Friday, March 04, 2005

Touchstone Mag: The Woman They Want to Murder, Legally

[From the "mere comments" section of

Robert Hart sends me this "must post" item. Indeed: if this doesn't make you mad, what will? Go ahead, explain this to your kids. From the Washington Times:

Schiavo agonizes-

"This past Christmas Eve day, I went to visit Terri Schiavo with her parents. ... I had no idea what to expect. ... The media and Mr. Schiavo clearly give the impression that Terri is in a coma or comatose state and engages only in non-purposeful and reflexive movements and responses. ...
"Instead, I saw a very pretty woman with a peaches and cream complexion and a lovely smile, which she even politely extended to me as I introduced myself to her. ... When her mother was close to her, Terri's whole face lit up. She smiled. She looked directly at her mother and she made all sorts of happy sounds. When her mother talked to her, Terri was quiet and obviously listening. When she stopped, Terri started vocalizing. ...

"When we were preparing to leave, ... Terri was visibly upset [her family members] were leaving. She almost appeared to be trying to cling to them. ... She was definitely not in a coma, not even close. This visit certainly shed more light for me on why the Schindlers are fighting so hard to protect her; to get her medical care and rehabilitative assistance, and to spend all they have to protect her life."

—Barbara Weller, writing on "A Visit With Terri Schiavo," in the Winter 2005 issue of Lifeline
Posted by James M. Kushiner at 08:44 AM

U2: How To

[I encourage the reader to examine the site from whence this article came...see the link below. - jtf]

by Zachry O. Kincaid, director of The Matthew's House Project

A world exists in the warehouses of Amazon for How To guides: how to win friends and influence people, how to talk so kids will listen, how to make love like a porn star, how to cook everything, how to read the Bible, how to succeed with women.

You name the subject and 100,000 bets are on that you'll find what you're looking for. The How To genre is rank with practical advice, which often leaves the quandarying passerby with questions of "Why?" and "How do you fill a book answering that." But, systematically, rhythmically, predictably you turn the pages and arrive at a sustainable, believable conclusion.

If you ever thought of putting a How To book to musical form,U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb probably wouldn't make the list. It's not clear-cut enough.

July 16, 1945, blew up. It marks the first atomic test, the dawnthat could destroy worlds. Set in New Mexico's wilderness, the day boasted a new babel where the sun rose in angry haste, not due to buildings that stretched high, but because the excesses that evaporated everything and made nothing. As history counts, the United States used the Bomb twice only a few weeks after the desert tests. The Bomb became a tool to weed out a Japanese confession. The Japanese, a few hundred thousand less in number, surrendered; the screaming match began - "Just tuck away that little device," someone said. "Tuck it deep inside your coat pocket. Loose it among the change."

Sixty years has past and four of Ireland's finest slap the label How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb across 11 songs. Since metaphor, city blocks long, defines a large measure of U2's voice, a direct correlation to the the Bomb and some 007-type trying to beat the clock may not have entered their heads.

So why this title in a post-911, pre-tsunami, throws-of-Aids time in their career?

From an innocent Boy to a more aware War, "If you walk away, I will follow," is challenged by "trenches dug within our hearts." The melodic Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree move from a country defined as "God's" to the jolting acrobatics of Actung Baby's "nothing makes sense, nothing seems to fit." The consuming tiredness of Pop's Playboy mansion moves on to the provisions of All that We Can't Leave Behind:

You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen...And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on...Leave it behindYou've got to leave it behind...
All this you can leave behind.

We arrive at November 22, 2004, with four musicians who have sifted through their assessment of society and culture some 25 years. Now, it's ruptured. Now, it's cause for concern; it's urgent; it's ticking; it's as luminous as atomic bombs.

1997's Pop groans more than their other albums, and since then the groaning has become a nag, like Chekov's happy man plagued with a hammer always ready to beat his head. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is an attempt to pull the band back to citing things like unforgettable fires and a knowledge that's wide awake. Instead of being angry about feeling too much or to little, they seem to share the sentiment of Susan Waltz who began working with Amnesty International 30 years ago. I phoned her recently. "I've seen amazing things," she says, but, "The promise of human rights and the assurance of 'never again' are repeatedly betrayed." The purpose of her actions, she says, resides in the words of Jesus and his call to the least among us. "My motivation is no longer to change the world, but to live out a testimony."

Likewise, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is not about dismantling physical weapons or actual wars or even the social changes that make Bono a megaphone for Africa's pandemic. It's about humility; it's about understanding; it's about internal change.

The album starts with "Vertigo." It sets the context as it beckons "hello, hello," and the dimming lights only give room to kneel. If "Vertigo" leaves the stage off-kilter, "Miracle Drug" flips it completely on its side. It infuses the idea of miracle even though the ground is unstable. "I've had enough of romantic love, I'd give it up... for a miracle drug" because, "beneath the noise, below the din," there's a voice. Humility sets in with the mid-section (as would happen with most 40 somethings) of the album -

- the beyond the grave plea to Bono's dad in "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own,"

- the "lay down" groove of "Love and Peace or Else,"

- the doubtful footing of "One Step Closer" (to knowing),

- the honesty of "A Man and a Woman" and its subtle demand that "you can't be numb for love. The only pain is to feel nothing at all,"

- the un-rock and roll confession that actions matter, that every heart doesn't mend and our testimony matters, and

- the analysis, "Some things you shouldn't get too good at, like smiling, crying and celebrity. Some people got way to much confidence baby."

No doubt boxing Bono and run-around-your-heart Bono will be traded in this tour for a setting even more minimal - not for pure music's sake, but to burn out some of the light bulbs. For, when the lights go down the only thing known is "that you give me something." And as "Vertigo" sets the context, "Yahweh" releases it.

U2 has figured out that it's about a story and grafting yourself into that story. It's no longer about How To. Just as All that You Can't Leave Behind inverted what they really said - you can leave it behind - so also How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb leaves no clear blueprint. Rather, it offers perspective: pain always comes before the gift of life, even as we wait for the dawn with much work to do, there is a story. Life is not as random as the atomic bombs thrown at us suggest. And as all things should end, let's pray:

Yahweh...Take this city
A city should be shining on a hill
Take this cityIf it be your will
What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart
Take this heart
Take this heart
And make it break

© March 2005
More by Zachry Kincaid >>

Maria Sliwa: Ignoring Muslim Murder on U.S. Soil

By Maria Sliwa
March 4, 2005

It's a fearsome prospect: Christian proselytizing may have caused the murders of four Coptic Christians slain last month in New Jersey. Relatives of the murdered family, as well as key figures in the American Coptic community, think so -- and believe the brutal slayings were a warning not to proselytize Muslims. They say that the body of the 15-year-old daughter, Sylvia Armanious, was the most viciously attacked in the killings. Was it because she was too vocal in sharing her faith or was it a robbery gone bad?
"Sylvia talked about Jesus to everyone," her uncle Ayman Garas said. "She was extremely religious."

On Jan. 14 the bodies of Amal Garas, 37, her husband, Hossam Armanious, 47, and their daughters Sylvia, 15, and Monica, 8, were found in their home bound and gagged with puncture wounds to their throats. The unsolved murders were thrust into the spotlight again earlier in February when the relatives of the victims went to Washington to meet with lawmakers and hold a press conference to put an end to rumors about why the family was murdered and to ask for a fair investigation.

"We aren't looking for trouble, we are just looking for the facts," Emil Garas, an uncle of one of the victims, said.

This week, Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio told reporters that someone using Hossam Armanious' debit card removed thousands of dollars from several of his accounts during a string of ATM visits in the days following the murders. Yesterday, DeFazio announced that it may be unlikely investigators will be able to decipher the license plate of the car used to make the ATM withdrawals.

Many Copts believe that conversion sparked the murders. While Dr. Monir Dawoud, the acting president of the American Coptic Association, says that proselytizing is not a common practice among Coptic Christians, it is common for the denomination of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church that Sylvia attended in Jersey City. Congregants at this church call themselves "born-again."

A number of Sylvia's friends interviewed at the Mid East Evangelical church, said that tension ensued after Sylvia befriended the Muslim daughter of a Halal butcher and encouraged her to convert to Christianity. They said they fear Sylvia's Christian influence on this girl may have provoked the killings that followed.

When asked today about the progress of the case, the Hudson County Prosecutor said: "We believe based on our investigation that it's a financially motivated crime of robbery and greed. We doubt that it has to do with extremism. Nothing is being discounted, but it does not appear to the various law enforcement agencies working on the case to be religiously motivated."

But according to Robert Spencer, the director of, terrorism and plunder often go together under Islamic law. "It isn't necessarily an either or proposition," Spencer says. "It is lawful under Islam to kill and seize the property of those who war against Islam."

Spencer says he obtained information, from sources close to the murders, that the Halal butcher had planned the killings for months and that several of his accomplices are still in the country. Spencer says police are investigating. But when DeFazio was asked about the information his office was provided, he said: "None of that was given any credence by any law enforcement agencies. Our office has not received any names." But Spencer gave the Hudson County Prosecutor's office very detailed information (names, locations and phone numbers) of the alleged murderers and their accomplices. When reminded of this, DeFazio then said that he did receive this information, but he appeared uncertain if all those named were questioned before this avenue of investigation was closed.

DeFazio is certain about one thing. All talk of religious extremism is off limits. "This case has nothing to do with religious extremism," he said. "And if you keep asking these questions, I won't continue with the interview."

Friends of Sylvia and fellow churchgoers say that though they are grateful for the investigators on the case, they are still convinced that conversion is the motivating factor for the Jersey City murders and fear this will encourage an increase in the persecution of converts (and those who convert them) in the U.S., as is the case in Egypt.

Freedom House, a Washington-based nonpartisan organization that monitors the global spread of democracy, says Coptic Christians in Egypt live in oppression and fear. "While Egypt has no explicit law against apostasy, the influence of Sharia law on the civil code is creating a de facto law," which sanctions intolerance. Each year thousands of Copts convert to Islam, many under pressure, and Christians have an emigration rate three to four times that of Muslims due to religious persecution, Freedom House reports. Coptic church sources estimate that more than a million Copts have left Egypt in the past thirty years.

Egyptian Muslim leaders in Jersey City, however, insist that such persecution in America is not likely. Hamed el Shenawany, the president of Jersey City's Al Huda Islamic Center, says that though it is possible that a "crazy fanatic" could have sought retribution against the Armanious family, Christian proselytizing is fully accepted by Muslims in the U.S. "America is the land of the free and Muslims are free to convert to any religion they want," el Shenawany says.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior terrorism analyst at the Washington-based Investigative Project, a terrorism research center, disagrees and says this hatred has crossed international borders. "It's an unfortunate fact that even in the West many converts from Islam to Christianity are driven underground in the practice of their new faith because they fear retaliation," he says. "A number of converts in the U.S. have received serious threats, particularly if they're outspoken in their new faith." There is little data, he adds. But he notes that "At least ten cases since the mid-1990s in which apostates from Islam living in the West have reported threats, in places that include Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Britain and the Netherlands. In some cases, the apostates have reported actual physical violence."

It's not hard to find such cases. A former Muslim from Egypt, who wouldn't give his name for this article for fear of retribution, says he fled to America in 1992, after he was severely beaten for converting to Christianity. He says he was threatened in 2001 when he began discussing his faith with Muslims on PalTalk, a New York City-based internet chat service. Though Saleh admits that his debates were often too fervent on the net, he was shocked to find photos of himself and family members, along with all of his contact information, on a radical Islamic website called Below Saleh's picture was a statement of warning. After he appeared on Gegadeath, Saleh says he received numerous death threats on the phone and quickly moved to another state.

Last month Ahmed Mohamed, 36, a former Muslim in Colorado, who converted to Christianity, discovered that his photo and contact information were posted on another radical Islamic website,, along with accusations that he'd been debating Muslims on PalTalk. He says that since his information was posted, he has received numerous threats on the phone, in person and in letters he has received in the mail.

Whether robbery or extremism is the motive, family members of the Armanious family in New Jersey live in inconsolable grief and continue to hope that the murderers will soon be identified.

"I think of Amal, Hossam, Sylvia and Monica all the time," Sylvia's grandmother Ferail Garas said. "Like a movie, their deaths keep playing over and over in my mind. Whenever I am alone, I cannot stop crying."

"I just want the killers of my family found."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

MIchelle Malkin: The FEC vs. Blogs

By Michelle Malkin · March 03, 2005 12:01 PM

CNET reporter Declan McCullagh has an important piece warning of the "coming crackdown on blogging."

Joshua Claybourn of In the Agora analyzes the campaign finance law absurdities and First Amendment infringements on bloggers here.

Winfield Myers is on the same wavelength. He writes:

The possibilities that [FEC commissioner Bradley] Smith lays out are chilling and, if enacted, could spell the end of blogging as we know it. Indeed, it could turn much of what is published on the Net into a samizdat-style activity.

Sound alarmist? Read on. It all stems, of course, from McCain-Feingold, the absurd and (pace the Supreme Court) unconstitutional curtailment of political speech in violation of the First Amendment. Both Senators, and the Democratic members of the Commission, favor regulating political speech on the Internet, lest bloggers and electronic publications enjoy an advantage over print publications. This is a huge power grab by elements of the federal bureaucracy who are threatened by New Media, and a first step by those forces to shut down political speech they don't like.

This is something bloggers of all political stripes should unite against. Instapundit has more links.
I think McCullagh and FEC commissioner Brad Smith have done a real service sounding the alarm as the panel moves forward on extending McCain-Feingold to the Internet. Here's the last paragraph from the CNET interview, but make sure to read it in its entirety:

Smith: This is an incredible thicket. If someone else doesn't take action, for instance in Congress, we're running a real possibility of serious Internet regulation. It's going to be bizarre.

Marvin Olasky: Francis Schaeffer's Political Legacy

[When I was in college (Liberty University) Dr. Schaeffer played a momentous role in helping me to understand that Christianity could have a consistent worldview...that it could make sense on some level. I remember hearing him speak in chapel for the first time and I sat transfixed. When Schaeffer was finished Dr. Jerry Falwell (the school's founder and chancellor) stood up and said, "I don't understand a word he just said but I'm sure it was good." I understood every word and he and C. S. Lewis were largely responsible at that time for helping to continue believing in orthodox Christianity...not enough is written about Francis Schaeffer...I'm forever grateful and indebted to him.]

Marvin Olasky (archive)
March 3, 2005

Who's the major figure behind the election and re-election of George W. Bush? On one level, the visionary Karl Rove. At a deeper level, a theologian most Americans have never heard of: Francis Schaeffer, who 50 years ago this month founded an evangelistic haven in Switzerland, L'Abri.

Over the next quarter-century, Schaeffer changed the lives of many disaffected young people who stopped at L'Abri and found an intellectual pastor who dealt with their hardest questions. He summarized his answers in notable books like "The God Who is There" and "Escape from Reason," and then turned to political matters in his book "How Should We Then Live."

Published in 1976 and then turned into a film series, that book -- along with the impetus of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision -- pushed many evangelicals into political and cultural involvement. Schaeffer brilliantly summarized the history of Western civilization and explained problems in philosophy, science and culture. He concluded that if Christians stayed aloof from political and cultural debates, Western civilization would go down the drain.
In a follow-up book, "A Christian Manifesto" (1981), Schaeffer argued that:

The people in the United States have lived under the Judeo-Christian consensus for so long that now we take it for granted. ... We have forgotten why we have a positive balance between form and freedom in government, and the fact that we have such tremendous freedoms without these freedoms leading to chaos. Most of all, we have forgotten that none of these is natural in the world.

Schaeffer went on to describe two tracks, and did not predict which would be dominant down the road. He wrote:

The first track is the fact of the conservative swing in the United States in the 1980 election. With this there is at this moment a unique window open in the United States ... and we must take advantage of it in every way we can as citizens, as Christian citizens of the democracy in which we still have freedom.

He made it clear that: "We are in no way talking about any kind of theocracy. ... In the Old Testament, there was a theocracy commanded by God," but now "we must not confuse the Kingdom of God with our country." He emphasized that "the United States was founded upon a Christian consensus," and that "we today should bring Judeo-Christian principles into play in regard to government. But that is very different from a theocracy in name or in fact."

He emphasized the importance of working politically to maintain first track opportunities, because otherwise we'd be on a second track: movement toward an authoritarian government with rule by a legal and technological elite. On the second track, some people would engage in civil or even forceful disobedience, and that would contain its own dangers:

Speaking of civil disobedience is frightening because there are so many kooky people around. ... Such people will in their unbalance tend to do the very opposite from considering the appropriate means at the appropriate time and place.

Schaeffer died in 1984, at a time when some hard-line Christian separatists still looked down on political involvement as cavorting with Satan, and a few romantics yearned for the second track. Many evangelical thought leaders, though, had absorbed Schaeffer's teaching, which then trickled down to millions more. The result was political organization and pulpit exhortation that propelled evangelicals to the polls, where they overwhelmingly voted for conservative candidates, including George W. Bush. Karl Rove is one among many who said the evangelical vote made the difference.

Since Schaeffer welcomed the election of Ronald Reagan, he would have applauded the 2004 results. He would see great dangers in genetic manipulation and would mourn the continuation of the abortion holocaust. But I believe he would advise us to work hard for first track political success, because neglecting politics and law is "absolutely utopian in a fallen world."

Marvin Olasky writes daily commentary on Worldmagblog, a member group.
©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Marvin Olasky Read Olasky's biography

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Wesley J. Smith: Million Dollar Missed Opportunity

What Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning movie could have done.
03/01/2005 11:00:00 AM

IF ACADEMY AWARDS were given for the greatest lost opportunity, Million Dollar Baby would have won them, too.

As anyone who has been paying attention to the ruckus mounted ably and righteously by the disability rights community must now know, the movie climaxes with Frankie, Clint Eastwood's character, euthanizing the once indomitable Maggie, his boxing protégé, played by Hillary Swank.

Frankie kills Maggie because she doesn't want to go on living after being catastrophically injured and disabled in a boxing match. It isn't just the disability that leads to her suicidal desire. In the world of the script, she is plunged headlong from triumph to utter hopelessness. Indeed, the script writers manipulate the audience emotionally into thinking, "Of course she wants to die. Given the same situation, who wouldn't?"

First, Maggie becomes a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic, after once living a life of utter physicality. That would be difficult to adjust to even under ideal circumstances. But Maggie's life as a disabled woman is anything but ideal. Despite supposedly receiving the best of care she soon develops bed sores so serious that one of her legs is amputated. (Apparently the writers didn't know that proper medical care prevents most bed sores.) Third, her venal and uncaring family refuses to visit, and when they do, she is pressured into signing over control of her assets. Fourthly, after trying to kill herself in a terribly painful way, she is force-sedated to prevent further suicide attempts.

Frankie is in anguish over his friend's plight and concludes that he is actually killing Maggie by letting her live. So, in his love for her, he overcomes his Catholic guilt and murders Maggie by removing the respirator and injecting her with an overdose of adrenalin. The intent, of course, is to leave not a dry eye in the house.

The makers of Million Dollar Baby and the Academy members who voted it Best Picture probably believe the film was innovative and courageous. But depicting mercy killing as compassionate and loving has been used as a plot devise so often that it has become a cliché. Indeed, not only have most contemporary television dramas--ER, Law & Order, even Star Trek Voyager--resorted to mercy killing as a plot point, but so did The Sea Inside, the Spanish movie Academy members voted this year's Best Foreign Film.

Nor is this a story line of recent vintage. Indeed, in the past movies were made as explicit propaganda to promote the legalization and legitimacy of active euthanasia. The most notorious of these is the 1939 German movie, I Accuse (Ich Klage An), a film that, with Goebbles's blessing, both promoted voluntary euthanasia as well as the propriety of killing disabled infants--to blockbuster success at the box office.

It is striking and disturbing how similar the plotline of Million Dollar Baby is to the voluntary euthanasia story in I Accuse. In both, the tragic and doomed heroine is a very talented and independent woman; a boxer and brilliant pianist respectively. In both, the heroine becomes seriously disabled and unable to pursue her life's dream. (In I Accuse, the heroine contracts multiple sclerosis and loses her ability to play piano and fears becoming a quadriplegic. In Million Dollar Baby, the heroine's neck is broken, resulting in quadriplegia.). Both heroines beg their primary male companions (the husband in I Accuse and surrogate father in Million Dollar Baby) to put them out of their misery. Both men initially resist weakly but come to see that killing their beloved is the only way to avoiding pointless suffering.

The primary difference between the two movies is that I Accuse ends with the husband righteously defending himself in the dock against criminal charges, pointing an accusing finger at the camera proclaiming, "I accuse!" at society for not permitting the compassionate and purely voluntary ending of lives no longer worth living. In Million Dollar Baby, Frankie is devastated by what he has done and disappears, never to be heard from again. Nevertheless, the message of the rightness of mercy killing is more than implied: Frankie's act is depicted as heroic by the film's narrator, played by Morgan Freeman.

Clint Eastwood has stated adamantly that he did not intend Million Dollar Baby as a showpiece for legalizing euthanasia--and I believe him. Rather than pushing an agenda, it seems to me that Eastwood--like so many others in Hollywood before him--merely saw the mercy killing angle as good drama; particularly when combined with Frankie's conflicted Catholicism.

Whatever the case, the bigger sin of the movie is its peddling of dangerous ignorance. For example, the movie depicts Maggie as a mere slave to medical protocols. In reality, she would have had the legal right to refuse medical treatment--even if it meant that she would die. Thus, she could have ordered her respirator turned off. Indeed, given today's increasing utilitarianist tendencies in health care, bioethicists, social workers, and doctors involved with her care might well have repeatedly reminded her of that fact (hint, hint).

Secondly, while it is true that many people who become quadriplegic later in life become very depressed and suicidal--like Maggie in the movie--studies show that such existential despair is not usually permanent. Indeed, one medical report published several years ago found that the level of depression in people disabled later in life to be no different five years post-injury than that found among the able bodied. Moreover, people suffering the emotional agony that Maggie experienced in the film can be treated for their depression and their suicides prevented--without being force-sedated.

The most important point omitted from the film is that people with quadriplegia, when they are not merely warehoused in a nursing home, live very rich and satisfying lives. That Eastwood never seems to have given this matter any thought is odd, given that Christopher Reeve demonstrated famously that becoming quadriplegic does not mean that meaningful life ends.

Similarly, Joni Erickson Tada became a world famous artist, disability rights activist, and Christian apologist after becoming near-quadriplegic. Meanwhile, every day tens of thousands of our disabled brothers and sisters lead meritorious and productive lives, aided by respirators and wheelchairs that come to be seen not as dignity-robbing impediments, but facilitators and tools of independent living.

Hollywood is not known for deep thinking about such matters, so it probably never occurred to Million Dollar Baby's creators to include this element in the picture. Too bad. Just think about the inspiration the movie could have delivered about the indefatigability of the human spirit, instead of its dark and ultimately defeatist death message.

Rather than allowing Maggie to surrender in bleak despair, Frankie could have instead boosted her confidence, just as he did when she was boxing. He could have brought other disabled people to see Maggie whose lives would have illustrated the rich possibilities for living amidst even the most difficult disabilities. Frankie could have talked her through the months of grueling physical therapy and given her the quiet strength to confront her venal parents. Maggie might not believe in herself anymore, Eastwood's Frankie could have barked, but he'd be damned if she could ever make him stop believing in her!

The movie could have ended with Maggie triumphing once again, perhaps having obtained an education and becoming a teacher; or, opening a business managing boxers; or perhaps, receiving a standing ovation as an inspirational speaker. Not only would the ending have been happier and truly uplifting, but it would also have been more consistent with the internal strength of Million Dollar Baby's characters.

Too bad Clint Eastwood was blind to the true potential of his story. Instead of allowing Maggie to be a true champion, he simply chose the easy way out.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His current book is Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World.
© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

Michelle Malkin: Gangs of America

Gangs Of America—Central America, That Is
By Michelle Malkin

First Lady Laura Bush is leading a new initiative "to help America's youth overcome the danger of gang influence and involvement." With all due respect to the First Lady, this is a job best left to law enforcement professionals willing to get tough, get dirty, and crack heads. From the suburbs to our national forests, savage criminal alien gangs are infiltrating America and luring young recruits.

Compassionate conservatism ain’t gonna stop them.

As many law enforcement sources have been informing me, native gangs such as the Bloods and Crips have nothing on the recent wave of criminal alien enterprises settling across the heartland. Recent enforcement action in New York demonstrates the scope of the problem. Last month in New York, 41 criminal aliens with felony convictions were arrested by immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) agents on a single day as part of a joint public safety initiative between ICE and the U.S. Probation Office of the Eastern District of New York.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the aliens arrested in New York—half of whom were here illegally—include citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Haiti, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Trinidad, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela. The operation targeted criminal aliens with prior felony convictions for
"murder, firearms trafficking, drug trafficking, money laundering, racketeering, fraud, false statements, receipt of stolen property, producing false identity documents, copyright infringement and other federal felonies."

Martin D. Ficke, ICE Special Agent-in-Charge in New York, vowed: "These are the criminals who turn the American dream into a nightmare, and they will not be given the chance to cause more harm." [ICE Agents Arrest New York Criminal Aliens, February 2, 2005]
A nationwide tracking system for criminal alien felons would help this effort, but to date no such program exists.

In Chicago, ICE agents and local cops specializing in gang-related activity undertook a similar operation across Chicago’s western suburbs targeting foreign-born members of violent Hispanic street gangs. A two-day campaign netted 19 criminal alien gangsters—mostly Mexican nationals with extensive criminal histories, including convictions for drugs, aggravated assault, firearms and theft. Over the past five years, ICE agents on Chicago’s Violent Gang Task Force have arrested more than 375 known gang members.

The most notorious criminal alien gang enterprise on the American landscape is Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, the El Salvadoran-based syndicate engaged in murder, drug trafficking, and human smuggling across Central America and the United States. MS-13 members, many of them juveniles, have been implicated in gang rapes, machete mutilations, and cop killings on both coasts. According to Siskiyou County Sheriff Rick Riggins, MS-13 paraphernalia and weaponry have been discovered deep on federal forest land in northern California, where Latino gangs have established massive marijuana-growing operations.

Most recently, Ebner Anibal Rivera Paz, the reputed leader of MS-13’s Honduran branch, was nabbed in Texas last month after escaping from his native country, where he’s wanted in connection with the Christmas holiday massacre of 28 people, including six children.

Rivera Paz’s appalling immigration history is a textbook example of how criminal alien gangs exploit our open borders. Prior to being caught on Feb. 10—by Texas highway patrol officers 100 miles inside the U.S.—Rivera Paz had waltzed in and out of the country illegally numerous times despite a long rap sheet and repeated deportations.

In 1993, at the age of 17, Rivera Paz was arrested by San Francisco police for selling drugs. Weeks later, he was arrested for auto theft and then for assault with a deadly weapon. According to the Border Patrol, he has been arrested in California at least eight times since 2001 for crimes ranging from passing bad checks and using false identification to burglary, robbery, and criminal conspiracy.

According to a criminal complaint filed last month in federal court, Rivera Paz was deported or excluded from the U.S. four separate times before his final capture. If not for alert Texas highway patrolmen willing to help enforce immigration law, Rivera Paz would be home free again.

The revolving door for illegal alien gangsters keeps spinning. The solution lies with increased federal-local cooperation, aggressive deportation, and uncompromising immigration enforcement—not with warm-and-fuzzy photo ops at the First Lady’s breakfast table.

Michelle Malkin [email her] is author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s review.

Click here for Michelle Malkin's website.
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Tony Blankley: Black Robes and Betrayal

The Washington Times
2 March 2005

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck again -- this time overturning by a 5-4 decision, all statutes that apply the death sentence to 16- and 17-year-old murderers. As a former prosecutor, I am convinced that from time to time juries find before them 16- or 17-year-old defendants who understand full well the vicious nature of their murders, and deserve -- after receiving the full panoply of due process -- to be fried, gassed, hanged, shot, injected or otherwise sent promptly to Hell.

Even if you are of a sympathetic nature and believe that the little 17-year-old darlings deserve to be rehabilitated, you might still find this Supreme Court opinion stomach turning for its sheer disdain of logic, public attitudes and American law.

But first: The crime, as described yesterday by Justice Anthony Kennedy in Roper v. Simmons, writing for the majority: "At the age of 17, when he was still a junior in high school, Christopher Simmons ... committed murder ... There is little doubt that Simmons was the instigator of the crime. Before its commission Simmons said he wanted to murder someone. In chilling, callous terms he talked about his plan with his friends ... Simmons proposed to commit burglary and murder by breaking and entering, tying up a victim, and throwing the victim off a bridge. Simmons assured his friends they could 'getaway with it' because they were minors." A few hours later he proceeded to do just that, breaking into a home, covering the victim's head in a towel, wrapping her up in duct tape and tying her hands and legs together with electrical wire. Then he drove her to a bridge and threw her off into the water, where helpless, she drowned.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether this presented a case of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment to our Constitution. No, the court was not concerned with whether being assaulted in your home, wrapped in a towel, duct tape and electrical wire and thrown off a bridge was cruel and unusual punishment. That's OK. The court is only concerned with whether it was cruel and unusual to execute the strapping 17-year-old murderer who did it.

The gist of the majority's analysis is that whether the crime is constitutionally "unusual" depends on whether "evolving standards of decency" have reached the point in our history when such punishment has been clearly rejected by society.

It happens that only 15 years ago the Supreme Court found that the kind of statute in question was constitutional. But, rather than overturning that case, the court yesterday found that in the last 15 years a national consensus against such punishment had emerged.

The majority based that conclusion on the fact that "18 states -- or 47 percent of states that permit capital punishment -- now have legislation prohibiting the execution of offenders under 18," and four of those states have adopted such legislation since the Supreme Court's ruling of 15 years ago.

As Justice Antonin Scalia fumed in his dissent: "Words have no meaning if the views of less than 50 percent of death penalty States can constitute a national consensus. Our previous cases have required overwhelming opposition to a challenged practice, generally over a long period of time." In this case, a majority of relevant states approve the practice.

Recognizing that they were arguing a rather weak set of facts regarding a national consensus, the majority supplemented its argument with the self-aggrandizing assertion that "In the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty under the 8th Amendment." Outrageously, the court asserts such power because, as Justice Scalia characterized, "juries cannot be trusted with the delicate task of weighing a defendant's youth along with other mitigating factors." This assertion, of course, undermines "the very foundations of our capital sentencing system."

The majority, still sensing its arguments to be rather feeble, went on to try to buttress their case further by citing a menagerie of international treaties and foreign laws, claiming: "The opinion of the world community, while not controlling our outcome, does provide respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions."

In support thereof they cited, inter alia, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty before signing which, the U.S. government expressly reserved "the right ... to impose capital punishment on any person (other than a pregnant woman)." To which Justice Scalia observed in his dissent: "Unless the Court has added to its arsenal the power to join and ratify treaties on behalf of the United States, I cannot see how this evidence favors, rather than refutes, [the majority's] position."

After Justice Kennedy used five pages of his logically incoherent majority opinion to cite a hodge podge of foreign laws, he limply and defensively concluded his opinion: "It does not lessen our fidelity to the Constitution or our pride in its origins to acknowledge that the express affirmation of certain fundamental rights by other nations and people simply underscores the centrality of those same rights within our own heritage of freedom." When a Supreme Court justice feels it necessary to write as the closing words of his opinion that he still holds fidelity to the Constitution, it is more than reasonable to assume he knows he has just betrayed that sacred document. But at least he has vouchsafed his popularity at liberal cocktail parties for another year.

Tony Blankley is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. His column appears on Wednesdays. E-mail:

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Dennis Prager: The Case For Judeo-Christian Values, Part VII

Hate evil: Case for Judeo-Christian values, part VII
Dennis Prager (archive)
March 1, 2005

Do you hate evil?

Much of humanity doesn't. But if you embrace Judeo-Christian values, you must.

A core value of the Bible is hatred of evil. Indeed, it is the only thing the Bible instructs its followers to hate -- so much so that love of God is equated with hatred of evil. "Those who love God -- you must hate evil," the Psalms tell us.

The notion of hating evil was and remains revolutionary.

The vast majority of ancients didn't give thought to evil. Societies were cruel, and their gods were cruel.

Nor did higher religions place hating evil at the center of their worldviews. In Eastern philosophy and religion, the highest goal was the attainment of enlightenment (Nirvana) through effacing the ego, not through combating or hating evil. Evil and unjust suffering were regarded as part of life, and it was best to escape life, not morally transform it.

In much of the Arab and Muslim world, "face," "shame" and "honor" define moral norms, not standards of good and evil. That is the reason for "honor killings" -- the murder of a daughter or sister who has brought "shame" to the family (through alleged sexual sin) -- and the widespread view of these murders as heroic, not evil. That is why Saddam Hussein, no matter how many innocent people he had murdered, tortured and raped, was a hero to much of the Arab world. As much evil as he committed, what most mattered was his strength, and therefore his honor.

As for the West, with notable exceptions, Christians did not tend to regard evil as the greatest sin. Unbelief and sexual sin were greater objects of most Christians' animosity. Over time, however, many Christians came to lead the battle against evil -- from slavery to communism. And today, it is not coincidental that America, the country that most thinks in terms of good and evil, is the country that most affirms Judeo-Christian values.

In the contemporary Western world, most people who identify with the Left -- meaning the majority of people -- hate war, corporations, pollution, Christian fundamentalists, economic inequality, tobacco and conservatives. But they rarely hate the greatest evils of their day, if by evil we are talking about the deliberate infliction of cruelty -- mass murder, rape, torture, genocide and totalitarianism.

That is why communism, a way of life built on cruelty, attracted vast numbers of people on the Left and why, from the 1960s, it was unopposed by most others on the Left. Even most people calling themselves liberal, not leftist, hated anti-communism much more than they hated communism. When President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire," liberals were outraged -- just as they were when President George W. Bush called the regimes of North Korea, Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq an "axis of evil."

Ask leftists what they believe humanity must fight against, and they will likely respond global warming or some other ecological disaster (and perhaps American use of armed force as well).
In fact, the Left throughout the world generally has contempt for people who speak of good and evil. They are called Manichaeans, moral simpletons who see the world in black and white, never in shades of grey.

As the leading German weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, recently wrote: "Mr. Bush's recent speeches have made no retreat from the good vs. evil view of the world that the Europeans hate."

Patrice de Beer, an editor of the leading French newspaper, Le Monde, wrote that in the European Union: "The notion of the world divided between Good and Evil is perceived with dread."

Entirely typical of the Left's view of good and evil is this series of questions posed on the leftist website Counterpunch by Gary Leupp, professor of history and of comparative religion at Tufts University: "Questions for discussion. Was Attila good or evil to invade Gaul? Saddam good or evil to invade Kuwait? Hitler good or evil to invade Poland? Bush good or evil to invade Iraq? Are 'good' and 'evil' really adequate categories to evaluate contemporary and historical events?"

Western Europeans and their American counterparts loathe the language of good and evil and correctly attribute it to religious -- i.e., Judeo-Christian -- values. Among those values is fighting evil and "burning evil out from your midst." And to do that, you have to first hate it. Because if you don't hate evil, you won't fight it, and good will lose.

©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Dennis Prager Read Prager's biography

Monday, February 28, 2005

Robert Novak: Cloning Hides Under Fake Names

February 28, 2005

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's stand against embryonic stem cell research not only changes the long-range picture for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. It augments a shift in tactics by social conservatives. They are trying to change the focus from research for fighting disease to an uncontrolled scientific community's quest to clone human beings.

Romney's position previously had been considered mildly pro-stem cell. His wife, Ann, suffers from multiple sclerosis, a disease for which cloning is supposed to promise miraculous cures. But early in February, the governor flatly came out against Harvard University's plans to create human embryos, purportedly for research. He said last Monday that he and his wife "agree that you don't create new life to help cure our issues."

That statement was made by the Romney in Spartanburg, S.C., where he was testing early presidential waters. Romney is moving rightward on social policy, declaring himself "pro-life." But to depict what he is saying in strictly political terms is to trivialize an issue of overriding ethical importance. "We stand at the hinge of history," an anti-cloning activist who is a former official at the United Nations told me.

The historic decision is not, as cloning proponents claim, whether to spend public funds on research to combat a wide variety of illnesses. The broader decision is whether to grant science unlimited power as symbolized by the bill pending in Massachusetts to legalize the creation of human embryos. Romney has declared he will veto the bill, bringing upon himself the full wrath of the liberal establishment from Harvard to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The outrage provoked by Romney was intense. Dr. Robert Lanza, medical director of Advanced Cell T+echnology, said of the governor's opposition: "It is mind-boggling. He is completely out of step with the scientific and medical community."

But Romney is not out of step with the ordinary people of Massachusetts, who polls indicate unalterably oppose cloning.

The scientists so far have gotten around this obstacle by never mentioning the c-word: cloning. That was how a stem cell bill was pushed through the New Jersey Legislature by then-Gov. Jim McGreevey. That was how California's voters were talked into supporting Proposition 71 (backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger), which provides $3 billion in state funds for producing human embryos but does not contain the word cloning. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has announced plans to release some of that $3 billion for "therapeutic" cloning.

Like the bills in Massachusetts and other state legislatures, the California proposition bars "reproductive cloning." But all these proposals permit creation of human embryos for research purposes, which certainly can be described as cloning. Robert Klein II, the rich California housing developer who conceived and raised money for Proposition 71, is going national by funding opposition to anti-cloning bills in Congress.

There are signs of an anti-cloning counterattack. On Feb. 18, the U.N. General Assembly voted, despite bitter opposition, to call on governments to prohibit all forms of human cloning. On Feb. 22, a conservative public interest group filed a lawsuit attempting to throw out Proposition 71.
At the point of the counterattack is Romney. He undercuts the intractable scientific community, arguing that research for diseases such as the one that afflicts his wife can be accomplished without cloning. The intensity of the feeling against him is typified by Massachusetts Democratic Chairman Philip Johnston, a former liberal state representative and federal health official, describing the governor's comments as "vile."

But science, too, feels located at the hinge of history to determine whether science will be freed of traditional ethical considerations. It is an overpowering issue that dwarfs Social Security reform and even democratizing Iraq, in determining how President Bush can guide this country's course.

Tom Shales on the Academy Awards Broadcast

Rock, Well . . . Didn't
By Tom Shales
The Washington Post
Monday, February 28, 2005; Page C01

Chris Rock jokingly welcomed viewers to "the 77th, and last, Academy Awards" last night but this Oscar show, nervously televised from Hollywood on ABC, will more likely turn out to be the first, and last, to be hosted by Rock. Though a brilliant and caustic stand-up comedian, Rock's stint as an Oscar host was strangely lame and mean-spirited.

Since we are apparently still living in the aftermath of Janet Jackson's overexposure at the 2004 Super Bowl, and because Rock is a comic known for raw and risque material, there was much hullabaloo in the weeks leading up to the ceremony about whether Rock would misbehave, perhaps earning ABC a scolding and sanction from the Federal Communications Commission, which now doles out fines the way Hollywood doles out awards.

But the only real controversy generated by Rock came during a so-so monologue in which he insulted several actors, Jude Law among them, as being small-timers who got parts only when better actors were unavailable. Rock had also pre-taped a peculiar bit of man-on-the-street comedy in which a collection of Hollywood moviegoers, most of them African American, said they hadn't seen or even heard of many of this year's nominated films. It was unclear if this routine was some sort of commentary on racism or a gratuitous slap at Hollywood, but either option is hardly encouraging.

The first half of the show was dominated by the film "The Aviator," about the life of Howard Hughes, but then the show was taken over by "Million Dollar Baby," a gritty drama about a woman who wants to be a professional boxer. "Aviator" won for art direction, costumes, supporting actress (Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn) and cinematography, but "Million Dollar Baby" won the million-dollar awards: Best Director (Clint Eastwood), Best Picture and best performance by an actress, the toothy Hilary Swank.

Swank also took dubious honors for one of the evening's most torturous and prolonged acceptance speeches, refusing to be cut off by the orchestra, which had managed to silence a few blabbermouths who preceded her. Few winners followed the sterling example set by Morgan Freeman, who was named Best Supporting Actor in the same film and whose speech was brilliantly brief.

Producer Gil Cates made a few brave tries at shortening the show. Some awards were handed out in the audience, eliminating a few of those agonizing long walks to the stage (which some shrewd winners always draw out by stopping to shake hands with everybody they met in Hollywood on their way to the top). Nominees and winners of craftsmanship and technical awards were already gathered onstage when their awards were announced.
That led Rock to joke that next year some Oscars will be presented in the parking lot, with winners taking advantage of a quickie drive-through lane.

This year's Oscars featured, for the most part, such a gloom-and-doomy array of nominees that it would have been very hard to turn the show into a funfest, or even a decently entertaining three hours of self-indulgence.

Fearing that the lackluster box-office performance of the nominated films would translate into low ratings for the Oscar special, Cates and other producers of the program hired hot comic Rock and then sent him on a publicity tour during which he repeatedly suggested he would not soften or homogenize his material. The promise appeared to be that this year's Oscars would be racy and sexy and a slap in the face of blue-nose pressure groups who have currently declared open season on TV and its allegedly offensive programming.

But the brave front was a sham. Robin Williams was scheduled to perform a song ridiculing censorious fringe groups, but according to news reports the song was deemed so inflammatory, and was so heavily edited by ABC censors, that its authors refused to let it be performed. When Williams stepped onstage, he'd affixed a piece of white tape over his mouth to symbolize the censorship.

His comedy routine included some of the material that had been in the song -- jokes about comic-book and fairy-tale characters having scandalous private lives -- but the song itself was gone, revealing ABC censors to be chickenhearted in the way that almost all censors are, and handing a victory to the pressure groups, one of which recently charged that the popular cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants was sending out secret pro-homosexual messages in his animated adventures.

"SquarePants is not gay," Williams jokes. "Tight Pants? Maybe. SpongeBob HotPants? You go, girl!" The cartoon, which airs daily on Nickelodeon, is one of the most popular programs of any kind on cable TV.

The annual Academy salute to motion picture figures who died during the previous year was movingly accompany by a Yo-Yo Ma cello solo. As was only fitting, the personality saved for last and given the most time during the tribute was Marlon Brando. Earlier, however, the Academy badly fumbled a chance to offer a tribute to Johnny Carson, who hosted the Academy Awards many times in the '70s and '80s, back when the show still had a vestige of energy and the nominated movies still had some glamour and pizzazz.

This year's Oscar show was certainly more ethnically diverse than ever, but so much attention was called to this that it made the program seem lopsided, a celebration only of films that qualify as politically correct. Actor Jamie Foxx, who won for playing the great singer Ray Charles in the film "Ray," seemed to be exploiting the racial angle by implying his victory was a victory for African Americans. He gave essentially the same speech he gave at the Golden Globes, replete with threats to break up in tears when he got to the part about his dear old grandma and her influence on little Jamie when he was a child.

That influence included "whippings," Foxx said, but he claimed to be grateful even for those. In the audience, Oprah Winfrey gave Foxx a big wave as if she somehow shared in the award for his acting talent and heartfelt performance in the movie.

The Oscars are losing their status as a big national party and turning instead into de facto political conventions -- and if there's anything TV and the nation don't need, it's more of those.
Chances are the ratings for this year's Oscar show will not be especially high and might be especially low, unless Rock turns out to have been enough of a name to bring viewers back to their sets. More likely, the whole horrible mess will have to be rethought once again, and next year's Oscarcast will be preceded by a fresh wave of hype about how new and improved it all is.
Perhaps Billy Crystal will come riding in on a white horse again and rescue the show with a zippy performance as host.

There can't really be great Oscar shows, however, without great movies. The fault for this year's dry and dreary fiasco isn't Rock's or the windy speechmakers thanking half the population of North America. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in our motion pictures.

Thomas Hibbs: Clint Eastwood & the Death of God

[I found this to be a thought-provoking piece...I don't agree with every point posited. I found Million Dollar Baby to be fairly moving with the controversial final scenes proving to be quite difficult to watch. Its depictions of Christianity were flawed and certainly shallow...and the ending seemed rather implausable. I don't remember the evidence neccessarily pointing to a Catholic priest in either the book or the film Mystic River but it has been a while since I observed either. I thought Sideways should have won the Oscar for "Best Film" in what I thought to be a weak year for contenders in that category. I remain a fan of much of Mr. Eastwood's work including his direction of an impressive run of recent films...Unforgiven and Mystic River being the best of the lot.]

February 28, 2005, 7:48 a.m.

Clint Eastwood & the Death of God
Award-winning Hopelessness.

"If God does not exist, everything is permitted." In the 19th century, both the Christian Dostoevsky and the anti-Christian Nietzsche affirmed this statement. In the weeks leading up to Sunday night's Oscar Awards, a battle has simmered over Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, which nearly swept the major awards, receiving Oscars for supporting actor (Morgan Freeman), actress (Hilary Swank), director (Eastwood), and picture. Eastwood has responded to allegations that the film promotes a right-to-die agenda, by distinguishing between propaganda and fiction, the latter of which involves a "What if?," the imaginative playing out of certain possibilities of character and plot. Beneath its surface, Million Dollar Baby, like Eastwood's previous film, Mystic River, entertains the question, "What if God does not exist?"

In both films, the human condition is a barren landscape, a place dominated by amoral forces and marked by brutal indifference to human longing and suffering. Indeed, human life is, as Hobbes once bluntly described it, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Although it has a more traditional plot, Million Dollar Baby is as nihilistic as any of the films of Quentin Tarantino or David Lynch.

A number of critics have noted, boxing functions in Baby as a metaphor for human life, but what does the metaphor teach us? As the narrator puts it, everything in boxing is backwards. So too with human life: Beneath the surface of our conventional moral and religious codes, what we discern is pure chaos, an amoral universe. Who wins in this world? The victor is the fighter who is untroubled by the effete demands of conscience and who is willing to break any rule to destroy an opponent and thus insure her own victory. The same is true, by the way, in the dramatically superior, Mystic River.

Eastwood has consistently repudiated political interpretations of his films. Liberals lambasted his Dirty Harry films as fascist. Now, some conservatives and disability groups are assailing Baby for its purported promotion of a right-to-die agenda. Baby certainly does not promote euthanasia in the way, say, Cider House Rules giddily promotes abortion. Unlike Cider House Rules, with its schmaltzy, sentimental, if nihilistic and incoherent, advocacy of abortion, Baby is not set up as a debate over the right to die; assisted suicide makes as much, or as little, sense as anything else in a world where God is utterly silent, where no clear morality whatsoever can be discerned, and where even the best intentions backfire, bringing about precisely the harm they sought to thwart.

Religion, specifically Catholicism, figures in the lives of the main characters in both Mystic River and Baby. In Mystic River, the molestation of a child haunts the action of film; clues indicate that the molester is a Catholic, most likely a priest. Is Mystic River anti-Catholic? Perhaps but that case would be hard to make in a world populated by what one character calls "vampires," human beings without souls who prey upon the innocent. In Million Dollar Baby, Frankie (Eastwood as the aging boxing coach) attends daily Mass and has ongoing discussions with his parish priest. He berates the priest with puzzles about the doctrines of the trinity and the Immaculate Conception. But Frankie has no genuine interest in the answers to the questions. They are, as the priest suspects, trivia questions designed to trump and frustrate him.

Frankie's faith is a husk, void of vitality. In fact, even the priest's understanding of faith is shallow, a perversion of the church as a community of sinners redeemed by divine grace into a meeting place for the hopelessly unforgiven. The priest himself articulates the distortion, when he tells Frankie that the only individuals who attend Mass as often as Frankie does are those "who can't forgive themselves." That would make priests, who celebrate Mass daily, precisely what Nietzsche thought they were, masochists consumed by self-hatred.

Frankie will eventually leave his incoherent and morbid theology behind; but when he does so, it is not at all clear that his act is heroic. The priest's interpretation is equally valid — Frankie is irrevocably lost. What precisely has been lost or why we should care about the outcome is never convincingly portrayed in the film.

Indeed, the entire film is infected with a brooding and inexplicable mood of guilt, with a pervasive hopelessness. Boxing, we are told, is about "the magic of risking everything for a dream nobody sees." The reason we can't see it in this film is that none of the characters really believe in the dream; indeed, the only character who harbors such dreams is a young boy, facetiously named "Danger," who suffers from a mental disability. The inevitability of devastating failure permeates the film.

Million Dollar Baby is an offensive film, not so much because of any subversive political agenda, but because of the way it wallows in the physical and spiritual degradation of its main characters, especially in its final, prolix segments. Whereas the emotionally chilling ending of Mystic River is integral to the resolution of the plot, Baby's final scenes are gratuitous. (Absent the sexual perversion, the ending here induces the same sort of stomach-churning repulsion as does the finale of Requiem for a Dream.) Far from entering a debate over controversial moral issues, Eastwood has nothing to say in the end. Instead, he drags us through one humiliating scene after another, taking us ever more deeply and explicitly into a nihilistic hell, in this case, the imaginative world that results from the film's unstated, "What if?"

— Thomas Hibbs, an NRO contributor, is author of Shows About Nothing.

Glenn Frankel: Sisters Shatter Code of Silence in IRA Killing

Sisters Shatter Code of Silence
In N. Ireland Catholics Name IRA Members In Savage Pub Slaying of Kin
By Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, February 28, 2005; Page A11

BELFAST -- The drinks were flowing and tempers were high one Sunday night in late January at Magennis's pub when things got out of hand. One man accused another of insulting his girlfriend, witnesses said. Someone grabbed a knife and slit the alleged offender's throat. A friend of the victim intervened and was stabbed and savagely beaten. When it was over, he lay dying outside on the sidewalk, the other man unconscious and bleeding beside him.

But this was more than just a fatal bar fight. The dead man was Robert McCartney, 33, who was well-respected among people in his small Catholic neighborhood known as the Short Strand, a flash point for sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants in this divided city. And what was most extraordinary was the allegation, made by his five sisters, that McCartney was killed by fellow Catholics from the neighborhood who are leading members of the Irish Republican Army, the outlawed paramilitary organization.

The IRA is a secret organization and the usual punishment for breaking its code of silence is death. But the sisters defiantly named names and directly challenged the IRA and its political wing, Sinn Fein, to help bring the alleged killers to justice. The family's campaign has shamed and embarrassed the movement to the point that on Friday, the IRA broke years of tradition by announcing it had court-martialed and expelled three members. In an unprecedented statement, the organization ordered the men "in the strongest terms possible to come forward and to take responsibility for their actions."

Hundreds of people gathered in Belfast on Sunday to protest the killing, the Associated Press reported.

The McCartney sisters said Saturday that they were encouraged by the IRA's action but stuck to their demand that those involved turn themselves in to the police. "The only way our family will know the truth is when we hear witness statements in a court," Catherine McCartney told reporters.

For generations the IRA's role was to defend and protect Catholics in beleaguered enclaves such as the Short Strand from attacks by Protestants. But the McCartney sisters have accused IRA leaders in their neighborhood of turning into a thuggish mob that terrorizes the area.

"What's unusual and incredibly powerful here is that you have a family of that community, in that community and who know the history of that community, who have come forward," said Denis Bradley, a Catholic civil rights activist and member of the citizens board that oversees policing here.

In recent weeks Sinn Fein and the IRA -- known collectively as the republican movement -- have faced a political crisis following allegations that the IRA was responsible for a $50 million bank robbery in Belfast in December and that it was carried out with the knowledge of Sinn Fein's political leaders.

But local observers say the McCartney killing has done far more harm to the movement with its core constituency in Northern Ireland -- the thousands of working-class Catholics in urban areas who supported and identified with the IRA during the three decades of sectarian violence known as the Troubles, during which more than 3,000 people were killed.

About 3,000 Catholics live in the Short Strand, a collection of modest two-story rowhouses wedged into the western flank of predominately Protestant East Belfast. For decades it has been the scene of periodic clashes. In the early 1980s, the authorities constructed a 30-foot-high "peace wall" of bricks and metal bars topped by steel-webbed fencing along Bryson Street to seal off the two communities. A mural painted at the far end of the wall reads "Love Thy Neighbor."

The predominately Protestant police force, known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary, was seen as part of the machinery of oppression, and the gothic red brick police station on Mountpottinger Road still lurks behind a 40-foot-high barrier designed to protect the police from the neighborhood.

In the law-and-order vacuum, the men of the IRA not only protected Catholics from Protestant incursions but also enforced social order among residents. Those caught dealing drugs or assaulting women were subjected to beatings, "punishment shootings" or enforced exile from the area.

Ever since the IRA first declared a cease-fire in 1994, life and politics here have slowly changed. The police have a new name -- the Police Service of Northern Ireland -- and a new motto: "Making Northern Ireland safer through professional, progressive policing." At the same time, residents said, the IRA has begun to lose its grip on the area. One member was accused of rape, another of throwing his girlfriend from a balcony.

"Some of these guys are psychopaths, but no one does anything to stop them," Paula McCartney, one of Robert's sisters, said in an interview last week at her home in the Short Strand. "They're likened to the Mafia -- but frankly that's an insult to the Mafia."

Robert McCartney, a father of two young sons, was a forklift operator and a bodybuilder, and at nights he worked as a doorman at a well-known nightspot. His sisters said he was a Sinn Fein voter and a gentle, soft-spoken man, but he was not inclined to back down when challenged. They said he had several run-ins with IRA people, including one man known here as a former IRA local commander.

On the night of Jan. 30, McCartney met two friends for drinks at Magennis's, located just across the Albert Bridge in the city center. A number of known republicans had gathered there as well, having just returned from a commemoration in the city of Derry to mark the 33rd anniversary of Bloody Sunday, in which 14 protesters were gunned down by the British soldiers.

The sisters said witnesses told them that Brendan Devine, one of McCartney's friends, became embroiled in a confrontation with the former commander over an alleged rude gesture to a girlfriend. "Do you know who I am?" the man bellowed at Devine.

The man signaled to one of his companions, who came up behind Devine and slit his throat. McCartney sought to shield Devine from further assaults and dragged his friend out to the sidewalk. Paula McCartney said her brother pleaded with Devine's attackers. "No one deserves this," she quoted him as saying.

More than a dozen men followed them outside, some armed with knives and metal sewer rods. Someone stabbed McCartney in the heart while others pounded his face and head. They left his body and that of Devine on the pavement.

Then a cleanup of the evidence began. Paula McCartney and her sisters said they have talked to witnesses who said the killers announced to customers after the fight, "This is IRA business."

With professional skill, the men carried off the weapons and bloody clothing, wiped fingerprints clean, confiscated videotape from a security camera and warned bystanders, "No one is to say anything."

The IRA's account, released in its statement, is similar to that of the sisters, except it says an unnamed "senior republican" was also stabbed in the bar and was taken to a hospital.

Brendan Devine survived and has told the sisters he will testify if the case comes to trial. The other friend who was present maintains he saw nothing after the argument began. There were 70 people at the bar that night, Paula McCartney said, but their silence is deafening. She said the IRA men involved disappeared for a while, but were seen walking the streets of the Short Strand last week. Seven people were arrested, but all of them have been released.

"I live here and I know the mentality of the area," Paula McCartney said. The IRA leader's "very presence here is a threat. He doesn't have to say anything to anybody."

Still, the community made clear its anger and disapproval. More than 600 people turned out for a candlelight vigil and 1,000 mourners attended Robert McCartney's funeral.

"People always trusted the republican movement to be seen to be fair, but not now," said Willie Ward, a shopkeeper and community leader. "Everyone believes they're looking after their own interest first before that of the community. People no longer believe in them or trust them."

If republicans were involved in the killing, said Joe O'Donnell, the Sinn Fein city councilor for the area, they were acting as individuals, not as members of the movement, and they should turn themselves in.

The republican movement's ideology "certainly doesn't include people killing people in bars," he said.

At Geraldine's Shop, around the corner from O'Donnell's office, a flier headlined "MURDER" with McCartney's photo is taped to the plate-glass window. It asks potential witnesses to come forward and contact the police. But the bottom of the flier, which included the insignia of the police service and its phone numbers, has been neatly snipped off.

"Some people had a problem with that," O'Donnell said. "This seemed like the best way to handle it."

Hugh Orde, Northern Ireland's chief police constable, said at a news conference last week that his officers were vigorously pursuing the case. "What we've got to do is break the circle of fear" and persuade witnesses to come forward, Orde said. "It is a symbolic case for Northern Ireland."

Special correspondent Mary Fitzgerald contributed to this report.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Joel Mowbray: "Impartial" to Genocide

By Joel Mowbray
February 28, 2005

Up for three Oscars last night, Hotel Rwanda is based on the incredible true story of Paul Rusesabagina, who used the five-star hotel he managed to shield almost 1,300 Rwandans from certain death in 1994.

But if you watch this powerful film—and you should—what you won’t see is the even more incredibly true story of the man with direct culpability for the deaths of 800,000 Tutsis: now-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The only place you can find this stomach-turning story, in fact, is in Amb. Dore Gold’s new UN-trashing tome called Tower of Babble.

Gold’s heavily researched and copiously footnoted book is solid throughout, but by far the best chapter is “Impartial to Genocide,” which serves as a damning indictment of Kofi Annan. The most startling revelation: Despite having credible advance warning that a genocide was imminent, Kofi was the man who spearheaded the UN’s unconscionable position of “neutrality” as Hutu militias murdered thousands of Tutsis per day.

On January 11, 1994—three months before the genocide began—Major General Romeo Dallaire, head of the original UN peacekeeping unit in Rwanda, sent a secret cable to UN officials in New York warning that a “very, very important government politician” had put him in touch with a Hutu informant who warned that Hutu malitias were planning the “extermination” of minority Tutsis.

No alarm bells went off at the UN, even though, as Gold writes, “Warning signs of an impending massacre were everywhere.” The man running the relevant division at the time, the Department of Peacekeeping Missions, was Kofi Annan.

Actually, alarm bells didn’t necessarily have to go off, as Gen. Dallaire offered a silver lining: He knew the location of the Hutus’ weapons cache, and he was planning to seize it and stop the slaughter before it started. But his plan to save hundreds of thousands of lives was short-circuited by Kofi Annan, who didn’t want to upset the sitting Hutu government or in any way appear to be taking sides.

Not only did Kofi not do anything to prevent genocide, but his actions almost assured that the Security Council wouldn’t either. According to various accounts cited by Gold, including the UN’s own post-debacle report, Security Council members complained that Kofi’s department kept them in the dark, not revealing the true nature and full extent of the genocide.

Kofi’s caution could not be chalked up to doubts about the accuracy of the warning. The UN secretary general’s personal representative investigated the matter. Despite his well-documented pro-Hutu leanings, he wrote back to the UN that he had “total, repeat total confidence in the veracity and true ambitions of the informant.”

In other words, not only did Kofi and the UN have a Hutu informant who gave them advance notice of the genocide, but they were able to verify the veracity of that informant. Still Kofi insisted on doing nothing.

Once the slaughter started and tens of thousands had been murdered, Kofi acted—just not the right way. To make sure that Gen. Dallaire’s men were not trying to stop the genocide, he instructed the commander in Rwanda to “make every effort not to compromise your impartiality or to act beyond your mandate.” Kofi’s advocacy for “impartiality” no doubt helped lead the Security Council to slash the already small peacekeeping contingent almost 90%.

Although Kofi never appeared on-screen, the fruits of his inaction could be seen throughout Hotel Rwanda. When the UN officer, played by Nick Nolte, tells the press before the genocide, “We’re here as peacekeepers, not peacemakers,” you can snicker as you imagine Kofi writing that line while enjoying a fine glass of red wine.

But when the tragedy is unfolding and the UN peacekeepers can do nothing but shout, “Don’t shoot,” amusement turns to disgust. And watching almost all the Western soldiers and UN peacekeepers pull out once it’s realized that they’re needed more than ever, profound sadness slowly captures your entire body. Resisting crying at this point is fruitless.

In the movie, the pullout of the Western soldiers and UN peacekeepers is attributed to “the West” thinking of Rwandans as “dirt.” Again and again the movie stressed that “the West” didn’t care about the Tutsis of Rwanda, which is sadly true.

But sadder still is that neither did their fellow African, Kofi Annan.

Joel Mowbray is author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America’s Security.

Robert Spencer: The New York Times- What Jihad?

By Robert Spencer
February 28, 2005

Needed more than ever after 9/11 is solid, probing, intelligent, honest reporting about Muslims and Islam. But not only has this not materialized; if anything, reporting has gotten worse. From the New York Times to the smallest local papers, with remarkably few exceptions, the mainstream media continues to publish misleading, incomplete, distorted material that leaves Americans ignorant of the true nature and dimensions of the terrorist threat. If the stakes weren’t so high, this would be just another instance of the media bias that has been exhaustively documented for decades; but in light of the continuing activity of the global jihadist movement, it becomes something much more urgent.

The Times, in an unconscionable breach of journalistic ethics, revealed the real name of Bat Ye’or in a recent article. But perhaps even worse from the standpoint of their abysmally inadequate reporting on Islam was that they labeled her one “of the most extreme voices on the new Jewish right,” which is not only arrant nonsense, since Bat Ye’or is in no sense a figure of “the right,” but also Times-speak for “pay no attention to this person.” She “argues in her latest book, ‘Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis,’ that Europe has consciously allied itself with the Arab world at the expense of Jews and the trans-Atlantic alliance.” But she is of “the right,” you see, so the Times feels no need to examine the evidence for this that she marshals so relentlessly in Eurabia.

Incidentally, no sooner had the Times sniffed at Bat Ye’or that the Asia Times reported on a jihadist cell in France that with connections “throughout Western Europe in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom.” Could this be a function of Europe’s longstanding policy of allying itself with the Arab world? No, you can’t say that — that would be “right wing.”

Like a great garbage scow pulling in its wake the trash in the water, the Times carries along lesser papers. These two examples from this week are not significant for the influence of the papers themselves, but because they reflect the mainstream approach of reporters today: credulous and uninformed to an extent that they are not even able, much less willing, to challenge the disinformation that is coming in a steady stream from all too many Muslim spokesmen.

• The Montgomery Advertiser ran a story last Friday entitled “Entertainment media’s Muslims bear little resemblance to reality.” Reporter Darryn Simmons seems to have gone to the Masjid Qasim B El-Amin in Montgomery to ask about Fox’s 24, which committed the great faux pas of depicting terrorists who are Muslims. Credulously reporting as fact what he was told in the mosque, Simmons writes that “Muslims do not believe in converting people to their religion by force. In fact, the Qu’ran [sic] (or Koran) accepts religious pluralism and sees strength in diversity.”

Note the language: the “Qu’ran” accepts “pluralism” and “diversity.” Whoever it was at the mosque who told Simmons this has mastered the art of pushing today’s most sensitive cultural hot buttons. Muslims believe in diversity, you see. Not like those nasty Christians. But Simmons apparently asked nothing about the humiliations and second-class status mandated for non-Muslims by Islamic law, and rooted in the Qur’an (9:29).

“Pluralism”? “Diversity”? Jews and Christians in societies governed by Islamic law, according to a manual of Islamic law endorsed by Al-Azhar University, the most respected authority in Sunni Islam, are “subject peoples.” They must “pay the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya)” and “are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunnar); are not greeted with ‘as-Salamu ‘alaykum’ [the traditional Muslim greeting, “Peace be with you”]; must keep to the side of the street; may not build higher than or as high as the Muslims’ buildings, though if they acquire a tall house, it is not razed; are forbidden to openly display wine or pork . . . recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make public display of their funerals or feastdays; and are forbidden to build new churches.” If they violate these terms, the law further stipulates that they can be killed or sold into slavery at the discretion of the Muslim leader. (‘Umdat al-Salik, o11.3, 5.)

That’s pluralism and diversity, all right. But in accord with the practice of the Times and virtually every other paper in the nation, Simmons apparently seems to have accepted what Muslims told him at face value.

• The illustrious Bogalusa (Louisiana) Daily News the same day reported on a talk on Islam by Imam Jehad Mahmoud of the Islamic Center of Baton Rouge. “If I talk about Islam,” Mahmoud declared, “I’ll be talking about Christianity, I’ll be talking about Judaism. We are all the same.” Really? Mahmoud doesn’t seem to have discussed Qur’anic verses stating that “the Religion before Allah is Islam” and that the “People of the Book” — that is, Jews and Christians — “dissent therefrom” (3:19) and are under “the curse of Allah” (9:30); nor, evidently, did reporter Eleanor Evans ask him about them. Probably she simply doesn’t know that such passages exist – but after 9/11, it is the business of reporters to know such things.

Mahmoud also dismissed the idea that suicide bombers were guaranteed Paradise in the Qur’an: “No one can be assured he is going to Heaven,” he said, and one who kills himself “will stay in Hellfire for eternity, committing suicide.” Here again, Evans didn’t ask him about the Qur’anic verse that promises a place in “the garden (of Paradise)” for those who “fight in His cause, and slay and are slain,” and calls this “a promise binding on Him in truth” (Qur’an 9:111). Nor did she stop him when he said that women pray in the back of the mosque, behind the men, “out of respect and protection,” although I expect that she would have stopped him if he had said that blacks should sit behind whites on the bus “out of respect and protection.” Evans doesn’t even seem to have summoned up even a murmur when Mahmoud’s remarks edged over into the wholly risible, as when he said that “the Muslim dress code is a choice, he said, adding that he’s even heard of Muslims who have attended nudist camps.” I’m sure nudist camps do a booming business in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

These two love-fests, along with the Times’ head-in-the-sand label-mongering, are typical of the state of inquiry on Islam and jihad terrorism in the American media over three years after 9/11. No doubt the media is anxious to build bridges to Muslims, to extend the right hand of fellowship, to show that we are ready to listen, to dialogue, to accommodate, to show once again that we are decent folks who don’t hate anybody. But what the Times and the papers that follow in its wake are really doing is leaving Americans less aware and prepared than they should be in the face of the jihad; dialogue on false pretenses is not dialogue at all; it is deception.

When the media prints innumerable bland whitewashes of known truths about Islam; when it smears those making legitimate inquiry into the inroads Islam, including violent jihadists, are making into Europe; when it declines even to ask the questions that need to be asked about what steps (if any) mosques in America are taking to curb enthusiasm for the Islamic jihad ideology among Muslims in America; when it consistently ignores evidence that that ideology is being taught in American mosques — then it is not strong enough to say simply that the American media has abdicated its responsibility. It has become an accomplice of the global jihad.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and the author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery Publishing), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).