Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fr. Apostolos Hill: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Commentary on social and moral issues of the day

The Christmas season is upon us once again and this year's collection of holiday movies includes one film which deserves special attention. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is scheduled for release on Friday, December 9th and already a kind of Narnia-fever is beginning to grip the entertainment industry as glowing early reviews of the film accumulate.

This adaptation of the now classic series of children's books by the renowned author C.S. Lewis (+1963) is the first big-budget effort undertaken to bring this tale to life though more modest efforts have been made in the past. Any serious reader of English literature will be familiar with the writings of C.S. Lewis whose other works include such classics as The Screwtape Letters, A Grief Observed, The Great Divorce, and Mere Christianity.

The Chronicles of Narnia may appear at first blush as just another childhood fantasy tale to keep the kiddies entertained for a couple of hours during the hectic holiday times. And to be sure this is a movie which promises to entertain and dazzle audiences young and old if early reviews of the film are at all accurate.

However, there is much, much more here for the savvy and well-informed viewer than meets the eye and almost certainly more than will be presented and discussed in Hollywood movie trailers in the marketing run-up. For Christian parents who are willing to invest a bit of time in their children's spiritual development this film is a rare opportunity to make connections between a cinematic event and lessons in the spiritual life.

C.S. Lewis, a contemporary and close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, was a master at hiding deep spiritual truths in seemingly mundane stories and bits of prose. Even when he didn't seem to be writing about profound spiritual truths he invested his writings with meaning. His Christian faith was simply too deeply imbedded in his psyche for this to be avoided.

For instance, his pithy and sarcastic treatment of the bus-ride to Heaven by the citizens of Hell in The Great Divorce is at once hilarious and quite thought-provoking even, dare I say convicting, as he describes the types of characters we can all recognize who are too satisfied in their misery to stay in Heaven even when given the chance.

In Lewis' own preface to this book he describes the fallacy of contemporary views on good and evil:

... in some sense or other, the attempt to make (the marriage of heaven and hell) is perennial. The attempt is based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable 'either-or'; that, granted skill and patience and above all time, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found; that mere development or adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of anything we should like to retain.

This belief I take to be a disastrous error. You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind. We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. . . .It is still 'either-or'. If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. (vii-ix)

The choice between the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of hell is clear in The Chronicles of Narnia. The story opens with the four siblings Lucy, Edmond, Peter, and Susan being sent to the home of a mysterious professor in the English countryside to escape the nightly bombings of London during the Battle of Britain. While playing in the large country manor one day the children stumble onto an old wooden wardrobe or bureau which is in truth a portal that opens onto the frozen Kingdom of Narnia.

Here the four children will be tempted (Edmond as he accepts the Witch's offer of Turkish Delight and betrays his friends) and challenged as they must do their part to battle the forces of the White Witch, Jadis, in the climactic final scene. And dominating the Kingdom is Aslan, the great Lion who rules Narnia and who guides the children into truths about themselves they could only discover there in Narnia and the adversities they must face together. Without spoiling too much of the story line for readers as yet unfamiliar with The Chronicles of Narnia, let me point out a handful of themes and related questions for parents to explore with their children both before and after viewing the film.

Why does Lewis select a Lion to play the part of the Ruler of Narnia? Animals have been used throughout literary history to depict or represent deity. For instance, in Celtic literature a Stag is often used since this was the noblest and most majestic animal that Celts would have known in their part of the British Isles.

What unique qualities does a Lion possess which make it suitable for such a portrayal? Consider the following from the book of Revelation (5:5): "Weep not, behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book and to loose the seven seals thereof." Even Holy Scripture depicts Christ the Lord as a Lion and says of the righteous that they are "as bold as a lion" (Prov. 28:1). Ask your children which animal they might choose to represent God in such a tale and why? Kids have wonderful imaginations and their answers may surprise you.

As Lucy, Edmond, Peter, and Susan walk through the wardrobe they find the Kingdom of Narnia frozen in a perpetual winter under the grip of the White Witch. Only by defeating her in open battle can the Kingdom be released from her icy clutches.

Why does Lewis choose to depict this bondage to Jadis as an unending winter? Think about this in terms of the theme of light and darkness. St. John writes in the beginning of his Gospel that "The Light shined in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5). Christ said of Himself "I am the Light of the world, he that follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12) Christ even tells us "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt.5:14,16).

Winter is dark and cold. In what ways do we experience sin and estrangement from God as cold and darkness? What does it mean to walk in the light of Christ? Ask your children to recall a time they were afraid of the dark or gladdened to find some light. Share a story with them from your own childhood and talk with them about how this theme is portrayed in Narnia.

You will discover many kinds of creatures in The Chronicles of Narnia; fauns, satyrs, minotaurs, dragons, unicorns, and winged horses as well as other animals we are more familiar with like polar bears, wolves, and bears. You will also notice how some creatures are enslaved to the service of the White Witch while others volunteer their service to the children and the protectors of Narnia who fight for its freedom.

Holy Scripture is also replete with stories of animals. Noah took two of every living creature into the Ark to save them from the Great Flood. Adam and Eve are deceived in the Garden of Eden by the serpent. Daniel is placed in the Lion's Den but emerges unharmed after God sent an angel to protect him. The prophet Elijah is fed by ravens. Balaam's donkey speaks to him to scold him when he tries to avoid doing God's will. And Jonah is swallowed up by the great fish that spits him after three days onto land so he can complete his task of leading Nineveh to repentance.

In the movie, the created order is alternately enslaved to the kingdom of darkness or liberated and transformed by the Kingdom of God. Consider this very compelling passage written by St. Paul to the Romans:

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:19-23).

Nature itself participates and anticipates the salvation of the world. The Lord told Nicodemus in the garden: "For God so loved the cosmos.." Ask your children how they see animals and the world around them as being involved in our salvation. Notice how the creatures in service to the White witch are deformed and distorted and disfigured while those in service to Aslan seem noble and intelligent and beautiful. Ask your children after viewing the film to draw the most beautiful creature they can imagine or the most hideous.

Why did Lewis depict children as central characters in his book? You will notice during the movie that Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter are charged with responsibilities much greater than would be entrusted to children their ages in "the real world." Quite often we unwittingly send the massage to our little ones that they are of little account or that -- as I heard so often as a child -- "children are to be seen and not heard."

But the Lord says just the opposite:

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them" (Mark 10:13-15).

We must become like children if we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. No doubt an adult who happened upon the wardrobe would have turned back before ever reaching the lamp-post in Narnia, convinced he or she was overwrought and in need of a sedative. But children have the ability to see beyond the ordinary and to perceive the things of God in everyday events. And once they are blessed and empowered by Aslan for battle they prove themselves to be formidable warriors indeed. Share with your children the words of St. John who wrote; "You are of God, little children, because you have overcome them (evil spirits), because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4) and again the words of St. Paul who wrote; "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).

C.S. Lewis' poignant words above about the "either-or" reality of our spiritual journey ring particularly true in the imagery of this film. There can be no accommodation with the Kingdom of the White Witch if the hoary winter is to be lifted. Only Aslan's sacrifice on the stone table and his resurrection can restore Narnia to its former warmth and glory and deliver the creatures of Narnia from their bondage. We are engaged in a battle ever so much more real and fraught with eternal implications than that depicted in the Chronicles of Narnia.

For ourselves, for our children, and for our salvation it is vital that we take full advantage of the release of this wonderful film to explore these themes and the many others not touched upon above. The power of myth to convey essential truths is fully in line with the parables of the New Testament, only in our time we have become such literalists that we fail to see the import such myths carry and the truths they have the power to deliver.

So, enjoy the movie and talk about it with your children. Use it as an opportunity to discuss our most precious Faith with them. And if you haven't already done so, by all means, buy the Narnia series for your family this Christmas.

Fr. Apostolos Hill is the assistant priest at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Denver, Colorado.

Ann Coulter Skewers 'Good Night, and Good Luck'

Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been A Second-Rate Filmmaker?

By Ann Coulter
November 17, 2005

As noted here previously, George Clooney's movie "Good Night, and Good Luck," about pious parson Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, failed to produce one person unjustly accused by McCarthy. Since I described McCarthy as a great American patriot defamed by liberals in my 2003 book, "Treason," liberals have had two more years to produce a person – just one person – falsely accused by McCarthy. They still can't do it.

Meanwhile, I can prove that Murrow's good friend Lawrence Duggan was a Soviet spy responsible for having innocent people murdered. The brilliant and perceptive journalist Murrow was not only unaware of the hundreds of Soviet spies running loose in the U.S. government, he was also unaware that his own dear friend Duggan was a Soviet spy – his friend on whose behalf corpses littered the Swiss landscape.

Contrary to the image of the Black Night of Fascism (BNOF) under McCarthy leading to mass suicide with bodies constantly falling on the heads of pedestrians in Manhattan, Duggan was the only suicide. After being questioned by the FBI, Duggan leapt from a window. Of course, given the people he was doing business with, he may have been pushed.

After Duggan's death, Murrow, along with the rest of the howling establishment, angrily denounced the idea that Duggan could possibly have been disloyal to America.
Well, now we know the truth. Decrypted Soviet cables and mountains of documents from Soviet archives prove beyond doubt that Lawrence Duggan was one of Stalin's most important spies. "McCarthyism" didn't kill him; his guilt did.

During the height of the Soviet purges in the mid-'30s, as millions of innocents were being tortured, exiled and killed on Stalin's orders, Murrow's good pal Duggan was using his position at the State Department to pass important documents to the Soviets. The documents were so sensitive, Duggan had to return the originals to the State Department before the end of the day. Some were so important, they were sent directly to Stalin and Molotov.

On at least one occasion, Murrow's dear friend Duggan sat with his Soviet handler for an hour as the handler photographed 60 documents for the motherland. In other words, Duggan was the kind of disloyal, two-faced, back-stabbing weasel you rarely see outside of the entertainment industry. (He certainly was perceptive, that Murrow.)

All this time, people Duggan knew personally were being falsely accused and executed back in the Soviet Union. Duggan expressed concern about Stalin's purges with his Soviet handler, but he didn't stop spying. As Allen Weinstein describes it in "The Haunted Wood," Duggan was mostly concerned about being falsely accused by Stalin himself someday.

Because of Murrow's good buddy Duggan, innocent people were killed. Not just the millions murdered during the purges while Duggan was earning "employee of the month" awards from Stalin. At least one man was murdered solely to protect Duggan's identity as a Soviet spy.

Ignatz Reiss had been the head of Soviet secret police in Europe. As such, he was aware of Soviet agents in the United States, including Duggan. But unlike Duggan, Reiss was stunned by Stalin's bloody purges. In 1937, Reiss defected from the Soviet Union, threatening to expose Duggan if they came after him. It was his death warrant.

Two months later, Soviet secret police tracked Reiss to a restaurant in Switzerland. According to the official memo describing Reiss' murder, Soviet agents dragged Reiss out of the restaurant, shoved him in a car, shot him and dumped his body by the side of the road. (Or, in Soviet parlance, he was "debriefed.")

Soviet officials later happily informed Duggan's handler in America: "[Reiss] is liquidated, [but] not yet his wife ... Now the danger that [Duggan] will be exposed because of [Reiss] is considerably decreased." Despite all Clooney's double-sourced fact-checking, he missed the part about Murrow's good friend Duggan being an accomplice to murder.

To hear these liberals carry on, "McCarthyism" was the worst thing that ever happened in the history of the universe. No one has ever been so persecuted or so heroic as Hollywood actors in the '50s.

At the exact same time as these crybabies were wailing about McCarthyism, there was much worse going on in the parts of the world so admired by the Hollywood left. It's not as if we have to go back to the Peloponnesian War to find greater suffering than that of Hollywood drama queens during the BNOF under McCarthyism.

I believe anyone would find it preferable to have been a "target" of McCarthy in the '50s than to have been an ordinary citizen living in the Soviet Union, Hungary, Poland, the Ukraine or any nation infected by the Red Plague.

Thanks to McCarthy, and no thanks to Murrow, the worst horror to befall an American citizen in the '50s was the dire prospect of losing a movie credit – although, since then, I suppose having to watch a George Clooney movie would run a close second.

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Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

P. David Hornik- Folly in Gaza: The Sequel

P. David Hornik
November 17, 2005

Under intense American pressure, Israel recently signed with the Palestinian Authority a new deal that effectively ensures a steady flow of weapons and terrorists into Gaza. From there they will make their way to the West Bank, thereby guaranteeing that the “cycle of violence” will continue far into the future on terms detrimental to Israel.

The architect of the deal is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice came to Israel after suffering a defeat at the conference on Arab democracy in Bahrain. Egypt had blocked a draft declaration by insisting that Arab governments keep control over money transfers to NGOs and democracy groups. But while Egypt is hard to bully and insists on what it considers its interests, Israel under Prime Minister Sharon and Defense Minister Mofaz—even after the disengagement that was supposed to give Israel “moral capital” to resist further American pressure—easily submits to the will of the U.S. That works to America’s advantage: When meeting with Arab recalcitrance, the U.S. can always save face with a few shoves of its "sole democratic ally."

By all accounts, Rice had no patience for any further haggling on security matters. She demanded a deal posthaste. She even stayed one extra night in Israel and got the deal by Tuesday, before heading off to join President Bush in South Korea. Nothing that has happened in Israel in recent years seems to have convinced her or the president that Israeli security concerns are anything more than tiresome nuisances. Nor has anything dissuaded Sharon and Mofaz that bowing to the U.S. and propitiating it is, as always, the cardinal Israeli interest, easily trumping sanity in the security domain.

It goes nearly without saying that Israel’s autonomy as a sovereign and democratic state is irrelevant when there are larger matters at stake. Matters such as demonstrating America’s ability to keep the Palestinians happy. The new agreement itself makes clear how little, more than half a century after securing its independence, Israel has been able to establish, even in the eyes of its U.S. ally, that it is a genuinely sovereign entity entitled to all the security prerogatives this entails.

That much is evident in the new agreement. It contains astonishing clauses that compromise Israel’s basic rights in a way that no country, democratic or non-democratic, would tolerate—except, that is, for a small, outcast Jewish state dependent on a single powerful supporter.

For instance, at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, incoming traffic of Palestinians and others from the Sinai is to be “monitored” by Egyptians on the one side and Palestinians on the other. Monitoring the monitors will be a contingent of EU personnel who, as EU officials have already made clear, will not serve as policemen, border guards, or customs officers; this will leave them little role except as passive rubber stamps. Considering that the EU has consistently backed Palestinian terror against Israel since the 1970s, one could not rationally have expected anything better.

The agreement also calls into question, yet again, the wisdom of Israel’s recent disengagement from Gaza. Back in the days when the disengagement was being sold as a clever maneuver, whereby Israel would leave Gaza but seal it off as a security threat, the assumption was that Israel would maintain a presence on the Gaza-Sinai border—an obvious conduit for terrorists and weapons. This was a reasonable demand given that the Palestinian Authority, of which Gaza is part, is not a sovereign entity, but is anarchic, infested with terrorists, and has shown more than a little hostility to Israel.

But now that the Palestinians and Egyptians, with American backing, have stipulated that not a single Israeli security operative is to remain on this border, Israel has settled, instead, for surveillance cameras at the Rafah terminal. These will send video feeds to a liaison office at Kerem Shalom, which is in Israeli territory south of Gaza. Incredibly, the liaison office—to repeat, on sovereign, supposedly undisputed Israeli territory—is to be staffed by Israeli as well as European and Palestinian personnel. In this theater of the absurd, Israel not only loses the right to a presence on the Gaza-Sinai border; it also loses the right independently to monitor the monitors by video feed on its own territory without being monitored there, in turn, by other Europeans and Palestinians!

Then there is the matter of the Karni crossing from Gaza to Israel. Since the disengagement, 35 Gazan export trucks have gone through it daily. Under the agreement, this will increase to 150 by the end of this year, and at least 400 by the end of 2006. But the agreement also stipulates that bus convoys, by December 15, and truck convoys, by a month later, will pass through Karni to the West Bank. “The result is easy to see,” former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, noting that “Kassam rockets and mortars will be transported through Judea and Samaria to be launched at Israel. . . . The biggest danger is that the Palestinians would be able to transfer the Strella [anti-aircraft] missiles, which are already in Gaza, to the area overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport and threaten planes landing and taking off.”He went on to note what would seem obvious to anyone genuinely concerned with Israel’s well-being (whether or not that includes the Bush administration): “You can't treat the Palestinian Authority like a properly run state. It’s a failing regime that does not fight terror, and the security ring around it cannot be loosened.” Indeed, it cannot be. But it has been. And not just loosened, but almost obliterated. Starting next month, each day dozens of buses and trucks will be crossing sovereign Israeli territory, carrying people and weapons from one part of an anti-Israeli terror entity to the other.

The problems with the Rafah and Karni crossings, however, pale in insignificance compared to the agreement’s coup de grace: Israel has given the Palestinians a green light to start building a seaport in Gaza. Back in the misty past, less than four years ago, Israel created some hoopla over its capture of the Karine A cargo ship, which was attempting to smuggle a large consignment of weapons and explosives from Iran to Gaza. It need not have bothered. Under the new deal, the Karine A will be a harmless fishing boat compared to the munitions, certain to include long-range missiles sooner or later, that the Palestinians will be able to bring in routinely.

In the short term, the U.S. may feel that it has given the Palestinians breathing space and shored up its faltering image in the Arab world. In the long term, the new agreement advances the cause of Islamic terror and puts a loyal but obsequious ally in great jeopardy.

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P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Jerusalem who has contributed recently to The Jerusalem Post, The American Spectator Online, and Israeli news-views websites.He can be reached at

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Boss' Third Album Deserving of 30-Year Anniversary Bash

By Chuck Darrow
The Courier-Post
(Cherry Hill, NJ)
November 15, 2005

Young Americans by David Bowie.

A Night at the Opera by Queen.

Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin.

Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac.

All of these albums were released in 1975. But none have received the big-bang 30th anniversary treatment afforded another vintage-'75 LP, Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

Today, Columbia Records releases a three-CD package featuring a remastered version of Springsteen's third long-player, a behind-the-scenes "making of" DVD and -- perhaps best of all -- a DVD of a 1975 concert at London's Hammersmith Odeon, which just happened to be Bruce's first British performance.

At first thought, this doesn't seem fair. After all, it can be argued the above-named works are just as culturally significant, not to mention revered, as Born to Run. At the time, they certainly were as commercially successful, if not more so.

For instance, A Night At the Opera contains "Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen's bizarro mini-suite that has become a pop culture touchstone.

And Fleetwood Mac marked the transformation of the journeyman '60s blues-rock outfit into one of the chart-topping giants of all time, thanks to the addition of guitarist-composer Lindsay Buckingham and his then-girlfriend, Stevie Nicks. It's the home of such songs as "Over My Head," "Say You Love Me" and "Rhiannon."

It's also true that Born to Run predated Springsteen's true international breakout album, Born In the USA, by nine years.

So why does Born to Run deserve all the fuss? Maybe because when you get down to it, it's not only musically superior to those other platters but, it can be argued, far more important in the overall scheme of things.

Born to Run is that rarest of albums, one which contains absolutely no filler; it's about as close to musically and lyrically flawless as any collection of original songs ever recorded.

From the vaguely mournful harmonica line that announces the album's opening track, "Thunder Road," to the primal-scream ride out that closes "Jungleland," the eighth and final cut, Born to Run delivers in ways most albums -- even those as celebrated as the above -- cannot and do not.

You want unbridled exuberance that truly leaps from the speakers? Try cranking up the title track or "She's the One," with its grab-you-by-the-throat "Bo Diddley" beat.

Looking instead for last-chance desperation? Listen to "Meeting Across the River," a noirish tale of a two-bit hustler dreaming of that elusive score that will make everything right. It's told in the first person and punctuated by guest trumpeter Randy Brecker's Bernard Herrmannesque soloing. And it is definitely not the work of just another rock 'n' roll songsmith, but of someone with a novelist's eye and a poet's soul.

And then there's the emotionally searing "Jungleland," another look at those on society's margins that is as musically complex as anything ever rendered by The Boss and his astonishing aggregation of supporting instrumentalists collectively known as the E Street Band.

Quite simply, as brilliant as any other of 1975's top LPs may be, they simply don't measure up to Born to Run.

But there's another reason why, three decades later, Born to Run merits such celebration. The LP almost single-handedly returned rock music to its rightful owner, the United States of America.

From the moment on Feb. 9, 1964 The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, the English had a stranglehold on what had been to that point a uniquely American musical form. The "British Invasion" of the mid-'60s (which gave us the Fab Four and Rolling Stones, among others) led to the turn-of-the'70s emergence of such chart-topping, album-oriented artists as Bowie, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull and Yes.

During that time span, it seemed everyone's ears were tuned to a U.K. frequency (even with Yankee exceptions like Jimi Hendrix and The Doors making their indelible marks).

The sound conjured on Born to Run was truly made in the USA: Springsteen's New Jersey-inspired characters and settings were channeled through a sonic brew that was equal parts Bob Dylan, Gary "U.S." Bonds and Phil Spector -- Americans all.

So, to answer the doubters' questions, yeah, Born to Run deserves this week's hoopla.

And then some.

Thomas Fleming: Sex and Death

Monday, November 14, 2005

I do not like to say a good thing about a sitting President, but when George finally held his nose and nominated a man, instead of a mouse, to the Supreme Court, he seems to have picked wisely. Samuel Alito is one of the best conservative judges in the country, and while he lacks some of Chief Justice John Roberts’ charm (a quality I find revolting in any serious man), he has spent his professional life with his cards planted firmly to his chest. Although he has left a long paper trail of firm and coherent decisions, he has avoided the grandiose rhetoric and self-dramatizing statements of Robert Bork, and, unlike Justice Thomas, he has not been foolish enough to allow a Straussian assistant to publish nonsense under his name. In his own quiet way, Alito is as baffling to the Demcratic leadership as Roberts was, and even the pundits at the far-left concede that opposition to his nomination will really be coming from leftwing lobbying groups that are calling in their chits.

The biggest constellation of lobbyists are, it goes without saying, the infanticide lobby. Why do so many leftists get het up over abortion rights? In the world we live in, infanticide of unborn and newborn infants is far from difficult, and, considering the large number of women who have had abortions (plus their approving boyfriends, husbands, fathers, brothers) no one seriously thinks that the Court is going to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. Even if some abortion “rights” were restricted, if underage girls had to inform their parents or if a waiting period were imposed, this is hardly the end of the world. In parallel cases—e.g., major surgery, marriage—young people are expected to talk it over with parents and take a little time to reflect. Why is the right to kill one’s own child so special that it trumps all other considerations, even public health rules. Abortuaries are subject to less regulation than veterinary clinics. Is that really how most Americans view unborn babies?

The answer is probably known to everyone who reads this column: reproductive rights, or rather on-reproductive rights: the right and duty to have sex without reproducing. The sexual revolution, a far more profound and dangerous revolution than either the French or Russian Revolutions, was a revolution against human nature and against the most basic elements of human society. However wicked the Cities of the Plain might have been, Sodom and Gomorrah were, to some extent, only a story that foreshadows the nightmare we have come to accept. Do not look for parallels in ancient Greek bisexuality (a much misinterpreted phenomenon) or Roman decadence.

Ordinary people in the ancient world lived as most ordinary people have always lived, dividing their time between worrying about crops and chasing after the children who are supposed to be tending the livestock or working in the fields. The tiny elite classes might become as decadent as they liked without influencing the rest of us whose lives are shaped by natural necessities. Yes, in 18th century Europe an anti-ethic of irresponsible hedonism reached its peak in figures like Voltaire and Sade, but the sexual antics of the Palais Royal were not being imitated by peasants in the Vendée. Only in the 20th century have we universalized the rebellion against nature and God and communicated it to the common man.

God? I do not refer only to the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” or to the punishment of Onan for practicing contraception. Christianity, though some of the early fathers were too skeptical about marriage and sex, has represented an affirmation and elevation and transfiguration of marital relations. When the churches turned first to contraception and then to abortion, they became the church of Antichrist. (I understand that ELCA Lutherans pay for their pastorettes’ abortions.) The deeper meaning of this revolution I glimpsed yesterday, reading about a bizarre Gnostic sect whose members devoted 365 different copulations to 365 different supernatural forces. Contraception was the rule, but where contraception failed, they had recourse to abortions carried out in combination with grotesque rituals. This worship of sex and death, I submit to you in all seriousness, is the diabolical religion of mainstream “Christianity” today.

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Jon Pareles: 'Born to Run' Reborn 30 Years Later

The New York Times
November 15, 2005

In the spring of 1974, Bruce Springsteen was a skinny, tousled 24-year-old Jersey Shore songwriter about to make his third album. He was under pressure. Although he was an East Coast club sensation and a rock critics' favorite, his first two albums hadn't sold enough to convince his label, Columbia, that he wasn't a flop. It could have been his last chance.

Yet he went into the studio not to make a commercial hit, but to make a masterpiece. "We had ambition to burn," said Jon Landau, who is now Mr. Springsteen's manager. He produced the album with Mr. Springsteen and his manager at the time, Mike Appel.

"We knew exactly what we wanted," Mr. Landau recalled in an interview last week. "We were not in it do something average. We were not in it to get any particular song on the radio. We were in it to do something great."

The result - after 15 months of writing and rewriting, relentless 18-hour recording sessions and the replacement of half the E Street Band - was "Born to Run," released on Aug. 25, 1975. It would transform Mr. Springsteen from a local sensation into an American rock archetype.

Thirty years later, Mr. Springsteen is rereleasing "Born to Run" in a box set (list price $39.98) that Mr. Landau described as a "victory lap." It includes a remastered CD of the original album and two DVD's: "Wings for Wheels," a documentary on the making of the album, and "Hammersmith Odeon, London '75," a two-hour concert film of Mr. Springsteen and the E Street Band going all out to win over a skeptical audience at his first concert in England. Tucked at the end of "Wings for Wheels" is another performance: Mr. Springsteen leading his 1973 band in Los Angeles, playing three songs, including "Thundercrack," which wouldn't surface until Mr. Springsteen released his collection of outtakes, "Tracks," in 1998.

The documentary, including video shot during the recording sessions that has not surfaced until now, shows some of the trauma of the recording process. Film of the London concert, which sat unwatched for three decades in Mr. Springsteen's archive, presents a heady, rambunctious triumph: unabashed Jersey guys running on nerves, adrenaline and virtuosity.

"Wings for Wheels" draws on video shot by Barry Rebo, who was then a Jersey Shore fan and friend of Mr. Springsteen and is now the chairman of Emerging Pictures, a national network of digital movie theaters. Mr. Rebo shot his first film of Mr. Springsteen on Super-8 in 1970, and went on to videotape Mr. Springsteen in the studio and onstage for a decade.

"If I wanted to be a cameraman, which was my goal, he was the most perfect subject I could have," Mr. Rebo said in a telephone interview on Sunday, before heading to Atlantic City to see Mr. Springsteen perform. "He was shy, but onstage he would change into this unbelievably charismatic musician."

Mr. Rebo amassed more than 100 hours of video and film of Mr. Springsteen, including his celebrated club shows at the Bottom Line in Manhattan and the Roxy in Los Angeles. "Either it was going to find its way to the public or it was going to be the ultimate home movie," Mr. Rebo said. Mr. Springsteen bought Mr. Rebo's material earlier this year, and the new box set offers the first public glimpse of it.

In 1974, Mr. Rebo brought an early black-and-white video camera into 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt, N.Y., where Mr. Springsteen began recording "Born to Run." Mr. Landau politely described 914 as "a beat-up old funky studio"; among other things, the piano, which was at the core of the songs, would not stay in tune. Mr. Springsteen labored there for months, between playing club dates, over the four-and-a-half minutes of the song "Born to Run."

Thom Zimny, who directed "Wings for Wheels," said that virtually all of the music on the DVD is not from the finished album, but from the innumerable outtakes. (The DVD menus use snippets of studio conversation.) One fascinating section shows how the layers of the song "Born to Run" were stacked up, highlighting tracks within the song's dense mix. "There's no way to tell how many overdubs there were," Mr. Zimny said. When the song was complete, the E Street Band keyboardist David Sancious and drummer, Ernest (Boom) Carter, quit. Their replacements, Roy Bittan on piano and Max Weinberg on drums, are still in the band.

Mr. Springsteen also struggled in Blauvelt with the album's epic closing song, "Jungleland," which he would not finish for another year. "They were stuck," Mr. Rebo said. "It was Bruce trying to hear something and articulate it to people who had never made a record like that."

Using a camera modified with the tubes from a security camera so he could shoot in low light - sometimes just the light of the meters on the control-room console - Mr. Rebo captured an exhausted-looking but determined Mr. Springsteen, dissatisfied with the sound and calling for endless retakes. Yet when Mr. Springsteen got behind a microphone to sing "Jungleland," he had clearly thought through every dramatic inflection, from whisper to howl.

Mr. Springsteen invited Mr. Landau, a rock journalist who had proclaimed Mr. Springsteen "rock and roll future,"to the recording sessions, and Mr. Landau started offering advice. He convinced Mr. Springsteen to leave Blauvelt and move to a first-class recording studio, the Record Plant in Manhattan, where the album was finished.In "Wings for Wheels," Mr. Springsteen describes the album as the most theatrical songwriting of his career. He says he strove to make the songs cinematic, complete with scene-setting introductions, larger-than-life characters and atmospheric interludes. "The initial lyric would have been like a bad B picture," he observes. "The end product was supposed to be like a good B picture imbued with a certain spiritual thing."

"Born to Run" is "the dividing line" between his adolescent and adult work, Mr. Springsteen says. It is also as much an endpoint as a beginning. Suitelike songs like "Thunder Road" and "Jungleland" have more in common structurally with elaborate, multipart songs like "Rosalita" than with Mr. Springsteen's later songs.

"He didn't want to make a sequel," Mr. Landau said. "And he's never made a sequel. There was a culmination of part of his writing that he doesn't repeat."

Longtime fans of Mr. Springsteen may be surprised to see Mr. Appel appearing prominently in the documentary. He was the manager who helped Mr. Springsteen get his recording contract and who pushed the reluctant label to keep pouring more money into the making of "Born to Run." Mr. Landau said, "Mike was very good at just knocking down doors and, you know, beating people up till he got what he had to have."

Mr. Appel and Mr. Springsteen produced the song "Born to Run" before Mr. Landau began working with them. But Mr. Landau came to supplant Mr. Appel as Mr. Springsteen's main adviser. After the album was released - and beyond the period covered by the documentary - Mr. Landau and Mr. Appel would grapple over Mr. Springsteen's career.

The long-term contract that the young Mr. Springsteen had signed with Mr. Appel's production company, Laurel Canyon, gave the company control of Mr. Springsteen's publishing rights and gave it more royalties per album than Mr. Springsteen would receive.

In 1976, when Mr. Springsteen wanted to begin work on his next album, with Mr. Landau producing, Mr. Appel refused permission and later got an injunction to prevent them from working together. Mr. Springsteen had his contracts audited, and one accountant's report described them as "unconscionable exploitation." After nearly a year of lawsuits and countersuits, Mr. Springsteen and Mr. Appel reached an out-of-court settlement. Mr. Springsteen got his publishing rights, and he and Mr. Landau began recording "Darkness on the Edge of Town."

Still, Mr. Appel might have inadvertently helped Mr. Springsteen finally complete "Born to Run." Mr. Appel had booked a tour assuming that the album would be finished. According to Mr. Landau, the last possible day of recording before the band hit the road was a marathon in which Mr. Springsteen and the saxophonist Clarence Clemons pondered every note of Mr. Clemons's saxophone solo in "Jungleland" for some 16 hours.

"That was a nightmare," Mr. Landau said. "He had a vision in his head. And the only way he could work it out was through a certain amount of trial and error with Clarence. And he was in a very obsessive endgame on the album."

Mr. Landau recalled: "He was finishing with Clarence in one room. The band was in another room. They were mixing 'Jungleland' without the sax, waiting to put it in, in another room. And at 7 o'clock, 8 o'clock in the morning they just rolled out of the studio, got in a van and drove up to Providence and began the tour."

The full theatricality of Mr. Springsteen's songwriting for "Born to Run" comes through in the Hammersmith Odeon concert DVD. The show was filmed and recorded in 24-track sound. Mr. Springsteen had almost forgotten about it until he started looking through his archives recently. "I was told, 'He's going to be sending over some footage,' " Mr. Zimny said. "It was 16 cans, unlabeled, from 1975." The films were silent, separated from the recording, so Mr. Zimny had to do some lip-reading to connect images to songs.

Onstage, Mr. Springsteen wears a floppy knit cap that gets nearly as much of a workout as he does; band members have wide-brimmed hats and loud suits with bell-bottom pants. They tear through the songs: "Born to Run" has probably never been played as fast before or since, while "She's the One" starts with Mr. Springsteen's lone harmonica and builds its Bo Diddley beat into a syncopated jackhammer. And if Mr. Springsteen was nervous - he had spent the afternoon rampaging through the theater getting rid of promotional fliers that seemed like too much hype - it barely shows as he struts and clowns and emotes and sweats. "We were seeking that spotlight out, we were trying to do something that would be noticed," he says in the documentary. "You wanted something that was explosive." He was just a Jersey guy, ready to take on the world.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

'Born' Again, 30 Years Later

Springsteen looks back in a new boxed set "Born To Run" Bruce Springsteen (1-CD, 2-DVD set, Columbia) ****
Friday, November 11, 2005
Star-Ledger Staff

On Nov. 18, 1975, when the mania that followed the release of Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run" album was at its peak, a concert by him and his E Street Band at London's Hammersmith Odeon -- their first European gig -- was filmed.

Springsteen barely noticed.

"Lost in my own private Idaho, I'd paid no attention to it," he writes in the liner notes to his new "Born To Run" boxed set. "I never looked at it ... for 30 years. At the time I was anxious to move away from the commotion and down the road, as the band and I were 'busy bein' born.'"

Now, Springsteen is finally revisiting that film -- and that entire crazy time in his life -- in the one-CD, two-DVD boxed set, which will be in stores Tuesday.

The CD, a remastered version of the album, presents the music with added clarity and sonic fidelity. Roy Bittan's piano sparkles, Max Weinberg's drumming seems more thunderous than ever, and guitar riffs previously buried in the mix become more prominent.

One DVD is the two-hour concert film, capturing the still-young, still-hungry band at its best. The other is "Wings For Wheels," a new documentary on the making of the album that provides some valuable context. Three 1973 concert clips, featuring Springsteen with an earlier version of the E Street Band, are included as a bonus.

The absence of outtakes or alternative versions of the album's songs is disappointing, especially since tantalizing snippets of them are in "Wings For Wheels." Still, the boxed set represents a near-perfect way to re-experience an album that many consider Springsteen's best.

With big-hearted anthems ("Thunder Road," the title track), atmospheric epics ("Jungleland," "Backstreets") and idiosyncratically arranged tunes (the punchy, horn-led "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," the pulsating "She's the One"), "Born To Run" never lets up. Influenced by Phil Spector's wall-of-sound productions, Springsteen piled up layers of sound to sometimes dizzying effect, but never lost track of the songs' emotional threads.

"Born To Run" sounded unlike Springsteen's two prior albums, and has still not been convincingly imitated by him, or anyone else. It's also an unusually cohesive album -- every song seems to relate to the others, sonically or thematically.

" 'Born To Run' has that feeling of that one endless summer night," Springsteen says in "Wings For Wheels." "That's what the whole record feels like. It could all be taking place in the course of one evening, in all these different locations -- all these different stories on one sort of long summer night."

It was not a fun album to make. Keyboardist David Sancious and drummer Ernest "Boom" Carter left the band after just one track was recorded, in order to play their own jazz-fusion music; Bittan and Weinberg replaced them. Fearful that he would lose his recording contract if the album wasn't a hit, Springsteen agonized over every note and re-recorded songs countless times.

He approached the album orchestrally, plotting out every bar. And he left nothing to chance: He even gave Clarence Clemons note-to-note instructions for his long saxophone solo in "Jungleland."

"He felt everything was on the line, at the moment," says Bittan, in "Wings For Wheels," before adding about his perfectionist boss: "Actually, I think he probably has always felt that way, at all times."

Elsewhere in "Wings For Wheels," Springsteen listens to outtakes from the sessions, plays solo versions of some songs, and visits his hometown, Freehold. He offers little or nothing about some songs ("Night," "She's the One," "Meeting Across the River"), but talks extensively about others ("Born To Run," "Thunder Road," "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out").

Rest assured, though, that even on the songs he examines, much of the mystery remains intact.
"I have no idea what that means, to this day," he says of the title phrase of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out." "But it's important."

Throughout the documentary, Springsteen makes it clear that the album, as a whole, couldn't be more important to him.

"When I hear the record," he says, "I hear my friends, and I hear my hopes, and my dreams, and what I thought my life was going to be like, as a 25-, 24-year-old kid. I see it as the start of some of the most important and fundamental relationships in my life ... I think today, it provides, onstage for us, a great communion between myself and the band members. Without sounding too hokey about it, or blown-up about it, it is a bit sacramental."

Six of the album's eight songs are included in the stunning concert film, which features a skinny, scruffy Springsteen, nearly bursting with energy -- a whirling showman on songs like "Quarter To Three," "She's the One," "The Detroit Medley" and "Spirit In the Night."

A subdued, piano/harmonica/vocals version of "Thunder Road" kicks off the show. "For You" gets a slow, pensive reading, and the band stretches out with long jams on "Kitty's Back" and "The E Street Shuffle."

The band has no trouble sustaining intensity through the twists and turns of "Backstreets" and "Jungleland," but the show peaks with a manic, almost punk-like "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City," featuring a biting guitar duel between Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt.

The three 1973 performances -- recorded at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles -- feature Springsteen with a smaller, jazzier, shaggier band. Original E Street drummer Vini Lopez, who played in a looser style than Weinberg, was still in the fold, and Van Zandt had not yet joined.

The band plays "Thundercrack" (featuring the kind of laid-back, spacy jam that would be more typical for a Grateful Dead show) and "Spirit In the Night," and keyboardist Danny Federici and bassist Garry Tallent switch to accordion and tuba, respectively, on "Wild Billy's Circus Story."
Between songs, Springsteen jokes about the tradition of dedicating songs to people onstage, and mentions that he had just been booked to open a show at Madison Square Garden.
"Anyone who wants their name said at Madison Square Garden, meet me backstage with a quarter," he says.

The first of five upcoming New Jersey shows on Springsteen's acoustic tour takes place Sunday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. For details, see the Ticket section of today's Star-Ledger.

A Top 10 of fun facts
Here are 10 things you may not know about "Born to Run.":
1. Other titles reportedly considered for the album included "From the Churches to the Jails," "The Hungry and the Hunted" and "War & Roses."
2. On the album's cover photo, there is a large Elvis Presley fan-club button on Springsteen's guitar strap.
3. Drummer Ernest "Boom" Carter, who was in the E Street Band for about 10 months, plays on the title track only. It's his sole credit on a Springsteen studio album.
4. Charles Calello, a one-time member of the Four Seasons, arranged and conducted the strings on "Jungleland."
5. It was planned at one point that "Thunder Road" -- named after a 1958 Robert Mitchum movie -- would open the album, in acoustic form, and end it, in a full band version. Only the band version made the final cut.
6. According to Springsteen, all the album's songs were written on a piano at a tiny rented house in the West End section of Long Branch, where he lived at the time.
7. The band finished recording the album at the Record Plant studio in New York in the early hours of July 20, 1975, then immediately left for Providence, R.I., for the first show of the tour that night.
8. The album's engineer, Jimmy Iovine, went on to become a leading record-industry mogul, co-founding the Interscope label (Eminem, 50 Cent, Marilyn Manson).
9. The album was not nominated for any Grammys. Best-album nominees that year included Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years" (which won), Janis Ian's "Between the Lines" and the Eagles' "One of These Nights."
10. A 1980 drive to make the title track New Jersey's official state song failed.
-- Jay Lustig and W.C. Stroby

Mark Steyn: Bicultural Europe is Doomed

(Filed: 15/11/2005)

Three years ago -December 2002 - I was asked to take part in a symposium on Europe and began with the observation: "I find it easier to be optimistic about the futures of Iraq and Pakistan than, say, Holland or Denmark."

At the time, this was taken as confirmation of my descent into insanity. I can't see why. Compare, for example, the Iraqi and the European constitutions: which would you say reflected a shrewder grasp of the realities on the ground?

Or take last week's attacks in Jordan by a quartet of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's finest suicide bombers. The day after the carnage, Jordanians took to the streets in their thousands to shout "Death to Zarqawi!" and "Burn in hell, Zarqawi!" King Abdullah denounced terrorism as "sick" and called for a "global fight" against it. "These people are insane," he said of the husband-and-wife couple dispatched to blow up a wedding reception.

For purposes of comparison, consider the Madrid bombing from March last year. The day after that, Spaniards also took to the streets, for their feebly tasteful vigil. Instead of righteous anger, they were "united in sorrow" - i.e. enervated in passivity. Instead of wishing death on the perpetrators, the preferred slogan was "Basta!" - "Enough!" - which was directed less at the killers than at Aznar and Bush. Instead of a leader who calls for a "global fight", they elected a government pledged to withdraw from any meaningful role in the global fight.

My point in that symposium was a simple one: whatever their problems, most Islamic countries have the advantage of beginning any evolution into free states from the starting point of relative societal cohesion. By contrast, most European nations face the trickier task of trying to hold on to their freedom at a time of increasing societal incoherence.

True, America and Australia grew the institutions of their democracy with relatively homogeneous populations, and then evolved into successful "multicultural" societies. But that's not what's happening in Europe right now. If you want to know what a multicultural society looks like, read the names of America's dead on September 11: Arestegui, Bolourchi, Carstanjen, Droz, Elseth, Foti, Gronlund, Hannafin, Iskyan, Kuge, Laychak, Mojica, Nguyen, Ong, Pappalardo, Quigley, Retic, Shuyin, Tarrou, Vamsikrishna, Warchola, Yuguang, Zarba. Black, white, Hispanic, Arab, Indian, Chinese - in a word, American.

Whether or not one believes in "celebrating diversity", that's a lot of diversity to celebrate. But the Continent isn't multicultural so much as bicultural. There are ageing native populations, and young Muslim populations, and that's it: "two solitudes", as they say in my beloved Quebec. If there's three, four or more cultures, you can all hold hands and sing We are the World. But if there's just two - you and the other - that's generally more fractious. Bicultural societies are among the least stable in the world, especially once it's no longer quite clear who is the majority and who is the minority - a situation that much of Europe is fast approaching, as you can see by visiting any French, Austrian, Belgian or Dutch maternity ward.

Take Fiji - not a comparison France would be flattered by, though until 1987 the Fijians enjoyed a century of peaceful stable constitutional evolution the French were never able to muster. At any rate, Fiji comprises native Fijians and ethnic Indians brought in as indentured workers by the British. If memory serves, 46.2 per cent are Fijians and 48.6 per cent are Indo-Fijians; 50-50, give or take, with no intermarrying. In 1987, the first Indian-majority government came to power. A month later, Col Sitiveni Rabuka staged the first of his two coups, resulting in the Queen's removal as head of state and Fiji being expelled from the Commonwealth.

Is it that difficult to sketch a similar situation for France? Even in relatively peaceful bicultural societies, politics becomes tribal: loyalists vs nationalists in Northern Ireland, separatists vs federalists in Quebec. Picture a French election circa 2020, 2025: the Islamic Republican Coalition wins the most seats in the National Assembly. The Chiraquiste crowd give a fatalistic shrug and Mr de Villepin starts including crowd-pleasing suras from the Koran at his poetry recitals. But would Mr Le Pen or (by then) his daughter take it so well? Or would the temptation to be France's Col Rabuka prove too much?

And the Fijian scenario - a succession of bloodless coups - is the optimistic one. After all, the differences between Fijian natives and Indians are as nothing compared with those between the French and les beurs. I love the way those naysayers predicting doom and gloom in Baghdad scoff that Iraq's a totally artificial entity and that, without some Saddamite strongman, Kurds, Sunnis and Shias can't co-exist in the same state. Oh, really? If Iraq's an entirely artificial entity, what do you call a state split between gay drugged-up red-light whatever's-your-bag Dutchmen and anti-gay anti-whoring anti-everything-you-dig Muslims? If Kurdistan doesn't belong in Iraq, does Pornostan belong in the Islamic Republic of Holland?

In a democratic age, you can't buck demography - except through civil war. The Yugoslavs figured that out. In the 30 years before the meltdown, Bosnian Serbs had declined from 43 per cent to 31 per cent of the population, while Bosnian Muslims had increased from 26 per cent to 44 per cent.

So Europe's present biculturalism makes disaster a certainty. One way to avoid it would be to go genuinely multicultural, to broaden the Continent's sources of immigration beyond the Muslim world. But a talented ambitious Chinese or Indian or Chilean has zero reason to emigrate to France, unless he is consumed by a perverse fantasy of living in a segregated society that artificially constrains his economic opportunities yet imposes confiscatory taxation on him in order to support an ancien regime of indolent geriatrics.

France faces tough choices and, unlike Baghdad, in Paris you can't even talk about them honestly. As Jean-Claude Dassier, director-general of the French news station LCI, told a broadcasters' conference in Amsterdam, he has been playing down the riots on the following grounds: "Politics in France is heading to the Right and I don't want Right-wing politicians back in second or even first place because we showed burning cars on television."

Oh, well. You can understand why the Quai d'Orsay is relaxed about Iran becoming the second Muslim nuclear power. As things stand, France is on course to be the third. You heard it here first. You probably won't hear it on Mr Dassier's station at all.

Rodriguez is the Complete M.V.P.

[Designated hitters shouldn't even exist let alone be considered for MVP awards...A-Rod's selection is a no-brainer.]

Published: November 15, 2005
The New York Times

The debate about whether Alex Rodriguez or David Ortiz was more valuable percolated through a tense baseball season. It was the complete player against the clutch hitter. It was a passionate city's superstar against another adoring city's icon. It was a personal twist on the rivalry between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

When the 28 ballots, from two baseball writers in each of the 14 American League cities, were revealed yesterday, Rodriguez narrowly beat Ortiz to capture his second Most Valuable Player award in three seasons. The smooth third baseman from the Yankees defeated the burly designated hitter from the Red Sox.

Rodriguez finished first on 16 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, second on 11 and third on one for 331 points. The system awards 14 points for first-place votes, 9 for second, 8 for third, 7 for fourth, and so on down to 1 point for a 10th-place vote. Ortiz garnered 11 firsts and 17 seconds for 307 points. Vladimir Guerrero of the Los Angeles Angels, who was last year's M.V.P., secured the only other first-place vote.

After Rodriguez won, he said that he did not expect the award to reduce the scrutiny of him. With a $252 million contract and a reputation as perhaps the elite player in the game, Rodriguez said he would probably always be judged differently.

"We can win three World Series," Rodriguez said. "With me, it's never going to be over. My benchmark is so high that no matter what I do, it's never going to be enough. But I understand that."

The Yankees witnessed a more comfortable Rodriguez during his second season in New York this year. He hit .321 with a league-leading 48 homers, along with 130 runs batted in, 124 runs scored and a .421 on-base percentage to help the Yankees rebound from a dreadful start and win the A.L. East. Boston finished second, although the teams had identical 95-67 records.

Ortiz's season included a succession of splashy hits and ended with his batting .300, with 47 homers, a major-league-best 148 R.B.I., 119 runs scored and a .397 on-base percentage. Ortiz had statistics superior to Rodriguez's in clutch hitting situations, but Rodriguez was better in a majority of statistical comparisons and played strong defense, too.

"There are probably like 15 or 16 offensive categories, if you want to be a baseball junkie," Rodriguez said. "I'm not sure, but I think I won in 10 or 12 of those. But I think defense, for the most part, being a balanced player and also taking away a lot of runs on the defensive side, was a major factor."

Clearly, Rodriguez's victory was one for the everyday player over the everyday hitter. He played in all 162 games, made just 12 errors at third base and even stole 21 bases. Ortiz played 10 games at first and was Boston's full-time designated hitter. No designated hitter has ever been named M.V.P.
"This is an A-Rod day in New York," George Steinbrenner, the principal owner of the Yankees, said in a statement.

Ortiz had a chance to win the M.V.P. because of his dramatic hits. The statistic known as "in late and close situations" is defined as at-bats in the seventh inning and beyond when the player's team is ahead by one run or is tied, or the potential tying run is at least on deck. In those situations, Ortiz hit .346 with 11 homers and 33 R.B.I.; Rodriguez was at .293 with 4 homers and 12 R.B.I. Ortiz also batted .352 with runners in scoring position, 62 points higher than Rodriguez.

"I think it's discrimination right there against the D.H.," said Ortiz, in discussing his chances for the M.V.P. this year. "It's a position, bro. Who are the guys making the money? The hitters."
Still, when Rodriguez was asked to define M.V.P., he mentioned "doing it from both sides of the field" and "being on the field every day" before saying he would rather play baseball than have to decide on its M.V.P.

The two New York voters, Ken Davidoff of Newsday and John Delcos of The Journal News, picked Rodriguez first; the two Boston voters, Steve Krasner of The Providence Journal and Bill Ballou of The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, gave Ortiz their first-place votes.
"I felt if a D.H. was going to win, he'd have to blow away the stats that the position player had," Delcos said. "I don't think Ortiz did that."
Ballou said he thought Ortiz did.

"What Ortiz did in terms of timeliness and production was over and above anything I'd ever seen a D.H. do," he said.

Davidoff said he waited until the final weekend of the regular season to make his decision and gave Rodriguez the edge once the Yankees clinched the division over Boston.
"If the Red Sox would have won, I would have voted for Ortiz," he said.

Guerrero, finishing behind Rodriguez and Ortiz, received his first-place vote from Gene Guidi of The Detroit Free Press. Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox was fourth (156), Travis Hafner of the Cleveland Indians was fifth (151), Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox was sixth (128) and Mark Teixeira of the Texas Rangers was seventh (106). Three Yankees - Gary Sheffield, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter - completed the top 10.

Rodriguez becomes the fourth player to win the award at two positions and the fourth to win it with two teams; he won it as a shortstop for the Texas Rangers in 2003. He received a $1 million contractual bonus. Because Rodriguez is expected to excel, he will probably field more questions next spring about going 2 for 15 in the postseason than he will about winning the M.V.P.

"My approach never changes," Rodriguez said. "It's to go out and be the best player I can and help my team win and get back to being world champions. Maybe when I retire, all the critics and all that kind of stuff will end."

Ben Johnson Reviews Jimmy Carter's 'Our Endangered Values'

Our Endangered Patience
By Ben Johnson
November 15, 2005

The 39th president has been testing our endangered patience by delivering homilettes on any mainstream media outlet that will have him (which is all of them), hocking his newest book, Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis – this week’s number one New York Times bestseller. In the Left’s latest, lamest appeal to the “values voters” who tipped the 2004 election, Jimmy Carter tells them an unpleasant truth: they are all bloodthirsty, hard-hearted, racist, sexist, bastards who are destroying the world and making Baby Jesus cry.

In his tome, Carter blames all the world’s ills on the rise of “fundamentalism.” Appearing on CNBC’s “Tim Russert Show” on Saturday, November 5, Carter reminisced that he saw such fundamentalism “when the Ayatollah Khomeini rejected any kind of reasonable interpretation of the Koran and took American hostages” – and now it’s spreading among Christian conservatives. Carter defines fundamentalists as “authoritarian males who consider themselves to be superior to others” and “have an overwhelming commitment to subjugate women.” They believe “they are right and that anyone who contradicts them is ignorant and possibly evil…They are often angry and sometimes resort to verbal or even physical abuse against those who interfere with the implementation of their agenda.” They tend “to demagogue emotional issues” and view “efforts to resolve differences as signs of weakness.” [1] When challenged whether he actually meant Christians were little Ayatollahs, Carter affirmed, “all of those things are compatible [with Christian fundamentalism], yes.” He explained to Russert that the sway of fundamentalism in the South derives “from more ancient times, 30, 40, 50 years ago,” – ancient? – “from racism, when whites dominated blacks.”

The man from Plains makes clear in his book that “fundamentalists” aren’t merely knuckle-dragging yokels who believe in a flat earth: “neocons” are also “fundamentalists” [2] Opponents of the Kyoto Treaty are “fundamentalists.” [3] Even justifying violence against judges is attributable to fundamentalist “intimidation of the judiciary.” [4] Thus, Jimmy Carter continues his long history of insufferable, grating moralizing; demonizing his opponents; and rewriting the history of his failed presidency.

Carter slanders his own country with the relish of a banished head of state, claiming after 9/11, “the U.S. government overreacted by detaining more than twelve hundred innocent men.” [5] The neocons “decided to violate” the Geneva Conventions, because they consider enemy combatants “subhuman.” [6] Carter intimates America tortures children, based on erroneous statements of Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross, lying, “It has been confirmed by U.S. officials that many have been physically abused.” [7] On the contrary, in July Lt. Gen. Randall “Mark” Schmidt and Brig. Gen. John Furlow testified before the Senated Armed Services Committee that “No torture occurred” at Gitmo. However, the 20th hijacker did suffer the indignity of wearing a thong and bra on his head, and having his sister and mother called whores. (Maybe they, too, had lust in their hearts.) Furthermore, the overblown pranks at Abu Ghraib were investigated by the armed forces themselves, before media exposure. Yet Carter insisted on a softball episode of “Hardball” with his former speechwriter, Chris Matthews, that American troops “continue to torture prisoners around the world in secret prisons.”

Turning to Iraq, he claims Bush administration officials made “false and distorted claims after 9/11, they misled the U.S. Congress and the American public into believing that Saddam Hussein had somehow been responsible for the dastardly attack.” [8] He charges Dick Cheney with “repeatedly making false statements, such as, ‘Instead of losing thousands of lives, we might lose tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of lives in a single day of war.’” [9] Despite the fact that his statement is self-evidently true, Carter told Russert this was a fib because, “The Vice President, Cheney, and others – Paul Wolfowitz and others I need not name – long before George W. Bush was elected president, were determined to go to war with Iraq,” a canard he repeats in his book. [10] Our pre-emptive war strategy, he writes, troubled Israel (!). Besides, “policies based upon violence always result in a cycle of escalated violence.” [11]

In tortured prose that defies logic, Carter writes, “there are two basic facts to be remembered: the war was unjust and unnecessary, and our armed forces in Iraq deserve extraordinary gratitude and admiration for their special courage and effectiveness.”

Carter demonstrates he has the same grasp on the War on Terror as he did the Cold War as he pens the only sentence in the book that is underlined: “The fact is that, unlike during other times of national threat or crisis, the United States of America is not at war.” [12]

In the last chapter, he lays all his cards on the table: “[T]he greatest challenge we face [in this millennium] is the growing chasm between the rich and poor people on earth.” Among his solutions: “getting to know the poor.” [13] You may think America is compassionate and philanthropic, but “we are, in fact, the stingiest of all industrialized nations.” [14] This, to him, presents a far more troubling problem than a cadre of thugs dedicated to imposing a medieval religio-political philosophy upon the entire world, while spilling as much American, Western, and “infidel” blood as possible.

The former president is hardly alone. During Carter’s book tour, Al Gore (who backed Carter’s 1994 trip to North Korea) told Australian newspaper The Age, “I don't want to diminish the threat of terrorism at all...but on a long-term global basis, global warming is the most serious problem we are facing.” The trouble is not that we are not at war; the trouble is James Earl Carter Jr., Albert Gore Jr., and the American Left have been AWOL from it, as they were during the Cold War. This means the War on Terror, like the waning days of the Cold War, will have to be won without their help – indeed, with their virulent resistance.

When asked by Russert how to respond to Iraq, the apostle of racial tolerance said in effect, “Let Ay-rabs kill Ay-rabs.” Carter replied, “I think a preemptory or immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake.” However, if we’d promise to eventually pull out of Iraq (um, we have), and “share” oil revenues, “I believe the violence in Iraq would immediately drop off.” When Russert, with uncharacteristic gentleness, pointed out there would be still be an “insurgency” in Iraq, Carter shrugged, “Yes, but the insurgency then would be against their own fellow citizens. It wouldn’t be against people who support America in Iraq, and against Americans.”

Proffering solutions would interfere with his book’s purpose: blaming all the world’s troubles (fundamentally) on George W. Bush. North Korea has built nuclear weapons, because Bush branded them the “Axis of Evil.” [15] China, too, reacted to Bush’s repeal of the “no first use” nuclear policy (although China threatened to nuke Los Angeles during the Clinton administration). [16] John Bolton “announced falsely that Cuba’s pharmaceutical industry was involved in the production of biological weapons of mass destruction”; hence, Bush’s policies have led to “a predictable and commensurate crackdown on protesting voices in Cuba.” [17] Bush’s muted praise for missile defense is hypocritical and will trigger a new arms race. [18] He claims letting a gun control measure lapse made Uzis and AK-47s legal, although it certainly did not. [19] In crime, he laments, “our nation’s almost total focus is on punishment, not rehabilitation. This is a characteristic of fundamentalism.” [20]

America is not alone in its “fundamentalism.” Israel also “entices leaders in neighboring Iran, Syria, Egypt, and other Arab nations to join the nuclear weapon community.” [21]

Although nearly all media coverage has focused on one-half of chapter eight – in which Carter allegedly makes the stunning revelation (for a leftist) that the Democrats are too closely associated with unrestricted abortion – he never writes anything of the sort, instead spending the seven pages of his book putatively dedicated to “abortion” by advancing government welfare programs, contraceptive sex education, U.S. funding of international “family planning,” and embryonic stem cell research, [22] all the while claiming pro-life voters “do not extend their concern to the baby who is born.” [23] In his rambling diatribe, Carter disconnectedly weaves from topic-to-topic, in the process endorsing the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol, the International Covenant on the Rights of the Child, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the ABM Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the IAEA, and Mutually Assured Destruction.

All this from the man who allowed Russians to invade Afghanistan, Islamists to overthrow the Shah and hold Americans hostage for more than a year, attempted to prevent Operation Desert Storm, and hit the snooze alarm on dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program until it was too late.

Carter’s antagonists aren’t just Bush, neocons, and Israeli Jews. Naturally, Christian leaders get taken to the woodshed, as well. Carter recounts how he harangued Pope John Paul II, who so effectively rallied Eastern Europe against Communism that even Jimmy Carter couldn’t stop him. Carter writes, “I disagreed with him on his perpetuation of the subservience of women.” Misogyny should be a tough charge to hang on a man who spent his pontificate celebrating Mother Theresa and contemplating the glories of an ancient Jewish woman in the Rosary. Carter continues, “there was more harshness when we turned to the subject of ‘liberation theology.’” [24] “Liberation theology” is Marxism with a Christian veneer, and the late pontiff strongly condemned it. His successor, Benedict XVI, has written this heresy “constitutes a fundamental threat to the faith of the Church.” As one critic notes, “In traditional Christianity, the ennobling of human nature takes place because of Christ's Incarnation; in Marxism, the State takes His place.” Carter’s approval may stem from his love of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, a spokesman for “religious socialism” who later founded Americans for Democratic Action. Carter writes Jesus came to “bring good news to the poor,” but as president he reached “a surprising and somewhat reluctant conclusion…government officeholders and not church members were more likely to assume responsibility and be able to fulfill the benevolent missions.” [25] Forget that this is a complete blurring of the roles of Church and State, which he allegedly opposes. In Carter’s conception, the State replaces the Church; the State takes over the functions of God. Such an admission can’t come as much of a shock from a man who also admires anti-Christian Communist poet Langston Hughes.

It’s not just Roman Catholics: Carter claims he left the conservative Southern Baptist Convention because it, in effect, replaced Jesus Christ by adopting a statement of faith and imposing it with a “strictness” that “has exceeded that in Roman Catholicism.” [26] Baptist statements of faith are hardly new; one was passed in 1963, when Jimmuh was a faithful little deacon.

Worse, Southern Baptists also “keep women in their place,” and this, Carter charges, is responsible for…female genital mutilation! “Women are greatly abused in many countries in the world, and the alleviation of their plight is made less likely by the mandated subservience of women by Christian fundamentalists.” [27] Refuse to elect a female pope, or maintain traditional sexual roles, and you might as well cut off an infant’s labia.

Carter’s entire book is one long slander of his perceived enemies, religious and secular, effected by casting them as backwoods morons guilty of the most lurid crimes imaginable, the worst being incorrigibly refusing to listen to their betters. It is, in other words, the Left’s typical reaction to conservatives, people of faith, and average Americans generally. If you want to read a book that actually has a grasp of American values, read Zell Miller’s A Deficit of Decency. Buy Our Endangered Values only if you wish to read the venomous ravings of a bitter, discredited man with a Messianic complex lashing out at the mainstream of the country he failed.

Tomorrow, Ben Johnson will discuss the (many) ways Jimmy Carter whitewashes his presidential failures in his new book – and how he continued to undermine his successors fight for freedom.

1. pp. 34-35
2. p. 101. This would come as news to Leo Strauss, et. al.
3. p. 174
4. p. 96
5. p. 118
6. pp. 126, 129
7. pp. 119-120
8. p.150
9. p. 151
10. p. 152
11. p. 125
12. p. 157
13. p . 179
14. p. 187
15. pp. 109-110
16. pp. 140-141
17. p. 97, p. 104
18. p. 138
19. p. 11
20. p. 79
21. p. 144
22. pp. 71-78
23. p. 73
24. p. 55
25. p. 57
26. pp. 41-42
27. pp. 90, 93

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Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and author of the book 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Springsteen Fans From All Over Catch His First Atlantic City Show

By VINCENT JACKSON Staff Writer, (609) 272-7202
The Press of Atlantic City
Published: Monday, November 14, 2005

ATLANTIC CITY-When Bruce Springsteen opened his solo acoustic concert Sunday at Boardwalk Hall with the songs "Born in the U.S.A.," "Devils & Dust" and "Atlantic City" in succession, Maureen O'Malley and the husband-and-wife team of Marina Bovyn and Hans Niemegeers cheered him on boisterously between each tune.

They each found themselves inside the hall under very different circumstances.

O'Malley won tickets through a drawing hours before showtime on Sunday, and Bovyn and Niemegeers traveled from Belgium to attend the concert.

Bovyn, Niemegeers, O'Malley and thousands of others witnessed only the second headlining performance in the resort by Springsteen, a native of Freehold, Monmouth County. He came to Boardwalk Hall with his famous backing group, the E Street Band, in March 2003. This time, he gave a more intimate concert with only 9,000 of the hall's 13,800 seats put on sale. The 9,000 seats sold out.

Also, he has been treating concerts on this tour as a retrospective of his 32-year recording career. He has been pulling out some songs from his back catalog he never or rarely played live.

O'Malley had only seen Springsteen, 56, live once previously, in 2003 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. A former member of the U.S. Air Force, O'Malley came to town to celebrate the Veterans Day holiday weekend.

"I've been to no shows on this tour. On the spur of the moment, I decided to come to Atlantic City," O'Malley said.

While O'Malley walked Saturday on the Boardwalk, she saw people wearing cowboy hats and learned about Saturday's Alan Jackson concert at Boardwalk Hall, but she didn't know about the Springsteen show.

O'Malley walked through the lobby of her favorite casino here, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, at 3:30 p.m. and saw a bunch of people standing in line. She decided to enter the line just to find out its purpose. She entered her the contest when told Springsteen tickets were the prizes."I hadn't won anything all weekend," O'Malley said.

When O'Malley's name was read aloud by the lead singer of the B Street Band, a Springsteen tribute group playing in the Plaza's Liquid Bar, her losing streak came to an end. "One guy said I had awesome seats," said O'Malley, who at the bar celebrating her win.

O'Malley already checked out of the Plaza and didn't know whether to stay at the Plaza another night and make the two-hour drive home after the concert, or sleep somewhere else for the night. "I'll just go with the flow," O'Malley said.

Luck helped O'Malley see the show. Bovyn and Niemegeers put a little more effort into making sure they caught the show. They ordered their tickets online through Ticketmaster from their home in Belgium and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to see the Nov. 8 Philadelphia show at the Wachovia Center and the concert here.

They saw Springsteen for the first time in 1984 and say they have seen him at least 25 times since then. They own each of Springsteen's officially released albums in three versions - European, American and Japanese pressings. The couple traveled to the U.S. to see their sixth and seventh shows of Springsteen's "Devils & Dust" tour after taking in five European concerts in Brussels, Belgium, Amsterdam, Paris, Bologna and Hamburg, Germany.

"I would like to hear 'Atlantic City.' I would like to hear 'Brilliant Disguise'," Bovyn said before she walked into the hall.

Like the Belgian couple, Chuck Wynn of Delaware County, Pa., also bought tickets to the Philadelphia show and the concert here.

A young Springsteen fan at age 25, Wynn has attended about a half dozen Springsteen shows in his life. He saw Springsteen live for the first time on his reunion tour with the E Street Band in 1999 and caught him twice on "The Rising" tour in 2003, once in Philadelphia and once at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, Bergen County.

Wynn appreciated the more introspective tone of Springsteen's solo acoustic shows. "He played a lot of songs I never heard him play live before. A lot of stuff from 'The River' (an album from 1980). He didn't play 'Born To Run' or 'Thunder Road' or a lot of the stuff we always hear. It was different," Wynn said as he stood outside of the hall on a chilly, windy night in his T-shirt from "The Rising" tour.

Wynn ordered tickets online on the same day for both Philadelphia and here. In Philadelphia, he sat on the floor of the Wachovia Center, but here, he got tickets for the hall's second level.

"I think it's cool that he's playing in the same place that the 'Atlantic City' video was filmed," Wynn said.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Mark Bowden: Always Another Way?


Sometimes cruelty and coercion are necessary in dealing with enemy prisoners.
The Wall Street Journal
Sunday, November 13, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

The thorny issue of torture paid a visit recently to Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis), television's newest president of the United States. A terrorist plot to attack elementary schools was uncovered and a ringleader arrested, but his refusal to cooperate with interrogators placed the nation's children at terrible risk--a perfect crisis for the nation's first maternal commander in chief. Torn but principled, the rookie president instructs her staff, "I don't want to hear anything more about torture," words a hardnosed national security staffer interprets as a plea for deniability, and a green light to get tough.

Military interrogators begin torturing the captive. Meanwhile, the president launches a risky black-ops raid to a location in Lebanon, which produces intelligence that thwarts the planned attacks. Only afterwards does she learn that the same information was extracted from the captive, who is just barely alive after the torture session. Ms. Allen is so outraged when she learns of it that she fires the offending security council staffer and adopts a perplexed, angry frown.

"There is always another way to get information," she says.

Would that it were true. We like problems to have easy solutions in America, just as we like stories to have neat, happy endings. The show illustrated to me some of the wishful thinking, mythmaking and confusion that surround the difficult issues of torture, coercion and prisoner abuse, which our nation seems incapable of thinking about coherently. Sen. John McCain has tacked a provision on the annual defense budget that would ban cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for anyone in American custody. Having been terribly abused himself as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, Sen. McCain is a national hero, and brings a heavy load of moral authority to the table. His measure has passed the Senate, but faces trouble in the House, and a likely veto if it ever reaches the White House.

I don't understand why. The provision offers nothing new or even controversial. Cruel treatment of prisoners is already banned. It is prohibited by military law and by America's international agreements. American citizens are protected by the Constitution. I see no harm in reiterating our national revulsion for it, and maybe adding even a redundant layer of legal verbiage will help redress the damage done to our country by pictures from Abu Ghraib and reports of widespread prisoner abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan. One thing it will not do, sadly, is stop the abuse of prisoners.


The story line of "Commander in Chief" portrayed a classic "ticking bomb" scenario, in which a captive refuses to divulge urgent, life-saving information. Such instances do happen, but they are rare. The national debate over torture and prisoner abuse is about something different: the tendency of soldiers in a combat zone to mistreat enemy prisoners. This latter issue was brought to a head by the photographs from Abu Ghraib, depicting the grotesque treatment of Iraqi prisoners, and by reports of more severe abuses at prison camps there and in Afghanistan.


One of the myths of the American soldier is that he never mistreats a captured enemy. If our enemy dead had voices, a multitude would testify to having been summarily shot, tortured or otherwise abused in every war Americans ever fought. Some of the worst examples took place when Americans fought each other--almost 13,000 Union prisoners died of malnutrition, disease and exposure at Andersonville Prison in Sumter County, Ga. As a race, we are no worse, or better, than anyone else.

Where there are prisons there is prisoner abuse, and where there are prisons in a war zone, whether makeshift ones in the field or the established ones like Abu Ghraib, such behavior is commonplace. Abuse should be considered the default position whenever one group of men is placed under complete supervision by another.

Laws and rules are vitally important, but enforcing them requires good soldiers and strict, vigilant leadership. Even in an ideal situation, say, in a civilian prison in peacetime that is well-funded and well-run, and where the guards and prisoners share the same language and culture, abuse can at best be minimized.

War is the exact opposite of an ideal situation.


"Abuse has always gone on, but I think today we just hear about it more," says Lt. Col. Lewis "Bucky" Burruss, a retired special operations commander with wide experience in conflict, who wrote about his own abuse of a prisoner in his Vietnam memoir, "Mike Force." "I've always been surprised by how well-disciplined American soldiers are, but when you have more than 100,000 armed men in the field, and they are facing a suicidal enemy who is shooting and blowing up their buddies, not to mention their own citizens, men, women and children, you are going to have anger, and you are going to have some bad soldiers, some bad leadership and some bad treatment of prisoners."

In the vast majority of such cases, there is no justification whatsoever for breaking the rules. Apart from moral considerations, there are practical ones. In a world of digital cameras, the Internet and global telecommunications, abuses will be reported and broadcast with graphic illustrations, and deservedly or not they will color the entire war effort.

Abu Ghraib has hurt the American mission in Iraq more than any insurgent bombing or beheading. So it is terribly important that we not accept mistreatment as inevitable, and we should do everything in our power as a nation to make sure that those who break the rules are appropriately disciplined. Congress ought to pass Sen. McCain's provision and the president ought to make a great public show out of signing it. But we also need to realize that prisoner abuse, like collateral damage in a bombing campaign, is one of those things that will happen whenever the country--any country--goes to war. "Atrocities follow war as the jackal follows a wounded beast," wrote John Dower, author of "War Without Mercy," an unflinching look at racial hatred and atrocity on both sides between America and Japan in World War II.

The White House's objection to Sen. McCain's provision has little to do with Abu Ghraib or widespread prisoner abuse; it concerns the smaller piece of the torture debate, the "ticking bomb" scenario. The administration wants to protect the flexibility of the CIA, and of military special ops interrogators, to coerce intelligence from rare captives like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, chief engineer of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and operations chief for al Qaeda.

Despite the moral assurance of a television show like "Commander in Chief," this question also has no easy answer. If there were "always another way" to get vital, potentially life-saving intelligence, as the show suggested, or if coercion always yielded bad information, cruelty would be completely unnecessary and virtue would cost nothing. We could treat all captured terrorists as honored guests without sacrificing a thing. But in certain singular instances coercion is necessary and appropriate.

The point the White House is missing here is that even with important captives like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, official authorization for severe interrogation is not necessary. Just as there is no way to draw a clear line between coercion and torture, there is no way to define, a priori, circumstances that justify harsh treatment. Any attempt to codify it unleashes the sadists and leads to widespread abuse. Interrogators who choose coercive methods would, and should, be breaking the rules.

That does not mean that they should always be taken to task. Prosecution and punishment remains an executive decision, and just as there are legal justifications for murder, there are times when coercion is demonstrably the right thing to do.

Mr. Bowden, a national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, is the author of "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War" (Penguin, 2000).