Saturday, January 22, 2005

Richard Berman Calls 'Super Size Me' A Sick Reality Show

'Super Size Me' Is Just Another Sick Reality Show

By: Richard Berman
Chicago Sun-Times
Posted On March 12, 2004

Documentary films may have their own Oscar category, but they rarely appear in mainstream theaters. Still, ''Super Size Me'' -- which earned Morgan Spurlock the nod for best documentary director at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival -- is coming soon to a theater near you. What makes ''Super Size Me'' exceptional? Simple. It's not a documentary at all.

The main attraction of ''Super Size Me'' is watching Spurlock put on weight while he gorges on nothing but McDonald's food for a month. Spurlock calls it ''an honest film about what can happen when you continue to have a fast-food diet.'' But eating 90 meals in a row at the same restaurant is no more realistic than so-called reality shows like ''Average Joe.'' Take away the anti-fast food elitism, and ''Super Size Me'' looks like a cross between ''Fear Factor'' and ''My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance.''

MTV viewers may remember Spurlock's short-lived show ''I Bet You Will,'' whose motto was ''stupidity pays.'' With cameras rolling, Spurlock paid a man to gulp down an entire 24-ounce jar of mayonnaise. He got a woman to shave her head, combine the hair with butter to form a giant hairball, and then eat it. Internet voyeurs could also see one guy chew on a piece of dog feces for Spurlock's ready cash. Not surprisingly, the show featured an ''Official Puke Bucket.''

Fast-forward to 2004. The mainstream media are lining up to shake hands with Spurlock, who now presents himself as a serious and socially concerned documentary filmmaker. Spurlock recently pontificated that ''If there's one thing we could accomplish, it is that we make people think about what they put in their mouth.'' This from a guy who once paid people to eat dog droppings.

''Super Size Me'' is little more than an extended episode of ''I Bet You Will,'' in which Spurlock dares himself to eat poorly, yells ''action,'' and laughs all the way to the bank. However, it does successfully demonstrate the truth of his own words from the days of ''I Bet You Will'': ''People will do anything -- and I mean anything -- for money.''

Of course, Spurlock is hardly the only ambitious prankster who sees dollar signs where the rest of us see dinner. Trial lawyers have spent the last few years greedily eyeing Big Food. Perhaps not coincidently, Spurlock says his burger bonanza was inspired by a lawsuit blaming McDonald's for making people fat.

Spurlock's admiration for trial lawyers cuts both ways. Some of these sharks are beginning to pretend that Spurlock's stunt has serious meaning. George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf, an adviser in the McDonald's lawsuit, is already promoting ''Super Size Me'' as a harbinger of more fast-food litigation.

If anything, ''Super Size Me'' is a lesson in why obesity lawsuits are so frivolous. Spurlock consciously chose to eat just one type of food day in and day out. He was no unwitting victim of convenient, inexpensive and tasty food.

Conspicuously absent from Spurlock's blame-the-burger publicity drive is any mention of his physical activity. Nutritionists tell us that weight gain is just calories in vs. calories out. It doesn't really matter if the calories come in the form of Big Macs or brussels sprouts. Just ask Don Gorske. He's in the Guinness Book of Records for eating 19,000 Big Macs. Gorske is 6 feet tall, 180 pounds, and his cholesterol is a healthy 155.

''Super Size Me'' goes so far as to associate Ronald McDonald with dealing drugs. While watching commercials that feature the iconic clown, the audience is treated to the song ''Pusher Man.'' Banzhaf has also pushed the inane notion that McDonald's fare is akin to illegal drugs such as heroin. Last summer he threatened to sue fast-food restaurants if they didn't display warnings telling consumers their food was ''addictive.''

The lawyers and Spurlock are serving up a flawed premise: that we're powerless to stop Big Food from turning us into a nation of fatties. Sadly, the next guy to exist on nothing but fast food for a month will probably try to turn his story into a courtroom drama. It's a trial lawyer's dream come true, and a case Banzhaf has been waiting years to file.

I bet he will.

— Richard Berman is executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers.

Center For Consumer Fredom: CDC Corrects Obesity Study Results

CDC Officially Corrects Flawed Obesity Study
January 19, 2005

It's official. Yesterday afternoon, a team of researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including the agency's director, was forced to officially correct their deeply flawed study that wrongly blamed obesity for 400,000 U.S. deaths every year. Their statement read in part: "We are writing to inform the JAMA readership that through an error in our computations, we overestimated the number of deaths caused by poor diet and physical inactivity."

Although the CDC researchers owned up to one of their substantial mistakes, it is unfortunate that they did not reassess the larger problems with their highly controversial method. As we've told you before, the CDC relied on a flawed study that has come under fire from both inside and outside the agency for drastically overestimating the number of obesity-attributable deaths.

The CDC's correction only came after the Center for Consumer Freedom pointed out that the agency had overestimated the number of deaths supposedly attributable to obesity, and The Wall Street Journal's Betsy McKay broke the story. Despite yesterday's mea culpa, the CDC team's new estimate of 365,000 deaths a year fails to correct their study's most glaring problems, which serve to greatly exaggerate the real figure.

"365,000 deaths" is quite a convenient number if you're an obesity-hyper trying to scare the public. It probably won't be long before you hear the farce that obesity causes 1,000 deaths a day. To reach this too-good-to-be-true conclusion, the CDC had to perform a little mathematical hocus-pocus. The original 400,000 estimate was actually rounded down from 402,553, even though the nearest 5,000 number was 405,000. This time around, after recalculating to correct the computational error, the CDC reports the actual figure as 362,304 -- which is 360,000 if you round to the nearest 5,000. So now they're rounded up rather than down, both times ignoring the rules of rounding by failing to go to the nearest 5,000. And both times they ended up with the more media-friendly figure.

Houston Chronicle: Clemens is King of the Hill

With a contract richer than any other pitcher's in history, Clemens arms the Astros for another run at the NL pennant
18 million reasons to play
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

More than four decades after Harris County voters passed an $18 million bond issue to build a sporting palace that eventually became the Astrodome, Astros owner Drayton McLane on Friday closed an $18 million deal to keep another civic landmark — favorite son Roger Clemens — in a Houston uniform for the 2005 season.

Clemens' $18 million salary for next season will be the highest ever paid to a major-league pitcher. It dwarfs by more than $3 million the payroll for the entire 25-man Astros roster for 1992, the season before McLane bought the ballclub.

But consider how far the Astros have come. Also-rans amid the Astrodome's fading splendor in the early 1990s, they came within a victory last year of bringing Houston's first World Series to downtown's gleaming Minute Maid Park.

And the 42-year-old Clemens sounded Friday as if he were determined to make the difference in 2005.
"Like Drayton says, it's time to do it again," Clemens said. "And who's to say we can't?"
Certainly not McLane.

"(Clemens) can make more of a difference for the Houston Astros than any player in baseball," the owner said. "There is only one Roger Clemens. We have some magnificent players here who have played great. But it was his personality, his championship attitude, that lifted us last season.

"It was the greatest season in the history of the Houston Astros. But I like to draw the line. That's done. We've got to move forward."

For McLane, the Astros and their fans, Clemens' decision to return to baseball for a 22nd season takes some of the sting out of losing free agent Carlos Beltran's two weeks ago to the New York Mets.

$18 million commitment

That long-ago $18 million commitment paved the way toward building the domed stadium that gave Houston its first national identity as a big-league city. The latest investment gives the Astros a chance to continue the momentum that began last January, when Clemens ended his short-lived retirement for what he thought would be one last season with his hometown team.

After finishing 87-75 and out of the playoffs in 2003, the Astros were 92-70 in 2004, closing the regular season as baseball's hottest team to claim the National League wild-card berth. They won a playoff series for the first time in franchise history, beating the Atlanta Braves in the NL Division Series, before losing a seven-game series to the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL championship and a berth in the World Series.

After drawing 2.4 million fans in 2003, the Astros saw attendance zoom to 3.08 million last season. Season-ticket sales climbed from 15,000 to 20,000 for 2004.
Average attendance for the 21 games Clemens pitched at Minute Maid Park was 39,359, almost 1,500 higher than the average crowd on days he didn't pitch. And he gave everybody their money's worth for last year's $5 million salary (plus $1.825 million in bonuses),posting an 18-4 record to win his record seventh Cy Young Award.

Agent Randy Hendricks said signing Clemens gave the Astros a chance to dispel the small-time aura that some tried to attach to the team in the wake of the failure to sign Beltran.

"I told (the Astros) that particularly in light of the Beltran situation, why don't you just graciously and easily put him on top of everybody, because he deserves it and it's a great statement?" Hendricks said. "It shows that's not always about nickels and dimes. He did it for you last year; you do it for him this year.

"It's a good marketing move, they did it, and they don't become the discounted Astros."
Before Clemens arrived, said consultant David Carter with the Sports Business Group in Los Angeles, "you didn't hear any buzz surrounding the Astros. He particularly enhanced their notoriety among the next generation of fans, who previously had no reason to follow the Astros.

"I would say his value to the team was 50-50, comparing what he brings on the field and off the field. That's very rare. There are very few athletes who can bring that sort of distinction, who can assume a brand and give it maximum value."

For evidence of that new cachet, visitors to Minute Maid Park need look no further than the gap between the two light standards in left-center field. The brick-colored sign advertising the 2004 All-Star Game has been replaced by a sign advertising Citgo, which moved its corporate headquarters to Houston last year and recently became the Astros' newest corporate partner.

Clemens noticed it. After all, he began his major-league career in Boston, where the 40-year-old Citgo sign in Kenmore Square beyond the Green Monster is one of the signature landmarks of an evening at Fenway Park — home of the 2004 World Series champion Red Sox.

He fell short of bringing the World Series to Houston. But in what he thought was his final season, Clemens noticed the buzz he helped bring to his hometown team in 2004.

"The everlasting thing that I take (from 2004) is how loud it was at this stadium," he said. "(Yankees legend Reggie Jackson) said he hoped I could bring home a little bit of the magic and excitement I felt at Yankee Stadium. In the middle of the playoffs, I called him and said, 'You need to get down here and hear this stadium. It's loud.'

"When I wasn't out there performing, I asked the veteran players if things were like this a few years ago. They said absolutely not."

Clemens the fanAs the season progressed, not only was Clemens a player, he was an Astros fan.
And it was as an Astros fan, he said, that he began working last week toward his decision to play in 2005.

In the wake of Beltran's move to New York, Chronicle columnist Richard Justice on Jan. 10 wrote that the Astros should stick with younger players, "trust their judgment and move ahead." At least one reader agreed with him.

"I was thinking about what these guys were going to go through and was already distancing myself a little bit from performing," Clemens said. "Then I looked at the (proposed) lineup and read the column, and I thought it was nice. As a fan, I thought it was all right. We accept it; let's move on and see how we can do."

And move on the Astros will, bolstered by one of baseball's greatest righthanded pitchers in the starting rotation.

"I take a deep breath, and here we go again," Clemens said. "We'll try to bring some smiles to some more hometown fans' faces. I'm ready for the challenge."

Houston Chronicle: Clemens Signing Makes Sense

At last, there's sense where focus was dollars and cents
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

With the exception of owner Drayton McLane reiterating his championship cry, not one word was mentioned Friday about this Astros club having the goods to win a playoff berth, much less a title.

Not by general manager Tim Purpura. Not by manager Phil Garner. Not by Roger Clemens.
Contrast that with a year ago in the same setting, when Clemens first signed with the Astros. You could sense something special in the air. You walked away knowing something big was about to happen to baseball in this city.

Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell attended that 2004 news conference at the ballpark and spoke openly about getting to the World Series.

Andy Pettitte talked about the powerful lineup that complemented the starting pitching, comparing it to what he always knew as a Yankee.

Clemens said the goal of the 2004 Astros was more than "just making the playoffs."
This time, the Astros spoke in measured tones, balancing the promise of superb starting pitching against personnel losses in the offseason and questions in the lineup and bullpen.

"Make no mistake about it, the team we're going to go with right now, we're going to have to pitch and everybody's going to have to play a little bit above their capability," Clemens said. "Including me."

Institutional changeBut there is one huge difference between this Astros team entering a season with questions and former Astros teams in the same predicament.

Astros thinking has changed, top to bottom — primarily at the top, with McLane.
The way this club conducts its baseball business today has as much to do with baseball as business. Not long ago, championship talk was just that. Talk.

The run at Carlos Beltran, while futile, said much about how last season's playoff run reshaped baseball strategies at Union Station. So did Friday's signing of Clemens at a cool $18 million for one season.
There was a time not long ago when McLane would glad hand his way through the clubhouse, asking players what they've done to become champions, and players fought the urge to roll their eyes or laugh.

What have we done? What about you, big man?
Early in his ownership of the Astros, McLane was burned on a few big-name signings he thought would juice attendance and give this club a shot. Doug Drabek and Greg Swindellwere two of the more notable ones.

Those experiences made McLane meek and frugal. It's a reputation McLane has fought much of the past decade, but in many ways indeed it remains warranted.
At odds in front officeHe allowed free agents such as Darryl Kile, Mike Hampton and Moises Alou to move on. When former GM Gerry Hunsicker approached him with some kind of daring idea or another, occasionally McLane butted heads with his sidekick.

Former Astros closer Billy Wagner stated publicly what many believed privately about McLane. Before being traded to the Phillies after the 2003 season, Wagner characterized McLane as caring more about competing than winning.

"If you want to win, you don't cut salary," Wagner said. "That's just common sense."
Once, McLane didn't get it. The 2004 season changed that.
That's the biggest impact Clemens has had on this club. It's bigger than the buzz Clemens created every time he toed the rubber. It's bigger than Clemens' huge contract.

And it could prove to be bigger than the significant obstacles this club faces in 2005.

With Clemens showing the way and Beltran spinning magic last October, McLane realized it can be done here. Spending and thinking creatively does work.
As one Astros executive put it Friday: "If I would have told you three years ago that we'd make a $100 million offer to the biggest free agent on the market and sign Roger Clemens for $18 million, you would have asked, 'What is Drayton smoking?' In the past, it was always, 'We don't have the resources.' "

Much work to be doneRoger Clemens certainly won't make this club a champion by himself. He will make the starting rotation as formidable as any in baseball, barring injury.
But there are too many holes. There are too many questions for anyone to honestly believe the parts are there for another wildly entertaining October.

But Clemens has seen the change in his boss, too.
"Sure, there are questions," Clemens said. "There are a lot of things that figure into it. We need Lance (Berkman) back. We need Jeff (Bagwell) to feel as well as he can. You can just go on down the line.

"But who's to say that if we're scuffling at the All-Star break, we're not going to get another horse or two to jump-start us? Us, as players, giving (McLane) a taste of that, maybe that will encourage him to do it again. Maybe a few years back he was hesitant. That's what Andy and I wanted to do. We wanted to right this ship a little bit. Now they have something to live up to."
Now, maybe the Astros can head into April, even July, and know the bottom line won't be the same, old bottom line McLane used to study. It will be finding a way to win.

Houston Chronicle: Clemens Could Reach 8th on All-time Wins List

Upstaging Carlton still on to-do list
Clemens could reach eighth place on baseball's list of all-time winners
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

One of the most memorable moments of the 2004 baseball season — and there were more than a few — came May 5 when Roger Clemens moved past Steve Carlton on the all-time strikeout list.

The crowd at Minute Maid Park roared like never before when Clemens struck out Raul Mondesi of the Pittsburgh Pirates, hailing the Rocket as if he had broken a sacred record.
But the fact remained Clemens had moved into second place on the all-time list and was still more 1,500 strikeouts shy of breaking the record of 5,714 set by fellow Texas fireballer Nolan Ryan.

Nevertheless, Clemens' achievement was one for the books, and now that he has decided to return for his 22nd season, he could reach more milestones this year.

Clemens is at the top when it comes to winning Cy Young Awards, earning his record seventh last year.

"Go for No. 8!" Clemens' wife, Debbie, said after Friday's news conference to announce Clemens would return to the Astros.

One of a kindClemens, 42, also leads all active pitchers in wins (328), starts (639), innings (4,493), strikeouts (4,317), complete games (117) and shutouts (46).

Because of the era in which he pitches, Clemens won't come close to breaking records for most career wins, innings, complete games or shutouts.

But his place in history is secure.

"There's only one Roger Clemens," agent Randy Hendricks said.

Clemens needs just one more win to move into a tie for ninth-place on the all-time list with Carlton (329). The only other player on the all-time wins list within striking range is Tim Keefe, who's in eighth place with 342 wins from 1880-1893. Clemens would need to win 15 games to pass Keefe.

Clemens and Randy Johnson, who was recently traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the New York Yankees, are tied for second on the career list with 12 seasons of 200 or more strikeouts.

Both trail Ryan's 15 seasons on that list.

Johnson trailingJohnson, 41, ranks second behind Clemens with five Cy Young Awards and finished second behind Clemens in voting in the National League last year. Clemens is the oldest pitcher to win the Cy Young and is one of only four to win it in both leagues.

Clemens went 18-4 last season with a winning percentage of .818, best in the majors.

He became the first player to win eight Baseball Writers' Association of America awards — Cy Youngs in 1986, 1987, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2004 and the 1986 American League Most Valuable Player.

He also could move into the top 10 for career starts this year. With 639 starts, he's in 13th place and just 27 starts shy of tying Walter Johnson for 10th place at 666. Clemens started 32 games last season.

Shutouts become rareClemens is tied for 26th on the all-time shutout list with 46, but considering he has had just one shutout since the end of the 1999 season, it's unlikely he'll add to that total.

If he pitches 200 innings, he would move into the top 20 in innings pitched.
Because he has pitched for so long, Clemens ranks high on some dubious lists as well: home runs allowed (23rd with 336), walks allowed (11th with 1,458), earned runs allowed (27th with 1,588) and hit batters (13th with 147).

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Chuck Colson: Destroying Abortion Myths

Chuck Colson (archive)
January 19, 2005

As Americans have learned more about the devastating impact of abortion, we’ve seen our country become more pro-life. But we’re still a long way from building a culture of life that welcomes every child. To do that, we need to demolish the most pervasive myths about abortion. A new book titled The Cost of ‘Choice’: Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion is a valuable tool in that effort. In a series of thought-provoking essays, women from all walks of life tackle those myths head-on.

Myth number one: Abortion is first and foremost a woman’s issue. Again and again, the writers in this book make the case that abortion is an issue that hurts all of us, not least by pitting men, women, and children against each other. We’ve reached a point, the writers explain, where instead of providing support and solutions to women in crisis pregnancies, society often turns against them. The book is full of quotes and stories from women who aborted against their will because other people expected them to do so.

Also noteworthy here is an essay titled “The Feminist Case against Abortion,” in which Serrin M. Foster points out, “It is a man—abortion rights activist Larry Lader . . . who credits himself with guiding a reluctant [Betty] Friedan, the first president of NOW to make abortion a serious issue for the organization.” Foster explains how Lader and Dr. Bernard Nathanson worked together to promote the abortion agenda to the feminist movement.

That leads to myth number two. Foster adds, “Dr. Nathanson, who later became a pro-life activist, said that he and Lader were able to persuade Friedan that abortion was a civil rights issue, basing much of their argument on the claim that tens of thousands of women died from illegal abortions each year. Nathanson later admitted that they had simply made up the numbers.” In other words, those who claim that repealing Roe would take us back to a Dark Age of women dying in back alleys are basing their argument on a lie.

Which takes us to myth number three: the myth that legalized abortion automatically means safe abortion. Again, the writers in The Cost of ‘Choice’ beg to differ. Attorney Denise Burke writes, “With the abortion industry’s own statistics as a basis, it is clear that thousands of women are being injured by abortion each year and that some of them die.” And then there’s the physical aftermath of abortion, examined most thoroughly here by Dr. Angela Lanfranchi in an essay on the much-maligned link between abortion and breast cancer.

To enumerate all the abortion-related myths dealt with here could take all day. But really, they’re all part of one greater myth: the myth that abortion is good for women. As this book demonstrates, nothing could be further from the truth. Wilberforce Forum Fellow Paige Comstock Cunningham of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity sums it up well: “Women are simply offered abortion, the quick fix, while genuinely meaningful solutions to their social or personal problems are left unexplored. . . . As long as abortion on demand remains legal and a constitutional right, women will continue to be isolated and exploited.” Please, don’t tell us abortion is good for women.

For further reading and information:

Erika Bachiochi, ed., The Cost of ‘Choice’: Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion (Encounter Books, 2004). In this book, the writers argue that over the last three decades, legal abortion has had harmful effects on women—socially, medically, psychologically and culturally.

This year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., will take place on Monday, January 24, 2005 . To learn more, visit the website , or call 202-543-3377.

Erika Bachiochi, “ The abortion debate ,” Washington Times, 29 October 2004 .

Jan Wolfe, “ Feminist argues cost of abortion ,” The Heights ( Boston College), 9 December 2004 .

Steven Ertelt, “ Women Who Regret Their Abortions to Speak at Supreme Court ,”, 11 January 2005 .

BreakPoint Commentary No. 041026, “ Human Life: It’s What Matters Most .”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 041015, “ Politics First, Women Second: The Illness They Won’t Talk About .”

Brian McGuire, “ Abortion: A Tool of Male Oppression? ” interview with Serrin Foster, National Catholic Register, 16-22 April 2000.

Jill Stanek , “ How does ‘moderating pro-choice position’ translate? ”, 5 January 2005 .

Debra Rosenburg, “ Anxiety Over Abortion ,” Newsweek, 20 December 2005 .

BreakPoint’s “ Culture of Life Packet ” includes the Family Research Council booklet, “Building a Culture of Life: A Call to Respect Human Dignity in American Life,” and a “BreakPoint This Week” CD interview with William Saunders of Family Research Council in which he discusses what citizens can do to make a difference for life. The CD also includes a speech by Dr. Robert George, “Bioethics and the Clash of Orthodoxies.”

Chuck Colson is founder and chairman of BreakPoint Online, a member group.
©2005 BreakPoint Online
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Ann Coulter: It's Our Party, You Can Cry if You Want to

Ann Coulter (archive)
January 20, 2005

In what the New York Times called Angola's "worst crisis" in "nearly 30 years" in December 1992, the country erupted into civil war. By January 1993, the streets were piled with thousands of dead bodies. In the prior year, hundreds of thousands had died of starvation in Somalia. Millions more were still at risk.

Also in 1993, January floods left dozens dead and thousands homeless in Tijuana, Mexico. Russia was, according to a New York Times editorial, on the brink of disaster, facing economic circumstances like those "that helped bring forth Hitler." Nine people were killed in a volcano in Colombia in mid-January, including American scientists. In Bosnia, according to the Times, hundreds had died of starvation and exposure in a matter of days.

"It has all been so much fun," Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd gushed in the New York Times in January 1993. It was Bill Clinton's one-week inaugural celebration. "Is it too much to ask that it go on forever?" (For those who loved America, the next eight years would only seem to go on forever.)

Rich and Dowd quoted Hollywood agent Karen Russell, saying: "I'm in this fantasy world. I haven't slept. I'm punch drunk. ... I just feel like I'm in this place called Clinton-land" – which, if it were a theme park, could bill itself as "the sleaziest place on Earth!" Russell, they said, "spoke for everyone."

While dead bodies rotted in the streets of Angola and Somalia, the only "dead soldiers" in evidence in Clinton-land were the empty Cristal bottles lining the parade route. The most massive relief efforts that week took place at the rows of portable toilets circling each site of drunken Clintonista revelry.

Instead of having the usual Inauguration Day in 1993, Clinton had an "Inauguration Week," with high-tech pageantry, large-screen TVs on the mall, Hollywood direction and, indeed, half of Hollywood. The amount of money that would have been saved just by holding the inauguration in Brentwood could have averted the Rwandan tragedy Clinton ignored just a few years later.

The spokesman for Clinton's 1993 Inaugural Committee said the inaugural events would cost about $25 million – largesse exceeded only by the $50 million Ken Starr was forced to spend when "Clintonland" turned out to be populated with felons. Think of all the starving children in Angola, Somalia, Bosnia and elsewhere that $25 million could have fed! And don't even get me started on Michael Moore's "on location" food budget!

I wouldn't mention it, except for the Times' recent editorial snippily remarking that the amount of foreign aid to tsunami victims offered by the United States within the first few days of the disaster was "less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities." By that logic, why hold the Golden Globes, the Academy Awards, or spend money on restaurants and theater productions praised in the New York Times? That money could go to tsunami victims!

A letter writer to the Times redoubled the Times' bile, claiming to be "embarrassed for our country" on account of the government's "pathetic initial offer of aid" to the tsunami victims. Yet he was still willing to throw away 37 cents on a postage stamp to send his letter – money that could have been spent on the relief effort! (One strongly suspects the letter writer was embarrassed for his country long before the tsunami hit and will remain so long after.)

Another letter writer suggested the first lady wear a used dress to the inauguration to "honor the young people who are dying in her husband's misbegotten war." (To honor John Kerry's position on Iraq, Mrs. Bush would have to order an expensive gown and then, after it was delivered, decide she didn't want to pay for it.)

Hollywood liberals could not be reached for comment on the cost of the inauguration because they were being fitted for gowns and jewelry worth millions of dollars in anticipation of Oscar night.

Speaking of which, I just remembered: George Soros is worth $7 billion! Couldn't he get by on, say, $1 billion and donate the rest to the tsunami victims? If gun owners have to explain why they "need" a so-called "assault rifle," shouldn't Soros have to explain why he "needs" $7 billion? Last year, Soros announced that the central focus of his life would be removing Bush from office. Would that Soros could refocus that energy on alleviating the suffering of tsunami victims.

Ann Coulter is host of, a member group.

©2005 Universal Press Syndicate
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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

David Hackworth: We Can Still Win

The invasion of Iraq was sledgehammer-simple: Slug in some “shock and awe” and kiss Saddam Hussein goodbye.

But while our troops and generals deserve a big “bravo” for their brilliance and bravery during the initial war-fighting phase, the occupation – which went wrong right from the get-go and has bled along for almost two more terrible years – is going down as one of the biggest snafus in U.S. military history.

If the generals had any kind of plan to stabilize Iraq, it had to have been drawn up and approved by serving officers seriously stoned on LSD. But as there’s zip evidence of any high-level pre-invasion planning effort, I suspect that Gen. Tommy Franks bought into all the Pentagon hype about how once the statue of Saddam fell it would be wine, roses and ecstatic dancing in the streets – and then the majority of our soldiers would leave 40,000 peacekeepers behind to assist the appropriately grateful Iraqis in building a booming, oil-rich democracy and return home to confetti and victory parades.

Our troops were truly magnificent in the early days of the fumbled occupation. Their skill, sacrifice and flexibility gave new meaning to “take charge and move out, field expediency and staying loose,” and prevented even worse disasters in the chaos that ensued after our forces took down Saddam.

There is no doubt both that our warriors won the battle and that our generals blew the occupation and have been playing catch-up – badly – ever since. And nearly two years later, too many of our senior military geniuses still don’t understand that we’re fighting insurgents and that they need to get the necessary additional combat power on the ground quicksmart.

Again, the three mistakes that have continued to haunt our forces in Iraq since April ‘03 are: (1) No initial occupation plan; (2) no acknowledgment at the top that we’re fighting an insurgency war; and (3) not enough combat troops to put down the insurgents, who daily become smarter, stronger and better-organized.

Our grunts have been letting me know since the early days of the invasion that there has never been enough people power on deck to do the job. “We’re stretched too thin” has been a constant complaint. “Battalions are doing the work of brigades and brigades divisions,” snorts an infantry skipper now in the Mosul area of operations.

So far, not one general has had the guts to stand tall and demand more troops from either Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers – who was selected for the job because he’s a technical whiz, not a warfighter – or his boss, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld. And late last year, when a reporter tore into Rummy on CNN about how our forces were knee-deep in an insurgency war that wasn’t going well, Rummy remained in undaunted denial, defending the one-note, high-tech 21st-century force he keeps pushing – in spite of the overwhelming evidence that this war is now all about insurgency.

Meanwhile, our brass hats appear to be suffering from the Shinseki disease they caught bearing witness to then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki’s being treated as a leper for standing up to Rummy over the number of troops needed for the occupation. The lesson learned from this telling example: Don’t cross Rummy. So even though Shinseki was dead-right, the brass went along – to get along – with a shamefully inadequate troop strength.

In my judgment, the war in Iraq against the insurgents is still winnable: if Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran are told to stop supporting the insurgents or else; if we get enough boots on the ground ASAP to saturate and dominate the badlands; and if the brass allow the small-unit leaders to do their thing without the obsessive micromanagement that infects our Army.

The troops should be left alone to build up a solid network of Iraqis who want the war to end. Then together they can put down the spoilers and spread the good life that the majority of the people in Iraq are now starting to enjoy.

Fighting insurgents is relatively simple. You don’t need to be the top guy in the class to win the game. But you do need common sense and commanders who aren’t afraid to stand up to bum-kissing top brass and dumb policy.

--Eilhys England contributed to this column.

Col. David H. Hackworth (USA Ret.) is co-founder and Senior Military Columnist for DefenseWatch magazine. For information on his many books, go to his home page at, where you can sign in for his free weekly Defending America. Send mail to P.O. Box 11179, Greenwich, CT 06831. His newest book is “Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts.” © 2005 David H. Hackworth. Please send Feedback responses to

Dennis Prager: The Case for Judeo-Christian Values, Part III
Better Answers: The Case for Judeo-Christian Values, Part III
By Dennis Prager
January 18, 2005

Those who do not believe that moral values must come from the Bible or be based upon God's moral instruction argue that they have a better source for values: human reason.

In fact, the era that began the modern Western assault on Judeo-Christian values is known as the Age of Reason. That age ushered in the modern secular era, a time when the men of "the Enlightenment" hoped they would be liberated from the superstitious shackles of religious faith and rely on reason alone. Reason, without God or the Bible, would guide them into an age of unprecedented moral greatness.

As it happened, the era following the decline of religion in Europe led not to unprecedented moral greatness, but to unprecedented cruelty, superstition, mass murder and genocide. But believers in reason without God remain unfazed. Secularists have ignored the vast amount of evidence showing that evil on a grand scale follows the decline of Judeo-Christian religion.

There are four primary problems with reason divorced from God as a guide to morality.
The first is that reason is amoral. Reason is only a tool and, therefore, can just as easily argue for evil as for good. If you want to achieve good, reason is immensely helpful; if you want to do evil, reason is immensely helpful. But reason alone cannot determine which you choose. It is sometimes rational to do what is wrong and sometimes rational to do what is right.

It is sheer nonsense -- nonsense believed by the godless -- that reason always suggests the good. Mother Teresa devoted her life to feeding and clothing the dying in Calcutta. Was this decision derived entirely from reason? To argue that it was derived from reason alone is to argue that every person whose actions are guided by reason will engage in similar self-sacrifice, and that anyone who doesn't live a Mother Teresa-like life is acting irrationally.

Did those non-Jews in Europe who risked their lives to save a Jew during the Holocaust act on the dictates of reason? In a lifetime of studying those rescuers' motives, I have never come across a single instance of an individual who saved Jews because of reason. In fact, it was irrational for any non-Jews to risk their lives to save Jews.

Another example of reason's incapacity to lead to moral conclusions: On virtually any vexing moral question, there is no such a thing as a [missing] purely rational viewpoint. What is the purely rational view on the morality of abortion? Of public nudity? Of the value of an animal versus that of a human? Of the war in Iraq? Of capital punishment for murder? On any of these issues, reason alone can argue effectively for almost any position. Therefore, what determines anyone's moral views are, among other things, his values -- and values are beyond reason alone (though one should be able to rationally explain and defend those values). If you value the human fetus, most abortions are immoral; if you only value the woman's view of the value of the fetus, all abortions are moral.

The second problem with reason alone as a moral guide is that we are incapable of morally functioning on the basis of reason alone. Our passions, psychology, values, beliefs, emotions and experiences all influence the ways in which even the most rational person determines what is moral and whether to act on it.

Third, the belief in reason alone is itself based on an irrational belief -- that people are basically good. You have to believe that people are basically good in order to believe that human reason will necessarily lead to moral conclusions.

Fourth, even when reason does lead to a moral conclusion, it in no way compels acting on that conclusion. Let's return to the example of the non-Jew in Nazi-occupied Europe. Imagine that a Jewish family knocks on his door, asking to be hidden. Imagine further that on rational grounds alone (though I cannot think of any), the non-Jew decides that the moral thing to do is hide the Jews. Will he act on this decision at the risk of his life? Not if reason alone guides him. People don't risk their lives for strangers on the basis of reason. They do so on the basis of faith -- faith in something that far transcends reason alone.

Does all this mean that reason is useless? God forbid. Reason and rational thought are among the hallmarks of humanity's potential greatness. But alone, reason is largely worthless in the greatest quest of all -- making human beings kinder and more decent. To accomplish that, God, a divinely revealed manual and reason are all necessary. And even then there are no guarantees.

But if you want a quick evaluation of where godless reason leads, look at the irrationality and moral confusion that permeate the embodiment of reason without God -- your local university.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, columnist and author of four books, including Think a Second Time (HarperCollins), containing 44 of his essays.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Ed Bouchette: Vegas Makes Pats Three-point Favorites

BGI Analysis: Vegas does Cowher, Steelers big favor by making Patriots three-point favorites
Monday, January 17, 2005
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Monday morning and it's nine degrees in Pittsburgh:

The key to beating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game will be the play of the Steelers' gloved quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. Looks like another glove day for the quarterback Sunday, which means I'll receive a truckload of e-mails about it. Look, the guy says he gets a better grip on the ball with the gloves in cold weather. Maybe he does not get as good a grip as he does without gloves in warm weather, but he's been doing this for awhile and I'm sure he's not pulling the gloves on because they give him less control. I know Terry Bradshaw did not wear gloves, but they also did not have the kind they do now and maybe Bradshaw felt more comfortable without them. Different strokes, you know?

Tom Brady wears gloves.

Against Baltimore on Dec. 26, two weeks after his worst outing of the season against the New York Jets, Ben Roethlisberger completed 14 of 19 passes for 221 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a 125.1 passer rating. He's capable of playing a very good game Sunday night.

Did the playoff pressure get to Roethlisberger? I don't know. What did they call it when he had his previous poor game against the Jets on Dec. 12 -- the 13-Shopping-Days-Left-Until-Christmas pressure?

The Steelers are 3-point underdogs? That's the best news Bill Cowher could receive on this Jan. 17. It will be the first time he takes a team into a home playoff game as an underdog. They were heavy favorites in each of their previous AFC championship games, except the one against Denver when they were slight favorites. And you know how most of those turned out.

Yes, the Steelers are lucky to be here, just as the Denver Broncos were lucky to beat the Steelers in the AFC championship game after the 1997 season. Just because Norm Johnson missed his field goal, from 38 yards, early in the game rather than near the end didn't make it any more of a miss. And, just as with Herm Edwards and his staff, some key bonehead decisions that day by Bill Cowher and his staff helped the Broncos -- Kordell Stewart throwing deep into the end zone on second-and-two in the first half, for one; going into a hurry-up offense, punting, and giving Denver and John Elway a chance to score a second touchdown just before the half. The Steelers lost that game by three points and Denver went on to win its first Super Bowl.

It doesn't matter how you win. The Patriots were lucky to beat Oakland in the "tuck" game, which put New England here and helped them win their first Super Bowl.

Stop complaining. In 1972, the Steelers pulled off the most miraculous play in NFL history, the Immaculate Reception, to beat the Raiders at the buzzer, 13-7. Did their fans moan the rest of the week about how lousy the offense played that day and how lucky they were to be in the AFC championship game? The following week, the Miami Dolphins needed a fake punt to beat the upstart Steelers 21-17 to advance to the Super Bowl. Now, they talk about those unbeaten Dolphins as one of the great teams in NFL history, as they should.

Doesn't matter -- luck, breaks, yips by the kicker, bad officiating calls, none of it. You win, you win. Sort it out later.

(Click here for more National Football League news and stats.)

Harvey Araton: A Weather-Related Problem

[Please stop comparing Peyton Manning to John Unitas and Joe Montana...and get rid of domes and artificial turf...then we'll see how many records Peyton breaks. Oh, and by the way, great leaders don't hang their heads and pout like little school girls at the first hint of adversity...can anyone imagine John Unitas ever displaying such behavior? - jtf]

The New York Times
Published: January 17, 2005

Foxboro, Mass.-
It is one thing being the prettiest quarterback, another to be the grittiest. It is one thing to be the coolest cat around from the comfort of one's carpet, another to conquer the conditions of the cold, cruel world.

Wasn't this the year Manning had too much arm power for even Bill Belichick's brainpower? Wasn't Manning, the quarterback who amazed us with a record 49 touchdown passes this season, finally going to have Tom Brady's number? Instead, he was humbled again by those killer B's - Belichick and Brady - and another persistent opponent, Mother Nature, which cannot be lured and vanquished indoors.

One Mike Vanderjagt field goal. Three lousy points. That's what the Colts' Manning-led offense put on the board in a 20-3 defeat against the defending champion Patriots at frosty Gillette Stadium. This, after the blizzard of offense the Colts unleashed, indoors, on the Denver Broncos last week. This, after Manning's 4,557 regular-season passing yards, 67.6 completion percentage, a mere 10 interceptions, the record-shattering 49 touchdown passes, 6 in one game, 5 in three others.

Against the rest of the league, especially back in Indianapolis, dome sweet dome, Manning is obviously the chosen one, the audible king. Is it unfair at this point to say he is something much less than that in the icy open-air arena, where real football legends are made?

"I've always believed that a player does kind of define himself," Manning said after failing to complete a pass longer than 18 yards. "I've kind of changed those thoughts because there are so many opinions and experts about me and my career. I've just stopped trying to define myself."

This isn't baseball, where pitchers have the ability to dominate an opponent all by their lonesome. Manning's defense didn't have the staying power in the second half to contain Corey Dillon, who ran for 144 yards. A couple of lost footballs to Patriots inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi didn't help. A holding penalty killed another drive. But the expectation comes with the territory, whether you are Chad Pennington trying to prove you can win a big game or Manning, now shouldering the burden of demonstrating that he can reach the biggest game.

His coach, Tony Dungy, dismissed the talk of Manning being on his way to Marinoville, to a Hall of Fame but Super Bowl-less career. He reminded everyone of the doubts people had about Steve Young, about John Elway, before they punctuated their individual Hall of Fame credentials. Michael Jordan didn't win an N.B.A. championship until his seventh season. This was Manning's seventh season.

Of course, it's still early, but this was the year Manning broke Marino's single-season touchdown record, and yesterday that meant nothing. Even factoring in the quality of the opponent, the contrast from one week to another, inside to out, was remarkable. The Colts looked like a more celebrated A.F.C. version of the Vikings. If that is what they ultimately are, mustn't Manning's personal achievements be viewed somewhat like a slugger who jacks them out of a bandbox?

These are the standards Manning has set for himself. And these were not even the defensive Patriots of 2003, who intercepted him four times in last year's A.F.C. title game. Belichick was missing his starting cornerbacks, Ty Law and Tyrone Poole, as well as the stalwart defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Another wintry presence, the reserve cornerback Earthwind Moreland, was on the inactive list, unavailable to help fire up the elements.

"Most other times when you have starters down and you are missing some Pro Bowlers, you really sort of lick your lips," Manning said. He shook his head ruefully. With the Patriots, he added, "it seems like it doesn't really matter who is in there."

At least not in this venue, at this time of year. Not with the slight snow in a gentle wind that began to fall, on cue, just before 4 p.m., just as the afternoon light began to fade. In the stadium lights, the swirl looked more like a smoky haze. Welcome to the Patriots' house, the New England skies seemed to be saying.

Manning and Dungy insisted it was the Patriots who were the problem, not the weather or the field or the fates. But as the light snow continued to fall, and the field began to whiten for the start of the second half, the track became no place for Marvin Harrison or any of these fleet-footed Colts to be going long for a quick Manning strike.

The Patriots' defense pitched a second-half shutout, while Brady and Dillon and the familiar Patriots cast chewed up chunks of clock like a horde of cleats tearing away at a wet grass field. A 6-3 ball game became the 20-3 blowout.

The Patriots drove 87 yards in 8 minutes 16 seconds for one touchdown, and 94 yards in 7:24 for another. Manning spent most of his time on the sideline, watching the clock run, watching Brady again meet the magnitude of the moment, on his way to Pittsburgh, another frigid outpost, where he will feel right at home.

The A.F.C. title will be settled by the great outdoorsmen of the N.F.L. northeast, while the Manning who throws the prettiest passes will go home to watch the remainder of the postseason from the climate-controlled comfort of his home.