Friday, September 02, 2005

Victor Davis Hanson- Terrorism: "Rules of the Game Are Changing"

1 September 2005
The Honolulu Advertiser

Not long ago, Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla, an authentic American hero, was shot three times in Mosul, Iraq, as he led his men into a terrorist enclave.

The jihadist who shot him survived and was given first-rate American medical care for his wounds. It turns out that the terrorist had been captured earlier in December 2004, on suspicion of being involved in a deadly suicide attack on an American base. Then he was turned over to the Iraqis, sent to the notorious Abu Ghraib jail and released. Once free, he returned to his job of killing Americans and his rendezvous with Lt. Col. Kurilla.

For bickering Americans back home, Abu Ghraib is a "stalag," but for the terrorists, it's apparently a rest stop before resuming their hunt for Americans.

This recent incident once more reflects how confused we are in the West over the proper means to obtain the needed ends. While we worry that we have gone too far in our harshness, our enemies are convinced that in our softness we are too far gone to win this war.

This fight is quite different from past conflicts. None of the jihadists have uniforms. Their first, not last, resort is terrorism. They know they cannot win unless they murder and demoralize civilians, preferably here in the United States, as we saw on Sept. 11.

But there is another difference as well that involves us, not just the enemy. In the past, a poorer and less sophisticated United States largely embraced a tragic vision of dealing with the world as it was rather than what it hoped it might be.

Our forebears believed that they did not have to be perfect to be good. To them, war, like poverty and depression, was another of the tragedies of the human experience where there were no good choices — the least ghastly being victory at all costs.

So this war against Islamic fascism is a perfect storm of sorts, involving an enemy that uses stealth and counts on the very liberty and magnanimity of Western society to destroy it at its pinnacle of affluence and sensitivity.

Take another recent example. Last week, a Palestinian suicide bomber, having crossed into Beersheba to blow himself up at an Israeli bus station, wounded 50 civilians. He apparently walked in from Hebron on the West Bank. The border was not yet fenced off by the advancing Israeli "wall."

We in the Western world have often harangued the Israelis for building such an "apartheid"-like barrier to separate themselves from the aggrieved Palestinians.

Some were hopeful that after Israel left Gaza, the Palestinians would have begun work on crafting a new autonomous society rather than sending suicide murderers back into Israel proper as thanks.

But an older logic of our dark past seems at play here: The suicide bomber crossed because he could. And the would-be killer apparently interpreted recent Israeli magnanimity as a new sign of weakness.

The same disconnect is true of Guantanamo, our Cuban prison designed to hold wartime terrorists caught out of uniform and not subject to the Geneva Convention. Qurans and prayer services are provided; meals feature Mideast dishes with ingredients sensitive to Islamic law.

Although no one has died at Guantanamo, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., recently compared Guantanamo to something out of the Third Reich or the Soviet gulag. But those who have to guard violent terrorists there have different worries — like the several released jihadists who have returned to Afghanistan to aid the Taliban remnants in attacking American soldiers.

We also lament the Patriot Act, supposed Islamophobia and new restrictive immigration guidelines. Meanwhile in July, five men were arrested with thousands of dollars in cash, videos of landmarks and maps of the New York subway system — four of them in violation of immigration laws and all from Egypt. A little earlier across the country in sleepy Lodi, Calif., two Pakistani radicals — who had entered the United States on religious visas — were alleged to be in involved in jihadist activity and were in violation of their immigration status.

Post-Cold War Westerners at the "end of history" have convinced themselves that their primordial past is long gone — just when Osama bin Laden and Co. arrived from it to assure them that it most decidedly is not.

Of course, we have had this debate over competing therapeutic and tragic visions of human nature here at home since the 1960s. We are still arguing over carrot-and-stick dilemmas, such as incarceration versus rehabilitation or workfare in place of welfare.

But now the debate is not over public policy, but rather our very survival — as we struggle to find the proper way of defeating a vicious enemy without losing our liberal soul.

In Britain, a liberal Tony Blair has already made his choice to get tougher after the London bombings: "Let no one be in any doubt: The rules of the game are changing."
Indeed, they must and are.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford Universi

Larry Elder: Guns Kill...Bad People

Larry Elder
September 2, 2005

Forty-six-year-old Joyce Cordoba stood behind the deli counter while working at a Wal-Mart in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Suddenly, her ex-husband -- against whom Ms. Cordoba had a restraining order -- showed up, jumped over the deli counter, and began stabbing Ms. Cordoba. Due Moore, a 72-year-old Wal-Mart customer, witnessed the violent attack. Moore, legally permitted to carry a concealed weapon, pulled out his gun, and shot and killed the ex-husband.
Ms. Cordoba survived the brutal attack and is recovering from her wounds. This raises a question. How often do Americans use guns for defensive purposes? We know that in 2003, 12,548 people died through non-suicide gun violence, including homicides, accidents and cases of undetermined intent.

UCLA professor emeritus James Q. Wilson, a respected expert on crime, police practices and guns, says, "We know from Census Bureau surveys that something beyond a hundred thousand uses of guns for self-defense occur every year. We know from smaller surveys of a commercial nature that the number may be as high as two-and-a-half or three million. We don't know what the right number is, but whatever the right number is, it's not a trivial number."

Criminologist and researcher Gary Kleck, using his own commissioned phone surveys and number extrapolation, estimates that 2.5 million Americans use guns for defensive purposes each year. He further found that of those who had used guns defensively, one in six believed someone would have been dead if they had not resorted to their defensive use of firearms. That corresponds to approximately 400,000 of Kleck's estimated 2.5 million defensive gun uses. Kleck points out that if only one-tenth of the people were right about saving a life, the number of people saved annually by guns would still be at least 40,000.

The Department of Justice's own National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study titled "Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms," estimated that 1.5 million Americans use guns for defensive purposes every year. Although the government's figure estimated a million fewer people defensively using guns, the NIJ called their figure "directly comparable" to Kleck's, noting that "it is statistically plausible that the difference is due to sampling error." Furthermore, the NIJ reported that half of their respondents who said they used a gun defensively also admitted having done so multiple times a year -- making the number of estimated uses of self-defense with a gun 4.7 million times annually.

Former assistant district attorney and firearms expert David Kopel writes, "[W]hen a robbery victim does not defend himself, the robber succeeds 88 percent of the time, and the victim is injured 25 percent of the time. When a victim resists with a gun, the robbery success rate falls to 30 percent, and the victim injury rate falls to 17 percent. No other response to a robbery -- from drawing a knife to shouting for help to fleeing -- produces such low rates of victim injury and robbery success."

What do "gun control activists" say?

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence's website displays this oft-quoted "fact": "The risk of homicide in the home is three times greater in households with guns." Their web site fails to mention that Dr. Arthur Kellermann, the "expert" who came up with that figure, later backpedaled after others discredited his studies for failing to follow standard scientific procedures. According to The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Kellermann now concedes, "A gun can be used to scare away an intruder without a shot being fired," admitting that he failed to include such events in his original study. "Simply keeping a gun in the home," Kellermann says, "may deter some criminals who fear confronting an armed homeowner." He adds, "It is possible that reverse causation accounted for some of the association we observed between gun ownership and homicide -- i.e., in a limited number of cases, people may have acquired a gun in response to a specific threat."

More Guns, Less Crime author John Lott points out that, in general, our mainstream media fails to inform the public about defensive uses of guns. "Hardly a day seems to go by," writes Lott, "without national news coverage of yet another shooting. Yet when was the last time you heard a story on the national evening news about a citizen saving a life with a gun?...An innocent person's murder is more newsworthy than when a victim brandishes a gun and an attacker runs away with no crime committed...[B]ad events provide emotionally gripping pictures. Yet covering only the bad events creates the impression that guns only cost lives."

Americans, in part due to mainstream media's anti-gun bias, dramatically underestimate the defensive uses of guns. Some, after using a gun for self-defense, fear that the police may charge them for violating some law or ordinance about firearm possession and use. So many Americans simply do not tell the authorities.

A gunned-down bleeding guy creates news. A man who spared his family by brandishing a handgun, well, that's just water-cooler chat.

Larry Elder is the author of the newly-released Showdown. Larry also wrote The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America. He is a libertarian talk show host, on the air from 3-7 pm Pacific time, on KABC Talkradio in Los Angeles. For more information, visit

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Ann Coulter: How About Ted Kennedy's Privacy
Ann Coulter (archive)
September 1, 2005

Sen. Teddy Kennedy has demanded that the Bush administration waive attorney-client privilege and release internal memos John Roberts worked on while in the solicitor general's office 15 years ago, all of which were supposed to be held in the deepest confidence. Apparently, Kennedy thinks public officials have no right to keep even their attorney-client communications secret.

This surprised me because the senator is such a strong advocate of the (nonexistent) "right to privacy." And not just in the way most drunken, Spanish quiz-cheating, no-pants-wearing public reprobates generally cherish their own personal right to privacy. I mean privacy in the abstract.

I know as much about the "right to privacy" as I know about any other made-up, nonexistent right, but I would have thought that any "right to privacy" would protect confidential attorney-client conversations at least as much as, say, abortions in public buildings.

But I'll have to defer to the expert.

Consequently, applying the principle even-handedly to members of the executive branch as well as the legislative branch, I demand that Kennedy immediately waive all attorney-client privilege relating to his communications with his lawyer after he drove Mary Jo Kopechne off the bridge at Chappaquiddick. It's time to clear up, once and for all, the many questions that have swirled around Kennedy since Chappaquiddick.

Oops – "swirled" may have been a poor choice of words there. How about "floated"? Nope. "Surfaced"? Oooh – even worse, in terms of irony. "Come to light"? OK, now I'm just being obtuse. "Beset"? Yes, that's better.

Youth is no defense. John Roberts was 26 years old when he wrote the documents that Kennedy demands on behalf of the Senate. Kennedy was 36 when he drove Mary Jo Kopechne off a bridge.

If the Senate needs to know what Roberts thought about the law at age 26, then the Senate certainly needs to know what Kennedy thought about the law at age 36, when he drowned a girl and then spent the rest of the evening concocting an alibi instead of calling the police.

This isn't a "rehash" of Chappaquiddick; it's never been hashed. The Senate needs to know whether Kennedy was guilty of manslaughter. How else can the Senate be expected to carry out its constitutional duty to expel Kennedy unless Kennedy makes these key documents available?

We'll pick them up in the same van we send to collect John Kerry's military records and Bill Clinton's medical records.

While we wait, here's my guess as to what those attorney-client conversations sounded like, based on the facts in Leo Damore's book "Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Cover-Up":

Interview with client Teddy Kennedy, July 19, 1969:

Teddy: May I approach the bench?

Lawyer: It's not a bench, Teddy. It's my desk. And no, you can't have another Chivas Regal.

Teddy: (Hiccup)

Lawyer: Let's start at the beginning.

Teddy: I'm going to say you were driving.

Lawyer: No, you are not saying I was driving.

Teddy: OK, someone in your family was driving.

Lawyer: They weren't even in Massachusetts that week. Can we move on? Why didn't you call the police after the accident, Teddy?

Teddy: I had to protect my political career, obviously. But this wasn't just about me! I was thinking about future drunk, philandering U.S. senators who may or may not have just drowned some chick they met at a party.

Lawyer: But what about Mary Jo --

Teddy: Yes, precisely! How would it look if I, a United States senator, were driving off to a secluded beach at midnight with a beautiful, nubile female after a private party? How would that look?

Lawyer: But Mary Jo was still alive for two hours --

Teddy: Did I mention my wife was pregnant? You think I should have reported the accident now, Mr. Smartypants?

Lawyer: She was trapped in that car, struggling to breathe!

Teddy: Do you know that two of my brothers were assassinated?

Lawyer: She was still alive! You could have saved her!

Teddy: Yeah, and say goodbye to my presidential ambitions. There was the future of the country to consider – as well as the future of the Chivas Regal company and all their employees. I am a Kennedy. I have a divine right to the presidency. I had to put that ahead of my lawyer's conscience. Anyway, Mary Jo was driving.

Lawyer: Teddy, we can't say Mary Jo was driving.

Teddy: What if some phony witness claimed that the driver stopped to ask for directions. Wouldn't that prove it was a woman driving?

Lawyer: But what about the witnesses?

Teddy: We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Hey, what's so funny? Did I just say something funny?

To be continued ...

©2005 Universal Press Syndicate

Peggy Noonan: After the Storm

After the Storm
Hurricane Katrina: The good, the bad, the let's-shoot-them-now.
The Wall Street Journal
Thursday, September 1, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

Katrina is a huge and historic story. The human cost, the financial cost, the rendering uninhabitable of a great and fabled American city--all of it amazing. A quick look at the good, the bad, and the let's-shoot-them-now.

• The governors. Political leadership in times of crisis is a delicate thing. You have to be frank about the fix you're in without being demoralizing. You have to seem confident without seeming out of touch with reality. You have to be human without indulging all your very human emotions. Rudy Giuliani set the modern standard on 9/11, and in a way that is not remarked upon. All his public statements were brilliantly specific. He told you exactly what resources were on their way to do what and where and why; he told you the No. 4 subway had been diverted west and then south until 11 a.m. Saturday; he told exactly which blocks were closed off and for how long; he told you New York would come back and then he told you why and how. His leadership was a masterpiece of specificity. That he had the facts at his command left people feeling: Thank God, someone's in charge, I can take care of me while he takes care of the city. That's what people want in a time of crisis.

Mississippi's Gov. Haley Barbour came closest to the Giuliani model. We are friendly acquaintances; I knew him years ago when he was a political operative in Washington. I'm frankly surprised he's turned into a leader, but he has. From the beginning of the hurricane drama Mr. Barbour came close to Mr. Giuliani's specificity. In news conferences he laid out with breadth and precision the facts of the Mississippi coastal devastation. He had to keep telling the press and the public that there would be more dead than they understood, a delicate thing to have to do. He did it with candor and transparency but no defeat. He had command of what facts were known. His face was shocked and sad, but he never looked beaten; he referred on "Larry King Live" to the rebuilding of the coast as if it were a foregone conclusion but one that will take massive work. He seemed straight, unillusioned, human. Watch Mr. Barbour. If he continues like this, he's going to become a significant national figure.

Louisiana's Gov. Kathleen Blanco was shakier, but she can recover. She wore her heart on her face, not always helpful in a leader in crisis. In her early news conferences she looked concussed. Her presentation seemed scattered. This was human--as governor she was one of the first to understand how bad the storm's impact was--but politics is a tough room. Early on she was clearly trying to make people understand how bad the situation is. She had to. But the overall impression she left was not informational and hope-giving but shook-up and dispiriting. She can turn this around. The waters may have peaked; a comeback will at some point commence. She showed anguish and now she can show fortitude, like a fighter made hungry by pain. Go, Kathleen, your state needs you. People will take their cues from you. Butch up, punch back, wade in. Literally. Be there.

• President Bush. The political subtext: Does he understand that what has happened in our gulf is as important as what is happening in the other gulf? Does he know in his gut that the existence of looting, chaos and disease in a great American city, or cities, is a terrible blow that may have deep implications? It was bad luck that on the day it became clear a bad storm was a catastrophe he was giving a major Iraq speech, and bad planning that he arrived back at the White House cradling a yippy puppy. But his Rose Garden statement was solid. Yes, it was a laundry list, but the kind that that gives an impression of comprehensive government action. Having the cabinet there was good. His concern was obvious. But more was needed in terms of sending a U.S. military presence into New Orleans.

• The media. Excellent as always in time of crisis. We all love to hate them, but when a story like this comes along you're glad Anderson Cooper decided to stand there up to his butt in snakes and alligators to tell you about the city that's become a swamp. You're glad the anchors are so crisp and contained, you're glad Brian Williams is in the Superdome telling you what's going on. They're rich and celebrated, our media stars, but when stories like this come they earn it. Not sufficiently celebrated: television cameramen, who do much of what Anderson Cooper does only while walking backwards and with their eye in a viewfinder. They're good.

• Rescuers. Nothing gives you hope in your fellow man like those pictures of the rescuers dropping from helicopters in breathtaking rooftop rescues. Remember what Dick Cheney said when flight 93 went down in a field in Pennyslvania? He said he had a feeling an act of significant bravery had occurred on that plane. We're going to hear about some significant acts of bravery during Katrina, too.

• Bloggers. In February I wrote that bloggers will help get America through a national crisis. They just did. Nothing has the immediacy and believability of local reports by citizen journalists living through a local story. Terry Teachout performed a public service linking to Katrina blogs; Glenn Reynolds offered links to relief organizations. The Times Picayune's live-blogging has been solid. Local bloggers were great until they started losing electric power and couldn't send anymore. Mr. Teachout told me at the end they were blogging by BlackBerry. As power comes back the greatest blogging should begin--what it was like, what the recovery is like, what is happening on the streets. Thanks in advance.


Last week I said that this is the wrong time in history to move forward with the wholesale closings and consolidation of military bases throughout the U.S. Terrorism was on my mind, but the incredible tragedy on the Gulf Coast is giving us a new gulf war, one in which we must help an entire region get back on its feet after being leveled by an ancient foe, the hurricane, and what is happening there right now in New Orleans and Mississippi seems tragically illustrative of the fact that local military presence can be crucial in times of grave national emergency.
The importance of local presence is not only practical but also psychological and symbolic. As I write I am watching CNN, which is showing a truck carrying half a dozen soldiers speeding into downtown New Orleans. Good. Thugs are looting and shooting there. Local police are overwhelmed and unable to restore order, and there was Tuesday's report that some law enforcement officers had actually joined in the pillaging. At a time like this the presence of U.S. troops can make all the difference.

I hope Congress and the president are watching, and I hope what they see will have some impact on their decision about whether go forward with or rethink the base closings. It is not wrong to want to save money, rid a highly bureaucratized system of redundancies, and modernize. But timing is everything. We are at an odd time. This is no time for a wholesale shift or a radical retrenchment. They should leave the military base system where it is. They should look to New Orleans for proof of how important a local military presence can prove to be, even in dramas caused not by man but nature.


As for the tragic piggism that is taking place on the streets of New Orleans, it is not unbelievable but it is unforgivable, and I hope the looters are shot. A hurricane cannot rob a great city of its spirit, but a vicious citizenry can. A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human being--trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one's fellow citizens.
There seems to be some confusion in terms of terminology on TV. People with no food and water who are walking into supermarkets and taking food and water off the shelves are not criminal, they are sane. They are not looters, they are people who are attempting to survive; they are taking the basics of survival off shelves in stores where there isn't even anyone at the cash register.

Looters are not looking to survive; they're looking to take advantage of the weakness of others. They are predators. They're taking not what they need but what they want. They are breaking into stores in New Orleans and elsewhere and stealing flat screen TVs and jewelry, guns and CD players. They are breaking into homes and taking what those who have fled trustingly left behind. In Biloxi, Miss., looters went from shop to shop. "People are just casually walking in and filling up garbage bags and walking off like they're Santa Claus," the owner of a Super 8 Motel told the London Times. On CNN, producer Kim Siegel reported in the middle of the afternoon from Canal Street in New Orleans that looters were taking "everything they can."

If this part of the story grows--if cities on the gulf come to seem like some combination of Dodge and the Barbarian invasion--it's going to be bad for our country. One of the things that keeps us together, and that lets this great lumbering nation move forward each day, is the sense that we will be decent and brave in times of crisis, that the fabric holds, that under duress it is American heroism and altruism that take hold and not base instincts born of irresponsibility, immaturity and greed.

We had a bad time in the 1960s, and in the New York blackout in the '70s, and in the Los Angeles riots in the '90s. But the whole story of our last national crisis, 9/11, was courage--among the passersby, among the firemen, among those who walked down there stairs slowly to help a less able colleague, among those who fought their way past the flames in the Pentagon to get people out. And it gave us quite a sense of who we are as a people. It gave us a lot of renewed pride.

If New Orleans damages that sense, it's going to be painful to face. It's going to be damaging to the national spirit. More damaging even than a hurricane, even than the worst in decades.

I wonder if the cruel and stupid young people who are doing the looting know the power they have to damage their country. I wonder, if they knew, if they'd stop it.

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Born To Run Reviewers, 30 Years Ago

From the Bruce Springsteen Collection, The Asbury Park Library

The Born To Run Reviewers In Their Own Words, 30 Years Ago

During 1973 and 1974, fans who had been to Bruce Springsteen's shows in the clubs and theaters, where he was building a solid cult following, snatched up Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. To the rest of the record buying world, he was largely unknown, and with Dark Side of the Moon, Houses of the Holy, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road ruling the charts, Bruce's first two albums were commercial flops.

In the rock press, critics gave both albums a passing grade, some warily, others finding much to like. Creem critics Robert Christgau and Dave Marsh, for instance, thought enough of Greetings to publish favorable reviews in back-to-back issues. Rolling Stone called The Wild, The Innocent "gritty and serious." If none of this translated into significant sales, it did at least start a buzz that would resonate through the long months of 1974 and early 1975 as Springsteen struggled under intense pressure from his record label to produce his third album.

When Born to Run was finally released in late summer of 1975, the buzz transmuted into a firestorm of critical acclamation. "If I seem to OD on superlatives," wrote Lester Bangs in Creem, "it's only because Born to Run demands them." Famed Philadelphia DJ Ed Sciaky wrote in Phonograph that Born to Run was "a magnificent album, lyrically and musically." From the French journal Extra Nouvelle: "This record is fabulous – let us not be afraid of the word." There were doubters then, as now, but as the following reviews excerpted from publications in The Bruce Springsteen Special Collection amply demonstrate, Born to Run simultaneously hit the most of the critical press and public consciousness with supernova megawatts that continue to illuminate the way, 30 years down the road.


"[His] lyrical approach is perfectly relayed through music that is, to say the least, stunning. The eight songs on Born To Run are all striking with Springsteen's powerful, expressive voice providing a punch unlike that of any other singer ... It's useless to say that one song is better than the next, as each is potent in some way. After several listenings, the subtle beauty of the vocals, the instrumentation and the arrangements, combined as a unit, become profound ."
– Bill Scott, NOW, Sept. 5, 1975

"Born To Run is aimed right. It just doesn't go off ... Though considerable attention has been paid to the arrangements, many of the tracks amount to an attempt to evolve an impression of artificial verite as Springsteen sweats through his urban rock-renewal programme ... Many of the melodies, riffs, rhythms, and hooks sound as if they floated straight off the car-radio and into Springsteen's subconscious ... The title cut is a distillation of Spector without the charisma, 'She's The One' is Bo Diddley, 'Jungleland' starts off by sounding like The Who ('Baba O'Riley'), cops a few licks from Reed and Rundgren, and finished off keeping the listener entertained until the next Laura Lyro album."
– Roy Carr, NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS (UK), Sept. 6, 1975

"Three tracks, 'Night,' 'Jungleland' and the beautiful reflective 'Meeting Across The River' are a model of structure composition. But elsewhere the band fails to convey the variation of mood that Springsteen's songs demand ... This is not an essential album to have in the way that the previous two were, and yet my initial mixed feelings of surprise and slight disappointment have abated. Springsteen's new musicians have got the chops alright while his own brilliance is now contained rather than allowed to run free. But the point is that it's still there and it's the distinction from the two previous efforts that makes this album so interesting. I have grown to love it but newcomers to Bruce's music would be better advised to check out what the critics have been raving about in the past. Old fans will need to persevere."
– Jerry Gilbert, SOUNDS, Sept. 13, 1975

Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen Meeting For First Time, Backstage, New Haven, Ct, 1975

"Springsteen's new songs are no longer rooted solely in images from his scuffling boardwalk youth: he's now taken the emotional gruel of those narratives and put them into overdrive by adding his overwhelming fear of entrapment. Literally every song is touched with that drive to escape, from the desperately romantic 'Thunder Road' to the screaming realizations of 'Backstreets.' The more I listen the more I think that Born To Run is Springsteen's most intensely personal album, with the musical components from his favorite period, early sixties Spector-sound power-drive, and the emotional meat from both his struggling days and the here-and-now."
– John Milward, CHICAGO READER, Sept. 19, 1975

"Born To Run is a magnificent album, lyrically and musically. If it seems enigmatically produced, give it time. Springsteen's visions combined simple elements into an intrinsically complex blend of sounds, producing rich and most powerful rewards. While this is not live Springsteen, it is Bruce's effort at letting us hear these songs as he hears them, at recreating on record what's in his head...Springsteen deals primarily in emotions, using his story-songs not so much to tell a story as create, piece by piece, character by character, a fantasy world, an opera of images rich in feeling. The songs hold-up individually and totaled become a vision of the violence and tenderness, of life on the street."
– Ed Sciaky, PHONOGRAPH, October 1975

"The biggest American revelation of 1975 will without doubt be Bruce Springsteen, whose shows at the Bottom Line in New York in August triggered a veritable glowing hysteria in the press and in the public. Bluntly called "the savior of rock" etc etc, for the last two years, he was immediately labeled as 'the new Dylan,' (but) has presently freed himself up from this heavy load and offers a rock alloy that is very funky and extremely poetic which captivates both small and large. One will quickly be able to judge with his third album, Born to Run, recently released amid the highest honors on the charts. It's a beautiful collective hysteria."
– BEST (France), October 1975

"Musically, the album is built around the rhythm section, the piano, and varying lead instruments. Each performs a function, both in the sound and the development of the lyric themes. A number of the songs begin in the same way as 'Backstreets,' building slowly around an intensifying piano rhythm, above which Springsteen first speaks, second sings, and third howls the words of a world without escape. Through the first verses the lead instrument cuts across the rhythm, then takes off in a mid-song solo, finally returning to echo the words on the run-in. It's the oldest trick in the book – counterpointing an endless piano with sharp cutting leads – but it's rarely been done better, and it's essential to the overall vision ... The two main lead instruments are Clarence Clemons' saxophone, which adds a touch of sleaziness to the images, and Bruce's guitar. As is apparent from the cover, he wears it low on the hip, and he uses it throughout like a weapon: a Bo Diddleyish hammer in 'She's The One', a B-movie 'strangler-in-the-fog' in 'Backstreets'', a scythe slashing Who riffs across fast-flowing piano in 'Jungleland'. If there's one criticism of this album it's that he doesn't use the guitar often enough. Whenever it appears it's mesmerizingly violent, the perfect foil to Roy Bittan's rolling keyboard work."
– Dave Downing, LET IT ROCK (UK), October 1975

"Bruce Springsteen, at the time wrongly launched as another Dylan-imitator, is finally going to make it, in spite of the 'CBS sales talk' and the, after all, very unprofessional sounding Greetings from Asbury Park record ...[H]is third record should be seen as a new beginning. Springsteen is making very grown-up music nowadays. He's no longer trying to sing about his frustrations like some mediaeval minstrel, but he's busy creating his own sound, which goes further than Dylan's electronic inventions by the time of Blonde on Blonde ... It's a new episode in the great American tradition from Seeds, Dylan and Doors. All that aggression, which was temporarily put into the Vietnam war, is now being put into music again."
– VERONICA (The Netherlands) Oct. 4, 1975

"It is a magnificent album that pays off on every bet ever placed on him — a '57 Chevy running on melted down Crystals records that shuts down every claim that has been made. And it should crack his future wide open ...'Born to Run' is the motto that speaks for the album's tales, just as the guitar figure that runs through the title song — the finest compression of rock & roll thrill since the opening riffs of 'Layla' — speaks for its music ... The songs, the best of them, are adventures in the dark, incidents of wasted fury. Tales of kids born to run who lose anyway, the songs can, as with 'Backstreets,' hit so hard and fast that it is almost impossible to sit through them without weeping. And yet the music is exhilarating. You may find yourself shaking your head in wonder, smiling through tears at the beauty of it all ... It is a measure of Springsteen's ability to make his music bleed that 'Backstreets,' which is about friendship and betrayal between a boy and a girl, is far more deathly than 'Jungleland,' which is about a gang war. The music isn't 'better,' nor is the singing — but it is more passionate, more deathly and, necessarily, more alive. That, if anything, might be the key to this music: As a ride through terror, it resolves itself finally as a ride into delight."
– Greil Marcus, ROLLING STONE, Oct. 9, 1975

"Springsteen joined the pantheon with the release of Born To Run. The music is urgent, full of abrupt stops and startling changes of tempo; the lyrics tell powerful stories of characters on the edge, living out rock and roll dreams ... Springsteen's characters are 'tramps ... born to run' whose glory lies in a moment, not in a lifetime. Their dream is to flash just once; to chance everything in hopes of grabbing some onto something they can call their own. These are the dreams that dissolve into lives of quiet desperation."
– David McGee, RECORD WORLD, Oct. 25, 1975

"Born To Run is a bridge between Springsteen the raffish rocker and the more ragged, introverted street poet of the first two albums. Although he maintains that he 'hit the right spot' on Born To Run, it is the second album, The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, that seems to go deepest. A sort of free-association autobiography, it comes closest to the wild fun-house refractions of Springsteen's imagination."
– Jay Cocks, TIME, Oct. 27, 1975

"This record is fabulous – let us not be afraid of the word. Lyrics and composer are remarkable, and Bruce also has a personality that will not leave his listener indifferent ...One thinks a bit of Roger McGuinn, of the Band and of Dylan but always from now on we'll have to get used to thinking of Bruce Springsteen as a personality and an original creator because this is one of the best records of all time."
– EXTRA NOUVELLE (France), November 1975

"'Thunder Road' opens with harmonica; then the first sounds of the voice grab you throughout the body. As if Dylan had a son who sings harder than he, but not Dylan, there will never be another Dylan, the old Bob did nicely, and Springsteen is well there, [with his] infuriating words, sentences and phrases to place himself abruptly bitching toward the black sky ... The band sounds ruthlessly fat, but the organ and piano parts alternate with subtlety, and the magnificent chorus of black sax knows how to gush so truly, at the precise instant, just when one needs the haughty splendor of a saxophone ... Springsteen croaks out his images or his passions in a terrifying manner, like a tightrope walker too drunk and then a little too amorous, but so strong that he can outdo you with a monstrous riff and prop you up with his grin ... .[F]or all those who climb the walls at night, be happy, Bruce Springsteen is for you. The rest [i.e. the rock and roll alternatives] is nothing but junk made of shit."
– Fran├žois Ducray, ROCK & FOLK (France), November 1975

"Springsteen's landscapes of urban desolation are all heightened, on fire, alive. His characters act in symbolic gestures, bigger than life. Furthermore, there's absolutely nothing in his music that's null, detached, or perverse and even his occasional world-weariness carries a redemptive sense of lost battles passionately fought. Boredom appears to be a foreign concept to him – he reminds us what it's like to love rock 'n' roll like you just discovered it, and then seize it and make it your own with certainty and precision ... If I seem to OD on superlatives, it's only because Born To Run demands them; the music races in a flurry of Dylan and Morrison and Phil Spector and a little of both Lou Reed and Roy Orbison, luxuriating in them and an American moment caught at last, again, and bursting with pride ... In a time of squalor and belittled desire, Springsteen's music is majestic and passionate with no apologies."
– Lester Bangs, CREEM, November 1975

"What we have is high quality, tense, often tearing, thriving, sometimes irritating to the point of flipping-out, heavy but not physical, sensual and mind-blowing, skillful, and with each note, each line, a new feeling. Born To Run is a mature record from a hyper-sensible poet and musician ... The American rock magazine, 'Crawdaddy'still refers to Bruce Springsteen as "Bruce Dylan", but since the release of his second album Springsteen has proved his worth over his idols to the people who didn't believe in him. His own material is far away from the folk-rock concept of Dylan and compared to him, Bruce deals better with foreign influences ... If anything, Born To Run is a little like Astral Weeks was for Van Morrison, the final and logical step for a musical past ... where comparisons don't work anymore, where he would simply be someone who sings his own songs ... Sometimes Springsteen is just a little over the top, his energy is just out of control, but it's this energy, the continuous pulsation, that makes this record alive and compelling."
– Van Jiirgen Legath, SOUNDS (Germany) November 1975

"The forced internal rhymes of the earlier song lyrics have given way to a brash, long-lined lyricism in which focal images of cars and motorcycles, thunder, neon signs, clashing gangs, and the throbbing, sexy beat of Jersey Shore, honky-tonk fleshpots merge into as powerful a metaphor for urban America as any rock poet has yet supplied ... [W]hat is finally most impressive about Born To Run are the song lyrics, which communicate a street-life experience that is both personal and mythic. With this accomplishment, Springsteen embodies the myth of rock & roll as an urban, proletarian outburst. By personifying the poet-hoot, boy-man, rebel-hero of American mass culture from Brando, Dean, and Presley through Dylan, Springsteen reminds us that rock & roll came from the streets as a cultural necessity, an instinctual urge toward self-transcendence and self-definition."
– Stephen Holden, CIRCUS RAVES, December 1975

"This was one of those LPs awaited in Spain ... (because of) the entire range of commentary which we have read in the American press about the Springsteen "boom" ... Born To Run is one of the best albums which I have seen this year, of absolute quality, extraordinary rhythms and a series of fantastic themes, all dominated by Bruce's talent and primarily his voice. There is nothing wasted in the album in any sense. The central theme is a display of energy, but 'Night', 'Jungleland', 'Backstreets', and 'Thunder Road' don't take a back seat. And it is not only Bruce, but his group, the production, the depth of all the work put together by a great artist at this time ... Springsteen is a 'boom' in flesh and blood, an authentic hero of the rock scene of 1975 and the 1970s."
– DISCO EXPRESS (Spain) Dec. 5, 1975


Thunder Road

"The images ... touch us down in our core. In 'Thunder Road,' there is the line 'Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet'; given the symbolic importance attached to the graduation gown, it is one of rock's most powerful images. 'What else can we do now,' Springsteen asks, 'except to roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair.' In essence, your future's nil, but at least you're free, so ... take a chance."
– David McGee, RECORD WORLD, Oct. 25, 1975

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

" ... a delighted R&B song about how Springsteen formed his band, introduced by the type of prologue that rings up the curtain on Shakespearean productions."
– Stephen Holden, CIRCUS RAVES, December 1975


"The title cut, a rock standard by any definition, builds an incredible energy with wall-to-wall sound. I can't remember a more thrilling song of the road. 'Night,' a less ambitious number, suffers only by comparison."
– Stephen Holden, CIRCUS RAVES, December 1975


"... begins with music so stately, so heartbreaking, that it might be the prelude to a rock & roll version of The Iliad."
– Greil Marcus, ROLLING STONE, Oct. 9, 1975

Born To Run

"Springsteen's characters 'sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream,' skating for a longshot in automobiles and beds with the omnipresent roar of the radio driving them on to connect anew, as even in the failure of their striving they are redeemed by Springsteen's vision: 'Tramps like us – baby, we was born to run.'"
– Lester Bangs, CREEM, November 1975

She's The One

"... an extraordinary song where all the gestures are of suffering."
– Fran├žois Ducray, ROCK & FOLK (France), November 1975

Meeting Across The River

" ... a real surprise, a dramatic monologue/song, featuring the sultry trumpet of Randy Brecker."
– Ed Sciaky, PHONOGRAPH, October 1975


"A great hooligan tide washing through New York dusky nights, playing guitars and clawing their way toward love."
– Dave Downing, LET IT ROCK (UK) October 1975

(Special thanks to Maggie Powell, Ed Toskaner, Roy van Rees, Klaus Boettger and Deborah Robinson for translations; Dan Toskaner and the staff of the Asbury Park Public Library for research assistance; and Christopher Phillips of Backstreets for editing and encouragement. Compiled by Bob Crane.)

Scott Fallon: An Album, A Legacy

By Scott Fallon
28 August 2005

Consider yourself in this position:

You're completing a project so important that it may make or break your career.

You're all of 25 years old, and not only do you have to write and perform this project, you also have to coordinate the work of five very talented people.

Then two of them leave without much notice. Your bosses begin to grow impatient. The money they invested in your first two projects was never returned. Accolades that once poured in are now replaced with rumors that you're a hair from being fired.

Pressure leads to anxiety, anxiety to doubt. What do you do at this point?

What can you do?

In 1975, Bruce Springsteen could have easily disappeared into obscurity thanks to the above scenario.

Instead, his response was "Born to Run," a milestone album that not only saved his career but justified every premature, over-the-top claim that he was the rightful successor to Presley, Holly, Berry and Dylan.

The album, which was released 30 years ago Thursday, is a treatise on escapism fueled by fear and desperation.

It took two grueling years to make "Born to Run" - a recording marathon that saw pianist David Sancious and drummer Ernest "Boom" Carter leave the E Street Band.

But Springsteen carried on by hiring Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg. Under the tutelage of producer-managers Mike Appel and Jon Landau, Springsteen began to craft a record that didn't sound like anything produced in the prior 10 years.

By the mid-'70s, much of rock music had become so pretentious, so obsequious, that every instrument needed time in the spotlight.
Springsteen, in turn, adopted Phil Spector's grandiose "Wall of Sound," which relied heavily on merging instruments into an almost orchestral force. Springsteen's guitar melted into Danny Federici's organ, which melted into Gary Tallent's bass, and on and on.

The result was a wave that slammed through the ear canals - a sound that had not been heard popularly since Bob Dylan released "Like a Rolling Stone" in 1965.

The opener, "Thunder Road," immediately set the tone for the album and arguably the rest of Springsteen's career.

The song begins so gently, just a harmonica and a piano, with images of a girl dancing on her porch and the narrator who longs for her. Tension builds as he lays out what's on the line. And it explodes with organ and drums as soon as he begins pleading for the girl's hand.

But this isn't just about two people.

"There were ghosts of the eyes of all the boys you sent away," Springsteen sings, his voice rising, nearly cracking. "They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets."

This is Springsteen's lost generation. They are the nameless, the ones who didn't make it, the children who would grow into the characters on "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and "Nebraska."

And Springsteen empathizes with them because he was so close to joining their ranks.

The theme continues in "Backstreets" where Bittan's masterful piano work creates the bittersweet mood from the start.

A song of love and betrayal, "Backstreets" sees Springsteen at his most manic. He screams the chorus of a dream denied, repeats it 26 consecutive times before he is left yelping wildly at the end.

But all is not lost. The title track does not pretend to be anything less than grandiose.

"Born to Run" begins with two seconds of machine-gun drumming followed by what sounds like an organ and bass being hammered upon just as hard.

While the vivid imagery of teenage desperation carries the song, it is really the crescendo that sets it apart.

The bridge is among the greatest in rock music because it acts as a true dramatic arch. You realize everything is on the line. The world isn't fair. It'll tear your heart out. What happens next?

For Springsteen, it is a burst of optimism unlike any other in popular music then or now. An orchestra of strings carries the melody as if it had become sacred.

The cynics are gone. The self-loathers who wore "Born to Lose" across their chest are now transformed into "broken heroes."

Like "Thunder Road," the song became less about a guy and a girl and more about a generation that had fallen through the cracks. Everybody's out on the run tonight.

But we come to learn by the album's end that escapism has its price.

"Jungleland" begins with delicate string arrangement and is followed by a piano that seems so upbeat, as if it were going to introduce "The Fantasticks."

It's a true transition song in Springsteen's career. It references the long surrealistic narratives on "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle" as we are introduced to characters called Magic Rat, Maximum Lawman and the barefoot girl.

But over the song's 10 minutes, the mirth of this fantastical night becomes something darker. We arrive at a different song following Clarence Clemons' two-minute sax solo.

The piano now plays a dirge. Springsteen speaks more than sings. Ambulances pull away. Poets don't write anything at all. And worst of all, this is now a place where death is a better ending than being left wounded.

Perhaps "Jungleland" was foreshadowing what was to come in Springsteen's music, when romanticism was replaced with the harsh realities of trying to make it in the world.

In the end, "Born to Run" was just an album. Eight songs pressed into two sides of vinyl. You could pump your fist to some of them. You could dance to others. Maybe you're still humming a tune in the shower all these years later.

But that would be missing everything.

Springsteen had accomplished something few even tried. He was writing to the invisible class, the people no one paid much attention to in popular culture.

He saved his career by writing about people trying to save their lives.


* * *

Anniversary edition

There has been no official word from Columbia Records, but Steve Van Zandt recently confirmed that a 30th anniversary edition of "Born to Run" is in the works.

"There is a very cool thing that's going to come out," he told "It's a CD/DVD. ... I don't think it's a big surprise. I hope it's not a surprise!"
Van Zandt was not a member of the E Street Band when "Born to Run" was cut, even though he had been playing with Springsteen since the two were teens. But Van Zandt made a critical contribution.

When Springsteen was having difficulty composing the opening horn arrangement of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" he turned to Van Zandt, who quickly showed the players just what to do. It cleared a major stumbling block in the two-year recording marathon. Van Zandt joined the band soon after the recording sessions.

- Scott Fallon

Walter E. Williams: Gasoline Prices
Walter E. Williams (archive)
August 31, 2005

Nationally, the average per gallon price for regular gasoline is $2.50. Are gasoline prices high? That's not the best way to ask that question. It's akin to asking, "Is Williams tall?" The average height of U.S. women is 5'4", and for men, it's 5'10". Being 6'4", I'd be tall relative to the general U.S. population. But put me on a basketball court, next to the average NBA basketball player, and I wouldn't be tall; I'd be short. So when we ask whether a price is high or low, we have to ask relative to what.

In 1950, a gallon of regular gasoline sold for about 30 cents; today, it's $2.50. Are today's gasoline prices high compared to 1950? Before answering that question, we have to take into account inflation that has occurred since 1950. Using my trusty inflation calculator (, what cost 30 cents in 1950 costs $2.33 in 2005. In real terms, that means gasoline prices today are only slightly higher, about 8 percent, than they were in 1950. Up until the recent spike, gasoline prices have been considerably lower than 1950 prices.

Some Americans are demanding that the government do something about gasoline prices. Let's think back to 1979 when the government did do something. The Carter administration instituted price controls. What did we see? We saw long gasoline lines, and that's if the gas station hadn't run out of gas. It's estimated that Americans used about 150,000 barrels of oil per day idling their cars while waiting in line. In an effort to deal with long lines, the Carter administration introduced the harebrained scheme of odd and even days, whereby a motorist whose license tag started with an odd number could fill up on odd-numbered days, and those with an even number on even-numbered days.

With the recent spike in gas prices, the government has chosen not to pursue stupid policies of the past. As a result, we haven't seen shortages. We haven't seen long lines. We haven't seen gasoline station fights and riots. Why? Because price has been allowed to perform its valuable function -- that of equating demand with supply.

Our true supply problem is of our own doing. Large quantities of oil lie below the 20 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The amount of land proposed for oil drilling is less than 2,000 acres, less than one-half of one percent of ANWR. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are about 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil in ANWR. But environmentalists' hold on Congress has prevented us from drilling for it. They've also had success in restricting drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and off the shore of California. Another part of our energy problem has to do with refining capacity. Again, because of environmentalists' successful efforts, it's been 30 years since we've built a new oil refinery.

Few people realize that the U.S. is also a major oil-producing country. After Saudi Arabia, producing 10.4 million barrels a day, then Russia with 9.4 million barrels, the U.S. with 8.7 million barrels a day is the third-largest producer of oil. But we could produce more. Why aren't we? Producers have a variety of techniques to win monopoly power and higher profits that come with that power. What's a way for OPEC to gain more power? I have a hypothesis, for which I have no evidence, but it ought to be tested. If I were an OPEC big cheese, I'd easily conclude that I could restrict output and charge higher oil prices if somehow U.S. oil drilling were restricted. I'd see U.S. environmental groups as allies, and I would make "charitable" contributions to assist their efforts to reduce U.S. output. Again, I have no evidence, but it's a hypothesis worth examination.

©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Michelle Malkin: The Gangstas in My Neighborhood
Michelle Malkin (archive)
August 31, 2005

The peaceful suburbs of Washington, D.C., are beginning to look and feel like East Los Angeles.

The violent illegal alien gang Mara Salvatrucha (or MS-13) has thoroughly penetrated the region -- and its murderous members continue to be aided and abetted by reckless government officials at every level who refuse to enforce our immigration laws. As I've reported over the past year, MS-13 is the most notorious criminal alien gang enterprise on the American landscape. The Justice Department's (belated) summer crackdown on the crime racket has resulted in the arrest of 515 MS-13 gang members who will be prosecuted for criminal cases and/or deported (many after having re-entered the country illegally despite multiple convictions and deportations).

At the local malls in Montgomery County, Md., where I live, gang stabbings are increasingly common. Earlier this summer, a spate of knifing attacks involving reputed MS-13 gangsters took place at a nearby Target store. Yes, Target -- where the only fights that shoppers should have to worry about are the tug-of-war spats between soccer moms battling over Sonia Kashuk makeup bags on sale in Aisle 2.

MS-13 thugs are packing weapons far more lethal than blush brushes. The El Salvador-based syndicate has a special love affair with machetes. Earlier this month, a jury convicted one MS-13 member for a machete attack at a Fairfax County, Va., movie theater. The brutal crime left a rival gang member with three severed fingers. If MS-13 limited its violence to killing off its competitors, maybe the rest of us could afford to shrug off the illegal alien gang takeover of the mid-Atlantic corridor. But innocents from Boston to Raleigh have been caught up in the violence, and cops are in the crosshairs as well.

Last year, area law enforcement officials issued a warning that MS-13 was planning to ambush Montgomery County, Md., cops during service calls. In June, I obtained leaked unclassified intelligence from the Federal Bureau of Investigations-Norfolk, Va., division reporting on a similar gang order issued in the Tidewater, Va., area:

"Reporting by a reliable Norfolk source indicates MS-13 members are planning to randomly attack local law enforcement officers in the Tidewater area. Threats of this nature have been termed by gang members as 'green light' notices. Green light notices have continued to increase, prompting the Virginia Gang Association to issue warnings to law enforcement in Virginia and the surrounding states. . . . Additional source information indicates local MS-13 members are equipped with weapons and ballistic vests."

The gang is also infamous for "green lighting" potential prosecution witnesses, including Brenda Paz -- an MS-13 member stabbed to death and dumped in the Shenandoah River in 2003 by gangsters while under federal protection as she prepared to testify against them.

Federal prosecutors earned praise last week for dramatic raids and grand jury indictments against 19 alleged, suburban Washington-area MS-13 members accused of participating in the beating death of a man at a cemetery; a drive-by shooting that killed a boy; the kidnapping of two girls, one of whom was murdered; a daytime shooting at a high school; and stabbings and fatal shootings of rival gang members, according to The Washington Post. The feds are using racketeering laws to target the criminals.

The Post editorial board lauded the move ("not a moment to soon," they opined), but using RICO laws against MS-13 is a rather convoluted solution to our underlying homeland security problems: unguarded borders, lack of illegal alien detention space, failure to track criminal illegal aliens, and a deportation system in shambles. On these matters, the Post -- like most mainstream media heavyweights and Beltway elites -- has little if anything to say.

And here, as elsewhere, while politicians pay lip service to protecting the public, they look the other way as illegal alien gang members get driver's licenses, go to school (where they freely recruit new members), and congregate at taxpayer-subsidized illegal alien day labor centers -- where local police are discouraged from inquiring about immigration status or reporting suspected illegal aliens to the Department of Homeland Security.

Immigration schizophrenia is lethal. It's spreading. And maybe, soon enough, coming to a Target near you.

Michelle Malkin is a syndicated columnist and maintains her weblog at
©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror
Should civil liberties always trump national security? In a time of war, Michelle Malkin insists, the survival of the nation must come first. In this provocative new book, Malkin offers a ringing justification for the most reviled wartime policies in American history: the evacuation, relocation, and internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II. She also defends racial, ethnic, religious, and nationality profiling as effective defensive measures in today's War on Terror.

Jonah Goldberg: The Terror That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Jonah Goldberg (archive)
August 31, 2005

How's this for a plot? There's this international conspiracy to acquire nuclear weapons and kill millions of Americans. The conspirators act with the aid of various governments, some of which pretend to be our friends. Some of these governments are ruled by medieval tyrants who keep many wives (and even more concubines), rule by fiat, and crush, behead, hang or otherwise mutilate dissidents, free-thinkers, Christians, Jews, homosexuals and other inconvenient souls.

Other governments are ruled by fascist dictators who invade their neighbors, subvert democracy, fund terrorists, collude with Western powers in criminal schemes, illegally smuggle nuclear materials, and jail, starve, imprison and murder children while living high on the hog.

All the while, these conspirators commit countless grievous acts of cruelty and barbarism.

Though they may be savages, they're not mindless ones. They hatch brilliantly audacious schemes to bring down skyscrapers with hijacked planes. They attack naval ships with speedboats. They manipulate the Internet, the international press and various Western governments.

Now, call me crazy, but somewhere in there I think there's enough material for Hollywood to "rip from the headlines" (as they say on "Law and Order") some plausible bad guys and pretty good plot ideas.

Apparently I'm missing something.

Consider, for example, the last big movie of August: "The Constant Gardener." Now, I haven't seen it yet, so I'm not offering a review of the movie. Besides, from what I hear it's a pretty good flick based on a pretty good novel by John LeCarre. The plot of both involves an elaborate conspiracy of Western governments and pharmaceutical companies that assassinate anyone who tries to uncover their fiendish plot to experiment on poor Africans for the benefit of rich Westerners. A trailer for the film declares that pharmaceutical companies are no better than arms dealers, preying on African poverty. The film's director told National Public Radio that the drug companies are the "perfect bad guys."

Now, notwithstanding the mistakes of major pharmaceutical companies, I think it's fair to say, without fear of contradiction, "Are you on crack?!"

Granted, the war on terror is a fairly controversial subject. I understand there are sensibilities involved, insofar as the terrorists claim to speaking for Islam, and therefore some care is necessary when dealing with the nature of the threat.

But come on - it's al-Qaida vs. Pfizer, and Pfizer wins the title of "perfect bad guy"?

The last major Hollywood film that dealt with a terrorist threat was "The Sum of All Fears," the 2002 film that started Ben Affleck's career on a downward glide-path to the center square on "Hollywood Squares." In the book, the bad guys were Islamic fundamentalists. But, thanks in large part to a campaign by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the villains were changed to a secret cabal of ultra-sophisticated, super-wealthy neo-Nazis. Whereas in real life most neo-Nazis smash cans of beer against their heads while dancing in the woods, in Hollywood's vision they wear perfectly tailored suits and plot world domination from the highest corridors of power.

Capitulating to CAIR's campaign, the director of the film wrote to the organization, "I hope you will be reassured that I have no intention of promoting negative images of Muslims or Arabs, and I wish you the best in your continuing efforts to combat discrimination."

No doubt CAIR is working tirelessly to obtain similar letters from Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida and other groups dedicated to promoting negative images of Muslims and Arabs by actually murdering people, not merely pretending to do so on the big screen.

The weirdest irony is that in the 1990s, before the war on terror, several depictions of Arab and Muslim terrorism made it to the big screen. The only realistic depiction of suicide-bombing I can recall was in the 1996 film, "Executive Decision." Other 1990s films that apparently couldn't get made today include "The Siege," "The Peacemaker" and "True Lies."

Political correctness about ethnic sensibilities only explains part of Hollywood's silence. Other ideological factors no doubt play a role, too. The notion that big corporations are the root of all evil - even ones committed to curing disease, prolonging lives and eradicating male pattern baldness - has a pedigree that predates the current obsession with identity politics. The post-Vietnam conviction of the Oliver Stone crowd that America is most often the problem, not the solution, probably explains some of it as well.

And there are practical explanations, too. A realistic, pro-American flick on the war on terror is a risky proposition for studios that make much of their money from foreign markets. One of the downsides of globalization is that pro-American movies don't sell well when much of the global movie audience doesn't like America.

But none of this excuses the fact that Hollywood's silence is deafening. It's hard not to conclude that the entertainment industry really just thinks the war on terror is no big deal, at least not compared to the war on drug companies.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online.
©2005 Tribune Media Services

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Pat Buchanon- Conservatism: A House Divided

August 30, 2005

As the nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsberg was being whistled through the Senate, a morose friend called, "Can you believe it? The vote was 96-3!"

"Who were the other two?" I asked.

We laughed. For we did not need to be told where Jesse Helms stood on elevating to the Supreme Court an ACLU activist like Judge Ginsberg.

If one were to name the two elected leaders of the last third of the 20th century who best represented the conservative creed in national politics, they would be Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms. It is a defining difference between a traditional conservative and a neocon that the former would name Helms as the best senator of the era, while the latter would name "Scoop" Jackson or Pat Moynihan.

Which raises a question. While the Republican Party today controls the White House and Congress, how stands conservatism, using Reagan-Helms as the gold standard?

On tax cuts, a strong national defense and the nomination of federal judges who believe America is a republic where the people rule through elected representatives, not a judicial dictatorship, George W. Bush meets the gold standard.

But on spending, Bush and Congress do not even meet the Clinton standard. They qualify as Great Society Conservatives. The Republican Revolution of 1994 turned out like that vaunted Vanguard we launched after Sputnik that got four feet off the ground.

Anti-communism and resistance to the "evil empire" once united the Right. But that unifying cause died with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

On foreign policy, conservatives are no longer a house united. While all but six GOP House members voted to authorize President Bush to take us to war in Iraq, and 75 percent of Republicans still believe in the war, among conservative and libertarian writers, there was no such plurality, and some are having second thoughts. There is no conservative consensus on foreign policy today.

The neoconservative position, to make promoting democracy the altarpiece of our foreign policy, to increase U.S. forces in Iraq, and to extend the war to Iran and Syria to win it, appears no longer to be Bush policy. And despite the president's resolve to stay the course, his generals continue to talk of substantial withdrawals by spring.

On foreign aid -- given the increases for Africa, the Middle East and the Millennium Challenge -- the president and Congress seem squarely in the liberal internationalist tradition. They believe in it.

On social issues, the GOP remains a pro-life party, but less volubly than it once was, with House and Senate Republicans moving to back embryonic stem-cell research. Rather than battleground issues on which the GOP likes to fight, these are wedge issues on which the GOP likes to campaign in October to rally the Red Staters. And the base is beginning to get the message. They are the girls of summer who are dumped when the boys go back to school.

On sovereignty, the White House has maintained its opposition to the Kyoto Protocol and International Criminal Court but continues to accept the dictations of a World Trade Organization, to which the Gingrich-Dole internationalists subordinated U.S. sovereignty in '94.

But on two issues, besides the war, the Bush Republicans are starting to lose their conservative base as well as the country.

House Republicans voted 7-1 for CAFTA, but enthusiasm for that trade deal was nonexistent, and Bush had to twist arms in his own party to win. Weekly stories of factory closings, jobs being outsourced, and foreign workers coming in to take American jobs at Third-World wages are killing the old faith in free trade.

The Business Roundtable and its house organ, the Wall Street Journal, have lost the country, which is why Democrats voted 14-1 against CAFTA. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing on globalization.

But it is on America's bleeding border that the GOP faces a crisis. If President Bush is unwilling to protect this border where 1 to 2 million attempt to break in yearly, and half a million succeed, this issue could sink the party in 2006. Mass immigration is eating up tax dollars -- in health, education, welfare, and prison, police and court costs -- bankrupting states and imperiling our security.

Where do conservatives stand? Almost all are demanding that Bush do more to stop the Mexican invasion.

Thus on free trade, immigration and the war, all major issues, conservatism is a house divided. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, the leading candidates to succeed Bush, stand with him on all three, but the country stands against all three, on all three issues. The last best hope of the GOP in 2008 is -- as always -- the Democrats.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Monday, August 29, 2005

Survey Says!...Poor Films Explains Box Office Slump

By Paul Bond
Mon Aug 29, 1:47 AM ET

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The main reason for the box office slump is the quality of the movies themselves, according to a survey of moviegoers' opinions found in Internet chat rooms and posted on message boards.

Even when moviegoers cite other reasons for going to theaters less often than they used to, they still circle back to the quality of films as the root cause for their disaffection, according to research company Brandimensions.

For example, potential moviegoers who cited the ease and selection offered by DVD rental firm Netflix as one reason why they visit the multiplex less, then said they were driven to try Netflix because of the dearth of decent theatrical releases.

The study found that audiences also cited such other factors as the rising costs of movie tickets, onscreen commercials shown before films and even inadequate parking. But those consumers whose views were collected in the study also said that if the movies were more appealing, they would put up with the other factors.

This year's box office take is about 8% lower than it was for the same period a year ago, and the number of tickets sold is off about 11%.

Brandimensions searched 1.9 million Internet blogs and chat rooms where users were discussing the box office slump. Relevancy algorithms were used in choosing 1,350 posts to dissect by using software coupled with human data analysts. The result was a 16-page analysis.

The sites that were culled in creating the study run the gamut from the obvious, such as iFilm and other movie-related sites, to the not so obvious, such as a site for criticizing the president and another dedicated to professional musicians.

In one of its findings, the study said that when a movie's DVD release closely follows its theatrical debut, consumers often consider it the sign of a bad movie.

Many Internet chatters also expressed dismay about what they see as Hollywood's incessant focus on piracy and said they'd gladly wait longer for DVD releases if the trade-off were better theatrical releases.

The demographic that indicates most that it is seeing fewer movies are males ages 25-49, followed by females in the same age bracket. Those age groups are increasingly deciding that a sporting event or concert offers more value than movies do.

"They're not only cross-shopping movies against each other, but they're also cross-shopping movies against other entertainment experiences," Brandimensions chief operating officer Bradley Silver said.

Silver said that 44% of Internet chatters on the subject of the box office slump cite bad movies as their reason for shunning theaters, and among those citing other reasons, the quality of films is usually their second or third reason. He also said that the data indicates that even movie stars don't have the same cache as they once did.

"With Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood, you knew what you were getting," he said. But, he added, with many current stars, audiences don't often know exactly what a movie promises.

Asked to sum up the attitude of disaffected moviegoers, Bradley said: "Going to the movies used to be fun and exciting. It used to be an event. It's none of those anymore."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Debbie Schlussel: Gaza in Arizona

By Debbie Schlussel
August 29, 2005

You've read about him. You've seen him on TV. A sappy network TV movie about him, starring Corbin Bernsen, is now doing re-run hell on the Lifetime Channel.

To believe the conventional wisdom, Morris Dees, Jr. is a brave man who protects Blacks and Jews against White Supremacist Klansmen.

That's the PR, anyway. The truth is otherwise.

The real Morris Dees, chief of the misnamed Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), is using our courts to take American land from Americans and give it to illegal aliens.

If this is the new civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr. must be turning over in his grave.

It's beyond outrageous.

Two miles from the border with Mexico, U.S. citizen Casey Nethercott's dream ranch is now the property of Edwin Alfredo Mancia Gonzales and Fatima del Socorro Leiva Medina, both illegal immigrants from El Salvador.

And Nethercott didn't sell it to them. They took it by force, after trespassing on it to sneak into the U.S. All orchestrated by Dees.

Dees' legal squad used American courts to put Nethercott in jail and transfer his property to the illegals he tried to keep out.

According to the New York Times, Nethercott bought the Arizona ranch, "Camp Thunderbird," in 2003 for $120,000, his entire savings. He used the 70-acre property as headquarters for Ranch Rescue, a group like (and connected with) the Minutemen, which tries to keep our borders safe--since our government will not.

In March 2003, Nethercott and Ranch Rescue caught Mancia and Leiva sneaking into the country on a ranch near the Texas border. Even Mancia and Leiva admit that the Ranch Rescue members gave them cookies, water, and a blanket, and let them go after an hour.

But they accused Nethercott of threatening them and hitting Mr. Mancia with a pistol. Instead of trying the illegals for trespassing and kicking them out, Texas prosecutors tried and convicted Nethercott of gun possession by a felon (he previously served time in California for assault), and he is now serving five years in a Texas prison.
It gets worse.
In prison for the gun possession charge, Nethercott was unable to defend himself against a civil lawsuit filed by Dees and his gangster mob of lawyers on behalf of the illegals who claimed post-traumatic stress for their hour of cookies and water.
Dees took Nethercott's ranch to pay the default judgment of $850,000 against Nethercott (in addition to $600,000 garnered against two other men).

Perhaps this column should really be called, "How to Get Rich Quick for Illegal Aliens."

It gets even worse.

Dees and his SPLC also tried to get Nethercott's $60,000 in bail money transferred to the illegal immigrants. It was money Nethercott's poor mother obtained by mortgaging her home in order to post bail. Dees' lawyer mob also went after Nethercott's sister, a nursing assistant.

And you thought it couldn't get any worse? Think again.

Without filing these charges, Mancia and Leiva, the illegal immigrants would have been deported. Instead they are living comfortably in our country and have applied for visas available to immigrants who are the victims of certain crimes and cooperate with authorities. Until then, they are here on a year-to-year basis, with the help of Dees' lawyer thugs, and the approval of our irresponsible government.

Dees' organization should be called the Southern Impoverishment Law Center because he and his legal hucksters are playing perverted Robin Hood--stealing money from loyal, little-guy Americans who want to protect our borders and giving it to unworthy illegal immigrants who break the law and shouldn't be here.

Then, there is Dees' misrepresentation of what his "Law" Center is all about. As co-founder and chief trial counsel, he presents his non-profit group as a small civil rights organization David battling hate by neo-Nazi Goliaths. But SPLC is a multi-million dollar bully of lower and lower-middle class Americans with little means to defend themselves. And these days, few of them are supremacists and racists. Most are patriots who fight the plague of illegal aliens.

Its fiscal year 2003 tax forms show the SPLC had nearly $153 million in assets. It spent almost $24 million dollars in the year ending October 31, 2004. Dees, unlike the endlessly charitable, little paid lawyer portrayed in the TV movie, collected almost $300,000 in income and benefits that same year. (He gave thousands in campaign contributions to John Kerry, John Edwards and the Democratic National Committee.) Other directors and officers of this gangster lawyer conglomerate all made over $100,000, most almost $200,000 or more.

SPLC spent over a million dollars annually on swanky lobbyists who pushed to make laws easier for SPLC to ruin Americans like Nethercott. SPLC spent more than $12 million dollars in grants and "teaching tolerance" to law enforcement, schools, teachers, and students. If Casey Nethercott's case is any example, SPLC's "tolerance" is unbarred acceptance of outrage.

When asked about the illegal immigration problem and pressed on the urgency of the Minutemen, Dees told MSNBC's Chris Matthews, "The INS may not be doing its job to suit everybody, but neither is the SEC. There are millions of Americans who lost their money to white boys on Wall Street." And one poor American man who is lost his life and his property to a White boy in Montgomery, Alabama, named Morris Dees.

SPLC's tax forms proclaims its purpose is "providing legal services for victims of civil rights injustice and hate crimes." But who are the real victims here? Casey Nethercott, his co-defendants, and his family. The injustice is that he is in jail and lost everything. But there was no hate crime here--unless you count the hate Morris Dees harnessed and led through the court system to screw Nethercott at the expense of illegal aliens who got cookies and water.
The moral of this story: Turnabout isn't always fair play.

When Morris Dees is involved, it's a travesty of justice. No wonder people hate lawyers.

Visit Debbie Schlussel's website at She can be reached at

Debra Saunders: Grizzly Makes Grisly

[For a complete treatment of the incident involving Treadwell and Huguenard I highly recommend Nick Jans' book 'Grizzly Maze' and Mike Lapinski's book 'Death in the Grizzly Maze'. - jtf]

Debra Saunders (archive)
The San Francisco Chronicle
August 28, 2005

The goal of Grizzly People, its website explains, is "to elevate the grizzly to the kindred state of the whale and dolphin through supportive education in the hopes that humans will learn to live in peace with the bear, wilderness and fellow humans."

But, as Werner Herzog's latest documentary, "Grizzly Man," demonstrates, the best way for man to live at peace with the bear is to not romanticize grizzlies and to give them a wide berth.
Alas, Grizzly People founder Timothy Treadwell had Disney-fied the object of his affection. So, as Herzog chronicles, the 46-year-old bear activist and his 37-year-old girlfriend were mauled and eaten by an Alaskan grizzly in October 2003.

But first, Treadwell produced some 100 hours of tape starring -- ta da -- him, talking about bears, or talking to bears, or talking about how much he loved bears and how he knew to be dominant around bears. He gave them names like Tabitha, Melissa and Mickey, and he frequently told them, "I love you." He recorded countless close-ups of himself discussing the dangers of living among the grizzlies.

While some think Treadwell had a death wish, he claimed that he would not be hurt, because he had a special understanding of grizzlies and he respected them. His fate illustrates the dark side of the modern romanticization of the wild.

Fact is, Treadwell didn't understand grizzlies and he didn't respect them. As an Alaskan pilot told Herzog, Treadwell seemed to view grizzlies as if they were "people wearing bear costumes."

If Treadwell had respected bears, he would have kept a safe distance -- try 100 yards -- from them. He also would have treated them like predators, not buddies. Instead, he recorded himself patting bears, wading into water with a fishing grizzly and talking to the bears. "Go back," he commanded, as if they understood him.

Treadwell liked to style himself as an animal lover, but I think he was more smitten with himself than with the bears. Treadwell also exhibited some of the misanthropy endemic among the more radical animal-rights activists and eco-activists. Just as a prominent PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) leader announced it was inevitable that an activist would blow up research laboratories and fast-food outlets, Treadwell ranted against the "losers" who work for the National Park Service. Why? Because they had rules designed to protect wildlife and people.

Herzog reveals that Treadwell only taped his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, on camera three times, and her face is clearly visible in only one shot. In part, she was invisible because Treadwell wanted to promote a fiction -- that he lived alone in communion with the grizzlies. But it also seems that Treadwell didn't want any other voices competing with his narcissistic monologue.

Her lack of voice haunts "Grizzly Man." Treadwell talks endlessly about how sensitive he is, yet she remains voiceless, faceless -- and her lack of presence makes you wonder if this self-styled animal lover had an ounce of humanity in him.

Then there is Treadwell's wrongheaded conceit that he was there to "protect" the grizzlies. They didn't need his protection. It was this delusion that brought death upon the grizzlies. Rangers shot the bear that ate the couple in the first known bear killings of humans at Alaska's Katmai National Park, as well as another bear that seemed to be stalking them.
How different those real bears were from the Disney version in Treadwell's mind. It's odd. Treadwell did have a visible bond with many of the park's foxes. But the bears he videotaped seemed particularly uninterested in bonding with a blonde. They were interested, however, in meals to fatten up for hibernation.

I have seen grizzlies from a safe distance. They are beautiful because they are powerful
predators. They are only hurt by visitors who do not respect them and keep their distance.

As Chuck Bartlebaugh, executive director of the Center for Wildlife Information, told National Geographic News, "Two years ago, we counted 200 people standing within five feet of grizzly bears in Yellowstone. Those bears are now dead."

Stupidity kills. Treadwell was so filled with his own conceit he didn't care who got hurt. He told friends that if he died with the bears, he would have died as he wanted to.

He'd probably shrug about the two dead bears and say he would not have wanted them to die. To him, only one thing mattered -- the words that belong on the tombstone of every dangerous zealot: He meant well.

©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

George F. Will: Penguins, People and a Grisly Bear Tale

The Washington Post
Sunday, August 28, 2005; Page B07

This summer's movie stars are not the usual bipeds but other animals -- emperor penguins and grizzly bears. Their performances are pertinent to some ongoing arguments.

"March of the Penguins" raises this question: If an Intelligent Designer designed nature, why did it decide to make breeding so tedious for those penguins? The movie documents the 70-mile march of thousands of Antarctic penguins from the sea to an icy breeding place barren of nutrition. These perhaps intelligently but certainly oddly designed birds march because they cannot fly. They cannot even march well, being most at home in the sea.

In temperatures of 80 below and lashed by 100 mph winds, the females take months to produce an egg while the males trek back to the sea to fatten up. Returning, the males are entrusted with keeping the eggs warm during foodless months while the females march back to the sea to fill their stomachs with nutriments they will share with the hatched chicks.

The penguins' hardiness is remarkable, as is the intricate choreography of the march, the breeding and the nurturing. But the movie, vigorously anthropomorphizing the birds, invites us to find all this inexplicably amazing, even heroic. But the penguins are made for that behavior in that place. What made them? Adaptive evolution. They have been "designed" for all that rigor -- meaning they have been shaped by adapting to many millennia of nature's harshness.

Speaking of harshness, Timothy Treadwell, college dropout, drug abuser and failed actor, became a Southern California beach bum, had a heroin overdose and then an epiphany: He must spend summers in Alaska "protecting" the grizzlies. The idea that these huge, robust carnivores need protection provided by this mentally wobbly narcissist -- a developmentally arrested adolescent in his forties -- would be funny, had not Alaska officials "hauled four garbage bags of people out of the bear" that devoured Treadwell and his girlfriend at the end of his fifth summer filming grizzly bears to which he gave cute names such as Mr. Chocolate and Sgt. Brown.

About half of "Grizzly Man," a documentary about Treadwell, is his film. The rest consists of interviews with, among others, a dry-eyed Alaskan who says "he got what he was asking for."
Although Treadwell has been described as an "animal lover," the grandiosity of his self-praise as he preens and waxes metaphysical in front of his camera reveals that his great love was himself. His cooing of "I love you" at magnificently indifferent bears and his swooning over the warmth of bear feces ("This was just inside of her!") is as repulsive as his weeping over evidence that nature really is red in tooth and claw.

Evidence such as bear cubs killed by mature male bears so the mother will stop lactating and be sexually available. Call that the Summer of Love, Alaska-style.

Treadwell was not far from mental illness, or from a social stance -- nature is sweet, civilization is nasty -- not easily distinguished from mental illness. Call it '60s Envy. So, see "Grizzly Man," then read T.C. Boyle's 2003 novel "Drop City."

It is about a bunch of Treadwells who, having dropped out and dropped acid, are addled but able to see that their California commune, based on "voluntary primitivism," has become overrun with inane philosophy and the communards' sewage. Also, the county sheriff is angry. So a few of them decide to found Drop City North in Alaska. As one of these pioneers explains, in Alaska there are "no rules" but there are food stamps.

There they plan "to live the vegetarian ideal" but where will the cheese come from, now that a wolverine has eaten the communal goats? When an Alaskan explains that "we eat bear and anything else we can get our hands on," a nature worshiper is horrified:

" 'But to kill another creature, another living soul, a soul progressing through all the karmic stages to nirvana' -- she paused to slap a mosquito on the back of her wrist with a neat slash of her hand -- 'that's something I just couldn't do.' " 'You just did.' " 'What? Oh, that. All right . . . I shouldn't have . . . but a bug is one thing . . . and like a bear is something else. They're almost human, aren't they?' "

The movies and novel prompt a thought: Reality's swirling complexity is sometimes lovely, sometime brutal; its laws propel the comings and goings of life forms in processes as impersonal as Antarctica is to the penguins or the bears were to Treadwell or Alaska was to Drop City North. It is so grand that nothing is gained by dragging an Intelligent Designer into the picture for praise. Or blame.

David Leonhardt: To Play is the Thing

August 28, 2005
The New York Times

Baseball has always been the most literary of sports, but it never managed to produce an intellectual fight worthy of the term. For most of its existence, writings on the game tended toward the poetic, like John Updike's "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," a farewell to Ted Williams, or toward statistical minutiae.

This summer, however, the sport has found itself in the equivalent of a theological dispute about whether baseball is a game of mystery or of data, of statistics and analysis or of intuition and human instinct.

Like any good intellectual spat, this one involves high-brow questions and low-brow insults - in this case, dumb, narrow-minded and even unloving. It also has attracted interest from fields as far from the dugout as medicine, Hollywood and Wall Street, which find themselves grappling with the same question as baseball managers: When information can be gathered more cheaply and quickly than ever before, should people rely less on their hunches and more on numbers?

"I've been sat down and told they can give me a better way to do everything," Tony La Russa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and the hero of a new book celebrating the hunch, said last week, describing the statistics crowd. "They really are convinced that they can sit there and crunch out a formula that negates my power of observation."

"It's been a little irritating," La Russa added, "because there's a certain arrogance with that whole group."

It began two years ago, with the publication of "Moneyball," the Michael Lewis best seller about the Oakland A's, whose general manager, Billy Beane, used quantitative tools to keep his team near the top of its division every year, despite having less to spend than many competitors.

All the while, Beane marveled at the inanity of baseball's old ways, like judging prospects by body type instead of performance. Beane's success, and that of Lewis's book, brought even more number-crunchers into front offices, often at the suggestion of a team owner who had read "Moneyball."

Last year's World Series victory by the statistics-centric Boston Red Sox set baseball's old guard even farther back on its heels. The lessons of their championship will be enumerated next month with the publication of "Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart and Finally Won a World Series," written by the staff of Baseball Prospectus, a Web site that is to baseball's reformation what The Public Interest was to the rise of conservatism.

The traditionalists, who still dominate the scouting ranks, many front offices and the baseball media, have mounted a counterreformation this year with two books of their own. The first, "Three Nights in August," by Buzz Bissinger portrays La Russa as a master at tinkering with players' psyches.

He tries to bring out the best from an underachieving player, and he decides which pitchers should be briefed about the opposing lineup before a start, and which should simply go out and throw.

The second traditionalist text, "Scout's Honor," by Bill Shanks celebrates the scouts of Atlanta Braves, a profession that often serves as Beane's foil in "Moneyball." The Braves have won 13 straight division titles, Shanks writes, by letting their scouts find the players with the best "makeup," a baseball catch-all for hustle, attitude and heart.

Shanks is openly contemptuous of the Lewis book, writing, "the brash disregard for scouting in its truest sense as portrayed in 'Moneyball' was just as insulting to me as it was to so many scouts around the game."

Academic research, however, is pretty much on the side of statistics. Whether diagnosing patients or evaluating job candidates, human beings vastly overestimate their ability to make judgments, research shows. Numbers and analysis almost always make people better.

"There have been hundreds of papers on subjects from picking students for a school to predicting the survival of cancer patients," said Richard Thaler, a University of Chicago economist who uses sports examples in his class on decision-making. When a computer model is given the same information as an expert, the model almost always comes out on top, Thaler said.

Baseball's new analysts say that teams rely too much on instinct and received wisdom, which leads to things like the overuse of the sacrifice bunt and the drafting of high-school players.

In a speech to a group of investment bankers shortly after "Moneyball" appeared, Paul DePodesta, then Beane's deputy, called baseball a game where you were supposed to sit on your behind, "spit tobacco and nod at stupid things," borrowing a remark from a retired pitcher named Bill Lee.

"It became clear to us that the inefficiency in decision making in baseball was vast," said DePodesta, who played baseball at Harvard and led the Los Angeles Dodgers to the playoffs last year, his first season as their general manager.

The early record suggests that the reformers have found a real edge, if not a fool-proof method. The small-budget teams that depend most on analysis - Oakland, Toronto, Cleveland - are among the only ones in the playoff picture this year.

But their record is hardly spotless, the old guard happily notes. Beane has never won a playoff series, and DePodesta's Dodgers are struggling this year. The Braves are in first place again, despite Baseball Prospectus's many predictions of their imminent demise. So are La Russa's Cardinals.

The most entertaining part of the battle is the charges and countercharges. Bissinger, for example, writes that the number crunchers do not truly love the game because they do not appreciate its lore or its human ingredient, a claim Lewis called absurd.

Indeed, what makes this fight truly comparable to those that periodically roil the worlds of art history or foreign policy is that the differences between the sides aren't as great as the sniping between them suggests.

La Russa spends much of his time jotting down information on index cards and studying statistics in his office, while members of the new guard often say the future belongs to teams that combine number crunching with scouting and injury prevention.

"The 'Moneyball' kind of stuff has its place, but so does the human," La Russa said by telephone from Pittsburgh. "Really, the combination is the answer."

But reaching that happy medium is likely to prove more difficult, and more interesting, than talking about it. The Cardinals, after all, created a statistical analysis department in the last two years, but La Russa said it had "almost zero effect" on his strategy. He wishes the team had instead spent the money on new video equipment.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company