Saturday, April 14, 2012

Buying ‘Buffett Rule' makes you a fool

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
http://www.ocregister.com/
April 13, 2012



In the end, free societies get the governments they deserve. So, if the American people wish to choose their chief executive on the basis of the "war on women," the Republican theocrats' confiscation of your contraceptives, or whatever other mangy and emaciated rabbit the Great Magician produces from his threadbare topper, they are free to do so, and they will live with the consequences. This week's bit of ham-handed misdirection was "the Buffett Rule," a not-so-disguised capital-gains tax hike designed to ensure that Warren Buffett pays as much tax as his secretary. If the alleged Sage of Omaha is as exercised about this as his public effusions would suggest, I'd be in favor of repealing the prohibition on Bills of Attainder, and the old boy could sleep easy at night. But instead every other American "millionaire" will be subject to the new rule – because, as President Obama said this week, it "will help us close our deficit."

Wow! Who knew it was that easy?

A-hem. According to the Congressional Budget Office (the same nonpartisan bean counters who project that on Obama's current spending proposals the entire U.S. economy will cease to exist in 2027) Obama's Buffett Rule will raise – stand well back – $3.2 billion per year. Or what the United States government currently borrows every 17 hours. So in 514 years it will have raised enough additional revenue to pay off the 2011 federal budget deficit. If you want to mark it on your calendar, 514 years is the year 2526. There's a sporting chance Joe Biden will have retired from public life by then, but other than that I'm not making any bets.

Let's go back to that presidential sound bite:

"It will help us close our deficit."

I'm beginning to suspect that the Oval Office teleprompter may be malfunctioning, or that perhaps that NBC News producer who "accidentally" edited George Zimmerman into sounding like a racist has now edited the smartest president of all time into sounding like an idiot. Either way, it appears the last seven words fell off the end of the sentence. What the president meant to say was:

"It will help us close our deficit ... for 2011 ... within a mere half-millennium!" [Pause for deafening cheers and standing ovation.]

Sometimes societies become too stupid to survive. A nation that takes Barack Obama's current rhetorical flourishes seriously is certainly well advanced along that dismal path. The current federal debt burden works out at about $140,000 per federal taxpayer, and President Obama is proposing to increase both debt and taxes. Are you one of those taxpayers? How much more do you want added to your $140,000 debt burden? As the Great Magician would say, pick a number, any number. Sorry, you're wrong. Whatever you're willing to bear, he's got more lined up for you.

Even if you're absolved from federal income tax, you, too, require enough people willing to keep the racket going, and America is already pushing forward into territory the rest of the developed world is steering well clear of. On April Fools' Day, Japan and the United Kingdom both cut their corporate tax rates, leaving the United States even more of an outlier, with the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world: The top rate of federal corporate tax in the US is 35 percent. It's 15 percent in Canada. Which is next door.

Well, who cares about corporations? Only out-of-touch dilettante playboys like Mitt Romney who – hmm, let's see what I can produce from the bottom of the top hat – put his dog on the roof of his car as recently as 1984! That's where your gran'ma will be under the Republicans' plan, while your contraceptiveless teenage daughter is giving birth on the hood. "Corporations are people, my friend," said Mitt, in what's generally regarded as a damaging sound bite by all the smart people who think Obama's plan to use the Buffett Rule to "close the deficit" this side of the fourth millennium is a stroke of genius.

But Mitt's not wrong. In the end, a corporation doesn't pay tax. The marble atrium of Global MegaCorp's corporate HQ is indifferent to the tax rate; the Articles of Incorporation in the bottom drawer of the chairman's desk couldn't care less. Every dollar of "corporate" tax has to be fished out the pocket of a real flesh-and-blood human being, whether shareholder, employee or customer.

And that's the problem. For what Obama's spending, there aren't enough of them, or us, or "the rich" – and there never will be. There is only one Warren Buffett. He is the third-wealthiest person on the planet. The first is a Mexican, and beyond the reach of the U.S. Treasury. Mr. Buffett is worth $44 billion. If he donated the entire lot to the Government of the United States, they would blow through it within four-and-a-half days. OK, so who's the fourth-richest guy? He's French. And the fifth guy's a Spaniard. No. 6 six is Larry Ellison. He's American, but that loser is only worth $36 billion. So he and Buffett between them could keep the United States Government going for a week. The next-richest American is Christy Walton of Wal-Mart, and she's barely a semi-Buffett. So her $25 billion will see you through a couple of days of the second week. There aren't a lot of other semi-Buffetts, but, if you scrounge around, you can rustle up some hemi-demi-semi-Buffetts: If you confiscate the total wealth of the Forbes 400 richest Americans it comes to $1.5 trillion, which is just a little less than the Obama budget deficit for year.

But there are a lot of "millionaires," depending on how you define it. Jerry Brown, California's reborn Gov. Moonbeam, defines his "millionaire's tax" as applying to anybody who earns more than $250,000 a year. "Anybody who makes $250,000 becomes a millionaire very quickly," he explained. "You just need four years." This may be the simplest wealth creation advice since Bob Hope was asked to respond back in 1967 to reports that he was worth half-a-billion dollars. "Anyone can do it," said Hope. "All you have to do is save a million dollars a year for 500 years."

It's that easy, folks! Like President Obama says, all you have to do to pay off his 2011 deficit is save $3.2 billion a year for 500 years.

He thinks you're stupid. Warren Buffett thinks you're stupid. Maybe you are. But not everyone is. And America's foreign debtors understand that "the Buffett Rule" is just another pathetic sleight of hand en route to the collapse of the U.S. dollar, and of American society shortly thereafter.

When he's not talking up his buddy Warren, the Half-Millennium Man has been staggering around demonizing Paul Ryan's plan, which would lead, he says, to the end of the weather service, air traffic control, national parks, law enforcement, and drinkable water. Given what's at stake, you might think then that the president would have an alternative plan. But he has none, save for his proposal to pay off the 2011 federal deficit by the year 2526. The Obama No-Plan plan means the end of everything. That really ought to be the only slogan the Republicans need this fall:

What's your plan?

And all you hear are crickets chirping.

But don't worry, they're federally funded crickets, chirping at a research facility in North Carolina investigating whether there's any correlation between chirping crickets and the inability of America's political institutions to effect meaningful course correction.

Hey, relax. The Buffett Rule will pick up the tab.

©MARK STEYN

Free-lunch egalitarianism

By
The Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/
April 13, 2012


Here we go again.

At the beginning of his presidency, Barack Obama argued that the country’s spiraling debt was largely the result of exploding health-care costs. That was true. He then said the cure for these exploding costs would be his health-care reform. That was not true.

It was obvious at the time that it could never be true. If government gives health insurance to 33 million uninsured, that costs. Costs a lot. There is no free lunch.

Now we know. The Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimate is that Obamacare will add $1.76 trillion in federal expenditures through 2022. And, as one of the Medicare trustees has just made clear, if you don’t double count the $575 billion set aside for the Medicare trust fund, Obamacare adds to the already crushing national debt.

Three years later, we are back to smoke and mirrors. This time it’s not health care but the Buffett Rule, which would impose a minimum 30 percent effective tax rate on millionaires. Here is how Obama introduced it last September:

“Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a [higher] tax rate than Warren Buffett. . . . And that basic principle of fairness, if applied to our tax code, could raise enough money” to “stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade. . . . This is not politics; this is math.”

Okay. Let’s do the math. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates this new tax would yield between $4 billion and $5 billion a year. If we collect the Buffett tax for the next 250 years — a span longer than the life of this republic — it would not cover the Obama deficit for 2011 alone.

As an approach to our mountain of debt, the Buffett Rule is a farce. And yet Obama repeated the ridiculous claim again this week. “It will help us close our deficit.” Does he really think we’re that stupid?

Hence the fallback: The Buffett Rule is a first step in tax reform. On the contrary. It’s a substitute for tax reform, an evasion of tax reform. In three years, Obama hasn’t touched tax (or, for that matter, entitlement) reform, and clearly has no intention to. The Buffett Rule is nothing but a form of redistributionism that has vanishingly little to do with debt reduction and everything to do with reelection.

As such, it’s clever. It deftly channels the sentiment underlying Occupy Wall Street (original version, before its slovenly, whiny, aggressive weirdness made it politically toxic). It perfectly pits the 99 percent against the 1 percent. Indeed, it is OWS translated into legislation, something the actual occupiers never had the wit to come up with.

Clever politics, but in terms of economics, it’s worse than useless. It’s counterproductive. The reason Buffett and Mitt Romney pay roughly 15 percent in taxes is that their income is principally capital gains. The Buffett Rule is, in fact, a disguised tax hike on capital gains. But Obama prefers to present it as just an alternative minimum tax because 50 years of economic history show that raising the capital gains tax backfires: It reduces federal revenue, while lowering the tax raises revenue.

No matter. Obama had famously said in 2008 that even if that’s the case, he’d still raise the capital gains tax — for the sake of fairness.

For Obama, fairness is the supreme social value. And fairness is what he is running on — although he is not prepared to come clean on its price. Or even acknowledge that there is a price. Instead, Obama throws in a free economic lunch for all. “This is not just about fairness,” he insisted on Wednesday. “This is also about growth.”

Growth? The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. Now, in the middle of a historically weak recovery, Obama wants to raise our capital gains tax to the fourth highest. No better way to discourage investment — and the jobs and growth that come with it. (Except, perhaps, for hyperregulation. But Obama is working on that too.)

Three years ago, Obama promised universal health care that saves money. Today, he offers a capital gains tax hike that spurs economic growth. This is free-lunch egalitarianism.

The Buffett Rule redistributes deck chairs on the Titanic, ostensibly to make more available for those in steerage. Nice idea, but the iceberg cometh. The enterprise is an exercise in misdirection — a distraction not just from Obama’s dismal record on growth and unemployment but, more important, from his dereliction of duty in failing to this day to address the utterly predictable and devastating debt crisis ahead.

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It’s Not the Arab Spring, It’s the Nahda

Uprisings in the Middle East are about the “Islamization of life,” not democracy.

By Clifford D. May
http://www.nationalreview.com
April 12, 2012
Demonstrators hold the flags of Arab nations aloft during a rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square. PHOTO: AFP         

The term “Arab Spring” was born of optimism, not analysis. When a downtrodden fruit monger in Tunisia self-immolated, setting off a series of regional upheavals, many journalists, diplomats, and academics thought they heard an echo of the Prague Spring of 1968. That was when Czechoslovakia boldly initiated democratic reforms — an experiment quickly extinguished by a Soviet invasion.
Americans do not like to see people living under the jackboots of dictators. We instinctively root for the revolutionaries hoping there are George Washingtons and Thomas Jeffersons among them. But the American Revolution was an historical anomaly. The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Iranian Revolution — in these and other instances, one form of despotism simply replaced another.

Are there freedom fighters in the Muslim world? Yes, without question. But not many. And most are Western-educated intellectuals, no match for disciplined Islamic militants operating from an international network of mosques and non-governmental organizations, drawing from a bottomless well of oil money, and more than willing to use violence — or to stand aside as others use it — to achieve their objectives.

Islamists are calling this stormy new season the Nahda, Arabic for renaissance, which is French for rebirth — in this case, they believe, a rebirth of global Islamic power. Khairat Al-Shater, the deputy guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its recently announced presidential candidate, phrased it (in a speech he made a year ago and which was recently translated by the Hudson Institute) this way:
The mission is clear: restoring Islam in its all-encompassing conception; Subjugating people to God; instituting the religion of God; the Islamization of life, empowering of God’s religion; establishing the Nahda of the Ummah [Muslim nation] on the basis of Islam.
Last week, a delegation of Islamists from Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and Libya paid a visit to Washington. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held a one-day conference: “Islamists in Power: Views from Within.” Jessica Mathews, Carnegie’s president, opened the discussion by noting that the “rise of Islamist parties is a political reality,” one which “has sparked a great deal of uncertainty, even trepidation” while “Islamist parties remain poorly understood.” No doubt about any of that.

The panelists ranged from dour to congenial. They used words the audience was eager to hear: “democracy,” “freedom,” “pluralism.” More than one said their goal is a “civil society, not a theocratic state.” They emphasized the desire of their peoples for “justice,” “dignity,” and “Islamic values,” but made little effort to define those terms.

Though they vowed “respect for the rights of minorities,” no one specified what rights minorities are entitled to as subjects of the “Islamic states” they envision. There was not a word about the escalating attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christians; the Saudi Grand Mufti’s fatwa that more churches be demolished; Sudan’s mass murders of both Christians and the black Muslims of Darfur; the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Taliban; the Iranian regime’s continuing repression at home and support for terrorism abroad; the mounting death toll in Syria; Hezbollah’s power grab in Lebanon; Hamas’ commitment to the extermination of Israel; or al-Qaeda.

That is not to say these Islamists marched in lockstep. Mustapha Elkhalfi, minister of communications for Morocco — where a centuries-old monarchy has so far weathered the storms — said the priority should be to adopt policies that can reduce “poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment.”

By contrast, Abdul Mawgoud Rageh Dardery, a member of parliament from Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, said, “Many Egyptians tell me: We would like to live free even if we become hungry.” He did not say whether he thought it would make Egyptians feel less free to have Westerners in Cairo supporting fledgling civil-society groups, or businessmen and tourists sipping cocktails in hotel bars, or to restrain terrorists from firing missiles at Israel from Egyptian territory.

Nabil Alkofhai, of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Action Front Party, struck a chord with me when he said that Arab peoples do not want “to remain on the margins of human civilizations.” But a few moments later he insulted the audience’s intelligence by asserting that “the Islamic world . . . did not witness anything in its history [of] over 1,400 years that is called religious oppression.”

Similarly, I thought Dardery had a point when he said that sharia simply means law — and that Islamic law can be variously interpreted. But then he said that jihad means “exerting an effort” and so “I am doing jihad sitting here.” Studying hard, he added, is jihad; not eating too much — that, too, is jihad. I waited for him to add something about jihad as defined by Osama bin Laden, who said it “means fighting only, fighting with the sword,” or Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran’s 1979 revolution, who said:
Those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. . . . Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! . . . Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors!
The Arab Spring was a mirage. The Nahda is a reality. By all means, let’s talk to the Islamists. But let’s listen carefully to what they say. Let’s not be complicit in our own deception. Let’s watch what they do. Let’s not confuse gradualism with moderation. Journalists, diplomats, and academics might understand all this if they were relying less on optimism and more on analysis.

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Seth Grahame-Smith's New Book Unholy Night Asks: What the Hell Were the Three Wise Doing There?






After mixing the Victorian era with the world of the undead in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith has become the highly profitable king of literature's mash-up genre. Lionsgate is developing P&P&Z into a movie, while the film version of ALVH, produced by Tim Burton, will be out this summer. He's also co-written the script to the upcoming Burton-directed Dark Shadows.

Clearly, stepping on the tender toes of Jane Austen enthusiasts and Lincoln historians has paid off. Now, with his latest novel, Unholy Night (Grand Central Publishing), coming out this Tuesday, April 10, Grahame-Smith treads on the holiest of holy grounds: The Bible, namely the nativity story. You know -- the birth of Jesus Christ, The Messiah, King of Jews. Unholy Night (it, too, snatched up by Warner Bros. last year) turns the little recorded journey of the Three Wise Men into a fictional adventure tale that's equal parts history and mystery and fun.

Unlike the vampire trend of the last couple of years, Grahame-Smith was only very recently hit by the Bible bug. After noting that there are as many Jesus biographies as there as Lincoln ones, Eric Spitznagel asked the author in a 2010 Vanity Fair article if he'd ever tackle religion. "I...hesitate to go biblical," Grahame-Smith said. "It gives me anxiety just thinking about it."

"At the time I said that," Grahame-Smith now says from his L.A. home, "I meant it. And I still do have anxiety." He eventually came around.

"Maybe it was a question in my subconscious," he says. "I was literally driving in Los Angeles in the middle of summer -- not the season where I would be confronted with the imagery -- and a random question popped in: What were they [the Three Wise Men] doing there? It struck me how little there is about them in the scripture, yet they're so revered and such an integral part of the Christmas tradition. It lead me to extrapolate a story and fill in the gaps."

And there are plenty of gaps to fill in. The nativity story is fairly simple: Three kings traveling from the East follow the star of Bethlehem to pay homage to the infant Jesus, bearing gold, incense and myrrh. Instead of hightailing it back to King Herod, who'd just ordered the death of all newborn males in Judea, they take off in unknown directions. Where the scripture ends and Grahame-Smith's imagination takes off is what makes Unholy Night an entertaining read.

In the author's hands, the Three Wise Men are a trio of thieves led by the roguish and randy Balthazar, who gets into as much trouble with the ladies as does the law. After escaping King Herod's prison, they stumble upon Joseph, Mary and the future prophet in the manger and help them flee to Egypt, along the way encountering bloody battles, mythical creatures and even a hot little love interest for the head thief in the form of a spitfire palm reader.

While the campy qualities here are similar to Grahame-Smith's previous books -- Joseph putting a Roman centurion into a head lock, for one -- Unholy Night is ultimately about a man struggling with his faith. Plagued by revenge for a family murder, Balthazar not only doesn't believe in God, but denounces him.

"He represents an increasingly modern view towards faith, the journey that a lot of people go on," says Grahame-Smith. "When people are young, they get absorbed into the pageantry of religion. In their '20s and '30s, they get busy doing other things and become cynical and start questioning. Your religion sort of falls by the wayside. Later in life, people tend to return to religion. Balthazar represents all those stages. He's there to ask the questions that a lot of readers ask."
The author sees a lot of his own upbringing in his anti-hero's transformation from doubt to acceptance.

Grahame-Smith was born Seth Greenberg to a Jewish family and grew up in the unironically-named town of Bethel, Connecticut. His parents divorced when he was three and his mother changed her and Seth's last name to Grahame in a nod to one of her favorite authors Kenneth Graham, and later to Smith, after her second husband.
"All of the sudden we started going to Episcopal church," says Grahame-Smith. "My whole life I've been able to see the Judeo-Christian traditions from both sides. Finding a religious identity when you're growing up and picking the things that work and don't work for you -- everyone goes through that. My religious beliefs have always been in flux."
Even after the controversy of revising one of classic literature's greatest characters and America's most revered president, Grahame-Smith knows he tinkering with a much deeper sensibility with Unholy Night (coming out just a few days after Easter).

"There's always going to be a percentage of people who are going to dismiss you out of hand," says Grahame-Smith. "But it's not a book about Jesus or his ideals. I didn't want to make any judgments or preach to anybody or detract from anybody's beliefs. I wanted to focus on Balthazar and built the story around his journey. The challenge was not to ask such damning or damaging questions, or make him so anti-religious that it would turn readers off. I deal in genre literature and I always want the genre to be strong: the action, the adventure, the magic, the fantasy elements. First and foremost, I want it to be entertaining."

Seth Grahame-Smith signs Unholy Night at Barnes & Noble at Third Street Promenade, 1201 Third St., Santa Monica; Tues., April 10, 7 p.m.; and Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Tues., April 17, 7 p.m.
Follow us on Twitter at @LAWeeklyArts and like us on Facebook.


Book Review

Unholy Night (2012)

Reviewed by
Entertainment Weekly
April 6, 2012 
Seth Grahame-Smith is like the world's most deranged history teacher — you can't trust anything you learn from him, but you'll never forget it, either. He kicked off the mash-up genre by besieging Jane Austen's British countryside with hordes of undead in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and perfected it by pitting our 16th president against Confederate bloodsuckers in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. His latest novel, Unholy Night, uses the birth of Jesus as the backdrop for a fantasy action-adventure akin to fusing Game of Thrones with the Gospel of Luke.

There are many mash-ups out there, but most work only as spoof. Grahame-Smith takes his history seriously, using it to add texture and realism before releasing the craziness. Here his main character, Balthazar, one of the trio we now know as the three kings, is a sort of New Testament John Dillinger, a well-known murderous thief who joins with fellow scoundrels Melchyor and Gaspar to escape Herod, the pus-oozing Judean tyrant who wants their heads. Herod also wants to slay every newborn male in the region, which is how the fugitives align themselves with Mary and Joseph, naive new parents whose infant somehow tempers the ruthlessness of the thieves.

After establishing his turn-of-A.D. bona fides, Grahame-Smith bids history adieu, with the nativity gang pursued at various points by a black-magic sorcerer, a young Pontius Pilate's Roman legion, and a mob of Egyptian zombies. The unhinged imagination is fun, but it's Grahame-Smith's depiction of sacred figures as flawed humans that makes the book feel like a secret account of events that have been sanitized by legend. It's risky to turn a holy birth into a bloody sword-and-sandal yarn, but if you can forgive that, I bet you-know-who would. A



Related:
Seth Grahame-Smith Touts New Novel 'Unholy Night,' Discusses Movie Schedule and Collaborating With Tim Burton (Q&A) -
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/seth-grahame-smith-unholy-night-abraham-lincoln-vampire-hunter-309260

The Master of the Mash-Up - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303816504577319522770640052.html

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The outing of Deep Throat

by Patrick J. Buchanan
http://www.humanevents.com/
April 10, 2012

As the 40th anniversary of Watergate impends, we are to be bathed again in the great myth and morality play about the finest hour in all of American journalism.

The myth?

That two heroic young reporters at The Washington Post, guided by a secret source, a man of conscience they dubbed "Deep Throat," cracked the case and broke the scandal wide open, where the FBI, U.S. prosecutors and more experienced journalists floundered and failed.

Through their tireless investigative reporting, they compelled the agencies of government to treat Watergate as the unprecedented constitutional crisis it was. No Pulitzer Prize was ever more deserved than the one awarded the Post in 1973.

These young journalists saved our republic!

However, the myth, fabricated in "All the President's Men" and affirmed by the 1976 film of the same name, with Robert Redford as Bob Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein, has a Hellfire missile coming its way.

"Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat" is an exhaustive study of the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein and the leaking by the FBI's Mark Felt, whose identity as Deep Throat was revealed in 2005.

"Leak" author Max Holland zeroes in on the last great unanswered question of Watergate: Why did Felt, an FBI No. 2 on the short list to succeed J. Edgar Hoover, risk reputation and career to leak secrets to the Post?

Woodward and Bernstein paint Deep Throat, writes Holland, as a "selfless high-ranking official intent on exposing the lawlessness of the Nixon White House." But this is self-serving nonsense.

The truth was right in front of Woodward. His refusal to see it made him a willing or witless collaborator in the ruin of the reputation and career of an honorable pubic servant, Patrick Gray.

Felt was consumed by anger and ambition. When Hoover died, a month before the break-in, Felt, who had toadied to Hoover, saw himself as Hoover's successor. But President Nixon went outside the bureau to name Gray from the Department of Justice acting director.

Concealing his rage and resentment, Felt wormed himself into Gray's confidence, and then set out to destroy Gray.

Felt's method: Leak discoveries of the Watergate investigation to a cub reporter at the Post, which everybody in Washington read, rather than to veteran journalists known to be FBI outlets.

This would cover Felt's tracks.

Published in the Post, the leaks of what the FBI was uncovering would enrage Nixon and make Gray appear an incompetent unable to conduct a professional investigation. This would make it unlikely that Nixon would ever send Gray's name to the Senate for confirmation as permanent director.

And if Gray, an outsider, fell because he couldn't keep the FBI from leaking, Nixon might turn to Felt, the ranking insider who could button up the bureau like Hoover did.

By ingratiating himself with Gray as he set out to discredit and destroy him, Felt expected that when Gray was passed over by Nixon, he would recommend to Nixon that he appoint his loyal deputy, Felt, as director.

Even if cynical and vicious, the scheme was clever.

Until Nixon found out Felt was the leaker in late 1972, he was considering Felt for the top job. Felt's machinations and deceptions at the apex of the FBI make Nixon's White House appear in retrospect to have been a cloistered convent of Carmelite nuns.

More revolting than the ruin of Gray's reputation was what Felt did to the good name of the bureau he professed to love. By leaking what agents were learning about Watergate, he was discrediting the FBI.

Inside the government, he made the FBI look like an agency of bumblers who could not keep secrets. Outside the government, the FBI looked like a three-toed sloth, while a fleet-footed and fearless Washington Post was unearthing the truth.

The FBI appeared beaten at every turn by the brilliant Post, when it was the FBI's homework Felt was stealing and the Post was cribbing.

Woodward and Bernstein were glorified stenographers.

And though Deep Throat was portrayed as a man sickened by the wiretaps and break-ins by the White House, Felt himself, writes Holland, "authorized illegal surreptitious entries into the homes of people associated with the Weather Underground."

In 1979, Felt was prosecuted and convicted and then pardoned by Reagan.

In "The Secret Man," Woodward calls Felt "a truth-teller." That's quite a tribute to an FBI man who lied to Pat Gray, lied to all of his FBI colleagues and lied to every journalist who asked him for 30 years whether he was Deep Throat.

If Felt was a hero, why did he not come forward to tell the country what he had done and why?

Because he was no hero.

Mark Felt was a snake. He used the Post to destroy his rivals and advance his ambitions, and the Post didn't care what his motives were because Felt was assisting them in destroying their old enemy.

Yes, indeed, the finest hour in American journalism.

- Patrick J. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, The Death of the West, The Great Betrayal, A Republic, Not an Empire,Where the Right Went Wrong, and most recently Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?


A Conspiracy So Immense

Did "Deep Throat" disclose Watergate secrets as part of an orchestrated attempt to unseat the head of the FBI?


By RICHARD J. TOFEL
The Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/home-page
March 6, 2012

Mark Felt as Salt Lake FBI chief in January 1958.

When we think of J. Edgar Hoover in his heyday, it is as a powerful figure of the 1950s and early 1960s. Clint Eastwood's recent biopic, for instance, leaves the impression that Hoover died shortly after Richard Nixon became president in 1969. In fact, Hoover's fatal heart attack did not come until May 1972, when Nixon had been president for more than three years and Hoover was approaching a half-century as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

More to the point, Hoover's death came just a few weeks before burglars, acting on behalf of Nixon's re-election committee, were caught breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington. Max Holland's "Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat" strongly implies that if Hoover had lived just another three or four months, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein would have been denied their key source—whom they labeled Deep Throat in "All the President's Men" (1974)—and the received history of the Watergate scandal might have been quite different.

Mr. Holland's book is fascinating reading, both when it is convincing and when it is not. His thesis, laid out early on, is that Mark Felt, the bureau's No. 2 man, was motivated to surreptitiously help the Washington Post reporters not by patriotism or a distaste for Nixonian lawlessness—as has been assumed—but by personal ambition. (Felt's identity as Deep Throat was not confirmed until 2005, three years before his death at age 95.) Felt was a leading contender in what Mr. Holland terms the "War of the FBI Succession." Mr. Holland argues even more provocatively that Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein's "investigation" was merely following behind the FBI's. The bureau, he says, was on its way to exposing the Watergate scandal even if the reporters had not pursued all the president's men.

Mr. Holland's argument about Felt's careerist motives is strong, if almost entirely circumstantial. It is true that, if Felt had wanted merely to curtail Nixon and protect the country, there were darker secrets about Nixon and his White House that he could have shared with the press but did not—for instance, the wiretapping of Henry Kissinger and various reporters. The author also rejects the familiar claim that Felt helped Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein in the hope that, by their making scandalous details public, Nixon would be unable to bottle up the FBI's investigation. Mr. Holland establishes that there was no need to protect the FBI from White House tampering because L. Patrick Gray, the FBI's acting director after Hoover's death, did not have sufficient influence over his agents to stymie their efforts and quickly stopped trying to do so.

Certainly Felt did want to succeed Hoover and considered Gray unqualified for the job. Felt may well have thought that, by leaking details that were clearly coming from FBI sources, he would make Gray appear to be an ineffectual boss whose leadership, if he were nominated and confirmed as permanent head of the agency, would undermine the FBI's reputation for integrity and reliability. But even if Felt was reasoning in such a way, there is no direct evidence that, as Mr. Holland believes, Felt took his leaks to Mr. Woodward as part of an elaborate conspiracy to unseat Gray, an operation that Felt supposedly orchestrated with sympathetic FBI colleagues. Mr. Holland describes why such a plot aligns with what we know, but he offers very little proof that it actually happened.

Less persuasive still is Mr. Holland's argument that historians have overrated the importance of Deep Throat and of Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein. Mr. Holland reminds us of the Watergate stories broken by Sandy Smith of Time magazine, who receives too little credit for his work. And he shows that, like many reporters, the Post's duo found themselves following in the footsteps of official investigators who had subpoena power and official badges, two tools that journalists lack.

But Mr. Holland's assertion that "the main effect of Deep Throat's leaks was merely to accelerate the scandal by perhaps six months or a year" goes much too far. What Mr. Holland misses is the politics of the astonishing situation that the country faced in the second half of 1972, as a popular president, secretly breaking the law and corrupting the institutions of government, sailed to overwhelming re-election.

It was the doggedness of the press, especially of Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein, that brought the investigative findings quickly to light and made possible a transformation of the political climate in early 1973. As damaging story followed damaging story, Nixon's political adversaries felt emboldened to advance their cause, even in the face of their own electoral defeat.

That transformation was aided, to be sure, by the revelations at Gray's confirmation hearings in March 1973. Mr. Holland suggests that the Gray hearings—not the televised Senate Watergate special-committee hearings later—were the pivotal event in Nixon's undoing. It was Gray's suggestion at his hearings that White House counsel John Dean had lied to prosecutors, after all, that played a large part in flipping Mr. Dean from manager of the cover-up to cooperating witness.

But without the work of Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein the scandal might have died away. The Gray hearings would almost certainly have been smoother, leaving Mr. Dean unprodded to switch sides. The full story of the break-in would likely have come out, but the larger cover-up would have likely stayed in place, and Nixon would have served out his second term. In "Leak," Mr. Holland gives us an important new perspective on Mark Felt's motives, but in the end his effort to demonstrate a bureaucratic conspiracy and diminish the role of the Watergate press is less than persuasive. Like Felt's effort to become FBI director, Mr. Holland's reach exceeds his grasp.

Mr. Tofel is general manager of ProPublica, an investigative journalism organization.

A version of this article appeared March 6, 2012, on page A17 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Conspiracy So Immense.



Bernstein, Woodward Swat Down ‘Leak’ Questioning Deep Throat’s Motive               

Did W. Mark Felt leak on Watergate out of patriotism—or personal ambition? A new book by Max Holland claims only the latter. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein tell Lloyd Grove why the author is dead wrong.

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The legend of Deep Throat—which was a central drama of All the President’s Men, both the bestselling book and the Oscar-winning movie—has achieved sacred-text status in journalism circles; it is the inspiring saga of plucky reporters and their confidential source who risked all to save the republic. Robert Redford, who played Bob Woodward in the 1976 film, is planning to direct a documentary that will cover the affair, lest anyone forget The Washington Post’s crowning moment of glory.



The mystery of Deep Throat, however, has been less enduring. It was ostensibly solved seven years ago, when former FBI official W. Mark Felt revealed it was he who leaked to Woodward in that underground parking garage and helped him and Carl Bernstein unravel the Watergate scandal.

But, nearly 40 years after the fateful June 17 break-in at the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office complex, Felt’s motive for aiding the Washington Post duo remains debatable, if not shady.

Woodward and Bernstein, not surprisingly, have argued that Felt, the FBI’s second-in-command at the time of the break-in and an acolyte of the late J. Edgar Hoover, acted out of patriotism—“with remarkable personal courage” when “the nation had become endangered by [Richard Nixon’s] lawless presidency,” as Bernstein eulogized the G-man a month after his death at age 95 in December 2008. “Mark’s great decision in all of this was his refusal to be silenced,” Woodward declared at the same memorial service. “Action is character.”

Now comes a new book, Leak, in which independent journalist Max Holland—drawing on his fresh interviews with Watergate prosecutors and FBI investigators as well as government files, private diaries, the Nixon White House tapes, and other records—claims that Felt was motivated principally by his desire to become Hoover’s rightful heir and calculated his leaks to torpedo Nixon’s handpicked FBI director, L. Patrick Gray III, along with other rivals for the top job.

Far from being a selfless patriot, Felt, in Holland’s portrayal, was a preening, duplicitous Washington player who tried to use Woodward and Bernstein, as well as other journalists to whom he passed (sometimes false) information, to further his egocentric personal ambition. Nixon’s downfall, Holland contends, was the last thing on Felt’s mind; indeed, given its potential negative impact on his chances to rise, it was probably the last thing he wanted.

deep-throat-max-holland-grove-teaser

In reaction to Leak, various Watergate participants and aficionados are lining up on one side or the other on the question of Deep Throat’s motives. Felt’s lawyer, John D. O’Connor, who wrote the July 2005 Vanity Fair piece that outed his client, then suffering from dementia, as America’s best-known secret whistleblower, clings to the Felt-as-hero theory. “The book is well-researched and well-written,” he says, “and dead wrong.”

But John W. Dean III—who repeatedly tangled with Felt while supervising the Watergate coverup as Nixon’s White House counsel, and later became the star witness against the president and his top aides (having pleaded guilty himself to obstruction of justice)—applauds Holland’s book. “Max has got it right—he nailed it,” says Dean, one of the experts Holland asked to read Leak in manuscript form. “Felt was a piece of work.”

If only Nixon had not bypassed Felt in favor of Gray at the FBI, Dean argues, Deep Throat would not have leaked, and Nixon’s presidency would have survived.

Woodward and Bernstein are predictably offended by Holland’s book—especially its claim that their Pulitzer Prize–winning Watergate reporting, albeit praiseworthy and impressive, essentially followed what government investigators were already uncovering about the unfolding scandal. Until last week, they publicly held their fire. But after the two were asked to respond to the assertions in Leak during a Watergate-themed panel April 3 at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention, all bets are off. Now they are blasting the book and vehemently defending not only Deep Throat’s legacy, but their own.

“I think we live in an age of too much revisionism that oversimplifies and twists complicated events, and this is a classic example,” says Bernstein, who likens Holland to a “bad scientist” who credits only data that fit his theory and ignores data that contradict it. “This book is part of a debunking industry—a huge enterprise in the cultural landscape, not just about Watergate, but all kinds of revisionist notions that mischaracterize the complexities of real events and history.”

Woodward, who granted Holland an interview for Leak and has been poring over its 59 pages of footnotes, dismisses many of its conclusions as “conjecture or speculation” unsupported by hard facts. Woodward points out that The Secret Man, his own 2005 chronicle of his relationship with Felt, repeatedly acknowledged that Deep Throat’s motives were mixed and not altogether altruistic.


“There’s not anything that Max Holland writes [regarding Felt’s motives] that I don’t talk about in The Secret Man,” Woodward says. “In fact, I raise all those questions about what his motives were”—including Felt’s thwarted ambition to be FBI director. “They are laid out pretty clearly.” Woodward adds that Felt—whom he first met by chance outside the White House Situation Room in 1969, when Woodward was a 27-year-old Navy lieutenant transporting classified documents—“was troubled. I knew him. I just think this idea that there’s one motive behind somebody’s action doesn’t match up with reality.”

Woodward and Bernstein are most alarmed by Holland’s claims about the scope of their Watergate reporting. “The most interesting thing he says is that we were just following what the prosecutors had found, and that is factually wrong,” Woodward says, noting that at the 1973 trial of the first seven Watergate defendants, federal prosecutors identified former G-man Gordon Liddy as “the mastermind” of the operation. On the contrary, Woodward says, their Washington Post reporting uncovered a massive, long-running political espionage and sabotage campaign that went far beyond the mere wiretapping of the Democrats and was run directly out of the Nixon White House. “This guy Max Holland doesn’t understand Watergate,” he says.

Holland retorts: “I wasn’t writing about Watergate,” but instead focusing on a single key actor amid a complex moment in history. “Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting deserves every kudo it has ever gotten. But let’s appreciate it for what it was and not pretend it was something it wasn’t … I talked to everybody at the FBI, the prosecutors, the journalists—I talked to everybody who’s still alive. Don’t they have a side of the story? Watergate isn’t the exclusive history of Bob Woodward. He doesn’t own it. There are other points of view.”

Holland argues that lead prosecutor Earl J. Silbert’s contemporaneous diary makes clear that the trial of Liddy, former CIA agents Howard Hunt and James McCord, and “the Cubans” was always envisioned as a prelude to the prosecution of higher-ups. One of the defendants was bound to crack and spill the beans—and McCord did just that, writing his famous letter to federal judge John J. Sirica that blew the coverup wide open.

Felt, says Woodward, “was troubled. I knew him. I just think this idea that there’s one motive behind somebody’s action doesn’t match up with reality.”

In the end, Holland’s theory of Deep Throat’s motive is hardly novel, though it is the most definitive presentation to date. Felt, whose career ended abruptly in 1973 when acting FBI director William Ruckelshaus, Gray’s successor, quietly forced his retirement over a suspected leak to The New York Times, acknowledged that he’d wanted the top job but dismissed the notion that he was angry about not getting it. Of course, he also lied consistently about being Deep Throat whenever his name inevitably came up in the seemingly endless parlor game. As Felt claimed to the Los Angeles Times in November 1974, after Washingtonian magazine published an article speculating that he was the celebrated source: “I did not leak any information to Woodward or Bernstein. I’m not Deep Throat.”

Woodward, for one, says he pitied Felt because he couldn’t show his real self to the world at large and had to submerge his true identity in a carefully constructed fa├žade.

“The bottom line,” Woodward says, “is that there is no such thing as a perfect source.”

 

©2011 The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC

Monday, April 09, 2012

Why We Need Voter-ID Laws Now

Voter fraud is a scandal, and the attorney general can’t look away anymore.

By John Fund
http://www.nationalreview.com
April 9, 2012


Attorney General Eric Holder is a staunch opponent of laws requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls to improve ballot security. He calls them “unnecessary” and has blocked their implementation in Texas and South Carolina, citing the fear they would discriminate against minorities.

I wonder what Holder will think when he learns just how easy it was for someone to be offered his ballot just by mentioning his name in a Washington, D.C., polling place in Tuesday’s primaries.

Holder’s opposition to ID laws comes in spite of the Supreme Court’s 6–3 decision in 2008, authored by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, that upheld the constitutionality of Indiana’s tough ID requirement. When groups sue to block photo-ID laws in court, they can’t seem to produce real-world examples of people who have actually been denied the right to vote. According to opinion polls, over 75 percent of Americans — including majorities of Hispanics and African-Americans — routinely support such laws.

One reason is that people know you can’t function in the modern world without showing ID — you can’t cash a check, travel by plane or even train, or rent a video without being asked for one. In fact, PJ Media recently proved that you can’t even enter the Justice Department in Washington without showing a photo ID. Average voters understand that it’s only common sense to require ID because of how easy it is for people to pretend they are someone else.

Filmmaker James O’Keefe demonstrated just how easy it is on Tuesday when he dispatched an assistant to the Nebraska Avenue polling place in Washington where Attorney General Holder has been registered for the last 29 years. O’Keefe specializes in the same use of hidden cameras that was pioneered by the recently deceased Mike Wallace, who used the technique to devastating effect in exposing fraud in Medicare claims and consumer products on 60 Minutes. O’Keefe’s efforts helped expose the fraud-prone voter-registration group ACORN with his video stings, and has had great success demonstrating this year in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Minnesota just how easy it is to obtain a ballot by giving the name of a dead person who is still on the rolls. Indeed, a new study by the Pew Research Center found at least 1.8 million dead people are still registered to vote. They aren’t likely to complain if someone votes in their place.

In Washington, it was child’s play for O’Keefe to beat the system. O’Keefe’s assistant used a hidden camera to document his encounter with the election worker at Holder’s polling place:
Man: “Do you have an Eric Holder, 50th Street?

Poll worker: “Let me see here.”

Man: Xxxx 50th Street.

Poll Worker: Let’s see, Holder, Hol-t-e-r, or Hold-d-e-r?

Man: H-o-l-d-e-r.

Poll Worker: D-e-r. Okay.

Man: That’s the name.

Poll Worker: I do. Xxxx 50th Street NW. Okay. [Puts check next to name, indicating someone has shown up to vote.] Will you sign there . . .

Man: I actually forgot my ID.

Poll Worker: You don’t need it; it’s all right.

Man: I left it in the car.

Poll Worker: As long as you’re in here, and you’re on our list and that’s who you say you are, we’re okay.

Man: I would feel more comfortable if I go get my ID, is it all right if I go get it?

Poll Worker: Sure, go ahead.

Man: I’ll be back faster than you can say furious!

Poll Worker: We’re not going anywhere.
Note that O’Keefe’s assistant never identified himself as Eric Holder, so he was not illegally impersonating him.

Nor did he attempt to vote using the ballot that was offered him, or even to accept it. O’Keefe has been accused by liberals of committing voter fraud in his effort to expose just how slipshod the election systems of various no-ID-required states are, but lawyers say his methods avoid that issue. Moreover, he has only taped his encounters with election officials in jurisdictions that allow videotaping someone in public with only one party’s knowledge.

As for the D.C. Board of Elections, its loose practices are a matter of record. Last year, a community activist uncovered the fact that Andrea Pringle, the new deputy chief of staff to Washington, D.C., mayor Vincent Gray, had voted illegally in the district even though she admitted to living in Maryland. She resigned in the face of the criticism.

Nor is she the only example. State Senator Harold Metts of Rhode Island got a photo-ID law put on the books in his state last year after he was told by several constituents of a pattern of voter fraud in his home town of Providence. Indeed, his own state representative and her daughter had their votes stolen by someone voting in their names in one election. “The old system was not set up to readily weed out fraud, and it would be very hard to prove,” he told the Woonsocket Patch newspaper. Metts, the state senate’s only African-American member, says that he took a lot of heat from national Democrats for getting the ID law approved by an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. But he says party loyalty only takes him so far. “It’s time to stop crying wolf and make the voter-ID law work for those on both sides of this issue who want to ensure the integrity of the system, while guarding against disenfranchisement.”

Several of the state laws that require photo ID also make new provisions to enhance security for absentee ballots, the tool of choice for many fraudsters. Last year, Lessadolla Sowers, a member of the NAACP’s Executive Committee in Tunica County, Miss., was sentenced to five years in prison for fraudulently casting absentee ballots for ten other people. “This crime cuts against the fabric of our free society,” Judge Charles Webster said at the sentencing hearing.

Scandals such as that one helped convince 62 percent of Mississippi’s voters to approve a photo-ID law last November. The measure passed in a clear majority of counties that are majority-black. As with other ID laws, a free state-issued photo ID is available to anyone who says they can’t afford one.

But the groups opposing voter ID won’t let the facts get in their way. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking member in the House Democratic leadership, compares voter-ID laws to “Jim Crow” provisions that blocked people from voting in the last century, and said he is “very, very anxious” that the Supreme Court “as it is presently constituted” will support the new laws. But as previously noted, the Supreme Court already has supported voter ID, with its opinion authored by its most liberal member at the time.

Some criticism of voter-ID laws has morphed into intimidation. This week, Color of Change, co-founded by former Obama special adviser Van Jones, threatened a boycott against Coca-Cola and Walmart because they financially supported the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has helped state legislators draft some of the voter-ID laws. Within hours, Coca-Cola resigned its membership in ALEC. So far Walmart is holding out by arguing that ALEC is involved with dozens of issues, many of them of direct concern to Walmart shareholders.

There is something surreal about the voter-ID issue. As James O’Keefe demonstrates, it is comically easy to commit voter fraud in person, and, unless someone confesses, it’s very difficult to ever detect. With absentee balloting, there is a paper trail that makes it easier to uncover fraud, making it a problem that even some critics of photo ID will admit.

Other than hypotheticals, there are very few cases of legitimate voters who were unable to have their vote counted because they lacked ID. People who show up without photo ID at the polls are allowed to cast a provisional ballot that is counted after proof of identity is offered.

“From voter fraud to election chicanery of all kinds, America teeters on the edge of scandal every November,” says Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and author of a comprehensive survey of voter fraud called “Dirty Little Secrets.” The fact that so many people want to thwart legitimate and prudent efforts to improve ballot integrity has become a scandal in its own right. Attorney General Holder is unlikely to agree with that, but after what happened at his polling place last Tuesday, he should at least understand that voter fraud itself is a scandal worth investigating.

— John Fund, a writer based in New York, is the author of Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.

10.5 ways local bookstores beat Amazon

By Christie Matheson
The Boston Globe
http://www.boston.com/
April 8, 2012


If you’re rolling your eyes in anticipation of another save-the-bookstore rant, don’t worry. I’m not going to wax nostalgic about an almost-extinct breed of shopping destination or beg you to support it as an act of charity. Following a robust holiday sales season and a strong first quarter, many bookstores are doing quite well these days. But they do need paying customers to keep the success going. Herewith, 10 (and a half) reasons why you’ll get a lot more than books if you buy from local stores.

No. 1

They entertain your kids.

Bookstores are gold mines for parents. A well-stocked children’s section can engage a kid (and you) for a serious stretch of time. Then there are the activities. The Children’s Book Shop in Brookline (617-734-7323, www.thechildrensbookshop.net) has a Friday story hour, and Barefoot Books’s Concord studio (978-369-1770, barefootbooks.com) offers at least one story time each day. The Fresh Ink program at Porter Square Books (617-491-2220, www.portersquarebooks.com) gives young readers advance copies of books and the chance to publish reviews online. And the soon-to-reopen Curious George Store in Harvard Square (www.thecuriousgeorgestore.com) is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser for the under-8 set.

No. 2

They stock literary treasures.

You could hunt for rare, vintage, and signed books online, but it can be easier and more reliable to do this through a store. The signed first edition club at Cambridge’s Harvard Book Store (617-661-1515, www.harvard.com) delivers exactly what its name promises — signed first editions of books selected for “literary merit and potential collectability” and sells the books at the publishers’ list price. At Rabelais, which specializes in food and drink titles (it’s reopening later this month in Biddeford, Maine, 207-774-1044, www.rabelaisbooks.com), there’s a collection of culinary ephemera, from pamphlets to printed menus, and a deep selection of out-of-print and rare cookbooks.

No. 3

They bring celebrities to town.

If someone famous pens a book, she’s probably going to do a signing around here. Coming up, everyone from Rachel Dratch of Saturday Night Live fame on April 10, hosted by Brookline Booksmith (617-566-6660, www.brooklinebooksmith.com) at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, to Judy Collins on May 9, hosted by Wellesley Books (781-431-1160, www.wellesleybooks.com) at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Wellesley.

No. 4

They educate you.

It’s one thing to buy a cookbook. It’s another to buy the cookbook and watch the author’s technique in action and taste the result. For example, Debra Samuels, author of My Japanese Table, leads a Japanese food workshop at Boston’s Trident Booksellers & Cafe (617-267-8688, www.tridentbookscafe.com) on May 24. And there are experts speaking and answering questions about everything from Fenway to the Titanic (both have centennials this spring) at Barnes & Noble-sponsored talks at the Boston Public Library this month (617-536-5400, bpl.org/news/author_series.htm). And, yes, I just mentioned a chain bookstore. I adore independents, but the chains’ storefronts matter, too. Losing them “would put a real strain on the publishing-business model and could drag down all brick-and-mortar businesses,” says Adam Salomone, associate publisher of Boston-based Harvard Common Press.

No. 5

They have real people on hand to help you.

While online-only booksellers do make individualized recommendations, these are based on algorithms. “Algorithms still can’t match the human brain for book recommendations,” says John Jenkins, manager of the MIT Press Bookstore (617-253-5249, www.mit.edu/bookstore). Bookstore staff members can help you navigate what’s there, Jenkins adds, and “spend a lot of time sorting through publishers’ offerings each season” to ensure they’ve got the best books in the subject areas they cover. They don’t carry everything, and that’s good. (Decision fatigue, anyone?)

No. 6

They offer great book groups.

And knitting groups. The moderated Brookline Booksmith Book Club meets on the second Monday of each month. Brookline Booksmith also has a knitting club called Knitsmiths that meets every Sunday. Porter Square Books hosts a monthly moderated book club — and a knitting club, the adorably named Knit One, Read Too, which usually meets on the second Sunday of each month.

No. 7

They can help you write.

Bookstores are logical locales for writing workshops. Wellesley Books has teamed up with Grub Street, the second-largest independent center for creative writing in the country, to offer in-store workshops. The first session ended in March, and the next kicks off in June. Brookline Booksmith is launching a poetry workshop this summer.

No. 8

They keep you in the know.

“Independent bookstores that are really thriving are using social media to spread the word about books and more,” says Bruce Shaw, publisher of Harvard Common Press. If you’re one of the 16,000-plus Twitter followers of Harvard Book Store (@HarvardBooks), for example, you’re among the first to learn about book releases, big-name speakers coming to town, and the topics and articles that have the reading and writing worlds buzzing.

No. 9

They reward loyalty.

Deep discounts aren’t just an online phenomenon. Many bookstores offer loyalty programs for repeat customers that can add up to significant savings — and you don’t have to worry about shipping fees. If you’re looking for one-hit savings, try New England Mobile Book Fair (617-964-7440, www.nebookfair.com) in Newton Highlands, where 20 percent off is the norm and New York Times bestsellers in hardcover are 30 percent off. They have a loyalty program, too.

No. 10

They support your community.

Bookstores tend to support local nonprofit efforts. Brookline Booksmith frequently donates to the town’s climate-action group, food pantry, and education foundation. Porter Square Books, Wellesley Books, and others are supporting World Book Night (April 23), when volunteers will hand out free paperbacks to promote reading. And Wellesley Books is sponsoring two Little League teams this spring.

No. 10.5

They sell online, too.

Yes, there are times when you want a book shipped to your door or zoomed to your e-reader. Guess what: You often can do all that through the websites of some of your favorite local bookstores, too.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Sunday, April 8th.


Herbert Gustave Schmalz: Resurrection ­Morn (1895).

"ON THE THIRD DAY the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn." ~ G.K. Chesterton: 'The Everlasting Man'