Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ray Ratto: Selig, as ever, a step slow

Ray Ratto
The San Fransisco Chronicle
Thursday, March 30, 2006

Once upon a time, George Mitchell was considered a candidate to become commissioner of baseball. He wasn't much of a candidate, though, because we know that baseball owners still like to fix their meetings, and outsiders tend to stay that way.

So Bud Selig got the job instead, and now Mitchell is the big name among the people who are going to run the shiny new investigation into steroid use and performance enhancement in baseball.

Sounds like Mitchell was one lucky loser. I mean, it could have been the other way around, and he could have been the one hemming and hawing and putting out releases announcing the season-long Barry-Fest.

The announcement comes today, and the intent of the Selig Administration seems to be to get the monomaniacal media focus off Bonds himself while looking to attack a problem that is allegedly in the past.

So let's call this what it is -- the real Game of Shadows, after the troublesome pamphlet of the same name.

The investigation is supposed to go, well, wherever it goes, but given that the book has enumerated what happened in one laboratory, it is hard to know just where the investigation is supposed to go beyond what Mark Fainaru-Wada, Lance Williams and the boys and girls at Gotham Publishing already have provided.

In other words, this will be an uncomfortable time for Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi. All the other players mentioned in the book are now out of baseball, and all the other players who have used (or are still using) performance enhancers aren't in the book.

So why is this investigation anything more than a really involved book report? An excellent question, that.

Everything about Selig's interest in the steroid story has come after BALCO news, and his (and therefore the game's) reactions have been routinely hesitant and insincere, unless there was a way to bring in the players' union to share the blame. It surely can be said that there would have been no investigation of the sort being announced today if not for the seamlessness and unassailable thoroughness in reportage, and the utterly convincing narrative that drives the book. Put another way, you could blow $26 in lots worse ways.

Indeed, there have been other books about steroids in the game, most notably Howard Bryant's "Juicing the Game," a fairly thorough overview of the story, but none of those spurred Selig out of his clinical torpor on the subject. No, it took this one -- in fact, news of the planned investigation was released two days after the authors did 12 minutes on David Letterman, which suggests at least circumstantially that it took Selig this long to realize that the book had made a serious impact across all segments of the nation -- except of course for here, Bonds' own Little Switzerland.

Thus, we can assume, George Mitchell's reputation for honor and veracity notwithstanding, that the breadth of this investigation will be kept as narrow as possible, widened only if the public actually demands it. It is baseball's way to do nothing until it is shown that a problem won't go away, and then to deal with it as halfheartedly as possible.

Unless, of course, money is involved. Then, the baseball folks spring into action like the cast of Cirque du Soleil with a snootful of nandrolone.

In other words, barring a public backlash and the rules of evidence, this investigation will follow only the trail of the footnotes in the back of the book, because there is no other place for the investigators to go. For all the players who are suspected of using the junk to prolong and improve their careers, only Bonds, Sheffield and Giambi end up being truly vulnerable, which your morning paper told you some time ago.

Of course, this might be a bleak picture we paint here. Perhaps this investigation will be more than we suspect it is -- grout for a leaking shower. Maybe George Mitchell will, by the power of his intellect and doggedness, actually expand the trail, or at least find facts independent of those we already paid to read. Maybe this is more than merely an elaborate book report for him.

If he manages that, if the game comes closer to distancing itself from the public health nightmare it has avoided, then baseball will be the poorer for his having never been named commissioner way back when.

If not, well, you know the old baseball saying -- nothing ventured, nobody the wiser.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Jagr Conjures Memories of Some Ranger Greats

Published: March 29, 2006
The New York Times
Greenburgh, N.Y.

SOONER or later, almost any conversation about the Rangers these days gets around to Jaromir Jagr, and as Coach Tom Renney leaned against the glass wall of the team's weight room after practice yesterday, he quietly defined Jagr's value.

"On the ice," he said, "he's as important a player as this franchise has ever had."

Notice that he didn't say that Jaromir Jagr was the most important player the Rangers have ever had, merely that he was as important. And you can't rebut that, because in addition to his 52 goals and 109 points, Jagr's most endearing contribution has been his waking the echoes of so many names, which were, in each one's time, as important to the Rangers and their long frustrated followers as he is now.

Those names drift back through eight decades. Names like Mark Messier, Adam Graves, Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert, Vic Hadfield, Andy Bathgate, Chuck Rayner, Buddy O'Connor, Bryan Hextall and Bill Cook.

Jagr knows Messier, of course. When Jagr was with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals, he skated against Messier, who this season called Jagr "the best hockey player in the world." Which is what Messier was when he led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994 after a 54-year famine.

Jagr also skated against Graves, now in the Rangers' front office as a special assistant for community relations. Jagr's 52 goals has tied Graves's single-season record for the Rangers, who visit the Islanders tonight in their pursuit of a playoff berth after seven shameful seasons. Not that Graves was surprised.

"When I had 40," Jagr said yesterday, "Adam told me he thought I would do it. I wasn't that confident. It looks easier when you're outside."

Jagr has also tied Ratelle's franchise record of 109 points, set during the 1971-72 season. Ratelle was the smooth center for Gilbert and Hadfield, who had 50 goals that year. Ratelle had 46 goals and 63 assists in only 63 games before a broken ankle sidelined him.

"I know Rod, too," Jagr said, referring to Gilbert, now the Rangers' director of community relations, "but I never met Ratelle or Hadfield."

Jagr is surely a candidate for the Hart Trophy as the N.H.L.'s most valuable player. If he wins the Hart, he will be only the fifth Rangers recipient, the first since Messier in 1991-92, his first season as a Ranger. The other M.V.P.'s were Andy Bathgate, Chuck Rayner and Buddy O'Connor.

Bathgate, a classy right wing, was the 1958-59 M.V.P. He also shared the point-scoring title with Bobby Hull and led the league in assists in 1961-62, when Doug Harvey was the Rangers' coach and the Norris Trophy winner as the league's top defenseman.

Rayner was the goaltender when the Rangers went to the 1950 Stanley Cup finals before losing Game 7 to the Detroit Red Wings in double overtime. O'Connor was a center who finished second in the league in points in the 1947-48 season.

If Jagr were to earn the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top scorer, he would be only the only third Ranger to lead the league in points scored. Bryan Hextall, the right wing who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1940, did so in 1941-42. In what is now considered the prehistoric era, right wing Bill Cook twice led the N.H.L. in scoring, in 1926-27, the Rangers' first season, and again in 1932-33, when they won their second Cup.

With eight rookies, these Rangers aren't likely to win the Stanley Cup, but they could win a playoff round or two, especially if they finish first in the Atlantic Division. That would give them home-ice advantage, at least in the opening round.

"Home ice, that would be huge," Jagr said. "Especially for our fans after not having been in the playoffs for so long. For us now, it's important to play all our games like they were playoff games, to believe you can beat any team in the league."

Of the Rangers' 10 remaining games (including 6 on the road), 6 are against teams below them in the standings — 3 with the Islanders and one each with the Devils, Boston and Pittsburgh. They play two against a team higher in the standings (Ottawa) and two against the Philadelphia Flyers, whom they are battling for first place in the division.

"We have to get back to the efficient, smart, economical, hard-working team that we were before the Olympics," Renney said. "We have to bring urgency to our game because of what we're in pursuit of."

After those seven empty seasons without playoffs (eight, if you count the season-long lockout in 2004-5), Jaromir Jagr has put the Rangers back on the hockey map and resurrected some glorious Rangers names, names that many of their long-frustrated followers, and Jagr himself, may not have even known.

"What he's done for the franchise, the city, the fans," Renney said. "His tentacles reach really far."

Thomas Sowell: Guests or Gate Crashers? Part II

March 29, 2006
Thomas Sowell

Bogus arguments are a tip-off that you wouldn't buy the real reasons for what someone is doing. Phony arguments and phony words are the norm in discussions of immigration policy.

It starts with a refusal to call illegal aliens "illegal aliens" and ends with asking for "guest worker" status for people who are not guests but gate crashers. As for the substantive arguments, they are as phony as the verbal evasions.

What about all those illegal workers that we "need"? Many of the illegals are working in agriculture, producing crops that have been in chronic surplus for decades. These surplus crops are costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars in government storage costs and in the inflated prices created by deliberately keeping much of this agricultural output off the market.

Do we "need" illegal workers to produce bigger surpluses?

In California, surplus crops grown and harvested by illegal immigrants are often also subsidized by federal water projects which charge the farmers in dry California valleys far less than the cost to the government of providing that water -- and a fraction of what people in Los Angeles or San Francisco pay for the same amount of water.

Surplus crops grown with water supplied at the taxpayers' expense and raised by illegal workers can be grown elsewhere with water provided free of charge from the clouds and raised by American workers paid American wages.

Naturally, when the real costs of those crops have to be paid by the farmers who raise them, less will be grown -- that is, there will not be as much of a surplus going to waste in government-rented storage bins.

With some crops, we don't really "need" any of it. If the United States had not produced a single grain of sugar in the past 50 years, Americans could have gotten all the sugar they wanted and at lower prices, simply by buying it on the world market for half or less of what domestic sugar costs.

Sugar has been in chronic surplus on the world market for generations. It can be grown in the tropics far cheaper than it can be grown in the United States. All the land, labor, and capital that has been spent growing sugar here has been one huge waste.

We don't "need" to grow sugar, with or without illegal workers.

Many people are understandably sympathetic toward Mexican workers who come across the border illegally, not only because of the poverty which drives them from their homelands but also because their willingness to work makes them in demand.

When you see beggars on the street, they are usually white or black, but almost never Mexican.
But American immigration laws and policies are not about whether you like or don't like Mexicans, though some demagogues try to play the race card.

For too long, we have bought the argument that being unfortunate entitles you to break the law. The consequence has been disastrous, whether the people allowed to get away with breaking the law are Americans or foreigners.

Legalizing illegal actions is the easy way out, so it is hardly surprising that politicians go for that.
One of the ways of legalizing illegal acts is by the automatic conferring of American citizenship on babies born to illegal aliens in the United States.

The law that made all people born here American citizens made sense when people crossed an ocean and made a commitment to become Americans.

Today, it is just another way of essentially legalizing illegal acts by making it harder to deport those who broke the law.

One of the most bogus of all the bogus arguments for a "guest worker" program is that it is impossible to find all the millions of illegal aliens in the country, so it is impossible to deport them.

If tomorrow someone came up with some brilliant way to identify every illegal alien in the country, it would not make the slightest difference. Right now, those who are identified as illegal, whether at the border, in prisons, at traffic stops or in any of our institutions, face no penalty whatsoever.

Identification is not the problem. Doing nothing is the problem.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate

Book Review: Consent To Kill by Vince Flynn

Vince Flynn
Atria Books
ISBN: 0743270363
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CONSENT TO KILL heralds the welcome return of Mitch Rapp, CIA operative extraordinaire. Rapp is not afraid to color outside the lines, and he usually uses a red crayon; he's one of those guys who you're thankful to have on your side, watching the collective back of the country --- unless of course you are given the thankless job of attempting to rein him in. The problem is that Rapp is almost always right, so reining him in is the wrong course of action to take; better by far to let him do what he needs to do. Rapp is who you go to when there is a need to work outside of the U.S. Constitution in order to preserve it; the result is that he has a tendency to acquire right-thinking friends, and wrong-thinking enemies.

The nefarious plot that Rapp is forced to thwart in CONSENT TO KILL is an extremely personal one. Saeed Ahmed Abdullah holds Rapp personally responsible for the death of his son, a terrorist whose plot against the United States was thwarted by Rapp. Abdullah now wants revenge; to obtain it, he goes to his powerful friend Prince Muhammad bin Rashid. Rashid lives in the shadow of his half-brother, the crown prince, and Rashid despises him as a weak-kneed tool of the west. Seeing a way to aid his friend while undermining the prince's authority --- and increasing his own --- Rashid sets a plan in motion to assassinate Rapp, an idea almost as bold as it is unthinkable. It is also done at tremendous risk, as Rapp has previously demonstrated a great and unquenchable capacity for revenge. If the plot fails, all who are involved know that Rapp will stop at nothing to exact total retribution.

Flynn is at his best here, as he describes the labyrinthian plotting through which an assassination team is located and retained. There are layers upon layers of duplicity, traveling up and down the chain of command in a world where trust is an elusive commodity. Flynn takes an interesting chance here as well, making CONSENT TO KILL in part a character study of the instrument of the assassination attempt. The result is a work that is equal parts psychological thriller and action thriller with a conclusion that, while controversial, is oddly and unexpectedly satisfying.

In CONSENT TO KILL Flynn combines a mesmerizing protagonist with a superb plot and an addicting narrative to create the latest installment of his ongoing treatise as to how the world far removed from the perfumed princes and talking heads truly works. Highly recommended. ---

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub

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Robert Spencer: Killing for Allah

Robert Spencer
March 29, 2006

Before he drove a rented SUV onto the campus of the University of North Carolina and tried to run down and kill as many people as he could on March 3, Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar left a letter of explanation in his apartment. It is chillingly detached, almost clinical: “In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate. To whom it may concern: I am writing this letter to inform you of my reasons for premeditating and attempting to murder citizens and residents of the United States of America on Friday, March 3, 2006 in the city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina by running them over with my automobile and stabbing them with a knife if the opportunities are presented to me by Allah.”

In the letter, Taheri-azar identifies himself simply as “a servant of Allah.” He declares that “in the Qur’an, Allah states that the believing men and women have permission to murder anyone responsible for the killing of other believing men and women.…After extensive contemplation and reflection, I have made the decision to exercise the right of violent retaliation that Allah has given me to the fullest extent to which I am capable at present.” And further, “Allah’s commandments are never to be questioned and all of Allah’s commandments must be obeyed. Those who violate Allah’s commandments and purposefully follow human fabrication and falsehood as their religion will burn in fire for eternity in accordance with Allah’s will.”

In a letter written a week later, Taheri-azar asserted: “I live with the holy Koran as my constitution for right and wrong and definition of justice…. Allah gives permission in the Koran for the followers of Allah to attack those who have raged [sic] war against them, with the expectation of eternal paradise in case of martyrdom and/or living one’s life in obedience of all of Allah’s commandments found throughout the Koran’s 114 chapters. I’ve read all 114 chapters approximately 15 times since June of 2003 when I started reading the Koran.” And he did not try to murder UNC students “out of hatred for Americans, but out of love for Allah instead. I live only to serve Allah, by obeying all of Allah’s commandments of which I am aware by reading and learning the contents of the Koran.”

Taheri-azar may have been referring to passages such as Qur’an 2:190 (“Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you…”) and 9:111: “Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs in return is the garden of Paradise: they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain…” There are numerous other passages enjoining violence against unbelievers (2:216; 9:5; 9:29; 47:4; etc.). But in response, according to a local news report, “several leaders of the Triangle Muslim community say Taheri-azar’s personal interpretation of the Quran is wrong and it goes against the true belief of Muslims across the world -- which is peace.”

Such a response was predictable both in its content and lack of specificity. Every day brings more evidence that Muslims believe the Qur’an enjoins anything but peace: Monday saw hundreds of Muslim clerics demonstrating in Afghanistan against the release of Christian convert Abdul Rahman. They chanted “Death to Christians!” and called for the killing of Abdul Rahman in accord with Islam’s traditional prohibition of apostasy. One cleric, Faiez Mohammed of Kunduz, was succinct: “Abdul Rahman must be killed. Islam demands it.”

It is abundantly clear that even if Mohammed Taheri-azar acted alone on March 3 in Chapel Hill, his view of the Qur’an is not eccentric among Muslims worldwide. Yet three and a half years after Muhammad Atta and his crew flew a plane into the World Trade Center out of love for Allah, we still don’t see any sustained or concerted effort by self-proclaimed peaceful Muslims in the United States or anywhere else to disabuse their coreligionists of this jihad ideology, and its globalist, supremacist, totalitarian political agenda. Such an effort should not be seen as optional or incidental; without it, the very commitment of these self-proclaimed moderates to the United States and its Constitution can and should be called into question.

Also, analysts keep focusing on the question of whether or not Taheri-azar was a “terrorist.” I don’t care if you call him a canteloupe. The real problem here is that anyone anywhere at any time can read the Qur’an and come to the same conclusion that he did. If American officials were really serious about preventing a future attack, they would address that. If American Muslim advocacy groups were really serious about being loyal, patriotic Americans, they would address that.

Am I saying that the Qur’an should be outlawed, as was attempted long ago in Calcutta and about which there have been some rumblings recently in Germany?

No, I would prefer to deal more in the realm of what is realistically possible. I’d like to see an honest public discussion of the elements of the Qur’an and Sunnah that give impetus to violence and fanaticism. I’d like to see American Muslim spokesmen explain how they will specifically address these elements, and teach Muslims to reject them in favor of the principles of the equality of dignity and rights of all people, women as well as men, non-Muslims as well as Muslims. And I’d like to see them follow through on these explanations with real action.

Only then might we be getting somewhere against the phenomenon represented by Mohammed Taheri-azar. I am not holding my breath.

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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.

Debra Saunders: The 'Immigration Backlash'

March 29, 2006
The San Fransisco Chronicle
Debra Saunders

Of course America needs immigrants. This is a country founded by immigrants and made richer by the imprint of newcomers in search of a land that rewards their hard work and determination to make a better life for their families.

The problem is that no country -- certainly, no country with a social safety net -- can afford to accommodate everyone who wants in. (Or as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., put it, "We cannot be the HMO to the world.") That's why there are immigration policies that limit the number of people who can immigrate here legally.

The lack of an open-door policy has spawned this week's victim class, illegal or "undocumented" immigrants, who have flouted American law and apparently believe they should not have to pay the consequences of that choice. Hence Sunday's huge demonstration in Los Angeles, where activists carried signs that called for "Amnistia, Full Rights for All Immigrants."

The Los Angeles Times duly reported, "Some Republicans fear that pushing too hard against illegal immigrants could backfire nationally, as with Proposition 187 (the 1994 ballot measure that sought to deny benefits for illegal immigrants that) helped spur record numbers of California Latinos to become U.S. citizens and register to vote. Those voters subsequently helped Democrats regain political control in the state."

Call that the Backlash Myth. In fact, Prop. 187 passed with 59 percent of the vote, and GOP Gov. Pete Wilson, who championed the measure, was re-elected in 1994. In 2003, when Democratic Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, he so enraged voters that he sealed his political demise. After Davis was recalled from office, the heavily Democratic California Legislature repealed the bill.
That's your backlash.

Don't blame racism. While some in the media may think all Latinos vote alike, the Los Angeles Times poll found that 38 percent of Latino voters in California strongly opposed giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

If there is a backlash, it probably will be against the demonstrators. Even before students began blocking the Los Angeles streets to protest legislation in Congress to toughen penalties for illegal immigrants and smugglers, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies told me over the telephone, "I hope they keep doing it. It just makes it less and less likely the Senate's going to pass any amnesty."

A bill passed by the House would make it a felony for illegal immigrants to stay in the United States. Jeff Lungren of the House Judiciary Committee explained that, while it is a crime to cross the border illegally, staying here after sneaking in or after your visa expires has been only a civil offense. The House wanted to make it an actual crime.

When members of Congress complained that a felony was too harsh, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner put forward an amendment in December to reduce the proposed penalty to a misdemeanor.

This shows what a setup the felony issue was: Only eight Dems voted to reduce the penalty, and the amendment failed by a 257-164 vote. U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., announced that she opposed the misdemeanor amendment because: "In one stroke, it would subject the entire undocumented population, estimated by some to be 11 million people, to criminal liability." So the Dems stuck with the felony language.

Rohrabacher stresses that 90 percent of illegal immigrants -- if not more -- are "wonderful human beings." He notes that no one expects the government to deport all 11 million or 12 million illegal immigrants in America.

The answer is for Washington to toughen enforcement, penalize employers who hired undocumented workers and make border crossing more costly. Then fewer people will move illegally to America.

Instead, on Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill with a guest-worker program that would allow illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship. Big mistake. If Washington passes an immigration bill that grants citizenship to illegal immigrants and includes a phony temporary guest-worker program -- phony, because there is no way the government can or would remove workers after six years, as one scheme promises -- then the deception will be official. The message Washington will send will resound louder than ever: Forget immigration laws. Legal, illegal, no dif.

Kathleen Parker: When Illegal is Right, What is Wrong?

March 29, 2006
The Orlando Sentinel
Kathleen Parker

There's nothing like the sight of 500,000 protesters on U.S. turf, demanding rights in Spanish while waving Mexican flags, to stir Americans from their siestas.

In Los Angeles, the iconic phrase may be "Si se puede," but in Muncie, it's "What the ... ?"

Suddenly, in the flash of a newscast, polite political debate about guest worker programs visually morphed into what seemed like a full-blown invasion.

Demonstrations have the desired effect of focusing attention on an idea - and television cameras can tighten that focus so that a slow drip looks like a tsunami. But the same imagery can backfire. I suspect that the sight of so many people demanding rights to which they have no legal claim will not help the cause of illegals in this country, even if it motivates politicians to act, well, politically.

Let's just say that convincing others of one's desire to become an American citizen would be more effective if one were to do so in English - while waving an American flag. Just imagine how welcome 500,000 bubbas waving American flags and chanting, "Hell no, we won't go," would be in Mexico City.

Now before I'm accused of being biased against Latinos, let me be clear. Yo quiero a los Latinos. I could go on in Espanol, but when in America, I always say, do as the Americans do. Speak English. Otherwise, I'm over-the-top pro-Latino and pro-immigrant.

I grew up in Florida with Cubans as my closest friends, and my stepfather is Mexican - a legal immigrant who came to this country at age 16 to attend medical school.

I am, in other words, an unapologetic Hispanophile.

But, like a majority of Americans who think Congress should secure our borders, I'm a fan of laws and of those who respect them - even though I occasionally turn right on red when the sign says not to.

The question of what to do with some 11 million to 20 million illegal immigrants already living and working in this country may be too problematic for mere politicians. The issue is exacerbated by our refusal to speak plain, non-PC English about what's what. Illegal immigrants are not "undocumented workers." They're illegal. And, if we're to use the legal language accurately, they're "aliens."

Then again, when we talk about illegal aliens, it is useful to remind ourselves that we're also talking about human beings. To see television images of shadows crossing the desert into the U.S. is to see criminals intent on misdeeds rather than poor people, hundreds of whom die each year in the process, trying to find jobs and plenty to eat.

As we've been told hundreds of times, these people do the work Americans won't do, which is both true and not true. It is true that Americans don't want to work for the low wages that illegal workers gratefully earn, but not necessarily true that no American would do those jobs under any circumstances.

Steven Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies (, says that unemployment figures tell the truer story of how native workers are being crowded out of the market by cheap labor: 11 percent of American construction workers are unemployed, as are 9 percent of workers in food processing and 11 percent in cleaning and maintenance.
"The least educated Americans are getting hurt," he says.

Standing around a Washington, D.C., Metro station the other day, I watched a Latino sweeping the tiled floor. He was one of those people you barely notice - an invisible soul, dignified, unobtrusive - but plainly attentive to his job. I don't know if he's here legally, but I do know the floor was spotless. I tried to imagine any other American doing the same job. A college student? Another minority? Is there really an involuntarily unemployed American citizen keeping warm on a street grate because this small brown man is sweeping the floor of an underground tunnel?

Before I bleed to death or start writing poetry, let me balance this romantic view of the illegal immigrant with another nugget: About 27 percent of all inmates in the federal prison system are criminal aliens, according to government figures. Then again, millions of illegals who are otherwise law-abiding people have lived here for 10-20 years, buying houses, attending parent-teacher meetings and giving birth to native-born Americans.

Although there seems no simple solution to such a complex issue, two nagging thoughts persist: (1) The right to protest was a gift from America's Founding Fathers to the nation's citizens, ergo, non-citizens should protest in their own countries; and (2) the purpose of the legislative branch of government is to pass laws that serve the best interests of the nation's citizens.

Which may mean, No se puede.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Lowell Ponte: Goodbye Europe

Lowell Ponte
March 28, 2006

The best genes spawned in Europe had the dynamism, like Europa herself, to cross the ocean. They settled and thrived in freer lands such as the United States and Australia. Others among Europe’s best offspring died patriotically in the mass carnage of 500 years of Europe’s religious and civil wars, leaving behind mostly dregs. As the lunatic poet Ezra Pound wrote in 1920 of the soldiers of World War I: “There died a myriad, / And of the best, among them, / For an old bitch gone in the teeth, / For a botched civilization….”

Europe’s botched civilization, perverted by socialism and lost faith, seems to have lost the will, the passion to sustain itself. If it continues to practice today’s multiculturalist leftism, Europe’s demographic doom will be sealed. Some harbingers:

* In Brussels, Belgium, the most popular name for baby boys is now Mohammad. Sustaining the population of a nation requires that on average each couple gives birth to 2.1 children. The average European couple now has fewer than 1.4 babies, compared to 3.6 babies born to the average Muslim immigrant couple in Europe. Across Western Europe 16 to 20 percent of babies are being born into Muslim families.

* In France at least 12 percent of the population is already Muslim, the fruits mostly of immigrants from former French colonies in North Africa. If present birth trends continue, by 2030 a quarter of France’s people will be Muslim, more than enough to determine who controls the national parliament and executive. As this columnist recently noted, the nuclear-armed French military is already 15 percent Muslim. Adjacent Switzerland is now 20 percent Muslim.

* The German newspaper Deutsche Welle days ago reported that Germany’s birth rate in 2005 fell to a level lower than at the end of World War II, to a “historic low,” more than fifty percent lower than those of France and Great Britain. But at a meeting this week in Berlin that brought together the interior ministers of six European nations, Germany’s leftwing Social Democrats continued to oppose the application of any test or standard that would restrict who could migrate into Germany.

The burgeoning Muslim population within Europe is not evenly spread. It is largely concentrated in and around big cities, whose local politicians feel its pressure acutely and often bend to that pressure. In the Netherlands the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam nearly have Muslim majorities now.

These Islamic enclaves are already taking on the character of conquered provinces that no longer belong to the European countries around them. As FrontPage Magazine recently quoted from the new book While Europe Slept by liberal American expatriate Bruce Bawer:

In France, a public official met with an imam at the edge of Roubaix’s Muslim district out of respect for his declaration of the neighborhood as Islamic territory to which she had no right of access. In Britain, imams have pressed the government to officially designate certain areas of Bradford as being under Muslim, not British, law. In Denmark, Muslim leaders have sought the same kind of control over parts of Copenhagen. And in Belgium, Muslims living in the Brussels neighborhood of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek already view it not as part of Belgium but as an area under Islamic jurisdiction in which Belgians are not welcome.

Europe has several potential choices in the face of a flood of immigrants and families within its borders who refuse to assimilate European values of mutual toleration and liberal social policies.

Europe’s cultural polarization vis-à-vis its Muslim underclass is being exacerbated by socialist policies that are producing stagnant economies and high unemployment. These fruits of Euro-socialism have also created a political tinderbox of Muslim frustration and, as we saw in recent days of protests in Paris, an angry refusal by many traditional Europeans to reform or relinquish their welfare state and job security benefits. This climate discourages investors and pits new and traditional Europeans against one another.

If Europe continues as it is now, the rising Muslim tide will, one at a time, transform the members of the European Union into Islamic Republics under Islamic Shari’a law as Muslims become the majority population.

Already the wealth of traditional Europeans is being bled away and transferred to new Muslim immigrants and their children. One mechanism for this is the European welfare state. In Denmark, observed Bawer, only five percent of the population is Muslim, but this minority demands and receives 40 percent of the Danish government’s total welfare payments and other taxpayer-subsidized social benefits. Even the liberal New York Times Magazine in February reported on the social impact of this growing Islamic drain on the resources of European welfare states such as Sweden and Denmark.

Another method used to transfer wealth from Europeans to Eurabian Muslims is theft. Some radical Mullahs have told their European congregations that Islamic Shari’a law justifies shoplifting and other forms of stealing from European merchants and companies as a way to make non-Muslims pay the discriminatory jizya tax that is extracted from non-Muslim citizens in Muslim countries.

And in Europe’s growing Islamic neighborhoods, where police are often afraid to go, European law is being supplanted by Shari’a. European women venturing into or near such enclaves have been assaulted and, in some cases, raped by gangs of macho Islamic males for violating Muslim dress codes and failing to exhibit the subservient status some Islamic subcultures require of females.

Forty percent of Muslims living in Great Britain want Islamic Shari’a law introduced into parts of that country, according to a poll reported last month by the London Sunday Telegraph.

Shari’a differs dramatically from modern Western notions of law and society. Shari’a has no separation of church and state; to the contrary, under Shari’a the Koran is the ultimate law book and constitution, and the Islamic Mullah is the magistrate who punishes violators of this law. Under Shari’a, as practiced in much of the Islamic world, equality exists only among Muslim men; women are inferior to men, and Jews and Christians are inferior to all Muslims. Risk-taking and usury, i.e., money-lending for profit, are forbidden, so we would kiss capitalism goodbye.

Religious freedom is non-existent under Shari’a. A Christian or a Jew is permitted to convert to Islam, but the penalty for any Muslim converting to a different faith is death. In American-liberated Afghanistan a 41-year-old former Muslim, Abdul Rahman, is on trial in Kabul for the crime of converting to Christianity. The prosecutor in the case, Abdul Wasi, has asked for a death penalty, as Shari’a requires. Wasi, reported Associated Press, said that he “had offered to drop the charges if Rahman changed his religion back to Islam, but the defendant refused.” The Muslim judge’s ruling is expected by mid-May.

It seems worth asking American authorities whether the U.S. would intervene to prevent the execution of an Afghan whose only crime was converting to Christianity.

European Muslims demand toleration and respect and accommodation for their laws, garb, Halal (Islamic “Kosher”) dietary rules, customs, and faith. But as the world has seen in recent months, radical Muslims have no respect for Western traditions such as press freedom. Cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad set off riots, killings and death threats against European journalists.

(Oddly, as this columnist uniquely noted, the tradition prohibiting depictions of the Prophet began with Muhammad himself, who gave such guidance to avoid becoming an object of idolatry by misguided Muslims tempted to worship him instead of Allah. Logically, therefore, a devout Muslim should object to any positive depiction of Mohammad, but negative depictions of Mohammad, as in the European cartoons, pose no such danger of causing idol worship. It was the Islamists who fanatically objected to negative European cartoons of the Prophet who were practicing idolatry by turning Mohammad into an image too sacred to depict in any way.)

Islamic Shari’a is incompatible with Western traditions of tolerance. Too much of today’s Islam preaches “an eye for an eye” but not “live and let live.”

No wonder, then, that earlier this month the chairman of Britain’s Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, responded to the Telegraph poll by urging the 40 percent of his nation’s Muslims who want part of the country ruled by Shari’a law to move elsewhere. “We have one set of laws” in Britain, said Phillips. “They are decided by one group of people, members of Parliament, and that’s the end of the story.” (In February Australia’s Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, said much the same, suggesting in a public speech that Shari’a advocates would feel more comfortable living in Saudi Arabia or Iran.)

Immigrant to Norway Iraqi Mullah Krekar, a former leader of the Kurdish guerrilla group Ansar-al-Islam, has told Norwegians that “our way of thinking…will prove more powerful than yours” and described Al Qaeda terror mastermind Osama bin Laden as “a good person.” This prompted Norway’s Minister of Labor and Social Inclusion Bjarne Hakon Hanssen to say he intended to deport Mullah Krekar back to Iraq in the near future. Selective deportation of such radical Islamist firebrands (such as those who inspired recent Muslim terrorism in London) across Europe could reduce immediate social tensions.

What Europe is doing in the meanwhile is preaching the need for press freedom and tolerance while preparing this June to prosecute, in Paris, famed Italian journalist Orianna Fallaci for daring to write a book, The Force of Reason, critical of the Muslim immigrant inundation of Europe. In today’s Europe free speech is stifled by laws that prohibit Political Incorrectness in a wide and arbitrary variety of ways.

And France, at the heart of Europe, is promoting trade barriers with a dogmatic zeal not seen since the frenzy of stone castle building in the dark ages. In the name of preserving national security, as Daniel Schwammenthal reported in the March 13 Wall Street Journal, France last winter declared 11 of its industrial sectors off limits to purchase by investors from other European nations; these sectors, noted Schwammenthal, range “from data security to (bizarrely) casinos.” What might become of France if its dice and roulette wheels became Dutch…or Russian?

France is also dragging its feet on agreements to allow European Union workers to move freely from one EU country to another. The French have phobias not only about Muslim peasant immigrants but also about what they call the “Polish plumber,” the skilled European workers who would move to Paris and undercut the high pay now pocketed by scarce French workers. The French incentive to work is dulled by an easy, lazy alternative: a fat welfare check.

If Europe can somehow buy time, then in theory it might be able to make a comeback. What it needs is cloning and fertility technology, moxie, imports of its old sturdier, healthier genetic material from the United States and Australia to restore its seminal vigor, and a renewal of faith. Europe was able to restore its lost population rather quickly after the Black Plague and spawned Baby Booms after two World Wars.

Political policies could facilitate this. When France was unable to recruit many settlers to its colony called New France, now known as Canada, it offered fat pensions to any married couple there that had six children. Quebec to this day retains the spirit of fecundity those pensions bred.

Last September French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin proposed accelerating cash benefits to encourage women to have a third child. This is yet another kind of slacker welfare, but at least it encourages the lazy to spend more time breeding and less watching television. De Villepin did not propose restricting these or other government breeder benefits to non-Muslims, although he could have made the argument that non-Muslim French are an endangered species meriting special help.

Europe has stopped rising Islamic tides before, in battle in southern France in 732 by the knights of Charles Martel, “The Hammer,” and twice at the gates of Vienna in 1529 and 1683 by holding off the Ottoman Turks. Spain even rolled back its Muslim occupiers with the Reconquista of 1492, and Greece, the cradle of Western democracy, won back its independence from Muslim rule in 1829.

In time Islam could collapse, as Communism did. More likely, this religion now living through its own dark 14th Century might flower into a Renaissance and follow the enlightened model of Ataturk’s Turkey. Modern Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a friend of Israel, and a candidate for European Union membership. Women had the right to vote in Ataturk’s Turkey before they did in England. Turkey could become the model for the future Islamic world, besting the medieval ideology of Islamism, narrow-mindedness, hate and violence preached by Osama bin Laden and his ilk.

A courageous European stand against that nest of Islamist vipers and their atomic eggs in Teheran would be a good place for Europe to demonstrate to itself and to the world that it has the will and skill to survive.

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Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.

Thomas Sowell: Guests or Gate Crashers?

March 28, 2006
Thomas Sowell

Immigration is yet another issue which we seem unable to discuss rationally -- in part because words have been twisted beyond recognition in political rhetoric.

We can't even call illegal immigrants "illegal immigrants." The politically correct evasion is "undocumented workers."

Do American citizens go around carrying documents with them when they work or apply for work? Most Americans are undocumented workers but they are not illegal immigrants. There is a difference.

The Bush administration is pushing a program to legalize "guest workers." But what is a guest? Someone you have invited. People who force their way into your home without your permission are called gate crashers.

If truth-in-packaging laws applied to politics, the Bush guest worker program would have to be called a "gate-crasher worker" program. The President's proposal would solve the problem of illegal immigration by legalizing it after the fact.

We could solve the problem of all illegal activity anywhere by legalizing it. Why use this approach only with immigration? Why should any of us pay a speeding ticket if immigration scofflaws are legalized after the fact for committing a federal crime?
Most of the arguments for not enforcing our immigration laws are exercises in frivolous rhetoric and slippery sophistry, rather than serious arguments that will stand up under scrutiny.

How often have we heard that illegal immigrants "take jobs that Americans will not do"? What is missing in this argument is what is crucial in any economic argument: price.

Americans will not take many jobs at their current pay levels -- and those pay levels will not rise so long as poverty-stricken immigrants are willing to take those jobs.

If Mexican journalists were flooding into the United States and taking jobs as reporters and editors at half the pay being earned by American reporters and editors, maybe people in the media would understand why the argument about "taking jobs that Americans don't want" is such nonsense.

Another variation on the same theme is that we "need" the millions of illegal aliens already in the United States. "Need" is another word that blithely ignores prices.

If jet planes were on sale for a thousand dollars each, I would probably "need" a couple of them -- an extra one to fly when the first one needed repair or maintenance. But since these planes cost millions of dollars, I don't even "need" one.

There is no fixed amount of "need," independently of prices, whether with planes or workers.
None of the rhetoric and sophistry that we hear about immigration deals with the plain and ugly reality: Politicians are afraid of losing the Hispanic vote and businesses want cheap labor.

What millions of other Americans want has been brushed aside, as if they don't count, and they have been soothed with pious words. But now the voters are getting fed up, which is why there are immigration bills in Congress.

The old inevitability ploy is often trotted out in immigration debates: It is not possible to either keep out illegal immigrants or to expel the ones already here.

If you mean stopping every single illegal immigrant from getting in or expelling every single illegal immigrant who is already here, that may well be true. But does the fact that we cannot prevent every single murder cause us to stop enforcing the laws against murder?

Since existing immigration laws are not being enforced, how can anyone say that it would not do any good to try? People who get caught illegally crossing the border into the United States pay no penalty whatever. They are sent back home and can try again.

What if bank robbers who were caught were simply told to give the money back and not do it again? What if murderers who were caught were turned loose and warned not to kill again? Would that be proof that it is futile to take action, when no action was taken?

Let's hope the immigration bills before Congress can at least get an honest debate, instead of the word games we have been hearing for too long.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate

Monday, March 27, 2006

Durham Herald-Sun: A Terrorist's Letter

Herald Sun
March 27, 2006

This is a transcript of the letter Mohammed Taheri-Azar left in his apartment for police to find after he drove into nine people with an SUV in The Pit at UNC on March 3:

In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate.

To whom it may concern:

I am writing this letter to inform you of my reasons for premeditating and attempting to murder citizens and residents of the United States of America on Friday, March 3, 2006 in the city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina by running them over with my automobile and stabbing them with a knife if the opportunities are presented to me by Allah.

I did intend to use a handgun to murder the citizens and residents of Chapel Hill, North Carolina but the process of receiving a permit for a handgun in this city is highly restricted and out of my reach at the present, most likely due to my foreign nationality.

I am a servant of Allah. I am 22 years of age and I was born in Tehran, Iran. My father, mother and older sister immigrated to the United States in 1985 when I was two years of age and I've lived in the United States ever since.

I attended elementary, middle and high school in North Carolina and I was accepted into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I began my college career in August 2001 and graduated in December 2005 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and philosophy with Allah's help.

I do not wish to pursue my career as a student any further because I have no desire to amass the impermanent and temporary fame and material wealth this world has to offer. However I made the decision to continue my studies and to graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill so that the world will know that Allah's servants are very intelligent.

Due to the killing of believing men and women under the direction of the United States government, I have decided to take advantage of my presence on United States soil on Friday, March 3, 2006 to take the lives of as many Americans and American sympathizers as I can in order to punish the United States for their immoral actions around the world.

In the Qur'an, Allah states that the believing men and women have permission to murder anyone responsible for the killing of other believing men and women. I know that the Qur'an is a legitimate and authoritative holy scripture since it is completely validated by modern science and also mathematically encoded with the number 19 beyond human ability. After extensive contemplation and reflection, I have made the decision to exercise the right of violent retaliation that Allah has given me to the fullest extent to which I am capable at present.

I have chosen the particular location on the University campus as my target since I know there is a high likelihood that I will kill several people before being killed myself or jailed and sent to prison if Allah wills. Allah's commandments are never to be questioned and all of Allah's commandments must be obeyed. Those who violate Allah's commandments and purposefully follow human fabrication and falsehood as their religion will burn in fire for eternity in accordance with Allah's will.

Sincerely yours,

Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar

Mark Steyn: Facing Down a Culture

Facing down a culture where they talk like crazies
March 26, 2006

Fate conspires to remind us what this war is really about: civilizational confidence. And so history repeats itself: first the farce of the Danish cartoons, and now the tragedy -- a man on trial for his life in post-Taliban Afghanistan because he has committed the crime of converting to Christianity.

The cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were deeply offensive to Muslims, and so thousands protested around the world in the usual restrained manner: rioting, torching, killing, etc.
The impending execution of Abdul Rahman for embracing Christianity is, of course, offensive to Westerners, and so around the world we reacted equally violently by issuing blood-curdling threats like that made by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack: "Freedom of worship is an important element of any democracy," he said. "And these are issues as Afghan democracy matures that they are going to have to deal with increasingly."

The immediate problem for Rahman is whether he'll get the chance to "mature" along with Afghan democracy. The president, the Canadian prime minister and the Australian prime minister have all made statements of concern about his fate, and it seems clear that Afghanistan's dapper leader Hamid Karzai would like to resolve this issue before his fledgling democracy gets a reputation as just another barbarous Islamist sewer state. There's talk of various artful compromises, such as Rahman being declared unfit to stand trial by reason of insanity on the grounds that (I'm no Islamic jurist so I'm paraphrasing here) anyone who converts from Islam to Christianity must ipso facto be out of his tree.

On the other hand, this "moderate" compromise solution is being rejected by leading theologians. Let this guy Rahman cop an insanity plea and there goes the neighborhood. "We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," says Abdul Raoulf of the nation's principal Muslim body, the Afghan Ulama Council. "Cut off his head! We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left." Needless to say, Imam Raoulf is one of Afghanistan's leading "moderate" clerics.

For what it's worth, I'm with the Afghan Ulama Council in objecting to the insanity defense. It's not enough for Rahman to get off on a technicality. Afghanistan is supposed to be "the good war," the one even the French supported, albeit notionally and mostly retrospectively. Karzai is kept alive by a bodyguard of foreigners. The fragile Afghan state is protected by American, British, Canadian, Australian, Italian, German and other troops, hundreds of whom have died. You cannot ask Americans or Britons to expend blood and treasure to build a society in which a man can be executed for his choice of religion. You cannot tell a serving member of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in Kandahar that he, as a Christian, must sacrifice his life to create a Muslim state in which his faith is a capital offense.

As always, we come back to the words of Osama bin Laden: ''When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.'' That's really the only issue: the Islamists know our side has tanks and planes, but they have will and faith, and they reckon in a long struggle that's the better bet. Most prominent Western leaders sound way too eager to climb into the weak-horse suit and audition to play the rear end. Consider, for example, the words of the Prince of Wales, speaking a few days ago at al-Azhar University in Cairo. This is "the world's oldest university," though what they learn there makes the average Ivy League nuthouse look like a beacon of sanity. Anyway, this is what His Royal Highness had to say to 800 Islamic "scholars":

"The recent ghastly strife and anger over the Danish cartoons shows the danger that comes of our failure to listen and to respect what is precious and sacred to others. In my view, the true mark of a civilized society is the respect it pays to minorities and to strangers."

That's correct. But the reality is our society pays enormous respect to minorities -- President Bush holds a monthlong Ramadan-a-ding-dong at the White House every year; the immediate reaction to the slaughter of 9/11 by the president, the prince, the prime ministers of Britain, Canada and everywhere else was to visit a mosque to demonstrate their great respect for Islam. One party to this dispute is respectful to a fault: after all, to describe the violence perpetrated by Muslims over the Danish cartoons as the "recent ghastly strife" barely passes muster as effete Brit toff understatement.

Unfortunately, what's "precious and sacred" to Islam is its institutional contempt for others. In his book Islam And The West, Bernard Lewis writes, "The primary duty of the Muslim as set forth not once but many times in the Koran is 'to command good and forbid evil.' It is not enough to do good and refrain from evil as a personal choice. It is incumbent upon Muslims also to command and forbid."

Or as the shrewd Canadian columnist David Warren put it: "We take it for granted that it is wrong to kill someone for his religious beliefs. Whereas Islam holds it is wrong not to kill him." In that sense, those blood-curdling imams are right, and Karzai's attempts to finesse the issue are, sharia-wise, wrong.

I can understand why the president and the secretary of state would rather deal with this through back-channels, private assurances from their Afghan counterparts, etc. But the public rhetoric is critical, too. At some point we have to face down a culture in which not only the mob in the street but the highest judges and academics talk like crazies.

Rahman embodies the question at the heart of this struggle: If Islam is a religion one can only convert to not from, then in the long run it is a threat to every free person on the planet. What can we do? Should governments with troops in Afghanistan pass joint emergency legislation conferring their citizenship on this poor man and declaring him, as much as Karzai, under their protection?

In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of "suttee" -- the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

''You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

India today is better off without suttee. If we shrink from the logic of that, then in Afghanistan and many places far closer to home the implications are, as the Prince of Wales would say, "ghastly."

©Mark Steyn 2006