Friday, May 26, 2006

John J. Miller: The 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs

Rockin' the Right

EDITOR’S NOTE: This week on NRO, we’ve been rolling out the first five and now all 50 songs from a list John J. Miller compiled that appears in the June 5 issue of National Review . Here’s a look at #1 and get the whole list—complete with purchasing links—here.

On first glance, rock ’n’ roll music isn’t very conservative. It doesn’t fare much better on second or third glance (or listen), either. Neil Young has a new song called “Let’s Impeach the President.” Last year, the Rolling Stones made news with “Sweet Neo Con,” another anti-Bush ditty. For conservatives who enjoy rock, it isn’t hard to agree with the opinion Johnny Cash expressed in “The One on the Right Is on the Left”: “Don’t go mixin’ politics with the folk songs of our land / Just work on harmony and diction / Play your banjo well / And if you have political convictions, keep them to yourself.” In other words: Shut up and sing.

But some rock songs really are conservative — and there are more of them than you might think. Last year, I asked readers of National Review Online to nominate conservative rock songs. Hundreds of suggestions poured in. I’ve sifted through them all, downloaded scores of mp3s, and puzzled over a lot of lyrics. What follows is a list of the 50 greatest conservative rock songs of all time, as determined by me and a few others. The result is of course arbitrary, though we did apply a handful of criteria.

What makes a great conservative rock song? The lyrics must convey a conservative idea or sentiment, such as skepticism of government or support for traditional values. And, to be sure, it must be a great rock song. We’re biased in favor of songs that are already popular, but have tossed in a few little-known gems. In several cases, the musicians are outspoken liberals. Others are notorious libertines. For the purposes of this list, however, we don’t hold any of this against them. Finally, it would have been easy to include half a dozen songs by both the Kinks and Rush, but we’ve made an effort to cast a wide net. Who ever said diversity isn’t a conservative principle?

So here are NR’s top 50 conservative rock songs of all time. Go ahead and quibble with the rankings, complain about what we put on, and send us outraged letters and e-mails about what we left off. In the end, though, we hope you’ll admit that it’s a pretty cool playlist for your iPod.

1. “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who. ; buy CD on Amazon.comThe conservative movement is full of disillusioned revolutionaries; this could be their theme song, an oath that swears off naïve idealism once and for all. “There’s nothing in the streets / Looks any different to me / And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye. . . . Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.” The instantly recognizable synthesizer intro, Pete Townshend’s ringing guitar, Keith Moon’s pounding drums, and Roger Daltrey’s wailing vocals make this one of the most explosive rock anthems ever recorded — the best number by a big band, and a classic for conservatives.

2. “Taxman,” by The Beatles. buy CD on Amazon.comA George Harrison masterpiece with a famous guitar riff (which was actually played by Paul McCartney): “If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street / If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat / If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat / If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.” The song closes with a humorous jab at death taxes: “Now my advice for those who die / Declare the pennies on your eyes.”

3. “Sympathy for the Devil,” by The Rolling Stones. ; buy CD on Amazon.comDon’t be misled by the title; this song is The Screwtape Letters of rock. The devil is a tempter who leans hard on moral relativism — he will try to make you think that “every cop is a criminal / And all the sinners saints.” What’s more, he is the sinister inspiration for the cruelties of Bolshevism: “I stuck around St. Petersburg / When I saw it was a time for a change / Killed the czar and his ministers / Anastasia screamed in vain.”

4. “Sweet Home Alabama,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA tribute to the region of America that liberals love to loathe, taking a shot at Neil Young’s Canadian arrogance along the way: “A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”

5. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” by The Beach Boys. ; buy CD on Amazon.comPro-abstinence and pro-marriage: “Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true / Baby then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do / We could be married / And then we’d be happy.”

6. “Gloria,” by U2. ; buy CD on Amazon.comJust because a rock song is about faith doesn’t mean that it’s conservative. But what about a rock song that’s about faith and whose chorus is in Latin? That’s beautifully reactionary: “Gloria / In te domine / Gloria / Exultate.”

7. “Revolution,” by The Beatles. buy CD on“You say you want a revolution / Well you know / We all want to change the world . . . Don’t you know you can count me out?” What’s more, Communism isn’t even cool: “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao / You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.” (Someone tell the Che Guevara crowd.)

8. “Bodies,” by The Sex Pistols. ; buy CD on Amazon.comViolent and vulgar, but also a searing anti-abortion anthem by the quintessential punk band: “It’s not an animal / It’s an abortion.”

9. “Don’t Tread on Me,” by Metallica. buy CD on Amazon.comA head-banging tribute to the doctrine of peace through strength, written in response to the first Gulf War: “So be it / Threaten no more / To secure peace is to prepare for war.”

10. “20th Century Man,” by The Kinks. ; buy CD on“You keep all your smart modern writers / Give me William Shakespeare / You keep all your smart modern painters / I’ll take Rembrandt, Titian, da Vinci, and Gainsborough. . . . I was born in a welfare state / Ruled by bureaucracy / Controlled by civil servants / And people dressed in grey / Got no privacy got no liberty / ’Cause the 20th-century people / Took it all away from me.”

11. “The Trees,” by Rush. ; buy CD on Amazon.comBefore there was Rush Limbaugh, there was Rush, a Canadian band whose lyrics are often libertarian. What happens in a forest when equal rights become equal outcomes? “The trees are all kept equal / By hatchet, axe, and saw.”

12. “Neighborhood Bully,” by Bob Dylan. ; buy CD on A pro-Israel song released in 1983, two years after the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, this ironic number could be a theme song for the Bush Doctrine: “He destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad / The bombs were meant for him / He was supposed to feel bad / He’s the neighborhood bully.”

13. “My City Was Gone,” by The Pretenders. ; buy CD on Amazon.comVirtually every conservative knows the bass line, which supplies the theme music for Limbaugh’s radio show. But the lyrics also display a Jane Jacobs sensibility against central planning and a conservative’s dissatisfaction with rapid change: “I went back to Ohio / But my pretty countryside / Had been paved down the middle / By a government that had no pride.”

14. “Right Here, Right Now,” by Jesus Jones. buy CD on Amazon.comThe words are vague, but they’re also about the fall of Communism and the end of the Cold War: “I was alive and I waited for this. . . . Watching the world wake up from history.”

15. “I Fought the Law,” by The Crickets. ; buy CD on Amazon.comThe original law-and-order classic, made famous in 1965 by The Bobby Fuller Four and covered by just about everyone since then.

16. “Get Over It,” by The Eagles. ; buy CD on Amazon.comAgainst the culture of grievance: “The big, bad world doesn’t owe you a thing.” There’s also this nice line: “I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass.”

17. “Stay Together for the Kids,” by Blink 182. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA eulogy for family values by an alt-rock band whose members were raised in a generation without enough of them: “So here’s your holiday / Hope you enjoy it this time / You gave it all away. . . . It’s not right.”

18. “Cult of Personality,” by Living Colour. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA hard-rocking critique of state power, whacking Mussolini, Stalin, and even JFK: “I exploit you, still you love me / I tell you one and one makes three / I’m the cult of personality.”

19. “Kicks,” by Paul Revere and the Raiders. ; buy CD on Amazon.comAn anti-drug song that is also anti-utopian: “Well, you think you’re gonna find yourself a little piece of paradise / But it ain’t happened yet, so girl you better think twice.”

20. “Rock the Casbah,” by The Clash. ; buy CD on Amazon.comAfter 9/11, American radio stations were urged not to play this 1982 song, one of the biggest hits by a seminal punk band, because it was seen as too provocative. Meanwhile, British Forces Broadcasting Service (the radio station for British troops serving in Iraq) has said that this is one of its most requested tunes.

21. “Heroes,” by David Bowie. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA Cold War love song about a man and a woman divided by the Berlin Wall. No moral equivalence here: “I can remember / Standing / By the wall / And the guns / Shot above our heads / And we kissed / As though nothing could fall / And the shame / Was on the other side / Oh we can beat them / For ever and ever.”

22. “Red Barchetta,” by Rush. ; buy CD on Amazon.comIn a time of “the Motor Law,” presumably legislated by green extremists, the singer describes family reunion and the thrill of driving a fast car — an act that is his “weekly crime.”

23. “Brick,” by Ben Folds Five. ; buy CD on Amazon.comWritten from the perspective of a man who takes his young girlfriend to an abortion clinic, this song describes the emotional scars of “reproductive freedom”: “Now she’s feeling more alone / Than she ever has before. . . . As weeks went by / It showed that she was not fine.”

24. “Der Kommissar,” by After the Fire. buy CD on Amazon.comOn the misery of East German life: “Don’t turn around, uh-oh / Der Kommissar’s in town, uh-oh / He’s got the power / And you’re so weak / And your frustration / Will not let you speak.” Also a hit song for Falco, who wrote it.

25. “The Battle of Evermore,” by Led Zeppelin. ; buy CD on Amazon.comThe lyrics are straight out of Robert Plant’s Middle Earth period — there are lines about “ring wraiths” and “magic runes” — but for a song released in 1971, it’s hard to miss the Cold War metaphor: “The tyrant’s face is red.”

26. “Capitalism,” by Oingo Boingo. ; buy CD on“There’s nothing wrong
with Capitalism / There’s nothing wrong with free enterprise. . . . You’re just a middle class, socialist brat / From a suburban family and you never really had to work.”

27. “Obvious Song,” by Joe Jackson. buy CD on Amazon.comFor property rights and economic development, and against liberal hypocrisy: “There was a man in the jungle / Trying to make ends meet / Found himself one day with an axe in his hand / When a voice said ‘Buddy can you spare that tree / We gotta save the world — starting with your land’ / It was a rock ’n’ roll millionaire from the USA / Doing three to the gallon in a big white car / And he sang and he sang ’til he polluted the air / And he blew a lot of smoke from a Cuban cigar.”

28. “Janie’s Got a Gun,” by Aerosmith. ; buy CD on Amazon.comHow the right to bear arms can protect women from sexual predators: “What did her daddy do? / It’s Janie’s last I.O.U. / She had to take him down easy / And put a bullet in his brain / She said ’cause nobody believes me / The man was such a sleaze / He ain’t never gonna be the same.”

29. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Iron Maiden. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA heavy-metal classic inspired by a literary classic. How many other rock songs quote directly from Samuel Taylor Coleridge?

30. “You Can’t Be Too Strong,” by Graham Parker. ; buy CD on Amazon.comAlthough it’s not explicitly pro-life, this tune describes the horror of abortion with bracing honesty: “Did they tear it out with talons of steel, and give you a shot so that you wouldn’t feel?”

31. “Small Town,” by John Mellencamp. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA Burkean rocker: “No, I cannot forget where it is that I come from / I cannot forget the people who love me.”

32. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” by The Georgia Satellites. ; buy CD on Amazon.comAn outstanding vocal performance, with lyrics that affirm old-time sexual mores: “She said no huggy, no kissy until I get a wedding vow.”

33. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” by The Rolling Stones. ; buy CD on Amazon.comYou can “[go] down to the demonstration” and vent your frustration, but you must understand that there’s no such thing as a perfect society — there are merely decent and free ones.

34. “Godzilla,” by Blue öyster Cult. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA 1977 classic about a big green monster — and more: “History shows again and again / How nature points up the folly of men.”

35. “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. ; buy CD on Amazon.comWritten as an anti–Vietnam War song, this tune nevertheless is pessimistic about activism and takes a dim view of both Communism and liberalism: “Five-year plans and new deals, wrapped in golden chains . . .”

36. “Government Cheese,” by The Rainmakers. buy CD on Amazon.comA protest song against the welfare state by a Kansas City band that deserved more success than it got. The first line: “Give a man a free house and he’ll bust out the windows.”

37. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” by The Band. ; buy CD on Amazon.comDespite its sins, the American South always has been about more than racism — this song captures its pride and tradition.

38. “I Can’t Drive 55,” by Sammy Hagar. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA rocker’s objection to the nanny state. (See also Hagar’s pro-America song “VOA.”)

39. “Property Line,” by The Marshall Tucker Band. ; buy CD on Amazon.comThe secret to happiness, according to these southern-rock heavyweights, is life, liberty, and property: “Well my idea of a good time / Is walkin’ my property line / And knowin’ the mud on my boots is mine.”

40. “Wake Up Little Susie,” by The Everly Brothers. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA smash hit in 1957, back when high-school social pressures were rather different from what they have become: “We fell asleep, our goose is cooked, our reputation is shot.”

41. “The Icicle Melts,” by The Cranberries. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA pro-life tune sung by Irish warbler Dolores O’Riordan: “I don’t know what’s happening to people today / When a child, he was taken away . . . ’Cause nine months is too long.”

42. “Everybody’s a Victim,” by The Proclaimers. ; buy CD on Amazon.comBest known for their smash hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” this Scottish band also recorded a catchy song about the problem of suspending moral judgment: “It doesn’t matter what I do / You have to say it’s all right . . . Everybody’s a victim / We’re becoming like the USA.”

43. “Wonderful,” by Everclear. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA child’s take on divorce: “I don’t wanna hear you say / That I will understand someday / No, no, no, no / I don’t wanna hear you say / You both have grown in a different way / No, no, no, no / I don’t wanna meet your friends / And I don’t wanna start over again / I just want my life to be the same / Just like it used to be.”

44. “Two Sisters,” by The Kinks. buy CD on Amazon.comWhy the “drudgery of being wed” is more rewarding than bohemian life.

45. “Taxman, Mr. Thief,” by Cheap Trick. ; buy CD on Amazon.comAn anti-tax protest song: “You work hard, you went hungry / Now the taxman is out to get you. . . . He hates you, he loves money.”

46. “Wind of Change,” by The Scorpions. ; buy CD on Amazon.comA German hard-rock group’s optimistic power ballad about the end of the Cold War and national reunification: “The world is closing in / Did you ever think / That we could be so close, like brothers / The future’s in the air / I can feel it everywhere / Blowing with the wind of change.”

47. “One,” by Creed. ; buy CD on Against racial preferences: “Society blind by color / Why hold down one to raise another / Discrimination now on both sides / Seeds of hate blossom further.”

48. “Why Don’t You Get a Job,” by The Offspring. ; buy CD on Amazon.comThe lyrics aren’t exactly Shakespearean, but they’re refreshingly blunt and they capture a motive force behind welfare reform.

49. “Abortion,” by Kid Rock. buy CD on Amazon.comA plaintive song sung by a man who confronts his unborn child’s abortion: “I know your brothers and your sister and your mother too / Man I wish you could see them too.”

50. “Stand By Your Man,” by Tammy Wynette. ; buy CD on Amazon.comHillary trashed it — isn’t that enough? If you’re worried that Wynette’s original is too country, then check out the cover version by Motörhead.

Thomas Sowell: The Senate's 'Tough' Immigration Bill

May 26, 2006
Thomas Sowell

Some people are worried that amnesty will give illegal aliens the same rights that American citizens have. In reality, it will give the illegals more rights than the average American citizen.
Since most of the illegals are Mexican, that makes them a minority. Under affirmative action, combined with amnesty, they would have preferences in jobs and other benefits.

Those who set up their own businesses would be entitled to preferences in getting government contracts. Their children would be able to get into college ahead of the children of American citizens with better academic qualifications.

Illegals who graduate from a high school in California can already attend the University of California, paying lower tuition that an American citizen from neighboring Oregon.

Under the supposedly "tough" immigration bill in the U.S. Senate, illegals don't have to pay all the back taxes they owe. An American citizen gets no such break from the government and can end up in federal prison, like Al Capone.

If an American citizen gets stopped by the police for a traffic violation and the cops discover that he is wanted for some other violation of the law, they can arrest him for whatever else he has done.

But if an illegal alien gets stopped for going through a red light and the police discovers that he is in the country illegally, in many communities the cop is forbidden to arrest him for that -- or even to report him to the feds.

If an American citizen forges a Social Security card in order to get a job, he can be arrested. Under a provision recently passed by the Senate, illegal aliens who forged Social Security cards not only get a pass, they get to collect Social Security benefits.

The great majority of Senators who voted for that provision were Democrats, and they prevailed because they were joined by a small minority of Republicans, led by -- surprise! -- Senator John McCain. After similar defections on judges and free speech, Senator McCain may give opportunism a bad name.

What the immigration bill in the Senate has become is just another attempt to pander to another special interest, in disregard of how that affects the country as a whole.

Much is made of the fact that there are supposedly 12 million illegals in the country already. The last time illegal aliens were given amnesty, back in 1986, that led to even more illegal aliens coming in afterwards.

Do we want 20 million or 30 million more illegal aliens in the future? Do we want to change the very composition of the American population, and with it the values of the country?

There was a time when immigrants came here to become Americans. But there are powerful pressure groups in this country, extending far beyond the immigrant community, doing their best to keep foreigners foreign and force Americans to accommodate their foreign language and culture in the name of "multiculturalism."

We have seen what havoc such notions and practices have created after mass immigration under "guest worker" programs in Europe, especially after the Muslim riots in France. Do we want that in the United States?

Most of the first generation of immigrants may want nothing more than a chance to work and will be happy to be here instead of in Mexico. But second generations born in this country compare their situation not with the situation in Mexico but with what other Americans around them have.

There are plenty of people, both inside and outside the immigrant community, who will fan their sense of grievance and exploit their resentments. This is not peculiar to people from Mexico. Europe has already experienced this.

Both the facts of the past and the dangers of the future are being ignored in the rush to give immediate benefits to illegal aliens, washed down with much talk about border control but no requirement that the border actually be controlled before these benefits go into effect.

The political strategy of this package deal legislation is to give immediate and irrevocable special benefits to some and make pious promises about the future to get all this past the others.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate

Charles Krauthammer: Direct Talks With Iran? No, Unless...

May 26, 2006
The Washington Post
Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- All of a sudden, revolutionary Iran has offered direct talks with the United States. All of a sudden, the usual suspects -- European commentators, American liberals, dissident CIA analysts, Madeleine Albright -- are urging the administration to take the bait.

It is not rare to see a regime like Iran's -- despotic, internally weak, feeling the world closing in -- attempt so transparent a ploy to relieve pressure on itself. What is rare is to see the craven alacrity with which such a ploy is taken up by others.

Mark my words. The momentum for U.S.-Iran negotiations has only begun. The focus of the entire Iranian crisis will begin to shift from the question of whether Tehran will stop its nuclear program to whether Washington will sit down alone at the table with Tehran.

To this cynical bait-and-switch, there can be no American response other than No. Absolutely not.

Just yesterday the world was excoriating the Bush administration for its unilateralism -- on Kyoto, the ABM Treaty and most especially Iraq -- and demanding that Washington act in concert with the "international community.'' Just yesterday, the Democratic candidate for president attacked Bush's foreign policy precisely for refusing to consult with, listen to and work with "the allies.''

Another day, another principle. Bush is now being pressured to abandon multilateralism and go it alone with Iran. Remember: In September 2003, after Iran was discovered cheating on its nuclear program, the U.S. wanted immediate U.N. action. The allies argued for a softer approach. Britain, France and Germany wanted to negotiate with Tehran and offer diplomatic and economic carrots in return for Iran giving up its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. acquiesced.

After two and a half years of utter futility, the EU-3 had to admit failure and acknowledge the obvious: Iran had no intention of giving up its nuclear ambitions. Iran made the point irrefutable when it broke IAEA seals and brazenly resumed uranium enrichment.

The full understanding we had with our allies was that if the EU-3 process failed, we would together go to the Security Council and get sanctions imposed on Iran. Yes, Russia and China might still stand in the way. But even so, concerted sanctions by America, Europe and other economic powers could have devastating effects on Iran and on its shaky clerical dictatorship.

Which is why the mullahs launched this recent initiative. They know, and fear, that if the West persists on its present and agreed course, they face sanctions so serious that their rule, already unpopular, might be in jeopardy. The very fact that Iran is desperately trying to change the subject, change the venue and shift the burden onto the U.S. shows how close the mullahs believe we are to achieving major international pressure on them.

Pushing Washington to abandon the multilateral process and enter negotiations alone is more than just rank hypocrisy. It is a pernicious folly. It would short-circuit the process that after years of dithering is about to yield its first fruits -- sanctions that Tehran fears. It would undo the allied consensus, produce endless new delays and give Iran more time to reach the point of no return, after which its nuclear status would be a fait accompli.

Entering negotiations carries with it the responsibility to do something if they fail. The EU-3 understood that when they took on the mullahs a couple of years ago. Bilateral U.S.-Iran talks are the perfect way to now get Europe off the hook. They would pre-empt all the current discussions about sanctions, place all responsibility for success on U.S.-Iran negotiations and set America up to take the blame for their inevitable failure.

It is an obvious trap. We should resolutely say no.

Except on one condition. If the allies, rather than shift responsibility for this entire process back to Washington, will reassert their responsibility by pledging support for U.S. and/or coalition military action against Iran in the event that the bilateral U.S.-Iran talks fail, then we might achieve something.

You want us to talk? Fine. We will go there but only if you arm us with the largest stick of all: your public support for military action if the talks fail. The mullahs already fear economic sanctions; they will fear European-backed U.S. military action infinitely more. Such negotiations might actually accomplish something.

That's our condition. Otherwise, the entire suggestion of bilateral talks is a ploy that should be rejected with the same contempt with which it was proposed.

(c) 2006, The Washington Post Writers Group

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bob Klapisch: Lightning Rod

The Bergen County Record
May 25, 2006

BOSTON -- The Yankees are all aware of the obsessive tracking of Alex Rodriguez's recent failures in pinstripes, which have turned his 2006 season, if not his Yankee career, into an at-bat by at-bat audition.

It's bad enough that A-Rod's teammates believe they're witnessing a witch hunt, prompting this message to the anti-A-Rod army:
Get real.

"People who care about the Yankees should be thinking about wins or losses, not just Alex, not one guy," Derek Jeter said. "Alex is a great player; there are lot of great players on this team. For some reason in my 10 years here, we've all gotten booed, myself and Mo and Bernie included."

Taking heat is the universal surcharge for getting rich on George Steinbrenner's millions, not to mention the virtual guarantee of making it to the postseason every year.

But nothing seems to make Yankee fans angrier than A-Rod hitting into a critical double play, as he did against the Mets on national TV on Sunday night, or slamming a meaningless home run in the ninth inning against the Red Sox on Monday.

The winds of war have temporarily softened, as the Yankees held off the Sox, 8-6, Wednesday and took 2-of-3 at Fenway. But Rodriguez's Monday blast off Keith Foulke -- No. 439 of his career -- resulted in a tabloid kick in the groin.

"Thanks for Nuthin" is what the Daily News' back page screamed. A-Rod insists he never saw the paper, but nevertheless heard about it from friends. His only response was to smile and say, "I'm used to it."

"I've been dealing with this since I was 15, so it's not like it's anything new," A-Rod said. "You know when it would bother me? If other players, experts like David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and Mariano Rivera, started telling me I [stunk]. Then I'd start to worry. Otherwise, I let it go."
Rodriguez' logic goes something like this: a year after winning the American League MVP award, he's on his way to another 40-something home run season, another 120 RBI. They can't all be meaningless.

How can anyone who may eventually catch and pass Aaron, Bonds and Ruth be considered a choker, especially if he's already considered the most talented player baseball has ever known?
Rodriguez said, "people who really understand baseball understand" that slumps are part of the game's culture, if not its beauty. You know what they say about the difference between genuine leather and synthetic material: the real stuff is cut, scratched and flawed. It's the perfect product that's fake.

But it's the perception of failure, not necessarily its reality, that dogs Rodriguez. His .258 average against the Red Sox in the Great October Collapse of 2004 was nothing to brag about -- but it was still 58 points higher than Jeter's.

Yet, it's A-Rod, not Jeter, who was publicly flogged for trying to slap the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove in Game 6.

A-Rod did, indeed, look bad in making such a sophomoric attempt. And it's also true that some of the criticism that's heaped upon him is justified.

His .133 average against the Angels in last year's division series only deepened the impression that Rodriguez has a problem with pressure, especially in the playoffs.

That label will cling to Rodriguez like a second skin until the Yankees win a world championship on his watch. Until then, the current drought will be blamed on him, not Jeter or even Gary Sheffield.

That's what happens when you arrive in New York, thinking you're going to piggyback your way to the World Series. Ask Randy Johnson; he's learning the same, harsh lesson about getting what you wish for.

When the plot fails, someone has to pick up the check, and it's not going to be Jeter or Mariano Rivera. It's A-Rod and his millions, Johnson and his strikeouts. Somehow, they've become symbols of the Yankees' hollow pursuit of success, which teammates say is just absurd.

"The thing about Alex is that he believes he should drive in every run, which is unrealistic," Sheffield said. "In a way, he brings it on himself. But the fans who get on him should be thankful they have a player who's that driven. Not many guys care as much as he does."

Reggie Jackson said there are other, hidden qualities about Rodriguez that go unnoticed by his legions of detractors.

"When we have our staff meetings, never once do we ask, 'Is A-Rod available?' He's always in the lineup, always," Jackson said. "The guy never gets sick, never has a swollen finger or a bad knee. He wants to play every day and that's the sign of leadership.

"It was the same thing in my era. Whenever you went to Baltimore, you knew Frank Robinson was waiting for us. The sucker never had a sore throat or anything. Jim Rice, same thing. Never missed a game."

That's not to say the Yankees wouldn't have appreciated a base hit instead of a double-play grounder in the eighth inning at Shea on Sunday night.

And the home run off Foulke in the ninth inning Monday, which only slightly diminished the blowout factor in the 9-5 loss to the Sox, would've been more useful against Curt Schilling when the game was still on the line.

But Rodriguez bristles at the notion that hitting a 400-foot blast off a setup man somehow was an indictment of his character, just because he couldn't solve Schilling -- something which no other Yankee did, either.

"You think it's easy to hit a home run? You think Keith Foulke, someone I respect, wanted to let me hit it out?" A-Rod asked.

He exhaled said, simply, "come on."


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ed Koch: Is It Xenophobic to Regulate Entry into the US?

24 May 2006
Ed Koch

Addressing the immigration laws of our country remains the hot button issue of the day. The New York Times editorial board and columnist, John Tierney, have come out in support of proposed Congressional legislation that would provide amnesty for the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.

It appears that The Times and Tierney favor an open immigration policy that essentially would eliminate restrictions on the amount of time visitors to this country can stay in the U.S. The Times denounces the House Sensenbrenner bill for a provision that makes it a crime to be in the U.S. without proper documentation. The Times does not explain why such legislation was deemed necessary by the House. When I first learned of the Times' opposition, I believed that it had always been criminal to enter the U.S. illegally, only to learn that was true for those who cross the border illegally, but not for those who enter lawfully and then overstay their visas.

Only in Newsday did I read the explanation: "A White House spokesman said the proposal actually came from the Justice Department. It is currently a federal criminal misdemeanor to unlawfully enter the country, while unauthorized presence, such as overstaying a visa, is a civil offense. 'There is an inequality in how different illegal immigrants are treated,' he said. 'Those that come here illegally are criminals, those who overstay their visas are not.'" The House Republicans who on reflection tried to amend their proposed law reducing the offense of overstaying a visa from a felony to a misdemeanor were blocked by the Democratic leadership which apparently preferred to retain a political issue rather than improve the legislation.

The Times denounces President Bush who supports the Senate amnesty bill known as Hagel-Martinez because he "is trying to appease" the right wing of his party, by supporting both fences on the border and the use of the National Guard to assist the Border Patrol in keeping illegal immigrants out. The Times believes that the better approach is "to put illegal workers on a path to assimilation and citizenship." Why is that better than the current system that allows nearly a million people every year to enter the country permanently and have the immediate right to work and ultimately to become citizens? If the country believes it can support and needs more legal and permanent immigrants, Congress should increase the numbers permitted entry. But it makes no sense to eliminate reasonable restrictions on entry, creating in effect open borders. If we were to do that, shouldn't we in fairness say to the rest of the world, come and join us, everyone is welcome, not simply those entering at our southern border? The Times would be very happy, but would unrestricted immigration be good for our country? I don't think so. Nearly the entire world would like to come and live here.

The Times objects to the Senate proposal that guest workers performing jobs currently needed should be required to go home when the jobs are done and come again the following year. No, says The Times. "If there must be guest workers, there must also be a path so they, too, can seek citizenship if they choose. Mr. Bush last night specifically -- and shamefully -- urged that such a path be denied to temporary workers."

Columnist Tierney, referring to the President's speech, opines, "He had to throw in the tough border talk and the ID cards. He had to deal with the new outbreak of xenophobia, the fear that has always been easy for demagogues to arouse because it's such a basic human instinct." Then seeking to denigrate everyone in opposition to the concept of open borders, Tierney writes, "They're coming to feed us, not take our food, yet we're demanding that our leaders keep them out. No Mexican busboys! No Guatemalan cooks! Stop them before they grill again!" Is it really xenophobic to protect our borders and regulate entry into the U.S.? I don't think so.

Tierney's language is offensive to the very people he supports, as well as to defenders of reasonable and responsible immigration. Every immigrant has aspirations to eventually work his or her way up the ladder and become, or have their children become, professionals, and that is the way it should be.

Does Tierney really believe that open borders will enhance that opportunity for the millions of American workers, many black and Hispanic now legally here as the result of birth or lawful entry? I don't. I am for immigration. How could I not be? I am the son of immigrants and became Mayor of the greatest city in the world -- New York City -- as a first generation American. Mario Cuomo, also a child of immigrants, became the governor of the Empire State -- New York. Wouldn't The Times be performing a public service and the job of the newspaper of record by informing us on how the Mexicans control immigration into their country, and how our current practices compare with the rest of the nations represented at the United Nations?

Yes, we can and we should improve our immigration laws. But to open borders and no controls, I say, No. The 11 million illegals should not and will not be put on buses and sent home. What should happen is the sending to prison for at least six months or longer every U.S. employer that is knowingly or without doing due diligence hiring illegals. If no jobs are available, the illegals will leave and go home on their own.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

Mike Lupica: Mo's Battle With Red Sox Big Shots is One to Save

The New York Daily News
May 24, 2006

BOSTON - It had been 7-1 for the Yankees in the top of the seventh after Alex Rodriguez hit one toward the Monster Seats, got one up in the air at old Fenway. It kept going until it was a three-run homer that meant something for the Yankees because it seemed to have blown this one wide open. Only this was Fenway and these were the Red Sox, and Manny Ramirez and Papi Ortiz, two of the great Yankee killers in history, were still in the house. Nothing is ever easy with them in the house, no matter what that old-time scoreboard says at the bottom of that famous green wall.

In the bottom of the seventh, Scott Proctor did what Chien-Ming Wang tried to do the night before, tried to sneak an 0-2 strike past Ramirez. Manny Ramirez put another one in the bleachers out in center. Three-run homer. The Yankee lead was down to 7-4, just like that.
Game back on.

Now it was the bottom of the eighth at Fenway. Kyle Farnsworth had walked Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta. And here came Joe Torre out of the dugout, on an old catcher's knee that is getting worse with time, one that requires a brace sometimes, here came Torre making the signal with one out in the eighth for Mo Rivera. All he has ever known in the late innings is Rivera. It is all he will ever know.

In his office later, Torre smiled. "I knew it was the last trip to the mound for the night," he said.
All around baseball, they say that the best plan against the Yankees is to hang in there until the bullpen door opens. That means for everybody except Rivera. After all the guys they have run in there over the past few years, all the guys they have wanted to be Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton, Rivera is still the only one Torre really trusts.

So a big messy game was something different now. Something special. It was Rivera against Papi Ortiz, with Ortiz representing the tying run. If Rivera got Ortiz, then it was him against Manny, only one of the great run-producing righthanded hitters in baseball. This was as good as it can be in baseball, Rivera of the Yankees, the best closer of all time, against the Red Sox, against the most dangerous 3-4 combination in the game, with the game on the line.
Just that at Fenway.

Rivera against them.

"It was the essence of the game," Joe Torre said. "My best against your best. This is still a team game. But in the end, it's autonomous. You against me."

This was supposed to have been A-Rod's night. This was the kind of game-busting swing that Yankee fans want from him, demand from him, every time he is up there. On this night he had delivered, knocked Tim Wakefield out of the game, knocked down the Red Sox hard. Not many easy games for the Yankees lately, in what could have been a bad stretch without a couple of comeback wins. This one looked easy at 7-1.

Just not for long.

Rivera against Ortiz and Manny in the eighth. They were up at Fenway, good and loud. Monday night it had been 9-1 for the Red Sox going to the ninth. Here came the Red Sox last night, trying to come all the way back from 7-1.

The first pitch Rivera threw to Ortiz, Ortiz ripped it hard and foul to right. "He couldn't have hit it fair," Torre said, "not where Mo threw it." A couple of pitches later Rivera got another one in on Ortiz's hands and popped him up to Jeter for the second out of the eighth. Still 7-4 for the Yankees. Ortiz and his 14 home runs already and his 41RBI and all his late-inning hits, went and took a seat, gave way to Manny Ramirez of Washington Heights.

He started slowly this season. He does that sometimes. Then he slowly worked himself into form and started to become one of the most prolific run producers of this time and all times. Nine home runs for him after the shot off Proctor and 25 RBI. You know he is just getting warmed up.
Rivera threw him one of those cutters and Manny Ramirez ripped it into left field. It was Yankees 7, Red Sox 5. Rivera got Trot Nixon to foul out to A-Rod with Ramirez on first and Loretta on third. We went to the ninth at Fenway.

"With other closers, there's a lot of bells and whistles," Torre said. "With Mo, it's only ever about doing the job."

Already this season, there have been other times when Rivera had been asked to get more than three outs to get the Yankees a win. This one was the most dramatic. This was the Red Sox and this was Fenway and this was a night when the Yankees seemed to have the Red Sox put away.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Alex Cora singled. Jason Varitek was the potential tying run. Rivera popped him out. One out to go for Rivera, against an outfielder off the bench named Dustan Mohr. Rivera went to 2-2 on Mohr. Twenty pitches for him now. He threw a fastball past Mohr and that was that.

There are so many games between the Red Sox and Yankees now, 77 of them these past few years, not all of them great. There are still some that make you remember why you watch. Last night was one. The best of it, the moment to remember, was Mo Rivera against Ortiz and Ramirez in the eighth. His best against theirs. Essence of baseball. Mo against them.

John Harper: A-Rod Offers a Powerful Case

May 24, 2006
The New York Daily News

Blasts Bosox and then critics

BOSTON - Be fair, Yankee fans.

If you're going to hammer Alex Rodriguez every time he fails to deliver in the clutch, or even when he hits too-late-to-matter home runs, you have to give him his due for taking Tim Wakefield out of the ballpark last night.

Was it a high-drama situation? No. But it was the Red Sox. It was a game the Yankees needed badly.

The home run was a three-run shot that turned a 4-1 lead into 7-1 in the seventh inning, and it proved to be just enough cushion in a 7-5 victory on a night when the Yankee bullpen was shaky in relief of Jaret Wright.

And as A-Rod himself said, "In this ballpark, 4-1 is like 2-1. So I felt it was huge."

If you're going to call it a lucky shot, well, OK, even A-Rod admitted he was swinging from the heels and hoping for the best against Wakefield's knuckleball. Indeed, he didn't even realize he'd nailed the home run ball, looking skyward upon contact, thinking he popped it up.

But in that case, you have to say he was unlucky on Sunday night when he hit that screamer with the bases loaded against the Mets that happened to be right at Cliff Floyd in left field.

That's baseball.

That doesn't mean A-Rod doesn't deserve much of the criticism he has taken for failing in the clutch. There is too much evidence of his struggles.

But the criticism has taken on a witch-hunt tone of late, as if A-Rod is to blame for every game the Yankees lose.

He is surely aware of it, because he always seems to be aware of everything, but at his locker last night he insisted it doesn't bother him. He did call it "an injustice," meaning this idea that he never hits in the clutch, but he said he is resigned to living with it.

"It'll never stop," he said, "until I win five or six world championships, and hit a Joe Carter home run to win one of them.

"I don't take anything personally. I think it's comical. Anyone who drives in 130 runs has to hit in the clutch. I've done a lot of special things in this game. For none of that to be considered clutch is an injustice."

It hasn't been much of a season so far for A-Rod, but he's still hitting .275 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI. Reggie Jackson, who is here with the Yankees this week, said he thinks A-Rod is just heating up.

"He hasn't hit at all and he's got decent numbers," Jackson said. "He's going to get hot soon and then, look out."

If A-Rod is warming up, after his second home run in two nights here at Fenway Park, it could prove to be great timing for the Yankees, now that Gary Sheffield is back, returning last night from his month-long absence due to a wrist injury.

A-Rod seemed to think Sheffield's return will make a huge difference for a team that has been weakened so significantly by injuries the last few weeks.

"Sheff is so important to us," A-Rod said. "Regardless of whether he goes 0-for-50, his presence in our lineup is so important."

For that matter, Sheffield has some Barry Bonds in him, which may be exactly what the Yankees need right now. He's nothing if not defiant, determined to prove the world wrong about him, even if whatever battle he's fighting is all in his head.

Right now Sheffield is determined to prove, among other things, that he deserves a big contract next year, whether in the form of the Yankees picking up his $13 million option or some other team paying him as a free agent.

Toward that end, he is determined to disprove the notion floated in the media that he was trying to use his wrist injury as leverage of some sorts to get the Yankees to pick up his option.

"It wasn't an issue," Sheffield said yesterday, speaking of the contract situation. "I'll be playing somewhere next year. I'm not worried about it."

For anyone who knows Sheffield, that sounded a lot like: I'll show you.

He looked rusty last night, going 0-for-3, but he took some hellacious swings against Jonathon Papelbon in the ninth inning, striking out on a 95mph fastball, prompting Larry Bowa to say to Joe Torre on the bench: "Well, at least we know his hand is OK."

Yes, even while Sheffield was striking out, the force of his swing provided comfort to the Yankees.

"He makes the club feel better about itself," said Jackson. "He brings a toughness to us, a presence that we need."

Perhaps most significant, he makes A-Rod feel a little more comfortable, like he doesn't have to carry the load. By now we know that A-Rod is at his best when relaxed, not getting in the way of his talent.

So maybe his home run last night was no coincidence. Certainly it mattered. Be fair about that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Home on the Range: A Corridor for Wildlife

May 23, 2006

The New York Times

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — One day in April, a zoologist named Paul Paquet found himself at the tiny railroad station here, in the middle of Banff National Park. Above him loomed the snow-covered crags of the Canadian Rockies, fringed with Douglas fir and lodgepole pine. A few dozen yards away, the Bow River glimmered in the sun.

He surveyed his surroundings and grimaced. "This park," he said. "It's a national disgrace."

Sure it's beautiful, he said, and, yes, it is one of the last places where grizzly bears can roam and wolves can hunt the elk and bighorn sheep that are their prey. "But there is a highway through the middle of the park, and development associated with it," he said. As a natural environment, "it's a disaster."

Dr. Paquet, who works for the World Wildlife Fund and has faculty appointments at several Canadian universities, is part of a collaborative group of researchers, conservationists, government officials and others hoping to improve things — not by removing roads or railways but by mitigating their effects.

They want to create a sustainable environment for wildlife from the Yukon to Yellowstone, even as people move ever deeper into the Rocky Mountains of the United States and Canada.

Participants in the collaboration, called Y2Y, have designed and monitored overpasses and underpasses to help animals cross highways safely. They have negotiated limits on access to golf courses and ski slopes so animals can traverse them. They have encouraged the creation of wildlife corridors around or even across towns.

Their goal is not just a wolf pack surviving here and there, or a few scattered grizzly bears or elk or bighorn sheep, but a landscape in which animals can thrive, roaming and reproducing widely and avoiding the genetic perils of small populations trapped in shrinking habitats.

When the researchers write up their findings for scientific journals, they call this goal "functional connectivity," said Michael Proctor, a zoologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alberta. He calls it "sex across the highway."

Around the world, conservationists are embarking on similar efforts. In India, wildlife experts are trying to establish corridors linking fragments of tiger habitat, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Similar projects are under way in Costa Rica and Australia.

Researchers at the University of Florida, working in an experimental landscape in South Carolina, reported last year that corridors established for wildlife can also help the survival of plants.

But Y2Y is perhaps the largest effort.

Dr. Proctor, Dr. Paquet and other scientists were at the Lake Louise station because the Canadian Pacific rail line that carries grain to ports on the west coast is a major killing ground for elk, bears and other animals drawn to the tracks by grain that spills from the hoppers
There are arguments over who is responsible for the problem, said Mike Gibeau, as he bent to gather lentils, barley and other grain lying in small piles between the tracks. Dr. Gibeau, who works for Parks Canada, the agency that runs the national parks, is working with other researchers for ways to reduce the carnage.

Here in Lake Louise, the tracks have been fenced off with metal mesh. Where the fence opens at the station, the rail bed has been fitted with a mat of six-inch metal spikes. Trains can pass over the spikes but, in theory, animals cannot.

"We're going to see if it works," Dr. Gibeau said, and if it does it will be adopted elsewhere.

Mesh fencing has also been installed along stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway as it slices across the park, and as the road is widened additional fencing will be added. The effort is motivated not so much by concern for animals, the researchers note, but to avoid injury to the drivers of cars and trucks that would otherwise hit them. In fenced areas, hardly any animals die on the road, but they are trapped on one side or the other.

A project a few miles south of Banff aims to correct that. There, an overpass about 50 yards wide over four lanes of traffic was built a few years ago. Researchers supported by Y2Y are studying what animals are using it and when, in hopes of installing similar crossovers elsewhere.
Approached from the woods, the crossover resembles any other sloping hill, covered with brushy grass, shrubs, saplings and even a clump or two of pussy willow.

Earthen berms on either side hide the road and mute the noise of the tens of thousands of cars that pass by daily, winter and summer.

Animals have worn a trail along one edge and, at the top, leave prints on a cleared stretch of dirt, a so-called track pad, monitored by motion-sensitive cameras with night-vision lenses.

Wayne Hallstrom, a research associate with Parks Canada, said he and his colleagues checked the pad twice a week for signs of animal crossings. In the last few years, he said, they have counted tens of thousands of crossings by wolves, bears, cougars, elk, deer and other animals.
Each year the numbers rise, presumably because more animals are learning where the crossings are.

He said researchers planned next to install a bit of barbed wire in hopes of snagging bits of fur with hair follicles that will yield DNA for testing. They want to know not just how many times bears cross the road, say, but whether there are many bears or just a few bears making multiple trips.

"I think it's changed the movement of the elk," Mr. Hallstrom offered, "but it's unstudied so far."
The overpass project is run by Anthony P. Clevenger, a scientist supported by Y2Y who works with the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University at Bozeman. Dr. Clevenger is working on installing dozens of wildlife crossings on Route 93 in Montana, south of Flathead Lake.

"We know that some species — grizzly bears, wolves, elk and deer, also moose, prefer large structures," Dr. Clevenger said. "Cougars and black bears prefer the opposite — very constricted structures with lots of cover." Sometimes a pack of wolves will approach a crossing, but if only some are willing to chance it the pack as a whole may not cross. The scientists are trying to figure out a crossing design that will encourage packs to move en masse.

Dr. Proctor said there was also talk of modifying avalanche sheds that carry cascading snow across mountain highways so animals can use them as crossovers. Y2Y began in the mid-1990's when some Canadian parks officials and conservationists approached the Kendall Foundation, an environmental grant-maker based in Boston. "They said they had this idea of protecting the wild heart of North America from Yellowstone to Yukon," said Gary Tabor, who was at the foundation at the time and later became the first director of Y2Y.

The protection offered by national, state and provincial parks was not enough to protect their bears and elk and wolves, Dr. Tabor said they told him. "They said, 'You have to protect larger landscapes to protect such species.' "

Eventually, Dr. Tabor said, the foundation convened meetings with academic researchers, conservation groups, government agencies and "key stakeholders," like business leaders and American Indian representatives. They discussed what the Y2Y boundaries should be, settling on a region of about 465,000 square miles, most at elevations of 3,500 feet or higher, encircled at lower elevations by prairie grasslands.

They also talked about what kind of scientific work the organization should finance. Today, Y2Y receives grants from foundations and itself supports the work of established scientists, graduate students and others with an annual budget of about $2 million. (An exhibition on the initiative will open July 15 at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, where it will run until January.)

Initially, Dr. Tabor said, property rights organizations and other groups accused Y2Y participants of seeking to drive people out of the Rockies. "That was never the intention," said Dr. Tabor, who left Y2Y in April to head the North America program for the Wildlife Conservation Society. "The intention was, We have to have a regime where people and wildlife can live compatibly." Although parks and other protected areas form the core of Y2Y, "we work community by community," he said.

"It's not just public lands; it's about private lands in between," he added.

When people objected that restrictions would harm the region's economy, Y2Y pointed to a study showing that a pristine environment could draw people who come to the area because of its ecological integrity, the so-called amenity migrants, said Rob Buffler, who replaced Dr. Tabor as Y2Y's chief.

One of the towns drawing them is Canmore, not only because of its beautiful location in the Bow River Valley, but also because it is within commuting distance of Calgary, thriving in Alberta's oil and gas boom, and Banff.

The growing town, which the researchers call "the Canmore plug," has forced animals that once traveled along the river up the mountain slopes, Dr. Gibeau said.

To accommodate them, he said, some ski resorts and golf courses are limiting access to people.

"Grizzly bears come down here to walk down the road in the middle of the night," he said. In April, Parks Canada appealed to drivers to use one major road, the Bow Valley Parkway, only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until June 25, to create traffic-free periods for wildlife on the move in spring.

But the human species does not always embrace all of Y2Y's goals. Hikers camp in wildlife underpasses. Mountain bikers drive animals away from an overpass built over a hydroelectric plant canal, Dr. Gibeau said, and they ruin hillside vegetation by riding their brakes too hard on the way down.

Such problems sometimes leave the researchers wondering whether their efforts do any good. Dr. Paquet said it was troubling to think that he might simply be "monitoring the slow demise" of the ecosystem.

Dr. Gibeau carries in his wallet a much-folded piece of paper with words the naturalist Aldo Leopold wrote more than 30 years ago: "One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds," Leopold wrote. "Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well — and does not want to be told otherwise."

Dr. Gibeau has this "ecological education," and he knows Leopold was right.

"People who come here are just so awestruck by the scenery that they cannot understand its ecological problems" he said. "They say, 'How can there be trouble here?' But once you peel back the veneer, this place is like most other places, a human-dominated system."

Teaching Johnny About Islam

From Investor's Business Daily

Posted 5/19/2006

In our brave new schools, Johnny can't say the pledge, but he can recite the Quran. Yup, the same court that found the phrase "under God" unconstitutional now endorses Islamic catechism in public school.

In a recent federal decision that got surprisingly little press, even from conservative talk radio, California's 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it's OK to put public-school kids through Muslim role-playing exercises, including:

Reciting aloud Muslim prayers that begin with "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful . . . ."

Memorizing the Muslim profession of faith: "Allah is the only true God and Muhammad is his messenger."

Chanting "Praise be to Allah" in response to teacher prompts.

Professing as "true" the Muslim belief that "The Holy Quran is God's word."

Giving up candy and TV to demonstrate Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

Designing prayer rugs, taking an Arabic name and essentially "becoming a Muslim" for two full weeks.

Parents of seventh-graders, who after 9-11 were taught the pro-Islamic lessons as part of California's world history curriculum, sued under the First Amendment ban on religious establishment. They argued, reasonably, that the government was promoting Islam.

But a federal judge appointed by President Clinton told them in so many words to get over it, that the state was merely teaching kids about another "culture."

So the parents appealed. Unfortunately, the most left-wing court in the land got their case. The 9th Circuit, which previously ruled in favor of an atheist who filed suit against the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, upheld the lower court ruling.

The decision is a major victory for the multiculturalists and Islamic apologists in California and across the country who've never met a culture or religion they didn't like — with the exception of Western civilization and Christianity. They are legally in the clear to indoctrinate kids into the "peaceful" and "tolerant" religion of Islam, while continuing to denigrate Judeo-Christian values.

In the California course on world religions, Christianity is not presented equally. It's covered in just two days and doesn't involve kids in any role-playing activities. But kids do get a good dose of skepticism about the Christian faith, including a biting history of its persecution of other peoples. In contrast, Islam gets a pass from critical review. Even jihad is presented as an "internal personal struggle to do one's best to resist temptation," and not holy war.

The ed consultant's name is Susan L. Douglass. No, she's not a Christian scholar. She's a devout Muslim activist on the Saudi government payroll, according to an investigation by Paul Sperry, author of "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington." He found that for years Douglass taught social studies at the Islamic Saudi Academy just outside Washington, D.C. Her husband still teaches there.

So what? By infiltrating our public school system, the Saudis hope to make Islam more widely accepted while converting impressionable American youth to their radical cause. Recall that John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban," was a product of the California school system. What's next, field trips to Mecca?

This case is critical not just to our culture but our national security. It should be brought before the Supreme Court, which has outlawed prayer in school. Let's see what it says about practicing Islam in class. It will be a good test for the bench's two new conservative justices.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Paul Sperry: Terrorists Within

Paul Sperry
May 22, 2006

A former top Homeland Security official warns that the terrorists aren't confined to the battle fronts abroad, but are already here in America living among us. And he says the government needs to redouble its efforts to root them out.

"While we certainly should continue to take the fight to the enemy wherever he is, we need to face the awful reality that the enemy may already be in our very own backyard," says former Homeland Security Department Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin. "The frightening truth is that there are already terrorists among us."

Osama bin Laden recently warned that al-Qaeda is making final preparations for another massive attack on America. Assuming the terrorist kingpin isn't bluffing, he could have terrorist cells secreted inside American cities.

While the FBI says it's found no evidence of such terror cells here, it also said much the same thing before the 9/11 attacks. And Ervin points out that the bureau nonetheless knows of at least 1,000 al-Qaeda sympathizers in the U.S. today -- a number that he calls "low." It's possible there are thousands of sympathizers supporting and facilitating hundreds of terrorist operatives inside the U.S., he fears, and the FBI has yet to make the connections.

"It's safe to say that a not insignificant number of suspected terrorists are known to be in the country today," Ervin says in a new tell-all book, Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable To Attack.

While the FBI says it can find no evidence of al-Qaeda cells operating inside America, Ervin insists the agency has not looked at all the Saudi-based evidence since 9/11.

He says the FBI failed to examine "stacks of boxes" of potential evidence containing the applications of thousands of young Saudi men who had applied for and received visas to travel to the U.S. around the same time as the 15 Saudi hijackers.

Ervin, who recently resigned from DHS, says he discovered several unexamined boxes of Saudi visa applications in a storage room at the U.S. embassy during a trip two years ago to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. He was told by consular officers there that FBI agents neglected to go through the boxes and pull the files to see if there might have been any connections -- tribes, families, villages, occupations, addresses, phone numbers and so on -- between those applicants and the hijackers.

Even in the aftermath of 9/11, "predictably, the FBI fell woefully behind in vetting these applications," Ervin says. The FBI missed clues to the first World Trade Center terror plot in 1993 because they were buried in boxes of unexamined evidence from an earlier terror case.
Ervin says a team of FBI agents did visit the embassy in the months after the 9/11 attacks and asked the consular section to pull some of the files.

But for some unexplained reason, he says, the agents left the embassy in Riyadh without examining the thousands of other applications stored in the stacks of boxes, even though Saudi Arabia is a known al-Qaeda hotbed.

"As I write these words today," Ervin says on page 45 of his book, "these applications have yet to be examined, and the more time goes by, the less potentially useful any intelligence they might contain will be."

He adds: "While it is certainly possible that the remaining applications contained nothing important, it is equally possible that examining them might yet lead to tracking down other terrorists presently in the United States, lying in wait to launch follow-up attacks, or simply copycat cells hiding out until an opportune time to launch another attack."

Ervin speculates that the FBI chose not to examine the other Saudi visa applications because "doing so was too much trouble."

Asked about it, FBI spokesman Bill Carter says it's the first he's heard of any unexamined boxes of Saudi visa applications. He says generally it's the State Department's duty to check out visa applicants, and the FBI plays only a minor supporting role in the process.

"The State Department is usually responsible for the processing of visa applications. And generally what happens in that regard is there's a name-check process," Carter says. "In other words, they would send the names over to the FBI, and we run it through our case files to determine if there's anything in the FBI databases that would preclude or prevent that individual from coming into the United States."

"But," he adds, "I'm not familiar with the fact that there are boxes that remain unreviewed."

Carter says the FBI's legal attache office in Riyadh -- which has come under fire recently -- may have been involved initially in reviewing the visa files. But he maintains it was not ultimately responsible for running down terror leads on Saudi individuals after 9/11. "Most of what that [office activity] had to do with was tracking financial issues with regard to support of terrorist groups," Carter explains.

FBI agents in Washington have complained that they received little help after 9/11 from the bureau's office in Riyadh, which was run by two Muslim agents. One, Egyptian-born Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, maintains they were understaffed and hobbled by an antiquated computer system.

But he and his boss Wilfred Rattigan, a black convert to Islam, nonetheless found time to travel to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, where they surrendered their FBI cell phones to Saudi nationals and were out of contact with officials back in the U.S. who were trying to ring them up about investigations into al-Qaeda and 9/11.

Both Rattigan and Abdel-Hafiz, who have since been reassigned within the bureau, wore traditional Muslim headgear and robes while on the job in Saudi Arabia, further annoying fellow agents.

When a senior FBI supervisor paid a visit to the Riyadh office nearly a year after 9/11, she found secret documents strewn about the office, some even wedged between cabinets. She also found a huge backlog of boxes each filled with three feet of paper containing secret, time-sensitive leads. Much of the materials, including information on Saudi airline pilots, had not been translated or reviewed.

Ervin, now a homeland security expert at the Aspen Institute in Washington, insists that someone in law enforcement -- whether the FBI or an agency within DHS -- still needs to review the unexamined boxes sitting in the embassy in Riyadh.

"Why hasn't anyone from the Department of Homeland Security bothered to look through them to see whether there might be links between any of those applicants and any of the hijackers?" he complains.

DHS, for its part, says it has introduced a program meant to add another layer of security to State's visa application process. Two years ago, under the Homeland Security Act, it deployed so-called Visa Security Officers (VSOs) to Saudi Arabia, still a hotbed of terrorism, to review applications for people who could be considered national security threats.

But the Saudi program has been plagued with problems. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) last year reported that officers assigned there are spread too thin by a heavy workload.
And the case volume is expected to grow. The administration recently agreed to a request by the Saudi royal government to ramp up the number of student visas issued to Saudi nationals, a process that was slowed after 9/11.

Making matters worse, only one of the first 10 VSOs sent to Saudi Arabia could speak Arabic. "Needless to say," Ervin says, "the officers' effectiveness was severely limited by their inability to speak and read the language of the visa applicants."

While it remains unclear how many Saudi terrorist suspects have received visas to travel to the U.S., authorities have identified several Saudi nationals associated with the hijackers or al-Qaeda, or both, who are still at large and may pose a potential threat to America. Here are a few:

Ali Abd al Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi: Originally a candidate for the 9/11 operation, he was held in reserve by bin Laden for a later, even larger operation. He was recently given amnesty by the Saudi government.

Saud al-Rashid: He also trained for the suicide mission. Photos of him were found with those of three other hijackers. Saudi authorities released him from custody in 2002.

Adnan al-Shukrijumah: U.S. investigators consider the former Florida resident -- a.k.a. "Jafar the Pilot" -- to be "the next Mohamed Atta." The Saudi national, who conspired with dirty-nuke suspect Jose Padilla, was last spotted in Central America.

Ervin warns that al-Qaeda is "bound and determined to hit us again, and even harder than last time."

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

Gene Collier: Pujols is Shot in the Arm for Baseball

Monday, May 22, 2006
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The projection is 81 for Albert Pujols, and 81 homers has the unprecedented heft to be a very uncomfortable number for a lot of people in baseball.

Barry Bonds, after his 714th career homer pulled him irreversibly into the shadow of Ruthian mythology Saturday, said almost immediately, "You guys can go watch Albert Pujols now. Because he's doing some wonderful things."

Right. And the wonderful things he's doing don't likely include deca-durabolin.

"I hear some people, some writers saying you know, 'Oh maybe he's on steroids,' " Pujols told Orel Hershiser on ESPN yesterday. "They can test me anytime they want. Look at me. Look at my body. If I've done anything to it, it's getting fatter."

The great Cardinals slugger hit his 20th, 21st and 22nd homers over the weekend, which certainly did nothing to lessen the chances that he'll become the fourth person in the past nine seasons to eclipse the single-season home-run record of 61 held by Roger Maris for 37 years.
Six times between 1998 and 2001, Maris' 61 was surpassed by three different suspects, once by Barry Bonds, twice by Mark McGwire, three times by Sammy Sosa.

Pujols is not a suspect.

I know this because the eminent bow tie-wearing political columnist and sometimes baseball author George F. Will already has said the steroids era in baseball is over, and no one writes about the game with more authority than he, regardless of whether he actually has any.

Though I'd put at roughly 90 percent the chunk of Will's reliably conservative literature that I either disagree with or simply don't want to believe, I really do want to believe his guess on the relative influence of steroids in the game five years after Bonds' 73 appeared in the game's hyper-revered record book.

Apparently Nerio Rodriguez isn't as avid a reader of the op-ed page as I.

Rodriguez, a Pirates' minor-leaguer continuing his apparent quest at age 35 to be employed by every organization in the game, was suspended for 50 games Friday for using a performance-enhancing substance. Rodriguez's "enhanced" performance was a 1-2 record and a 4.84 earned run average for Class AAA Indianapolis.

The notion that steroids are gone from the game, even without the evidence that they're being trafficked by non-prospect 35-year-old Class AAA pitchers, is highly dubious, but in the case of Albert The Great, baseball probably shouldn't worry.

For one thing, 22 homers by late May, stunning as it might be, does not guarantee the fall of records in September. Mickey Mantle started faster in 1956 and stopped at 52 homers. Luis Gonzalez started faster in 2001 and hit 57.

But more pointedly, Pujols is right about his body, as it lacks the anabolic qualities of Bonds and McGwire and Sosa, whose physical dimensions expanded markedly as their production ballooned to history smashing levels. Though the Cardinals list Pujols at 6 feet 3 and 225 pounds, 10-15 pounds heavier than his rookie specifications, he doesn't appear any larger in the arms, shoulders and head.

Unlike Bonds and Sosa, who developed their home-run strokes and learned to drive in runs on a graduated track in their big-league careers, and unlike McGwire, who was as likely to hit fewer than 10 homers as he was to hit more than 40 over the first nine years of an injury hampered career, Pujols was an astoundingly accomplished hitter almost from the minute he put on a professional uniform.

He spent all of one season in the minor leagues, where he scorched three cities in the Cardinals' system in one 96-RBI summer before arriving in St. Louis. Since the moment he arrived, no one in the National League has hit more homers or driven in more runs than this 26-year-old Dominican who moved to Kansas City with his father 10 years ago. No one in major-league history got 1,000 hits faster than he, and no player in major-league history duplicated his 30 or more homers in each of his first five seasons.

Pujols woke up yesterday leading the majors in homers, RBIs, runs, total bases and slugging percentage. The only scarier site than Albert walking to the plate in St. Louis is Albert walking to the plate in PNC Park, where he has homered 18 times, more than in any other road park, more than any visiting player, and, of course, more than some Pirates.

To watch Pujols is to be privileged to see the baseball rebirth of Mantle, of Frank Robinson, of Joe DiMaggio. Those in his sphere describe a humble, genuine, caring person whose Pujols Family Foundation reaches out to victims of Down Syndrome and to impoverished families of the Dominican Republic.

Baseball couldn't have a better character to tear up its tainted record books. It would just feel a lot better if we hadn't said the same things about McGwire and Sosa.

(Gene Collier can be reached at or 412-263-1283. )

How Does it Feel? Dylan on Everything, Everything on Dylan

Books of the Times 'Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews'; 'The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia'

BOB DYLAN The Essential Interviews
Edited by Jonathan Cott.
447 pages. Wenner Books. $23.95.

By Michael Gray.
832 pages. Continuum. $40.

Published: May 22, 2006

Bob Dylan will turn 65 on Wednesday to the strains of "Forever Young," a song likely to be played by radio stations as if it were the national anthem. What will this symbolize? What are its ramifications? Will reaching that milestone have resonance for an entire generation?

This much is certain: He will hate hearing any of this stuff. "It's horrible," he told Playboy 40 years ago, on one of the countless occasions when he was asked if being a folk hero was a position of great responsibility. "I'll bet Tony Bennett doesn't have to go through this kind of thing. I wonder what Billy the Kid would have answered to such a question."

Billy the Kid didn't engage in a book's worth of verbal showdowns with the press. But Mr. Dylan has, and now those interviews have been invaluably collected. In an irresistible new anthology edited by Jonathan Cott, one of the original editors of Rolling Stone and arguably the most simpatico writer ever to converse with Mr. Dylan, the interview format remains eminently readable through more than 400 pages. And it yields far more than an extended conversation.

The mosaic of discussions found here (very first question: "Bob Dylan, you must be 20 years old now") is many things: biography, oral history, cultural time capsule, music lesson and psychodrama. It expands upon the mesmerizing portrait of Mr. Dylan that both his memoir, "Chronicles, Volume 1," and Martin Scorsese's documentary "No Direction Home" have lately provided.

Arranged chronologically, these interviews vary wildly. That accounts for much of their cumulative appeal. A lot depends upon who was asking the questions and how combative or cooperative Mr. Dylan happened to be feeling. "What do you think of people who analyze your songs?" he was asked at his only televised full-length news conference, in 1965. "I welcome them — with open arms," he replied, in much the same unwelcoming spirit on display in "Don't Look Back," the 1967 documentary he subsequently renounced.

Sarcasm is an understandable response, given what he found himself up against. Here's another sampling of the same session: Does he prefer songs with messages, like "Eve of Destruction?" A. "Do I prefer that to what?" Q. "I don't know, but your songs are supposed to have a subtle message." A. "Subtle message???" Q. "Well, they're supposed to." A. "Where'd you hear that?" Q. "In a movie magazine." A. "Oh — Oh God!"

Clearly, Dylan interviews are not entirely about their subject. Questioners reveal much about themselves just by talking to him. Jann S. Wenner, Rolling Stone's editor, managed to inform readers that he slept stark naked and found more importance in his Dylan run-in than might have been warranted. ("It somehow seemed appropriate enough that Judy Garland's funeral coincided with the interview.")

Nat Hentoff, writing for Playboy, gives Mr. Dylan's speaking voice a suave vocabulary and syntax it doesn't have elsewhere and remarks that the singer's "tonsorial tastes are on the conservative side," compared with those of other male performers of the 60's. "How do you feel about these far-out hair styles?" Mr. Hentoff wants to know.

Mr. Cott, whose own worshipful side emerged via Mr. Dylan ("his songs are miracles, his ways mysterious and unfathomable"), could easily have compiled a book's worth of comic absurdities.
But he has sought and captured a broad spectrum of Mr. Dylan's thinking, and of others' efforts to engage him. The book finds the rising star visiting Kenyon College in 1964, in a precociously good school newspaper account written by the future film critic and screenwriter Jay Cocks. It views Mr. Dylan through the beady eyes of A. J. Weberman, who stalked Mr. Dylan, stole his garbage and treated him to the occasional political screed. "I went on & gave D a rap against Imperialism, Racism & Sexism (he didn't seem like he was listening)," Mr. Weberman declares.

Among those who best subvert Mr. Dylan to their own purposes is Sam Shepard, who turns an interview into a two-man, one-act play. It is terse, playful and then abruptly confessional, with a fade-out at the finale. ("Bob stays still, staring off right.")

Here and elsewhere Mr. Cott identifies the major sea changes in Mr. Dylan's life via conversational format, without undue commentary. The book flags in overusing the interviewers' introductions, which rehash the same biographical details and voice-of-a-generation hyperbole.

In a book that extends from 1962 to 2004 (and shows that in September 2001 the voice of his generation was as speechless as any other), Mr. Dylan's assessments of his life and work are steadily illuminating. "There's just something about my lyrics that just have a gallantry to them," he remarked in 1991. "And that might be all they have going for them. However, it's no small thing." Passages like that reaffirm an overriding certitude: Nobody can explain Mr. Dylan as well as he, when he cares to do it, can explain himself.

Which is not to say that many, many others do not try. Michael Gray, who has spent years trying to capture Mr. Dylan's lightning in a bottle, has produced "Bob Dylan Encyclopedia" (coming in mid-June), a heavy, utterly idiosyncratic compendium. It's even up-to-date enough to make reference to "The Essential Interviews" and include a snarky reference to Mr. Cott. Among its many other categories: "book endorsements, unfortunate," "blues, inequality of reward in," "co-option of real music by advertising, the," "radical political activity in 1960s-70s US, the strange disappearance of" and "repertoire, Dylan's early, unsuited to commercial radio."

The many entries on individual songs and performers are arbitrary in their length. Sometimes they are Webermanesque in their fury. Under the heading "interviews and the myth of their rarity," Mr. Gray assails the claim by Mr. Cott and many others that Mr. Dylan is any sort of sphinx. According to Mr. Gray, Mr. Dylan has been averaging an interview a month for four and a half decades.

Neither book performs what would have been a vital function: providing annotations that refer back to Mr. Dylan's versions of events in "Chronicles." (Ray Gooch and Chloe Kiehl, the New York couple who supposedly made the young Mr. Dylan their houseguest amid a cornucopia of wonders, remain elusive in the extreme.) The facts of Mr. Dylan's life exist in many variations, and "Chronicles" tried to correct the record. If he had to be pigeonholed as the voice of a generation, surely he is entitled to the last word.