Friday, July 08, 2005

Gerard Baker: In the Service of 14th Century Fanatacism

The Times of London
July 08, 2005

When the immediate shock and grief at yesterday’s carnage subsides, a hard, almost callous, question will be on the lips of all those who seek to understand its true meaning.

Is this the best they can do?

It does not seek to minimise the tragedy that visited a normal, busy London morning. It does not devalue a single life, the emptiness of a single bereavement, the pain of a single mother, son or best friend whose life has been forever shadowed by a light extinguished.

It’s a truly important question, with geopolitical implications. It will be asked first by The Power of Nightmares crowd, the documentary film-makers and columnists and left-wing politicians who argue that the terrorist threat has been got up by right-wing ideologues in Washington and their pliant poodle in London.

At first, of course, yesterday’s events do not look good for the “al-Qaeda was all an invention” party. The bombings surely demonstrated, to those who doubted it, that there really are people out there with the motive and the capacity to inflict mass murder on the innocent.

But on deeper reflection, the conspiracy theorists will, quietly, claim a kind of vindication for their argument. They will say that for all the fear and terror inspired yesterday, the first and much anticipated attack on London in the post-September 11 era was a conventional and, by any standards, a rather limited business.

A few pounds of plastic explosive on the least impregnable parts of the London infrastructure. Dozens dead; horrific, of course; larger in scale than anything the city has seen before, but no different in kind. Is this really evidence of some new global terrorist threat? There was no ricin, no sarin, no smallpox, no nuclear detonation, no dirty bomb.

Not even the commandeering of aircraft for use as ballistic missiles. Just old-fashioned, 20th-century techniques in the service of 14th-century fanaticism.

Is this the best they can do? They’ll take the argument further, too. They’ll say that the terrorists wouldn’t even have been capable of this if we had not bolstered their cause by invading Iraq and producing thousands more martyrs for their cause. There was no threat before, they’ll say: if there is one now, it’s our own fault.

Somehow I think that most people, especially Londoners, will see through the emptiness of this argument. The idea that al-Qaeda was no threat until we created it does not stand the slightest scrutiny of events in the 1990s — from the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993, to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and, of course, the September 11 atrocity a year later. And no one seriously thinks that only America was in their sights. The ideology of Islamism doesn’t stop at the superpower’s borders; its ambitions sweep through Europe; indeed that is where it is breeding so many of its jihadists.

The fight in Iraq is not, as the opponents claim, a self-inflicted wound, suddenly giving rise to new threats on our homeland from people we should have left well alone. We are, steadily, beating the terrorists in Iraq. Not only in the military operations, but also by demonstrating who and what the enemy really is. and thereby creating the only real long-term conditions for safety from Islamo-fascism — free states that do not deny the most basic human rights to their peoples. The people who murdered innocent Londoners yesterday are the same people who are murdering innocent Iraqis.

There’s another way in fact of looking at the question that offers a rather more optimistic perspective. Is this the best they can do? Is this what we have reduced them to? The damage to al-Qaeda wrought by four years of war is clearly impressive. The leadership is disconnected from its fanatical followers. The support infrastructure has been broken up. And yes, by fighting them in Iraq, side by side with Iraqi soldiers and police, we are showing too just how empty their death-loving cause is. We are still not safe from a much larger, more destructive attack than yesterday’s, but we are steadily eliminating the conditions that create the motivation.

There’s one more, rhetorical, sense in which the question is germane today. On Wednesday morning in Washington I watched TV coverage of the climax of the Olympic bid competition. I can’t, if I’m completely honest, say I felt that surge of pride that many of my fellow Londoners felt when they learnt of the success of the Olympic bid. On this one, I’m a confirmed member of the curmudgeon tendency, the cynics who regard with some suspicion the great, glorious celebration of a public-spending enterprise.

But, my goodness, through the sorrow, the pride welled up in me yesterday. Pride at the selflessness of emergency workers, blood donors, plain ordinary people eager to help. Pride at the matter-of-fact, dignified calm with which Londoners faced unexpected horror. And I’ll even admit to a little bit of pride for the first time ever in Ken Livingstone, whose remarks in Singapore managed to hit precisely the right tone.

But above all, I felt a surge of pride at the resilience and defiance of Londoners. They showed once again that fierce solidarity we have seen so many times when they have been tested; a determination to face down nihilistic terror and intimidation. What poured through the television screens yesterday was their will to elevate life over death, freedom over tyranny, love over hate. Nothing could better illustrate why our cause is right than what happened yesterday in Bloomsbury, the West End and the City.

United, tending to their dead and wounded, but looking out at the world beyond with a derisive snarl and a clenched fist, like one of those Low cartoons from the Second World War, belittling the designs of the enemy: Is this the best they can do?

John Kass: London Bombs Answered With Voice of Courage

The Chicgao Tribune
July 8, 2005

America woke to the news that terrorists had bombed London, and a few of us wondered: Will the British remain the British, or will they become Spaniards and cave?

But then Prime Minister Tony Blair began to speak. As he did so, images flashed in a corner of the television screen, the crumpled bus and the frightened people, and emergency vehicles with lights flashing.

There was no trembling in Blair's voice, no trembling over whether the attacks were Britain's payback for joining the United States against Islamofascism in Iraq.

Unfortunately, a reedy sound of fear was barely audible here, just hours after London was bombed, as Americans were jarred from summer sleep by the reminder that we remain targets, too.

So, certainly, today you may read that fear trickling from some terrified fingertips, anticipating the next attack while arguing that we are somehow to blame for possible future attacks on our own soil.

But I didn't hear that sort of bleating from the British people or from Blair on Thursday. His was the voice of a leader, angry, yes, hurt, yes, but in command. "It is important, however, that those engaged in terrorism realize that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people, to impose extremism on the world."

"Whatever they do," Blair said, "it is our determination they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and other civilized nations throughout the world."

Perhaps it's too early to tell if the British will hold, or whether domestic political squabbling will cause them to step away from the U.S.Spain walked. Three days before their national elections in 2004, 191 people were killed and more than 1,500 were injured in a series of train bombings in Madrid.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, whose support for the U.S. in Iraq was increasingly unpopular, insisted on lying and blaming Basque separatists. Yet on the eve of the March 14, 2004 election, Aznar's government announced the arrests of three Moroccans and two Indians and found a videotape by an alleged Al Qaeda official claiming responsibility.

It was a political disaster for Aznar, and the Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was elected. Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq, and the U.S. lost another ally.

The same could happen to Blair. But I doubt it. The Brits are made of sterner stuff, and they've lived through much worse. What is more--and what many here may have forgotten--is that the Brits know who they are. They are men and women of the West. And so are we.

There were casualties, terrible casualties, but nothing close to what happened in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, and nothing like the bombing of London during World War II, night after night after night.

Yet Britain has been attacked because we are allies in Iraq, because we together support Israel, but primarily because we are of the West and the Islamofascist terrorists are threatened and fearful of the West.

It is about time that we acknowledge it. The terrorists aren't merely offended by our culture. They're deathly afraid of it, by the cliches of Coke and blue jeans, by the fact that women of the West don't bow to men, by what's in our great libraries, by what we value, and by the promise of Islamic democracy threatening them in the Middle East.

This isn't a new conflict. It goes back nearly 2,500 years, to when East met West in a narrow passage called Thermopylae.

This is not only about our support of Israel. We could abandon Israel tomorrow and, walking away, try convincing ourselves that we've removed another pretext for terrorist attacks. Would the terrorists stop then? Of course not.

Others wonder, passively yet quite politically, whether our alleged arrogance in detaining suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay may have provoked the attacks in London. We provoked them? By offering detainees Froot Loops for breakfast and pushing hard for answers?
Again, I figure Britain will stick with us, but if they do not, do we have the national will to continue as Americans opposed to our involvement in Iraq speculate about what may come next?

For an answer, I'd like to rely on another courageous British prime minister, the late Sir Winston Churchill, from his speech of Oct. 29, 1941:

"Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone . . . this is the lesson: Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in except to the convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force."
Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Niall Ferguson: London, Bloody But Unbowed

July 8, 2005
The Los Angeles Times
Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University and a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford.

London can take it.

Unlike New Yorkers on 9/11, Londoners on 7/7 — as Thursday's terrorist attacks may come to be known — have been here before. Many times.

The first bombs of the German Blitz fell on central London on Aug. 24, 1940, and there were recurrent waves of aerial attack throughout the war, culminating in the V1 flying bomb and V2 rocket campaigns of 1944 and '45. All told, German air attacks killed around 43,000 British civilians, a large proportion of them Londoners. Of course, we now know that morale was not uniformly solid during the Blitz. Harold Nicolson, the diarist and member of Parliament, commented acerbically on the loss of nerve suffered by one senior Labor politician during the V2 campaign. Nor was all sweetness and light in the cramped, malodorous Underground stations where Londoners were forced to take shelter. (Yes, the "Tube" knows all about bombing.) Yet Nicolson himself was rather more typical in his determination to appear (if not to feel) unruffled. "I am nerveless," he noted in his diary after one air raid, "and yet I am conscious that when I hear a motor in the empty streets I tauten myself lest it be a bomb screaming towards me. Underneath, the fibers of one's nerve-resistance must be sapped."

The psychologist Melitta Schmideberg concluded in 1942 that "the majority of the population adapted itself to the new Blitz reality … by acquiring new standards of safety and danger and by gradually learning to take the bombing as an unpleasant but unavoidable part of life." (This was not, by the way, what pro-appeasement politicians had expected before the war. The conventional wisdom had been that the Luftwaffe would be able to unleash panic and pandemonium within 24 hours of the outbreak of hostilities.) The British stiff upper lip proved to be a war-winning weapon. Films such as "London Can Take It" — a 10-minute documentary made in the midst of the Blitz in 1940 to document the resilience of British citizens — and the electrifying broadcasts from London by Edward R. Murrow, CBS' bureau chief in London, helped hugely to build American support for Britain. "You burnt the city of London in our homes," wrote the American poet Archibald MacLeish of Murrow's radio broadcasts, "and we felt the flames."
So when I heard the news of Thursday's events, my first thought was that people have bombed London before, and some have lived to regret it.

Having spent much of the week in Berlin — where one can still see the physical scars left by the Allied bombers — I have a rather keen awareness of how we made the Germans pay for the Blitz. Times change, of course. As I returned to London on Thursday, I was reminded that citizens of the capital today are a lot less buttoned-up than the generation of World War II. They are more easily moved to emotive displays than their grandparents, weeping at the funerals of princesses and — just 24 hours before the terrorists struck — displaying almost embarrassing enthusiasm at the news that their city would host the 2012 Olympics.

But though they may seem softer, today's Londoners have lived through horrifying scenes as well; the Germans were not the last people to bomb London. The Irish Republican Army's mainland bombing campaign is still fresh in the memory of virtually every grown man and woman in the city. The IRA bombed London in 1973 (two car bombs, one outside the Old Bailey), and again in 1974. In 1982, it killed 11 soldiers in attacks on Hyde and Regents parks. A year later, six people at Harrods. And in 1992, three people outside the Baltic Exchange in the financial district. In 1993, it struck again with a truck bomb at Bishopsgate. And I vividly remember the attack on Docklands in 1996 — because it was immediately outside the office where I was working.

Then, as during the Blitz, the near-universal response could be summed up in the phrase "business as usual." We were all aware that our grandparents had stood much worse without flinching.

To be sure, what happened Thursday was better calculated — and more lethal — than anything the IRA ever managed. Yet once again Londoners have reacted with sang-froid (a French phrase for a very British trait). In any case, we all knew this would happen sooner or later. Since 9/11, I haven't taken the Tube once without asking myself: "Will it be today? Will it be my train?" I have taken it nonetheless. And I shall continue to do so. No, whoever the perpetrators were, I am confident they will not achieve their aim of disrupting London life. More than that: I am certain they will live — though perhaps not for very long — to regret following in the cloven hoof-prints of the Luftwaffe and their Irish imitators.

London can take it. And dish it out.

Deroy Murdock: Shaking Our Terror-War Complacency

The San Diego Union-Tribune
July 8, 2005

The bombs that ripped through London early yesterday surely will rock this side of the Atlantic. While our British friends and allies must cope with the shock and casualties from this mayhem, it vividly should remind Americans that terrorists are tenacious and dedicated to their murderous craft.

These human cockroaches are utterly unimpressed with the good that Britons are trying to do for Muslims, among others, right now. Sir Bob Geldof staged a July 2 concert in London's Hyde Park, one of 10 "Live 8" shows worldwide designed to promote economic development and health advances in Africa, a continent that 345 million Muslims call home.

"It is particularly barbaric that this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa," British Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters Thursday.

When these bombs exploded, Blair was hosting the G-8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, where leaders of the major industrial powers discussed debt forgiveness and trade relief for impoverished Africans – Islamic and otherwise.

"The contrast couldn't be clearer," President Bush said, "between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill – those who have got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks."

Of course, nothing satisfies these perpetrators. They could care less about the West's mercy, charity or assistance. Their destination is religious totalitarianism, and their path is paved with crushed bones, twisted metal, broken glass and spilled blood. They offer nothing but death itself.
Consider the glee with which "The Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe" applauded this carnage on a militant Islamic Web site:

"Rejoice, Islamic nation. Rejoice, Arab world. ... The heroic mujahedeen carried out a blessed attack in London, and now Britain is burning with fear and terror, from north to south, east to west."

News channels feature a red British double-decker bus, the sort that instantly and cheerfully tells a visiting American exactly where he is. With its roof yanked off, it resembles an Israeli vehicle demolished by Islamic extremism.

Fox News analyst Mansour Ijaz reported yesterday that British cops recently raided a northern London home where several Middle Eastern men were dismantling some 200 units of a common appliance to extract radioactive materials for use in a "dirty bomb."

These facts should hush Americans who have grown ho hum about if not hostile toward fighting Islamofascism. Those who carp night and day that Guantanamo is not a Club Med finally may abandon their endless whining. The enemy combatants detained there are being interrogated specifically so officials can prevent the homicidal outrage that now tries Londoners. If placing these thugs in isolation, stress positions, or uncomfortably warm rooms makes them talk, get on with it. Far better for them to endure those inconveniences than for New Yorkers, Washingtonians or San Franciscans to suffer a rush hour such as London witnessed yesterday.

Similarly, U.S. civil libertarians should compare yesterday's concrete casualties of Muslim extremism against the imaginary risks of the USA Patriot Act. The House of Representatives foolishly voted 238 to 187 on June 15 to scuttle the Patriot Act's so-called "library provision."
Even though seven of the 19 Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers used public libraries for Internet access and to purchase tickets on one of the doomed flights, the House seemed more worried that some overzealous FBI agent might try to learn who checked out "The Joy of Sex." If, equipped with court orders, the FBI can unravel Islamic terrorists' Internet communications via public library computers, hindering these investigators could hasten the day when American commuters suffer the fate of their British counterparts.

For now, Londoners are exhibiting the common sense one expects from our Atlantic cousins.
"Unlike the Spanish, who turned on their government on 3-11, I suspect British sentiment will now harden against terrorists," predicts Fraser Nelson, political editor of The Scotsman newspaper. "We did not need this attack to bind Britain and America together in our resolve. But we are closer still. In a macabre way, we are now blood brothers: And this can only mean surer and earlier defeat for those who seek to disrupt our way of life."

Murdock, a nationally syndicated columnist, is a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Va. He can be reached via e-mail at

Christopher Hitchens: The Anticipated Attack

Don't blame Iraq for the bombings.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2005, at 10:39 AM PT

My son flew in from London at the weekend, and we were discussing, as we have several times before, why it hadn't happened yet. "It" was the jihadist attack on the city, for which the British security forces have been braced ever since the bombings in Madrid. When the telephone rang in the small hours of this morning, I was pretty sure it was the call I had been waiting for. And as I snapped on the TV I could see, from the drawn expression and halting speech of Tony Blair, that he was reacting not so much with shock as from a sense of inevitability.

Perhaps this partly explains the stoicism and insouciance of those Brits interviewed on the streets, all of whom seemed to know that a certain sang-froid was expected of them. The concrete barriers around the Houses of Parliament have been up for some time. There are estimated to be over 4 million surveillance cameras in the United Kingdom today, but of course it had to be the Underground—"the tube"—and the good old symbolic red London bus. Timed for the rush hour, and at transit stations that serve outlying and East London neighborhoods, the bombs are nearly certain to have killed a number of British Muslims. None of this, of course, has stopped George Galloway and his ilk from rushing to the microphone and demanding that the British people be removed "from harm's way" by an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. (Since the Islamists also demand a withdrawal from Afghanistan, it surprises me that he doesn't oblige them in this way as well, but perhaps that will come in time.)

Looking for possible timings or pretexts, one of course comes up against the meeting of the G8 powers in Edinburgh and perhaps the imminent British spot in the rotating chair of the European Union. (It can't have been the Olympic announcement on such short notice, but the contrast with the happy, multiethnic crowds in Trafalgar Square yesterday could hardly be starker, and it certainly wasn't enough to get the murderers to call it off.) Another possibility is the impending trial of Abu Hamza al Mazri, a one-eyed and hook-handed mullah who isn't as nice as he looks and who preaches Bin-Ladenism from a shabby mosque in North London. He is currently awaiting extradition to the United States, and his supporters might have wanted to make a loving gesture in his favor.

This would mean that the cell or gang was homegrown, rather than smuggled in from North Africa or elsewhere. Or it could mean coordination between the two. In any event, there are two considerations here. The first is Britain's role as a leading member of the "Coalition" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The second is its role as a host to a large and growing Muslim minority. The first British citizens to be killed in Afghanistan were fighting for the Taliban, which is proof in itself that the Iraq war is not the original motivating force. Last year, two British Muslims pulled off a suicide attack at an Israeli beach resort. In many British cities, there are now demands for sexual segregation in schools and for separate sharia courts to try Muslim defendants. The electoral strength of Muslims is great enough to encourage pandering from all three parties: The most egregious pandering of all has come from Blair himself, who has promised legislation that would outlaw any speech that could be construed as offensive to Islam. Since most British Muslims are of Asian descent, a faint sense exists that criticism of their religion is somehow racist: In practice this weak-mindedness leads to the extension of an antiquated law on blasphemy that ought long ago to have been repealed but is now to cover the wounded feelings of Muslims as well as Christians.

During the last election the Conservatives, who have chosen to go soft on the Iraq war, mutated their lost hawkishness into a campaign against "illegal immigrants" and "bogus asylum seekers"—easy code words for an enemy within. So, there is another form of pandering at work as well. In the main, though, London is a highly successful and thriving melting pot, and I would be very much surprised as well as appalled if there were any vengeance pursued against individual Muslims or mosques.

Older Londoners are of course raised on memories of the Nazi blitzkrieg, and a younger generation remembers living through a long campaign of bombings by the Provisional IRA. This latest challenge is far more insidious, however, because the ambitions of the killers are non-negotiable, and because their methods so exactly match their aims. It will be easy in the short term for Blair to rally national and international support, as always happens in moments such as this, but over time these gestural moments lose their force and become subject to diminishing returns. If, as one must suspect, these bombs are only the first, then Britain will start to undergo the same tensions—between a retreat to insularity and clannishness of the sort recently seen in France and Holland, and the self-segregation of the Muslim minority in both those countries—that will start to infect other European countries as well. It is ludicrous to try and reduce this to Iraq. Europe is steadily becoming a part of the civil war that is roiling the Islamic world, and it will require all our cultural ingenuity to ensure that the criminals who shattered London's peace at rush hour this morning are not the ones who dictate the pace and rhythm of events from now on.

Related in Slate
On July 7, David Plotz wrote a dispatch from London just hours after the explosions. In 2002, Dahlia Lithwick investigated Britain's lenient trials for alleged terrorists, and in 2001, she described London's anti-terrorism measures. In 2002, Anne Applebaum discussed British opposition to Tony Blair's involvement in Iraq, and in 2001 she criticized anti-American sentiment in Britain. In 2004, Christopher Hitchens speculated about terrorism in London after the Madrid bombing.

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

Thursday, July 07, 2005

John Kapsalis: Jesus. Jew. Mohammed. It's True---All Sons of Abraham

U2's, globetrotting third world relief front man, Bono, has been preaching a familiar theology/ideology during their recent tour. Bono wears a headband with the words CoeXisT, with the C as the Muslim Crescent, the Star of David as the X, and the Cross as the T and he repeats varying versions of how "Jesus, Jew, Mohammed" all are sons of Abraham.

Now, there is no denying the tireless work that Bono is doing to bring water to the thirsty and clothing to the naked, for which God will certainly show mercy on him. It appears that religious pluralism, however, is always seeking new converts and any attempt to smooth over religious differences and dogmas have become de rigueur.

In today's multi-cultural world the new reality is one of tolerating all beliefs as simply complementary. The unique Christian message of abundant life has become lost even to those who claim to believe in Christ as the only begotten Son of God. The "idea that Jesus is the only way to God or that only those who have been washed in the blood of Christ are ever to be listed among the saved...has become anathema," writes Episcopal bishop John Spong.

A widespread misconception is that all religions are the same in their basic beliefs and morality, and that all paths lead to the same realization of godhead. And because all religions are equally true and valid, any claim to the truth becomes bigoted and intolerant. The new spirit of tolerance requires no conversion of anyone. The well-known western philosopher of religion, John Hick says it well:

So the bottom line, I am suggesting is this: we should live wholeheartedly within our own faith, so long as we find it to be sustaining and a sphere of spiritual growth, but we should freely recognize the equal validity of the other great world faiths for their adherents, and we can also be enriched by some of their insights and spiritual practices. We should not see the other religions as rival or enemies, or look down upon them as inferior, but simply as different human responses to divine reality, formed in the past within different strands of human history and culture.

While scholarly theologians debate the merits of religions being exclusive, inclusive or pluralistic, the fact remains that all beliefs are not equal. Christianity is a missionary faith. "Go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:15-16).

Christianity is also an absolute faith and a faith of absolutes. "I am the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:16). Jesus doesn't allow us any room for compromise. Two thousand years ago, people were willing to accept Jesus as a prophet or a teacher or good man, but Christ didn't give them that option. So they crucified Him.

Jesus says He is the Son of God -- God Himself. There are no nice platitudes here we can all agree on. There is just truth. Jesus is God. Otherwise, Christians are all fools and the "most miserable people in the world" (1 Cor 15:19). St. Paul tells us that if Jesus' claims that He is God are not true, then our whole faith is a fraud...a counterfeit that can't deliver on its promises (1 Cor 15:12-19).

When the rulers and scribes confronted Peter after healing a man who was crippled from birth, Peter responds that the man was healed "by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead." And Peter doesn't stop there. In verses 11 and 12 of Acts 4, Peter boldly proclaims that "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Peter doesn't tell us that Jesus is one of the ways or one of the paths or one of the lamps towards God. In the empty relativism of today, these are bold and confrontational statements, because all of a sudden, if we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then there is no other way to God and no other hope for being rescued from a life of sin and judgment than by the name of Jesus.

God came in the flesh, in His Son Jesus, to open this up to us. Our responsibility is to go and make disciples of all nations, otherwise how can those around the world be saved by Jesus, if they've never even heard of Him. We are to proclaim the wonderful news of God's salvation, not by being intolerant and coercive and not by persecution and hate. Christ commands us to make disciples of everyone by demonstrating our love and by being the ones that are hated, despised, and persecuted. We are God's witnesses, and nothing can set us apart more than the exclusive claims of Christianity. This is our mission; otherwise we have no message for the world because, in the end, one is true and one is truth, Jesus, who said, "before Abraham was, I am" (Jn 8:58).

John Kapsalis has an M.T.S from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and is an Orthodox Christian layman of the Metropolis of Canada.
Posted: 3 Jul, 05

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Michelle Malkin: The Muslim Hate Crime That Wasn't
Michelle Malkin (archive)
July 6, 2005

The grievance industry went into overdrive last month when burned Korans were reportedly discovered at a local mosque in southwest Virginia.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations issued an immediate press release on June 16 calling for "Americans of all faiths to obtain and read the Quran after burned copies of Islam's revealed text were found" in a shopping bag at the front door of the Islamic Center of Blacksburg.

Repent, all ye infidels!

Incensed CAIR officials contacted the FBI and pressured authorities to treat the incident as possibly "bias-related." CAIR-MD/VA Director of Civil Rights Shama Farooq lectured that "A redoubled commitment to freedom of thought and religious diversity is the best response to the burning of any sacred text" in order to "send the message that bigots do not represent our nation's values."

Not content to let CAIR get all the free publicity, other victim-card hustlers jumped aboard the burned Koran bandwagon.

Laila Al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, lambasted police: "If pages from the Bible were burned and put in a bag outside a church," she huffed to the Associated Press, "I think the reaction of the police would be that it would be a hate crime."

Actually, in this country, when you dunk a crucifix in urine, that's "art," and when you hang a framed copy of the Ten Commandments inside a courthouse, that's a crime.

Al-Qatami invoked the Guantanamo Bay bogeyman and blamed the burnt Koran incident on insensitive, ignorant Americans. The case, she asserted, was caused by "a lack of zero tolerance for hate crimes and 'a lack of information about Arabs and Islam as a whole.'" Al-Qatami also told the Roanoake Times: "Let's face it, books don't burn themselves and end up outside of a mosque. It's a willful act."

Muslims in Virginia also expressed their knee-jerk outrage: "It is a shame that people are so ignorant," said Blacksburg mosque member Idris Adjerid. Ahmed Sidky, a Muslim graduate student at nearby Virginia Tech, told the Roanoake Times that the case "was certainly very symbolic."

It certainly was a symbol -- a symbol of the knee-jerk penchant among some civil rights groups and their enablers to cry racism, claim discrimination, and criticize U.S. law enforcement authorities for not doing enough to stop "hate crimes."

It turns out, you see, that the burnt Koran was left at the mosque by . . . a Muslim student.
According to the AP, a Muslim Virginia Tech student took responsibility saying he dropped off the burned Koran and other singed materials at the mosque, hoping "it could be given a respectful disposal." Police Lt. Bruce Bradberry reported that the student, who was not named, apparently contacted police last week, "saying he was going to be traveling abroad and didn't know what to do with the Koran, which had been burned in a 2004 house fire. The student said he placed the book and other fire-damaged materials in a bag and left the bag at the Islamic Center with a note, which apparently blew away."


The grievance-mongers' continued failure to act responsibly and with due skepticism when these cases arise is expected. But the mainstream media's failure to put its America-bashing instincts in check is intolerable. Instead of providing readers with information about many cases of so-called Muslim hate crimes that have turned out to be fraudulent since Sept. 11, The Washington Post quoted the usual suspects and editorialized in its June 17 report that "The Koran burning comes at a time of particular sensitivity. The U.S. military recently confirmed five cases of U.S. personnel mishandling the Muslim holy book at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, acknowledging that soldiers and interrogators kicked the Koran, got copies wet, stood on a copy during an interrogation and inadvertently got urine on another one."

Over the Independence Day weekend, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Colbert King added fuel to the fire, hysterically listing this now-debunked Koran-burning incident as evidence of rampant anti-Muslim bias in America.
Will Colbert King and the boys and girls crying wolf calm down and acknowledge the truth about the Muslim hate crime that wasn't? I doubt it.

Michelle Malkin is a syndicated columnist and maintains her weblog at

©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Christopher Hitchens: Casualties and Causalities

How to ruin an occupation.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2005, at 9:28 AM PT

Hannah Allam's moving obituary for Yasser Salihee, one of Knight Ridder's Iraqi correspondents in Baghdad, would be upsetting enough on its own if it were not for two additional considerations. The first is that Yasser Salihee joins a list of three intrepid Iraqi reporters and broadcasters killed in Baghdad last week. The second is that all three were slain by American fire. Ahmed Wael Bakri, the program director at al-Sharqiya TV, and Maha Ibrahim, a reporter for the same network, were both shot seemingly either for coming too close to American soldiers, or for misinterpreting signals or gestures from them.

These brave people were not murdered or targeted, or else slaughtered indiscriminately, as would be the case if they had been victims of the al-Qaida-Baath alliance. But it would not be entirely correct to say that their deaths were quite accidental, either. They were victims of a policy of "force protection" that mandates Americans to treat any questionable action or movement with "zero tolerance." It's a moral certainty that many more Iraqi citizens die this way than are ever reported.

I have been very reliably assured that the British commander, Gen. Michael Jackson, has privately told his American counterparts that if they go on in this manner they will risk losing Iraq. I am not one of those Brits who likes to bang on too much about the superiority of English tact and restraint over Yankee brashness. And, though it is true that British-held Basra has got its pulse back much sooner than Baghdad and is displaying other vital signs as well, the task of keeping order in a Shiite majority city is clearly an easier one. Nonetheless, there must be something to Jackson's belief that soldiering also involves a degree of visible fraternization and a willingness to go on the streets with Iraqi police and civilians, rather than gesture at them from inside a space-suit or armored vehicle, and then shoot them dead if they don't get it right the first time.

But the truly sobering reflection is that crimes and blunders of this kind are committed, in effect, by popular demand. It is emphasized every day that Americans do not want to read about dead soldiers. So it is arranged that, as far as possible, they will read (or perhaps not bother to read) about dead civilians instead. This is the price that a "body-bag" mentality exacts. Incidentally, when is the New York Times going to start running a "Names of the Dead" regular feature from Afghanistan? And how long will it be, as the Taliban forces try for a comeback, before we hear demands for a deadline for withdrawal from Kabul as well? If "quagmirism" has its logic one way, then it has it the other way, too (unless you don't believe that retreat also has its quagmires).

The enemy has understood our domestic and insular mentality from the beginning. I call your attention to a report in the London Independent from Patrick Cockburn, published on Dec. 1, 2004. I should say that Cockburn is an old friend of mine, an extremely brave veteran of Iraqi reportage for three decades, and no admirer—to say the very least—of the war or the occupation. He reprinted a letter from Naji Sabri, Saddam Hussein's foreign minister, to his supreme leader. It is dated five days before the fall of Baghdad. In the letter, Sabri expresses concern that world opinion is receiving an impression of too much fraternization between Iraqis and American forces. A cure for this, he argues, is "to target their vehicle checkpoints with suicide operations by civilian vehicles in order to make the savage Americans realize that their contact with Iraqi civilians is as dangerous as facing them on the battlefield."

This delightful suggestion possesses many points of interest. It demonstrates that the Baath Party already had organized links with jihadist suicide bombers. And it shows a cruel but shrewd understanding of how public opinion, and indeed American policy, might be forcibly altered. (It also illustrates the stony evil of the Saddam regime and its fedayeen, which at about that time also publicly hanged a woman who had applauded the arrival of coalition forces in Nasariyah. One would not need to emphasize this if it were not for those who sneer every day at the idea that Coalition troops were greeted as liberators. They often were. I saw it myself and will not be told that I did not see it. But the disincentive to such greeting was higher than the sneerers know.)

Military and civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan are a test of something beyond themselves. They are part of a design, by those who boastfully claim to be unmoved by killing or by being killed, to evoke in us an emotion that they themselves negate. This terrible quandary cannot be escaped by leaving our civilian allies unprotected, let alone by shooting them if they don't wave quickly enough.


A near-perfect statement of the opposite view—that the root cause of Islamic fundamentalism is provided by the resistance to it—comes in a letter to the July 4 edition of the New Republic. The author, professor Joseph Ellis of Mount Holyoke College, inquires why it is that we do not follow a strategy of "containment" as adumbrated by the late George Kennan. Why waste time on Ellis' false analogy, since the proper comparison would be between jihadism and the irrational death-wish of fascism? But the good professor inadvertently answers his own query. He wants to know "why have we chosen to attack it [Islamic fanaticism] frontally in its own homeland?" Well, perhaps because—like the Axis powers but unlike Stalin—it "chose" to attack us in ours. As with Ellis' reckless fabrication of his own military record, a question as naive as this seems subliminally designed to expose the denied but unwelcome truth.


Saddam Hussein was so deluded and deranged during the final days of his despotism that he spent time writing, or dictating, another of his pulp novels. Titled Get Out Damned One—hardly a polite way of suggesting a date for withdrawal—the adventure story invokes a mythic Arab hero who "invades the land of the enemy and topples one of their monumental towers." More wish-thinking, I dare say.

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

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Srdja Trifkovic: The Enemy Inside the Gates
Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The story is by now grimly familiar. Some members of a Muslim community somewhere in the United States are arrested. They are suspected of links with Islamic terrorists. The local Muslim community responds with a mix,of indignation and denial, with the assurances of the suspects’ impeccable character and accusations of anti-Muslim bias.

Non-Muslim civic leaders then respond by reassuring the Muslim community that it is loved and appreciated in spite of this “isolated incident” and by calling on their fellow-citizens to be warm and supportive to their Muslim neighbors. The media report heart-rendering stories of the Muslim sense of sadness, rejection and alienation. The “experts” say that the domestic threat is exaggerated. CAIR screams “Islamophobia!” Nobody mentions immigration, or loyalty, or identity, or abuse of hospitality.

The latest replay of this, by now boringly predictable scenario comes from Lodi, California, situated in the fertile San Joaquin Valley some 30 miles south of Sacramento. It is now home to about a thousand Muslims, predominantly from Pakistan. Most of them came over the past two decades as grape pickers and fruit packers. One of them is 22-year-old Hamid Hayat, who was arrested by the FBI on Tuesday of last week.

According to a federal affidavit, young Hamid has admitted spending six months in 2003-2004 at a terrorist training camp near the Pakistani capital Islamabad, and attending classes that included instructions on “how to kill Americans.” The agents also arrested his father, Umer Hayat (47). Both are U.S. citizens. Three other men, including two clerics from the local mosque, were also taken into custody, for now only on suspicion of immigration violations. The FBI said the arrests were part of a long inquiry into possible Islamist activities in the area. Agents indicated that fresh arrests were possible as the bureau expands its investigation into the San Francisco Bay Area. The media played on cue. “The two men had seemed to fit in well in the community, which to some observers raises anew the prospect of innocent Muslims arousing suspicion and fear among their neighbors,” agonized the CSM. The faithful at the mosque in Lodi—the place “where many in the Muslim community sought solace from the intrusion of agents and the swarm of news media,” according to the Boston Globe (June 12)—did not agonize.
They reacted with indignation:

It’s making everybody upset. People are pointing fingers at us. I just want people to stop using the word ‘Muslim.’ This ain’t anything to do with being Muslim,’ said Mashin Mohammad, 22, as he and friends gathered in a park across from the mosque. ‘I’m tired of people blaming Middle Eastern people for everything,’ said Mohammad, who was born in Afghanistan. ‘We don’t know what the truth is. But all we’ve been hearing is lies. People talk about terrorists and Al Qaeda being here. Why would they come to Lodi?’

“It’s a question that has pervaded this city of 62,000, including a sizable Muslim community,” the paper commented, betraying either its stupidity or its mendacity. The answer is simple: Islamic terrorists and their sympathizers did not need to “come to Lodi” because they are there already. In any group of 1,000-plus Muslim immigrants centered around a mosque, it can be predicted with near-certainty (1) that some percentage will sympathize with the objectives of Al-Qaeda and its ilk, if not quite with all of their methods; and (2) that some smaller percentage of that group, especially among the Western-born young, will support those methods as well, and prove willing to apply them in practice.

This assertion is supported by substantial evidence. We shall mention but a few typical cases.

1. In Florida and New York, two U.S. citizens—Tarik Shah and Rafiq Abdus Sabir—were arrested in late May, just before Lodi hit the news. They stand accused of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization. The pair belongs to the “second wave”: Sabir is an Ivy League-educated medical doctor who lived in an upscale gated community in Boca Raton—and yet he pledged his loyalty to al-Qaida by offering to treat terrorists. Shah, a jazz musician who often traveled with his base to divert suspicion, offered to use his skills in martial arts to train terrorists. A spokesman for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton called Sabir “a good Muslim,” the charges against him “absurd, absolutely unfounded,” and pledged the support of the Muslim community.

2. In Falls Church, VA, Maher Amin Jaradat was arrested on June 6 for fraudulently procuring U.S. citizenship, with federal agents alleging he failed to disclose ties to militant groups. The indictment said Mr. Jaradat failed to disclose he had been a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP); that he had studied bomb making and the use of small arms at a training camp in Syria; and that he had engaged in security duties in Lebanon.

3. American-born Yahiye Gadahn (25) a.k.a. Abu Suhayb Al-Amriki, Abu Suhayb, Yihya Majadin Adams, was named last year as a suspected al-Qaida operative sought by the FBI. Yahiye Gadahn, son of a halal butcher born and raised in California, has written of his religious experiences. His article can be found on the “Islamic Server” of the University of Southern California, courtesy of the taxpayers of the Golden State.

4. In March 2004 Indian-born U.S. citizen Ilyas Ali and his co-conspirator Muhamed Abid Afridi pleaded guilty to plotting to sell shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles to al Qaeda. It is noteworthy that when a reporter visited Ali in a Hong Kong jail in January 2003, he claimed he was a victim of Attorney General John Ashcroft and his over-zealous Justice Department. American law enforcement “screwed up 9/11 and now they’re arresting innocent people for political purposes. I’m very, very sad that they got an innocent person and they don’t care . . . Ashcroft just used me.”

5. In December 2003 Mukhtar al-Bakri, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and five U.S.-born youths from upstate New York—Shafal Mosed, Faysal Galab, Yayha Goba, Yasein Taher, and Sahim Alwan—convicted of aiding Al-Qaeda and plotting attacks on Americans. The seven, known as the Lackawanna Cell, lived in a tight-knit Arab community, but to an outside observer, PBS claimed, “most were all-American teenagers who played soccer together and enjoyed going to parties.” All seven went to the Al Farooq training camp in Afghanistan in the summer of 2001; six returned to the U.S. When questioned after their return, four of them said they had attended religious seminars in Pakistan. Not one mentioned the trip to Afghanistan until Mukhtar al-Bakri was picked up by Bahraini police and questioned by FBI agents in Bahrain on September 11, 2002. They received sentences of between seven and 10 years in prison.

6. In 2003 “The Portland Seven,” including six Muslim U.S. citizens—Maher Hawash, Jeffrey Leon Battle, Patrice Lumumba Ford, Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, Habis Abdulla al Saoub and Martinique Lewis—were convicted of plotting attacks against Americans. The cell called itself “Katibat Al-Mawt,” loosely translates to “Squad of Death.”

The list goes on and on. In 2003 U.S. Army Sergeant Asan Akbar went way beyond plotting when he threw a grenade into a tent with fellow soldiers in Kuwait, killing an officer and wounding 13. In 2001-2002, John Walker Lindh, Yaser Esam Hamdi and dozens of other U.S. citizens were captured in Afghanistan where they went to support the Taliban.

That there is a correlation between the presence of a Muslim population in a country and the danger that its citizens will be subjected to a terrorist attack is a demonstrable fact. A significant minority of Muslim immigrants and their American-born offspring wishes to transform the host-society by converting it, or else to inflict some harm on it. They are unsurprisingly the immigrant group least likely to identify with America: in response to a survey of newly naturalized citizens, 90 percent of Muslim immigrants said that if there were a conflict between the United States and their country of origin, they would be inclined to support their country of origin. In Detroit 81 percent of Muslims “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that Shari’a should be the law of the land.

This internal threat to America is increasing. In the aftermath of 9-11 various estimates of the Muslim population of United States have been made, ranging from two to nine million. According to the Census Bureau, in 1987-1997 8 percent of all immigrants—two million—came from Muslim countries. There were 10.6 million naturalized citizens in 2000, of which over one million were Muslims. Growth of overall immigration (legal and illegal) since 1970 has been 300 percent, but growth of immigration from the Middle East over the same period has been 700 percent—from under 200,000 in 1970 to 1.5 million in 2000. In 2010 the expected number of immigrants from the Middle East will be 2,500,000.

Well-financed by Saudi oil money, the jihadist infrastructure has come into being to cater to this large and growing community. The number of mosques and Islamic centers stands at around two thousand and keeps growing. The total number of mosques increased 42 percent between 1990 and 2000, compared with a 12 percent average increase for the evangelical Protestant denominations, and a two percent average increase among old-line Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox groups.

The figures for immigration from the Middle East are matched and likely to be exceeded by the number of Muslim immigrants from the Indian Sub-Continent (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh). Currently Muslims account for close to one-tenth of all naturalizations, and their birth rates exceed those of any other significant immigrant group. Even a conservative estimate of their number of three million, or one-percent of the population, has alarming security implications and the potential for disproportionate growth.

This is madness that needs to be stopped before it is too late. A coherent long-term counter-terrorist strategy therefore must entail denying Islam the foothold inside the United States. The application of ideological and political criteria in determining the eligibility of prospective visitors or immigrants has been and remains an essential ingredient of any anti-terrorist strategy, whereby Islamic activism would be treated as eminently political rather than “religious” activity.
“We want people to know that Lodi is more than what the investigation is about” said Blair King, the city manager, following the arrests in California last week. “It doesn’t seem to me that we have a terrorist cell working out of Lodi. I don’t see any evidence of that,” opined the mayor, John Beckman. Appealing for calm, he warned against “inflamed passions.”

Such inanities indicate that ultimately the outcome of the war against terrorists will depend on our ability to define ourselves and to understand the nature of the threat. The idiotic would-be dhimmis inside the gates are as dangerous as the jihadist enemy.

Mr. Trifkovic is the Foreign Affairs Editor for Chronicles Magazine.

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Herb London: U2 Can Squander Taxes

By Herb London
July 5, 2005

President Bush described Bono, the lead singer of U2, as "a man of depth and a great heart who cares deeply about impoverished folks on the continent of Africa." I don't have any reason to challenge the president's sentiments or to question Bono's motives. But I do think the humanitarian impulses now ascending should be subject to the constraints of reality.

President Bush has tripled aid to Africa since the Clinton administration with just under $4 billion in development assistance and emergency aid. In addition, the president announced a plan to spend $15 billion over five years to turn the tide against AIDS in Africa.

Last month after the Bush-Blair news conference, the United States and Great Britain agreed to a $40 billion debt relief program through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank.

Even these steps do not fully describe American aid to Africa since they exclude private charity from foundations, churches, unions and corporations. Live 8, arguably the century's most elaborate concert, with 100 artists performing in seven cities over 24 hours, will be yet another private effort to combat poverty and starvation in Africa.

This concert is not unlike Live Aid, a concert that celebrates its 20th anniversary on July 13. That was a 17 hour musical marathon reaching a television audience of more than 2 billion people and raised almost $2 billion to help famine-stricken people of Africa.

The force behind Live Aid was Bob Geldorf, band leader of the Boomtown Rats, who waxed emotional about the morality of rich nations assisting the poor and impoverished. Now he is back as one of the promoters of Live 8 featuring the most prominent names in the music business.

While these "feel good" activities have their place, they also raise essential questions. What happened to the $2 billion raised with Live Aid? Moreover, over the last decade government and private charities have poured over $25 billion into Africa for seemingly little effect? In fact, Africa has had an aggregate g.d.p. reduction of about 25 percent since the Live Aid concerts two decades ago.

Without question the issue at hand is poverty in Africa, but overlooked by well meaning rockers is that as long as tyrannical governments control the distribution of funds those targeted for relief never get it. Starvation is indeed a problem in many parts of Africa, most especially in the Sudan. But in this nation emergency food relief sent by the U.S. and others is used as a weapon to subjugate designated enemies of the government. This has been a pattern observed earlier in Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Despite the claim of Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute that America foreign aid to Africa is niggardly, the problem that neither he nor his colleagues consider sufficiently is how best to ensure that these foreign aid dollars end up in projects for which the money is earmarked rather than Swiss bank accounts for corrupt leaders.

As Peter Baur, the father of development economics once noted, "foreign aid is little more than poor people in rich countries giving money to rich people in poor countries." For some, this statement may seem cynical. However, if one considers the way in which Mobutu, Mogabe, and a host of African leaders dealt with foreign aid, there is at least some validity to Baur's argument.

Eliminating poverty anywhere in the world is a worthwhile, if utopian, goal. But, money alone won't do it when those funds aren't used to address the problem. All the serenades of "We Are The World" and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" won't amount to a hill of beans unless there is accountability for the billions of dollars that will be contributed.

Surely this should have been learned from prior experience. Unfortunately when it comes to aid, the lessons of the past are either ignored or are bypassed by the expression of good will.

Herbert London is president of the Hudson Institute and Professor Emeritus at New York University.

Old Preston Revs Up For a Dynamite Time

By Arrin Newton Brunson
Special to the Salt Lake Tribune
June 25, 2005

PRESTON, Idaho - People who have seen the hit movie "Napoleon Dynamite" either love it or hate it, according to Margaret Hurst of Camas, Wash. This weekend, Preston is filled with people who love the movie that continues to win worldwide acclaim.

Hurst and 13 other family members and friends traveled from the Spokane area to attend the inaugural Napoleon Dynamite Festival on Friday and today, on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Even if Old Faithful erupts on time and at full capacity, the natural wonder will have a hard time topping the fun these visitors had in southern Idaho - where the successful, small-budget movie was filmed and where, "If you vote for Pedro, all of your wildest dreams will come true."

The Hursts were thrilled to bowl on Lane 5 at Pop N' Pins, in the exact spot where a movie scene was shot, and the family slept in the room where "Deb" actress Tina Majorino stayed while filming the movie.

The other three families in the caravan from Camas had to commute about 12 miles to the events because Preston's lone hotel, with only 31 rooms, was full for the festival.

"Everyone should see the movie. If you don't like it the first time, watch it again," Margaret Hurst said. "Then visit Preston." It worked for Preston resident Allan Swainston, a Gossner milk producer who said the movie made "fun of everything about me."

"The first time I saw it, it embarrassed me, and it made me really, really nervous," said Swainston, who was wearing his 1970 Preston High School FFA officer's jacket, like those featured in the film. "The second time I watched it, I had to get off my high horse a little bit . . . and I decided to join the fun." Swainston welcomed hundreds of tourists on Main Street on Friday with promotional gifts from his cellular phone business.

He is one of dozens of merchants in the rural farming community, population 4,700, to appreciate the economic boost. Visitors also can see Uncle Rico's van, the Happy Hands Club, and enter contests to determine the best skills at moon boot dancing, tetherball slamming and Tater Tot eating.

A favorite draw on the Napoleon circuit is Dale Critchlow, the actor who shot a cow in his role as "Lyle." Critchlow signed autographs all day Friday, in spite of the chiding of his wife of 55 years, Glenna, who encouraged him to sit in the shade and rest between visits with fans.

"He's not a young kid anymore. He got up and did chores before we came down here," Glenna said. "He's got critters at home to take care of, as well as himself and me." Still, the celebrity has been a good thing for the 75-year-old Critchlow and the fame hasn't gone to his head, Glenna said, adding that his grandchildren are his biggest fans.

There was no need for movie stars, though, when 18-year-old Scott Galloway of Boise took the stage for the look-alike contest at the urging of his friends. Festival activities will continue all day and end shortly after Galloway repeats his Napoleon dance moves on the Preston High School stage tonight.

Mark Steyn: What Rocks is Capitalism...Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
(Filed: 05/07/2005)

'To sneer at such events," cautioned The Sunday Telegraph apropos Live8, "demeans the generosity which they embody".

Oh, dear. If you can't sneer at rock stars in the Telegraph, where can you? None the less, if not exactly a full-blown sneer, I did feel a faint early Sir Cliff-like curl of the lip coming on during the opening moments of Saturday's festivities, when Sir Paul McCartney stepped onstage.

Not because Sir Paul was any better or worse than Sir Elton or Sir Bob or any other member of the aristorockracy, but because it reminded me of why I'm sceptical about the "generosity" which these events "embody".

Seven years ago, you'll recall, Sir Paul's wife died of cancer. Linda McCartney had been a resident of the United Kingdom for three decades but her Manhattan tax lawyers, Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts, devoted considerable energy in her final months to establishing her right to have her estate probated in New York state.

That way she could set up a "qualified domestic marital trust" that would... Yeah, yeah, yeah, in the immortal words of Lennon and/or McCartney. Big deal, you say. We're into world peace and saving the planet and feeding Africa. What difference does it make which jurisdiction some squaresville suit files the boring paperwork in?

Okay, I'll cut to the chase. By filing for probate in New York rather than the United Kingdom, Linda McCartney avoided the 40 per cent death duties levied by Her Majesty's Government. That way, her family gets all 100 per cent - and 100 per cent of Linda McCartney's estate isn't to be sneezed at.

For purposes of comparison, Bob Geldof's original Live Aid concert in 1985 raised £50 million. Lady McCartney's estate was estimated at around £150 million. In other words, had she paid her 40 per cent death duties, the British Treasury would have raised more money than Sir Bob did with Bananarama and all the gang at Wembley Stadium that day.

Given that she'd enjoyed all the blessings of life in these islands since 1968, Gordon Brown might have felt justified in reprising Sir Bob's heartfelt catchphrase at Wembley: "Give us yer fokkin' money!" But she didn't. She kept it for herself. And good for her. I only wish I could afford her lawyers.

I don't presume to know what was in her mind, but perhaps she figured that for the causes she cared about - vegetarianism, animal rights, the usual stuff - her money would do more good if it stayed in private hands rather than getting tossed down the great sucking maw of the Treasury where an extra 60 million quid makes barely a ripple.

And, while one might query whether Sir Paul (with his own fortune of £500 million) or young Stella really need an extra 15 million or so apiece, in the end Linda McCartney made a wise decision in concluding that her estate would do more good kept out of Mr Brown's hands, or even re-routed to Africa, where it might just about have defrayed the costs of the deflowering ceremony for the King of Swaziland's latest wife.

And that's why the Live8 bonanza was so misguided. Two decades ago, Sir Bob was at least demanding we give him our own fokkin' money. This time round, all he was asking was that we join him into bullying the G8 blokes to give us their taxpayers' fokkin' money.

Or as Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd put it: "I want to do everything I can to persuade the G8 leaders to make huge commitments to the relief of poverty and increased aid to the Third World.
It's crazy that America gives such a paltry percentage of its GNP to the starving nations."
No, it's not. It's no more crazy than Linda McCartney giving such a paltry percentage of her estate - ie, 0 per cent - to Gordon Brown. And, while Britain may be a Bananarama republic, it's not yet the full-blown thing.

Africa is a hard place to help. I had a letter from a reader the other day who works with a small Canadian charity in West Africa. They bought a 14-year-old SUV for 1,500 Canadian dollars to ferry food and supplies to the school they run in a rural village. Customs officials are demanding a payment of $8,000 before they'll release it.

There are thousands of incidents like that all over Africa every day of the week. Yet, throughout the weekend's events, Dave Gilmour and Co were too busy Rocking Against Bush to spare a few moments to Boogie Against Bureaucracy or Caterwaul Against Corruption or Ululate Against Usurpation. Instead, Madonna urged the people to "start a revolution". Like Africa hasn't had enough of those these past 40 years?

Let's take it as read that Sir Bob and Sir Bono are exceptionally well informed and articulate on Africa's problems. Why then didn't they get the rest of the guys round for a meeting beforehand with graphs and pie charts and bullet points in bright magic markers, so that Sir Dave and Dame Madonna would understand that Africa's problem is not a lack of "aid". The tragedy of Live8 is that its message was as cobwebbed as its repertoire.

Don't get me wrong. I love old rockers - not for the songs, which are awful, but for their business affairs, which so totally rock. In 1997, David Bowie became the first pop star to hold a bond offering himself. How about that? Fifty-five million dollars' worth of Bowie "class A royalty-backed notes" were snapped up in minutes after Moody's in New York gave them their coveted triple-A rating.

Once upon a time, rock stars weren't rated by Moody, they were moody - they self-destructed, they choked to death in their own vomit, they hoped to die before they got old. Instead, judging from Sir Pete Townshend on Saturday, they got older than anyone's ever been. Today, Paul McCartney is a businessman: he owns the publishing rights to Annie and Guys & Dolls. These faux revolutionaries are capitalists red in tooth and claw.

The system that enriched them could enrich Africa. But capitalism's the one cause the poseurs never speak up for. The rockers demand we give our fokkin' money to African dictators to manage, while they give their fokkin' money to Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts to manage.
Which of those models makes more sense?

Previous story: Focus groups? I thought we elected politicians to make big decisions Next story: Davis offers bold ideas to the Conservatives

NY Times Book Review: "Juicing the Game"

July 5, 2005
The Taint Baseball Couldn't Wish Away

In that magical summer and autumn of 1998, as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased each other in their pursuit of sports immortality, Major League Baseball's commissioner, Bud Selig, congratulated himself on overseeing "a renaissance" in the game. The two players' shattering of Roger Maris's home run record, along with the Yankees' gaudy 125-victory season, had re-ignited the interest of fans, even those disillusioned by the 1994 strike. Along with the boom in home runs, attendance skyrocketed, salaries soared and in the 10 years following the strike, 14 teams would move into new ballparks. In 1998, Howard Bryant writes in his compelling new book, "the sport that once seemed to lack the ability to market itself had now become the singular sports story of the year, even dwarfing the retirement of the great Michael Jordan."

It is a measure of how deeply the steroid scandal (which accelerated this year with the Congressional hearings and the publication of Jose Canseco's incendiary book "Juiced") has tarnished baseball's image that the folks who were once hailing the post-strike era as the greatest in the history of the sport are now trying to sweep that period under the rug. During the hearings before the House, Mark McGwire repeatedly declared: "I'm not here to talk about the past." And Selig now says of the era he once exulted in: "We need to move forward."

A sport that prides itself more than any other on tradition had allowed a problem to metastasize, and in doing so, had created an era in which statistics - the measuring rod of history - had become deeply suspect and some of the biggest names in the game were now being regarded by many as liars and cheats. It had allowed the use of steroids and performance-enhancing supplements to grow unchecked for more than a decade - to the point where comparisons were being made to the Black Sox scandal of 1919.

In "Juicing the Game," Mr. Bryant - a sports columnist for The Boston Herald and the author of an earlier book, "Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston" - provides a smart, savvy appraisal of the steroid scandal, looking at its genesis and evolution and its implications for the game. He asks why baseball leadership, from the commissioner's office to the Players Association, did so little for so long, and asks just what role the huge profits the game accrued during the supplement-and-steroid-assisted offensive boom played in shaping the sport's mindset of denial.

Mr. Bryant's assessment of baseball's leadership is damning. Of Selig, he writes: "He was quick to blame the Players Association, yet no one in the game was in a better public position to take a stand. He had the moral authority and he did not use it." And of the Players Association, he writes that even in the wake of congressional hearings and public pressure, the powerful union "remains the one element of the baseball establishment that does not feel that the drug scandal deserves the type of emergency management and revision that has engulfed baseball."

Mr. Bryant's book, which draws upon in-depth interviews with players, baseball executives, union leaders, team managers and journalists, is informed by a deep knowledge of baseball history. And it's valuable not only for its lucid, unvarnished account of the steroid scandal and its long-term consequences for the game, but also for putting that scandal in context with other conflicts like the decades-old clash between owners and players, the divisiveness fostered by the growing importance of television (which tends to showcase individual heroics over team efforts, home runs over less spectacular plays) and pitchers' complaints that the game's recent infatuation with offense has devalued their own craft.Indeed, the post-strike years would see what Mr. Bryant calls "a power surge the likes of which the game hadn't seen since the 1930's." And the big hits weren't just coming from big stars like McGwire, Sosa and Barry Bonds. In 1996, Brady Anderson, who had never hit more than 21 homers in a single season, would finish the year with 50.

In an effort to explain what increasingly seemed less like an anomaly than a trend, people advanced an assortment of reasons besides rising steroid use: reasons like smaller ballparks, a smaller strike zone, a tighter ball, expansion teams (which meant a dilution of the pitching ranks) and the growing use of videotape by hitters to zero in on the weaknesses and strengths of individual pitchers.

Tracing the roots of the steroid scandal, Mr. Bryant notes that weight training (looked down upon by many old-time baseball people, who argued that the game was a skill sport, not a power one) began to become more popular in the late 1960's and early 70's. By the mid-90's, he writes, creatine - a dietary supplement that helps an athlete work out harder and longer - was "as ubiquitous in major league clubhouses as tobacco."

It wasn't long before creatine gave way to androstenedione ("a dietary supplement whose creation was designed to mimic a steroid"), and "andro," in turn, gave way to testosterone "and a host of powerful anabolic substances." For struggling players, such drugs and supplements could mean the difference between obscurity in the minor leagues and big money in the big leagues. For elite players, they could mean the difference between good, solid numbers and history-making records, the difference between celebrity and immortality.

A crucial turning point occurred, Mr. Bryant suggests, during the 1998 home run chase, when McGwire acknowledged using andro, and Major League Baseball simply hoped the story would go away. The Players Association, Mr. Bryant writes, "reminded the press and public that androstenedione was perfectly legal," and the "commissioner's office hurriedly concurred": "Androstenedione may have been illegal in the Olympics. It may also have been illegal in the National Football League, and maybe its effects did resemble those of steroids, but andro was a legal supplement easily purchased at a local health store."

By dealing so passively with McGwire, a tacit message had been sent to players that the league was not going to actively clamp down on the drugs that were changing the game - a stance that ensured, in the opinion of one steroid expert, that the league would pay for its inaction with an even bigger scandal down the road.

That scandal would arrive in 2003 with a federal raid on the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, or Balco, a California lab that specialized in nutritional supplements and that had ties to Barry Bonds, Marion Jones and dozens of professional football players. In the wake of that raid, news reports citing leaked grand jury testimony said Jason Giambi had admitted he had consumed a wide array of performance-enhancing drugs including illegal anabolic steroids and human growth hormone, while Bonds had acknowledged that he had used the designer steroid THG, though he said he did not know what he was taking at the time.

By 2005, Mr. Bryant observes, many baseball officials were not celebrating Bonds, arguably the best player in history, but were "lamenting the notion that they were being handcuffed by him." Bonds, who owned the single-season home run record, who'd broken Ted Williams's single-season on-base record in 2002, and who became the first man to reach base more than 60 percent of the time over a full season in 2004, now stood, Mr. Bryant says, "as the symbol of the tainted era, of its bitter contradictions and great consequences." Near the end of this powerful and unsettling book, Mr. Bryant writes about the future: "No one, for or against, friend or foe, could ever discuss the greatest player of his generation or the greatest records in the sport without in turn discussing the drugs that contributed to them. Not only would the decade from 1994 to 2004 forever be associated with steroids, but so, too, would the record books."

A.O. Scott: The Boss Bibliography

July 3, 2005
The New York Times Book Review

Books about, inspired by or making reference to Bruce Springsteen are hardly a new, or especially rare, phenomenon. ''Born to Run,'' the first volume of Dave Marsh's quasi-authorized biography, appeared in 1979, and is now available along with its sequel, ''Glory Days,'' in a single volume called ''Bruce Springsteen: Two Hearts.'' Springsteen's lyrics, which frequently, if modestly, display their own literary pedigree, resonate in the prose of writers like Bobbie Ann Mason, Richard Ford, Stephen King (who prefaced his epic novel ''The Stand'' with a quotation from Springsteen's song ''Jungleland'') and T. C. Boyle, who took the title for his story collection ''Greasy Lake'' from imagery in a cut from Springsteen's first album. The basic Boss studies syllabus includes Daniel Cavicchi's ''Tramps Like Us,'' a sociological study of his fan base; Rolling Stone's omnibus ''Bruce Springsteen: The Rolling Stone Files''; and ''It Ain't No Sin to Be Glad You're Alive,'' Eric Alterman's knowledgeable and rousing elaboration of ''The Promise of Bruce Springsteen.''

In 1999, when he reunited the E Street Band for a long, triumphal tour, it seemed Springsteen's main enterprise would be the consolidation of his reputation as the greatest — and perhaps also the last — rocker to emerge from the ferment of the baby boom. His recent releases, apart from ''The Ghost of Tom Joad,'' had been mainly archival, and the reunion shows were devoted largely to breathing new life into old favorites and to a joyful, generous rock 'n' roll revivalism. But then came Sept. 11, which called forth ''The Rising,'' his (and maybe anyone's) most convincing rock record since the Reagan era, and the 2004 election campaign, which occasioned Springsteen's first public endorsement (on the Op-Ed page of this newspaper) of a presidential candidate. Those events, and the release this spring of ''Devils & Dust,'' have sent the Bruceologists back to their desks, and the result is a spate of revisitings, reinterpretations, reissues and recyclings, from rock critics, psychiatrists, historians and fiction writers.

Two new story collections -- Tennessee Jones's DELIVER ME FROM NOWHERE (Soft Skull Press, paper, $12) and MEETING ACROSS THE RIVER: Stories Inspired by the Haunting Bruce Springsteen Song (Bloomsbury, paper, $14.95), an anthology edited by Jessica Kaye and Richard J. Brewer -- serve mainly as reminders of Springsteen's own superior skill as a storyteller. Jones's slim volume contains 10 linked stories suggested by the lean, grim vignettes of Springsteen's ''Nebraska'' album, while ''Meeting Across the River'' comprises 20 variations on a noirish monologue that may be the least memorable cut on ''Born to Run.'' ''It's what's not in the lyric,'' Martin J. Smith writes in a foreword, ''rather than what is, that makes the song so intriguing,'' thus inadvertently establishing the superfluousness of the undertaking. What the various contributors, many of them crime novelists, put in amounts mainly to the tough-guy clichés that already hang too thickly over the song.

Jones, adding a dimension of sexual anxiety to the tales of hard luck and aimlessness in ''Nebraska,'' does a bit better. His versions of ''Highway Patrolman'' and ''My Father's House,'' in particular, go farther into the darkness on the edge of town than Springsteen himself has ventured. But you can't help wondering if Jones's imagination has been hobbled by the songs he's chosen to lean on. Since, for instance, he can hardly match the courtroom monologue that concludes ''Johnny 99'' (''Now judge, judge, I had debts no honest man can pay''), Jones pushes it offstage, into the hearsay testimony of another character: ''I don't remember exactly what he said,'' she confesses. ''I wish I had it recorded so I could just play it back for you.'' At that point, you may prefer to cue up the CD.

Which, of course, you are likely to do anyway. Springsteen's command of his chosen themes, and the power and sophistication he brings to them, makes criticism largely a matter of saying amen. Books about Elvis Presley tend to traffic in either rootsy antiquarianism or slick mythologizing. Bob Dylan inspires exegetes and soothsayers. Springsteen encourages hagiography. Every fan knows it's hard to be a saint in the city, and every reader of the Bible (one of Springsteen's preferred storehouses of phrase and image) has heard that it's not easy to be a prophet in your own country. Maybe, in Springsteen's case, it only looks easy; God -- or anyone who has been to a Springsteen concert -- knows the man works hard. By now, though, 30 years after the release of ''Born to Run'' landed him simultaneously on the covers of Newsweek and Time, the mantle of prophet and oracle -- perhaps even of saint -- seems to rest as naturally on Springsteen's muscular shoulders as the strap to his blond Fender Esquire or Clarence Clemons's hand.

Virtually all the books under consideration here are documents of faith, written by folks who will always find some reason to believe (as well as any excuse to quote some lyrics -- my apologies). But for this very reason it may be worthwhile to take note of the views of heretics and dissidents, in particular those who do not so much criticize the quality of Springsteen's music as question the authenticity of his oracular, populist persona.

John Lennon sang that a working-class hero was something to be. In England, maybe, but in this country, where money and mobility tend to dissolve and to mystify social divisions, a working-class hero may be a contradiction in terms. And so Springsteen, the son of a bus driver and a legal secretary, occasionally encounters suspicion when, from his current position as an unimaginably rich and successful rock star, he speaks up for, and in the voices of, the marginal and the downtrodden. His preacherly demeanor solicits accusations of bad faith, while his forays into political activism (including his mini-tour in support of John Kerry near the end of last year's presidential campaign) can be caricatured as the well-meaning sentiments of yet another wealthy show-business liberal. Springsteen's sincerity can also rankle those who prefer their pop culture affectless and ironical, or who are more attuned to the clever manipulation of sampled bric-a-brac than to the struggle for mastery over historical influences.

In a recent article in Slate, Stephen Metcalf made the provocatively revisionist claim that the real Bruce was neither the singer of quiet, Guthriesque ballads nor the purveyor of grand, operatic anthems, but rather the scruffy, mischievous New Jersey boardwalk habitué -- ''a scrawny little dirtbag from the shore'' -- who composed the verbose, playful, musically adventuresome shaggy-dog tales of his first two albums, ''Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.'' and ''The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.'' In Metcalf's account, it was the rock critic Jon Landau, author of the most famous line of rock-critic prophecy (''I saw rock 'n' roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen'') and after that Springsteen's producer and mentor, who transformed the charming beach bum into a self-conscious man of the people and, consequently, into a darling of the intellectuals. For Metcalf, at the same time that Landau ''intellectualized Bruce, he anti-intellectualized him,'' minting a familiar, durable persona that turns out to be ''Jon Landau's middle-class fantasy of white, working-class authenticity,'' and the basis of what is ''in essence, a white minstrel act.''

Strong words. But authenticity is a peculiar criterion to apply to a rock musician, since American popular music since the 1950's has provided fertile ground for self-invention, contradiction and cross-pollination. The personas of the great popular musicians of the rock era -- from Elvis to Prince, from Bob Dylan to Madonna -- are hardly organic products of native soil. There are no pure products of America. Which is not to endorse Metcalf's cynical view of Springsteen's imaginative project of the past three decades, but rather to suggest that the idea of authenticity needs to be applied somewhat differently. Not to Springsteen's persona -- which I would argue even the most passionate and literal-minded fan understands to be, to some degree, an artifact, an act -- but rather to the experience of witnessing and participating in a Springsteen performance, and also to the musical, lyrical and conceptual integrity of the songs themselves.

To my mind, no one has written better about the texture and rhythm of a Springsteen show than Jimmy Guterman. His new book, RUNAWAY AMERICAN DREAM: Listening to Bruce Springsteen (Da Capo, paper, $15.95), is a collection of loose, energetic essays that, as they meander and overlap, add up to a passionate, highly subjective portrait of the artist in relation to his public. Guterman, whose other books include ''The Worst Rock 'n' Roll Records of All Time,'' makes some interesting and occasionally counterintuitive judgments about Springsteen's records, but his greatest knack is for using particular shows and tours to set up wide-ranging excursions into musical history. His perspective -- the one on which rock criticism was founded in the late 1960's -- is that of the smart guy in the audience, plucking ideas and emotions out of the stream of familiar songs and wondering what, beyond the price of the ticket, it all amounts to.
Guterman's understanding of the bond between Springsteen and his audience, a phenomenon empirically observed at who knows how many stadium, arena and club shows -- a comprehensive list of such events appears in the back of THE TIES THAT BIND: Bruce Springsteen A to E to Z (Visible Ink, paper, $24.95), Gary Graff's spirited and comprehensive encyclopedia of Bossiana -- is both nuanced and incisive, as is his description of the songwriting ethic that guarantees that bond. Since ''Darkness on the Edge of Town,'' Springsteen, according to Guterman, has told ''accurate, unflinching stories of the people who weren't as lucky as he was. As he looked out at the vast stadium crowds, he must have known those were the people filling the stadiums. They still needed to see a reflection of themselves onstage; Springsteen still needed to deliver that.''

Of course, this has proven to be a complicated undertaking. For one thing, the scope of Springsteen's reference -- the kind of characters who show up in many of the songs on ''The Ghost of Tom Joad'' and his new album, ''Devils & Dust'' -- has broadened far beyond his core audience. And that audience itself may have narrowed as rock has left behind the last traces of youthful rebellion to become the soundtrack of wistful middle age. Still, no one who has stood in a stadium during the second verse of ''Promised Land'' or the opening of ''Hungry Heart'' can deny that the sense of identification between the singer, his subjects and his fans is powerful and deep. At those moments, Springsteen stops singing and listens as a hundred thousand people sing back his first-person lyrics.

This ritual transaction underlies Robert Coles's BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN'S AMERICA: The People Listening, a Poet Singing (Random House, paper, $13.95). (It's one of the only entries in the Boss bibliography, by the way, that does not take its title from a Springsteen lyric.) The subtitle may overreach. This people is as likely to be listening to Toby Keith or 50 Cent as to the bard Coles places in the line of Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams. Even so, Coles's book, in spite of a certain wish-fulfilling, populist sentimentality, turns listening into an ingeniously literal-minded exercise in anecdotal sociology. Using the documentary method he has been refining since the early 1960's, Coles sits down with a cross section of Americans, not all of them especially interested in Bruce Springsteen, and listens to them talking about what they hear in particular songs. His style of transcription can be grating -- it is sometimes hard to believe that ordinary Americans talk in the ostentatiously folksy vernacular Coles puts between quotation marks -- but ''Bruce Springsteen's America'' nonetheless attempts something rare and valuable in the study of popular culture. It tries to record the complicated reactions people have to the music they hear, and the contradictory, free-associative ways we connect that music to our own lives. The book's best section presents a law enforcement officer contending with tracks like ''Johnny 99'' and ''Highway Patrolman'' that cut against his ideas about work, morality and crime. His response to ''American Skin (41 Shots),'' Springsteen's song about the shooting of Amadou Diallo by New York City police officers in 1999, is a précis of the contradictions that the song tries to explore, but that even Springsteen's generous, capacious personality has had a hard time containing.

He does, nonetheless, contain multitudes, and at this stage in his career there is no shortage of writers eager to place him in the broadest context of American cultural history. BORN IN THE U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition (Wesleyan University, paper, $22.95), Jim Cullen's 1997 study, newly updated to include Springsteen's response to 9/11, marshals impressive scholarship to assimilate the Boss into the main currents of American thought -- or at least into the canon of the American studies curriculum. (Cullen, currently on the faculty of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York, has a Ph.D. in American studies from Brown.) Some of his readings are more persuasive than others. Much as I love the idea of Springsteen as torchbearer of a small-r republican tradition stretching back through Roosevelt and Lincoln into the Enlightenment, Cullen's argument has the effect of installing him in a stable full of academic hobbyhorses rather than in a vital constellation of ideas. The chapter on Springsteen's place within a tradition of American Roman Catholic writers and artists is more interesting, since it provides a cultural context for the dialectic of sin and grace, alienation and despair that has given structure to Springsteen's music since ''Born to Run.''

A more unusual kind of contextualization informs 4TH OF JULY, ASBURY PARK: A History of the Promised Land (Bloomsbury, $24.95), Daniel Wolff's wonderfully evocative history of the New Jersey resort town where Springsteen, after graduating from Freehold High School and briefly attending Ocean County Community College, served his rock 'n' roll apprenticeship. Among other things, Wolff's book footnotes some of the place names and geographical features in Springsteen's lyrics. (The narrator of ''Something in the Night,'' who's ''riding down Kingsley, figuring I'll get a drink'' is cruising one of the city's main thoroughfares, a block inland from the water, named for a 19th-century Methodist minister.) The chapters dealing with Springsteen himself also show how Asbury Park's music scene -- divided by race, class and taste -- influenced the intricate sound of his early records.

But really, Springsteen is less the subject of ''4th of July, Asbury Park'' than a kind of hovering spirit in the night, and perhaps also a marketing conceit. Wolff characterizes the book, which stretches back to the town's founding after the Civil War by an enterprising Methodist named James Bradley, as a ''rock 'n' roll history,'' a grand, sad story of racism and real estate, political hardball and seaside pleasure-seeking. It hardly explains Springsteen -- none of these books really do -- but it does remind us, in fascinating detail, where he comes from.

A. O. Scott is a film critic at The Times.