Friday, May 13, 2005

Chicago Sun-Times: Springsteen Concert Review

Bruce's campfire stories even better downsized
May 13, 2005

Big, big, big -- everything's just gotten too big. Years of arena rock and umpteen Lollapa-imitators, and aren't we just a little tired of the beer lines and the tent cities and the sight of our favorite performers way down there? (And here comes another Rolling Stones stadium swindle this summer. Yeesh.)

These days more artists -- and bigger names -- are launching theater tours and trying to sneak into cozier venues. Because, after all, music is not a mass experience. It's personal, probably spiritual, and it reaches people purely subjectively. We humans just happen to be wired with the same basic blueprints and tend to collect in crowds, digging the same things.

That, in a rather roundabout way, is the virtue of the Second Bruce Springsteen. We know that the First Springsteen, with his increasingly superfluous E Street Band, can rock those arenas and stadiums and fill every cubic inch of them with gut-wrenching, bone-crushing, sometimes even intelligent American rock 'n' roll. But the Second Springsteen exists to bring it all home -- as literally as possible. And, judging by Wednesday's 2-1/2-hour show at the Rosemont Theatre, this is the side of himself Springsteen is most comfortable with, or at least most passionate about.
The music that inspired these performances came from small spaces -- back porches, lonely rooms and, of course, cars. On albums or with the band, these songs are awesome; stripped down to one man, one guitar -- they're awe-inspiring. It's like telling ghost stories: A horror movie can scare the bejesus out of you, but a creepy legend told around a campfire probably keeps you awake longer.

Springsteen certainly knows a thing or two about ghosts. His Wednesday night show was haunted by them. His falsetto coos and howls filled the refrains and spaces between stanzas with paranormal chills. His songs of death came alive (the "sallow moon's glow" of "Silver Palomino," the starlight on the "Matamoros Banks" -- they would have been completely eclipsed in a larger venue). The wailing banshee that possessed him in "Reason to Believe" -- stomping out the funeral-march rhythm on the theater floor, huffing and even singing indecipherably through his harmonica like Darth Evader -- is clearly still wandering Highway 31 in "Nebraska."

On paper, little of this is comforting. These are mostly songs of loss and pain and the occasional direct recognition of larger social ills. (He acknowledged from the stage that he doesn't write many love songs.) In person -- one man to one fan -- it comes across as the kindness of a stranger, the comfort of company you don't get with 18,000 of your closest friends.

It's all invigorating despite the perils of such intimacy. Bruce at the piano can be touching as well as troublesome (or clunky, as when he, for whatever reason, started "Paradise" on an electric piano and moved over to the acoustic piano mid-song). Bruce plucking out "I'm on Fire" on a six-string banjo is cool, but his whistling the song's melody in a separate key is not. Small venue or no, he's more on fire with a guitar and a song that stirs him. He evokes Dylan in slower, intricate tales such as "If I Should Fall Behind" and "The Hitter," and he's an exciting rocker when he plays "Long Time Comin'," "Maria's Bed" and "The Rising," doing that First Springsteen thing -- squatting, strumming hard, biting his lower lip as he looks over his shoulder. You can take the boy outta the stadium ...

For a second encore, Springsteen sat down at the harmonium, where he had started the show with "My Beautiful Reward," and began a new song called "Dream." It's a hymn full of cliches -- "Keep on dreamin'/Keep the light burning/I just want to see you smile" -- that repeat and repeat, crescendoing into a religious ecstasy. A few lighters came on, but it went beyond that: Some people in the audience actually held up their hands, as if witnessing at a Baptist church. Springsteen, now playing the revival preacher, got his riffs into a computer loop and was able to walk away from the keyboard, grabbing the microphone and repeating the lines with his eyes closed, quietly, intimately: "Keep on dreamin'" ... "light burning" ... "see you smile" ...

Jonah Goldberg: The Christians are at the Gates, but They Don't Want in
Jonah Goldberg (archive)
May 13, 2005 Print Send

All right, enough already. The Christians aren't coming to get you.

I can take the somber, frightened "special reports" on National Public Radio, where you can literally hear the correspondents wringing their hands over the possibility that the "Darwin fish" affixed to their Volvos will be banned. I can even handle the dog-whistle shrieks of Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd types about the looming Inquisition led by an alliance of the new German (wink, wink) pope and the Kansas Board of Education.

But the most recent episode of NBC's doddering "Law & Order" series is where I draw the line. The episode tells the story of a racist who committed murder nine years ago but who, in shame and remorse, subsequently found Jesus and was born again. In the nine years since he dedicated himself to Christ, he has led an exemplary life. But his guilt is discovered, and he decides to confess and show true contrition.

So far, so good, right? I'm sure the writers and producers thought they were being eminently fair to all sides. They even showed Jack McCoy (played by Sam Waterston) stunned beyond words that a born-again Christian could be so sincere. In one scene I swear he made the same face my old basset hound would make when I tried to feed him a grape: total and complete incomprehension. His assistant even confessed she goes to church regularly and knows decent born-agains herself.

But this was all grace on the cheap. The rest of the storyline was festooned with nasty - and dishonest - shots. For example, as McCoy and his assistants work to bring the murderer to justice, the shadowy forces of the Christian right seek to have him absolved of all accountability for his crime because he'd accepted Jesus as his personal savior.

I should point out that Christian conservatives have never done anything like this. Indeed, the only remotely similar episode in recent memory concerned Karla Faye Tucker, the white female ax murderer who also happened to be a born-again Christian. Some conservative Christians - and many other anti-death penalty advocates - argued she should be spared the death penalty but not absolved of her crime. George W. Bush - the supposedly theocratic Christian - was the governor of Texas at the time, and was empowered to halt the execution. His response to such requests: No dice. "I have concluded that judgments about the heart and soul of an individual on death row are best left to a higher authority," he declared. "May God bless Karla Faye Tucker, and God bless her victims and their families."

Why take pains to point out that TV fiction doesn't match reality? Because the original conceit of "Law & Order" was that it tackled the thorny legal and moral issues associated with actual murders "ripped from the headlines." In its early years, the show handled Tawana Brawley, the Central Park jogger, Bernie Goetz and other real crimes. The show remains a cash cow for the network - what, with more franchises than Pottery Barn - but it's been unraveling for years.

Now that the crime rate has shrunk, and the egos of the producers have expanded, they think they can translate any current controversy into a homicide. This often becomes a very offensive - and stupid -assault on the character of our republic; most of our political contests do not involve murders.

Regardless, the very idea that evangelical Christians would argue that being born again absolves you in this life for the consequences of your crimes is nonsense, plucked whole cloth in a fit of ignorance. But the complete, outrageous implausibility of the episode's plot wasn't the most infuriating part. Several times, various characters opine that the Christians' legal tactics might work given "what's happening in this country right now." I half expected Pat Robertson to burst through McCoy's office spraying holy water screaming, "Exorcist" style, "The power of Christ compels you!"

The complexity of what conservative Christians really believe is lost on the writers of "Law & Order" - not surprising for a Hollywood show about New York that blends both coastal sensibilities perfectly. The fact that more and more headlines are being ripped from "red" America creates challenges for writers - like having to plausibly depict midtown Manhattan as a hotbed of evangelical, anti-abortion fervor (as they have more than once). But such challenges are minor compared to the dilemma of making their paranoia seem real.

I grew up in New York City, I know New York City, and I have this to tell my fellow New Yorkers: You are perfectly safe from the Christians hordes. None of the stuff supposedly "happening in America right now" is actually affecting Dowd or Krugman or the "L&O" writing teams. Pharmacies in New York and L.A. are still filling prescriptions for the "morning after" pill, schools are still teaching evolution, abortion clinics are humming along. And don't e-mail me in a tizzy about gay marriage bans. Gay marriage didn't exist under Bill Clinton either.

But that's how the "paranoid style" works: Abstract or distant offenses are seen as personal threats. And the megalomania of the paranoiacs cannot process the possibility that important things might be happening that do not affect them. Your Darwin fish are safe, my friends.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online, a member group.
©2005 Tribune Media Services
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Chicago Tribune Concert Review: U2 Hamstrung

U2's march of the tired warhorses hamstrings fine ensemble effort

By Greg Kot
Tribune music critic
Published May 9, 2005

Bono, San Diego (March 28)

The corporate juggernaut that is U2 takes over Chicago this week with four sold-out shows at the United Center in-between singer Bono's latest efforts to save the world. These efforts would have been enhanced Saturday by a concert that relied less on U2's past and more on songs that haven't overstayed their welcome.

On opening night, Bono lamented that a decade ago he would place calls to the White House in the midst of the band's "Zoo TV" tour, but they went unanswered. "They take my call now," he said, and the audience cheered. He went on to urge the audience to text-message his Unite Against Poverty organization which is designed to pressure politicians to follow through on the United Nations' goal of cutting world poverty in half by 2015. It was yet another example of the rock concert as political advertisement, following closely on the heels of last year's Bruce Springsteen-led Vote for Change tour that aimed to oust George Bush from the White House.

U2's gambit will no doubt engender a lot of eye-rolling from those who have grown tired of Bono's increasingly high celebrity-activist profile. But the singer's social activism also had musical relevance, as it provided the thematic backbone to U2's current tour. During a sequence of songs including "New Year's Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" that addressed how religion continues to become an excuse for violence, he donned a scarf adorned with religious symbols and declared, "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed is true."

The scarf became a blindfold on "Bullet the Blue Sky," which segued into the Civil War anthem "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." It was a bit of Bono-esque theater, part hokum but all heart.For anyone who has felt anything for the band since it made its Chicago debut more than two decades ago at the Park West, the do-gooder self-righteousness is part of the package. It's driven as much by ambition and ego as it is social and artistic reasons, and sometimes it works spectacularly: "Zoo TV," unanswered White House phone calls and all, remains a landmark of multimedia arena rock.

My quibble is not with the motive so much as with the execution. Things got off to a rocky start a few months ago, with a bungled ticket sale that brought a public apology from drummer Larry Mullen Jr. at the Grammy Awards, and again from Bono during Saturday's encore.

The tour follows the release of the band's latest studio album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," but doesn't really make a case for it. Though the album is strictly U2-by-the-numbers, a retreat back to its early '80s sound, the stage is the true measure of the quartet's songs.

The band was in fine form: Bono brought a new sense of nuance and phrasing to his singing, the Edge delved into blues by way of Jimi Hendrix during his guitar solo on "Bullet," and Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton remained implacable guardians of the Big Beat. Little wonder the "Atomic Bomb" tracks came on strong at the United Center, with a tambourine-inflected "All Because of You," a luminous "City of Blinding Lights" bathed in confetti, and especially a hymnlike "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own," with Bono paying tribute to his late father while pacing the walkway that ringed the elliptical stage. Here was U2 at its best, shrinking a stadium to a living-roomlike level of intimacy.

But at least half the show was consumed with a run through U2 warhorses that were already starting to sound exhausted on previous tours: "Pride (In the Name of Love)," "Where the Streets Have No Name," "One." Save for the belly dancer missing in action from "Mysterious Ways," this was tired nostalgia, apparently to sate customers who shelled out hundreds of dollars for tickets.

It appears U2 is falling into the same trap as the Rolling Stones: Charging big money for a stadium show obligates the band to turn into a hits jukebox. But especially in a city such as Chicago, where U2 has been embraced like few other bands, the quartet can afford to take more chances. The promise of U2 has always been big music tied in with conviction, imagination and innovation. Now the band sounds like it believes less in its ability to surprise and dazzle with its new music, and more in the necessity to recycle its past. If that trend continues, U2's avid concern for social justice won't be enough to keep it relevant.

Gene Collier: Football's Future Troubles Paterno

Friday, May 13, 2005
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Comparative literature insists Joe Paterno doesn't want to play Pitt anymore and hasn't for some time, but that little slice of modern regional folklore can't stand much scrutiny.

For an old coach who can't seem to string five victories across an autumn anymore, you'd figure Paterno would welcome to the schedule the lost object of regular abuse. Paterno is 23-7-1 against Pitt, and, even though Pitt's continuing righteous impatience at the prospect of playing Penn State more on the road than at home is solid in principle, it is wobbly in historical practice. Pitt proved more likely to beat Paterno in Beaver Stadium (4-11) than in Pittsburgh (3-12-1).

"I know people think I'm the bad guy in this," Paterno said at a regularly scheduled Pittsburgh schmooze-off last night at the Duquesne Club. "But I'm not the guy in the black hat. I've always loved coming to Pittsburgh. Coming in here today through McKees Rocks and Robinson Township, places I used to recruit, it brought back a lot of great memories."

Pitt-Penn State, the annual November passion play that bored into the college game's bedrock rivalry structure, is now little more than that, a great memory. It might get a two-year jump start at some point, but it's import is purely historical.

When, in the late 1980s, Penn State first had the temerity to insist on a scheduling imbalance -- six home games for every 10 in the series -- Pitt was thought right to resist. Absolutely. If Penn State is so worried about funding its 28 or 29 other sports, the feeling went, let it cut back a bit on the football budget.

But, even if Penn State later turned the screw again, asking for two Pitt visits for every road trip to Pittsburgh, history will show that Pitt probably should have agreed. Don't tell me Pitt wouldn't be better off with Penn State coming to Heinz Field once every three years than it is putting Youngstown State and its ilk in there thrice annually. Further, the dissolution of the Pitt-Penn State series hurt both schools' recruiting. There was a nearly bottomless reservoir of football talent in Pennsylvania eager to help Pitt whip Penn State or vice versa, but the glory of beating Purdue and Syracuse didn't hold the same allure somehow. Better to be part of the annual Ohio State-Michigan drama or be part of the hallowed spirit of Notre Dame, whatever that is.

But the larger issue today is that the college game continues in a spiraling free-fall that alienates its fan base. When a sport can't even deliver a clear national champion and can't scare up the political skill to sustain traditional rivalries, what place has the regional therapy that was Pitt-Penn State?

"I think about those things a lot, but I don't have any answers," Paterno said. "It worries me that TV has that much say over when we play and how things work. You look at a fine program like Southern Mississippi, forced to play on Thursday nights, all the new combinations and leagues all directed toward TV, and what has it gotten us? Look at the difference between us and basketball. When you talk about the buildup to those NCAA tournament games, we can't even approach that with the BCS. I don't like the BCS."

College football long ago stopped caring about what people like Paterno think. For the past half century and more, few minds have thought through the broadest issues facing the game with more earnest contemplation and insight than he, an intellectual legacy that now is essentially and perilously ignored.

"They've changed the way it works," he said. "In the old days, there was an open [NCAA] convention, and I could go there with a Penn State delegation, make a few speeches, I made some about Proposition 48 [circa 1984], but now there's a board of directors that delivers this 12th game to the schedule by an 8-2 vote.

"Who are the 10 guys? I don't even know who they are. I don't even want a 12th game."
There was a time, though he didn't say as much last night, when Paterno felt in his heart that if he strenuously objected to a direction or a particular position taken by college football, he could get an enlightened hearing from university presidents. Entering his 40th season as a head coach, the opposite has come to be true.

"I have nothing to say anymore," he said. "I used to be able to shoot my mouth off, maybe have some influence. Now my own president has no reason to even call me in because he might be out of the loop as well, although I shouldn't speak for him."

Paterno would just like to speak in a few more winning locker rooms, a lot more actually, this year and next, not likely more. The game might never replace him, but it has long since replaced his wisdom with media synergies and business models.

(Gene Collier can be reached at or 412-263-1283.)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Springsteen Makes it Hard on Scalpers

For concert tickets, Boss saves best for last
Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
May 11, 2005

Usually one of the hottest tickets in town, Bruce Springsteen's concert Tuesday night at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center was a disappointment to area ticket scalpers -- and to some fans who don't appreciate his politics or folkier solo albums.

The Boss probably wouldn't have had it any other way, though.
Many of the 7,996 attendees to the E-Street-less solo-acoustic show found tickets surprisingly easy to come by, even though it was declared sold out the day tickets went on sale.

"I just went to the ticket window to see if I'd have any luck, and I did," said St. Paul resident Wendy Burt, who was outside selling a worse seat she had bought last month. She expected to lose money on the deal but didn't care.
Rock's most diligent battler of ticket scalpers, Springsteen made sure his diehards got the best seats thanks to some late-addition seats and a cumbersome ticket sales policy.

He required that all concertgoers with seats on the arena floor -- 1,264 fans -- check in with a photo ID and wear a wristband. He also kept a two-per-person limit on ticket sales.

Most fans didn't mind the extra procedures. "As long as I'm the one who got the tickets and not some scalper, I'll do whatever Bruce wants," said Alexa Jones of Minneapolis.

Backstage before the concert, Springsteen called the policies "a balancing act between the accessibility and the chore" for fans to buy tickets.
His manager, Jon Landau, said that the lack of floor seats on eBay is proof the practice is working. "The evidence is what we're doing is having a positive effect for fans," Landau said.

Local ticket-broker companies were stung by the policies. "He's definitely making it harder for us," said Brian Obert, co-owner of Ticket King in Hudson, Wis., which resells tickets to Twin Cities-area events. Ticket King's website had some upper-level tickets listed below face value, while some more prime seats were only $20 or so above cost.

Some of Springsteen's Minnesota fans, including Gov. Tim Pawlenty, were turned off by his participation in last year's Vote for Change tour. The concerts raised money for the MoveOn PAC and other groups positioned to help Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

"I don't agree with some of [his politics], but I don't understand how some people could be surprised by it -- he's always done it," said Paul Becker of Hugo, who also was at the Vote for Change concert at the Xcel Center last October.

Tuesday's concert was mostly apolitical, save for one new song called "Part Man, Part Monkey." It featured barbed lyrics about President Bush and the evolution/creationism debate.

St. Paul fan Tom Montgomery, whose first Springsteen show was at the State Theatre in 1978, didn't see the political backlash or lower demand for tickets as negatives.

"Anybody who stays away just because they're a Republican obviously doesn't get Bruce, so good riddance," Montgomery said. "The Republicans are probably the ones who are driving up ticket prices in the first place."

Chris Riemenschneider is at

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Springsteen Concert Review

All alone, Springsteen gives life and voice to his tales
Jon Bream, Star Tribune
May 11, 2005

It was the same singer with his guitar in the same room.

In October, Bruce Springsteen gave a galvanizing, urgent and unforgettable concert at the Xcel Energy Center as part of the Vote for Change campaign. On Tuesday, he returned to the sold-out arena without his E Street Band and big-name opening acts. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, piano and harmonica, Springsteen gave a performance that was similarly potent to his October event.

With R.E.M., John Fogerty or Neil Young sitting in, Springsteen was purposeful and electrifying, but without them on Tuesday he was somber, pensive and absorbing. Before he played a note, the Boss made some announcements demanding a special decorum: Turn off your cell phones and don't clap along because my timing is already somewhat tenuous.

This was Springsteen the troubadour, not the rocker, playing his second solo tour, his first since 1995-96. Unlike October, there weren't nonstop political plugs. He did make a couple of pointed remarks, slamming the president before singing the sarcastic "Part Man, Part Monkey" and calling for a "humane immigration policy" before "Matamoros Banks."

The vast majority of the songs had humanism as their core. He dedicated the encore, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," to slain St. Paul police Sgt. Gerald Vick, based on a letter sent backstage.

Springsteen offered stripped-down, sometimes tuneless ballads and soft-as-a-whisper stories about desperation and desolation. It takes a committed crowd to appreciate and absorb such soft, contemplative material in a hockey arena, set up to half its usual capacity. And the 7,996 fans clearly appreciated the artfulness of the evening.

Springsteen challenged the faithful from the get-go, opening with a hymnlike rendition of "My Beautiful Reward" on harmonium, followed by "Reason to Believe" with his vocals sung through his harmonica microphone, making it sound like Tom Waits channeling Howlin' Wolf to a Muddy Waters beat and ultimately coming off as indecipherable as Bob Dylan.

Although this 2 hour, 20-minute, 25-song concert may not have been as fulfilling as his part purposeful, part playful 1996 solo show at the smaller, more intimate Northrop Auditorium, this one had more varied voices (including a wailing falsetto) and textures (though the synthesizer played by an unseen technician on a few "Devils & Dust" songs was distracting). The minimalist lighting (lots of backlit spots on the Boss) added to the mood of the music.

But what elevated the evening -- as it does at every Springsteen show -- were the spoken introductions to the songs. He explained how his mother and father had divergent views on the value of love songs and how Roy Orbison could make a song about windsurfing, of all things, beautiful.
In this graceful setting on Tuesday, it was clear that with Springsteen, whether in song or conversation, whether loud or soft, it's the storytelling that produces beautiful rewards.

Jon Bream is at 612-673-1719 or

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Roger Kimball: Retaking the Universities

The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, May 11, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

"After the Vietnam War, a lot of us didn't just crawl back into our literary cubicles; we stepped into academic positions. With the war over, our visibility was lost, and it seemed for a while--to the unobservant--that we had disappeared. Now we have tenure, and the work of reshaping the universities has begun in earnest."
--Jay Parini, Chronicle of Higher Education

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures."
--Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar"

The old Marxist strategy of "increasing the contradictions"--a strategy according to which the worse things get, the better they really are--is a license for thuggery. It excuses all manner of bad behavior for the sake of a revolution that will (so it is said) finally transform society when all the old allegiances have finally collapsed. If one or two tottering institutions require a little push to finish them off, so be it. Shove hard: You cannot, as comrade Stalin remarked, make an omelet without breaking eggs.
As with anything to which the word "Marxist" applies, there are at least 87 things wrong with this strategy. Morally, it is completely irresponsible. Intellectually, it depends upon a fabricated "contradiction" to confer the illusion of inevitability. In real life, the only thing inevitable is the certainty of surprise.

Nevertheless, as one looks around at academic life these days, it is easy to conclude that corruption yields not only decay but also opportunities. Think of the public convulsion that surrounded the episode of Ward Churchill's invitation to speak at Hamilton College earlier this year. The spectacle of a highly paid academic with a fabricated background comparing the victims of 9/11 to a Nazi bureaucrat was too much. Mr. Churchill's fellow academics endeavored--they are still endeavoring--to rally round. But the public wasn't buying it. Such episodes, as Victor Davis Hanson noted in National Review recently, were like "a torn scab revealing a festering sore beneath":

Ward Churchill's plight gives us a glimpse into the strange world of the contemporary postmodern university of tenured ideologues, where professed identity politics, ethnic or gender chauvinism, and a disbelief in empiricism allow a con man to bully his way to guaranteed lifetime employment, and a handsome salary, and the right to say anything at all, no matter how inflammatory.

Something similar happened--is still happening--at Harvard in the episode of Larry Summers and "Why Aren't There More Women in the Sciences?" Female biologists in Cambridge may oscillate between threatening to faint and demanding Mr. Summers's head. But many outside academia were outraged not by Mr. Summers's original comments but by his cravenness in the face of the PC juggernaut that followed. It would be easy to multiply examples. Familiar outrages in academia are beginning, in some cases, to elicit unfamiliar responses. It is not a matter of things being better because they are worse, exactly; only a Marxist (or his older brother, a Hegelian) could believe that. But it may just be that things are so bad that, in society at large, exasperation will finally get the better of indifference.

In my book "Tenured Radicals"--first published in 1990 and updated in 1998--I noted:

With a few notable exceptions, our most prestigious liberal arts colleges and universities have installed the entire radical menu at the center of their humanities curriculum at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels. Every special interest--women's studies, black studies, gay studies, and the like --and every modish interpretative gambit--deconstruction, post-structuralism, new historicism, and other postmodernist varieties of what the literary critic Frederick Crews aptly dubbed "Left Eclecticism"--has found a welcome roost in the academy, while the traditional curriculum and modes of intellectual inquiry are excoriated as sexist, racist, or just plain reactionary.

"Tenured Radicals" is a frankly polemical book. In some ways, however, it underestimates if not the severity then at least the depth of the problem. What happened to the universities was part--a large part--of that "long march through the institutions" that the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci recommended and whose American lineaments I chronicled in "The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America" (2000). "The Age of Aquarius," I wrote in the introduction to that book, "did not end when the last electric guitar was unplugged at Woodstock. It lives on in our values and habits, in our tastes, pleasures, and aspirations. It lives on especially in our educational and cultural institutions, and in the degraded pop culture that permeates our lives like a corrosive fog."

Whether American culture has begun to recover from that assault has become a matter of debate. That the situation has become debatable may be an encouraging sign. Even five years ago, few serious observers were registering signs of cultural health in American society. The terrorist attacks of September 11 changed that. The fires at the World Trade Center were not yet extinguished when some commentators proclaimed that the cultural revolution of the 1960s was, at long last, finally over. In his new book, "South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias," Brian C. Anderson of City Journal reinforces the optimism, citing the rise of conservative talk radio, the popularity of Fox News, the new visibility of conservative publishers, and the spread of interest in the Internet with its many right-of-center populist Web logs. Taken together, these and kindred phenomena have helped to inspire the thought that, at last, there is beginning to be a widespread counter to the counterculture.

These are heartening signs. Nevertheless, as it was with Mark Twain's announced demise, I suspect that reports of the death of the counterculture have been greatly exaggerated. Something changed on 9/11--of that I have no doubt--but it seems to me to have affected the assumptions of elite culture sporadically at best. Moreover, the institution that has proved the most resistant to change was the one most publicly committed to "innovation": the university.

It is a peculiar moment in academia. In many ways, things have never been worse. All those radical trends that got going in the 1960s and gained steam in the 1970s and 1980s are now so thoroughly entrenched that they are simply taken for granted. Consider, for example, the case of "transgender" students at Smith College. As the Financial Times reported last month, the whole issue of "transgender" is a growth industry at Smith--as indeed it is at many colleges and universities around the country. "Transgender"? The term, as the FT notes, "is a catchall that includes a wide spectrum of people who don't identify with their birth sex; from transsexuals, who use surgery to change their sex, to those who change their appearance cosmetically--cross-dressers, as they used to be known, though such a term is considered old-school today."

There aren't--not yet, anyway--many university health services that will cover the cost of hormone therapy and surgery for those who wish to make the "transition" to another (I suppose I should say the other) sex, but the FT reports that the University of California is considering covering the procedures. (Arnold Schwarzenegger take note: A breast reduction alone can cost $10,000.) The subject is particularly complicated--or, depending on how you look at it, particularly risible--at Smith, the elite, all-female college whose founder, Sophia Smith, wanted the college to be a place where women "could develop as fully as may be the powers of womanhood."
"All-female"? There's the rub. What does a progressive institution like Smith do when Barbara decides to become Bert? It's a problem. I thought it was a joke when someone told me that Stanford had added "other" to the checkboxes "male" and "female" on its application form. According to the FT many schools now eschew the old "binary way" of looking at sex and make do with the catchall "gender," a much more plastic term: "M," "F," "Neither," "Both," "Trans" (the preferred shorthand). Wesleyan College in Middletown, Conn., has experimented with a "gender blind" dormitory in which "transgender" students could live in a single room or with roommates who didn't care if it was Robert or Roberta in the bunk above. Some Smithies complain that if people "want to be boys, they should go to a coed school." But the Smith administration, being progressive, nervously embraces its two dozen or so "transgender" students. The college, the FT observes, "has long been tolerant of sexual difference. Notably tolerant."

No doubt. Still, the phenomenon of "transgender" raises all sorts of questions. Can the person who's born Bob but decides that he really is (or would like to be) Roberta successfully apply to an all-female college? I believe the answer is "No." But if gender, a k a "sex," is "socially constructed," as we are assured it is, then why not? There are also a host of pragmatic questions. How, for example, do you label the bathrooms? And for parents, there is the deeply pragmatic question of why they should spend approximately $40,000 a year to finance such "experiments in living" (to borrow John Stuart Mill's forward-looking expression).

It may seem that in wandering into the issue of "transgender" we have arrived at some bizarre byway of contemporary university life. This is only partly true. As Irving Kristol observed in his essay "Countercultures":

"Sexual liberation" is always near the top of a countercultural agenda--though just what form the liberation takes can and does vary, sometimes quite wildly. Women's liberation, likewise, is another consistent feature of all countercultural movements--liberation from husbands, liberation from children, liberation from family. Indeed, the real object of these various sexual heterodoxies is to disestablish the family as the central institution of human society, the citadel of orthodoxy.

Yesterday the slogan "free sex"; now, ironically, it is something closer to "free from sex." The FT quotes Paisley Currah, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and a board member of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute: "Just as Herbert Marcuse's theories were important on campus in his day, gender theory is important now."

Ms.--or is it Mr.?--Currah is quite right to conjure up Herbert Marcuse. The German-born radical, who died in 1979, was indeed an important '60s guru. But he was more than that. In his "protests against the repressive order of procreative sexuality" and insistence that genuine liberation requires a return to a state of "primary narcissism," Marcuse sounds a very contemporary note. Such a "change in the value and scope of libidinal relations," he wrote in "Eros and Civilization," "would lead to a disintegration of the institutions in which the private interpersonal relations have been organized, particularly the monogamic and patriarchal family." Marcuse would be as at home at Smith College in 2005 as he was at Brandeis in the 1960s.


The chief issue is this: Should our institutions of higher education be devoted primarily to the education of citizens--or should they be laboratories for social and political experimentation? Traditionally, a liberal arts education involved both character formation and learning. The goal was to produce men and women who (as Allan Bloom put it) had reflected thoughtfully on the question " 'What is man?' in relation to his highest aspirations as opposed to his low and common needs."

Since the 1960s, however, colleges and universities have more and more been home to what Lionel Trilling called the "adversary culture of the intellectuals." The goal was less reflection than rejection. The English novelist Kingsley Amis once observed that much of what was wrong with the 20th century could be summed up in the word "workshop." Nowadays, "workshop" has been largely replaced by the word "studies." Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Afro-American Studies, Women's Studies, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Studies: These are not the names of academic disciplines but political grievances. They exist not to further liberal education but to nurture the feckless antinomianism that Jacques Barzun dubbed "directionless quibble."

Think back to Ward Churchill. He was invited to Hamilton College by "the Kirkland Project for the Study of Gender, Society and Culture," a left-wing, activist redoubt that for the decade of its existence has devoted its considerable resources to transforming a liberal arts education into an exercise in radical repudiation of American society, its manners, morals and political filiations. It was the Kirkland Project, for example, that invited Susan Rosenberg, the felon and former member of the Weather Underground, to be an "artist- and activist-in-residence" and teach a seminar on "Resistance Memoirs: Writing, Identity and Change." It was a satellite of the Kirkland Project that a couple of years ago invited Annie Sprinkle, the former prostitute and porn star, to preside over a workshop (but of course) designed to educate "students and faculty on how better to pleasure themselves."

Now the point about the Kirkland Project is not how extreme it is but how ordinary. (I use the term in its statistical, not its normative, sense.) There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of similar organizations at American colleges and universities. Their undeclared goal is to radicalize American society by betraying the intellectual and moral standards whose general observance they depend upon for their very existence. When challenged, proponents of such organizations will instantly retreat to the mantras of "free speech" and "academic freedom." But it has long been obvious that the academic notion of "free speech" is like the academic notion of "diversity."

It means strict intellectual and moral conformity on any contentious issue: Free speech for me but not for thee. As the historian Robert Paquette--perhaps the only self-identified conservative at Hamilton College--observed, in all of its history the Kirkland Project has never invited anyone to Hamilton who was "libertarian, conservative or even centrist." In other words, "academic freedom" has mutated from being a protection into being a weapon.

John Silber, the former president of Boston University, summed up the fate of academic freedom in his essay "Poisoning the Wells of Academe."
Originally, Mr. Silber observed, academic freedom "entailed an immunity for what is said and done by dedicated, thoughtful, conscientious scholars in pursuit of truth or the truest account":

Now it came to entail, rather, an immunity for whatever is said and done, responsibly or carelessly, within or without the walls of academia, by persons unconcerned for the truth; who, reckless, incompetent, frivolous or even malevolent, promulgate ideas for which they can claim no expertise, or even commit deeds for which they can claim no sanction of law.

This is what Mr. Silber referred to as "the absolute concept of academic freedom," according to which "the academic can say whatever he pleases about whatever he pleases, whenever and wherever he pleases, and be fully immune from unpleasant consequences." The case of Ward Churchill--and this is a bit of good news to emerge from this sorry scenario--suggests that that may be about to change.


The use and abuse of academic freedom to indemnify not the expression of unpopular opinions but political incitement of various kinds is one symptom of the degradation of American academic life. The newfound impatience with some extreme examples of that abuse is a heartening sign. Nevertheless, the whole issue of academic freedom is only part of a much larger phenomenon. Academics have an unspoken compact with society. As scholars, their charge is to pursue the truth in their chosen discipline; as teachers, their charge is to help preserve and transmit the truth by encouraging thoughtful study and candid discussion. The largely unspoken nature of this compact was part of its glory--it underscored the element of freedom that has always been a central ingredient in liberal education. To a large extent, that freedom has been violated. How has this happened?

Academic life, like the rest of social life, unfolds within a frame of rules and permissions. At one end, there are things that one must (or must not) do; at the other end, there is rule of whim. The middle range, in which behavior is neither explicitly governed by rules but is not entirely free, is that realm governed by what the British jurist John Fletcher Moulton, writing in the early 1920s, called "Obedience to the Unenforceable." It is a realm in which not law, not caprice, but virtues such as duty, fairness, judgment and taste hold sway. In a word, it is the "domain of Manners," which "covers all cases of right doing where there is no one to make you do it but yourself."

A good index of the health of any social institution is its allegiance to the strictures that define this middle realm. "In the changes that are taking place in the world around us," Moulton wrote, "one of those which is fraught with grave peril is the discredit into which this idea of the middle land is falling." One example was the abuse of free speech in political debate: "We have unrestricted freedom of debate," say the radicals: "We will use it so as to destroy debate."

The repudiation of obedience to the unenforceable is at the center of what makes academic life (and not only academic life) today so noxious. The contraction of the "domain of Manners" creates a vacuum that is filled on one side by increasing regulation--speech codes, rules for all aspects of social life, efforts to determine by legislation (from the right as well as from the left) what should follow freely from responsible behavior--and on the other side by increased license. More and more, it seems, academia (like other aspects of elite cultural life) has reneged on its compact with society.
What, as Lenin memorably asked, is to be done?

As with any disease, the malady besetting academia requires two stages of therapy: first accurate diagnosis, then effective treatment. In some ways, the diagnostic stage is the most difficult, because it is the hardest to sustain. One corollary of society's natural obedience to the unenforceable is the tendency to assume that those institutions in which we have invested great trust are inherently trustworthy. "Academic institutions are expensive, socially respected bodies whose imprimatur is a powerful door-opener and tool of accreditation, ergo they must be doing a good job." Some such sentiment is the prevailing one, so when someone like Ward Churchill comes along to remove the scab, the shock is great--and unwelcome. One of the chief tasks for critics of what has happened to academic life in this country is to show the extent to which Ward Churchill, the Kirkland Project, the transgender follies at Smith College and elsewhere, and similar deformations are not exceptions but the predictable result of institutions that have gradually abandoned their commitment to education for the sake of radical posturing. The prime difficulty facing the aspirant diagnostician is not the elusiveness of symptoms--they are florid and ubiquitous--but the patience required to set forth chapter and verse repeatedly and in language that effectively conveys the depredations on view.


The bright side of the Ward Churchill affair was the fact that public scrutiny brought dramatic, if local, changes. The melancholy side of the affair lay in the fact that the scrutiny had to be enormous and unremitting, and that, as the media's attention wandered, so did the public's interest. If real change is going to come to academic culture, criticism must be ceaseless, pointed and deep. It is not enough to expose Ward Churchill. The academic culture that breeds and rewards such figures--and their name is legion--must be exposed for what it is: a thoroughly politicized rejection of the principles that inform liberal learning.

In one sense, the diagnosis of the calamity that has befallen academic culture is inseparable from the task of treatment. Which is to say that the job of criticism is never finished. Basic questions, the answers to which one could once have assumed were taken for granted, must be asked anew. To whom is the faculty accountable? To the extent that it holds itself accountable to its pedagogic duties, it is accountable to itself. To the extent that it repudiates those duties, it is accountable to the society in which it functions and from which it enjoys its freedoms, privileges and perquisites.
Faculties often take it amiss when critics appeal over their heads to alumni, trustees or parents. But ultimately teachers still stand in loco parentis, if not on everyday moral issues then at least with respect to the content of the education they provide. Many parents are alarmed, rightly so, at the spectacle of their children going off to college one year and coming back the next having jettisoned every moral, religious, social and political scruple that they had been brought up to believe. Why should parents fund the moral decivilization of their children at the hands of tenured antinomians? Why should alumni generously support an alma mater whose political and educational principles nourish a world view that is not simply different from but diametrically opposed to the one they endorse? Why should trustees preside over an institution whose faculty systematically repudiates the pedagogical mission they, as trustees, have committed themselves to uphold? These are questions that should be asked early and asked often.

It is time to revisit several large issues. The issue of tenure, for example. An arrangement that was intended to protect academic freedom and intellectual diversity has mutated into a means of enforcing conformity and excluding the heterodox. For those few conservatives who have managed to obtain tenure, it doubtless functions to protect them. But for the faculty in general it seems to have become a prescription for political correctness and lassitude.

The American academy is not entirely bereft of positive examples. Robert George's Madison Center at Princeton, for example, and Hadley Arkes's Colloquium on the American Founding at Amherst College provide real alternatives to the politically correct establishment that dominates most campuses. Such initiatives are still rare and tend to be beleaguered. They deserve to be emulated elsewhere. The sea is far from full, but the current still can serve. The tide, ebbing for decades, has begun to flow. It is time to seize the initiative lest we miss the moment and lose our ventures.

Mr. Kimball is managing editor of The New Criterion, in whose May issue this article appears. His latest book is "The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art" (Encounter Books).

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Jon Bream- Springsteen: The Man & His Fans

Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Published May 10, 2005

Bruce Springsteen's downbeat new disc at No. 1 this week? Really?

It doesn't have a hip producer or guest appearances by the likes of 50 Cent or the Game, who seem to be on every chart-topping effort these days. And it is getting minimal radio airplay. But "Devils & Dust" went to No. 1 in 10 countries, including the U.S.A.

"That was just shocking," said Springsteen, who performs tonight at the sold-out Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. "I know there's an audience out there for it, but it tends to be smaller than for my other [rock] records. That's just fine. So it was a nice surprise that people had that kind of interest in it because it's an unusual record to end up in that spot."

"Devils" sold 220,000 copies in the United States in its first week -- twice what his last acoustic-oriented effort, 1995's "Ghost of Tom Joad," did but less than one-third what his last rock album, 2002's "The Rising," sold in its initial week.

The success of Springsteen's album and his sold-out solo tour are testaments to his bond with his fans. They are loyal but open-minded enough to let him follow his muse, whether his character is racing down the highway looking for the promised land or holding a finger on a trigger in an unwanted war in a faraway land -- or trying to find comfort with a hooker who reminds him of his ex-lover.

John (Hondo) Hughes of St. Paul considers himself a hard-core fan. "The core group realizes his music works on a deeper level," Hughes said as a bootleg of Springsteen's Met Center concert from 17 years ago tonight played in the background. (He has a sixth-row ticket for Tuesday's show.) "They feel a deep connection beyond the music. They'll go with Bruce wherever he wants to go."
And Springsteen is finding those kind of fans on this, his second solo tour, which will play to a scaled-down Xcel Center with 6,000 seats.

"I've had some great audiences, some of the best of my career," he said Saturday by phone before going onstage in Denver. "The audience comes in and it's about the quiet and the silence. There's a real communion that occurs between the singer and the audience at these shows."
"It can be demanding, the idea of trying to do something new," Springsteen said. "That's what I've asked for from my audience.
"When you've been at it a long time -- hey, I'm a 55-year-old guy, I'm not on the radio for the most part, I'm rarely on any video television -- to have the intensity of audience involvement and the freedom -- audiences tend to like to box you in -- that's nice. That's what's supposed to happen. You're supposed to work together to keep out of the box. That's how it stays alive and vital and real, and there's no end in sight.
"When I was a kid, when I thought where I wanted to be in my late 20s, where I wanted to be at 55 -- this is it. I'm lucky."

For someone who was supposed to be onstage when he was doing this interview, Springsteen was relaxed, talkative and thoughtful. As always, chuckles punctuated the conversation.
He relishes working solo -- something he used to do often in his early days in New Jersey. Unlike his last solo tour in 1995-96, after the release of "Tom Joad," he has added piano to his arsenal.

"My piano chops are somewhat iffy," he said. "Already, they've gotten better from just the first couple of weeks. You don't ever forget. You know I wrote all those introductions to 'Born to Run' on the piano. 'Jungleland,' 'Backstreets,' those were all written on my little Aeolian piano. I have a limited ability on [piano] but I can usually get pretty expressive with it. After a while, your nerves calm down and you realize that your fingers will go in the vicinity of where you are trying to put them if you just remain calm."

New songs are really old

Many of the songs on "Devils & Dust" were written during the "Tom Joad" tour but he didn't want to put out another acoustic-oriented album back then. He soon reconnected with his E Street Band for two big tours and "The Rising."
Last year, he took time off while his wife, E Streeter Patti Scialfa, made a solo album and did a brief concert tour. Finding himself at home with nothing to do, he pulled out those post-"Tom Joad" songs and discovered them to be "still relevant and powerful.

"This is a group of songs that I always knew I wanted to get out. It harkens back to some of the deepest writing I do. I like to do a lot of detailed storytelling. This particular kind of writing doesn't really age." He put these tunes together with some others featuring a "small sort of country-roots band" for "Devils & Dust."

Many songs on the new album talk about family and faith, making it almost his "family values album," as the New York Times put it. Having written occasionally about his relationship with his father, this time Springsteen offers a few songs about the mother-child connection.

"I don't know why that happened," he said. "It might have been some things I was reading. Also, I had a close friend that passed away and left two sons. And, of course, my own kids and understanding the intensity of the mother/child bond. They're all songs where that bond gets severed and people are trying to find out how to deal with the severance of that bond. On the record, some find their way in the world and some don't."

Springsteen doesn't write about his own kids -- Sam, 10; Jessica, 12, and Evan, 14. "I like the idea of writing songs for my kids but I don't know if I'd want to write songs about them," he said. "It's enough for them to be my kids and it's enough for me being their dad. We have our hands full with the real-world version of it. But it's all there. You can't spend 14 years with children and not have it come through your music in some fashion."

Banned by Starbucks

"Devils" has raised some dust about Springsteen's image. In "Reno," the protagonist quotes the prices of a prostitute in graphic language. That song prompted Starbucks, champion of adult-aimed albums such as Ray Charles' "Genius Loves Company," to decline last week to carry the Springsteen CD in its 4,400 stores.
When the Boss heard the news, he joked onstage Friday in Oakland, Calif., that the CD would be available at Dunkin' Donuts.

Speaking the next night from Denver, he shrugged off the caffeinated controversy as "no big deal. The record wasn't particularly for them." Last month on "VH1's Storytellers," Springsteen blew his "holier-than-thou image" (his words) by admitting that he occasionally has gone to strip clubs.
"I didn't realize it was that revelatory," he said with a big chuckle.
What's the hardest thing about being Bruce Springsteen?
"I'll have to ask him. I'm not him that much. I'm him when I'm onstage. The minute my foot goes on the first step off the stage, there's a whole other world going on."

Vote for Change revisited

Springsteen received some criticism for co-organizing the Vote for Change Tour to back Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign. Some conservative-leaning fans stayed away, even though he has been outspoken against President Bush on past tours and has long championed the underdog, the blue-collar worker and, as he once put it in song, "the brothers under the bridge."
Although initially despondent after the election, he said he learned that there's "a lot of idealism out there, a lot of people interested in moving this country in a different direction. I sat in front of 80,000 people in Madison, Wis., and it was probably one of the most amazing days of my musical life. There was a lot of hope. ... There's a lot of thought and energy out there; it just hasn't coalesced around a focal point."

His Vote for Change event in St. Paul with R.E.M., John Fogerty and Bright Eyes was "very, very memorable," he said. For two songs, he was joined by unadvertised guest Neil Young, who he said is "always fun to play with because he's an incredible engine."

Even though he has sold more than 60 million albums since his 1973 debut, Springsteen finds that he's motivated by the same thing that he was at the beginning: "Looking at the world around me and trying to divine some sense -- it's the same searching, searching, searching.
"It's a search that you commit both yourself and your audience to; they have to commit themselves to also. That's what makes it a living relationship rather than something that's become ossified over the years. You want an audience that is ready to go down that road. That's who I see staring back at me every night. It's so good."
Jon Bream is at 612-673-1719 or

The Boss' to-do list
Don't expect to hear "Born to Run" at tonight's concert. "I put aside any-thing we played a lot on the recent E Street Band tours," Springsteen said, but added: "On a given night, you may want to pull something out of the bag. I played 'The River' on the last couple of nights on the piano and I found a nice reinterpretation of it."

Bruce Springsteen
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Xcel Energy Center, W. 7th St. and Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul.
Tickets: Sold out.

Houston Chronicle: Clemens Wins 330th to Pass Carlton

May 10, 2005, 1:40AM
Astros break streaks
Clemens fires blanks to earn 330th career win
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

• ASTROS/MLB: Full Chronicle coverage, boxscores, stats

MIAMI - Arriving at Dolphins Stadium on Monday, Roger Clemens couldn't help but think about his last start here. He fondly recalled the night of Oct. 22, 2003, when he was trailed by a buzz of flashbulbs from the mound to the visitors' dugout as the Marlins tipped their caps to him in Game 4 of the World Series.

He had said that World Series game would be his last start. He believed it. His family believed it. The world believed it, so did his Yankees teammates, the Marlins. And the sellout crowd that night honored him with a display never before seen for an opposing player in the World Series.
By now, everybody knows how a citywide lobbying effort in Houston lured Clemens back last year to pitch for his hometown Astros. There was no standing ovation on Monday night, but Clemens returned to Dolphins Stadium and obliged the crowd by beating the Marlins 2-1 to become the winningest living pitcher.

"Coming to the stadium today, you definitely felt it," he said of the memories from 2003. "I thought it was going to be the last start of my career."
Clemens pitched seven scoreless innings to claim his 330th victory and snap the Astros' six-game losing streak and 11-game road losing streak.
With the victory, Clemens passed Steve Carlton to move into sole possession of ninth place on the all-time list.

"The last two years have been just special," said Clemens, who is 2-1 this season and 20-5 as an Astro. "I didn't expect to be here passing these guys. I call Andy (Pettitte) 'Lefty.' But to pass the big lefthander (Carlton), I enjoyed watching him work. I enjoyed seeing the highlights of him.
"It's just really special. He's one of the best lefthanders ever. To have my name alongside of him, that's where I consider him. Even though I'm in front of him, I still feel I'm right there with those guys."

Living pitchers with the most career victories:1. Roger Clemens 3302. Steve Carlton 329 3. Nolan Ryan 324 3. Don Sutton 324 5. Phil Niekro 318 6. Gaylord Perry 314 7. Tom Seaver 311 8. Greg Maddux 306 9. Tommy John 288 10. Bert Blyleven 287 Since joining the Astros, Clemens has passed Carlton (329), John Clarkson (328), Eddie Plank (326), Nolan Ryan (324), Don Sutton (324), Phil Niekro (318), Gaylord Perry (314) and Tom Seaver (311).]

At 42 in his 22nd season, Clemens hardly seemed in need of anything while holding the Marlins to four hits and three walks with six strikeouts to win the first game of a three-game series before a crowd of 20,539.

"It means a great deal," Clemens said. "It definitely puts in perspective what type of career that (Carlton) had. Obviously I knew that going in. It was really nice that with all of the struggles that we had even my teammates (were) coming up and saying congratulations. It means a lot."
Clemens has been one of the best performers in baseball this year, but until Monday his teammates had capitalized only once even though he hadn't given up more than three runs in any of his first six starts. On three occasions, he settled for no-decisions despite throwing seven scoreless innings.

He finally got enough support to pass Carlton. Morgan Ensberg set up the Astros' first run with a leadoff walk in the second inning against Marlins starter A.J. Burnett (3-3). He stole second and reached third when Jose Vizcaino struck out on a wild pitch.
With the infield in, Orlando Palmeiro drove in Ensberg with a single through the left side. One out later, Clemens singled to right. Burnett struck out Willy Taveras to escape further damage.
"Anything he accomplishes is amazing to me," Palmeiro said of Clemens. "I think it's easy the longer you're in the league to lose some drive, and he hasn't lost any drive, any focus or anything like that."

Vizcaino, who started in place of Adam Everett at short, set up the Astros' second run with a one-out triple down the right-field line in the seventh. Palmeiro, who started in right field in place of Jason Lane, followed with a sacrifice fly.
"Once the guys got the two runs, it felt like a lot," Clemens said. "So you just want to try to hold on by not making mistakes late."

Clemens stranded runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh.
The Marlins made it 2-1 with a run off Chad Qualls in the eighth, and Russ Springer ended that threat by getting Paul Lo Duca to fly to right. Brad Lidge, who is still plagued by the lingering effects of pneumonia, handled the ninth for his sixth save.

"It's hard to kick back and enjoy those things because you're in the middle of something right now that you're trying to accomplish," said Clemens, who lowered his ERA to 1.10 and has yet to allow a run on the road in 21 innings. "Whether you're having success or not, it's the overall how you feel as a group. And we don't feel that great just right now.
"We need to make some big strides. That's what I think about. I'll enjoy it and hopefully I'll get a few items, mementoes of the game, if you will."
Just call it another memorable night in Miami.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Rocky Mountain News: Springsteen Concert Review

Springsteen happy to talk as well as sing about life
By Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News
May 9, 2005

Bruce Springsteen's episode a couple of weeks ago on VH1 Storytellers found him playing stripped- down and well-explained versions of songs new and old.
Stretch that to 21/2 hours, cut the commercials, add a 26-song set list and an even more relaxed demeanor and you have Saturday night's concert in Denver.

About one-third of the show was spine-tingling great - some of Springsteen's best songs done in definitive solo acoustic versions, ranging from the early For You to the recent The Rising.
Several songs were endurance tests for the audience's patience - mostly newer ones, but two classics were ruined by new arrangements.

The rest of the show was strong, highly enjoyable, but that's it. A friend in the audience summed it up nicely - a good show, not life-changing.

Life-changing is what Springsteen fans fervently hope for, but they're happy with simple bits of magic.

Great moments in Springsteen's live history are countless, but few can surpass the never-before trio we saw Saturday of The Promise on piano going seamlessly into My Hometown, then an acoustic-guitar version of The Rising. It was a moment topped only by his third-time-ever performance of the sublime Cautious Man.

Onstage was a man who has lived a lot of life and is happy to talk and sing about it - his hopes, his kids, his regrets, his loves.
Songs from Devils & Dust were far better live with Springsteen's comments giving them more context and meaning.

He acknowledged the toll his involvement in John Kerry's campaign cost him, including a box of broken albums with a dead chicken delivered to his house. That, however, didn't dissuade him from jokingly comparing Karl Rove to Satan at Saturday's show as he introduced his evolution-and-lust-themed song, Part Man, Part Monkey.

"You couldn't make The Flintstones today," he good-naturedly groused about the political climate. "We've come a long way, baby - and we're going back."

Yet in Jesus Was an Only Son, Springsteen spoke of sacrifice and choices, and even commented during the song (ala Storytellers) about its meaning. For a guy who says he no longer goes to church, his understanding of the sacrifice and meaning that is the basis of Christianity is impressive.

What should have been high points of the set-Reason to Believe and Johnny 99 from Nebraska - were marred by Springsteen's desire to make them sound like raw delta-blues versions. The vocals were delivered through a microphone so distorted that even diehard fans - those were the only kind that were there, really - at times couldn't figure out what he was playing.

No matter. For most fans, it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear one of the world's best songwriters open up the door a bit.

Bruce Springsteen
• Where and when: Saturday night, Lecture Hall, Colorado Convention Center
• Grade: B
Mark Brown will discuss the Bruce Springsteen concert with Bret Saunders between 7:30 and 8 a.m. today on KBCO-FM (97.3).

Robert Spencer: Crusading Against History

By Robert Spencer
May 3, 2005

"It’s not like a stupid Hollywood movie,” said French actress Eva Green about the English director Sir Ridley Scott’s Crusades flick, Kingdom of Heaven.

That’s true. It’s, like, a stupid English movie.

The Crusades are hot, and Ridley Scott (director of Alien) is about to make them hotter. “Muslims,” gushed the New York Times after an advance showing of the new blockbuster, “are portrayed as bent on coexistence until Christian extremists ruin everything. And even when the Christians are defeated, the Muslims give them safe conduct to return to Europe.” Sir Ridley, according to the Times, “said he hoped to demonstrate that Christians, Muslims and Jews could live together in harmony — if only fanaticism were kept at bay.” Or, as Green put it, the movie is intended to move people “to be more tolerant, more open towards the Arab people.”

Bent on coexistence, eh? That’s right: the Kingdom of Heaven script invents a group called the “Brotherhood of Muslims, Jews and Christians.” A publicist for the film elaborated: “They were working together. It was a strong bond until the Knights Templar cause friction between them.” Ah yes, everything was all right until those “Christian extremists” spoiled everything.

Kingdom of Heaven is designed to be a dream movie for those guilt-ridden creatures who believe that all the trouble between the Islamic world and the West has been caused by Western imperialism, racism, and colonialism, and that the glorious paradigm of Islamic tolerance, which was once a beacon to the world, could be reestablished if only the nasty white men of America and Europe would back off. A dream movie for the PC establishment, except for one little detail: it isn’t true.

Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, author of A Short History of the Crusades and one of the world’s leading historians of the period, called the movie “rubbish,” explaining that “it’s not historically accurate at all” as it “depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilised, and the Crusaders are all brutes and barbarians. It has nothing to do with reality.” Oh, and “there was never a confraternity of Muslims, Jews and Christians. That is utter nonsense.”

Professor Jonathan Philips, author of The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, also dismissed the film as history and took issue with its portrayal of the Crusader Knights Templars as villains: “The Templars as ‘baddies’ is only sustainable from the Muslim perspective, and ‘baddies’ is the wrong way to show it anyway. They are the biggest threat to the Muslims and many end up being killed because their sworn vocation is to defend the Holy Land.”

Nor does Kingdom of Heaven take any notice of the historical realities of Christians and Jews who lived under Muslim rule. They were never treated as equals or accorded full rights as citizens, and always suffered under various forms of institutionalized discrimination and harassment.

The Muslim warrior Saladin, who captured Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187, is, according to a film publicist, a “hero of the piece.” He is one of the most legendary figures of the Crusades and in our age he has become PC as well: Saladin has become the prototype of the tolerant, magnanimous Muslim warrior, historical proof of the nobility of Islam and even of its superiority to wicked, Western, colonialist Christianity. In The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, Amin Maalouf portrays the Crusaders as little more than savages, even gorging themselves on the flesh of those they have murdered. But Saladin! “He was always affable with visitors, insisting that they stay to eat, treating them with full honours, even if they were infidels, and satisfying all their requests. He could not bear to let someone who had come to him depart disappointed, and there were those who did not hesitate to take advantage of this quality. One day, during a truce with the Franj [Franks], the ‘Brins,’ lord of Antioch, arrived unexpectedly at Saladin’s tent and asked him to return a district that the sultan had taken four years earlier. And he agreed!” The lovable lug! If asked, he might have given away the entire Holy Land!

However, as I explain in my forthcoming book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades (Regnery), the real Saladin was not the proto-multiculturalist and early version of Nelson Mandela that he is made out to be by modern-day PC myth. Much is made of the fact that when Saladin recaptured Jerusalem for the Muslims in October 1187, he treated the Christians with magnanimity — in sharp contrast to the behavior of the Crusaders in 1099. But Saladin was no stranger to massacre: when his forces decisively defeated the Crusaders at Hattin on July 3, 1187, he ordered the mass execution of his Christian opponents. According to his secretary, Imad ed-Din, Saladin “ordered that they should be beheaded, choosing to have them dead rather than in prison. With him was a whole band of scholars and Sufis and a certain number of devout men and ascetics; each begged to be allowed to kill one of them, and drew his sword and rolled back his sleeve. Saladin, his face joyful, was sitting on his dais; the unbelievers showed black despair.”

Also, when Saladin and his men entered Jerusalem later that year, their magnanimity was actually pragmatism. He had initially planned to put to death all the Christians in the city. However, when the Christian commander inside Jerusalem, Balian of Ibelin, threatened in turn to destroy the city and kill all the Muslims there before Saladin could get inside, Saladin relented — although once inside the city he did enslave many of the Christians who could not afford to buy their way out of town.

Yet despite Kingdom of Heaven’s numerous whitewashes of history and strenuous efforts to portray the Muslims of the Crusader era in a favorable light, Islamic apologist Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at the University of California, is in a froth about the film: “In my view,” he raged, “it is inevitable – I’m willing to risk my reputation on this – that after this movie is released there will be hate crimes committed directly because of it. People will go see it on a weekend and decide to teach some turbanhead a lesson.” Of course, this is less an indictment of the film than of the American people. I think it very likely that there will be no hate crimes against Muslims committed because of this film — and I hope that in that event Dr. Abou El Fadl’s reputation will be accorded the treatment it deserves.

In any event, Kingdom of Heaven cost over $150 million to make, features an all-star cast, and is being touted as “a fascinating history lesson.” Fascinating, maybe — but only as evidence of the lengths to which modern Westerners are willing to go to delude themselves.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch; author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter); and editor of the essay collection The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: Islamic Law and Non-Muslims (Prometheus). He is working on a new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades (forthcoming from Regnery).

Mona Charen: Veggie Porn in School?
Mona Charen (archive)
May 6, 2005

The sex educators in Montgomery County, Md., have devised a film for 10th-graders that features a young lady putting a condom on a cucumber. You do wonder, when you read about these things, why they stop there.

After all, if the assumption is that kids are too stupid to know how to unroll a condom unless it is demonstrated for them, then why would they be smart enough to know that it goes on a penis and not on the contents of the vegetable bin in the refrigerator?

But guess what? They are indeed worried about that. Wendy Shalit, in a City Journal piece dating from 1998, described a New York teacher's guide that urged ninth-grade health teachers to unroll condoms and stretch them out onto "two fingers."

A "teacher's note" reads, "Make sure that learning disabled and all students understand that a condom goes on the erect penis, and not on the fingers as demonstrated." It's impossible to satirize these people. For this, we are taking valuable class time away from American history, literature and science?

Most states derive their sex-ed curricula, in whole or in part, from the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a group with a decidedly liberal view of these matters. SIECUS promotes sex ed starting in kindergarten, when children should be taught the proper names for body parts and the difference between good touch and bad touch.

In New York, kindergarteners also learn the difference between transmissible and non-transmissible diseases, the terms HIV and AIDS, and that "AIDS is hard to get." But the 5- and 6-year-olds are not left in the dark. Teachers tell them how people get AIDS, along with the information that "it feels good to touch parts of the body."

I wonder: Do even New York parents want their kindergarteners instructed on the mechanics of HIV transmission and offered early initiation into the pleasures of sexual touching?

Montgomery County was sued by two parent groups. It wasn't just the erect cucumber to which the parents objected. The school board was modifying its sex-ed curriculum (already a document spanning 14 pages) in ways that even that Kerry-supporting, nuclear-free, recycling county found hard to take.

At one time, the new curriculum was going to feature information on flavored condoms. There's something that will help the trade deficit! The cheery young lady who protects the cucumber also advises her audience of 14- and 15 year-olds that abstinence is the surest way to prevent pregnancy, but, "Buying condoms isn't as scary as you might think."

Read that, and then try to take seriously the sex educators' claim that they are merely providing information for teens -- not encouraging early sexuality. It's impossible to know how much of an effect sex ed has on kids' decisions, but it is interesting that even SIECUS acknowledged back in the '90s that sex ed had not succeeded in reducing teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases at all.
Indeed, as Shalit observes, it's possible to make at least a prima facie case that sex ed may have done the reverse. A 1991 study in Family Planning Perspectives found that instruction on contraceptives was "significantly correlated with an earlier onset of sexual activity."

If sex ed were merely the birds and the bees, anatomy and a few cautionary notes about sexually transmitted diseases, even most traditionally minded parents would not object. But quite often the sex educators are much more ambitious. Montgomery County's school board also proposed (before backing down in the face of protest) to teach kids that homosexual experimentation was normal. Even the revised curriculum still contains tendentious statements like, "Most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice," and, "American families are becoming more complex, and the greater variety of households encourages open mindedness in society."

Middle- and high-schoolers would further be invited to explore their own sexual identity. They'd be introduced to the idea of transgendered individuals and advised that "biology is not destiny."

It took a lawsuit to suspend the march of this brave new world in Montgomery County. A federal judge ruled on May 5 to grant a 10-day restraining order against the school board.

Do you know what's happening at your child's school?

©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Mona Charen Read Charen's biography

Mark Brown: Springsteen's Faith is Rock-Solid

The Rocky Mountain News
May 7, 2005

Fans joke about cars and girls and other such topics being at the core of Bruce Springsteen's work, but he moved past that years ago.
One thing has remained constant, however. A streak of faith has always been present in Springsteen's work - faith that if you do the best you can, good things will happen, even if at the moment you can't quite see how that could possibly work out.

"Faith" is a word that gets kicked around in the public arena these days, but it's a word that Springsteen has made an integral part of his work from nearly the start. It pops up in 20 different songs - from Thunder Road to Devils & Dust, from Backstreets to My City of Ruins. Land of Hope and Dreams spells it out explicitly, as he sings "faith will be rewarded."
Even when the word isn't used overtly, the concept is in scores more songs, from Born to Run to Long Time Comin'.

Three of his greatest songs of faith - in yourself, in your fellow humans, in right and wrong - have been cornerstones so far in the Devils & Dust acoustic tour, which includes a sold-out show tonight in the Colorado Convention Center Lecture Hall.

We won't give away the set list – it's changing every night, anyway. Springsteen has done brand-new songs that he has obviously never played before live, but he's also plucking gems from his catalog that haven't been played in years. The one thing he warns fans is that he's not doing the hits - you might want to dump your tickets if you're expecting Glory Days or Dancing in the Dark. And please, shut up.

While the shows change, several songs make the cut every night in stunning versions. Through the magic of bootlegging, to quote Springsteen, fans around the world already have been able to hear these shows, many of them appearing online hours after the shows' end. Here are three songs of note to listen for tonight:

• The Rising (from The Rising, 2002)
A transcendent tale of a firefighter going in to his death on Sept. 11, this song was a rousing intro to nearly every show on the tour that followed the album.
It's a song about faith - the protagonist keeps heading upward in the building, even though he doesn't know where he is or what he'll find. It's about faith in the afterlife; the firefighter dies and is surrounded by the lord and images of his family and his life.
As the title cut of The Rising, this song focused on the nobility of everyone who died as a victim in the terrorist attacks, viewing the bigger picture. Other songs on that album addressed the awful toll in more human terms, whether it was the sick feeling conveyed through Empty Sky or the tragic, personal loss in You're Missing.
As a booming anthem, The Rising was a cornerstone of the tour for that album. Springsteen has stripped it back to just an acoustic guitar and his voice, in the process finding the definitive version of it much the same way he stripped back No Surrender on the Born in the U.S.A. tour.

• Reason to Believe (from Nebraska, 1982)
Nebraska was an album of small songs, looking at people and the choices they make, from the nihilistic serial killer in the title cut to the stinging shame a little boy feels riding with his working-poor parents in Used Cars.
After going through scenarios that range from sweet to tragic, the Nebraska album ends with Reason to Believe - not so much a shot at redemption but almost a prayer to keep strong.
The song is filled with not-so-hopeful scenarios - a dead dog by the side of the road, a groom left standing at the altar, a birth, a death. But, he sings, "at the end of every hard-earned day people find some reason to believe."
An acoustic song to start with, it does get a harder edge in concert.

• The Promised Land (from Darkness on the Edge of Town, 1978)
One of fans' best-loved anthems, The Promised Land tells a Steinbeck-like story in just three verses.
It's the story of a man in a small town in the west, "just killing time" and seething with frustration at his circumstances - working all day just to survive, no prospects for that to change, and "driving all night chasing some mirage."
Inspired by his driving trips across the desert, Springsteen places the man in Utah and mentions driving across the Waynesboro county line – which doesn't exist (Wayne County, Utah, is the closest thing).
Feeling like he'll explode if he doesn't, the man finally vows to leave and make something of his so-far empty dreams, with nothing to hold onto except the concept of "I believe in the promised land."
The Promised Land has been a huge song in concert since Darkness was released in 1978 and has also undergone a metamorphosis in his acoustic concerts.
When he first started playing it with just a guitar, it was a fairly straight rendition. Somewhere during the Ghost of Tom Joad tour, he found a new arrangement that worked for him. Rather than strumming the chords, he has taken to beating out an eerie, trance-like rhythm on the hollow body of the guitar flavored with low-key chords.
The song is slowed way down, stretched from its normal five minutes to more than seven minutes (and that's without the guitar and sax breaks that take up a good bit of the normal version).

Mark Brown is the popular music critic. or 303- 892-2674

SF Chronicle Review: Bruce Springsteen in Concert

Springsteen suits himself in solo acoustic show at the Paramount
Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic
Saturday, May 7, 2005

Bruce Springsteen demanded a certain decorum of his audience Thursday at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland.

It wasn't just that, first thing, he reminded everybody to turn off their cell phones -- after a repeated recorded announcement to the same effect preceded him -- but he also admonished them not to clap along with the songs. Later, he told the audience not to applaud the beginning of songs when they recognized a tune. "It makes me feel like I'm in Vegas," he said.

Taking such a didactic tone with his audience strongly suggested that they were there to please him, not the other way around, and that the evening was about what he wanted to do.

But personal gratification and creative freedom is exactly what's behind solo acoustic Springsteen albums such as "Nebraska," "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and his latest, "Devils & Dust," whose songs formed the core of the 22-song, two-hour concert. He makes these dark, folky albums to please himself.

Right from the start, he seemed determined to signal his intentions, opening with "My Beautiful Reward," an obscure song from what is probably his least-loved album, "Lucky Town," played on a wheezing pump organ he never touched again the rest of the night. He followed that by recasting "Reason to Believe" from "Nebraska" as a Tom Waits deconstruction, his indecipherable vocals electronically muted and heavily processed, accompanying himself with reverb-drenched harmonica and amplified foot stomping. Only after that did he strap on an acoustic guitar to play "Devils & Dust."

Springsteen has long felt confined by his role as rock's great hero. Inside the charismatic, bombastic character who can sweep up stadiums full of fans in his fervor has always been a gawky beatnik poet who would be more comfortable at coffeehouses with candles on the tables.
At the Paramount, he strummed his guitars, joshed with the crowd ("Everybody has their complaints," he said. "I've made a career out of mine") and sang his songs. He did seven of the 12 new songs. He played some numbers at the piano, including the title song of his 1980 hit album, "The River" -- the closest thing he played all night to anything that ever was played on radio -- and another oldie, "Racing in the Streets," which he dedicated to director Monte Hellman, a cult filmmaker who made existential '60s Westerns. He closed with a slower, stripped-down "Promised Land" that barely resembled any previous incarnation of the song.

But the concert was about the new songs -- the wildly romanticized "Silver Palominos" about a mother's death, the bitter and explicit "Reno," the bloody, Steinbeckian "Matamoros Banks." These songs are clearly personal to Springsteen, intensely wrought creations crafted with no apparent concern for the breadth of their appeal. These are stories he wants to tell, even if they don't fit comfortably with the broader appeal of his work. He makes no easy accommodations on these songs.

He joked about not having written love songs early in his career -- until "Tunnel of Love," he said -- although he largely avoided any conventional love songs at the Paramount. He said his father warned him that love songs were a government conspiracy, by way of introducing "The River," a gritty, mournful portrait that's hardly anybody's idea of a romantic ballad. But he also called the unapologetically X-rated "Reno" a love song, too -- "a love song about not being able to handle the real thing," he said.

At the bottom of all of his writing, however, is a humanistic spark, and his fans instinctively understand the essential Bruce-ness of oblique soliloquies such as "Jesus Was an Only Son" or "Leah," even if they were cloaked in an earnest, almost precious solo acoustic performance.
The arty lighting scheme didn't help. If he wasn't singing from shadows cast deliberately across his face, his head was ringed in a golden halo from the backlighting. Springsteen can be depended on to get his songs across, and artifice only tends to get in the way. He could have stood on a bare stage under a single bulb and been every bit as effective.

He only briefly looked as if he was having fun -- strumming an electric guitar and singing "Part Man, Part Monkey," a reggae-flavored comedy he first performed on the 1987 "Tunnel of Love" tour, or rattling off some Muddy Waters bottleneck licks and doing the densely processed vocals to "Johnny 99."
But, loose or not, he had everybody's attention riveted every second he was onstage. And nobody minded being instructed in comportment. They don't call him the Boss for nothing.

E-mail Joel Selvin at

David Satter: What Gulag?


Russia's government shamefully refuses to face up to the horrors of communism.

The Wall Street Journal
Sunday, May 8, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

When President Bush ascends the reviewing stand in Red Square tomorrow for ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany, he may find that his presence is being used less to mark a historic anniversary than to rehabilitate the Soviet Union.

The anniversary has unleashed a wave of Soviet nostalgia. A report by the RIA press agency said that "all the veterans agree that the great love that the Soviet people had for their country and their belief in the righteousness of their cause helped the Soviet Union survive the worst war of the 20th century." Vladimir Putin, in a speech last year at the Victory Day ceremonies, said: "We were victorious in the most just war of the 20th century. May 9 is the pinnacle of our glory." More recently, in his state of the nation address on April 25, President Putin referred to the breakup of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century."

This nostalgia is not harmless. Not only does it ignore the fact that the Soviet Union was just as terroristic as Nazi Germany, it also reflects what Hannah Arendt called "pervasive, public stupidity." This is the failure to understand that the truth about the past is not irrelevant--that it is, in fact, the best hope for a decent future. The re-Sovietization of Russia is possible because when the Soviet Union fell, the new Russian state did not break irrevocably with its communist heritage. To do this, it needed to define the communist regime as criminal and the Soviet period as illegitimate; open the archives, including the list of informers; and find all mass burial grounds and execution sites. None of this was done and the consequences are being felt today.


There is still no legal evaluation of the Soviet regime: It has never been declared criminal and no official has ever been tried for crimes committed under communism. The result is that former communist leaders in Russia are viewed as leaders first and criminals second (if at all), no matter how heinous their actions. Russians, thus, frequently lack the conviction, intrinsic to free men, that an individual answers for his actions no matter what the external conditions.

Since the Soviet regime was not repudiated, the Russian government became the Soviet regime's legal successor. This has meant that millions of victims of repression were rehabilitated, usually posthumously, by being cleared of official charges--rather than have those charges voided as the product of a deranged system. The regime, therefore, continued to judge its victims, rather than the other way around.

In addition to not declaring the Soviet regime criminal, the new Russian government did nothing to reveal the identities of KGB informers. In March 1992, the Russian Supreme Soviet passed a law on investigative activities that declared the list of the millions of informers to be a state secret. One reason for the vote was believed to be that many of the deputies had themselves been KGB informers. The decision had serious consequences: It established a precedent for concealing truth about the past that was invoked as decisions were made on access to records in the KGB, Comintern and foreign ministry archives.

Most important, Russian authorities made no serious attempt to find and memorialize mass graves and execution sites. The victims of Stalin-era terror were executed in secret and Soviet leaders intended that the bodies never be found. Still, some sites have been discovered--usually the achievement of the Memorial social movement operating with little help from the outside.

In August 2002, after a five-year search, the execution grounds for the majority of the victims of the Great Terror in Leningrad were discovered by Memorial volunteers in a firing range near the village of Toksovo. It is estimated that the site holds 30,000 bodies, making it possibly the largest on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Neither the federal nor the local authorities have shown any interest in excavating the site and analyzing the remains, let alone memorializing the victims. Instead, they have cautioned the volunteers not to interfere with the operations of the firing range.

The result of official indifference is that the burial grounds and execution sites that stand in silent witness to the horrors of communism play almost no role in the moral life of the country. Without an effort to memorialize these horrors, the growing nostalgia for Soviet power is natural: Although communism was the moral nadir of modern Russian history, it was also the period when Russia was at the height of its power. Increasingly, however, nostalgia for the Soviet Union is taking frightening forms.
Statues of Stalin have begun appearing in cities, and in Orel the town council has written to Mr. Putin demanding that Stalin's "honor" be restored to the history books, his statue re-erected and his name given to streets and squares. In mid-April, Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov said Russia "should once again render honor to Stalin for his role in building socialism and saving human civilization from the Nazi plague." And a group of leading political and cultural figures in St. Petersburg has called for the erection of a monument to Alexei Kuznetsov, who organized Leningrad's defenses during World War II. He was later shot in the postwar "Leningrad Affair" and is buried in the Levashovo Cemetery, along with many of Stalin's victims.

Before the war began, Kuznetsov was a key participant in Stalin's atrocities as a member of the extrajudicial "troika" that signed death sentences for the Leningrad Oblast during the terror. The troika operated in Leningrad from August 1937 to November 1938, issuing 40,000 death sentences--and from January to June 1938, Kuznetsov, as second secretary of the Oblast party committee, was a member.


It is too late for President Bush to decline to go to Moscow as the presidents of Lithuania and Estonia have done, citing Russia's refusal to admit and apologize for crimes committed in the Baltics. Mr. Bush, nonetheless, would be doing a real service to history if, in addition to participating in the celebrations, he would also visit the Butovo firing range south of the city where the bodies of at least 20,000 victims of Stalin's Great Terror lie in mass graves. In contrast to the meticulous attention devoted to anything to do with World War II, Butovo is neglected. There is no museum or general memorial. The common graves are marked off with ropes. Until recently, the area was choked with weeds and used as a garbage dump. The number of visitors is minuscule--about 4,000 a year, mostly Orthodox believers and relatives of those buried there.

The Soviet Union did indeed achieve a great victory in defeating Nazi Germany. The cost was 27 million dead. The failure to put the victory in perspective and describe the true nature of the Stalinist regime, however, means that the May 9 events, in addition to a celebration of the victory, are also an exercise in propaganda that glorifies the Soviet system. As a result, the visiting heads of state risk endorsing with their presence a view of history that works against the interests of Russia's democratic future.

Mr. Satter, a Russian affairs specialist, is affiliated with the Hoover Institution, the Hudson Institute and Johns Hopkins.