Saturday, August 27, 2005

Michelle Malkin: Racial Profiling For Dollars

The Washington Times
Published August 27, 2005

The Bush administration supports racial profiling -- as long as it lines the pockets of the right people.

Bean-counting government bureaucrats are free to take race, ethnicity and gender into account when doling out public funds to non-white-male contractors.

But God help law enforcement officers, air marshals and border agents who try to use those same factors to combat terrorism and protect American lives.

What Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta stubbornly refused to do to enhance homeland security, he'll gladly keep doing under the guise of boosting politically correct "diversity." This week, Mr. Mineta announced appointment of Roger Minami to head DOT's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, which "helps small, minority owned, women owned and other disadvantaged businesses compete for DOT and DOT-assisted contracts and grants." Mr. Mineta says Mr. Minami "brings to DOT a strong recognition of the potential of small businesses to help us build a safer, more efficient and more reliable transportation system."

What are Mr. Minami's qualifications to determine which contractors will make our highways, airports and mass transit safe, efficient and reliable? He comes from a family farming background, has a degree in communications, was "active in a number of Japanese-American charitable and community-based groups," and is the first Asian-American in his new position. The Mineta press release says, "Minami helped create and produce Central Coast Seniors, a weekly news and information television program for active older adults living in Santa Barbara and nearby coastal communities in California." Swell.

Mr. Minami's only relevant professional experience is serving in a similar affirmative action post at the Agriculture Department, where he "helped small and disadvantaged businesses find more opportunities in the food industry by negotiating agreements between representatives of the firms and large food-service companies."

Translation: He's an ethnic shakedown artist and a political activist crony of Mr. Mineta's. And if you dare question his credentials, you'll be knocked down with the race card faster than a high-speed Acela Express train (when it's functioning).

As I've reported before, Transportation's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, adopted by states and cities across the country, is one of the most atrociously corrupt government endeavors in existence. Scam artists of all colors have used the federal racial set-aside program to win billions of dollars' in federal contracts for themselves and their friends under the blanket presumption racial/ethnic minority equals aggrieved victim equals government entitlement.

The Bush administration defended this discriminatory scheme before the Supreme Court, which gives firms owned by certified minorities and women automatic special preferences for being "disadvantaged" -- even if they have never suffered discrimination in a transportation-related business.

The result is a taxpayer-funded racial spoils system that enshrines different rules for different races -- strict, race-based preferences for higher-bidding minorities over lower-bidding, white-owned firms.

Abuse by white- and minority-owned firms colluding to rip off taxpayers is routine:

* In May, two Denver construction firms were nabbed in a scheme to set up a Latino-owned "pass-through" firm to satisfy federal DBE minority hiring requirements.

* In June, Shamsud-din Ali was convicted in Philadelphia of racketeering and fraud related to an airport concession minority-owned subcontracting business set up as a front.

* In July, former Miami City Commissioner Art Teele and an electrical contractor were indicted on charges of conspiring to defraud Miami-Dade County of millions of dollars in minority contracts at Miami International Airport under the federal DBE program. (Teele committed suicide last month in the lobby of the Miami Herald newspaper offices.)

* Businesses and politicians in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans and Massachusetts have been implicated in similar schemes. Industry observers tell me such fraud is the rule, not the exception.

September 11 was supposed to have "changed everything." But for Mr. Bush and his Clinton holdover, Norm Mineta, it's business as usual at the Transportation Department. You can profile for profit, but not for public safety.

Homeland security? What homeland security?

Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores" (Regnery).

Friday, August 26, 2005

Peter Collier: Heterodoxy Lives!

By Peter Collier
August 26, 2005

Today begins the re-publication of all eight years of Heterodoxy magazine whose issues will appear every Friday on this page.

A Bibliographical Note by Peter Collier:

"The cultural equivalent of a drive by shooting:" That's how I once described Heterodoxy on a radio program shortly after David Horowitz and I began the magazine in 1992. The comment got the expected outraged reaction from the liberal radio host who blustered about the "immoral comparison" and asked how I would feel if I was a black from South Central LA terrified by gang violence and heard such a comment. I replied that the targets of Heterodoxy's journalistic drive bys were the left wing slave masters who were determined to withhold manumission from terrified blacks and keep them on the liberal planation.

David and I began Heterodoxy at about the time of the occupation of Washington by the Clintons which seemed to us at the time to be the political equivalent of the triumph of Faulkner's Snopes family in Yoknapatapha County.Their rise to power was parallaled by that of the tenured radicals in the universities, some of them people we had known on the Left in the 60s. Back then their deepest ambition had been to burn the university down. Failing in that objective, as in so many others, they had dived back into academia and gotten onto the tenure track when the revolutionary going got rough in the late 70s. They had accomplished the destruction of the university firelessly, so to speak, by marrying the thoughts of fascist leaning foreign intellectuals such as Paul De Man who denied the objective existence of truth to the thoughts of Marxists like Antonio Gramsci in the intellectual equivalent of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. This putsch, which had taken place silently and in slow motion, had produced a new and sinister phenomenon opponents were calling political correctness which spread outward like an airborne toxic event into the larger culture. George Orwell's "smelly little orthodoxies".seemed to be taking over the world. A cultural war had broken out, but our side didn't have an army in the field. We decided that there was only one antidote for the new orthodoxy: Heterodoxy.

It could have been an intellectual journal. But it occured to us that, mutatis mutandis, those of us who opposed this new treason of the clerks were in a position similar to the one we had been in the early 60s--a counter culture fighting against an establishment. (Except that in the historical turning of the tables this ruling elite was now leftist with a deconstructive agenda.) And our publication should therefore resemble the counter cultural underground papers of our wicked youth--irreverent and provocative and willing to enter the house of power and rearrange its furniture. Heterodoxy therefore set out, in the famous formula of A.J. Leibling, to comfort the oppressed and oppress the comfortable. For the next eight years, we attacked the world of PC relentlessly, fingering its villains and forcing them to do the perp walk. We named names. We ridiculed the fatuous. We constructed an intellectual CT-scan of the malignancy that was spreading throughout high culture. Heterodoxy was funny and brash. It took no prisoners. The magazine sometimes seemed inconsequential to us even as we produced it because its targets were, in the final analysis, such paintywaists and lightweights. But examined once again after more than a decade, it has integrity as an artifact from an era when bad ideas were in the saddle riding man kind. Then it gave our side ammunition and camp songs for the culture war. Today it is a rich archive chronicling the dada and nihilism of the plague years of Clintonism.

When Bill and Hillary left power with their political wrecking crew, it seemed to us that the plague had lifted -- or that our little combat journal was no longer required, since a new generation of culture warriors had wised up to the scam. We celebrated the symbolism by closing Heterodoxy down when George Bush was inaugurated. We look back on the experience of putting the magazine out with pleasure. There were so many enemies, so little time.
Read the entire premier issue of Heterodoxy, from April 1992 (Volume 1, No. 1), by clicking here.

Every week, a new Heterodoxy issue will be posted in its original sequence on Frontpage, until.the complete set is available. All the issues of Heterodoxy will be archived in the "Issues" section of under the link "Heterodoxy" which can be found here.

Peter Collier co-authored seven books with CSPC president David Horowitz, including the widely read Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the ‘60s. He is also the author of many other book including, biographies on the Fords, Rockefellers, and Kennedys.

S.T. Karnick: Conservative War Critics' Dilemna

By S. T. Karnick
August 26, 2005

In its unswerving and forceful opposition to the War in Iraq and in particular the nation-building efforts that have followed the quick military victory that resulted in the ouster and capture of Saddam Hussein, the antiwar right has exposed a terrible dilemma at the heart of the farther-right reaches of American conservatism.

In arguing against the Bush policy in Iraq, publications such as The American Conservative and blogs such as Lawrence Auster's View from the Right have repeatedly accused the Bush administration of adopting what the attorney and journalist Spencer Warren aptly characterizes as “the PC mantra that all societies and cultures are equal.”

Two days ago, for example, Auster demonstrated this assumption in commenting on some Muslims’ practice of female genital mutilation: “For Bush and his supporters to think that peoples who believe in such things and practice them are essentially like us and that, above all else, they desire individual freedom (if only someone will deliver it to them), is the wildest fantasy” (emphasis in original).

In a statement yesterday on his site, Auster continued this line of argument: “Muslim countries including Iraq widely practice the butchery of female genital mutilation. The adoption of a democratic constitution in Iraq is not going to change that deeply ingrained custom. A society that practices such monstrous cruelty toward its own girls and women will continue to be cruel generally, and accept the use of violence and terrorism. Therefore... Bush’s strategy must fail.”

Auster makes an important point about the persistence of cultural habits. He and other conservative writers also rely on this premise in arguments about immigration, pointing out that it is impossible for the United States adequately to assimilate large numbers of people from radically different cultures.

However, what Auster is explicitly denying in the present case, and what antiwar conservatives in general tend to sidestep in arguments about Iraq is the powerful effect of something in which he and others on the right strongly profess belief: the common characteristics that all people share as a result of human nature.

It is these characteristics that the Bush administration means to depend on in Iraq (and which are essential to any strategy of assimilating immigrants into American society). The administration may well be wrong to believe such a liberation of Iraqis' inner nature possible, but the arguments that Auster and other antiwar conservatives make regarding human nature actually lend support to such a view of human possibilities.

In a letter to this author and others, the journalist and attorney Spencer Warren, an antiwar conservative, pointed out that the great flaw of the left is its denial of human nature:
”[R]adical not the American tradition of equality of all individuals before the law, but of the absolute equality of result, custom, and historical tradition, including absolute equality of every society and culture on Earth—and the elimination of any differences dividing peoples...[S]uch extreme equality that abolishes difference is not the natural order.”

Warren then identifies the historical source of this point of view: “The drive toward coerced absolute equality has been the radical project for more than 200 years, since the French Revolution.” (Full disclosure: Warren has borrowed this distinction from my article on “The Origin of Modernity,” published in the Summer 2005 issue of The National Interest.)

He then attributes this attitude to the Bush administration: “Ironically, this egalitarian view, in the broadest sense, is the premise of Pres. Bush's policy in Iraq—that societies in that region—including their religion—are not so different from ours and can develop into free societies with some help and a good constitution. Time will tell. But the bizarre conjunction of this policy premise with the PC agenda demonstrates the profound contemporary influence of the radical egalitarian ideal.”

Warren is perfectly correct to point out that some societies and ways of life are indeed better than others. In addition, he is right to share Auster's belief that cultural habits are a matter of valid concern in public policy discussions.

Moreover, Warren improves on Auster's argument by acknowledging that the belief in total freedom from restraints of human nature is not a liberal idea but a radical one, and that the idea traces back to the beginnings of what has been commonly called the Enlightenment.

However, in arguing against Western projects of nation-building in the "developing world," conservatives such as Auster and Warren (and Buchanan and the like) face a huge dilemma: their belief in a common human nature (though one that certainly permits a wide variety of human customs and organizing beliefs) is a strong argument against radicalism of the left, but it is not useful in refuting the logic of projects based on a belief in a common human nature, which Bush's nation-building action in Iraq most certainly is.

I believe that the interaction between human nature and human culture is more complex, variable, and flexible than Auster and other antiwar conservatives tend to think. The acknowledgment of this truth is central to the classical liberal (and modern conservative) position, and from such a point of view, it appears that antiwar conservatives would make much more headway by two means:

1. Acknowledge that the Bush administration is reasoning from what the antiwar conservatives believe to be a valid premise (that all human beings share commonalities through what is called human nature) when the administration argues that the people of Iraq have the potential to live democratically. (By the way and to make it perfectly clear, I personally consider the commonalities of human nature to be a rock-solid truth based on science, strongly confirmed by modern insights in sociobiology.)

2. Argue that the mission the administration has set itself conflicts with human nature, specifically the human tendency to cling to cultural notions that, however perversely, accomplish certain things necessary to human existence (such as the need for physical and emotional security, etc.).

I would be very interested in any such arguments. In fact, Auster may have had something of the sort in mind when he argued today, “President Bush and his neoconservative supporters justified spreading democracy to Iraq on the basis that all people are the same, all people want the same individual freedoms that we want, and therefore all people are ready and able to adopt liberal democracy based on universal individual rights.”

This appears to be a small step toward acknowledging that both Bush and Auster accept the reality of human nature and that their disagreement is a factual one about the persistence of culture in the case at hand: Which is stronger in the present case—the natural human desire for freedom, or the natural human tendency to cling to cultural habits and assumptions?

Such an agreement would place the right’s arguments over Iraq on a factual basis instead of the current false vision of a conflict of fundamental worldviews. Perhaps even more important is that it would enable all parties on the right to remain steadfast in our recognition of what unites us: our belief in human nature and opposition to radical visions of human mutability and the consequent longing for utopian schemes to transform civilization and human beings.

That, after all, is where the most important war is being fought.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

From a Letter by Flannery O'Connor-

My cousin's husband who also teaches at Auburn came into the Church last week. He had been going to Mass with them but never showed any interest. We asked how he got interested and his answer was that the sermons were so horrible, he knew there must be something else there to make the people come....

Deroy Murdock: Al Qaeda Coming Through!

August 24, 2005, 8:16 a.m.
We have a special interest in who is coming into our country illegally.

Two Democratic governors, New Mexico's Bill Richardson and Arizona's Janet Napolitano, have sounded the klaxons over the bedlam on America's border with Mexico. On August 12, Richardson (who happens to be of Mexican ancestry) declared a state of emergency in four of his state's border counties. Three days later, Napolitano followed, placing four of Arizona's frontier counties in emergency status.

Beyond the usual complaints about illegal aliens straining public services, Richardson cited "kidnapping, murder, destruction of property, and the death of livestock" among the rationales for his crisis proclamation; Napolitano denounced "violent gangs, coyotes, and other dangerous criminals."

While those reasons are disturbing enough, Americans should worry even more about the growing numbers of foreigners breaking into the U.S. from nations awash in Islamic extremism.
Rep. Tom Tancredo (R., Colo.) points to Border Patrol documents that show how America's southern and northern borders routinely are traversed by predominantly Muslim Middle Easterners and North Africans.

Between October 1, 2002, and June 30, 2003, Department of Homeland Security figures show 4,226 Special Interest Aliens were apprehended on America's Mexican and Canadian borders.
By June 30, 2004, that number had swelled 42.5 percent to 6,022 SIAs from "Countries of Interest" such as those the State Department considers sponsors of terrorism (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Syria) and others where militant Islam simmers (Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen).

Full fiscal-year 2004 data record the capture of 7 Saudis, 10 Syrians, 18 Lebanese, 19 Iranians, 25 Egyptians, 28 Jordanians, and 164 Pakistanis, among others. If these figures seem small, recall the havoc 19 Middle Easterners unleashed on September 11.

"One must take into account that even the most conservative estimates of the number of folks getting by the Border Patrol are two or three times the number caught," Tancredo said. If so, at least 18,000 SIAs entered America just in the first nine months of 2004.

Perhaps these illegal aliens come here for what most immigrants want: freedom, prosperity, and better lives. But some who violate our borders do so to destroy those things.

"Recent information from ongoing investigations, detentions, and emerging-threat streams strongly suggests that al-Qaeda has considered using the southwest border to infiltrate the United States," former Homeland Security deputy secretary James Loy told the Senate Intelligence Committee last February. "Several al Qaeda leaders believe operatives can pay their way into the country through Mexico and also believe illegal entry is more advantageous than legal entry for operational security reasons."

Mahmoud Youssef Kourani paid a smuggler to be whisked across the U.S./Mexican frontier in 2001, FBI director Robert Mueller told a February 16 Senate hearing. Kourani was sentenced in June to 4.5 years in prison for raising $40,000 for Hezbollah.

The September 11 Commission identified Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, a Tijuana café owner, as a "human smuggler with suspected links to terrorists." Until his December 2002 arrest, he snuck some 200 fellow Lebanese, including Hezbollah sympathizers, into the U.S. The Associated Press found him in a Mexico City prison last month.

Last April, the June 30 Washington Times explained, Mexican officials detained four Iraqis at the airport in Mexicali, a border town. They had flown there from Mexico City, but were stopped when they were discovered traveling on bogus Dutch passports.

A phony Canadian passport accompanied Syrian Nabil al-Marabh as he took an illegal tractor-trailer ride from Canada into New York in June 2001. Linked to al Qaeda, he since has been deported.

Despite these high-profile jailings and expulsions, many captured SIAs walk away, thanks to the so-called "catch and release" policy. Since 9/11, some 118,000 non-Mexican illegal immigrants have been apprehended then unhanded due to a lack of detention facilities. Many of these are young, Middle Eastern men. Immigration officers give these aliens a document ordering them to return for court dates. They nickname this form the "notice to disappear."

While it is fair to say that most illegal Middle Easterners mean Americans no harm, it also is fair to say that, even if they do not enter the U.S. to practice terrorism, foreign-born Muslims are more susceptible than others to being radicalized and recruited into militant Islam.

Americans on the border are duly concerned. A member of the private American Border Patrol last year carried a fake suitcase bomb — complete with a large radiation symbol painted on its side — from inside Mexico, across the Arizona border, to within feet of Tucson's federal building.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . .

— Deroy Murdock is a New York-based syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Pat Buchanan: The War, The Democrats and Hillary

August 24, 2005

In June, I ventured a prediction: "A Eugene McCarthy will appear soon to pressure and challenge Hillary Clinton in 2008, if Hillary does not convert herself into an antiwar candidate ..."

Observing the Cindy Sheehan protest, I updated the prediction just last week: "September could see the coalescing of an antiwar movement that ... divides (the) Democratic Party ..." And so it has come to pass.

On Sunday's "Meet the Press," Gene McCarthy emerged in the person of Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Monday, the top headline in The Washington Post read, "Democrats Split Over Position on Iraq War." The opening paragraph:
"Democrats say a longstanding rift in the party over the Iraq war has grown increasingly raw in recent days, as stay-the-course elected leaders who voted for the war three years ago confront rising impatience from activists and strategists who want to challenge President Bush aggressively to withdraw troops."

In the long run, the Democratic Party stands to lose far more from this war than a GOP whose president led us into it. How can that be? How can a war that will go down in history as "Bush's War" end up dividing Democrats and gravely damaging their party?

First, there is the Democratic complicity in taking America into a war in which some of them never believed. In October 2002, when the war drums were beating and Bush was pawing the ground to take down Saddam, Sens. Clinton, Biden, Edwards, Kerry and Daschle voted for the war. It is thus their war, as well as Bush's war.

Some voted their interests, not their consciences. They did it to get the war issue, which was working for the Republicans in 2002, behind them.

They failed in their duty to do due diligence before transferring the war power the Constitution invested in Congress to President Bush. Like the Enron and WorldCom boards of directors, they failed to monitor the executive over whom they had oversight authority.

If Pentagon preparations for the war were deficient, why did the Democratic senators, who chaired all the relevant committees, fail to review the postwar plans of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith?

More dangerous for the Democrats is that the growing split in their party is along the same fault line as the old Vietnam fissure.

In 1964, only Sens. Gruening of Alaska and Morse of Oregon voted against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution authorizing war. But by 1967, Sen. William Fulbright, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was hectoring Secretary of State Rusk, a revolt had broken out in Democratic leadership councils over the war, and antiwar teach-ins and demonstrations had been escalating for years.

The reason Democrats must worry most today is that the antiwar movement taking shape is virulently anti-Bush; it is lodged, by and large, inside their party; it is passionate and intolerant; it has given new life to the Howard Deaniacs who went missing after the Iowa caucuses; and it will turn on any leader who does not voice its convictions.

Cindy Sheehan has sympathizers in Middle America, but to the Left she is "Mother Sheehan."
Consider Hillary's predicament. Today, she is taking the same cautious position on Iraq that Richard Nixon took in the fall of 1968 on Vietnam. She is saying she supports the war and the troops, but the war has been mismanaged and America needs new leadership.

No risk there. Hillary's problem is she is three years away from 2008, the antiwar movement increasingly looks on her as a collaborator in "Bush's War," and Democrats like Feingold are going to give these antiwar militants the rhetoric and stances they demand. Hillary's most rabid followers will depart if she does not leave Bush's side -- to lead them.

This surging antiwar movement will not permit moderates to get away with a stay-the-course, we-support-the-troops position. They will demand a timetable for withdrawal and rally to the candidate who offers one, just as antiwar Democrats rallied to Gene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy and George McGovern in 1968.

The Democrats' dilemma is hellish. If this war ends successfully, Republicans get the credit. If it ends badly, Bush will be gone, but antiwar Democrats will be blamed for having cut and run, for losing the war and for the disastrous consequences in the Persian Gulf and Arab world.
And if there are terror attacks on U.S. soil, Americans may not demand that we get out of Iraq, but that we smash the terrorists and insurgents inside Iraq, to whom the antiwar movement will be accused of giving aid and comfort.

The London bombings did not weaken Tony Blair, they strengthened him. And the history of America's wars is that wartime presidents win, unless -- like Truman and Johnson -- they quit. Then, they are succeeded by the more hawkish of the candidates the nation is offered.
Even in unpopular wars, the antiwar party is not necessarily the most rewarding place to be -- politically speaking.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Andrew C. McCarthy: Sometimes It's Who You Offend

August 22, 2005, 5:29 p.m.
Radio-talk-show host Michael Graham is out of a job.

Let’s imagine a scenario that’s not so fictional. Suppose we had a big multinational corporation called Filch. Its code of conduct includes some dubious provisions that can be interpreted to encourage aggressive business and accounting practices. Filch is huge, and overwhelmingly composed of decent, honest officers and employees. But a not insubstantial cabal of its officials, taking advantage of the climate created by the code, cheats its suppliers and customers in addition to cooking the books. When the shenanigans are publicized, the shareholders lose millions of dollars.

So a radio commentator, in the context of a reasonably accurate description of the above circumstances, comes out and says: “Filch is a fraud, through and through.”

Is that hyperbole? Perhaps. After all, fraudsters comprised only a small percentage of the personnel. The commentator’s statement could be taken to tar the law-abiding majority with the outrages of the thieves. And while the corporate code contained troublesome sections, it didn’t force anyone to go out and commit crimes, and most did not. On the other hand, great harm has been done. Further, it is settled law that a business itself (i.e., the corporate entity) can be prosecuted for offenses committed by its officials, even though most of the company’s actors are undeniably blameless.

So our commentator is, at most, a little over the top in one of his characterizations. But especially given that his description was otherwise on the mark, and that he made a point of noting the innocence of the vast run of Filch’s personnel, the remark is within the realm of fair argument. It’s certainly not a firing offense.

Unless, that is, the wrong people get offended. And that’s what happened to Michael Graham.

Graham, a commentator on ABC Radio in Washington (WMAL 630), was fired this weekend after three weeks of drum-beating by the ethnic grievance industry’s robust Muslim wing.

Here is the July 21 soundbite that did him in: “Islam has, sadly, become a terrorist organization.”

Sounds pretty bad, right? Particularly given that he refused to apologize.But hold on a second. Here is more of what he said, with the soundbite in context:

Because of the mix of Islamic theology that — rightly or wrongly — is interpreted to promote violence, added to an organizational structure that allows violent radicals to operate openly in Islam’s name with impunity, Islam has, sadly, become a terrorist organization. It pains me to say it. But the good news is it doesn’t have to stay this way, if the vast majority of Muslims who don’t support terror will step forward and re-claim their religion.

Let’s parse this, shall we?

Islamic theology is amenable to the interpretation that it promotes violence. This cannot be open to debate among serious people at this point. The scriptures speak for themselves, including some of the final (chronologically, that is) verses in the Koran — specifically, the Ninth Sura’s verse 5 (“… [F]ight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war) …”); and verse 29 (“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, from among the people of the book, until they pay the jizya [a poll-tax required in Islamic lands from those who do not convert to Islam] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”)

Or, for example, these (which I’ve cited here before):

Sura 47:4 (Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind the captives firmly: therefore is the time for either generosity or ransom until the war lays down its burdens….”);

Sura 2:191 ("[S]lay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they first fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who reject faith");

Sura 5:33 ("The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief throughout the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land");

Sura 8:12 ("Remember thy Lord inspired the angels with the message: 'I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: Smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them").

More to the point, Islamic theology has in fact been construed to promote violence, repeatedly, by Muslims — including several Islamic clerics deemed to have special authority in the religion due to their education and training. The resulting carnage is the defining issue of our era. Surely that cannot be denied by reasonable people.

Why has brutality in the name of Islam endured? Well, it is because, as Graham posits, this violence — driven by an interpretation of scriptures that self-evidently lend themselves to just such an interpretation — has long been coupled with “an organizational structure that allows violent radicals to operate openly in Islam’s name.”

The eminent Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis described the phenomenon in his 1993 book, Islam and the West. Divergences among Muslims in the interpretation of Islam, Lewis explained, are not easily labeled “heterodox” or “heretical,” for such notions are Western ones that have “little or no relevance to the history of Islam, which has no synods, churches, or councils to define orthodoxy, and therefore none to define and condemn departures from orthodoxy.”

Taken together, the lack of formal hierarchy, the plain language of Koranic passages, and what is, indisputably, the military tradition out of which Islam emerged, have made it difficult for Muslims convincingly to condemn terrorism as antithetical to their creed. Meanwhile, acts of terrorism have continued unabated. Thus, the system is open to the reasonable conclusions that: (a) it promotes violence, (b) it has spawned violence, and (c) it has been unable to restrain violence despite the vastly superior number of non-violent adherents.

Michael Graham connected these dots and reasonably found that the system, Islam, was to blame. Now, do I wish he hadn’t phrased it quite so bluntly by calling Islam itself a “terror organization”? Yes. Even if his conclusion was within the bounds of acceptable argument, in the same sense that branding the entire company a “fraud” is not unreasonable in my multi-national corporation example, the comment was not helpful. It was certain to irritate our allies in the war — authentic moderate Muslims — to call their religion “a terrorist organization.” And even if Graham was convinced he was right, being right is not always a complete defense to incivility when one has been gratuitously provocative. He certainly could have found a way to apologize for his tone without apologizing for his point.

But all this is substantially mitigated by Graham’s closing sentiments. He pointedly left his listeners with the “good news” that the vast majority of Muslims do not support terror committed in the name of their religion. And he offered what sounded like a very sincere hope that they can and will take steps to marginalize and discredit the militants’ use of Islam.

On balance, Graham did what successful radio hosts do. He made a defensible argument in a manner designed to startle. The controversial phrase was ill-advised, but it was very far from the hanging offense it has become. And while it seems unduly stubborn for him to have resisted at least some expression of regret about his phrasing, that should not, in any event, have been a precondition for keeping his job.The role of Islam in terrorism is a crucial issue. There is currently a good deal of contention, much of it from Muslim interest groups, that terrorism is a reaction to political conditions rather than a result of doctrine. That many of us would disagree — vehemently — with that assessment hardly means the argument should not be heard. But it is at least equally viable and appropriate to air the position that much of the problem of Islamic terrorism lies with Islam itself — something that even courageous Muslim moderates have acknowledged.

This was not a case of loathsome bombast. Graham made a thoughtful and defensible argument that was marred by a poor choice of words he should have realized could be painful to some of his natural allies. It was worthy of a wince, not a pink slip. In firing him, ABC not only chooses sides — the wrong side — in our most important public debate. It helps the shock troops of political correctness turn the proper focus of that debate, Islam, into a third rail.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sam Torode: It's All About Jesus

Christianity Today, August 2005

A convert to Orthodoxy reconsiders evangelicalism.
by Sam Torode posted 08/12/2005 09:00 a.m.

Twenty years ago, Thomas Howard, the brother of devotional writer Elisabeth Elliot, wrote a book titled Evangelical Is Not Enough. His basic argument was that rituals don't necessarily lead to dead religiosity. Instead, sacramental rites and liturgical rhythms can bring us closer to Christ. Howard was an Anglican at the time, and later became Roman Catholic.

I've been on a similar journey. I grew up Baptist, lost my fundamentalist faith, became interested in the ancient traditions of the church, attended a Lutheran parish for a time, and eventually wound up Eastern Orthodox.

Like Howard, I now stand on the opposite side of the liturgical fence from most evangelicals. But I've come to a different conclusion than "evangelical is not enough."

Evangelical Principles

What is evangelicalism, anyhow? Evangelical seems to be an adjective more than a noun. Evangelicals tend not to identify much with their particular churches, preferring to be known as "mere Christians." There are both evangelical Baptists and evangelical Episcopalians, though the Baptist and Episcopal churches are about as far apart as country music is from classical.

For all their diversity, evangelicals hold several principles in common. This list isn't exhaustive, but here are some key emphases of evangelicals:
(1) Salvation is by faith alone, not works.
(2) The Bible is the standard for Christian doctrine and practice.
(3) Everyone needs a personal relationship with Jesus.
(4) "The church" means all Christians everywhere, and there is no "true" or "perfect" church this side of heaven.

When I became disillusioned with the Baptist faith, I eagerly drank up the writings of Catholic and Orthodox apologists (often former Protestants themselves) who challenged these four principles. I took up their arguments and shot off combative e-mails to my evangelical friends. Among other things, I argued that:

• Salvation by faith alone is not biblical. The only time the words justified, faith, and alone appear together in the Bible, it's to say that "a man is justified by works, not by faith alone" (James 2:24).

• Sola scriptura (the idea that the Bible alone is our guide—not church tradition) isn't found in the Bible, either. Since Scripture doesn't interpret itself, we need an authoritative interpretive community to make sense of it.

• The evangelical focus on a "personal relationship" with Christ tends to obscure our corporate identity as members of the church. The New Testament writers don't say anything about "asking Jesus into our hearts." Instead, they tell us to repent and be baptized into the church.

• Jesus and the apostles founded a church, not a loose affiliation of freelance believers. The apostles laid hands on bishops to oversee this church, so as to keep the doctrine pure and prevent schism. This church must still be around today, because Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. I still believe this critique has merit. (So do many evangelicals, who realize that their core principles need some qualification.) But when I consider the four evangelical principles today, I see more to applaud than to disagree with. Why the change?

It's Not About Works

When I became Orthodox, I was tired of what I saw as evangelicalism's "cheap grace." I was ready for some discipline and hard work along the path of salvation.

If it's self-discipline you seek, Orthodoxy is definitely the tradition for you. The Orthodox Church has devised many ways to deny yourself and take up your cross—for example, by abstaining from meat and dairy products every Wednesday and Friday, as well as during long penitential seasons like Lent, Advent, and the Apostles' Fast. Married couples are encouraged to take it a step further, by abstaining from intercourse on these same fast days. (That's not something Orthodox apologists like to broadcast. When I first heard it, I announced to a friend that I could never become Orthodox; later, I learned that few Orthodox follow this custom strictly.)

Faced with all this fasting, it's easy to get obsessive. We joined a parish of mostly ex-Protestants who, like us, were eager to be good Orthodox. We looked down on those "ethnic Orthodox" who still eat their gyros and feta cheese during Lent. During church fellowship times, our conversations often centered on fasting (i.e., "What do I do if my parents offer me cheesecake on Friday?"). Fast-friendly recipes were eagerly exchanged, for everything from "Lenten pizza" (no cheese) to "Lenten chocolate cake" (tastes just like the real thing!).

One Sunday, a friend in the church confided to my wife, "Sometimes, I forget it's all about Jesus." That's when it hit us—we'd forgotten that it's all about Jesus, too. Most of the time, instead of overflowing with God's love, I was just ticked off about not being able to eat a burger. Meanwhile, my wife was feeling guilty about eating dairy products, despite being a nursing mother.

In the process of healing from this legalism, we ended up finding a new church home—a Greek one. Now, we're grateful for the relaxed attitude of our "cradle Orthodox" brothers and sisters. One of the first things our new priest said to us was, "Jesus looks at the heart—not the belly." That doesn't mean we should reject the spiritual disciplines of fasting and other "works," he added, but we need to view them as gifts from God. If you try to grasp a spiritual gift before it's given to you, you'll crash and burn.

The Bible, the Standard

My wife and I like to joke that we became Orthodox because we wanted to belong to a church where we were the "liberals." But for us, the core doctrines of the faith, such as the Virgin Birth or divinity of Christ, are not up for discussion.

Beyond the core doctrines, there is no definitive teaching on many issues of Christian life. When it comes to a disputed issue, you can find an Orthodox saint, monk, theologian, or priest to back up almost any argument. How do you know what's right?

In the front of the Orthodox Study Bible (yes, there is such a thing), there is a section of quotes about Scripture from saints throughout the centuries. Here's one from St. Nikon of Optina (20th century): "Read the Holy Gospel, be penetrated by its spirit, make it the rule of your life, your handbook; in every action and question of life, act according to the study of the Gospel. This is the only light of our life."

When evaluating any notion about the Christian life, we always have to refer to the source—the Bible. In the case of fasting, we Orthodox could avoid a lot of problems by listening to Jesus' words—"What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean'" (Matt. 15:11).

In the Orthodox Church, no individual saint, bishop, or theologian is considered infallible. Even the greatest have taught things that were later rejected. To give just one example, St. Gregory of Nyssa was a great defender of the doctrine of the Trinity, but his ideas about universal salvation conflicted with Scripture, so they failed to enter the mainstream.

Tradition is not a separate, or superior, source of light from Scripture. It is a commentary on the Light, helping us adjust our eyes to its brilliance.

Christ, Our One Mediator

Many Protestant converts to Orthodoxy and Catholicism are looking for a "final authority" on all matters of faith and life. To them, discerning the truth for yourself sounds like relativism. They are anxious to hand over their consciences to an infallible judge.

This is truer of converts to Rome, who often criticize the Orthodox for lack of a single teaching authority. But some Orthodox cling to a cult-like obedience to their priest or spiritual father. I know of one Orthodox monk who told a follower, "If I tell you to dig a hole today, and then I tell you to fill it in tomorrow, you must obey me without questioning."

In the right circumstances, obedience to authority can be an important discipline. In his letters, Paul certainly encourages us to obey our elders in the Lord. But Spirit-led obedience is joyful, not oppressive. God gifted us with free will for a reason. He doesn't force obedience. Jesus woos us with the beauty of truth and righteousness, and he desires our free response to his love.

I can't hand my free will over to a pope, priest, or spiritual father, even though these can be helpful guides. For example, I greatly admire Pope John Paul II's teachings on marriage and sexuality, but I admire them for the beauty and truth I find there, not because I take them to be divine or infallible. I am responsible for my decisions, and I alone will answer for them.

All Part of 'the Church'

Evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox disagree about the exact identity of "the church." But when the smoke clears, we all agree that everyone under the lordship of Christ, regardless of denominational affiliation, is somehow part of the church. That's the important thing. Beyond that, I'd rather avoid judgments about who's in and who's out of the church.

I'm not arguing for relativism, but humility. Objective truth exists, but our human ability to discern it is limited. In fact, Truth is not a set of ideas—it's a person. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life." We only know Truth as much as we know Christ.

I'm a grateful member of the Orthodox Church, and I'm happy to talk about the glories of this path as well as the struggles. I believe that the "trappings" of Orthodoxy—icons, liturgies, rote prayers, and other things evangelicals often are suspicious of—can bring us closer to Christ. But when these things become ends in themselves—idols instead of icons—we need to step back and remember what, or who, it's all about.

Instead of "evangelizing" my evangelical friends, I now hope to learn from them. Discussing differences is worthwhile, but it's more important to encourage each other as we grow in Christ.
It took me a while, but I think I've finally learned what really matters. Liturgical is not enough, sacramental is not enough, Catholic is not enough, and Orthodox is not enough. Only Jesus is enough.

Sam Torode is the coauthor (with wife, Bethany) of Aflame: Ancient Wisdom on Marriage (Eerdmans, 2005).Copyright © 2005 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.August 2005, Vol. 49, No. 8, Page 423
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Other discussions about the push and pull of Orthodoxy include:
Lost in America Arab Christians in the U.S. have a rich heritage and a shaky future. (March 26, 2004)
The Dick Staub Interview: Why Frederica Mathewes-Green Loves Icons Yes, we ask the saints to pray for us, she says. They are still living members of the church after all. (Sept. 8, 2003)
Tex-Mex Orthodoxy A former Southern Baptist, Dmitri Royster is now a maverick of the Orthodox Church. (May 16, 2002)
The Dick Staub Interview: Frederica Mathewes-Green The author of Facing East and The Illumined Heart talks about her spiritual journey and transformation. (Oct. 01, 2002)

Christopher Hitchens: What Cindy Sheehan Really Wants

Now imagine if she gets it.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Friday, Aug. 19, 2005, at 1:44 PM PT

When are the bureau chiefs of our newspapers and networks going to snap out of their own vacation-induced trances and send some grown-up correspondents down to Crawford, Texas? For weeks now, Cindy Sheehan has not been asked a single question that is any tougher than "How does it feel?" The media have been acting as her megaphone. After Slate published her real opinions on politics (a weird confection of pacifism with paranoid anti-Zionism) last Monday, she was eventually asked about her statement that her son Casey had been killed in a war for Israel, and she denied ever having made it. So, we must now say that, as well as being a vulgar producer of her own spectacle, and an embarrassment to her family, Cindy Sheehan is at best a shifty fantasist.

After Slate published an extract from a letter that she wrote last March to ABC Nightline, Anderson Cooper of CNN asked her about the anti-Israel remarks the letter contained. She denied making them and proceeded in her blog to assert that someone had gotten hold of her original letter and somehow doctored it. This dark and murky allegation—evincing further paranoia on her part—has been easily and convincingly refuted, as can be seen in this sidebar. Cindy Sheehan, not content with echoing the Bin-Ladenist line that the president is the real "terrorist" and that he is the tool of a Jewish cabal, has dug a pit of falsehood around her own wild story.

This week, before family matters called her away from Crawford, she mutated her demand—that the president lower himself into that pit and join her down there—into the shameless request that he join her for Friday prayers. The nerve! We all know how much the forces believe in the power of prayer, and in the president's sincere religious convictions (their contempt for this is the only thing on which I agree with them). But, hey, try anything once for a tear-jerker or a bit of moral blackmail—what Maureen Dowd has so laughably called "absolute moral authority."

What do these people imagine that they are demanding? Would they like a referendum to be held, among the relatives of the fallen in Iraq, to determine the future conduct of the war? I think I can promise them that they would heavily lose such a vote. But what if the right wing were also to demand such a vote and the "absolute moral authority" that supposedly goes with it?

One of three things could then happen. The ultra-right anti-Zionist forces of David Duke and Patrick J. Buchanan, both of whom approvingly speak of Ms. Sheehan's popular groundswell, would still lose the vote. So would the media fools who semi-automatically identify Sheehan and her LaRouche-like drivel with the "left" or "progressive" forces. This would leave us with a random pseudo-majority, made up of veterans and their relatives. Who wants this to be the group that decides? One might as well live in a populist, jingoist banana republic. Never mind the Constitution, or even the War Powers Act. Only victims and martyrs can decide! Get ready to gather under the balcony of a leader who speaks rotundly of such glory.

Then there is the question of humanitarian or pacifist emotion. Some have perhaps been drawn to "Camp Casey" out of reverence for life. Their demand, however, is an immediate coalition withdrawal from Iraq. Have they seriously asked themselves how humane the consequences of that would be? The news of a pullout would put a wolfish grin on the faces of the "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia" brigade, as Mr. Zarqawi's force has named itself in order to resolve all doubt.
Every effort would be made to detonate every available car-bomb and mine, so as to claim the withdrawal of coalition forces as a military victory for jihad. I can quite understand Ms. Sheehan's misery at the thought of her son being killed on some desolate road. But will she be on hand to console the parents whose sons are shot in the back while being ordered to surrender and withdraw?

I hope I don't insult the intelligent readers of this magazine if I point out what the consequences of such a capitulation would be for the people of Iraq. Paint your own mental picture of a country that was already almost beyond rescue in 2003, as it is handed back to an alliance of homicidal Baathists and Bin-Ladenists. Comfort yourself, if that's the way you think, with the idea that such people are only nasty because Bush made them so. Intone the Sheehan mantra—repeated this very week—that terrorism is no problem because after all Bush is the leading terrorist in the world. See if that cheers you up. Try it on your friends. Live with it, if you are ready to live with the consequences of what you desire.

This is an argument, about a real war, that deserves moral seriousness on all sides. Flippancy and light-mindedness have no place. Cindy Sheehan's cheerleader Michael Moore has compared the "insurgents" in Iraq to the American minutemen and Founding Fathers. Do I taunt him for not volunteering to fight himself in such a noble cause? Of course I do not. That would be a low and sly blow. Do I say that he is spouting fascistic nonsense? Of course I do. Is Cindy Sheehan exempt from any verdict on her wacko opinions because of her bereavement? I would say that she is not. Has she been led into a false position by eager cynics who have sacrificed nothing and who would happily surrender unconditionally to the worst enemy that currently faces civilization? That's for her to clarify. While she ponders, she should forgo prayer, stay in California, and end her protest.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America.
—Additional reporting by Blake Wilson

Nat Hentoff: Fidel's Victims and Enablers

The Washington Times
August 22, 2005

For years, Ray Bradbury's novel, "Fahrenheit 451... the temperature at which books burn," has been an inspiration to me and other millions around the world who believe in the freedom to read -- very particularly in those countries whose dictators forbid dissenting books.

We were talking about Fidel Mr. Castro's recurring crackdowns on those remarkably courageous Cubans who keep working to bring democracy to that grim island where dissenters, including independent librarians, are locked in cages, often for 20 or more years. Mr. Bradbury knew about the crackdowns, but until I told him, was not aware of Mr. Castro's kangaroo courts (while sentencing the "subversives") often ordering the burning of the independent libraries they raid, just like in "451." For example, on April 5, 2003, after Julio Valdes Guevara was sent away, the judge ruled: "As to the disposition of the photographic negatives, the audio cassette, medicines, books, magazines, pamphlets and the rest of the documents, they are to be destroyed by means of incineration because they lack usefulness." Hearing about this, Mr. Bradbury authorized me to convey this message from him to Fidel Castro:"Istand against any library or any librarian anywhere in the world being imprisoned or punished in any way for the books they circulate.

"I plead with Castro and his government to immediately take their hands off the independent librarians and release all those librarians in prison, and to send them back into Cuban culture to inform the people." Among the books destroyed through the years by Fidel's arsonists have been volumes on Martin Luther King Jr., the U.S. Constitution, and even a book by the late Jose Marti, who organized, and was killed in, the Cuban people's struggle for independence.

Whether or not the Cuban dictator ever heard of Mr. Bradbury's message to him, Mr. Castro is resolute in his repression of his people. As Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) reports: "In a renewed government crackdown on dissidents in Cuba, authorities arrested at least 57 peaceful democracy and human rights advocates," between July 13 and July 22. Three of those still imprisoned will be prosecuted under Mr. Castro's notorious Law 88, which mandates up to 20 years in prison and possible confiscation of property.
Meanwhile, Nebraska Gov. David Heineman conducted a trade mission to Havana in August that was, as the Aug. 10 New York Sun reported, "to negotiate the purchase of Nebraska-grown dry beans one of the state's largest exports by the Cuban government." Republican members of Congress Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wrote to Mr. Heineman, telling him his mission would be "sending the appalling signal that the cash of tyrants is more important than the lives of pro-democracy leaders." These members of Congress asked the governor to at least meet with leaders of the pro-democracy movement, as well as some of the political prisoners.

Mr. Heineman's spokesman AaronSanderfordtold Meghan Clyne of The New York Sun, one of the few American newspapers keeping tabs on the story of this heroic resistance to Mr. Castro, that the governor would not meet with any dissidents, and would "certainly not engage in the politics of the day." Replied Lincoln Diaz-Balart: "It's like saying politics is not part of a trip to Hitler's Germany in the 1930s. It's not a question of politics; it's a question of elemental human decency."

Now that China has become a strong supporter of Robert Mugabe, the tyrant of Zimbabwe, and is bolstering the economy that Mr. Mugabe shattered, maybe Mr. Heineman can lead a trade mission to that brutalized nation and sell more Nebraska-brown dry beans. How about a side trip to the Sudan government in Khartoum? The governor could take a world tour, boosting sales to Iran, North Korea and other totalitarian countries whose politics are of no concern to him.

Not all Nebraskans share their governor's views. There is one librarian who is very concerned with Castro's crackdowns of conscience, free speech and the freedom to read. Robert Boyce at the reference department in Lincoln City Libraries in Lincoln, Neb., tells me that he hopes to adopt a suggestion I made in previous writings on Castro: Every fall, libraries across America display during Banned Books Week actual volumes that have been banned. Why not include books banned by Castro? Boyce writes: "We are going to be putting together a very small display of banned books for the fall of 2005 Nebraska Library Association Conference in late September," and he wants to include some titles forbidden in official Cuba libraries.

This will be a significant reaching out to Cuba's imprisoned librarians by an individual American library state association -- the first time it's happened. Yet, the national Governing Council of the American Library Association continues to refuse to ask Mr. Castro to release the independent librarians in his prisons. Admirers of Mr. Castro on that governing body have blocked that clear support of the freedom to read, the very credo of the ALA.

Perhaps, in tribute to free trade if not free ideas, Mr. Heineman will send a supply of Nebraska-grown dry beans to the governing council of the ALA.

Nat Hentoff's column for The Washington Times appears on Mondays.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Clemens Has Entered Another Zone in the Twilight of His Career

Published: August 21, 2005
The New York Times

In this season of steroids, every other baseball story has been pushed to the background. It is time for one of them to start getting some real attention.

At age 43, Roger Clemens is having one of the best four or five seasons any pitcher has ever had. He has probably clinched the title of best pitcher since World War II, as well as earning a place in any serious conversation about the best ever.

Even after his worst outing of the year, in which he gave up five runs against the Brewers on Thursday, Clemens's earned run average is just 1.53. It is a mark reminiscent of Bob Gibson, Christy Mathewson and a time when mounds were higher and ballparks were bigger.

In fact, Clemens has a chance to post the lowest E.R.A. in history relative to his peers. No pitcher - not Gibson, not Mathewson, not Dutch Leonard during his great 1914 campaign (19-5, 0.96) - has ever posted an E.R.A. less than a third as big as his league's average. The National League E.R.A. is now 2.8 times greater than Clemens's. To finish the season with the best ratio of all time, Clemens would need to reduce his E.R.A. below 1.50.

"I think he's the best pitcher that I've seen in the 40 years that I've been in the major leagues," said Larry Dierker, a former Astros pitcher and manager who is now a television commentator for many of Clemens's games. "It's amazing. It's been so much fun to watch."

The most striking part of it might be that this is the second age-defying renaissance of Clemens's career. Almost a decade ago, the Red Sox did not re-sign him after two disappointing seasons, and their general manager, Dan Duquette, suggested that Clemens was entering "the twilight of his career." Then, Clemens won the Cy Young award in Toronto in each of the next two seasons.

Then came five up-and-down years with the Yankees, an announced retirement and an unretirement to join the Astros, who play a 15-minute drive from his house. He seemed to be making a kind of sentimental goodbye. Instead, he has re-emerged as the game's top pitcher.
Psychology certainly seems to play some role in the cycles of Clemens's career. He made it clear that Duquette's "twilight" line motivated him in Toronto. In Houston, the team allows him to skip some road games, and Clemens seems more relaxed as a result.

But Tim Purpura, the Astros' general manager, said Clemens was also better rested because of the unusual arrangement. Before the team signed him, Purpura asked Nolan Ryan - the Hall of Fame pitcher who is now a special assistant to the general manager for the Astros - whether less travel would have helped Ryan's body when he was pitching in his 40's. Ryan said it definitely would have. In an age of private planes, he encouraged the team to make the deal.

"The freedoms we give him - he has used them to our advantage," Purpura said. "Baseball can be somewhat monotonous, day after day, the same places, the same people. We get into a grind. I think to break up that grind may be a positive for him."

Purpura added, "He's a very happy man, and it shows in his work."

The accumulated experience of 21 seasons probably helps, too. Clemens now uses the first couple of innings of a game to figure out which of his pitches are working that night, Dierker noted, then picks his spots with those pitches for the rest of the game.

"He almost never throws a ball over the middle of the plate, and still doesn't walk anyone," Dierker said.

Clemens is chasing Leonard of the 1914 Red Sox for the best season compared to his peers. The American League E.R.A. in 1914 was about 2.8 times higher than Leonard's, according to numbers from, an online encyclopedia. The modern record holder is Pedro Martínez, who had a 1.74 E.R.A. in 2000 with a ratio just under Leonard's. Clemens's finest showing until this year was a ratio of 2.2 in 1997 (2.05 E.R.A.) one of the best 15 seasons ever.

Still, Clemens might be denied the Cy Young award this year. The sportswriters who vote on it tend to focus on victories, and the Astros' paltry offense has denied him a bunch this year.

But that would not alter Clemens's place in history. He already has seven Cy Youngs, two more than anybody else. At his peak - all three peaks, more precisely - he has been about as good as anyone. Over his career, he has been far more durable than Leonard, Gibson, Mathewson, Sandy Koufax, Lefty Grove and others who dominated as he has.

Only Walter Johnson and Cy Young himself, who each pitched more than 20 seasons, can match Clemens for greatness and longevity. That is not bad company as it is, and Clemens might have another season or two - a twilight - left in him.

Saving His Best for Close to Last