Friday, March 24, 2006

Bill Steigerwald: Media Hot Air on Global Warming

Bill Steigerwald
March 24, 2006

Wonder why Fox News polls show 60 percent of Americans think global warming is either a crisis (16 percent) or a major problem (44 percent)? It’s because for almost 20 years Americans have been under-informed and effectively brainwashed by mainstream liberal media.

A recent example of how one-sided the journalism of global warming is occurred after research scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder released a new study alleging that Antarctica’s ice is melting faster than previously thought. As the school’s March 2 press release stated, according to a study of satellite data, Antarctica’s massive ice sheet is not growing, as a 2001 study had predicted, but is “in significant decline.”

As much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year is being lost, the study found, because more ice is melting or falling into the sea than is being created by snowfalls. That sure sounds like a "significant" amount of ice water: It's 30 times what L.A. uses per year. But it's an ice chip compared to Antarctica's 7 million cubic miles of glaciers. As any devout reader of The New Yorker magazine fiction knows, rapidly melting polar ice caps -- and the resulting scary rise in ocean levels -- is the hottest theme in the global warming hysteria industry. New scientific "proofs" of our doomed melting planet are dutifully trumpeted in media almost daily, often without perspective and rarely with any journalistic skepticism.

The New York Times’ March 3 piece on Antarctica was short and perfunctory. But it made sure to note that the study “added credence to recent conclusions” that global warming “caused by humans was likely to lead to higher global sea levels” than previously thought. And what will be the sea level rise when that 36 cubic mile ice cube joins Earth's 320,000,000 cubic miles of ocean? A whopping 0.4 millimeters per year, says the study. For non-scientists, that's 0.015 inches. (20,000 years ago -- about 19,985 years before the SUV was invented -- global sea levels were 400 feet lower than today.)

The L.A. Times’ report, though longer, had no room for caution, uncertainty or critiques from other scientists about the findings. The idea that a mere three-year study, which used satellites that can’t distinguish between ice and rock to measure a continent larger than the United States, might be less than definitive never crossed the reporter’s mind.

Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin’s piece was the most thorough and most balanced. Sure, she never challenged the official global warming party line and her story was given the standard hyperbolic headline, “Antarctic ice sheet is melting rapidly: New study warns of rising sea levels.” But in the interest of fairness and balance, she called Oregon state climatologist George Taylor, a known global warming skeptic, who told her what any honest, sensible scientist would: that “a lot more research” is needed to understand Antarctica’s complex climate and ice trends.

Taylor told me last week he was not happy with the way he was treated by The Post, however. He was identified as someone “who writes for the Web site TCSDaily (, which is partly financed by fossil fuel companies that oppose curbs on greenhouse gases linked to climate change.”

Taylor, an Oregon State University professor, said "that implies I sold my soul to the devil." Yet he hardly is a tool of the oil industry. He says he’s written about six pieces at about $500 a pop for TCSDaily, an excellent conservative-libertarian website whose many sponsors include ExxonMobil.

Funny. No one else in The Post's article who gets government money had his credibility smeared. Just the guy who wasn’t a global-warming true believer. Sen. John Kerry appeared at the story's end, saying the polar meltdown meant the United States must act quickly to impose mandatory limits on CO2 and other greenhouse gases. What if The Post had discredited Kerry "as a rabid wind-surfer who has a vested interest in preserving current sea levels off Nantucket"? Or that he's "the husband of a wealthy ketchup heiress who gave a $250,000 award to scientist Jim Hansen, the Founding Father of Global Warming Doomsayers, who appeared on ABC's 'Good Morning America' March 2 warning of sea level rises of 80 feet in a few centuries"? Would anyone have complained about a bias?

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Bill Steigerwald is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's associate editor. Call him at (412) 320-7983. E-mail him at:

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Scott Ostler: Clearing the air about Teddy Ballgame

Scott Ostler
The San Fransisco Chronicle
Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ted Williams, bad guy?

The Splendid Splinter was no charming diplomat, no suave schmoozer. But when this column inducted Williams into our Baseball Hall of Fame All-Dysfunctional Wing recently, it struck a nerve with one Bay Area man.

His name is Ted Williams. He lives in Oakland and he's the nephew of Teddy Ballgame.
"Whoa," e-mailed Ted Williams of Oakland (we'll call him TWO), the son of the outfielder's brother. "I think you're going too far. Yeah, he had a bad temper, hated the fans because they would cheer when he got a hit and boo when he didn't. And he hated the sportswriters because they got into his personal life instead of sticking to his baseball performance.

"Some of it (well, the temper was real) was an act to get people to leave him alone."

TWO tells of a side of the late slugger that is at odds with his rep as surly and self-centered. I dropped in on Williams, he poured coffee and hauled out old trophies, photos and memories of his uncle.

TWO's father, Danny, was Ted's only sibling. Danny died of leukemia when Ted was 41 and nearing the end of his Red Sox career. Williams' diamond heroics were minor compared with the battle he waged for several years to save his brother.

"TW did all he could," TWO said. "He flew my father all over the country for treatments, flew him to Salt Lake City every couple weeks for transfusions. TW was making $100,000 then, and we figured out that in the last year of my father's life, Ted spent more on my father that year than he (Ted) earned in baseball.

"I was always in awe of TW, he was so big and loud, but he was always absolutely great to me, my brother and mom. He liked kids, he always took time to sit and talk with us. I remember when he would visit my father when he was dying, and Ted would leave just shell-shocked."

On Danny's deathbed, Ted promised his brother he would take care of Danny's wife and sons, then 9 and 8. When the boys were in high school, mom told them of the promise and gave them their uncle's phone number.

Williams, then managing the Washington Senators, flew the boys from San Diego to meet him in Oakland for a series against the A's. He treated the boys royally and told them that when they were ready for college, "Whatever you need, I'll take care of it."

TWO would itemize his college expenses in letters to his uncle, asking only for tuition and books.
"He always came through for me," TWO said. "There's no way I could have gone to college without his help. We had nice conversations through our letters, too. And he loved women; he always kept in touch with my mother."

In a letter Ted of Oakland received near the end of his college career, his uncle writes, in a graceful and flowing hand, "I'm enclosing a check for $500. It's of great importance you finish up strong."

This from a man who barely finished high school. His high school report cards show only one A, for a semester of PE, and numerous Ds (English, metal shop) and Fs.

Ted sent checks and gifts to his nephews on Christmases and birthdays, and also sent baseball shoes, Red Sox uniforms, gloves and many boxes of baseballs.

Williams also supported his mother, grandmother and many members of his extended family. He had a charity, the Jimmy Fund, and quietly helped former teammates and strangers.
During a hospital stay, Williams met a young girl who needed swimming therapy but had no access to a pool, so he insisted she use his swimming pool.

One Ted Williams trick: He would hear of a former teammate down on his luck, phone the guy and badger him into donating $5 to Ted's charity. Once Williams had the man's check with the account number, he anonymously would deposit $10,000.

Williams lived simply -- drove an old pickup, had a small home in Florida -- but spent lavishly on others.

"He routinely took friends and acquaintances on hunting and fishing trips and gave them the finest equipment," TWO said. "He never let anyone pick up the check for anything, and boy, you better not try."

When the Splinter was a youngster, his mother would drag him and Danny to her Salvation Army duties, and they hated it.

"But I think it rubbed off on Ted," TWO said. "He was always aware that he was better off than most people and he always tried to share."

Ted of Oakland -- he's a graphic designer/photographer, married, with a 13-year-old son -- said he considers it one of his purposes in life to set the record straight on his uncle.

"He was a character," said the younger Ted Williams, "but certainly not a bad one."

In light of the evidence, I have no choice but to dis-enshrine Ted Williams from my All-Dysfunctional Hall of Fame.

E-mail Scott Ostler at
Page D - 1

Book Review: "Game of Shadows"

Chronicle writers expand our view of BALCO's Frankenstein regimen and the athletes who bought in
Reviewed by John Freeman
The San Fransisco Chronicle
Thursday, March 23, 2006

Game of Shadows
Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports
By Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams
GOTHAM; 332 PAGES; $26

They say 40 is the new 30, but in the world of professional sports, this became literally so at the turn of the new millennium.

In 2003, at 39, middle-distance runner Regina Jacobs became the first woman to break the four-minute barrier in the indoor 1,500 meters. A year later, Giants slugger Barry Bonds put up the third-best offensive season of his career -- batting .362, with 45 home runs and 101 RBIs, also at age 39.

According to "Game of Shadows," it was the steroids and related drugs given or sold to Bonds, Jacobs and many other star athletes by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, that made all this possible. Its proprietor, Victor Conte, wasn't a doctor or even a nutritionist -- he was a former hippie, Tower of Power musician and alleged drug dealer.

In December 2004, Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada broke the story of how this shady start-up became integral to the performance of high-profile athletes, from American League MVP Jason Giambi to Olympic sprinter Marion Jones to NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski to Bonds.

Now, with "Game of Shadows," they have expanded their coverage into a book. Although most of the discussion about this superb read will surely be focused on Bonds -- who the authors make a damning case was BALCO's poster child for the power of steroids -- it would be a shame if the discussion stops there. For "Game of Shadows" turns the BALCO story into a window on the high-stakes realm of professional sports, where tenths of a second can mean millions in endorsement deals and so-called all-American athletes will do whatever it takes to succeed.

The story begins in the Central Valley, where Conte grew up a musician who nearly made it as a bandleader. When his dreams of music success crashed, he drifted before opening a holistic health clinic in 1983. When that, too, failed, Conte shifted careers and virtually overnight reinvented himself again, this time as a nutritionist to star athletes.

The food chain from snake-oil salesman to Olympian consultant is shockingly quick, and Williams and Fainaru-Wada, who are first-rate gumshoes, do the legwork to connect all the dots. Along the way, they remind us that steroids in sports have been with us a long time, from the doping programs of East Germany through the disgrace of Canada's Ben Johnson at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Steroids, they explain, do not directly make athletes faster or stronger -- they simply allow them to train harder, with fewer injuries, and often with no need for recovery time.

Sophisticated drug testing has been developed to keep the Olympics clean (or somewhat clean, as "Games" would imply), but Conte focused on providing illegal performance enhancing drugs that would elude detection. Initially, steroids were a sideline for Conte, who made the drugs available to star athletes in exchange for their endorsements of his legal nutritional supplement ZMA. But over time, as the authors demonstrate, he was being sought out almost exclusively for his cocktail of undetectable drugs, which had to be injected, dripped under the tongue (the Clear) and rubbed into the skin (the Cream).

Obtaining these ointments and vials involved some complicated schemes, which "Game of Shadows" reports with true-crime flair. There were posts on Internet chat boards, FedEx packages sent with goofy names, trips to Mexico to purchase oral testosterone and steroids disguised as flaxseed oil smuggled into the 2004 Summer Olympics in Australia.

Reading the book, it is surprising just how many athletes signed on for this Frankenstein regimen -- and how, with the help of Conte's myriad drugs, they saw dramatic turnarounds in their careers. Sprinter Kelli White, according to the authors, felt them nearly immediately. "She could work out twice a day if she wanted to and get up the next morning and be ready for more. She gained probably 15 pounds of muscle." Bonds' results were even more startling. "Over the first 13 seasons of his career ... Bonds hit .290 and averaged 32 home runs and 93 RBI. ... But in the six seasons after he began using performance-enhancing drugs -- that is, ... between the ages of 34 and 40 -- Bonds's batting averaged .328, 39, and 105."

The evidence amassed here against Bonds' denials about using banned substances is overwhelming. Besides the obvious evidence of his hulking body and the unexpected spike in his performance, there are statements to federal agents about the drugs sold to him, the grand jury testimony of Kimberly Bell, his former girlfriend, and documents found at the apartment of his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, a former steroid dealer, all connecting Bonds to steroids.

On top of this, Fainaru-Wada and Williams portray the Giants star as a superbly talented athlete who developed into an indulged egomaniac, troubled by the shadow still cast by his father, Bobby Bonds, and eaten up with jealousy over Mark McGwire's success in breaking Roger Maris' home run record in 1998. Before that, Bonds had refrained from cheating, but after seeing a "juiced" McGwire break the record, he was fed up.

Eventually, though, someone would have to halt this one-drug bonanza in sports. After being tipped off by a track coach about possible Olympians cheating, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Terry Madden was spurred into action, especially as he already knew the United States had a "reputation within the international Olympic community as the ultimate hypocrite," thanks to cover-ups of positive drug tests during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

But the real spark plug was IRS agent Jeff Novitsky. An experienced investigator, he went after the BALCO case with dogged determination. He searched through BALCO's trash and obtained a subpoena to fish through their medical waste, where he found empty vials of the blood-boosting agent EPO and traces of human growth hormone. He sought out the best in drug testing and educated himself on how steroids were detected -- and hidden from detection.

In April, Bonds will begin his race to top Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs. It seems probable he will. As to what he will say during his victory speech, or how it will be received, only God knows. But after finishing this important and disturbing book, it's hard not to feel it will be an empty accomplishment.

John Freeman is president of the National Book Critics Circle.

Page E - 1

Robert Spencer: Dying for Freedom

Robert Spencer
March 23, 2006

Not long after Abdul Rahman was arrested in Afghanistan, President Bush declared: “Before September the 11th, 2001, Afghanistan was ruled by a cruel regime that oppressed its people, brutalized women, and gave safe haven to the terrorists who attacked America. Today, the terror camps have been shut down; women are working; boys and girls are back in school; and 25 million people have now tasted freedom. The Afghan people are building a vibrant young democracy that is an ally in the war on terror. And America is proud to have such a determined partner in the cause of freedom.”

Of course, when Bush spoke those words Abdul Rahman’s case had not yet been reported in the West. But now that it has become international news that Abdul Rahman was arrested last month for the crime of leaving Islam and becoming a Christian, it is all too clear that the taste of freedom the Afghans are enjoying under the Karzai regime is not quite what many Westerners might have expected.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack tried to find a silver lining: “Under the Taliban, anybody considered an apostate was subject to torture and death. Right now, you have a legal proceeding that is under way in Afghanistan.” Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns held out confidence in the outcome: “Our government is a great supporter of freedom of religion. As the Afghan constitution affords freedom of religion to all Afghan citizens, we hope very much that those rights, the right of freedom of religion, will be upheld in an Afghan court.”

But the Afghan Constitution also stipulates that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” Even after the arrest of Abdul Rahman, Western analysts seem to have had trouble grasping the import of this. A “human rights expert” quoted by the Times of London summed up confusion that was widespread in Western countries: “The constitution says Islam is the religion of Afghanistan, yet it also mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18 specifically forbids this kind of recourse. It really highlights the problem the judiciary faces.”

But in fact there is no problem. The Constitution declares its “respect” for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but never says about the Declaration what it says about Islamic law -- that no law can be made contradicting it. And as for the freedom of religion that Undersecretary Burns hopes will be upheld by the Afghan judiciary – the Constitution circumscribed it from the beginning: “The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam,” it says. “Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law” (emphasis added).

It is likely that that last clause refers to provisions of traditional Islamic law denying various rights to non-Muslims and restricting freedom of conscience. It is just as likely that most Westerners who read the Afghan Constitution before the arrest of Abdul Rahman had no idea of its import. Thus Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), in an indignant letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, took pains to point out that Abdul Rahman’s conversion had occurred long before the Karzai government took power, as if this restriction on freedom of conscience were somehow newly minted -- an invention of the present regime or perhaps a noxious borrowing from the Taliban: “In a country where soldiers from all faiths, including Christianity, are dying in defense of your government, I find it outrageous that Mr. Rahman is being prosecuted and facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity, which he did 16 years ago before your government even existed.”

In fact, however, the Islamic death penalty for apostasy was not invented either by Karzai or Mullah Omar. It is as old as the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s command that “if somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him” (Bukhari, vol. 4, bk. 52, no. 260). It is deeply ingrained in Islamic culture -- which is one reason why it was Abdul Rahman’s family that went to police to file a complaint about his conversion, even so many years after the fact. Whatever triggered their action now, they could be confident that the police would receive such a complaint with the utmost seriousness.

Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has said, “The British Army in Afghanistan is losing soldiers there through injury and death. Is the Army there to uphold this kind of thing? I thought we were there to promote democracy and freedom.” The Abdul Rahman case is indeed an opportunity for the British and American governments to refine and clarify what exactly they mean by freedom: is it simple one-person one-vote self-determination, which has elected exponents of political Islam in large numbers recently in the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere? Or is it Western concepts of universal human rights and freedoms, as derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition and encapsulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Abdul Rahman may go free simply as a bid to keep American aid flowing into Kabul. But the deeper problem within Afghan society -- and the larger lack of focus in the Western powers’ overall aims in Afghanistan and Iraq -- will still remain. We may hope that sometime soon President Bush, having determined to keep his new “partners in the cause of freedom,” will call for the removal of the Sharia provisions in the Afghan and Iraqi Constitutions, and declare his support for full freedom of conscience such as that exercised by Abdul Rahman. Certainly such a course would lose him many friends in the Islamic world, but it would win him many there and elsewhere as well -- among those who hold that the dignity of the human person, and the right not to be coerced into belief, are worth defending.

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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of five books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ron Cook: Athletes find that it pays to be spoiled

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

All-Star second baseman Alfonso Soriano refused to play left field for the Washington Nationals Monday night, causing a major disruption for his team two weeks before opening day.

That should get Soriano $15 million a year in his next contract.

Hey, being a creep worked for Terrell Owens, didn't it?

What a sad few days it has been for pro sports. You would think Soriano's insubordination is the worst thing that could have happened. But it wasn't. The worst took place Saturday in Dallas when the Cowboys signed T.O. to a big contract that guarantees him $10 million next season.


That makes you sick to your stomach, too?

This little rap ditty from Owens on his Web site this week probably won't make you feel better.

"I got a brand new team, I am a Cowboy now, no more black and green, to the haters that said I'm not going to get my money, I'm laughing in your face, ha, ha, that's funny."

Don't you just love the guy?

But let's put blame where it really belongs. The jerks in sports get away only with what the owners allow. Owens and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones deserve each other. Here's hoping they go 0-16 next season.

Jones knows Owens has been a cancer wherever he has been. In San Francisco, T.O. publicly questioned quarterback Jeff Garcia's sexual orientation, which always is good for team morale. And in Philadelphia last season, he sulked when the Eagles wouldn't renegotiate his contract after just one year and publicly blasted star quarterback Donovan McNabb more than once, finally forcing the Eagles to throw him off the team.

But Jones couldn't help himself. Apparently, he wants to win so badly that he was willing to sell his soul to the devil. He's counting on Bill Parcells to keep Owens in line, which is a joke for two reasons. One, Parcells is a fraud as a tough-guy coach. This is the same man who kept former Pitt wide receiver Antonio Bryant on his team into the 2004 season after Bryant had showed him up at minicamp by throwing his sweaty jersey in his face. And two, no one keeps Owens in line.

Then again, Owens doesn't have to be a team player, does he? It's not as if anyone is going to hold him accountable.

In the real world, Owens would be without an NFL job or a paycheck. But in the sports world, where talent trumps all, he's collecting his millions and thumbing his nose at the world in his rap songs and, presumably, in his new tell-all book that is due out soon.

The creep probably will send an autographed copy to Garcia and McNabb.

Our sympathies to Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

While we're feeling sorry for people, how about some pity for the Nationals? They're in a jackpot with Soriano that can't possibly have a happy ending for the team.

Even before the Nationals traded for Soriano in the winter, they knew he didn't want to play the outfield. He hit 36 home runs last season and knows his value as a free agent after this season will be greater as a second baseman because power hitters are so rare at that position. That's why he was awarded $10 million in salary arbitration before this season even though he lost his case, as if "lost" is the right word.

But the Nationals, who already had All-Star second baseman Jose Vidro, still gambled. They were big losers Monday night when eight of their players took the field for their exhibition game and Soriano refused to leave the clubhouse.

This isn't fair to manager Frank Robinson, who is as old school as it gets. It's a good thing for Soriano that Robinson is 70 and not 40.

It's not fair to the other Washington players. Their season is sabotaged before it starts because their star player is disgruntled.

And it's not fair to the Washington fans. They're paying for that new stadium in D.C. and buying the team's high-priced tickets so the Nationals can pay $10 million to a guy who won't play where they need him?

Washington management threatened to put Soriano on baseball's disqualified list if he refuses to play left field in the game today. That sounds tough, but it's not likely to happen. Soriano, who wouldn't get a check or service time toward free agency on that list, will come to his senses and drag himself to left field. But he won't be happy, which hardly will be a good thing for his team.

The Nationals could try to trade Soriano, but that's no answer. It's not as if there wouldn't be takers. (Go back to that Devil and Mr. Jones thing). But the Nationals wouldn't get equal value for Soriano. And even if they did, what kind of message would that be to the other players?

You don't like the way we do things here, just refuse to play and we'll send you somewhere else.

No, only Soriano will end up with the happy ending after he plays out the season and becomes a free agent. His agony will be worth it when some team rushes to pay him that $15 million a year.
Are pro sports great or what?

(Ron Cook can be reached at or 412-263-1525.)

Chuck Colson: Democratic Apostasy

The Martyrdom of Abdul Rahman
March 21, 2006

Since October 2001, approximately three hundred Americans have been killed and another eight hundred have been wounded in Afghanistan. The overthrow of the Taliban was about more than denying a base of operations to al Qaeda—it was also about liberating the people of Afghanistan from a brutal theocracy.

All of this makes recent news from Kabul all the more ironic—and outrageous.

Abdul Rahman is on trial for his life in a Kabul court. His crime? Converting to Christianity.

According to reports, Rahman converted to Christianity sixteen years ago while working for a Christian group that helped Afghan refugees in Peshawar, Pakistan. When he returned to Afghanistan in 2002, he tried to regain custody of his daughters from his parents. They referred the matter to the police, and his conversion came to the attention of Afghani authorities.

While the Taliban no longer rules the country, conversion from Islam to another religion, called apostasy, is still punishable by death. The prosecutor offered to drop the charges if Rahman converted back to Islam, but Rahman refused. According to the prosecutor, Rahman “said he was a Christian and would always remain one.”

That fidelity could cost Rahman his life if the judge decides that his “attack on Islam” meets the requirements of apostasy.

The irony is inescapable: This is the country that we rid of the Taliban because of its religious oppression. This is the country in which we have spent at least $70 billion to establish a free democratic government. This is the country whose freedom cost us three hundred American lives and eight hundred casualties. And this is the country that is preparing to execute a man for becoming a Christian after he witnessed other Christians caring for his countrymen.

Is this the fruit of democracy? Is this why we have shed American blood and invested American treasure to set a people free? What have we accomplished for overthrowing the Taliban? This is the kind of thing we would expect from the Taliban, not from President Karzai and his freely elected democratic government.

I have supported the Bush administration’s foreign policy because I came to believe that the best way to stop Islamo-fascism was by promoting democracy. But if we can’t guarantee fundamental religious freedoms in the countries where we establish democratic reforms, then the whole credibility of our foreign policy is thrown into serious question. I hope the president and the administration can recognize what a devastating setback Rahman’s execution would be to the cause of democracy and freedom.

But just in case they don’t, we had better tell them. While Abdul Rahman is prepared to be a martyr, it is our solemn obligation before God to protest as loudly and strenuously as we can.
You need to both call and e-mail your elected representatives and the White House. You need to tell them that Abdul Rahman’s execution must not take place. You need to let them know that “democracy” worth the name must include protection of the most basic human right: freedom of conscience and belief.

Otherwise, places like Afghanistan, whoever is in charge, are nothing more than brutal theocracies and will always remain so.

Take action:

Contact your representative and senators (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) and President Bush (e-mail or call 202-456-1111), and urge them to take action to prevent the execution of Afghan Christian Abdul Rahman.

Michelle Malkin: Who Will Save Abdul-Rahman?

March 22, 2006
Michelle Malkin

Abdul Rahman is a man of faith. "I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Christ. And I am a Christian," he declared this week.

Unfortunately for Rahman, he was originally born a Muslim in Afghanistan -- and he has been forced to defend his religious conversion in his home country's court, where he now faces the death penalty for turning to Jesus. Despite the defeat of the totalitarian Taliban and the existence of a U.S.-backed "moderate" democratic government, it is a capital crime for Afghanis to openly embrace any religion other than Islam. Sharia law, embedded in the Afghan constitution, overrides its human rights provisions.

Rahman's family has denounced him as mentally ill. Afghan officials are thirsting for his blood. "We will cut him into little pieces," jail employee Hosnia Wafayosofi told the Chicago Tribune, as she "made a cutting motion with her hands."

The Tribune reported that prosecutor Abdul Wasi demanded Rahman's repentance and called him a traitor: "He is known as a microbe in society, and he should be cut off and removed from the rest of Muslim society and should be killed." The country's attorney general says Rahman should be hung. The judge handling the case, who has been photographed wielding Rahman's Bible as evidence against him, threatens: "If he doesn't regret his conversion, the punishment will be enforced on him. And the punishment is death."

This is a watershed moment in the post-Sept. 11 world. The Taliban are out of power. And yet today, an innocent man sits in the jail of a "moderate" Muslim nation praying for his life because he owned a Bible and refuses to renounce his Christian faith. Rahman, who converted many years ago while working for a Christian aid agency in Germany, "is standing by his words," fellow jail inmate Sayad Miakel told Canada's Globe and Mail. Another cellmate, Khalylullah Safi, reported: "He keeps looking up to the sky, to God."

As of Tuesday afternoon, left-wing Amnesty International had nothing to say about the case. But neither did President Bush, a man of faith and a Christian brother. During his extensive White House press conference on the War on Terror and the defense of freedom overseas, Bush spent plenty of time describing what life was like for Afghanis before Operation Enduring Freedom:

"There was no such thing as religious freedom. There was no such thing as being able to express yourself in the public square. There was no such thing as press conferences like this. They were totalitarian in their view. And that would be -- I'm referring to the Taliban, of course. And that's how they would like to run government. They rule by intimidation and fear, by death and destruction. And the United States of America must take this threat seriously and must not -- must never forget the natural rights that formed our country."

President Bush, who will defend Abdul Rahman's natural rights from being usurped and terminated by Afghanistan's Islamic executioners?

Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council raises the unpleasant question Bush evaded and no one in the White House press corps bothered to ask: "How can we congratulate ourselves for liberating Afghanistan from the rule of jihadists only to be ruled by Islamists who kill Christians? . . . President Bush should immediately send Vice President Cheney or Secretary Rice to Kabul to read [Afghan President] Hamid Karzai's government the riot act. Americans will not give their blood and treasure to prop up new Islamic fundamentalist regimes. Democracy is more than purple thumbs."

Embarrassingly, the governments of Italy and Germany have already stepped forward to make direct appeals to Karzai to save Rahman's life. Hamid Karzai has ducked the issue so far. Our feckless State Department is "monitoring" the situation.

If we sit on the sidelines and watch this man "cut into little pieces" for his love of Christ, we do not deserve the legacy of liberty our Founding Fathers left us. How about offering Rahman asylum in the United States? Perhaps Yale University, proud sponsor of former Taliban official Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, can offer Rahman a scholarship. Where's the Catholic Church, so quick to offer sanctuary to every last illegal alien streaming across the borders? And how about Hollywood, so quick to take up the cause of every last Death Row inmate?

Hello, anyone, hello?

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate

P. David Hornik: Embracing Islamo-Fascists

P. David Hornik
March 22, 2006

The Jewish Left is failing the Hamas test. Seemingly, the election of the fanatically-religious Hamas would have enabled the Jewish Left to join most other Jews in solidarity behind Israel as a country facing a threat. The Left tends to view religion as irrational and destructive, and secularism as rational. During the early period of Oslo terrorism ca. 1993-1996, the Jewish Left constantly assured us that the terror came from fundamentalist “enemies of peace”—Hamas and Islamic Jihad—whereas the ostensibly-secular Arafat and his PLO remained committed to conciliation.

But the empowerment of Hamas—now promoting suicide terrorism for children on its children’s website—has caused no change in the Jewish Left’s mindset. True, for Israeli leftist author Amos Oz, who has steadily vilified “fundamentalist” Jewish settlers, it is still not Hamas itself that is yearning to make peace with Israel.

But in an op-ed called “Someone to Talk To” on the ynet news site, Oz complains that both “Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu . . . claim there is no one to talk with on the Palestinian side” and want to take unilateral measures. Instead, Oz suggests that Israel “try to strengthen the moderate elements amongst the Palestinians, the ones concentrated around [President Abbas’s] office, to negotiate with them and to sign agreements with them. . . . Were negotiations with the presidential establishment to produce even a draft agreement, it could signify a breakthrough for a ‘bypass road’ to avoid Hamas and could lead to victory for the moderate Palestinian camp.”

Apart from the fact that Oz predictably upholds Abbas’s wholly undeserved reputation for moderacy—not to mention efficacy, even after over a year of rule in which Abbas never lifted a finger against the Palestinian terror organizations—this may also be the first time anyone has suggested simply “bypassing” a serving totalitarian government and “negotiating agreements” with selected elements in the regime.

And should that fail to work, “Israel,” Oz assures us, “has got one other way to bypass Hamas: to negotiate with Arab governments for a general resolution to all elements of the conflict on the basis of the 2003 Arab League proposal (the so-called ‘Saudi Proposal’).” In other words, skip over the PA regime altogether and do it all in one shot—with the whole Arab world, with its great fondness for Israel. For Oz, it is better to engage publicly in ludicrous mental contortions than to join the rest of us folks who just think we’re going to have to fight Hamas.

The editorial board of Israel’s left-wing daily Haaretz, though, accepts the fact that “the Palestinians elected the parliament and government that Hamas will apparently rule,” and criticizes Labor prime-ministerial candidate Amir Peretz for, like Oz, “want[ing] to establish a moderate track for negotiations with the Palestinians and strengthen pragmatists, while intentionally ignoring the fact that Hamas is in power.”

Does this mean Haaretz has, for the time being, despaired of its dreams of turning Israel and its environs into a southern version of the EU—peaceful, nonchalant, and more or less productive? Not at all: “it is with these elected [Hamas] bodies that Israel must hope to reach an agreement. . . . while Israel’s intelligence services think there is a slim chance for political negotiations with Hamas[,] we must remember that the same intelligence was mistaken in its assessment of Hamas’ political power, and it’s possible that it is mistaken in its assessment of the changes that will take place.”

In other words, for Haaretz the partner for peace is—Hamas itself.

As for the American Jewish Left, the emergence of House and Senate bills calling for an end to aid and ties with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has prompted objections. The notion that anyone, anytime, might act assertively toward the Palestinians, hold them accountable for their actions, and redirect aid to someone more deserving proves too much for the devotees of the peace ideology.

Seymour Reich, for example, of the Israel Policy Forum insists in a Jerusalem Post op-ed that “US policy—and any Congressional legislation—should . . . provide opportunities and inducements to Palestinians to publicly commit to achieving a two-state solution using nonviolent means and accepting the State of Israel, and allow for engaging with those Palestinians who make such a commitment.” Read: sustain the dream of bribing the Palestinians to adopt Western values after, seemingly, it had been painfully discredited.

At the same time, Reich pontificates, the US must “make certain [its] funds are not used to advance the goals or methods of Hamas.” Read: micromanage a distant, corrupt, anarchic, Third World society to ensure that funds end up, and stay in, the hands of alleged good guys and in no way abet the aims of a terrorist government and a general population of people inundated with anti-Semitic propaganda since earliest childhood.

For the Jewish Left both in Israel and abroad, dreams die hard. But so do the Israeli victims of Palestinian terror that is enabled by those who lack the courage to look at reality and substitute fantasies of friendship with those who loathe them.

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P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Jerusalem. He can be reached at

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bill Schneider: Still Threatened?

Grizzly Delisting Splits Scientific Community

New West, 3-20-06

Scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency, National Park Service, National Wildlife Federation and Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team have all supported removing of the grizzly bear from the threatened species list—or as it’s called, delisting. This could give the impression that the scientific community supports delisting, even if the general public does not. But alas, a huge number of scientists—269 of them, in fact—have now come out in official opposition to delisting. At least until today, the last day for official public comments, any informed observer would say that the delisting proposal has plenty of political tailwind to go ahead even with at least 150,000 public (translate, non-scientific and insignificant) comments total, mostly in opposition. Agencies often say such decisions are about science, not a popularity contest, but now that most scientists oppose delisting, the decision to proceed will be much more difficult for proponents, mainly state and federal wildlife agencies, conservative politicians and companies involved in resource extraction, as well as ATV users and people who use oppose closing forest roads, even in prime grizzly habitat.

In the letter to Dr. Christopher Servheen, FWS Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, the scientists concluded as follows:

“We, the undersigned scientists believe that there are many reasons that the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is not biologically recovered and should not be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.”

"While the Endangered Species Act rescued the Yellowstone grizzly from a tragic future confined to Yellowstone Park, we still have a lot of work to do before we can say this job is complete," noted Dr. Lance Craighead of Bozeman, MT, son of Frank Craighead, director of the Craighead Environmental Research Institute, and one of the three main spokespersons (along with Drs. Barrie Gilbert and Craig Pease) for the scientists.

NewWest participated in today’s conference call with the three scientists, about ten other reporters, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit opposed to delisting and involved with the coordination effort to build a long list of scientists recommending keeping the grizzly bear on the threatened species list. On the call, the three scientists urged federal wildlife managers to take a long-term view of grizzly recovery instead of merely doing the minimum necessary to get the bear off the threatened species list.

“We feel the proposal to delist the grizzly has many inadequacies,” Craighead said. “More bears are necessary to maintain a viable population. Mortality rates are not taken into account. More habitat must be protected. And we are understating risks.”

Pease, a wildlife population expert, said there is a “huge amount of uncertainty” as to how many bears we have. “The government used the number of 588 based on 2004 data, but if they used 2005 data, it would only be 350. We need at least 2,000 bears to overcome fluctuations, and there is simply not enough room in the Greater Yellowstone Area for 2,000 grizzly bears. That’s why we need to develop bridges to other populations.”

The scientists agreed that developing a core population in the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church-River of No Return area in central Idaho was “absolutely critical.” However, they worried about the prospects of this happening with Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne coming on board as Secretary of the Interior. As governor, Kempthorne vehemently opposed the return of the grizzly to central Idaho and single-handedly blocked a planned restoration effort backed by a broad-based consensus group and wildlife scientists.

Gilbert and Craighead both expressed concerns for “problems related to hunting” and compared it to wise investment. “We’re investing in grizzly bears for a long term,” Criaghead said, “so we should set aside the principle and not draw from it and then spend the interest,” referring to the likelihood hunters will be allowed to hunt grizzlies on the fringes of Yellowstone Park. The scientists worried that there would not be any bears in bridges to other grizzly populations or to central Idaho because “people will shoot them.”

Newwest inquired how there could be such a dramatic split among leading scientists, and Craighead replied that “The future of the grizzly bear depends on good luck and good will. Scientists outside the agencies are more skeptical based on the track record.”

Pease added that non-agency scientists have not been given full access to scientific data and that the International Bear Association, a leading international group of bear scientists, has not endorsed the delisting."The government needs to consider the best science," emphasized Pease. "If you need brain surgery, you want the latest MRI technology, not a 1970s-era X-ray. The same is true in conservation."

The scientists cited several specific reasons for their recommendation, such as:

· An isolated grizzly bear population of 500 or fewer bears is at risk of long-term extinction;

· The Yellowstone population is much too small genetically;

· Major food sources face major threats;

· A delisted population would be vulnerable to additional human-caused mortalities; and,

· Agencies plans call for inadequate long-term habitat protection. World-renowned scientists Drs. Jane Goodall, Michael Soulé and John Craighead, Sr., who with his brother Frank Craighead pioneered grizzly research in Yellowstone in the 1960s also signed the letter.

The letter and a complete list of signatories is available at this website.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Don Feder: V for Vapid

Don Feder
March 20, 2006

"V for Vendetta," which opened on Friday, combines all of the celluloid left’s paranoid fantasies – Christian conservatives in charge of a brutal regime, the war-on-terrorism as an excuse for the suppression of civil liberties, homosexuals harassed and killed by conservative Christians, a pedophile priest (who works miter-in-hand with the regime) and an attack blamed on terrorists that’s really a right-wing conspiracy.

All that’s missing is a Halliburton connection. For that, we’ll have to wait for "V – The Return."

"V" opens in Britain circa 2020. America has succumbed to plague, civil war, and chaos. (Bush’s fault, no doubt.) The UK is ruled by a fascist regime with strong Christian overtones – the party’s slogan is "Strength through Unity; Unity through Faith." Its symbol is a stylized cross, and its enforcers are a quasi-religious police.

As the film opens, Britain’s most popular commentator is explaining how America’s fall was ordained by its embrace of "degeneracy," as flecks of saliva fly from his mouth.

The Brit Reich is headed by Chancellor Sutler – played by a cadaverous John Hurt (who looks like a cross between Hitler and Kate Moss). Hurt is incapable of delivering his lines unless he’s: A) Screaming B) Sneering or C) on the verge of a cerebral hemorrhage.

In the England of "V," free speech has been crushed. Conformity is ruthlessly enforced. Dissidents and non-conformists are hunted down and eliminated. Torture is a routine. Medical experiments are performed on undesirables. And "1984" indoctrination is ubiquitous.
Enter the mysterious "V" – a knife-throwing martial-arts master in a Guy Fawkes mask.

The movie projects the 17th century Englishman as a prototypical freedom fighter. In reality, Fawkes was a Catholic conspirator who tried to murder James I and most of Britain’s nobility by attempting to blow up Parliament in the famous Gunpowder Plot of 1605. His objective wasn’t constitutional democracy but a return to Catholic rule. But, then, Hollywood never did have much of a sense of history.

That’s only the beginning of "V’’s confusion. One of the characters is a closet homosexual talk-show host (portrayed by British actor Stephen Fry), who shelters Natalie Portman on the run from the authorities.

In his Crypt of the Banned, Fry shows Portman a Koran. "Are you a Muslim?" Portman innocently asks. No, Fry replies, but I appreciate the beautiful illustrations and poetry therein. Does he also appreciate the perspective of the religion-of-peace on the love-that-dare-not speak-its-name? Were there German Jews in the ‘30, who really dug those snappy SS uniforms?

The only reference to Islam has to do with beauty and poetry. "V" has other targets on its radar screen. In terms of bashing the Right and demonizing Christians – with "V," Hollywood is completely in character.

Need a clichéd bad guy? Call central casting for a stock lecherous priest, hypocritical evangelical, repressive preacher or sadistic nun. Whether now or in the past, committed Christians are regularly portrayed as characters who should be committed – fanatical, hypocritical, cowardly, avaricious and lustful. Think "Kingdom of Heaven," "King Arthur," "Saved," "The Magdalene Sisters," "Priest," The Order," "Dogma," "Stigmata," and the movie version of "The DaVinci Code," coming out in May.

As much a staple as the evil Christian is the unprincipled, power-mad conservative politician, general, or businessman.

Starting with "Dr. Strangelove" and "Seven Days In May," proceeding to "The Manchurian Candidate" (both the ‘60s original and the recent remake), "Dreamscape," "The American President," "The Contender" (with Gary Oldman doing his Bob Dole impression), "Bulworth," "The Day After Tomorrow" (where the destruction of America in a global climate catastrophe is blamed on a conservative vice president opposed to the Kyoto Treaty) – well, you get the picture.

"V for Vendetta" is distinguished by envelope-pushing, combined with an unapologetic glorification of terrorism.

The title character (who begins the movie by blowing up the Old Bailey and ends with the demolition of Parliament) is a noble soul – a courageous, long-suffering, philosophical bloke, who appreciates jazz, Renaissance paintings, weepy old movies, and high-cholesterol cooking.

This is Hollywood’s romanticized take on terrorists – far removed from the reality of Koran-happy sadists who plant nail-packed bombs in restaurants frequented by families with young children.

The slogan of "V for Vendetta" is: "People shouldn’t fear their government. Governments should fear their people."

In the real world, beyond the pages of comic books (where "V" originated), there’s no shortage of governments that prey on their people, and people who live in gut-wrenching fear of their rulers – places like Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and the Peoples’ Detention Center of China.

Here are governments with gulags, medical experiments performed on dissidents, tanks rolling over demonstrators, torture cells and thought-control.

Beijing sells the organs of executed prisoners. Kim Jong Il deliberately starves his subjects while pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran puts out contracts on novelists. When he was in power, Saddam Hussein’s idea of a night on the town was watching a live man being fed into a plastic shredding machine.

When was the last time Hollywood made a big-budget film about the agony of existence in one of these nightmare states? I know; it’s a real brain-teaser.

The few include "Red Corner" (where China’s "justice system" is not portrayed sympathetically) and "Die Another Day" (even here, the bad guys aren’t the rulers of North Korea, but rogue elements therein – scary thought).

While they carry on about Bush being behind the 9/11 attacks and using the war on terrorism to advance his totalitarian plans, much of Hollywood has the warm and fuzzies for the most corrupt and brutal tyrannies on earth.

Sean Penn flew to Baghdad prior to the U.S. liberation and posed next to a picture of Saddam.
Steven Spielberg (whose "Munich" posits moral equivalence between Palestinian assassins and Israeli agents out to get them) once remarked, "The best seven hours I ever spent was actually with Fidel Castro." (Given the quality his recent films, he might be right.)

And, lest we forget, Jane Fonda (star of "Monster-In-Law," now playing on cable), who traveled to Hanoi during the Vietnam War to make propaganda broadcasts, told an audience at the University of Michigan (1970): "I would think that if you understood what communism was, you would hope, you would pray on your knees, that we would someday become communists."

After the war, Fonda called Joan Baez a liar for charging the Khmer Rouge with genocide. (In reality, the Killing Fields were a reclamation project.) The U.S. POWs who said they were tortured at the Hanoi Hilton – also liars, according to Fonda.

Her ex-husband, Ted Turner – who’s gone duck hunting with Castro – has remarked that "communism is part of life on this planet. And that’s okay with me."

In the 1980s, Ed Asner bought "medical supplies" for the FMLN, the Marxist guerrillas who wanted to turn El Salvador into another Cuba.

The aptly named Vanessa Redgrave is a member of the British Workers Revolutionary Party. In her younger days, the mummified Marxist may have shared a bed with the red gravedigger of Cuba. And, in 1978, she teamed up with Fonda to make "Julia," glorifying yet another Red lover: Lillian Hellman. Warren Beatty got off playing John Reed (who thought Lenin was the messiah) in "Reds."

Need I continue? Hollywood has a lot of credibility when it comes to lecturing us on tyranny – about as much as Ted Kennedy does on drunk driving, Bill Clinton on marital fidelity, and Robert Downey Jr. on a drug-free America.

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Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website,