his militarists imploded at Midway, Guadalcanal, and Okinawa. Italy and the Mediterranean were far better off without Benito Mussolini and his mad plans for a renewed but debased Roman Empire, which ended on his own Italian soil at exotic-named places like Anzio and Monte Cassino.

The dream of Soviet rulers from Stalin to Brezhnev was a global gulag overseen from the blood-stained Communist Kremlin. It ended only through the 50-year deterrence of the American military. South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan are somehow still free and independent — and would not be without American carriers, jets, and submarines.

Our generation’s own rogues’ gallery of killers — Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Manuel Noriega, and the Taliban — have lost their tyrannies. If South America chooses to become Communist, it will be by its own volition and not because of an unfettered cross-border invasion from Cuba, Nicaragua, or Venezuela. Even our enemies can export or import oil freely from the Middle East without worries of armed intervention or piracy — as long as an American carrier is nearby in the Gulf.

It seems as if the more Europe disarms and gnashes at the United States, the more we are there when it needs us. If an ascendant China decides to bully Japan or Taiwan in earnest, only one country can thwart it. No one will call the European Union or Russia should North Korea tomorrow cross the 38th parallel or Iran decide to launch a missile. If Turkey rearranges the border in Cyprus or claims airspace over the mid-Aegean, anti-American Greece will turn pro-American. There will be no second Holocaust, in part because of American military support for Israel.

The list of American wars, interventions, and campaigns, past and present, is endless — a source of serial political acrimony here at home over the human and financial cost and wisdom of spending American lives to better others. Sometimes we feel we are not good when we are not perfect, whether trying to stop a Stalinist North Vietnamese takeover of the south, or failing to secure Iraq before 2008. But the common story remains the same: For nearly a century, the American soldier has often been the last, indeed the only, impediment to butchery, enslavement, and autocracy.

It was the custom of great leaders from Pericles to Napoleon to declare that the graves of their soldiers in far-off foreign soils were testaments to their nations’ grandeur, power, and reach; yet our white crosses in American cemeteries from Epinal, St.-Mihiel, and Normandy to Manila, Tunisia, and Sicily are tributes to American military courage and competency — and a willingness to see an end to wars that brutal men started and might have won had our youth not crossed the seas.

We should remember all that in the present age of cynicism and nihilism, recalling that nothing has really changed, as some Americans this Memorial Day seek to foster something better than Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and Moammar Qaddafi. Behind every American soldier, dozens of their countrymen tonight sleep soundly — and hundreds more in their shadow abroad will wake up alive and safe.

—Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of  The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.
 © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.