Friday, June 10, 2005

Duncan Currie: The NHL on Ice

ESPN bids the NHL adieu. Could things get any worse for pro hockey?
by Duncan Currie
The Weekly Standard
06/10/2005 12:00:00 AM

THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE'S long march to irrelevance continues apace. Last week, cable-sports king ESPN broke off negotiations with NHL execs and said it will move to schedule alternate programming for next season. This came just days after the network announced it would not exercise its $60-million option to claim broadcast rights if and when the 2005-2006 campaign gets underway. "We really had no choice," said Mark Shapiro, ESPN's executive VP for programming and production. "We're not going to be held hostage like we were last season."

The NHL, you see, has never been very good to ESPN. Leave aside, for a moment, pro hockey's ongoing labor spat, which cost the league its 2003-2004 season. The roots of the NHL-ESPN partnership date back to the network's founding in 1979. ESPN briefly held the cable broadcast rights to NHL contests during the 1980s--until the league dumped ESPN in 1988 and chose to go with Sports Channel instead. At the time, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said sticking with ESPN would've been "better for the game." "Sure, we got more money from Sports Channel," the Great One wrote in his 1990 autobiography, "but how much did we lose in exposure?"

Good point, and one that NHL suits quickly took note of. ESPN regained the cable broadcast rights to NHL action in 1992. This time, the network's choice proved felicitous. Hockey's popularity skyrocketed following the New York Rangers' gripping Stanley Cup run in 1994.
Suddenly, everybody wanted a piece of "the coolest game on earth." But over the past several years, the talent pool has been diluted by near-constant league expansion, scoring has plunged, the games have gotten slow and boring, and TV ratings have sunk. The heady days of the mid 1990s seem a distant memory.

Then, of course, there was the 2003-2004 lockout. The NHL became the first pro sports league in North America to forfeit an entire season due to a labor dispute. ESPN had to fill scads of empty timeslots with substitute programs. And, as Reuters reported last week, the network discovered that programming "it aired in place of NHL games on a month-to-month basis during the canceled season did just as well or better than hockey would have."

Even despite all that, ESPN offered a last-minute compromise. It would buy year-long broadcasting rights from the NHL--but for "well below half of $60 million," according to Shapiro. The league demurred, refusing to budge from its $60-million asking price. Said Bernadette Mansur, the NHL's communications VP, "We're not interested in devaluing the product any further."

True, a lesser deal--one for, say, $15 or $20 million per season--would have meant harsh revenue losses for the league's 30 clubs. But at least it would've been something. As it stands now, with ESPN's apparent exit, NHL teams stand to lose $2 million apiece. How's that for "devaluing the product"?

There's been talk that another channel--Spike TV, maybe, or Fox Sports Net--could pick up the national cable broadcast rights to the NHL for 2005-2006. But it's hard to believe any network would plunk down $60 million. Especially given the uncertainty of the season--it may start late--and the fact that ratings for the league had plummeted by the end of 2003-2004. (Small wonder ABC opted not to renew its NHL contract.)

All in all, things couldn't get much worse for the NHL. "The departure of ESPN," wrote William Houston in Toronto's Globe and Mail, "marks rock bottom for the league in terms of American TV rights." The league "lost its only remaining U.S. television rights holder." Which means, as Bloomberg News reported, the NHL is left "without a national cable television partner for the first time since the late 1970s."

Pro hockey has--or perhaps, I should say, "had"--come a long way since the '70s, maturing from a cult sport with regional fans to a league with national popularity and a bevy of teams even in the Sunbelt. But now the NHL has shot itself in the foot, and seems to be aiming for other, more vital body parts.

Without a big-name cable-TV partner, and with the ever-present specter of labor strife, the league risks tumbling further and further into obscurity. It is already well on the way to cementing its second-class status in American sports. NHL execs should recall that Major League Baseball--which, besides being the national pastime, has always had a much broader fan base than pro hockey, along with a ubiquitous TV presence--didn't recover its pre-strike popularity until the McGwire-Sosa home run race in 1998.

The league's off-ice woes are bad enough. Then there are its on-ice problems. NHL bigwigs understand that changes are needed to stem the inimical tide of low scoring and clutch-and-grab defense. On Monday, June 6, a so-called research-and-development camp began in Toronto. An eclectic mix of junior-level and collegiate players are the guinea pigs, as the league experiments with such quirks as smaller goalie pads, oversized nets, and offside passes. After the camp ends, NHL GMs will mull over possible rules changes.

Hopefully, at the very least, league execs will junk the two-line-pass rule, which often stifles dynamic breakouts and enables teams to deploy the dreaded neutral-zone "trap." This would make NHL hockey more like the college game--in other words, more exciting. As Jeff Superle, a puckish (pun intended) denizen of North Vancouver, British Columbia, put it in a recent letter to Sports Illustrated, "With a few improvements, the NHL could be just as good as NCAA hockey."

The NHL needs a dollop of good news. This R&D camp could provide it. A better product on the ice will offer piqued fans a reason to come back next season (if there is a next season). Give them faster play and more scoring, and they'll watch the games. Just not, it appears, on ESPN.

Duncan Currie is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.
© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

Mona Charen Labels Sowell's Latest a 'Must Read'
A must read
Mona Charen (archive)
June 10, 2005

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that there are some intelligent people out there who have never read anything by Thomas Sowell. (I know, I know, the chances are remote, but work with me here.) They've never enjoyed his fascinating excursion into group traits in "Ethnic America," nor his penetrating analysis of what has gone wrong with the schools in "Inside American Education," nor his brilliant dissection of the inevitable pitfalls of regulation in "Knowledge and Decisions." There is hope. His new volume, "Black Rednecks and White Liberals," offers a taste of some of his earlier work as well as a cornucopia of new insights. Indeed, the new book is so clarifying and so wise that even experienced Sowell readers will find much that is new.

The title refers to the first essay, which argues that many of the traits commonly considered "authentically black" are actually the inheritance of the white redneck culture amid which many blacks lived for centuries. These include hair-trigger touchiness on the part of men, anti-intellectualism, pride, sexual license, backwardness and laziness. Speech patterns that persist among ghetto blacks today -- "ax" for ask, "bile" for boil, "do'" for door, and "dis" for this -- are traceable to the regions of Great Britain from which white Southerners came. Black and white children from the South lagged academically behind their peers in the rest of the nation throughout the 20th century. This is well-known. What is less well-known is that "black soldiers from some Northern states scored higher on mental tests than whites from some Southern states during the First World War."

Further, schools established for blacks by 19th-century New Englanders in the South imported a very different set of values and expectations, and black youngsters, like W.E.B. Du Bois, rose to the challenge. "In 1871, the Georgia legislature created a board of visitors to attend public examinations at Atlanta University. The chairman . . . reportedly said that he expected the examinations to confirm the Negro's inferiority. But the recitations of former slaves in Latin, Greek, and geometry forced from him the confession that 'we were impressed with the fallacy of the popular idea . . . that the members of the African race are not capable of a high grade of intellectual culture.'"

In a chapter entitled "Are Jews Generic?" Sowell explores the contribution and fate of "middleman minorities" around the globe. From the Ibos in Nigeria, to the Armenians in Turkey, to the ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia, to the Lebanese in Africa, to the (Indian) Gujaratis in the South Pacific, to the Jews in Europe, middleman minorities have served to lubricate the economies of the nations they have lived among. Additionally, these groups have resembled one another in many respects: a willingness to work long hours, maintenance of strong families and an emphasis on education. They have suffered similar fates as well, as they have repeatedly been the victims of furious violence from their neighbors. The irony, Sowell writes, is that the middlemen are most deeply resented and hated where they are the most indispensable. Such was the hatred for Indians and Pakistanis who served as middlemen in Uganda that the government forcibly exiled them all (50,000) in the 1970s. Economic devastation followed. The story was similar with Jews in Eastern Poland in the 17th century.

Sowell's majestic intelligence and humane sympathy shine through on every page. The chapter on "Black Education: Achievements, Myths and Tragedies" is especially powerful. Here is an elegy to Dunbar High School, a public school in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1870, Dunbar produced academic excellence among its black students at a rate that today seems out of reach.
"During the period from 1918 to 1923, graduates of this school went on to earn 25 degrees from Ivy League colleges, Amherst, Williams, and Wellesley. . . . At one time, the reputation of Dunbar graduates was such that they did not have to take entrance examinations to be admitted to Dartmouth, Harvard, and some other selective colleges." Dunbar was undermined by politics and now resembles other failing inner city schools.

"Black Rednecks and White Liberals" ranges widely -- from a learned essay on slavery worldwide to an examination of the German national character. This book affirms Thomas Sowell's status as one of America's most eminent intellectuals.

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

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Marvin Olasky: Belief in God Makes Sense
Marvin Olasky (archive)
June 9, 2005

David Horowitz is a 66-year-old polemicist of the first rank. Once a scion of the left, he's now its scourge. His numerous books have take-no-prisoner titles like, "The Politics of Bad Faith" and "Left Illusions." Having sat with him in several discussions, I can't imagine him surrendering to anyone or anything.

Except death.

Encounter Books has just published David's new effort, "The End of Time," which shows the side of him that emerged four years ago when he discovered he had prostate cancer. Radical surgery has given him a "reprieve" that should allow him to battle for many more years, but "The End of Time" includes poignant reflections on a relentless enemy of both liberals and conservatives.

Almost 55, I'll soon be only one short of David in both digits of our ages, and close enough that his words resonate with me: "Think of death as a horizon that travels with us, until one day we reach it, and it becomes us. We vanish in an eye-blink, leaving behind only a little vacancy, like the wake of a ship. ..."

I hesitate to comment on personal thoughts, but I've seen over the years that David makes his thoughts public with the goal of provoking comment. So here goes: With all the similarities in our family backgrounds and political movement, there is a difference between us: David thinks the ship is lost at sea. Through God's kindness, I don't.

As poetic evidence of lostness, he quotes the teaching in Psalms "that all flesh is grass and that each of us is like a flower in the field that flourishes and dies: 'The wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.'"

Yet, David doesn't quote the next verse of Psalm 103: "But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him. ..." That makes all the difference. Love drives out lostness.

Upon his medical delivery, David writes: "I could not easily dismiss this idea of a grace unseen. ... I had been felled by a cancer and was still around to talk about it. But ... the biblical point was that the Creator gave us free will to determine our fates. Why would He intervene to change mine?"

Hmm. Maybe that's a discussion point concerning smoking and lung cancer, but does our own free will give us prostate cancer? Doctors say that's a time bomb ticking in every man. For that matter, does our free will give us oxygen to breathe and a planet to live on? If our very lives are dependent on God, why should not the times of our deaths be also?

David questions what heaven could be like: "Do we really want eternity to think about what we have done and how we have failed? Or does God make it all up to us when we are dead, so that we are forgiven, and forgive others, and forget?"

The next-to-last chapter of Revelation answers that: God "will wipe away every tear." But the news is even more immediate: How often do things that happened several years ago, and provoked bitterness at the time, seem unimportant when we meet our former adversaries again? How much more so would that be in heaven?

Near the end of the book, David reports a conversation with his wife, who believes in God and tells David he's arrogant. He agrees: "I had no answer. I was arrogant. If there was a God, how could I, in my mere mortality, know His plan?" He tells her, "'I'll think about it,' and she replies: 'I don't want you to think. I want you to open your heart.'"

That's wise advice. But at some point, if David's heart is open, he will need to think about it again. That's when someone will need to say to him: "Go ahead and think. Belief in God makes sense."

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

Only $12.95 for Olasky's latest!
The Religions Next Door
Aren't all religions fundamentally the same? To the media, the answer is an obvious "yes" -- but the real answer is an emphatic "no." Now, in The Religions Next Door: What We Need to Know about Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam -- and What Reporters Are Missing, Marvin Olasky tells the truth about non-Christian religions -- and the danger of believing that all religions hold different variations of the same tenets.

Peggy Noonan: Seeing Red

Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean rage against Republicans. It's not a winning approach.

Thursday, June 9, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
The Wall Street Journal

I don't know that Democrats understand how Republicans experience the attacks Democratic leaders make on them. I'm not sure they know how they sound to us.

In America there is a lot of political integration. Democrats and Republicans are friends. Life forces them to be if they need to be forced, which most don't. They know each other from the office, Little League, school meetings, the neighborhood. Actually America is mostly filled with people who say not "I'm a Democrat" and "I'm a Republican," but "I voted for Bush" and "I like McCain" and "I voted for Kerry." They identify by personal action more than political party, at least in my experience.

Washington is more politically segregated. In Washington, Democrats by and large hang out with Democrats, Republicans with Republicans. This is true in consulting, in think tanks, in journals, in Congress. If you work for a Democratic senator, the office is full of Democrats. The people with whom you share inside jokes and the occasional bitter aside are Democrats. The "neighborhood" in which you go to meetings during your long days is Democratic. The same is true for Republicans.

And it's inevitable. The structure of things decrees it, as does human nature. Like-minded people seek like-minded people for stimulating conversation and more.

So in some key ways in Washington, the most politically engaged individuals in both parties do not understand each other. This expresses itself in certain assumptions. Democrats think Republicans are mean. Republicans know Democrats are the mean party.


Knowing that, let's do a thought experiment. Close your eyes and imagine this.
President Bush is introduced at a great gathering in Topeka, Kan. It is the evening of June 9, 2005. Ruffles and flourishes, "Hail to the Chief," hearty applause from a packed ballroom. Mr. Bush walks to the podium and delivers the following address.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I want to speak this evening about how I see the political landscape. Let me jump right in. The struggle between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is a struggle between good and evil--and we're the good. I hate Democrats. Let's face it, they have never made an honest living in their lives. Who are they, really, but people who are intent on abusing power, destroying the United States Senate and undermining our Constitution? They have no shame.

But why would they? They have never been acquainted with the truth. You ever been to a Democratic fundraiser? They all look the same. They all behave the same. They have a dictatorship, and suffer from zeal so extreme they think they have a direct line to heaven. But what would you expect when you have a far left extremist base? We cannot afford more of their leadership. I call on you to help me defeat them!"Imagine Mr. Bush saying those things, and the crowd roaring with lusty delight. Imagine John McCain saying them for that matter, or any other likely Republican candidate for president, or Ken Mehlman, the head of the Republican National Committee.

Can you imagine them talking this way? Me neither. Because they wouldn't.

Messrs. Bush, McCain, et al., would find talk like that to be extreme, damaging, desperate. They would understand it would tend to add a new level of hysteria to political discourse, and that's not good for the country. I think they would know such talk is unworthy in a leader, or potential leader, of a great democracy. I think they would understand that talk like that is destructive to the ties that bind--and to the speaker's political prospects.


Why don't Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean know this? And what does it mean that they do not know it?

For as you know, the color-coded phrases in the "Bush speech" above come from speeches and statements given by Sen. Clinton and Democratic chairman Dean recently. (Mrs. Clinton's comments are in green and Mr. Dean's in purple, and I changed "right" to "left.")

Clinton is likely the next Democratic nominee for president. Mr. Dean is the head of the Democratic Party. They are important and powerful. They may one day run the country. It is disturbing that they speak as they do.

How do people who are not part of the Democratic base react to their statements? I think something like this: What's wrong with these people? Don't they understand they lower things with their name calling and bitter language? If this is how they feel free to present themselves in public, what will they do and say in private if they ever run the country?

If Mr. Bush ever spoke this way, most Republicans would feel embarrassment. I would be among the legions who would denounce his statement. Democrats are half the country; it is offensive to label them as hateful, it's wrong. Even though we're torn by disagreements, there is an old and unspoken tradition that we're all in this together, we're all citizens together. It is destructive to act against this tradition.

One assumes all the media, especially the MSM, would treat the speech as if it were an epochal event in the Bush presidency, and the beginning of the end. They would say he was unleashing the dark forces of division; they would label his statement as manipulative, malevolent, immature.

And they'd be right.


There is a tradition of political generosity that prevails among the normal people of America, a certain live-and-let-live-ness. That is why Little League games don't break out in fistfights, at least over politics. You don't shun people in the neighborhood because they're Democrats, and you don't inform the Republican in the next cubicle that he is evil, lazy and racist. That just doesn't play in America. There are breaches, exceptions, incidents. We are not angels. But by and large even though we disagree with each other, and even if we come to dislike each other, we maintain, for reasons both moral and practical, decorum. Civility. We keep a lid on it. We don't lower it to the level of invective. We don't by nature seek to divide.

When you have been in Washington long enough and have become consumed by your place in the political struggle, you can lose sight of the American arrangement. You can become harsh and shrill. You can become the sort of person who would start the fight at the Little League game. You can become--how might a columnist, as opposed to a political leader, put it?--a jackass. But not a funny one, a destructive one, the type that can knock down the barn it took the farmer years to build.

The comportment of Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean is actually not worthy of America. Their statements suggest they are in no way equal to the country they seek to lead. And something tells me that sooner or later America is going to tell them. But in a generous, mature and fair-minded way.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag" (Wall Street Journal Books/Simon & Schuster), a collection of post-Sept. 11 columns, which you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Laura Mansfield: Sami Al-Arian's Islamic Academy

By Laura Mansfield June 8, 2005

Florida's tuition voucher program is designed to help improve the education level of children who attend schools which do not meet educational standards. In 2003, Florida taxpayers indirectly subsidized the Islamic Academy of Florida in Tampa, with over $350,000 in funds.

Why is this a problem? What makes funding an Islamic school any different from funding a Christian school?

The difference is that at the time, the school's principal was none other than Sami Al Arian, who was under indictment for terrorism-related charges. He is at this very moment going to trial.

The Florida Islamic Academy was founded in 1992 by Sami Al-Arian. North American Islamic Trust holds the the title to the school property, as well as to the Tampa-area mosques at 130th Ave. E in Temple Terrace, FL and at 6307 Barclay Avenue in Spring Hill, FL. The trust owns about 27 percent of the 1,200 mosques in the United States.

The North American Islamic Trust is a subsidiary of the Islamic Society of North America.Sami Al Arian, along with seven others, was indicted in February 2003, on racketeering charges for allegedly financing and supporting homicide bombers in Israel.

The Florida Islamic Academy is explicitly named in the indictment:

The Islamic Academy of Florida, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as "IAF") was a tax exempt Florida corporation established on August 24, 1992. SAMI AMIN AL-ARIAN was the Director of IAF from its inception through at least June, 2002. SAMEEH HAMMOUDEH was also employed by the IAF and served as its Treasurer. IAF was located at 5910 East 130th Avenue, Tampa, Florida.

And then later goes on to state:

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Jihad-Shiqaqi Faction (PIJ), including the ICP, WISE, IAF, and others known and unknown, constituted an "enterprise" (hereinafter referred to as the "PIJ Enterprise"), as defined by Title 18, United States Code, Section 1961(4); that is, a group of individuals and entities associated in fact which engaged in, and the activities of which affected, interstate and foreign commerce. The enterprise constituted an ongoing organization whose members functioned as a continuing unit for a common purpose of achieving the objects of the enterprise.

The indictment also alleges:

On or about May 5, 2002, SAMI AMIN AL-ARIAN and SAMEEH HAMMOUDEH caused an employee at IAF to tell an unidentified woman during a telephone conversation that the woman should write a check to IAF after she indicated she wanted to send money for the Palestinians.

Yet, despite this, the Islamic Academy of Florida continued to receive money from the tuition voucher program in Florida through July 2003.

On July 19, 2003, the Palm Beach Post reported that payments to the school were being suspended:

John Kirtley, founder of the voucher organization Florida PRIDE, said he is suspending payments to the Tampa-based Islamic Academy of Florida, which has been under scrutiny by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI in relation to its founder and former Director Sami Al-Arian. Al-Arian stands accused of being the North American leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group responsible for numerous suicide bombings in Israel.

Florida PRIDE provides the Islamic school with money that it collects from corporations. The corporations in turn get to deduct the amount of their donations - up to $5 million - from their state taxes.

According to the Palm Beach Post article, the school received approximately $350,000 from Florida PRIDE for tuition for 100 underprivileged students in 2003. This makes up more than 50% of the school's revenue.

Islamic Academy of Florida has since been removed from the Florida PRIDE program completely. How much, if any, of this money actually went to support terrorism is unknown. In the meantime, while the cases of Al Arian and the others indicted move through the legal system, the North American Islamic Trust continues to operate Islamic primary and secondary schools throughout the country. The Islamic Society of North America continues to operate mosques and school as well.

How many more of these schools will eventually be linked to terrorism? How many of their faculty and staff have ties to terrorist organizations?

Those questions need to be answered.

Gary Aldrich: The Mark Felt Four
Gary Aldrich (archive)
June 8, 2005

The FBI is in the news again, and yet again, the news isn’t good. The legendary crime-fighting, spy-catching agency that J. Edgar Hoover founded can’t get a break.

First it was revealed that Mark Felt, the number two executive to Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray, was “Deep Throat,” and that Felt was all but passing out official FBI FD-302’s, which are reports of interrogations with key witnesses in the Watergate case. The basis of my allegation includes written statements I have read from former FBI agents who actually worked on the case. One of these had developed an important witness, only to see the witness’ name and her blockbusting facts – that could only have come from hot-off-the press FBI documents – appear in The Washington Post. Years later, he is angry to learn that the promises of confidentiality to a frightened White House insider were broken mere hours after the interview by a high-ranking Bureau official who should have known better.
In a recent article in the Albany Times Union written by Brendan Lyons, it’s revealed that a former agent, Paul V. Daly, learned sometime in 1978 that Felt was in fact “Deep Throat” and that three FBI Headquarters and Field Office officials gave Felt regular briefings, even though they apparently knew Felt had entered into an unholy alliance with the Post, supplying raw FBI data. In any important case, supervisors in FBI Headquarters are responsible for monitoring and sometimes directing the investigations, then briefing higher-ups including the director. In order to do that, they must furnish HQ with written documents which are later introduced into evidence in a court of law. Until then, the documents are considered “raw” – that is, untested.

For those reasons as well as the ethical and legal implications, it is unconscionable for FBI officials to unilaterally furnish raw FBI documents to the media.

But, the “real” director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, had just died and had been replaced by an “outsider” favored by President Nixon. Hoover had been the director for decades and had served under 8 presidents. The FBI without Hoover was like chicken without Perdue to many high-ranking Bureau officials who had fashioned their entire persona around a Hoover-led agency.

In fact, all high Bureau officials’ career tracks were based on Hoover’s unique and harsh management style. These guys wanted a chance at the top slot as director of the FBI. If one of them made it, the other three might tag along as top executives. But their careers were in grave jeopardy because everyone knew that the new guy coming in, chosen by the president, would get wide latitude to make changes at the top.

This would be especially threatening to the Hoover-ites, because it was a well-known perception in Washington that Hoover’s FBI was considered “too powerful and independent.” It was also widely reported that the White House wanted somebody who could “de-Hooverize” the FBI. L. Patrick Gray, a by-the-book retired Navy officer, was seen as that man. Thus the career hopes of Mark Felt and his close associates were dashed, even as Felt was moved into the second seat to serve as Gray’s assistant. The naive Gray should have known that Hoover-trained Felt and his cronies would accept no consolation prizes.

They would be lurking and waiting to pounce on the acting director's very first missteps. Meanwhile, as part of their plan for revenge, they apparently rationalized a secret cabal to funnel key information about the Watergate investigation to The Washington Post.

In hindsight, it could be claimed by Nixon-haters that their motivations were noble – that they believed that the Nixon Administration would shut down any FBI investigation that threatened his power. In reality, the federal investigation had taken on a life of its own and could not be stopped by Nixon or anyone else. Hundreds of FBI agents were assigned to the case, and there is no way a corrupt politician could have silenced all of them. Not every FBI agent’s life is completely centered and controlled by the mere fact he or she is an FBI agent. As one highly successful former agent once told me, “Hey, I was looking for a job when I found that one at the Bureau. I did that job and then I moved on, and up.”

If the motives of Felt’s cabal were pure, why didn’t a single one of them ever step forward to announce that it was they, the fabulous Felt Four, who had saved the nation? I believe the answer is, they never spoke about it because they were merely trying to save their threatened careers. In other words, they could not move on, so they refused to let go.

Let’s review what was happening in our country during the Nixon presidency: entire cities were being burned to the ground, and banks and universities bombed, while hard-Left Marxist radicals like Bernadine Doran called for “Revolution!” even as they stuffed cash into their pockets that had been funneled to them by the Soviet Union. This environment would seem to supply little justification for the selling-out by these four FBI executives, even if they did believe they were forcing an FBI investigation of monumental proportions into the public eye so that it could not be quashed by an “abusive” president.

Claims that “there was only one thing that Mark Felt could do” seem especially hollow when you consider that there was always a legal way available to this cabal. There is a third branch of government on Capitol Hill called the U.S. Congress, who at that very time was gleefully sharpening their knives, salivating at the chance to impeach a detested president.

Are we to believe that these politically-savvy top FBI officials believed that not only was the White House compromised, but also the U.S. Congress? If they actually believed that, then I would say that they were very dangerous men in very high posts who were in a position to do serious damage to this country.

The Felt Four were not heroes – they were politically- and selfishly-motivated, out-of-control bureaucrats who believed they had a right to break the very laws they were paid to enforce. In hindsight, President Nixon was correct in passing over Mark Felt for the position of FBI Director. For that we owe Nixon and his men a debt of gratitude, because if there is something worse than a corrupt politician, it is a corrupt bureaucrat with a badge and arrest powers.

Especially grateful may be the majority of the former and present Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who do take their oath of office seriously.

Gary Aldrich is the president of The Patrick Henry Center, a member group.
©2005 Gary W. Aldrich
Contact Gary Aldrich Read Aldrich's biography

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Thomas Sowell: Looking Back
Thomas Sowell (archive)
June 6, 2005

We may look back on some eras as heroic -- that of the founding fathers or "the greatest generation" that fought World War II -- but some eras we look back on in disbelief at the utter stupidity with which people ruined their economies or blundered into wars in which every country involved ended up worse off than before. How will people a century from now look back on our era? Fortunately, most of us will be long gone by then, so we will be spared the embarrassment of seeing ourselves judged.

What will future generations say about how we behaved when confronted by international terrorist organizations that have repeatedly demonstrated their cut-throat ruthlessness and now had the prospect of getting nuclear weapons from rogue nations like Iran and North Korea?

What will future generations think when they see the front pages of our leading newspapers repeatedly preoccupied with whether we are treating captured cut-throats nicely enough? What will they think when they see the Geneva Convention invoked to protect people who are excluded from protection by the Geneva Convention?

During World War II, German soldiers who were captured not wearing the uniform of their own army were simply lined up against a wall and shot dead by American troops.

This was not a scandal. Far from being covered up by the military, movies were taken of the executions and have since been shown on the History Channel. We understood then that the Geneva Convention protected people who obeyed the Geneva Convention, not those who didn't -- as terrorists today certainly do not.

What will those who look back on these times think when they see that the American Civil Liberties Union, and others who have made excuses for all sorts of criminals, were pushing for the prosecution of our own troops for life-and-death decisions they had a split second to make in the heat of combat?

The frivolous demands made on our military -- that they protect museums while fighting for their lives, that they tiptoe around mosques from which people are shooting at them -- betray an irresponsibility made worse by ingratitude toward men who have put their lives on the line to protect us.

It is impossible to fight a war without heroism. Yet can you name a single American military hero acclaimed by the media for an act of courage in combat? Such courage is systematically ignored by most of the media.

If American troops kill a hundred terrorists in battle and lose ten of their own men doing it, the only headline will be: "Ten More Americans Killed in Iraq Today."

Those in the media who have carped at the military for years, and have repeatedly opposed military spending, are now claiming to be "honoring" our military by making a big production out of publishing the names of all those killed in Iraq. Will future generations see through this hypocrisy -- and wonder why we did not?

What will the generations of the future say if we allow Iran and North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, which are then turned over to terrorists who can begin to annihilate American cities?

Our descendants will wonder how we could have let this happen, when we had the power to destroy any nation posing such a threat. Knowing that we had the power, they would have to wonder why we did not have the will -- and why it was so obvious that we did not.

Nothing will more painfully reveal the irresponsible frivolity of our times than the many demands in the media and in politics that we act only with the approval of the United Nations and after winning over "world opinion."

How long this will take and what our enemies will be doing in the meantime while we are going through these futile exercises is something that gets very little attention.

Do you remember Osama bin Laden warning us, on the eve of last year's elections, that he would retaliate against those parts of the United States that voted for Bush? The United States is not Spain, so we disregarded his threats.

But what of future generations, after international terrorists get nuclear weapons? And what will our descendants think of us -- will they ever forgive us -- for leaving them in such a desperate situation because we were paralyzed by a desire to placate "world opinion"?

©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Thomas Sowell Read Sowell's biography

Christopher Hitchens: Terminal Futility

Routine airport security won't thwart jihadists, but it does inconvenience and endanger the rest of us.
Posted Monday, June 6, 2005, at 1:02 PM PT

Is there anyone reading this column who would agree with Mark O. Hatfield Jr., spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, that in the past year "the average peak wait time at [airport] checkpoints has dropped a minute ... to about 12 minutes"? This is what he was cited as having said, in a New York Times report of a confidential document from the Department of Homeland Security. The last time I was at Dulles Airport, the line for security began at the entrance to the terminal and wound itself in several rope-line convolutions, like a clogged intestine, for about 40 minutes. I had allowed the usual two hours and was checking no luggage, but this and other banana-republic conditions almost made me miss my plane. Nor was it a "peak time." In any case, a passenger cannot know what a "peak time" will be. Only the TSA knows how many people are booked on how many flights at a given hour and can make provision of enough machines and personnel. Or not, as the case may be.

So, Hatfield was telling me something that I didn't know. The rest of the report, however, contains things that everyone does know to be true. We learn that there is no real capacity to detect explosives, for example. And we learn that, "If, say, a handgun were discovered, the terrorist would have ample ability to retain control of it. TSA screeners are neither expecting to encounter a real weapon nor are they trained to gain control of it." Who hasn't worked that out?

I think I had also noticed that there are not enough plastic bins or tables to line them up on, and that "X-ray machines that examine carry-on baggage sit idle as much as 30 per cent of the time." The time elapsed between Sept. 11, 2001, and today's writing (1,364 days) is only slightly less than the time between Pearl Harbor and the unconditional surrender of Japan (1,365 days). And airport security is still a silly farce that subjects the law-abiding to collective punishment while presenting almost no deterrent to a determined suicide-killer.

There is one mercy at least: One no longer sees people smiling and saying, "Thank you" as their wheelchairs and their children are put through pointless inspections. But the new form of servile abjection—standing in sullen lines and just putting up with it—is hardly an improvement. One sometimes wants to ask, "What's my name?" or, "To what database is this connected" when someone has just asked for the third time for you to put down a bag and produce a driver's license. But I think the fear of making some inscrutable "no-fly" list may inhibit many people. There has never yet been a hijacker who boarded a plane without taking the trouble to purchase a ticket and carry an ID. Members of the last successful group were on a "watch list," for all the difference that made. The next successful group will not be on a watch list.

Flying from London to Washington the other day, I was told that I was no longer required to take my computer out of its case. Apparently, there are scanners that can see though soft cases as well as through the hardened lid of a laptop (and apparently the United States hasn't managed to invest in any of these scanners for its domestic airports). On the other hand, I was asked if I had packed my own bags and if they had been under my control at all times. This exceptionally stupid pair of questions—to which a terrorist would have to answer "yes" by definition—is now deemed too stupid for U.S. domestic purposes and stupid enough only for international travel. This makes as much sense as diverting a full plane that carries a notorious Islamist crooner, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, from one airport to another.

Routines and "zero tolerance" exercises will never thwart determined jihadists who are inventive and who are willing to sacrifice their lives. That requires inventiveness and initiative. But airport officials are not allowed to use their initiative. People who have had their names confused with wanted or suspect people, and who have spent hours proving that they are who they say they are, are nonetheless compelled to go through the whole process every time, often with officials who have seen them before and cleared them before, because the system that never seems to catch anyone can never seem to let go of anyone, either.

While people are treated as packages, we learn from the same New York Times account of the still-secret Homeland Security document that "air cargo on passenger planes is rarely physically inspected today." Imagine, if you will, the wolfish grin of an al-Qaida fan who reads that sentence. I sometimes don't want to mention all the other loopholes, in case it gives ideas to the wrong people, but just imagine for a second that we imposed our current airport rules on trains, or the subway, or the tunnels and bridges …

What we are looking at, then, is a hugely costly and oppressive system that is designed to maintain the illusion of safety and the delusion that the state is protecting its citizens. The main beneficiaries seem to be the pilferers employed by this vast bureaucracy—we have had several recent reports about the steep increase in items stolen from luggage. And that is petty theft that takes place off-stage. What amazes me is the willingness of Americans to submit to confiscation at the point of search. Every day, people are relieved of private property in broad daylight, with the sole net result that they wouldn't have even a nail file with which to protect themselves if (or rather when) the next hijacking occurs.

Last month, cigarette lighters were added to the confiscation list. There's probably some half-baked "shoe-bomber" justification for this, but I hear that at Boise airport in Idaho there's now a lighter bin on the way out of the airport, like the penny tray in some shops, that allows you to pick one up. Give one; take one—it all helps to pass the time until the next disaster, which collective punishment of the law-abiding is doing nothing to prevent.

Related in Slate

In February, Andy Bowers discovered a loophole that makes identity checks useless. Timothy Noah (not a terrorist) described how his name ended up on the No-Fly List, and in May, Keelin McDonell explained why Cat Stevens was allowed on a plane when his name is on the list. Steven Aftergood gave the legal reasoning behind the TSA's policy of secrecy, and the authors of Safe assessed the newest gizmos for finding terrorists.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America.

Monday, June 06, 2005

NY Times Book Review- The Book Business: Cash Up Front

June 5, 2005
The New York Times Book Review

If you walk around any Barnes & Noble or other large bookseller right about now, there's a good chance you will notice prominent stacks of a thick hardcover with an eye-catching jacket and the title ''Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power.'' The book, written by a former Clinton administration official, David J. Rothkopf, and published by PublicAffairs, is based on interviews with foreign policy insiders like Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice, and offers itself as a definitive study of the council, sometimes called the most powerful group of people in the history of the world.

Like many other customers, you might have thought the book was on display simply because the booksellers believed it was important, particularly relevant now and would practically sell itself.

This is also what Peter Osnos, the chief executive of PublicAffairs, would like to think. But he has been in the publishing business long enough to know that it's never that simple. In order to ensure the book was on display on the front tables, his company had to pay a total of about $11,000 to the large bookstore chains. Last fall the company also paid what Osnos called ''a significant amount of money'' for prominent placement of a new boxed edition of Lou Cannon's two-volume biography of Ronald Reagan, after the former president died in June.
''Had we not done that,'' Osnos said recently, ''there's no guarantee where the book would be. It could have been in the back somewhere.''

Osnos takes great pains to stress that he is not complaining about the arrangement, but simply describing a complicated kind of machinery that has evolved over the last 15 years in the world of American bookselling. Over that period, the amount of retail space devoted to selling books has quadrupled -- from superstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders to the growing book sections of big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Costco, and even of supermarkets. And with this expansion the once humble conventions of book display -- the neighborhood bookstore window, the recommended-books table near the cash register -- have also been supersized beyond recognition. In fact, many publishers say that the tables and flashy cardboard displays that crowd the front of chain bookstores have emerged as a marketing force fully as powerful as the traditional ways of trying to bring a book to the public's hard-won attention -- through newspaper and magazine ads, reviews, author tours and radio and television interviews.

But this promotional device, like most others, comes with a cost. It is known, somewhat deceptively, as a cooperative advertising agreement. In plain terms, it means that many of the books on display at the front of a store or placed face out at the end of an aisle are there because the publisher paid for them to be there, not necessarily because anyone at the bookstore thought the book was noteworthy or interesting.

Under such programs, booksellers -- mostly chains, but also larger independent stores -- keep a certain percentage of a publisher's net sales, usually 3 percent to 5 percent annually, depending on the agreement with the publisher. This money is then parceled out for various purposes, to help, for example, defray the bookseller's advertising costs, when a chain takes out ads or prints fliers to promote certain books. But the publisher's money may also buy coveted space on the store's front tables or on tall, highly visible racks, known as stepladders, announcing to customers that these books are considered the most important in the store.

''The Barnes & Noble stepladder is the best piece of real estate there is,'' said one veteran publishing executive -- who, like most others interviewed for this article, did not want his name used when talking about the world of book display. ''Now, when I go into a store I practically genuflect in front of the stepladder.'' (As an example, he said that one of his books with sales of about 800 copies a week immediately jumped to 3,000 to 4,000 copies a week once he paid for its placement on stepladders in stores across the country.)

Pay-for-display programs are nothing new in the retail world. Supermarkets have long extracted money from manufacturers to put their boxes of cereal or detergent in eye-catching spots. But the practice seems less savory in bookselling, where bookstore owners and managers were once assumed to serve as an editorial presence, recommending and featuring books they liked. Besides, publishers complain that, despite its name, cooperative advertising is not a cooperative exercise in the least. Some compare it to a tax or even to extortion -- evoking the practice of ''payola'' in the radio industry. Which is not to say that co-op is actually under-the-table, illegal or even unethical -- it's just that bookstores don't tell customers about it.

Co-op advertising has thus acquired a reputation as a kind of dirty secret of the publishing business. In 1999,, which also charges publishers for prominent placement and promotion of books on its Web site, dealt with complaints about the policy by saying it would disclose which titles had been paid for, but it has since stopped doing so. A disclaimer on the site (it takes some searching to find) informs customers that Amazon accepts payments, but, it adds, ''We don't sell our reviews -- and we don't say a book is good just because it's a publisher-supported title.'' Barnes & Noble likewise says that while its ''Discover Great New Writers'' program is supported by money from publishers, the company would never allow a publisher to ''buy'' a spot on this list; it reserves the right to choose the books itself.

Trying to get publishers or booksellers to talk about display agreements, even off the record, is like trying to persuade Mafiosi to break the oath of omertá. One respected New York publishing executive contacted by this reporter couldn't get off the phone fast enough when asked about it. But among themselves, publishers complain bitterly that display programs are just another way that the big bookstores are dictating how they do business. Booksellers, meanwhile, hate to talk about display arrangements because they feel that they have been unfairly portrayed as somehow dishonest or mercenary in a highly competitive business with paper-thin profit margins.

''At no point in time do we put a book on display unless we think it's going to sell,'' said Stephen Riggio, the chief executive of Barnes & Noble, who bristled at questions about the practice. Gregory P. Josefowicz, the chief executive of Borders Group -- which has a chain of about 500 bookstores -- agreed. ''If we just keep displaying things that don't meet customer needs but are there because of the availability of co-op, that would be a bad strategy,'' he said. He didn't dispute the prevalence of co-op, however, noting that he and other booksellers felt that sharing some display costs with publishers was justified. ''Space does cost,'' he said.

''The rearrangement of the products in the store by store staff is an investment in money for us,'' Josefowicz added.

The phenomenon of co-op advertising was born during the Depression, when book sales dropped sharply and publishers and bookstores willingly joined hands to share advertising and promotion costs. Later, when sales improved, some booksellers insisted on keeping the agreements. ''And that was the first step down the slippery slope from many publishers' points of view,'' said one publishing executive with more than 20 years' sales experience. For years, as bookselling remained largely in the hands of independent stores, pay-for-display was rare, but with the rise of chains and the explosion of display space the arrangements have become more complex and costly.

Publishers have had a love-hate relationship with the idea almost from the beginning. ''I have to say that there were probably some publishers at the time who saw someone else's book in the front window and thought, 'Hey, I'd pay for that if I could,' '' said the veteran executive. And indeed now, displays in superstores are seen by some publishers, especially smaller houses, as an increasingly reliable way to promote their books. ''The promotions cost a fair amount,'' said George Gibson, the publisher of Walker & Company -- known for making successful books like Dava Sobel's ''Longitude'' -- ''but you're buying space, and they have every right to sell that space, and in this day and age when there are so many books being published -- literally every day -- the trick is to try to get a book to stand out in the crowd.''

He added, of the agreements, ''Sure, it might be nice if they cost less, but you use them judiciously.''

The veteran publishing executive said he believes that in many Barnes & Noble superstores, about 70 percent of the books on front-of-store tables are there because co-op money secures their spot. (In New York City, the percentage is less because store clerks have traditionally retained more autonomy to promote books they personally like and think will sell well.) Stephen Riggio declined to say what percentage of books on display tables in Barnes & Noble were generally part of cooperative programs, but maintained that it was ''a small amount system-wide'' and added that ''it's not the driving force behind our merchandising.''

But many publishers disagree and say that costs for certain types of display arrangements with large booksellers are becoming too high. Numbers are very hard to come by, but some publishers said that the price for placement on front-of-store promotional tables for only a few weeks or a month -- in some cases, even, just one week -- at Barnes & Noble stores can be between $10,000 and $20,000 per book, depending on the time of year. Placement on eye-catching cardboard displays can cost much more than $20,000. When compared to the cost of advertising, those fees are not inordinately large, but publishers say that they are starting to take a bigger and bigger share of the money set aside to promote books.

''A great deal of our marketing money is now going to co-op,'' said one publisher. He added that he also has experienced more pressure from booksellers. They do not openly threaten to hide the book in the store if no cooperative money is used, he said; the stores obviously also want books to sell. But that threat is sometimes implicit. ''They're not rude,'' he said. ''They just don't promote the book.''

And booksellers are going after even relatively small amounts of additional money from publishers. One publisher tells a story of a major bookselling company offering a chance for one of the publisher's noted authors to address a dinner meeting of the company's senior managers, a great opportunity for the author. But the bookseller demanded $5,000 from the publisher to allow the author to speak. The offer was declined. ''It's an aggressive posture,'' the publisher said.
While publishers disagree about the merits of paying for display, one thing about the arrangements is clear: they further concentrate money and attention on the books that need it least.

The phenomenon, which has been called a reverse Robin Hood effect, happens because publishers pay huge advances to star authors and then feel they must support that author's book with substantial promotion money. Of course, this was happening well before bookstore display emerged as a force. But publishers say that display arrangements have made promotion budgets even more lopsided in favor of the Stephen Kings and Danielle Steels of the book world, meaning that new authors or less prominent books are given increasingly little advertising or display help.
Stephen Riggio said that while prominent authors do get heavy display support from publishers, he believes big booksellers are unfairly charged with hurting smaller books and publishers with their display policies. ''It's just another j'accuse story in which we are painted by some people in publishing as limiting the marketplace,'' he said. ''It gets right to me.''

On the contrary, he argues, the expansion of his company's stores gives it ''the ability to stock the most diverse collection of books that we've ever been able to do.'' That means books by small and medium-size publishers are ''getting more exposure than ever before.''

The publishing executive with 20 years in sales said that he has been part of many discussions in which marketing divisions have debated the wisdom of devoting large sums of display money to big-name authors whose books would sell well anyway, instead of putting it toward good smaller books that need the attention.

''Those conversations have occurred time and time again,'' he said. ''But no one has had the guts'' to gamble on the lesser-known titles. ''Nobody will do that because the risk is too great for losing the amount of money you've invested in Stephen King.''

Peter Osnos said that for small publishers like him -- PublicAffairs puts out around 50 new books a year -- the expensive world of bookstore display forces him to try to find other ways to get his books talked about.

''One way is to hand a retailer a large check and they will stick your book up front,'' he said. ''What I have to be is more intrepid.''

''Money is the easiest way,'' he added, ''but it's not the only way.''

Randy Kennedy is an arts reporter for The Times.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Auction Angers Clemente Family

Pieces of plane from fatal crash put up for bidding
Monday, June 06, 2005
By Jan Ackerman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

More than three decades after Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash while on a mercy mission to Nicaragua, Leland's, an online sports auction house, is selling pieces of the wreckage as sports memorabilia.

The news, first reported by The New York Times, angered the Clemente family, which has vowed legal action.

"Obviously, we're talking to attorneys. ... We're going to try to stop this," said son Roberto Clemente Jr., in an interview yesterday with KDKA-TV.

"The most upsetting part for the family is that you're taking an auction that's supposed to be about baseball, and parts of the plane where my father died have nothing to do with baseball," said Clemente.

"For us, it's shocking that someone would actually put that in as [items] for an auction without even asking the family if it was OK," he said.

Officials at the auction house could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Clemente was a baseball legend, not just in Pittsburgh but in his native Puerto Rico and in the worldwide Latin community. He had 3,000 hits, a career batting average of .317 and 240 home runs in 18 major league seasons.

He died on New Year's Eve 1972, at age 38, while trying to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

His plane, a DC-7 cargo plane, crashed at sea after takeoff from San Juan, Puerto Rico, killing five passengers, including Clemente, whose body was never recovered.

Two parts of the plane, a propeller and a piece of metal, are being sold on Leland's Web site,, in an auction scheduled to end June 24.

More than 30 Clemente-related items are part of the auction, including signed baseballs and photographs, a game-worn hat, a business card, a coin set and even photos of Clemente getting a haircut.

One item, the "Roberto Clemente Tragedy Collection," includes photos and newspaper articles about the crash from his native Puerto Rico and his adopted city of Pittsburgh.

In marketing the ill-fated plane's 14-by-79-inch propeller, auctioneers seemed to acknowledge in promotional material that the sale might be upsetting to some.

"While we realize the piece may send a cold chill up your back, remember it for the humanitarian mission it was on when it fell to the sea. And remember Roberto Clemente for everything he was," they wrote.

According to a narrative on the Web site describing the propeller, divers were able to recover a few pieces of the plane after the crash. These were supposedly offered to the Clemente family, but they declined. A local pilot asked authorities if he could have them as a tribute to Roberto, who was his hero. The pilot retained the pieces for 30 years.

As of yesterday, two bids had been received for the 19-by-14-inch piece of metal. The high bid was $1,650. Three bids had been received for the propeller, the highest being $1,210.
Clemente Jr., who hosts a weekly radio show called "The Latin Beat" on WFAN, a sports talk station in New York City, said he learned of the auction just before his show on Saturday.

"I didn't know what to think at the time ... it was pretty hard to do my show," said Clemente, who added that he didn't mention the auction during the show.

(Jan Ackerman can be reached at or 412-851-1512.)