Saturday, August 06, 2005

Avery Cardinal Dulles: Mere Apologetics

Copyright (c) 2005 First Things 154 (June/July 2005): 15-20.

C.S. Lewis was a man of many parts. His novels, allegories, and children’s books achieved enormous popularity. He excelled as a spiritual writer and had some standing as a poet. In the academic field he was competent in philosophy, a master of the Greek and Latin classics, and outstanding as a literary critic.

But he is best known today as an apologist—probably the most successful Christian apologist of the twentieth century. Forty and more years after his death, his influence remains unabated. His works are read by Protestants and Catholics with equal relish. Enough books have been written on Lewis to fill several shelves of a bookcase.

Although Lewis’ achievements in apologetics have been generally acclaimed, he is not without his critics. In his lifetime he had to meet objections from his fellow Anglican W. Norman Pittinger and the Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. In 1985, twenty-two years after his death, a book-length refutation of Lewis’ entire apologetical project was published by the philosopher John Beversluis. The various criticisms, however, reflect the presuppositions of their authors, which are not self-evidently true. One problem stems from the notion of “mere Christianity,” which Lewis selected as the position to be defended. It is easy to object that there is no such thing as “mere Christianity” and that major differences, such as those between Protestants and Catholics, cannot be papered over. Aware of the objection, Lewis compared mere Christianity to a hall through which one finds one’s way into the bedrooms of a house. The hall is not a place where anyone wishes to stay, but it is a place from which one can gain access to one or another of the rooms, recognizing that those in neighboring rooms are one’s housemates. By “mere Christianity” Lewis means the common fund of doctrines and practices enshrined in Scripture and the early creeds, which are foundational for most Christian churches.

Lewis developed his apologetic for Christianity in three stages. First, he set out to establish the existence of God on grounds that are chiefly philosophical. Then he sought to demonstrate that God has preeminently revealed himself in Christ and in the Christian religion. Finally, he defended theism and Christianity against common objections, such as the problem of evil.

Against the prevalent agnosticism of his day and ours, Lewis believed it was possible to demonstrate the existence of God, at least in the sense of making God’s existence vastly more likely than his non-existence. He was aware of the ontological argument, usually identified with Anselm and Descartes, and the cosmological arguments classically set forth by Thomas Aquinas. As for the ontological argument, which deduced God’s existence from the very concept of a Necessary Being, he said in a letter to his brother Warren that the argument would not be valid unless one first established that the idea of Necessary Being from which it begins is objectively grounded and is not a mere fabrication of our minds. He did not reject the cosmological arguments from the facts of change, causality, and contingency, but he confessed in a letter to his friend Bede Griffiths that they were ineffective for him personally. But his own favorite proofs are those from morality, from reason, and from desire.

The argument from morality, rather fully set forth in Lewis’ radio talks, The Case for Christianity, begins with the assertion that we are unconditionally bound to do good and avoid evil. All normal human beings spontaneously judge that certain actions are wrong and ought not to be done. They know they ought to be honest, truthful, temperate, just, and loving toward others—and that they are forbidden to commit theft, perjury, adultery, murder, and the like. About the details of the moral code there can be disagreements, but not about its obligatory character. The question is where the obligation comes from. According to the classical tradition of Christian theology, stemming from St. Paul, the obligation comes from God who, so to speak, writes His law upon the human heart, so that even people to whom the positive moral law has not been proclaimed have an inborn sense of what is commanded or prohibited. When they do wrong, they suffer from a bad conscience and realize that they deserve to be punished.

Lewis takes up and refutes the most common objections to this argument. He gives solid reasons for denying that the sense of moral obligation could arise from a herd instinct, from social convention, or from a Freudian superego. The only adequate explanation, he maintains, is that we are subject to a higher will, to which we are accountable for the use we make of our freedom. Addressing a popular audience, Lewis does not enter into every technicality or refute every difficulty, but he puts forth the essentials in simple and persuasive language.

Lewis’ second favorite proof, the argument from reason, appears in his book Miracles. A certain kind of naturalism, he observes, characterizes rational thinking as a mere product of nervous reflexes, instincts, and habits. Lewis replies that physical or psychological conditioning cannot explain our power to make judgments about truth and error. We are conscious that our judgments are determined not by subrational forces but by reality as it impinges on our minds. The power to reach understanding through rational explanations is evidence of an affinity between the mind and reality. It is explicable only if there is an aboriginal mind that accounts for both intelligence and intelligibility.

Lewis’ sketchy presentation of this argument leaves further work to be done. Having an ancestry that goes all the way back through Plato to Anaxagoras, it resembles the argument for the existence of God proposed in highly technical terms by Bernard Lonergan and popularized in several apologetical works of Hugo Meynell. For all these authors the wonderful correspondence between reason and reality implies that reality is imbued with an order that stems from a creative Mind. Lewis’ focus is not so much on the intelligibility of the world as on the mind’s capacity for truth, which in his opinion cannot be explained by natural selection but only by an intelligent Creator.

Lewis’ third argument is taken from the natural desire for union with God. The idea that the human soul is naturally drawn to such a blessed union is pervasive in the Christian tradition.

Augustine put it in classic form when he exclaimed in the Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts cannot find rest until they rest in you.” This desire for God was not proposed in the form of a proof, it would seem, until the twentieth century. Influenced by the Belgian Jesuit Joseph MarĂ©chal, the French Jesuit Henri de Lubac and the German Jesuit Karl Rahner made it their primary proof for the existence of God. Lewis was apparently unfamiliar with these continental authors, but he may well have found the makings of his own argument in the Anglican theologian Richard Hooker.

The argument unfolds in several steps. First, it must be established that all human beings have by nature a desire for something that transcends the whole of creation. According to Lewis, it is a secret desire that needs to be discovered, but one that each human being can discern by careful introspection. No earthly happiness can fully satisfy our hearts. The crux of the argument is the premise that no natural desire can be in vain. This proposition was accepted as self-evident by Aristotle and the entire Scholastic tradition, which subscribed to a teleological view of nature, but is rejected by empiricists, who protest that we lack sufficient materials to make this induction. Without delaying on the objection, Lewis draws the conclusion that God must exist, for otherwise the desire would be in vain and would have no attainable object.

In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis designates this longing by the German name Sehnsucht and analyzes it in highly experiential terms. This unsatisfied desire, he remarks, is more desirable than any earthly satisfaction. For a while he so enjoyed the desire, he confesses, that he almost lost sight of the divine Object, but he overcame this subjectivism with the help of the idealist philosopher Samuel Alexander. In the end he came to realize that it was less a case of his pursuing the Object than of the Object’s pursuing him.

Lewis was convinced that his arguments, especially when taken in convergence, established the existence of a personal God who is the source of morality, rationality, and spiritual joy. God stands above and beyond the whole of creation as its eternal ground. This idea of God, he claims, is far more plausible than pantheism, which so intermingles God and the world that God could not exist unless it did. After having dallied for a while with a kind of Hegelian pantheism, Lewis came to realize that a God indistinct from the world could not be unconditionally true and good. The proofs we have summarized establish the existence of a God who is untouched by evil.

Lewis does not extensively discuss non-Christian religions. Once the option for religion has been made, the only serious alternatives are pantheism and monotheism. Hinduism, which represents pantheism at its best, fails to satisfy Lewis. Buddhism he writes off rather casually as a Hindu heresy. A choice must therefore be made among the great theistic religions—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—and if one can show that Christianity is divinely revealed, then it must be the choice. Other religions can be true only to the extent that they are compatible with it. Christians are not bound to regard other faiths as false except at those points where they conflict with Christian faith.

To establish the fact of Christian revelation, Lewis pursues two lines of argument. His first approach is from the claims of Christ. In a trilemma borrowed from G.K. Chesterton he asserts that anyone who claims to be God must be a lunatic, a liar, or, in fact, God; since Jesus, who made divine claims, was neither a liar nor a madman, therefore he was God. Lewis knows, of course, that the argument is not that simple. Nearly everyone will concede that Jesus was neither a lunatic nor a deceiver, but Lewis wants to make the adversaries explain why, after asserting that Jesus was sane and good, they deny his divinity.

The main difficulty, of course, is to establish that Jesus in fact claimed to be God. He may not have said bluntly, “I am God,” but according to the Gospels he spoke of himself as Son in a unique and transcendent sense. In a number of sayings Jesus clearly implies that the Son preexisted with the Father, is equal to the Father, and will return in glory at the end of time to judge all nations. Jesus also claims to forgive sins in his own name, an act admittedly reserved to God alone.

Lewis’ second argument for the divinity of Christ is from miracles, a subject on which he wrote one of his most important apologetical books. The book is a very successful answer to authors such as Hume, who denied that historical accounts of physical miracles could be credible. Lewis in a long discussion of the laws of nature shows that such laws, far from precluding miracles, are necessary conditions for their possibility. If there were no regular laws of nature, miracles could not be recognized as exceptions and would lose their function as divine signs. Miracles are possible provided that such laws exist and provided also that God is not absolutely bound by the laws He has established. True, it would be unreasonable for God to suspend laws of nature in an arbitrary way, but it would make sense for Him to suspend them on occasion for adequate reasons such as the manifestation of the new order of salvation.

If miracles were haphazard events, reports about them might not be credible. But the biblical miracles, generally speaking, fall into a meaningful pattern, exhibiting the beneficent designs of God. All the biblical miracles lead up to, or attest to, the Incarnation, which Lewis describes as “the great miracle.” Jesus’ mastery over life and death and over the powers of nature is convincing evidence of his divinity.

After a survey of the miracles of the public life, Lewis devotes a chapter to the resurrection. As a sign and anticipation of the final Kingdom, the resurrection is eminently meaningful. All efforts to explain it away as hallucination or fabrication fall to the ground.

Lewis is well aware that his arguments from the claims of Jesus and from the biblical miracles presuppose the general reliabilty of the Gospel accounts. Although Lewis does not claim to be a specialist in New Testament criticism, he maintains that he is well qualified as a literary critic to distinguish between history, legend, and myth. The Gospels clearly belong to the genre of history. The skepticism of radical New Testament critics like Bultmann, he contends, has its roots in their philosophical commitments, not in the character of the texts.

Against modern critics who treat the Fourth Gospel as unhistorical, Lewis boldly counters: “My judgment as a literary critic...constrains me to think it at least as close to the facts as Boswell’s Johnson.” But he also says: “I could never see how one escaped the dilemma aut deus aut malus homo by confining oneself to the Synoptics.”

The principal reason for Lewis’ adherence to atheism as a young man was his conviction that there was too much evil and suffering in the world for it to be the work of a loving and all-powerful God. In the opening pages of The Problem of Pain he poses the problem of evil in starkest terms. But he argues that the experience of evil as a problem rests upon a prior awareness that there exists a higher order of justice. This inbuilt sense of what ought to be cannot be explained except as having been implanted in our hearts by a divine power.

Lewis does not pretend to give a rational solution to the problem of evil. The Book of Job reminds us that with our finite minds we cannot provide a theoretical solution. But for apologetics it suffices to show that the fact of evil does not positively disprove the existence of the biblical God. Lewis begins by refuting metaphysical dualism, which would hold that good and evil are equally primordial. From Augustine he takes the insight that evil is a parasite, not an original reality. All the things that enable a bad person to be bad are in themselves good things. An evil deity, if it existed, would have existence, intelligence, and will, and to that extent be good. Evil, therefore, is the perversion of a goodness prior to itself.

In a universe of finite things, Lewis maintains, some degree of evil is normal. Often enough, one entity achieves its proper good at the expense of another. The lion gets the meat it needs for its diet at the expense of the sheep. Does the sheep suffer? It certainly has sensations, but of a sheep’s consciousness we know nothing. What appears to be animal suffering may not be suffering in any real sense. We must beware of falling into the “pathetic fallacy.”

Evil in the sphere of human life admits of various explanations. In a social order, it is reasonable to suppose that just as human beings benefit from one another’s achievements, they will have to suffer from the mistakes and failures of others. But such suffering, endured with patience, can make for spiritual growth. It is good that we may attain some degree of happiness on earth. The impossibility of attaining complete happiness here below is good in the sense that it helps us to keep our hopes concentrated on God and the life to come.

God could of course prevent any given mishap by a miracle. But miracles must in the nature of the case be rare. Frequent interventions from on high would destroy the order of nature and make it impossible for us to act meaningfully, since the consequences of our actions would be unforeseeable. We could not build or use machinery unless we could predict how it would function.

The evil in the world is vastly increased by human sin. The possibility of sin proves nothing against God’s goodness, because unless it were possible, God could not obtain the free and loving obedience for which rational creatures are made. The power freely to choose good implies a corresponding power to choose evil. Unless we had some inclination toward evil, we would gain no merit in doing what is good.

When we violate God’s law, we know that we deserve punishment. A God who is just cannot condone evil, allowing it to be committed with impunity. When God punishes evil, His punishments may be medicinal or simply retributive. In this life punishments serve to bring about repentance and reform. If sinners fail to respond, they will justly suffer retributive punishment in hell. The possibility of hell is a necessary implication of human freedom in a moral universe. But even if we could not see the logic of it, we would have to submit to the clear teaching of Our Lord on the subject.

The death of Christ on the Cross is under one aspect a terrible evil but, considered as a loving sacrifice, it is the supreme proof of God’s love. Sufficient though it was to atone for the sins of the whole world, it does not save us without our consent. Just as we benefit from the redemptive sufferings of Christ, so too our own sufferings, offered up in the body of Christ which is the Church, can be redemptive. This last point, not mentioned in The Problem of Pain, became clear to Lewis at a later time.

In The Great Divorce, Lewis takes up the objection that the joy of the blessed in heaven would be spoiled if even a single soul were lost in hell. To this he replies that the loveless are not allowed to blackmail the universe. Hell cannot veto heaven. The souls in heaven may have pity in the active sense, but pity as a passion will cease.

With arguments such as these, Lewis feels that he has successfully made the case for letting God out of the dock. Indeed, the expression “God in the dock” is one coined by Lewis himself. Insightfully he remarks that while ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as an accused person approaches his judge, modern man has reversed the roles. Man sits on the bench and places God before him as the accused. “If God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal.”

Lewis was convinced of the imperative need for apologetics. A century ago, he said, the Church’s task was to edify those who had been brought up in the faith, but her present task is chiefly to convert and instruct infidels. The Britain of his day, Lewis maintained, was as much part of the mission field as China.

While advocating a renewed apologetics, Lewis was also conscious of its limitations. The religious person, he said, knows God primarily through experiences of prayer, worship, and forgiveness, but these experiences can be communicated, if at all, in a language resembling that of poetry. Apologetics, as a form of controversy, has to use terms that are as univocal and definable as possible. The apologist is therefore in a situation comparable to that of a witness under cross-examination trying to defend the character of a friend. The circumstances make it almost impossible to convey one’s real impression.

Notwithstanding these crippling limitations, apologetics can sometimes be relatively successful. The apologist’s task is to gather and present evidence capable of persuading reasonable persons that the Christian religion ought to be accepted. Lewis maintains that no adult comes to believe Christianity without thinking that there are good grounds for holding it is true. But the assent that flows from apologetical arguments falls short of Christian faith. Apologetics, in Lewis’ view, provides a road map, but the map is no substitute for the journey.

The relation between faith and reason becomes radically different once a person has made the act of faith. The believer enters into a personal relationship with God that involves far more than assent to propositions. He places total trust in God to such a point that he would continue to believe even if he ceased to see the reasons. Those who have experienced this interpersonal relationship know enough about God to trust Him even when He seems absent. On this ground Lewis defends what he calls “obstinacy in belief.”

Lewis proposes a very interesting definition. “Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” Arguments do not secure us against the fluctuations of our moods. Many saints have experienced dark nights in which their faith seems to be unsupported by valid reasons. Yet they cling to the God whose loving embrace they have felt. Lewis chronicles an experience of this kind in his A Grief Observed. His faith was severely tested by the early and painful death of his wife, but he did not succumb.

Did he change his position in this final book? Beversluis holds that he there confessed the failure of his lifelong enterprise as an apologist and that he never recovered his assurance that a rational case could be made for Christianity. With the vast majority of Lewis scholars, I am convinced of the opposite. In the preface to The Problem of Pain Lewis already recognized that no intellectual solution could suffice to overcome the doubts that would arise in situations of grief. During the first weeks after his wife’s death he experienced this insufficiency, but in the end he came to see that God was weaning him from excessive earthly attachments and inadequate concepts so that he could fix his heart more purely on the divine reality itself—on the God who surpasses all that we can think or imagine about Him. After undergoing the painful process of purification, Lewis was confident of having grown in faith and in humility.

Lewis’ eminent success as an apologist is due to several factors. A convert from atheism, he had experienced the difficulties from within and had discovered by experience what arguments could speak to the unbeliever. He had a great gift for debating and wrote in a pleasing English style, free of heavy and technical language. He handled profound problems in simple words that could be understood by readers with no special training. Gifted with a lively imagination, he had an extraordinary facility for finding apt analogies from common life to illustrate abstract philosophical points. He was humble and unpretentious, willing to recognize the limits of his own knowledge. He concentrated on basic Christian beliefs and usually managed to avoid involvement in intra-Christian controversies.

The limits of Lewis are the flip side of his merits. Speaking to a broad and unsophisticated audience, he did not satisfy the scruples of some academicians, who found that he oversimplified complex problems. Avoiding technical terminology, he often failed to make distinctions that would be necessary to do justice to the subject matter. Having embraced no particular philosophical system other than a vague sort of Platonism, he frequently argued without the rigor expected in professional philosophical and theo logical circles.

As an apologist, moreover, Lewis tends to concentrate on the rational element in the approach to faith. But as he indicates in his own conversion story, it is not we alone who find the true faith.

The God for whom we are searching has to find us, and we have to let Him do so. To speak too much as though faith were the result of a process of reasoning is a hazard built into apologetics. If Lewis had been willing to venture more deeply into theological waters, he might have spoken more extensively about the role of God in the process of conversion. Theologians in the great tradition show that divine grace influences even our initial perception of the evidences for Christianity. God’s love, at work in our hearts, often enables us to synthesize data that might otherwise appear meaningless. It gives us what some theologians call “the eyes of faith.” For this reason the search for religious truth has to be accompanied by prayer.

As Lewis’ greatest weakness, I would single out his lack of appreciation for the Church and the sacraments. In Mere Christianity he touches on baptism and Holy Communion only briefly, when discussing what we have to do once we have become Christians. He admits that he finds it rather odd that bodily acts of this kind should be the means of acquiring new life. But no doubt, he remarks, God likes material things such as food and drink. “It seems plain as a matter of history that He [Jesus] taught his followers that the new life was communicated in this way.”

Lewis seems content with this rather weak defense of the sacramental system. But in his later years he developed a deeper appreciation. Speaking of Holy Communion in his posthumously published Letters to Malcolm, he writes: “Yet I find no difficulty in believing that the veil between the worlds, nowhere else (for me) so opaque to the intellect, is nowhere else so thin and permeable to divine operation. Here a hand from the hidden country touches not only my soul but my body. Here the prig, the don, the modern in me have no privilege over the savage or the child.”

In Surprised by Joy Lewis mentions that in the first years after his conversion he started attending Sunday services at his parish church, but adds: “The idea of churchmanship was to me wholly unattractive....I was deeply antiecclesiastical....I had as little relish to be in the Church as in the zoo. It was, to begin with, a kind of collective; a wearisome ‘get-together’ affair....To me, religion ought to have been a matter of good men praying alone and meeting by twos and threes to talk about spiritual matters....Hymns were (and are) extremely disagreeable to me. Of all musical instruments I liked (and like) the organ least. I have, too, a sort of spiritual gaucherie which makes me unapt to participate in any rite.”

These words, I believe, point to an individualistic and academic quality that affected Lewis’ religion almost to the end of his life. His “mere Christianity” is a set of beliefs and a moral code, but scarcely a society. In joining the Church he made a genuine and honest profession of faith—but he did not experience it as entry into a true community of faith. He found it possible to write extensively about Christianity while saying almost nothing about the People of God, the structures of authority, and the sacraments.

My own experience has been different. In becoming a Catholic, I felt from the beginning that I was joining the communion of the saints, the body to which Augustine and Aquinas, Bernard and Ignatius, belonged. I found great joy at the sense of belonging to a body of believers that stretched across the globe. The sacramental system and the authority of pastors were (and are) for me among the most attractive features of Christianity.

Still, while wishing that Lewis had projected a more ecclesial vision of Christianity, I withdraw nothing that I have said about his merits. His courage in addressing real objections, together with his keen logic and appealing rhetoric, have won him an enduring place in the history of Christian apologetics.

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., holds the Lawrence J. McGinley Chair in Religion and Society at Fordham University.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Michael Fumento: With Stem Cells, Frist Backs a Loser
Michael Fumento (archive)
August 4, 2005

The space shuttle program would seem to have nothing to do with Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist’s call for dramatically expanded federal aid for embryonic stem cell research, but there are striking parallels.

Whatever NASA may claim, there’s little the shuttle can do that unmanned spaceships cannot – at much lower costs. But NASA knows what sci-fi writers always have, that we’re enamored of manned space flight. The shuttle’s main mission is maintaining the Agency’s prestige and budget.
Yet if the shuttle has had little use, ESCs so far have had none. They’ve never been tested on humans. And like the shuttle, there are far superior alternatives. Culled from numerous body tissues, these are generally called “adult stem cells.” Yet ASCs are routinely downplayed or ignored precisely because ESCs, like the shuttle, are of little value to the human race but are tremendously valuable for individual reputations and budgets.

Which brings us to Bill Frist’s break with the Bush administration, regarding more federal ESC funding (Note: one of the myths surrounding ESC research is that it currently receives no federal support, while another even claims research is illegal.)

Frist’s position is compelling, we’re told, not just because he’s the highest-ranking Senate Republican but also a physician. Actually, that makes him as much a specialist on stem cells as a plumber is on aquatic chemistry. A bit of reading will give you more knowledge about these cells than the average doctor possesses. You might learn that ASCs are CURRENTLY used in over 250 human clinical trials and are treating over 80 different diseases.

ESC researchers sniff that this is only because their field is newer, but research on both types of cell dates back to the 1950s. ESCs aren’t playing catch-up; they’re falling behind.
Oddly, although Frist is a heart transplant physician he seems clueless that some of the most exciting ASC work directly involves his field. ASCs have induced either muscle or vessel growth in human hearts in hundreds of patients worldwide. Next month, Brazil begins heart ASC experiments involving 1,200 persons.

Another myth that Frist propagated in his “breakaway” speech is that “embryonic stem cells uniquely hold specific promise for some therapies and potential cures that adult stem cells cannot provide.” In fact, ALL that ESCs have is promise. That’s why advocates feel obliged to claim they’ll eventually cure every disease from Alzheimer’s to acne. But again, had Frist done his homework he’d know that three years ago scientists began changing ASCs into ALL three types of cells the body produces.

Since then, countless labs have used various forms of ASCs to make all those cell types, but ESC advocates insist you not know this. They also go bonkers if you mention at least four different methods of creating ESCs without destroying embryos are being developed, as the June issue of Wired documents. They want that money NOW!

Ironically, the clamor for massively-increased public funding for ESCs is precisely because their practical applications, if any, lie many years in the future while those of ASCs are here and now. The media may go gaga over ESC researchers’ pie-in-the-sky claims but private investors know better. (Except when the government injects funding into ESC research, such as happened with California’s Proposition 71; huge fortunes were made or – in the case of Bill Gates – simply expanded.)

This isn’t to say ASC research NEEDS public funding either. But they could easily handle far more federal support without using it to gold-plate the operating instruments. As I’ve earlier written, prominent Harvard researcher Dr. Denise Faustman may well have found a cure for type 1 diabetes involving ASCs but cannot proceed with testing for lack of money.

Meanwhile, the federal medical research budget has virtually stopped expanding so that more spending for anything means less for other things; more for ESCs means less for ASCs. Why rob Producing Peter to pay Potential Paul?

Discussions of the morality of ESC usage are not irrelevant, but science alone makes the case against ESCs. If the technology has a fraction of the true potential its backers claim, the market will fund it. But if you’re an investor who really believes the hype, I’ve got a space shuttle to sell you.

Michael Fumento (mfumento[at] is author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology Is Changing our World , a fellow at Hudson Institute, and a nationally syndicated columnist with Scripps Howard News Service.

©2005 Michael Fumento

Research Shows NW Montana Grizzlies Visit Backyards Often

Hungry Horse News

Despite economic expansion in western Montana, grizzly bear populations are on the rise and grizzly behavior is becoming less of a mystery.

Speaking at the Montanans for Multiple Use meeting last night, Chris Servheen, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grizzly Bear Recovery Program Coordinator, presented newly collected data that showed where and when bears move around their habitat, something that was previously misunderstood.

Servheen said USFWS has planted Global Positioning System collars on grizzlies in the Swan Valley and discovered that bears move near roadways and houses at night, a time they have learned is less dangerous.

"It tells us what bears do in the dark," he said. "It opens the door to understanding animals."

Knowing when and where bears move around allows wildlife managers to create strategies on how to deal with problem bears as well as the interaction between humans and grizzlies.

Using the Yellowstone ecosystem as an example, Servheen said that the bear recovery program has helped triple the population of grizzlies there since 1983, helping de-list that population.

As it stands, over 600 bears reside in and around Yellowstone, and Servheen said that by late 2006, the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which stretches from Glacier National Park to Ovando, will have an accurate grizzly count when a bear DNA sampling study is finished.

"There's been significant progress," he said. "We certainly believe grizzly bears have increased in population in this ecosystem."
Grizzlies are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

But one difficulty Servheen sees in de-listing the bear population in Montana is the amount of private land that is traditional bear habitat, a cause for concern when viewed with the increasing human caused bear fatalities.

"More than 17 percent of this ecosystem is private land in the recovery zone," he said. "We need to work with private landowners and we need to deal with this mortality problem."

2004 saw the largest number of grizzlies killed by humans since 1974, a disturbing trend that can be combated by having a strict management plan in place, something that can be completed once more data is collected.

"We need to build a management plan for this area," he said. "That's the same thing we've already done in Yellowstone. We're way behind the Yellowstone system."

Part of the success of the Yellowstone recovery, Servheen said, was the cooperation of the people that lived near the recovery zone. Proper education and dialogue, he said, will lead to better management capabilities.

"The recovery of the grizzly bears is not a biological issue, it's a social issue," he said. "Those people are behind the recovery of the Yellowstone bears."

Western Montana's bears face an increased human population that Yellowstone's bears don't, one reason why the mortality rate is higher in this area.

"This illegal killing is a problem," Servheen said. "It's like a festering thing out there."

Using data overlays on satellite imagery, Servheen pinpointed exact areas near roadways and homesites in the Swan Valley that bears frequent at night, saying that knowing this information now could help reduce mortality rates.

Seeing how bears stay in the Valley all year long was a definite surprise for the researchers.
"It's a real eye opener for us bear guys," he said. "These grizzly bears are acting the way we thought black bears would."

Public reaction to the data was overwhelmingly positive, with F.H. Stoltze general manager Ron Buentemeier being the most vocal in his responses.

Buentemeier praised Servheen's information, but pleaded for more public outreach programs, saying that the "laws need to be changed" to punish bear poachers.

Montanans for Multiple Use president Fred Hodgeboom praised Servheen's research, saying that it "confirms a lot of the observations of the citizens that live and work around these bears for the long term."

Hodgeboom also said that the data clearly showed that "cookie cutter" designated wildlife areas don't necessarily work and that bears will find a way to adapt to their habitat, even with humans in the way.

"The bears live where the habitat is," he said. "Hopefully this will get a dialogue started with the public and the Forest Service."

MFMU invited Servheen to speak on the study at its meeting Tuesday night.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Film Review: Grizzly Man

Jan. 27, 2005
Grizzly Man
By Kirk Honeycutt
The Hollywood Reporter

Bottom line: A mesmerizing portrait of a man who staged a 13-year dance with death.

PARK CITY -- Using a dead man's astonishing footage and a few key interviews, Werner Herzog has in "Grizzly Man" made a gripping, one-of-a-kind movie. It's a journey into a heart of darkness, where nearly everything one sees seeks to deny that darkness. It's one of the best nature films ever made, a brilliant and poetic portrait of a haunted yet happy man mired in controversy and a provocative meditation on the Walden ideal and man's romance with the myth of nature and its innocence.

Produced by the Discovery Channel's theatrical documentary unit and Lions Gate, "Grizzly Man" already has its TV and theatrical exposure assured. Each will undoubtedly promote the other but, really and truly, this is one doc you've got to see on a big screen.

Timothy Treadwell, a well-known advocate for the grizzly bear who lectured about and fought for the preservation of the animal, died in October 2003. He was killed and partially devoured along with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard by a grizzly in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Reserve.

Herzog gained access to the 100 hours of film Treadwell shot over 13 summers he spent among the bears in the Kodiak archipelago. Treadwell carried no weapon and fancied himself a friend and protector of these fierce and enormous wild beasts. He gave the bears and other wild animals names and, ignoring criticism by wildlife experts, portrayed bears in a book and his lectures to schoolchildren as cuddly creatures.

The first and most admirable thing Herzog does is to treat Treadwell as a fellow filmmaker. He finds in the beautifully shot footage a compelling aesthetic. "I discovered a film of human ecstasies and darkest inner turmoil," he has, "as if there was a desire in him to leave the confinements of his humanness and bond with the bears."

Herzog then explores the root of this desire to mutate into a wild animal. Interviews and the footage itself demonstrate that for Treadwell this was partially a spiritual experience and partially a desire for distance from human society, where he did not fit in and which often filed him with rage.

Possibly a manic-depressive, Treadwell failed at a Hollywood career -- he supposedly was a contender for the Woody Harrelson role in "Cheers" -- and allowed drugs and alcohol to eat away at his self-worth. Then he discovered the land of the bears. That proved stimulant enough.

Standing in front of his carefully positioned camera as bears graze or fish nearby, Treadwell in a high-pitched and overly excited voice rhapsodizes about his love for wild animals and extols the virtues of bear life.

Locals and scientists rightly protest to Herzog that Treadwell crossed an invisible boundary carefully erected between humans and grizzlies and that his socialization of the animals took away the bears' natural fear of men. One even insists that poaching has never really been a serious threat to the thousands of grizzlies in Alaska.

Yet Treadwell did achieve ecstasy and a wary peace within the bear community. (He is believed to have been killed by a bear he did not know.) Dwelling among wildlife enabled him to thumb his nose at civilization. It was his way to rebel against society and create a fiction about himself.

He pretended to be an Australian when he actually came from New York. In the film he never got to make, he wanted to portray himself as a man alone in the wilderness when in fact he often had woman companions whom he was careful to keep out of view. He fashioned himself into a grizzly man, half bear and half man, who clearly favored his animal side.

Herzog's narration is insightful and lyrical yet grounded in reality. He refuses to get sucked into the myth of animal nobility and innocence. He sees rather a natural kingdom filed with chaos and violence. Herzog has throughout his career been a master of portraying human obsession. In Timothy Treadwell, he may have found his ultimate obsessed man.

Richard Thompson's guitar-flavored score is a beaut.

Lions Gate Films/Discovery Docs
Credits: Director/narrator: Werner Herzog
Producer: Erik Nelson
Executive producers: Billy Campbell, Tom Ortenberg, Kevin Beggs, Phil Fairclough, Andrea Meditch
Director of photography: Peter Zeitlinger
Music: Richard Thompson
Editor: Joe Bini
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 103 minutes

David Klinghoffer: Designs on Us

August 03, 2005, 8:11 a.m.
Conservatives on Darwin vs. ID.

The New Republic recently published a survey of conservative journalists on the question of “Intelligent Design” (ID), the controversial critique of Darwinian evolution which argues that living creatures did not arise by an unaided, purely material process of evolution through random genetic variation but rather through the design of an intelligence transcending the material universe. To my surprise, it turned out that almost all those surveyed, including several NR editors and contributors, were doubters not of Darwinism but of Intelligent Design.

I realize with some trepidation that I am treading on the views of many of my old NR friends and colleagues, notably John Derbyshire who has written eloquently on the subject, but herewith a dissent on behalf of doubting Darwin.

A majority of biologists reject ID. But a minority of scientists, who are no fools, suggests that it is Darwinism that fails to explain the complexity of organisms. I don’t intend to wade into the details of the debate, but rather to ask how a layman like me, or Derbyshire, can hope to venture a responsible opinion. The question is not merely theoretical. The teaching of Darwinian evolution in public schools is being challenged before local and state school boards across the country.

Some say that, for non-experts, the smartest thing would be to accede to the viewpoint of the majority of scientists. But wait. The point I want to draw out here is that Darwinism, in particular evolutionary psychology, itself undercuts the claim that ID may be safely dismissed.

Charles Darwin’s insight holds that people are simply animals and that, like all animals, we got to be the way we are because our ancestors beat out the evolutionary competition and survived to pass on their genes. Evolutionary psychology extends this idea. There are some behaviors that increase the chances that a given person will be able to pass on his genetic information. One, for instance, might be murder, often committed against rivals who give the appearance of seeking to diminish the odds of our raising viable offspring that will carry our DNA. A classic illustration is the crime of passion, where the angry husband shoots the sexual rival who has been having an affair with his wife.

From this perspective, a main evolutionary-psychological impulse that drives males in particular is the drive to fight off rivals. For rivals threaten to reduce our access to reproductive assets — namely, women — by lowering our status in a social hierarchy. In certain neighborhoods, all it takes is a disrespectful look or word, a “diss,” especially in front of women, to get a man killed.
In evolutionary psychology, as in common sense, it is apparent that males highly value whatever source of status or prestige they have managed to secure. We value status so much that some are willing to kill over it. Others are willing at least to wound, if only with words.

One prominent evolutionary psychologist, Harvard’s Steven Pinker, has written frankly about rivalry in academia, and the use of cutting rhetoric in the defense of established ideas: “Their champions are not always averse to helping the ideas along with tactics of verbal dominance, among them intimidation (‘Clearly…’), threat (‘It would be unscientific to…’), authority (‘As Popper showed…’), insult (‘This work lacks the necessary rigor for…’), and belittling (‘Few people today seriously believe that…’).”

I bring this up because Intelligent Design aggressively challenges the status of many professionals currently laboring in secular academia. And because one of the hallmarks of the defense of Darwinism is precisely the kind of rhetorical displays of intimidation, threat, authority, and insult that Pinker describes.

For instance in a section on the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, entitled “Q&A on Evolution and Intelligent Design,” you will find numerous statements as if lifted almost verbatim from Pinker’s examples — ridiculing ID as “non-scientific,” an idea whose “advocates have yet to contribute in a scientifically rigorous manner,” who “may use the language of science, but [who] do not use its methodology.”

When you consider that ID theoreticians have published their findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals, in formidable academic presses such as those of Cambridge University and the University of Chicago, such denunciations start to sound like a worried defense of status more than a disinterested search for truth.

If the Darwinian establishment is vexed, that’s understandable. A century and a half ago, the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species with its materialistic implications signaled the overturning of Western society’s traditional matrix for the granting of status: namely religion. From Darwin forward, intellectual prestige was bestowed not by religious institutions but by secular ones, the universities.

It has remained so until today. Now, with many parents and school-board members signaling their impatience with the answers given by secular academia to ultimate questions — like, where did we humans come from — the secular hierarchy would be foolish not to be concerned. It would be perfectly in keeping with their own Darwinist views — about how men especially will fight to defend their source of status — to expect secularists to struggle violently against any challenge that may be raised against Darwinism, no matter where the truth of the matter may actually lie. Being the animals that we are, we are programmed through our genes to do just that.
In a wonderful irony, the only intellectual framework in which people can genuinely be expected to pursue truth dispassionately, even if that truth undermines our sense of personal prestige, happens to be the religious framework, in which people aren’t animals at all but rather beings created in the image of God.

In the case of ID versus Darwin, this observation may not tell us which side to embrace. It should signal, however, that when secularists insist that real science must lead to the view that life and intelligence arose through chance genetic events, we needn’t accept that view as gospel.
I’ve offered a reason to doubt the Darwinian establishment, not necessarily to reject it. When laymen, including conservative journalists, follow the scientific majority on a question like this, rather than the dissenting minority, they should at least be aware that they are following guides who, while claiming to be disinterested, are anything but that.

— David Klinghoffer, a former NR literary editor, is a columnist for the Jewish Forward. His most recent book is Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History. His website is

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bill Murchison: Backing up the Boy Scouts

Bill Murchison (archive)
August 2, 2005

Talk about getting in your adversaries' faces! On back-to-back days, George W. Bush hands John Bolton an interim appointment as U.N. ambassador and praises the moral character and public importance of the Boy Scouts of America. Our president is going out of his way to live dangerously.

Bush's encomium to 30,000 scouts at their national jamboree ("Through the generations, scouts have made America a stronger and better nation") could prove the more daring of the two gambits.

As tough a nut as he is, Bolton lacks the means of making the U.N. look good, whereas generous and laudatory words about the scouts are rarely these days poured out in high places, for reasons that boggle the mind. The left wing in American politics has been working to turn the Boy Scouts into an emblem of bigotry (a trait, you understand, that absolutely no one on the left ever displays).

For American Civil Liberties Union lawyers and gay rights activists, the scouts have become a surrogate target representing the old-time religion. Adversaries of scout ideals, by kicking the scouts around, deliver a swift kick to the backside of anyone brazen enough to support the scouts in public embrace of "God and my country."

Whatever status God and country formerly enjoyed in American society, God has become, to the left, an unwelcome intruder in public affairs. The left isn't really big on God Bless America patriotism either.

The ACLU busies itself in filing and prosecuting suits against all evidences of governmental backing for the scouts' "exclusivist" religious ideals -- i.e., no atheists. Last fall, the Defense Department agreed, in partial settlement of a five-year-old suit, to bar official military sponsorship of scout activities. The outrage was large enough to reach even Congress' ear. On July 26, the Senate voted 98-0 to allow the hosting of scout events, such as the jamboree, on military bases.

With religiousness goes commitment to religious norms. Here again the scouts fall short -- ideologically speaking. The scouts have fought for, and won in court, the right to exclude professed homosexuals from membership and leadership posts. Naturally, gay rights agitators have leaned hard on public schools and charitable organizations, especially United Way, to drop support of the scouts.

Sometimes it works, sometimes not. The real payoff is the chance to fill the air with denunciations of scout "homophobia" and thus injure the organization's community standing. It's a tactic that trial lawyers understand well: When you can't win with the facts, start slinging the mud.

Who once would have believed this kind of nuttiness could take root here: commitment to God and country and moral fiber assailed in federal court as un-American and subversive of democracy? Here comes Bush, at any rate, to do something welcome and valuable, namely, to throw the prestige of his office behind the cause of scouting -- and on government property yet, Fort A.P. Hill.

"It's a fantastic sight," the president says, "to look out on more than 30,000 young men wearing the uniform of the Boy Scouts." (Young men the ACLU would probably love to evict from the premises.)

"When you join a scout troop, and put on the Boy Scout uniform, you make a statement. Your uniform is a sign that you're a certain kind of citizen -- trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. These are the values of scouting, and they're important values for America …

"I'm standing in front of America's future leaders. When you follow your conscience, and the ideals you have sworn as a scout, there is no limit to what you can achieve for your country."

And so on. The presidential pulpit has no end of uses: not the least of which is hitting a lick for common sense when such a lick, or a barrage of licks, seems called for. Here was one of those moments, and Mr. Bush delivered -- loyally, helpfully, cheerfully and more than just a bit bravely.

©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Bill Murchison Read Murchison's biography

Mike Lupica: To Tell Truth, Raffy Faces the Consequences

The New York Daily News
August 2, 2005

Mark McGwire, as bad as he looked in front of the Congress of the United States, at least had the decency to take the Fifth Amendment, even if McGwire never used the words about refusing to answer questions about steroids on the grounds that he could incriminate himself.

It doesn't get McGwire off the hook, or clear his name with baseball fans. But McGwire, on the day when he could no longer hide, on the day when he looked as if he had just taken a fastball to the ribs, didn't lie to Congress about drugs.

It doesn't make him a hero, anymore than Jason Giambi is a hero because he didn't lie to a grand jury. At least neither one of them pointed his finger at everybody the way steroid user and Viagra pitchman Rafael Palmeiro did in front of Congress, then denied steroid use the way Bill Clinton pointed his finger at the country once and denied that he'd ever had sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.

We all threw the book at McGwire that day, treated his repeated answers that he didn't want to talk about the past as a full confession. Even without a positive drug test, no one will ever believe again that McGwire didn't get help from a needle or a pill when he was hitting 70 home runs in 1998.

We've got a positive drug test on Palmeiro, though, almost before his 3000th hit in the big leagues stops rolling.

Of course Palmeiro says it was all a big mistake. That is what he was telling Major League Baseball officials the past couple of weeks, as he tried to beg and plead his way into arbitration on this and out of trouble. He didn't know what he was taking.

A teammate gave him something and he took it. Now he tells us he didn't "intentionally" use steroids. No one believes him. He is a cheat and a phony and a liar, unless you believe this trip to the chemist, after 20 years in the big leagues, was his first.

"I am against the use of steroids," he says under oath on March 17. "I don't think athletes should use steroids and I don't think our kids should use them. That point of view is one, unfortunately, that is not shared by our former colleague, Mr. Canseco."

He was talking about Jose Canseco, who named Palmeiro as a steroid user in a book. It turns out Canseco was the most honest guy in the room.

"To the degree an individual player can be helpful, perhaps as an advocate to young people about the dangers of steroids, I hope you will call on us," Palmeiro told Congress. "I, for one, am ready to heed that call."

He should have worried about the dangers steroids posed to his reputation, and his Hall of Fame chances. The idea that he gets just 10 days for this, after sitting there and lecturing everybody about the evils of drugs, is exactly why the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, sent a letter to Donald Fehr of the Major League Baseball Players (and Enablers) Association on the 25th of April saying that the policy needs dramatic strengthening.

Selig was asked the other day if he has gotten a real response from Fehr, other than a letter back.

"In terms of them doing something about this?" Selig said. "No, I have not."

Even now, you know what the real drug policy is from the leadership of the Major League Baseball Players Association? Hoping the whole thing goes away. As they keep telling us, along with the few media flacks they have left, that the current program and its system of penalties is working like a charm.

So an amazing fraud like Palmeiro gets off with 10 days when he should be gone for the season. Giambi, who apologized as a way of getting sympathy and was as evasive as McGwire as a way of protecting his contract, will never serve a day of baseball time.

Palmeiro lectures Congress about the evils of drugs and now comes up dirty for a steroid that was described to me yesterday as "severe." For that he gets a sentence that is nowhere close to what Selig was allowed to give Kenny Rogers for going after those cameramen.

Palmeiro says he has never ever intentionally used steroids, then apologizes for making a mistake, then talks about how this can be a good thing in the long run, as though this is really some kind of personal triumph. It is something only suckers believe. Well, suckers and the President of the United States.

Oh sure. A White House spokesman says that President Bush, who once was a Texas Rangers owner, considers Palmeiro a friend and believes his latest version of the truth, the one that makes Palmeiro sound like somebody apologizing for being careless enough to get his wallet stolen.

One big-league manager talked yesterday about how players used to laugh when Palmeiro, notoriously casual about conditioning, started to show up at spring training with new muscles.
"Tell him the truth will set you free," that manager said when he got the news yesterday about Palmeiro.

Palmeiro didn't tell the truth, or get set free. He got 10 days. Selig ought to be able to suspend him for the rest of the season. The commissioner ought to be able to give him that for his testimony alone. When Palmeiro pointed his finger at Congress that day, it just turns out he was pointing in the wrong direction.

George Vecsey: Palmeiro Has Thrown Away His Credibility

Orioles' Palmeiro Has Thrown Away His Credibility. Period.
The New York Times
Published: August 2, 2005

With his Wayne Newton mustache and his expensive suit, Rafael Palmeiro oozed sincerity, under oath. He claimed he wanted to distance himself from the accusations of Jose Canseco, sitting right there, who had written that Palmeiro had used steroids when they were teammates in Texas in 1992 and '93.

"I have never used steroids. Period," Palmeiro testified March 17, in front of Congress. "I don't know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never."

Now a new word has crept, and I do mean crept, into Palmeiro's vocabulary. The word is "intentionally." Because Rafael Palmeiro, with his 3,018 hits and 569 home runs, has tested positive for steroids and must sit out a 10-day suspension that sounds more like lifetime suspicion.

Palmeiro has been detected with some form of steroids in his system, in the first year of serious testing after many years of stonewalling by the players union.
The players were finally forced - against the dig-in-your-heels tactics of their union's executive director, Donald Fehr - to undergo tougher testing, and look who got caught: a bona fide candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame, at least until yesterday.

Other stars like Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi have testified before the grand jury investigating the Balco laboratory in California. Palmeiro got tripped up by a basic steroid test, presumably administered since that March 17 session in Congress.

That day, he came off the best of the five stars, which isn't saying much. Mark McGwire was pathetic. Sammy Sosa hid behind an interpreter. Curt Schilling, not accused of anything, turned unctuously bland when asked about drugs in baseball. And Palmeiro insisted he wanted to set the record straight:
"I am against the use of steroids," Palmeiro said that day. "I don't think athletes should use steroids, and I don't think our kids should use them. That point of view is one, unfortunately, that is not shared by our former colleague, Jose Canseco. Mr. Canseco is an unashamed advocate for increased steroid use by all athletes."

Good grief. Given the current suspension, the brazen Canseco now comes off as the most forthright of that sorry lot.

Palmeiro wants us to believe he has no idea how the foreign substance got into his system. But something good will come out of this, he insisted yesterday. From this shameful day onward, Rafael Palmeiro is volunteering to be an object lesson to children.

"You have to be careful what you're taking," he said, adding that children had to be careful about accepting "supplements" and "vitamins."

Of course they must. Children must also be careful not to stuff beans up their noses or stick their tongues against frozen playground poles in winter. But they probably already know that. Only a ballplayer with 20 years in the major leagues is dumb enough to swallow a bunch of stuff without getting it cleared by a doctor or a pharmacist.

Palmeiro said yesterday that he could not discuss the specifics of his positive test. His logic for why he would never knowingly take steroids was: "Why would I do this in a season when I went before Congress? It makes no sense. I'm not a crazy person. I'm not stupid."

We have all seen prosecutors on "Perry Mason" break into helpless giggles at lines like that.
People cheat. People get caught. People rationalize. Having been around other sports in which drugs and testing are part of the culture - track and field, Olympic cross-country skiing and cycling come to mind - I have come to regard athletes as essentially an addicted subsociety, even worse than the general population because the rewards are so high.

Anybody who believes athletes' bluster and dog-ate-the-homework denials deserves the disillusionment that sets in down the road. I've heard Ben Johnson and Diego Maradona insist there must be some kind of mistake.

Unless Palmeiro can come up with proof that somebody maliciously sprinkled bad stuff on his pancakes, he has to live with the broader shame that now comes from this suspension. Ten days are nothing. Welcome back, Raffy, you're hitting fifth tonight.

But if he retires after this season, Palmeiro will be up for election to the Hall of Fame in five years. He was already facing skepticism as a hitter with excellent career totals who had never dominated his sport.

Aside from the Viagra commercials (exactly how much money can a star possibly need?), this suspension is now the defining moment in Rafael Palmeiro's career - not some hot streak when he carried his team through a September pennant race, not some midnight-hour showdown in late October.

Rafael Palmeiro will forever be known for his positive test, four and a half months after his steadfast denial to Congress. What a coincidence.


Thomas Boswell: A Big Star Plays a Bad Hand

The Washington Post
Tuesday, August 2, 2005; E01

BALTIMORE -- The benefit of the doubt is a terrible thing to lose.

Just five months ago, Rafael Palmeiro banked on that benefit of the doubt, a gift that America grants with universal and often indiscriminate generosity to anyone who requests it, when he testified before a Congressional committee.

"Let me start by telling you this, I have never used steroids. Period," said the Baltimore Orioles slugger who is one of four men in history with 500 homers and 3,000 hits.

Palmeiro pointed his finger for emphasis, a gesture that was universally understood. He was pushing all his chips, accumulated over a career, into the center of the table. All his well-known civic and charitable good deeds, his reputation as a clean player, were shoved into the pot to counterbalance the charge, made by Jose Canseco, that Canseco had injected Palmeiro with steroids on many occasions when they were teammates. Canseco wrote the accusation in a book. Then he swore to it before Congress. And Palmeiro denied it utterly, sitting just a few feet from Canseco.

There was no gray. Somebody was lying.

Of all the players in baseball, the least likely man to be caught cheating with steroids this season would be Palmeiro, right? Even if he had used them every day of his career, he would stop now, because anyone in their right mind would cease and desist.

Yet, in one of the most unexpected announcements ever made in baseball, Palmeiro has been caught, suspended and has actually admitted to using steroids this season. Palmeiro simply claims that he has no idea how they got in his body.

Abducted by aliens? Sat too close to Canseco at the hearing? Got a package in the mail that was intended for Jason Giambi?

Add Palmeiro to the list of those who did not "knowingly" cheat. Just 17 days ago, he was being celebrated for his 3,000th hit. Now, in one day, he's the tag line to every cynical wisecrack. The quip circulating among writers who vote on the Hall of Fame is that, someday, Palmeiro may be left out of Cooperstown, but not "knowingly," just by collective accident.

Palmeiro is now America's stock joke, its villain of the week, its symbol of hypocrisy or stupidity. In this culture, everybody gets a second chance, provided they come clean about their sins and take their punishment. And everybody also gets the benefit of the doubt. But heaven help you if, after playing that once-per-lifetime, I-swear-on-a-stack-of-Bibles card, you get nailed.

On ESPN radio on Monday, a tape was played over and over of former president Bill Clinton, saying, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," followed by Palmeiro saying, "I have never used steroids, period." In the background, banjos from "Deliverance."

For those of us who have known Palmeiro for years and like him -- which is not the same as believing him -- this is a bitter day. Palmeiro may have the most logical line of self-defense ever uttered by someone who will be believed by very few.

"Why would I do that in a year when I went in front of Congress and I testified and I told the truth?" Palmeiro said. "Why would I do this in a season when I was going to get to 3,000 hits? It makes no sense. I would not put my career on the line. I would not put my reputation on the line and everything I have accomplished throughout my career. I would not do that. . . . It was an accident. I'm paying the price. . . .

"This is the toughest time that I've gone through in my life with anything."

All this makes sense -- of a sort. President Bush, who owned the Rangers when Palmeiro was a star for them, said: "Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him. . . . Still do."

However, personal friends aside, Palmeiro may be surprised at how few people will give him a second benefit of the doubt, especially on such a large scale. The Oriole is now asking the public to ignore both a direct accusation by Canseco, which he has not challenged in court, and a laboratory test result that he does not even contest.

Also, in the manner of other non-confession confessions, Palmeiro sounded contrite Monday when he said: "I made a mistake and I am facing it. I hope that people learn from my mistake and that the fans can forgive me."

Forgive, certainly, in time. But forget the link now forged between Palmeiro and steroids? Not likely. According to one industry source, the steroid in Palmeiro's system was a "serious" one. That would seem a forgone conclusion. Would baseball take action against so famous a player unless the facts were damning enough that nobody could contradict their seriousness?

Palmeiro and his agent, as well as the Orioles, repeated many times that they could not go into details about Palmeiro's steroid blunder because of some "confidentiality" issues. "I would love to tell what happened to me so that everyone would understand," said Palmeiro, "but under this confidentiality agreement, I cannot get specific."

Unfortunately, what we may have here is a Stupidity Test. As in: How stupid are we? Whose "confidentiality" is being protected? Palmeiro's, of course. If he wanted to explain more, who could stop him from defending his good name? The union and baseball have a confidentiality agreement that prevents them from releasing information. But that doesn't put masking tape over the player's mouth. If Palmeiro had a compelling story, who could force him to stay silent?
When Raffy comes back in 10 days, maybe he'll have a tale to tell. But by then, it will probably be far too late. The damage is done. Those in Camden Yards on Monday could only shake their heads when they looked at the huge sign on the B&O Warehouse -- two stories high and three windows wide -- that said, "Congratulations, Raffy! 3,000."

As Palmeiro was chasing his 3,000th hit, he surely knew what was chasing him. This wasn't a short process. A drug test was positive. A 10-day suspension was given. The union filed a grievance on Palmeiro's behalf. Ultimately, an arbitration panel rejected that grievance on Monday. As Palmeiro listened to cheers, he probably suspected that even more jeers were on the way.

Since the late '80s, many in baseball have taken steroids. Recently, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt said that, if he'd played in the current era, he thought he would have succumbed to temptation and taken steroids. Couldn't have resisted the peer pressure. Would have wanted to compete, be the top dog. Would have probably accepted the risk to health and reputation.

There but for the grace of God go I, said Schmitty. But he also said taking steroids was cheating. No way around it.

For two years our sports culture, right up to Congress, has been building a huge Steroid Trap, just waiting for a famous star to get caught inside. Somebody was going to get nailed, become the symbol and carry the weight. All the more fitting if the culprit was a shocker, perhaps somebody who shook his finger in the face of Congress and demanded his right to the benefit of the doubt. Too bad it turned out to be Rafael Palmeiro. It could have been so many bigger rats.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Springsteen's Letter to the NY Times Editor

Published: July 31, 2005

Greetings From Rumson, N.J.
To the Editor:Regarding "The Boss Bibliography" (July 3), by A. O. Scott:

The merits of my music and performances over the last 30 years I gladly leave to the fans, critics and writers. On the subject of "image," however, I thought I might be able to provide some simple clarification.

The "saintly, man of the people" thing I occasionally see attached to my name is bull – – – –. It was perhaps invented, like myself, by Jon Landau . . . or maybe by that high school kid somewhere who supposedly wrote "Blowin' in the Wind." Life, art and identity are, of course, much more complicated. How do I know? I heard it in a Bruce Springsteen song.

Rumson, N.J.

Mark Steyn: Terrorists Way Too Cozy in United Kingdom

July 31, 2005
The Chicago Sun-Times

On Tuesday, the Times of London contained this intriguing tidbit about one of the thwarted suicide bombers of the July 21 tube attacks -- Yasin Hassan Omar, a Somali ''asylum seeker'':
''Omar, who was last seen vaulting a barrier at Warren Street station, has been the registered occupant of the flat since 1999. Ibrahim, who was last seen in Hackney Road, East London, after his failed attempt to blow up a No. 26 bus, shared it with him for the past two years. Omar, received £88 a week in housing benefit to pay for the council property and also received income support, immigration officials say.''

''Council property'' is Britspeak for public housing. So here's how things stand four years after 9/11: United Kingdom taxpayers are subsidizing the jihad.

There's a cheery thought for any Englishman the next time he's on a bus when some Islamakazi self-detonates: It's on his tax bill; pay as you blow.

This isn't some stunning shocking development, either. In a column on December 29, 2001, I noted the likes of Zac Moussaoui, the French citizen who became an Islamist radical while living on welfare in London, and wrote: "If you're looking for 'root causes' for terrorism, European-sized welfare programs are a good place to start . . . Tony Blair pays Islamic fundamentalists in London to stay at home, fester and plot.''

I wasn't the first to notice the links between Euro-Canadian welfare and terrorism. Mickey Kaus, the iconoclastic California liberal, was way ahead. But, after 3-1/2 years, one would be entitled to assume that Tony Blair might have spotted it, too -- especially given the ever greater numbers of British jihadi uncovered from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Israel and America.

That's why a law-enforcement approach to the war on terror -- the John Kerry approach -- can't work, not just because it's mostly reactive -- blow somewhere up, we'll seal it off, and detectives will investigate it as a crime scene -- but also because it involves entrusting the whole business to the state bureaucracy, and trusting them to improve scrutiny of immigration, entitlement to welfare and other matters within the purview of government. That snippet from the Times makes clear the likelihood of that happening. A ''criminal'' approach gives terrorists all the rights of criminals, and between British and European -- and, indeed, American -- ''human rights,'' that's quite a bundle. If it's a war, you can take wartime measures. But, if you fight this thing as a law enforcement matter, Islamist welfare queens will use all the above to their full extent. So today imams living off welfare checks openly promote the murder of Tony Blair, British troops, etc., with impunity.

Madrid and London -- along with other events such as the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh -- are, in essence, the opening shots of a European civil war. You can laugh at that if you wish, but the Islamists' most oft-stated goal is not infidel withdrawal from Iraq but the re-establishment of a Muslim caliphate living under sharia that extends to Europe, and there's a lot to be said for taking these chaps at their word and then seeing whether their behavior is consistent with that.

Furthermore, there's a lot more of the world that lives under sharia than there was, say, 30 years ago: Pakistan adopted it in 1977, Iran in 1979, Sudan in 1984. Fifty years ago, Nigeria lived under English common law; now, half of it's in the grip of Islamic law. So, as a political project, radical Islam has made some headway, and continues to do so almost every day of the week: Since the beginning of the year, for example, some 10 percent of southern Thailand's Buddhist population has abandoned their homes -- a far bigger disruption than the tsunami, yet all but unreported in the Western press. And whatever one's opinion of the various local conflicts around the world -- Muslims vs. Buddhists in Thailand, Muslims vs. Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims vs. Jews in the Holy Land, Muslims vs. Russians in Chechnya, Muslims vs. Christians in Africa -- the fact is the jihad has held out a long time against very tough enemies. If you're not shy about taking on the Israelis and Russians, why wouldn't you fancy your chances against the Belgians and Spaniards?

If the jihad has its war aims, maybe we should start thinking about ours. What would victory look like? As fascism and communism were in their day, Islamism is now the ideology of choice for the world's grievance-mongers. That means we have to destroy the ideology, or at least its potency -- not Islam per se, but at the very minimum the malign strain of Wahhabism, which thanks to Saudi oil money has been transformed from a fetish of isolated desert derelicts into the most influential radicalizing force in contemporary Islam, from Indonesia to Yorkshire to Virginia. Europeans who aren't prepared to roll back Wahhabism had better be prepared to live with it, or under it.

Mustering the popular will for that sort of struggle isn't easy. But the longer you leave it the harder it becomes. These days, if an American business traveler lands at Heathrow, the immigration officer plunks down in his passport a big stamp saying ''RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS PROHIBITED.'' What a pathetic example of pointless gesture politics: If you're a fancypants executive in town for 48 hours to splash a ton of hard currency around the West End, British immigration goes through a big hoop-de-do about saying you've no entitlement to welfare. But if you're a Somali and you want to live in public housing at public expense for six years while you fine-tune your plot to blow up Warren Street Tube station, pas de probleme!

That's a classic example of what you get when you opt for a narrowly drawn law enforcement approach entrusted to a complacent bureaucracy: Rather than do anything about immigrant welfare fraud, they'll simply order up a new rubber stamp that gives the vague air of doing something about it. And back in the real world, daily, weekly, remorselessly, the situation will deteriorate. The British have been heroic in Iraq. They need to show they can do it closer to home.