Friday, March 03, 2006

Ralph Wood: Why C. S. Lewis is not a culture warrior

RALPH WOOD is professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University and author of The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth (Westminster John Knox Press, October 2003).

We must be ever so cautious not to turn this happy moment into an unhappy misuse of Lewis. Aslan will roar with real wrath if we make this movie into an occasion for Christian clucking. It is absolutely important that we not make a classic Christian story such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe into the latest weapon in the culture wars. The church of Jesus Christ is not a political party of either the left or the right. Christ calls us to offer the world—whether red or blue, whether black or white, whether yellow or brown or pink like me—a drastic counter-cultural alternative. Aslan forbid, therefore, that we Christians start saying to the secular world, with thumping self-satisfaction: “Look, we told you so long ago. We’re right, you’re wrong and now, with the overwhelming popularity of this movie, we can prove it. So get on board the Christian bandwagon and stop your whining about peace and justice and poverty. We Christians are running this country, and we have Aslan as our King, the Lion who will devour anyone who gets in our way.”

C.S. Lewis himself rejected all such Christian triumphalism. He knew, all too well, that we Christians have been guilty of terrible sins, and he called for us to repent of them. He called therefore for some Christian to volunteer to write “the full confession of … of Christendom’s specific contribution to the sum of human cruelty and treachery. Large areas of ‘the World’ will not hear us till we have publicly disowned much of our past. Why should they? We have shouted the name of Christ and enacted the service of Moloch” (The Four Loves, 49). Moloch is the pagan deity whose worship requires the sacrifice of children.

In making this startling claim, Lewis has in mind not only the medieval pograms against Jews, not only the Crusades and the Inquisition, but also our own Protestant sins—not only Luther’s slaughter of 20,000 peasants and Calvin’s burning of Servetus at the stake, but also the Salem Witchcraft trials in our own country, as well as our Christian complicity in the German Holocaust and the Soviet Gulag. We Christians have blood on our hands, and therefore we have no business setting ourselves up as some pristine party of the pure and the holy.

Lewis abominated all attempts to politicize his work, knowing well that all too many Conservatives would have been eager to make him their literary saint. When in 1951 the Tory government of Winston Churchill offered Lewis the extraordinary distinction of being made a Commander of the British Empire, he politely declined:

"There are always knaves … who say, and fools who believe, that my religious writings are all covert anti-Leftist [i.e., right-wing] propaganda, and my appearance in the Honours List wd. of course strengthen their hands. It is therefore better that I shd. not appear there. "(Letters, p. 235)

Though politically conservative, Lewis expressed his gratitude to Britain’s welfare state for providing a ground floor of economic security to every citizen, thus protecting the natively weak against the all-devouring strong. “Legal and economic equality are absolutely necessary remedies for the Fall,” he wrote in 1943; they are necessary protections “against cruelty.” “We Britons,” Lewis added, “should rejoice that we have contrived to reach much legal democracy.” He concluded, ever so tellingly, that “we still need more of the economic” kind of democracy (Present Concerns, 18, 20).

Some wag has said that any person who is not a Marxist at age 20 has no heart, but anyone who is still a Marxist at 30 has no head. Lest we think that Lewis was soft in the head when he wrote his 1943 essay on equality, we should remember that he also confessed the limits of economic democracy. It provides a necessary medicine, he said, but man cannot live by medicine alone. Even so, he never relented in his critique of unbridled acquisitiveness. He feared that ours has become an irredeemably avaricious age, padding itself with pleasures and comforts.

His final essay, published shortly before his death on November 22, 1963, was entitled “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness.’” There Lewis warns against a culture bent on material gratification, especially of the sexual sort. Lewis denounces those men who cast aside their wives when they lose their youthful good looks, preferring young secretaries and instant sexual bliss. How much more might he lament the state of our culture if he had lived to see the divorce rate rise to nearly 60%? Yet it isn’t the divorce disaster alone that Lewis addresses; it’s our fatal delusion that the purpose of life is to have a good time, to be immediately and perpetually gratified:

"[That] fatal principle, once allowed [to enter the marital realm] … must sooner or later seep through our whole lives. We thus advance toward a state or a society in which not only each man but every impulse in man claims carte blanche. And then, though our technological skill may help us to survive a little longer, our civilization will have died at heart, and will—one dare not even add ‘unfortunately’—be swept away." (God in the Dock, 322)

We must never discount Lewis’s short fuse for the sins of the rich—and by the standards of the Third World, every person here present is rich. For while 40,000 people have been killed by terrorists during the last ten years, 40,000 children die daily from preventable diseases. Nor should we be surprised by what Lewis did with his very estimable royalties Walter Hooper, Lewis’s biographer, reports that Lewis gave away at least two-thirds of his wealth. Most of the gifts were bestowed anonymously, so that no one could congratulate Lewis for his philanthropy or name a building after him because of his benevolence.

Though he became a wealthy man, Lewis continued to wear the same out-at-the-elbows coat and broken-down shoes. Nor did he ever change houses, living always in the same modest home called the Kilns outside Oxford. When Lewis married Joy Davidman in 1956, she was appalled at the ratty furnishings, not only the chairs and sofas but also the draperies: they were woolen blankets that Lewis and his brother had used to pull over the windows during the wartime blackout of the 1940s!

© February 2006

'Sopranos' sings one last time

Posted 3/1/2006 10:26 PM

By Gary Levin, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — The Sopranos unfolds its sixth season March 12 after the show's longest break yet: an interminable 21 months. But while fans are undoubtedly excited, TV's favorite New Jersey Mob family is down in the dumps.

The arrest of New York rival Johnny "Sack" Sacramoni, now seen in an orange prison jumpsuit, has upended the Soprano family. It renews simmering tensions between the clans and turns up the heat as the feds seem to close in.

Each season has its own recurring theme. This one is "dissatisfaction with one's life, failed expectations," says Michael Imperioli, who plays Tony's cousin Christopher.

"I think it's darker," says Lorraine Bracco, whose Dr. Melfi knows a thing or two about diagnoses. "I don't think it's desperation, but it's despair."

"They're on edge, disquieted, off balance," says creator David Chase, philosophically mulling.
"What a short time we're on this Earth." Johnny's dire straits weigh heavily on Tony: "It affects him a lot. He only has to look at his friend across the river to see one version of his future."
It all adds gravitas to what producer (and Paramount Pictures chairman) Brad Grey calls "our best season, elegantly written and very rich."

The series wraps production on its 12-episode season just as it returns to HBO March 12 (Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT).

After a few months off, actors return in June to film eight final "bonus" episodes, due next January. Chase says he agreed to extend the series when he couldn't fit two important plots into the upcoming batch. But he's sticking with his original plan for how to end it, which he conceived more than two years ago.

Like most things Sopranos, the end is shrouded in secrecy: The show's stars say they have no clue about their own fates.

"I will not give up any info," longtime director Tim Van Patten says. "My friends know better than to ask; omertà reigns supreme."

Things kick into high gear with a momentous event near the end of the premiere. Look for major story lines involving Soprano son A.J. (Robert Iler), who gets a job, and Mob lieutenant Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri, who has "two very big personal issues that he deals with this year that are monumental," actor Tony Sirico says.

Bracco says she, too, has more screen time, "which I'm happy about, but it's also fun because it means Tony's trying to work it out" with his longtime therapist.

In the series' second overseas trip — following Season 2's sojourn to Italy — Carmela and Rosalie Aprile win a trip to Paris. And the wiseguys take center stage with plenty of maneuvering for position and influence.

"There's a lot of jockeying going on, and that in itself should provoke a lot of fans' interest," Sirico says.

Great attention to detail

There was plenty of movement on five vast soundstages at Silvercup Studios here last month as Gandolfini, Edie Falco (Mob wife Carmela) and Iler filmed a tense family scene in the Soprano living room. The room is part of a meticulously crafted copy of a real suburban McMansion in North Caldwell, N.J., that was used in the series pilot. But this season, the series spent more time on location in New Jersey than ever before.

Each episode takes about eight days to prepare and 15 to film, double the length of a typical network drama. The shoot is preceded by "tone meetings" with Chase, at which minutiae and an overall vibe to each episode are discussed. "It may not seem like it, but these are complicated story lines, so it takes a lot of work," Van Patten says. "Part of the success of the show is it's so detailed."

Viewers may be forgiven if they're hazy on such details or exactly where the show left off in — wow — June 2004. (Tony and Carmela reconciled, Sack was arrested, Christopher's fiancée, Adriana, was whacked and cousin Tony Blundetto was blown away by Soprano, who spared him from torture.)

"I don't remember where we left off, in a way," Gandolfini says. "The last hiatus was long, and it took a while to get back in" when shooting resumed in April.

"I personally prefer a month and a half off and get back to work. You get into kind of a groove."
Says Sirico, echoing the now-familiar complaints of viewers who are unaccustomed to such interminable breaks: "Coming back was wonderful. In terms of waiting to come back, it was horrible."

Bracco says she and fellow castmates tired of answering the same question for fans: When? "We just wanted to get T-shirts that said, 'Shut up, already!' "

But if history is any guide, most think the portrayal of a typical suburban family with a very atypical occupation is worth the wait. It's the most-watched series ever to air on cable; it averaged 9.8 million Sunday viewers for its fifth season and 11 million for its fourth. And it's one of TV's most acclaimed series, with multiple Emmy and Golden Globe awards, including the best-drama Emmy in 2004.

Befitting a show in its sixth season, characters have matured since the premiere in January 1999.

Tony is now "a middle-aged man, and he's not immune to any of those changes that happen, both physical and psychological, and emotional," Chase says. (He does seem to have put on weight.)
"Tony has mellowed a little bit, just out of necessity," Gandolfini says. "He was driving himself crazy, so he has calmed down."

And just as he and Carmela have recovered from a stormy fifth season of marital discord, his relationship with protégé Christopher "is becoming more one of equals, which is probably good."
"Christopher has matured," Imperioli says, to the point of ratting out his snitching fiancée. "I guess he sees himself more as an equal than he actually is with Tony. He has gotten closer to him in life experience, (where) there was much more of a generation gap" in earlier seasons.

But the biggest changes this season are in Soprano offspring Meadow and A.J., who have grown up and are now more aware of their dad's Mob life, enjoying its perks and yet struggling to deal with it.

"Neither one of those kids are kids anymore, and yet they're not prepared to be adults," Chase says.

This season's guest stars include Julianna Margulies (ER), who plays a real estate agent named Julianna; Hal Holbrook as a former Bell Labs scientist who crosses paths with Tony; Ben Kingsley as himself; and Elizabeth Bracco (Lorraine's sister) as a wiseguy's wife. Also returning are Jerry Adler (Hesh), Tim Daly and Frankie Valli.

Though he has changed his mind twice before, Chase insists this season really will be the last. He agreed to next winter's eight episodes — a pattern identical to the final year of Sex and the City - for creative reasons.

"There were two story lines that were supposed to be in the final season that we never got to, we never had room for," he says. "One of them ties all the way back to the beginning of the show."

Plans for what's next

Chase is asked why he thinks fans are so passionate about the series. "I would wish it was because of the top writers, that it didn't make sense some of the time, it was well executed, and it was mysterious," he says. "Maybe The Sopranos is happening down the street."

Although there is plenty of work to do, cast and crew already are thinking of life after the show.
Gandolfini is still toying with playing Ernest Hemingway in a biopic, though he's finding it a long and difficult process to set up the project at a studio.

Sirico hopes to play second fiddle in a sitcom "as somebody's Uncle Carmine, just out of the can. That would be fun."
Imperioli is waiting for "whatever comes along" and says he doesn't necessarily favor movies over television.

But Chase wants to make a feature film and is mulling ideas for a comedy or psychological thriller.

Now that the final season is extended, a Sopranos movie is less likely, though the actors say they're game. Even Chase "couldn't rule out the fact that somebody might want to do a movie that takes place over one or two days in 2005, something that happened in the last Sopranos you never saw," as a stand-alone prequel to this season.

Gandolfini has another idea: "I was hoping we'd do a Gilligan's Island dream. I'd be the captain, and I'd pin him with a hat all the time. Edie and Sharon (Angela, who plays Rosalie) can be Marianne and Ginger. The professor would be Stevie Van Zandt," aka Silvio Dante. And Steve R. Schirripa, who plays Tony's new brother-in-law Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri: "Thurston Howell."

Srdja Trifkovic: The Hidden Idiocy Behind the Port Deal

Thursday, February 23, 2006

President George W. Bush has declared that he would veto any congressional attempt to derail a contract allowing a Middle Eastern company to run six major U.S. seaports. His administration has approved the $6.8 billion deal between the London-based P&O (Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company) and Dubai Ports World—which is owned by the United Arab Emirates—to operate ports in Baltimore, Miami, Newark, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.

The opposition to the deal has been instant, vociferous, and unprecedentedly bipartisan. The resistance to the proposed transaction within his own party is likely to exceed the rebellion last fall over his nomination of Harriet Miers. Informed Washingtonians predict that Bush will be forced into yet another embarrassing retreat; the issue, it appears, is not “if” but “when,” and at what political cost to himself.

So far the critics have focused on the reliability of the UAE as an American “ally,” the extent to which Dubai Ports World could be used as a means of terrorist penetration of a highly vulnerable segment of the nation’s infrastructure, and the lack of transparency and procedural safeguards preceding the deal. Seven specific arguments have been advanced:

1. While nominally the paragon of Arab striving for modernity, Dubai and the rest of the Emirates are inhabited by people not only similar to their Muslim brethren elsewhere, but disproportionately inclined to Islamic terrorism. There are barely a million UAE citizens, but they included two of the 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks—including Marwan al Shehhi, who—according to the FBI—flew United Airlines flight 175 into the second World Trade Center tower.

2. Several of the 9-11 hijackers and planners traveled through the UAE or stayed there while preparing the attack, and its banking system was used to move funds used in the operation. This has prompted critics to call the Emirates “an operational and financial base for the hijackers” who carried out the 9-11 attacks.

3. Only three countries in the world recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan—and the UAE. Entrusting the running of America’s ports to a company owned by one of those three governments is inherently unsafe.

4. According to a bipartisan congressional letter of protest sent to the Administration last week, the UAE has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran and North Korea. If such shipments, many of them bulky, passed undetected, the UAE government is guilty either of gross negligence or of complicity.

5. The management structure, hiring policies, and external supervision of the company itself are flawed. “There are conditions, which shows they had concerns, but it’s all procedural and relies entirely on good faith,” according to Rep. Pete King, a Republican from New York and the House homeland security chief, but “there’s nothing those conditions . . . nothing that assures us they’re not hiring someone with bin Laden.”

6. The plan was not subjected to any proper evaluation by the Department of Homeland Security. Its administrators obediently rubber-stamped it, but its senior security analysts were surreptitious bypassed. They “were never told [about it] and they don’t like it now.”

7. The Dubai firm has unnaturally close ties to the White House. Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose department heads the federal panel that approved the deal, was chairman of the CSX rail firm that sold its own international port operations to Dubai Ports World for $1.15 billion in 2004—one year after Snow left for President Bush’s cabinet. David Sanborn, currently in charge of Dubai Ports World’s European and Latin American operations, “was tapped by Bush last month to head the U.S. Maritime Administration.”

To all that, the President responded with an ill-tempered challenge: “I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a [British] company,” he told reporters. The idiocy of such thinking, rather than any specific security threat, is the real reason why this deal must be called off. It reflects his enduring ideological commitment to the fiction that there are good Muslims, who are our friends and allies and whose countries are every bit as “normal” as Great Britain, Canada, or Japan; and then there are some bad apples who have “hijacked a great religion.”

Bush’s logic in defending the right of a Middle Eastern company to enjoy the same access to America’s strategic infrastructure as a British company is the same logic that has granted millions of Muslims equal access to this country’s green cards and passports, thus creating the main terrorist threat that America faces today. It is the logic of globalization and anti-discriminationism. It is not merely flawed, it is evil, and it presents a mortal danger to our civilization.

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Charles Krauthammer: Oscars for Osama

March 3, 2006
The Washington Post
Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor. Nominated for best foreign film is "Paradise Now,'' a sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers. Nominated for best picture is "Munich,'' a sympathetic portrayal of yesterday's fashion in barbarism: homicide terrorism.

But until you see ``Syriana,'' nominated for best screenplay (and George Clooney, for best supporting actor) you have no idea how self-flagellation and self-loathing pass for complexity and moral seriousness in Hollywood.

``Syriana's'' script has, of course, the classic liberal tropes such as this stage direction: ``The Deputy National Security Advisor, MARILYN RICHARDS, 40's, sculpted hair, with the soul of a seventy year-old white, Republican male, is in charge'' (Page 21). Or this piece of over-the-top, Gordon Gekko Republican-speak, placed in the mouth of a Texas oilman: ``Corruption is our protection. Corruption is what keeps us safe and warm. ... Corruption ... is how we win'' (Page 93).

But that's run-of-the-mill Hollywood. The true distinction of ``Syriana's'' script is the near-incomprehensible plot -- a muddled mix of story lines about a corrupt Kazakhstan oil deal, a succession struggle in an oil-rich Arab kingdom and a giant Texas oil company that pulls the strings at the CIA and, naturally, everywhere else -- amid which, only two things are absolutely clear and coherent: the movie's one political hero and one pure soul.

The political hero is the Arab prince who wants to end corruption, inequality and oppression in his country. As he tells his tribal elders, he intends to modernize his country by bringing the rule of law, market efficiency, women's rights and democracy.

What do you think happens to him? He, his beautiful wife and beautiful children are murdered, incinerated, by a remote-controlled missile, fired from CIA headquarters in Langley, no less -- at the very moment that (this passes for subtle cross-cutting film editing) his evil younger brother, the corrupt rival to the throne and puppet of the oil company, is being hailed at a suitably garish ``oilman of the year'' celebration populated by fat and ugly Americans.

What is grotesque about this moment of plot clarity is that the overwhelmingly obvious critique of actual U.S. policy in the real Middle East today is its excess of Wilsonian idealism in trying to find and promote -- against a tide of tyranny, intolerance and fanaticism -- local leaders like the Good Prince. Who in the greater Middle East is closest to ``Syriana's'' modernizing, democratizing paragon? Without a doubt, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, a man of exemplary -- and quite nonfictional -- personal integrity, physical courage and democratic temperament. Hundreds of brave American (and allied NATO) soldiers have died protecting him and the democratic system they established to allow him to govern. On the very night the Oscars will be honoring ``Syriana,'' American soldiers will be fighting, some perhaps dying, in defense of precisely the kind of tolerant, modernizing Muslim leader that ``Syriana'' shows America slaughtering.

It gets worse. The most pernicious element in the movie is the character who is at the moral heart of the film: the physically beautiful, modest, caring, generous Pakistani who becomes a beautiful, modest, caring, generous ... suicide bomber. In his final act, the Pure One, dressed in the purest white robes, takes his explosives-laden little motorboat head first into his target. It is a replay of the real-life boat that plunged into the USS Cole in 2000, killing 17 American sailors, except that in ``Syriana's'' version, the target is another symbol of American imperialism in the Persian Gulf -- a newly opened liquefied natural gas terminal.

The explosion, which would have the force of a nuclear bomb, constitutes the moral high point of the movie, the moment of climactic cleansing, as the Pure One clad in white merges with the great white mass of the huge terminal wall, at which point the screen goes pure white. And reverently silent.

In my naivete, I used to think that Hollywood had achieved its nadir with Oliver Stone's ``JFK,'' a film that taught a generation of Americans that President Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA and the FBI in collaboration with Lyndon Johnson. But at least it was for domestic consumption, an internal affair of only marginal interest to other countries. ``Syriana,'' however, is meant for export, carrying the most vicious and pernicious mendacities about America to a receptive world.

Most liberalism is angst- and guilt-ridden, seeing moral equivalence everywhere. ``Syriana'' is of a different species entirely -- a pathological variety that burns with the certainty of its malign anti-Americanism. Osama bin Laden could not have scripted this film with more conviction.

© 2006, Washington Post Writers Group

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Kenneth Timmerman: Homeland Transparency

Kenneth R. Timmerman
March 2, 2006

The Bush administration played catch-up this week as it belatedly presented some of the facts behind its assessment that the Dubai Ports World takeover of six U.S. container terminals does not present a threat to U.S. national security.

It sent top officials to the airwaves and to Congress to explain exactly how security in American ports is handled – something the bright lights among our elected representatives should have known had they paid attention to the scores of hearings over the past four years where this has been discussed. Senator James Inhofe (R, Ok), joked at the attention now showered on the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States, the obscure inter-agency group that approved the deal, known by its acronym, CFIUS (pronounced Sif-ee-us). “Up until a month ago, if you’d mentioned CFIUS to any member of the U.S. Senate, they’d have thought you were talking about a communicable disease,” he told me.

There has been so much hyperventilation over Dubai Ports World that the first thing we all need to do is stand back and take a deep breath.

No, this deal is not going to allow bearded Islamist fanatics to swarm over our ports with AK-47s or to bring in a nuclear bomb. U.S. government agencies do and will continue to handle security checks of all port personnel. “We are not about to waver on something as fundamental as port security,” Chief Kevin McCabe, the top U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in charge of the Port of Newark told me. If DPW starts sending UAE or other Arab nationals into the United States to work in the ports, they will have to go through numerous security checks – just as any foreign nationals coming to the United States to work in a port would incur. “Just because you’re an Arab, doesn’t mean you’re a terrorist,” McCabe said.

And no, allowing a British company to sell their operator’s contract of container terminals to a Dubai-government owned company does not signify the end of national sovereignty as we think we know it. That ended a long time ago, whether we like it or not. And no again, Treasury Secretary John Snow, who worked for CSX Terminals – another port operator that was bought out last year by Dubai Ports World – is not pursuing a secret plan to sell our ports to Arab sheikhs. He was not part of the CFIUS deliberations and only learned of them belatedly, as did other cabinet secretaries. Nor is Neal Bush, the president’s brother, secretly running interference for the deal, despite the fact that he exercised monumental bad judgment (and that’s putting it politely) by accepting a speaking engagement at the grossly anti-Semitic Zayed Center in the United Arab Emirates.

Democrats who have raised such conspiracy theories – and much more - had no problem backing the Chinese communist takeover of the entire Port of Long Beach during the Clinton years. Nor did they object when another Chinese-government owned firm bought out Magnaquench in 1999, and so gained control of our entire national supply of rare earth materials, which are critical for manufacturing exotic defense technologies, as well as liquid-crystal displays and fiber optics cables .

At least 90 terminals at America’s largest ports are today operated by foreign companies, according to an excellent survey by the Washington Times that appeared on Feb. 22. The largest operators are China Ocean shipping Company, APM Terminals (Denmark), APL (Singapore), Hanjin Shipping (South Korea), and three Japanese companies, Kawasaki, Kisen, Kaisha Ltd, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and Ceres Terminals.We may not like this foreign ownership of our container terminals. Indeed, Kevin Kearns, whose U.S. Business and Industrial Council represents thousands of small and mid-sized U.S. businesses, believes Congress needs to walk back the foreign terminal agreements so we can “take back control of our ports.” USBIC has been arguing for years that we need real national security controls on the sale of U.S. businesses unless we want our entire industrial base to be “hollowed out.” Senator Jim Inhofe has sponsored legislation – S.1797 – that moves in this direction by extending the CFIUS review period and mandating greater transparency and Congressional oversight.

But the question of foreign ownership of container terminals is a long-term industrial base problem more than an immediate national security problem. The U.S. Coast Guard, in tandem with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the local ports authorities, handles security at U.S. ports. As one senior Department of Homeland Security official told me yesterday, “This deal presents no practical vulnerability. Why? I’ve got ships, and I’ve got guns. If I say that a terminal operator is not getting a cargo, he is not getting that cargo.”

His formula, while simple on the surface, expressed a complex reality that has been years in the making.

I spent three months last autumn touring U.S. ports and learning about port security for a cover story I was writing for Newsmax magazine. When I began my investigation, I believed as do many Americans today that we were at grave risk of terrorists bringing a nuclear weapon into a container port.

As I interviewed the men and women who are handling our goal-line defense, I learned the extraordinary efforts undertaken over the past four years by the Bush administration to push our borders outwards, so that security checks are done thousands of miles away from our shores.

This part of the Dubai Ports World debacle is a good news story that the White House and the rest of the administration has done a terrible job telling to the American people. Are we 100% secure in our ports today? Of course not. But as former Customs commissioner Robert Bonner told me, Washington tends to specialize in the “anything is possible” scenario, and then dreams up new and more expensive ways of defending against it. All infrastructure in the United States is potentially vulnerable to terrorist attack. But instead of looking at vulnerabilities alone, Bonner believes we need to look at the threat. “Our goal has been to prevent our enemy from getting terrorists or terrorist-weapons into the United States,” he said. “If you do that, you won’t have any attacks.”

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff has testified that his department has spent $10 billion since 2004 on port security. That figure includes installation of Radiation Portal Monitors to screen containers entering and leaving U.S. ports, overseas deployments of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, the modernization of the U.S. Coast Guard, and much more. By the end of this fiscal year, DHS expects that 65 percent of containers will be screened for radioactive or radiological materials at our seaports, while 80 percent will be screened at our land border points of entry. These are facts that rarely get mentioned in this debate.

Bonner spent four years implementing practical measures that have transformed the way port security is handled in the United States. “I am sick and tired of hearing that nothing has been done to improve cargo security since 9/11,” he said.

Like Mark Twain’s famous quip concerning reports of his own death, Bonner said the security concerns over Dubai Ports World “are greatly exaggerated.”

Critics complain that U.S. Customs and Border Protection physically inspect just 2 percent of containers. The actual percentage of containers actually unpacked in the United States is slightly higher, but it is simply irrelevant.

In fact, as Chief McCabe told me, “100 percent of containers coming into the United States from overseas go through our screening process. It begins 24 hours before they are ever loaded at a foreign port.”

Customs has built up an extensive data base of shipping companies, shippers, freight forwarders, importers, container terminal operators, and other actors involved in the movement of goods, as well as other criteria, that allow them to make a preliminary assessment of the potential terrorist risk from any given container. Every single container is run through this Automated Tracking System. At risk containers are then singled out for further passive or intrusive inspections.

Thanks to the Container Security Initiative (CSI), which Robert Bonner helped bring to life, forty-two ports around the world that account for 80 percent of the cargo coming into the United States now allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to inspect cargo before it ever leaves for the United States. Bonner signed a CSI agreement with Dubai in December 2004, making it the only port in the Middle East to allow such intrusive U.S. inspections.

All containers – no exceptions – that are identified as a potential security threat are inspected, most of them before they ever reach the United States. Customs and Border Protection uses radiation detectors, gamma ray inspection equipment, and X-ray systems to identify suspicious cargo without opening the containers and immobilizing global trade. Container terminals “are the end of the line,” Bonner says. “We’ve pushed our borders outwards. If they get a weapon into one of our terminals, it’s all over.”

So in one sense, who owns a container terminal operating contract makes little difference to the security of our ports. The same longshoremen will be loading and unloading the ships, and the same security procedures will be in place that exist today.

But there are real concerns with the Dubai Ports deal that cannot be brushed away – and they do not stem from “Islamophobia,” the disease some have alleged has infected the deal’s critics. A U.S. Coast Guard analysis, released in part by Senator Susan Collins on Monday, raises three areas where the Coast Guard Intelligence Coordination Center has assessed that “intelligence gaps” in our knowledge of Dubai Ports World are so serious that they “preclude an overall threat assessment” of the container terminal contract takeover.

“The breadth of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities,” an unclassified portion of the classified assessment reads. It identifies three major areas of concern:

Operations: What is the security environment at all the DPW and P&O port or terminal operations; to include the methods of conveyance and the personnel management of related ports and terminal operations?

Personnel: What are the backgrounds of all associated personnel working for or associated with DPW and P&O?

Foreign Influence: Is there foreign influence on DPW or P&O operations that affect security and other major decisions? If so, what countries and to what degree?”

The Coast Guard contends that these passages were “taken out of context” from “a broader Coast Guard Intelligence analysis that was performed early on as part of the due diligence process,” and “do not reflect the full, classified analysis performed by the Guard. That analysis concludes ‘that DP world’s acquisition of P&O, in and of itself [emphasis mine], does not pose a significant threat to U.S. assets in [continental United States] ports.’”

Chief Kevin McCabe and senior DHS officials dismissed concerns over who will load and unload containers. They also dismissed fears that DP World officials will learn anything about port security procedures. “I can’t think of anything we’ve ever given the terminal operators that would give them a tip-off as to our security procedures,” McCabe said. “We tell them what containers we want to see, and we get them. They have nothing to do with what containers we screen or inspect.”

But the italicized weasel words in the Coast Guard analysis are not reassuring. Nor was the testimony on Tuesday by National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.“On the basis of our inquiry we assess that the threat to U.S. national security posed by DP World to be low,” he told the Senate Armed Services committee. “We didn’t see any red flags come up during the course of our inquiry.”

Negroponte’s office wouldn’t comment on what might constitute a “red flag,” nor on the specific assurances DP World has given the U.S. government to mitigate the concerns raised by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Just who owns Dubai Ports World? We are told it is the government of Dubai, Chertoff and other U.S. officials say. But DP World is said to have raised most of the $6.8 billion it needed for the buyout on international capital markets, and has not publicly disclosed which investors bought into the deal.

How would the administration respond should it turn out, say, that the son of a senior Iranian government official was a significant investor in Dubai Ports World? Would that raise a “red flag?”

And then there’s the whole issue of the Arab League boycott on doing business in Israel, which the Dubai Ports Authority, part of the holding company that owns DP world, openly told Jerusalem Post reporter Michael Freund it was enforcing. U.S. companies that comply with the Arab League boycott are subject to stiff penalties under U.S. law.

Clearly, more transparency is required here if the administration holds out any hope of convincing Congress – let alone a jittery public – that this deal should stand.

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Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum, New York), and Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

An Appreciation: Don Knotts

February 27, 2006
The New York Times
Don Knotts, Ever Proud to Be a Bumbler

Don Knotts was a high-status comic who played low-status roles. Actors who worked with him almost universally deferred to him as a comedic grandmaster, yet his characters were not jokers but the butts of jokes. He was absolutely flappable. No one had a better tremor or double-take, and with his unmistakable homeliness — bulging eyes, receding chin, stooped shoulders, broad hips — he didn't bother to play the wise fool; he wisely stuck to just the fool.

Of Barney Fife, Mr. Knotts's character on "The Andy Griffith Show," Billy Bob Thornton said, "Don Knotts gave us the best character, the most clearly drawn, most perfect American, most perfect human ever."

Mr. Knotts, who died Friday, grew up during the Depression, in Morgantown, W.Va., where his mother leased a house and took in boarders. He slept in the kitchen. His older brothers, Sid and Shadow, were funny, but they also drank and fought, and Shadow died of an asthma attack while Don was a teenager. Their father, who had suffered hysterical blindness and a nervous collapse before Don was born, rarely left his bed.

The Depression was a high time for Mr. Knotts's act. He practiced magic and ventriloquism for the neighbors and the boarders, many of whom were students or jobless and welcomed satire.
When World War II came, his friends thought the Army wouldn't take him, since he looked unwell and undernourished, but he ended up serving out his duty as a comedian in the Stars and Gripes, a revue that played in the South Pacific. At first, he performed only with his ventriloquist dummy, Danny, but one day he caught Red Ford, an older Texas comic, staring at him and laughing. "You know something?" Mr. Knotts remembered Ford saying in "Barney Fife, and Other Characters I Have Known," his 1999 autobiography. "You're a funny little son of a bitch."

He was a generous performer who liked to share the stage, and he thrived in duets, teams, variety shows, ensembles. Back in New York, he noticed a man whose hands shook and who spilled water; he combined that with Robert Benchley's famous apologetic speaker from the monologue "Treasurer's Report," and the nervous character, who went on to fame on "The Steve Allen Show," was born.

Mr. Knotts plainly stole stuff, and other comics didn't mind lending him material. He was wonderfully unthreatening to other male comics, all of whom could think of themselves as one step closer to leading men than Mr. Knotts was. It's hard to think of an actor, in fact, who got more helping hands than Mr. Knotts in his early days. Male actors were forever offering him parts, trying to get him to join their acts. Sharing the stage with this skinny, spazzy guy could only make them look more commanding.

Among these mentors was Andy Griffith, whom he met when they were both cast in the play "No Time for Sergeants" in 1955. Mr. Griffith and Mr. Knotts cracked each other up. A few years later, when Mr. Knotts proposed himself as a deputy to Andy Taylor on Mr. Griffith's sitcom, Mr. Griffith went for it. Andy's crinkly, deep-set eyes conveyed calm and sagacity, while Barney's popped ones expressed pure anxiety — something akin to horror at the demands of ordinary life.

Mr. Knotts's popular movies, "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," "The Reluctant Astronaut" and "The Shakiest Gun in the West," put him on a winning streak. To comedy geeks, especially the preteen kind, his send-up of 60's superheroism came as a delight and a relief.

One by one, Mr. Knotts mocked the pretenses of the comic actor who often has his eye on nobler pursuits. In the nervous man, he reveled in the discomfort that most comics tend to pass off as indignation or savoir-faire. As Barney, he satirized swagger and self-importance. Finally, on "Three's Company" in the late 70's and 80's, he sent up the comedian's hypersexuality, which is often his pride. Mr. Knotts, over and over, was willing to play the desperate, pathetic low-man-on-every-pole. He did it so well — never forsaking his persona and trying to seize the lead, as nearly all major comedians do these days — that his talent for abasement became a source, paradoxically, of great authority. By revealing but never indulging these pretenses, he enlightened everyone he worked with, and his audiences.

And once in a great while he even got to be the hero. On "The Loaded Goat," a winning episode of "The Andy Griffith Show," it's Barney who saves the day. Playing an achingly melancholy song on his harmonica, he leads a dangerous goat, which has swallowed dynamite, out of town.

Paul Sperry: CAIR's Dubai Sugar Daddy

[Yet another story that makes me wonder what the heck is going on in with our tough-minded, war-on-terror-fighting, evangelical President...part of the "war on terror" is to hire these clowns to run some of our ports?...the same clowns that allowed a number of the 9/11 terrorists to hang out before heading over here....the same clowns that gave those same terrorists financial backing? I'm going way out on a limb and suggesting that maybe we should hire people from some other country to do this job.]

Paul Sperry
March 1, 2006

When the Council on American-Islamic Relations parrots White House talking points, you know there's something very wrong inside the Beltway.

CAIR spokesman Arsalan Iftikhar agrees there's no reason to get in a lather over the United Arab Emirates taking over just about every major shipping terminal along our Eastern Seaboard. The UAE is harmless, and if you're alarmed about the deal, well, you're an Islamophobe caught up in the post-9/11 "industry of fear."

"What's important to understand here is that all this is doing is demonizing the entire world Muslim population," Iftikhar complained on MSNBC.

And besides, he says the UAE won't have anything to do with port security -- not that it matters if they did. "We have to clarify a few things here," he asserted, sounding more like a White House spokesman. "First of all, none of these port security operations are being given over to this country. The Department of Homeland Security is still going to have full autonomy when it comes to security at the ports."

So relax.

Iftikhar, like President Bush, says he sees no difference in risk between the UAE or the U.K. operating the docks where millions of cargo containers enter New York and Baltimore and Miami. What about UAE's terror record? Pshaw! "These are knee-jerk responses" borne of anti-Arab racism, he says.

As a Muslim-rights pressure group, CAIR's own knee-jerk response in defending the UAE is not surprising -- after all, it's populated by Muslims. But the group has more at stake in this case. In fact, it has a direct financial interest in defending the UAE -- a financial relationship that has never been reported in the mainstream media and never publicly disclosed by CAIR, even as it claims to receive no foreign support.

Truth be told, CAIR has an otherwise glaring conflict of interest in speaking out about the White House-approved deal to give UAE-owned Dubai Ports World control of six of our ports effective March 2. And it's something that producers at FOX, CNN and NBC should know before they ever book another CAIR flack. Here's what CAIR is hiding: The U.S.-based executives of Dubai Ports World report to the emir of Dubai, who owns controlling interest in the Dubai-based company. His name is Gen. Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. It just so happens that Sheik Maktoum also owns the deed to CAIR's headquarters located practically in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. As I first reported in my book, "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington," CAIR's deed is recorded in the name of his foundation, the Al-Maktoum Foundation. It put up more than $978,000 for the property and holds the rights to sell it, manage it and collect rents from other tenants in the multistory red-brick building on the CAIR property, located at 453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., in Washington. (You can view the relevant pages of the documents on the book's companion website,

CAIR's landlord, Sheik Maktoum, doubles as UAE defense minister. Before 9/11, he provided UAE military C-130 cargo planes to supply al-Qaida hunting camps in Afghanistan with all the amenities they needed when he and other high-level UAE officials and princes took hunting trips there. On one tripin 1999, roughly half the UAE royal family was the guest of Osama bin laden at his camp near Kandahar. They flew in on an official UAE aircraft, according to a recently declassified CIA memo dated Feb. 19, 1999, and titled, "Recent High Level UAE Visits to Afghanistan." The memo also determined that Dubai officials had lied to U.S. officials about visiting the camps. And they were believed to have even tipped off bin Laden about a coming strike on his camps. Mind you, this was just months after bin Laden blew up the two U.S. embassies in Africa (a plot which was financed in part through Dubai banks), so they knew they were in bad company. Just like CAIR knows it's in bad company.

The Dubai officials also had a cozy relationship with the Taliban. By now you've probably heard that the UAE was one of only three countries in the world -- the others being Saudi Arabia and Pakistan -- to formally recognize the Taliban in diplomatic circles. What you haven't heard is that Dubai was one of the Taliban's only travel and financial outlets to the outside world. Dubai booked flights for them and acted as their banker. But CAIR doesn't care about that, either (nor apparently does the White House).

So with all the bonding that bin Laden did with Dubai royals before 9/11, it's little wonder that he deployed 13 of his 19 hijackers from Dubai to hit America. That's right, all 13 entered the U.S. from Dubai (and that's not even counting the original 20th hijacker Mohammed al-Katani, who also entered through Dubai before an alert INS inspector at Orlando airport sent him packing). Or little wonder that two were Emirates, and that one -- Marwan al-Shehhi -- in fact served under Sheik Maktoum in the UAE Army. He no doubt made the general proud by crashing his plane into the South Tower.

It's also not surprising, given Dubai's cozy ties to bin Laden and Taleb leaders, that the hijackers were able to use Dubai as their financial base in addition to their forward staging base. As they came through Dubai, they were outfitted by the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed with credit cards, cash, bank accounts and American-style clothing. More than $100,000 in al-Qaida funds were funneled through Dubai banks. One single transfer from Dubai into al-Shehhi's and his pal Mohamed Atta's Florida checking account totaled $70,000.

The day before crashing his hijacked United Airlines jet, al-Shehhi wired $5,400 in leftover al-Qaida funds back to Dubai. Other hijackers also wired residuals there. After the attacks, investigators traced al-Shehhi phone calls back to the UAE, where he is now celebrated as a hero in mosques and other local gathering places outside the gaze of Western investors, who are too intoxicated by glittering high-rises and other signs of modernity to understand that the desert oasis is still haunted by ancient demons.

Sheik Maktoum's reaction to the mass murder of 3,000 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania was shockingly unsympathetic (as was CAIR's). In fact, he reserved his sympathies for Palestinians. Two weeks after 9/11, Sheik Maktoum warned Washington not to attack "innocent" Muslims in Afghanistan and to instead focus on "Israeli terrorists" in its war on terrorism. He argued that they are the only real terrorists."

The Arab and Muslim communities have paid dearly for terrorism, especially the state terrorism practiced by the government of [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and extremist groups in Israel," he bellowed. "Regrettably, the powers in the international community [read: America, "the Great Satan"] have done nothing but watch the Israeli terrorists, a matter which has angered Arabs and Muslims [including most assuredly Sheik Maktoum]." He added, "Confrontation of terrorism must cover Israeli terrorism."

Sheik Maktoum defines Palestinian suicide bombings as "legitimate acts of resistance," and not terrorism (which makes you wonder how he defines 9/11), and he has held Dubai telethons to support the families of suicide bombers. Also, the sheik has been accused of winking at al-Qaida money-laundering in his city-state, and helping an ailing bin Laden receive care at a Dubai hospital when he was on the lam.

This is CAIR's main sugar daddy (it also get funds from Saudi benefactors), and the Arab ruler with whom the White House has entrusted our vital port security.

Making matters worse, the CEO who answers directly to Maktoum at his Dubai Ports operation -- Mohammed Sharaf -- studied in Arizona in the early 1990s at the same time al-Qaida was setting up an American beachhead there. Several prominent al-Qaida leaders emerged from the Arizona universitysystem. In addition, one of the 9/11 pilots, Hani Hanjour, studied English there in 1990, and later took flying lessons in the Phoenix area.

This is a red flag the Treasury group that supposedly vetted the port deal more than likely overlooked. If officials really didn't rubber-stamp the deal, they would have called the FBI agent who wrote the famously prescient "Phoenix memo" before 9/11. I'm sure he could fill them in on any troubling connections Sharaf may have in Arizona.

CAIR, which has an operating budget of more than $5 million a year, has its own connections to terrorism. Formed by two ethnic-Palestinians from a Hamas front, it has had at least five officials on its payroll or board convicted of terror-related charges or tied to terrorism. They include: Randall "Ismail" Royer, Ghassan Elashi, Bassem Khafagi, Rabih Haddad and Siraj Wahhaj. So it's not exactly the best character witness for Arab officials who say they are cooperating with us in the war on terror.

Problem is, the White House also says we can trust UAE leaders, that they've been a "a very good ally" in our war on terror and, why, they're even letting our Navy dock in their port (which is no real comfort since Yemen did the same thing). Truth is, like the Saudis, they've done next to nothing to help us track down bin Laden or track his finances through their banks. That's why the administration took the extraordinary move of demanding in writing, as part of the secret port deal, that they cooperate in counterterror investigations. There'd be no need to ask for such security concessions if they were already cooperating fully as claimed, and weren't still a serious terror risk (which makes you wonder even more why the White House is pushing so hard to add risk to our already risky port situation).

But then, the administration knows all this. The U.S. Border Patrol has designated UAE as one of the 35 (all Muslim) "special interest countries," according to sensitive Department of Homeland Security documents I've obtained. And UAE shows up on the Customs and Border Protection Intelligence and National Targeting Center's list of 69 "countries of interest for potential terrorist activities." What's more, UAE is one of only five countries where DHS has stationed Visa Security Officers, putting to rest any notion that UAE does not still pose a terror threat.

And think about it: If UAE leaders were friends with bin Laden enough to hunt with him before 9/11, why would they suddenly become our friends after 9/11? They wouldn't, of course, and they aren't. And CAIR, whose real agenda is to Islamize America, isn't either. So no one should care what the hell it thinks on the subject. Just as we shouldn't trade with the enemy, we shouldn't legitimize the terror-tied groups they bankroll.

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Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington." He can be conacted at

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hamas Will Accept Phased Destruction of Israel

By Ryan Jones
February 28, 2006

The Hamas terrorist organization is not impatient, and will accept a long-term elimination of the Jewish state, rather than seek its immediate demise, the new masters of the Palestinian Authority have graciously offered.

In an interview with The Washington Post last week, PA Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh said what was taken by many to mean Hamas is ready to sign on to the “two-state solution” being imposed upon Israel by the international community:

"If Israel withdraws to the '67 borders, then we will establish a peace in stages."

In its mad dash to make Hamas appear anything but the dedicated killers and would-be annihilators of the Jewish state that they are, much of the international press jumped on Haniyeh's words as evidence the terror group is coming around to the idea of living at peace with Israel.

This despite the fact Haniyeh deflected every attempt by his interviewer to get him to say Hamas is ready, now, to recognize and accept the State of Israel as part of a final peace settlement.

The Jews, who last week were invited to live in Islamic "Palestine" as second-class citizens, are not the problem, said Haniyeh, but their current sovereignty over this narrow strip of land is unacceptable.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri later explained to reporters that the Post had apparently made an error in translation, noting that rather than "peace in stages" Haniyeh had said Hamas is prepared to seek a "solution in stages."

This policy mirrors that spelled out by former PLO chief Yasser Arafat when he was criticized in 1993 for signing an agreement with Israel. At that time, Arafat clarifed that he was implementing a phased destruction of the Jewish state.

If the international community is as willing to turn a blind eye to Hamas' phased plan as it was to disregard the PLO's version, we will soon see pressure mounting on Israel to cooperate with the Hamas Authority as it was expected to cooperate with Arafat's.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Joe Kaufman: The Islamist Port of Miami

Joe Kaufman
February 28, 2006

When the Deputy Director of the Port of Miami, Khalid Salahuddin, was asked about the purchase of his port by a state-owned company from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), he defended the transaction. He stated, “They are not buying the Port of Miami. They are buying part of one of the operators at the port.”

But while Salahuddin is not concerned about the sale, many Floridians are shaking their heads. They question the terrorist ties of the UAE. They question why their representatives in the White House have been so quick to praise the deal. However, possibly the most important question hasn’t been raised, and that is the one about Salahuddin himself.

Khalid Salahuddin is no stranger to controversy. In November of 2001, he was embroiled in a scandal, as an NBC 6 investigation exposed the Port of Miami as being a haven for criminal activity. According to the report, convicted felons - with cases ranging from attempted murder to pedophilia - were hired to work at the port.

Salahuddin, similar to his reaction to the UAE purchase, wasn’t deterred by the station’s findings and, likewise, defended the hirings. He stated, “From our standpoint, what benefit would it do to kick him out on the street? We see none.”

As shameful as this attitude may seem, when painting a full picture of Khalid Salahuddin, one has to wonder how – more than five years later – this man is still minding the port and not being extradited from it.

Khalid Salahuddin has gone through different phases in his life. Before becoming an ‘Orthodox Muslim,’ Salahuddin was a member of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan’s notoriously anti-Semitic organization. Today, he heads his own mosque in North Miami, Masjid Al-Ikhlas.

As a leader in the South Florida Islamic community, Salahuddin has traveled circles that leave little to be encouraged about. Indeed, his ties to radical Islam are many.

In February of 2002, Salahuddin officiated a fundraiser for the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), entitled ‘Celebrating Past, present and future Leadership for Humanity.’ AMANA is headed by Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout, an individual who was the Vice President of a now-defunct, Hamas-related “charity,” the Health Resource Center for Palestine (HRCP). The website of AMANA has promoted links and articles denouncing Jews, Christians and Hindus and at least one link discussing the murder of homosexuals. The site also contained a link to the Al-Haramain foundation, an organization that has had its offices closed for acting as a main financier to Al-Qaeda.

In September of 2002, Salahuddin was a participant at an event sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), entitled ‘A United and Secure Florida for all.’ CAIR’s connections to terrorism are well documented; the group has lost a fundraiser, a civil rights coordinator, a director of community relations, and a co-founder of its Texas chapter all to conviction or deportation. Also featured at this event was Zulfiqar Ali Shah, the South Asia Division Coordinator for KindHearts, a “charity” whose funds were frozen this month by the U.S. government for giving millions of dollars to Hamas.

In November of 2002, Salahuddin gave a memorial talk for Hamid Iqbal Siddiqui, at Masjid Al-Ansar, where he (Salahuddin) had previously resided as imam. Before his death, Siddiqui had acted as an East Zone Representative for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a group tied to the violent Muslim Brotherhood.

Evidently Salahuddin’s words have importance beyond these speaking engagements, because videos with his name and likeness are in distribution.

One speech made by Salahuddin (‘Belief in the Unseen’) is available through the MeccaCentric Da'wah Group, an organization that sells videotaped speeches made by numerous Islamic radicals; this includes Siraj Wahhaj, a man whose name appears on the U.S. Attorney's list of potential co-conspirators to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Also featured on the video with Salahuddin is Maulana Shafayat Mohamed, the imam of Darul Aloom (Pembroke Pines, Florida) and the former teacher of ‘Dirty Bomber’ Jose Padilla.

There are those that would liken the above information to nothing more than guilt by association. However, when one considers the amount of associations involved – with regards to Khalid Salahuddin’s exposure to radical Islam – one must conclude that there is reason for alarm.

It is certainly a valid concern as to who is purchasing the ports that control commerce to and from our country, especially when that purchase is carried out by a country with as many ties to terrorism as the UAE. Yet isn’t the concern that much greater, when one has to worry about those that are actually charged in defending the ports from the enemy?

In this case, our designated defender may very well be our downfall.

Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and the host of The Politics of Terrorism radio show.

Mark Steyn: Needing to wake up, West just closes its eyes

February 26, 2006

In five years' time, how many Jews will be living in France? Two years ago, a 23-year-old Paris disc jockey called Sebastien Selam was heading off to work from his parents' apartment when he was jumped in the parking garage by his Muslim neighbor Adel. Selam's throat was slit twice, to the point of near-decapitation; his face was ripped off with a fork; and his eyes were gouged out. Adel climbed the stairs of the apartment house dripping blood and yelling, "I have killed my Jew. I will go to heaven."

Is that an gripping story? You'd think so. Particularly when, in the same city, on the same night, a Jewish woman was brutally murdered in the presence of her daughter by another Muslim. You've got the making of a mini-trend there, and the media love trends.

Yet no major French newspaper carried the story.

This month, there was another murder. Ilan Halimi, also 23, also Jewish, was found by a railway track outside Paris with burns and knife wounds all over his body. He died en route to the hospital, having been held prisoner, hooded and naked, and brutally tortured for almost three weeks by a gang that had demanded half a million dollars from his family. Can you take a wild guess at the particular identity of the gang? During the ransom phone calls, his uncle reported that they were made to listen to Ilan's screams as he was being burned while his torturers read out verses from the Quran.

This time around, the French media did carry the story, yet every public official insisted there was no anti-Jewish element. Just one of those things. Coulda happened to anyone. And, if the gang did seem inordinately fixated on, ah, Jews, it was just because, as one police detective put it, ''Jews equal money.'' In London, the Observer couldn't even bring itself to pursue that particular angle. Its report of the murder managed to avoid any mention of the unfortunate Halimi's, um, Jewishness. Another British paper, the Independent, did dwell on the particular, er, identity groups involved in the incident but only in the context of a protest march by Parisian Jews marred by ''radical young Jewish men'' who'd attacked an ''Arab-run grocery.''

At one level, those spokesmonsieurs are right: It could happen to anyone. Even in the most civilized societies, there are depraved monsters who do terrible things. When they do, they rip apart entire families, like the Halimis and Selams. But what inflicts the real lasting damage on society as a whole is the silence and evasions of the state and the media and the broader culture.

A lot of folks are, to put it at its mildest, indifferent to Jews. In 2003, a survey by the European Commission found that 59 percent of Europeans regard Israel as the "greatest menace to world peace." Only 59 percent? What the hell's wrong with the rest of 'em? Well, don't worry: In Germany, it was 65 percent; Austria, 69 percent; the Netherlands, 74 percent. Since then, Iran has sportingly offered to solve the problem of the Israeli threat to world peace by wiping the Zionist Entity off the face of the map. But what a tragedy that those peace-loving Iranians have been provoked into launching nuclear armageddon by those pushy Jews. As Paul Oestreicher, Anglican chaplain of the University of Sussex, wrote in the Guardian the other day, "I cannot listen calmly when an Iranian president talks of wiping out Israel. Jewish fears go deep. They are not irrational. But I cannot listen calmly either when a great many citizens of Israel think and speak of Palestinians in the way a great many Germans thought and spoke about Jews when I was one of them and had to flee."

It's not surprising when you're as heavily invested as the European establishment is in an absurd equivalence between a nuclear madman who thinks he's the warm-up act for the Twelfth Imam and the fellows building the Israeli security fence that you lose all sense of proportion when it comes to your own backyard, too. "Radical young Jewish men" are no threat to "Arab-run groceries." But radical young Muslim men are changing the realities of daily life for Jews and gays and women in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and beyond. If you don't care for the Yids, big deal; look out for yourself. The Jews are playing their traditional role of the canaries in history's coal mine.

Something very remarkable is happening around the globe and, if you want the short version, a Muslim demonstrator in Toronto the other day put it very well:

''We won't stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.''

Stated that baldly it sounds ridiculous. But, simply as a matter of fact, every year more and more of the world lives under Islamic law: Pakistan adopted Islamic law in 1977, Iran in 1979, Sudan in 1984. Four decades ago, Nigeria lived under English common law; now, half of it's in the grip of sharia, and the other half's feeling the squeeze, as the death toll from the cartoon jihad indicates. But just as telling is how swiftly the developed world has internalized an essentially Islamic perspective. In their pitiful coverage of the low-level intifada that's been going on in France for five years, the European press has been barely any less loopy than the Middle Eastern media.

What, in the end, are all these supposedly unconnected matters from Danish cartoons to the murder of a Dutch filmmaker to gender-segregated swimming sessions in French municipal pools about? Answer: sovereignty. Islam claims universal jurisdiction and always has. The only difference is that they're now acting upon it. The signature act of the new age was the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran: Even hostile states generally respect the convention that diplomatic missions are the sovereign territory of their respective countries. Tehran then advanced to claiming jurisdiction over the citizens of sovereign states and killing them -- as it did to Salman Rushdie's translators and publishers. Now in the cartoon jihad and other episodes, the restraints of Islamic law are being extended piecemeal to the advanced world, by intimidation and violence but also by the usual cooing promotion of a spurious multicultural "respect" by Bill Clinton, the United Church of Canada, European foreign ministers, etc.

The I'd-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing-in-perfect-harmonee crowd have always spoken favorably of one-worldism. From the op-ed pages of Jutland newspapers to les banlieues of Paris, the Pan-Islamists are getting on with it.

© Mark Steyn 2006

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Obituary: Don Knotts

Don Knotts, star of 'The Andy Griffith Show,' dead at 81
Knotts died Friday night of pulmonary and respiratory complications at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills.
By Scott Collins,
The Los Angeles Times
2:30 PM PST,February 25 2006

Don Knotts, the saucer-eyed, scarecrow-thin comic actor best known for his roles as the high-strung small-town deputy Barney Fife on the 1960s CBS series "The Andy Griffith Show" and the leisure-suit-clad landlord Ralph Furley on ABC's '70s sitcom "Three's Company," has died. He was 81.

Knotts, who lived in West Los Angeles, died Friday night of lung cancer at UCLA Medical Center, according to Sherwin Bash, his longtime manager.

Family members said that his longtime friend Griffth was one of his last visitors at Cedars on Friday night.

Despite health problems, Knotts had kept working in recent months. He lent his distinctive, high-pitched voice as Turkey Mayor in Walt Disney's animated family film "Chicken Little," which was released in November 2005. He also did guest spots in 2005 on NBC's "Las Vegas" and Fox's "That '70s Show." He occasionally co-headlined in live comedy shows with Tim Conway, his sometime co-star in Disney films such as "The Apple Dumpling Gang." Knotts also appeared as the TV repairman in director Gary Ross's whimsical 1998 comedy "Pleasantville," and voiced the part of T.W. Turtle in the 1997 animated feature "Cats Don't Dance."

As he grew older, Knotts became a lodestar for younger comic actors. The new generation came to appreciate his highly physical brand of acting that, at its best, was in the tradition of silent-film greats such as Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Harold Lloyd.

Knotts first rose to prominence in the late 1950s, joining Louis Nye and other comedy players on "The Steve Allen Show." In 1961, United Artists Records released a comedy album entitled "Don Knotts: An Evening with Me," which featured various takeoffs on the "nervous man" routine the comic had made famous on Allen's show. One of the bits, "The Weatherman," concerned a TV forecaster forced to wing it after the meteorology report fails to make it to the studio by air time.

During the mid to late 1960s, in a largely unsuccessful bid for major film stardom, Knotts made a series of family films that many connoisseurs now say were critically underappreciated at the time. These include "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" (1964), "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" (1966) and "The Reluctant Astronaut" (1967). The latter two were made as part of a five-picture deal with Universal Pictures.

"Limpet," the tale of a meek man who is transformed into a fish, has particularly won recent acclaim. Its early mix of live action and animation was a forerunner of such later films as "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and "Space Jam."

At one point, Jim Carrey was said to be considering starring in a "Limpet" remake, although the project has yet to materialize. Once, when Knotts visited the set of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," Carrey paid tribute. "I went to him, and I was just like, 'Thank you so much for "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,"' Carrey later told an interviewer. " 'I watched it a hundred times when I was a kid.' "

Martin Short has likewise hailed Knotts as a major influence, and at least one of Short's recurring characters, shifty-eyed lawyer Nathan Thurm, owes a debt to Knotts' "nervous man" character, created for "The Steve Allen Show" in the 1950s.

Many TV viewers remember Knotts as Ralph Furley, the ascot-wearing middle-aged landlord who mistakenly viewed himself as a swinger on ABC's hit sex farce "Three's Company." The series starred the late John Ritter as Jack Tripper, a chef who pretended to be gay in order to share an apartment with two attractive young women. The plot of many episodes hinged on Tripper struggling to keep his secret from an ever-suspicious (and homophobic) Furley. Knotts introduced the character in 1979, during the show's fourth season, when the original landlords (Norman Fell and Audra Lindley) had departed for their own spin-off, "The Ropers."

For Knotts, who typically worked in Disney comedies and other family-friendly fare, appearing in a sex comedy — then decried by critics as "jiggle TV" -- constituted a major departure. But he stayed with "Three's Company" until it went off the air in 1984 after eight seasons.

However, it was his portrayal of Barney Fife — a role for which he won five Emmy Awards -- that immortalized Knotts to TV viewers. Deputy Fife, an inveterate bumbler, was not in the series pilot, and was at first intended simply to be part of a large ensemble that would surround Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor in Mayberry, a fictional North Carolina town near Raleigh.

But not long after the series debuted in October 1960, Knotts stole the show. Griffith, who was meant to be the series' comic focus, shifted to playing straight man. The writers began beefing up Fife's role and creating episodes that depended on the sheriff rescuing Fife from his latest predicament. "Andy Griffith" was the most popular comedy on television during its first season, and never dropped from the Top 10 for the rest of its eight-year run.

In Knotts' hands, Fife was a fully realized stooge, a hick-town Don Quixote who imagined himself braver, more sophisticated and more competent than he actually was. His utter lack of self-control led him into desperate jams that usually culminated with Fife at the end of his rope, bug-eyed and panting with anxiety. Sheriff Taylor allowed his deputy to carry just one bullet, which he was obliged to keep separate from his service revolver due to past trigger mishaps.

Asked how he developed his most famous character, Knotts replied in a 2000 interview: "Mainly, I thought of Barney as a kid. You can always look into the faces of kids and see what they're thinking, if they're happy or sad. That's what I tried to do with Barney. It's very identifiable."

Jesse Donald Knotts was born in Morgantown, W.Va., on July 21, 1924, the youngest of four brothers. His family life was troubled; Knotts' father twice threatened his mother with a knife and later spent time in mental hospitals, while older brother Earl — nicknamed "Shadow" because of his thinness -- died of asthma when Knotts was still a teenager.

Years later, the actor did not recall his childhood fondly."I felt like a loser," he recalled in a 1976 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "I was unhappy, I think, most of the time. We were terribly poor and I hated my size."

Knotts turned to performing in his early teens, doing an Edgar Bergen-inspired ventriloquism act with a dummy he named Danny.

He enlisted in the Army in 1943 and served in the Pacific, receiving the World War II Victory Medal among other decorations. After the war, in 1948, he graduated from West Virginia University with an education degree.

He soon borrowed $100 and moved to New York to pursue an acting career. He auditioned for several radio gigs but was turned down. One of his earliest TV roles was on the CBS soap opera "Search for Tomorrow," where he played Wilbur Peterson — a neurotic young man so troubled he communicated only with his sister -- from 1953-55. It was the only non-comedic role he ever played.

But Knotts did not receive widespread attention until he appeared on Broadway in Ira Levin's 1955 comedy "No Time for Sergeants." Based on Mac Hyman's novel, the play concerned a hillbilly — played by a then-unknown Andy Griffith -- who was drafted into the Air Force. Knotts won plaudits as an overly tense military evaluator.

From 1956-60, Knotts further cemented his reputation on NBC's "The Steve Allen Show," where he would play a character named Mr. Morrison, aka "the nervous man." Interviewed on the street, Morrison was asked whether something was making him nervous and would inevitably offer a terse, anxiety-wracked "No!"

In the meantime, "No Time for Sergeants" was made into a feature film in 1958, with Griffith and Knotts reprising their roles. The two actors kept in touch, and when Griffith signed to do the TV series as a rural sheriff, Knotts half-jokingly suggested that the lawman would need a deputy.

Knotts left "Andy Griffith" in 1965, later explaining that he believed the producers had always intended for the series to last just five seasons. In a 1967 Times interview, he said, "The grind gets to you in television, and that's primarily the reason I'm concentrating on pictures."

Griffith stayed with the program for three years after Knotts' departure, however, and Knotts agreed to revive his role as Fife in a number of guest spots. Even without Knotts, "Andy Griffith" remained popular, and the show was ranked No. 1 in its final season, 1967-68. Episodes remain syndication favorites and still appear in frequent rotation on cable network TV Land.

But many fans now believe "Andy Griffith" fizzled creatively without Knotts' manic energy — a point that even Griffith himself has conceded. On the TV fan site, one viewer wrote, "When Barney Fife left town, 'The Andy Griffith Show' changed from a television classic to just another 60's TV show."

After "Griffith," Knotts stayed busy, although he never quite matched the success he had seen as Barney Fife. An NBC variety hour, "The Don Knotts Show," premiered in 1970 and lasted just one season. The actor subsequently appeared in several live-action Disney features: as a bumbling bandit in "The Apple Dumpling Gang" (1975), a would-be safecracker in "No Deposit, No Return" (1976) and an auto-racing veteran in "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo" (1977). He also reprised his role as Fife in "Return to Mayberry," a nostalgic TV movie that delivered enormous ratings for CBS in 1986, and had a recurring role in "Matlock," CBS' courtroom drama starring Griffith.

A self-described hypochondriac, Knotts suffered numerous health reversals in recent years. He developed vision problems that made driving and some other tasks difficult. In the fall of 2003, he injured his Achilles tendon while starring in "On Golden Pond" at the New Theatre in Overland Park, Kansas, and had to wear a brace onstage.

Two of Knotts' three marriages ended in divorce. The first, to Kathryn Kay Metz, lasted from 1947 to 1964 and produced two children, Karen, an actress who co-starred with her father in a 1996 stage revival of "You Can't Take It With You," and Thomas, both of whom survive him. From 1974 to 1983, Knotts was married to Loralee Czuchna. He was married to actress Francey Yarborough at the time of his death.

"He saw poignancy in people's pride and pain and he turned it into something endearing and hilarious," Yarborough, who is also an actress, said in a statement Saturday.

Knotts received a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame in January 2000.

In the foreword to Knotts' 2000 memoir, "Barney Fife and Other Characters I Have Known," Griffith wrote that Knotts personally had little in common with his most famous creation. "Don was not Barney Fife," Griffith wrote. "I know Don to be a bright man and very much in control of himself. As everyone knows, Barney Fife had very little control of himself. In the comedy scenes we did, I was often closer to Don than the camera and I could look at him before we started those scenes, and through his eyes, I could see him become Barney Fife."