Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bob Klapisch: Derek Jilted

[Obviously, I'm still not over the absurd outcome of the AL MVP selection process...Justin Morneau had a good season for a good team but Joe Mauer was the Twin's MVP...excellent defensive catchers who win batting titles are somewhat rare. That being said, Jeter should have won the award. - jtf]

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The beauty (and curse) of voting for the MVP award is that it's so ill-defined, just like the strike zone. Umpires don't call balls and strikes; they interpret them. The same blurry formula applies to judging baseball's most talented players, which is another way of saying: Good luck to anyone entrusted with a ballot.

I was one of the two New York-area writers asked to pick the American League's MVP this year. My vote went to Derek Jeter, with Justin Morneau second and Johan Santana third. In an election between right and right (there were no wrong choices here), it was Jeter's average with runners in scoring position that set him apart. For all the years we've heard that Jeter's value to the Yankees could only be quantified by intangibles, finally there was a cold, hard statistic that backed him up.

At .381, Jeter was nearly 100 points better than the industry's most feared hitter under pressure, David Ortiz. Not only did Jeter keep his cool, he did so in June and July, back when the race in the AL East was for real. Jeter was relentless when the Yankees needed him most, while Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield were on the disabled list and Alex Rodriguez was sunning himself in Central Park. The Yankee captain didn't hit the most home runs or pile up the RBI like traditional MVP winners, but in terms of rescuing his team, there wasn't a better day-in and day-out product on the market.

Of course, Jeter is no machine; he's a man, and an imperfect one at that. His range is limited at short, he strikes out too often for a No. 2 hitter (once every six at-bats). Jeter has yet to smooth A-Rod's path in New York, which, like it or not, is part of his responsibility as Yankee captain. Jeter should stick up for all his teammates, the way he did for Jason Giambi after the first baseman reportedly admitted to using steroids while testifying at the BALCO grand jury.

Jeter isn't the friendliest Yankee of this era. He doesn't have Bernie Williams innocent charm, nor does he have Mariano Rivera's off-the-field compassion. But none of that matters when you're standing in the batter's box in the ninth inning with the game on the line. Jeter is on his way to the Hall of Fame precisely because he's so coldblooded; he chooses this demeanor because it helps the Yankees, it suits his career and it makes it impossible for outsiders (like the press and fans, you and me) to get too close to him.

That's why we'll never know how Jeter really feels about being denied the MVP -- at age 32, most likely his best and last chance to win the award. If Jeter is burning inside, he'll never admit it. In a statement released by the Yankees, the shortstop called Morneau a "special player" whose first-place finish was "well deserved." Good for Jeter. Stoicism is out of fashion in this ESPN-highlight era, so to hear (or, to be more precise, to not hear) Jeter's from-the-heart response only heightens his mystique.

Thing is, there's no mystery in explaining his greatness in 2006. He beat opposing pitchers when it counted because of his enormous focus and concentration. In that sense, Jeter was the anti A-Rod, not worrying about the crowd reaction, the next day's headlines or a George Steinbrenner rebuke if he were to strike out in the ninth inning. That's why Jeter was able to single-handedly end the Red Sox' season during the historic five-game sweep at Fenway.

His two-out, two-strike RBI single off Jon Papelbon in the ninth inning on Aug. 20 did more than send the game into extra innings and lead the Yankees to an eventual 8-5 win. It broke the Red Sox' hearts. There was Papelbon, throwing his blistering 96 mph, two-seam fastball -- an impossible pitch to elevate. But Jeter somehow found a way to lift the ball into shallow right field, scoring Melky Cabrera with the tying run. That kind of hitting takes more than talent -- A-Rod has more power, speed -- it takes an internal decision to simply not fail.

A few players have it, most don't. Even Morneau conceded, "With all the pressure [Jeter] deals with, the way he handles it, he definitely deserves something like this [award]."

That's not to say a vote for Morneau was wrong, or that it's proof of an anti-Yankee bias around the country. If that were the case, A-Rod would've never won last year. Instead, there were enough voters who were more impressed with the Twins' need for grace under pressure through September, which Morneau, who drove in 130 runs, 33 more than Jeter, delivered. The Star-Ledger's Ed Price, who had the area's other MVP ballot, was swayed by that very reason.
In an e-mail Tuesday, Price wrote, "I voted Morneau first because his team was in a closer race, and I thought the way he played when the Twins got hot and got back in the race made him more instrumental to his team's finish."

Ironic, isn't it, that the Yankees' success worked against Jeter. Had they limped into the playoffs with, say, 90 wins, he would've likely routed the field. Instead, Jeter will have to live without an MVP award, the one he's waited for his entire career.

Unjust? Probably. But don't expect Jeter to complain. Being cool, even as No. 2, means never asking for a recount.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Editorial: A Profiling in Courage

Posted 11/22/2006

Homeland Security: Kudos to US Airways. Risking fines and a boycott, it did the right thing this week by removing a group of Muslim men from a flight to protect its crew and passengers.

By most accounts, the six bearded men were behaving suspiciously at a time when airports were on high alert for sky terror during the holidays. "There were a number of things that gave the flight crew pause," an airline spokesman said. According to witnesses and police reports, the men:

• Made anti-American statements.

• Made a scene of praying and chanting "Allah."

• Asked for seat-belt extensions even though a flight attendant thought they didn't need them.

• Refused requests by the pilot to disembark for more screening.

Also, three of the men had only one-way tickets and no checked baggage.

Police had to forcibly remove the men from the flight, whereupon they were taken into custody.
A search found no weapons or explosives, and they were released to continue on their journey.

Within hours, the men enlisted a Muslim-rights group to make a stink in the press, insisting they were merely imams returning home from an Islamic conference in Minneapolis. They say they were "harassed" because of their faith.

But were they victims or provocateurs?

All six claim to be Americans, so clearly they were aware of heightened security. Surely they knew that groups of Muslim men flying together while praying to Allah fit the modus operandi of the 9/11 hijackers and would make a pilot nervous. Throw in anti-U.S. remarks and odd demands about seat belts, and they might as well have yelled, "Bomb!"

Yet they chose to make a spectacle. Why? Turns out among those attending their conference was Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who will be the first Muslim sworn into Congress (with his hand on the Quran). Two days earlier, Ellison, an African-American convert who wants to criminalize Muslim profiling, spoke at a fundraiser for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim-rights group that wasted no time condemning US Airways for "prejudice and ignorance."

CAIR wants congressional hearings to investigate other incidents of "flying while Muslim." Incoming Judiciary Chairman John Con-yers, D-Mich., has already drafted a resolution, borrowing from CAIR rhetoric, that gives Muslims special civil-rights protections.

While it's not immediately clear whether the incident was a stunt to help give the new Democratic majority cover to criminalize airport profiling, it wouldn't be the first time Muslim passengers have tried to prove "Islamophobia" — or test nerves and security.

Two years ago a dozen Syrian men caused panic aboard a Northwest Airlines flight by passing bags to each other as they used the lavatory. As the plane prepared to land, they rushed to the back and front of the plane speaking in Arabic.

Then there's the case of Muhammed al-Qudhaieen and Hamdan al-Shalawi, two Arizona college students removed from an America West flight after twice trying to open the cockpit. The FBI suspected it was a dry run for the 9/11 hijackings, according to the 9/11 Commission Report.
One of the students had traveled to Afghanistan. Another became a material witness in the 9/11 investigation.

Even so, the pair filed racial-profiling suits against America West, now part of US Airways. Defending them was none other than the leader of the six imams kicked off the US Airways flight this week.

Turns out the students attended the Tucson, Ariz., mosque of Sheikh Omar Shahin, a Jordan native. Shahin has been the protesters' public face, even returning to the US Airways ticket counter at the Minneapolis airport to scold agents before the cameras.

In an Arizona Republic interview after 9/11, he acknowledged once supporting Osama bin Laden through his mosque in Tucson. FBI investigators believe bin Laden set up a base in Tucson.

Hani Hanjour, who piloted the plane that hit the Pentagon, attended the Tucson mosque along with bin Laden's onetime personal secretary, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. Bin Laden's ex-logistics chief was president of the mosque before Shahin took over.

"These people don't continue to come back to Arizona because they like the sunshine or they like the state," said FBI agent Kenneth Williams. "Something was established there, and it's been there for a long time." And Shahin appears to be in the middle of it.

CAIR asserts the imams are peace-loving patriots. "It's inappropriate to treat religious leaders that way," a spokesman said.

Yeah, they all wear halos. Omar Abdul-Rahman, a blind sheikh, is serving a life term for plotting to blow up several New York landmarks. Imam Ali al-Timimi, a native Washingtonian, is also behind bars for soliciting local Muslims to kill fellow Americans. Imams in New York were recently busted for buying shoulder-fired missiles. Another in Lodi, Calif., planned an al-Qaida terror camp there.

We could go on and on. Imams or not, US Airways did right by its customers. Shahin is calling on Muslims to boycott the airline; that might actually work in its favor. US Airways has been flooded with calls from Americans saying it just became the safest airline.

William F. Buckley: The Phony World of Minimum Wage

November 24, 2006
William F. Buckley

Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker of the House, has told us that she will call up as maybe the very first order of business increasing the minimum wage. Here are the relevant facts:

The federal minimum wage, enacted in 1938, was last raised in 1997. From that point on, with certain exceptions, you could not lawfully hire someone to work without paying him or her at least $5.15 per hour. Paying that much would yield $206 per week, or $10,712 per year. A different federal agency defines poverty as annual earnings of $9,827 or less for a single person.
The mathematics of the above informs us that the existing federal minimum wage barely keeps a single worker out of poverty.

Of course, many states and localities have enacted higher minimum wages than the federal one. In San Francisco, you need to pay a worker $8.50 an hour; in New York state, $6.75; in Wisconsin, $5.70.

We learn that 60 percent of minimum-wage earners -- two-thirds of them women -- are working in restaurants and bars; 73 percent, by the way, are white, and 70 percent have high-school diplomas. Nearly 60 percent work part time.

Now we can leech from these figures several observations:

(1) It can be very difficult to tell what a minimum wage worker is actually making. Many of those who work in restaurants and bars receive tips; then again, the minimum wage is substantially lower for people in that situation.

(2) A high-school diploma will not in and of itself give the worker merchandisable skills o'erleaping the minimum wage.

(3) Since there are part-time workers who receive only the minimum wage, a moment's reflection makes it obvious that they receive, by whatever means, income that makes life possible.

Now on the matter of what to do about it, we should begin by acknowledging that any argument for circumventing the market wage is sophistry. The market will tell you, even in San Francisco, what you need to pay in order to hire an hour's labor. But sophistry is sometimes in order. We do not allow child labor -- except in certain circumstances: Peter Pan, at the neighborhood theater, is allowed to work even if he is only 12 years old.

Monopolies are not permitted to set prices. The idea is that in a free society, you must not tolerate any constriction in production. But again, sophistry is permitted, because labor unions, in many fields of endeavor, practice exactly that -- a monopoly on the price of labor. What do we do about that? Exactly what we do about waiters who don't list their tips: We ignore it.

We learn that one individual American last year received compensation of $1.5 billion. This leads us indignantly to our blackboard, where we learn that the average chief executive officer earns 1,100 times what a minimum-wage worker earns. What some Americans are being paid every year is describable only as: disgusting. But that disgust is irrelevant in informing us what the minimum wage ought to be. The one has no bearing on the other.

We are bent on violating free-market allocations. Doing this is not theologically sinful, but it is wise to know what it is that we are doing, and to know that the consequence of taking such liberties is to undermine the price mechanism by which free societies prosper.

Milton Friedman taught that "the substitution of contract arrangements for status arrangements was the first step toward the freeing of the serfs in the Middle Ages." He cautioned against set prices. "The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum-wage laws." Those laws are "one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books."

Professor Friedman is no longer here to testify, but his work is available -- even in San Francisco.

Copyright 2006 Universal Press Syndicate

Alan Dershowitz: The World According to Carter

Alan M. Dershowitz
November 24, 2006

Sometimes you really can tell a book by its cover. Former president Jimmy Carter’s decision to title his new anti-Israel screed Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid tells it all. His use of the loaded word “apartheid,” suggesting an analogy to the hated policies of South Africa, is especially outrageous, considering his acknowledgement buried near the end of his shallow and superficial book that what is going on in Israel today “is unlike that in South Africa—not racism, but the acquisition of land.” Nor does he explain that Israel’s motivation for holding on to land it captured in a defensive war is the prevention of terrorism. Israel has tried, on several occasions, to exchange land for peace, and what it got instead was terrorism, rockets and kidnappings launched from the returned land.

In fact, Palestinian terrorism is virtually missing from Carter’s entire historical account, which blames nearly everything on Israel and almost nothing on the Palestinians. Incredibly, he asserts that the initial violence in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict occurred when “Jewish militants” attacked Arabs in 1939. The long history of Palestinian terrorism against Jews—which began in 1929 when the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem ordered the slaughter of more than 100 rabbis, students and non-Zionist Sfardim whose families had lived in Hebron and other ancient Jewish cities for millennia—was motivated by religious bigotry. The Jews responded to this racist violence by establishing a defense force. There is no mention of the long history of Palestinian terrorism before the occupation, or of the Munich massacre and others inspired by Arafat. There is not even a reference to the Karine A, the boatful of terrorist weapons ordered by Arafat in January 2002.

The Carter book is so filled with simple mistakes of fact and deliberate omissions that were it a brief filed in a court of law it would be struck and its author sanctioned for misleading the court. Carter too is guilty of misleading the court of public opinion. A mere listing of all of Carter’s mistakes and omissions would fill a volume the size of his book. Here are just a few of the most egregious:

* Carter emphasizes that “Christian and Muslim Arabs had continued to live in this same land since Roman times,” but he ignores the fact that Jews have lived in Hebron, Tzfat, Jerusalem, and other cities for even longer. Nor does he discuss the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries since 1948.

* Carter repeatedly claims that the Palestinians have long supported a two-state solution and the Israelis have always opposed it. Yet he makes no mention of the fact that in 1938 the Peel Commission proposed a two-state solution with Israel receiving a mere sliver of its ancient homeland and the Palestinians receiving the bulk of the land. The Jews accepted and the Palestinians rejected this proposal, because Arab leaders cared more about there being no Jewish state on Muslim holy land than about having a Palestinian state of their own.
He barely mentions Israel’s acceptance, and the Palestinian rejection, of the U.N.’s division of the mandate in 1948.

* He claims that in 1967 Israel launched a preemptive attack against Jordan. The fact is that Jordan attacked Israel first, Israel tried desperately to persuade Jordan to remain out of the war, and Israel counterattacked after the Jordanian army surrounded Jerusalem, firing missiles into the center of the city. Only then did Israel capture the West Bank, which it was willing to return in exchange for peace and recognition from Jordan.

* Carter repeatedly mentions Security Council Resolution 242, which called for return of captured territories in exchange for peace, recognition and secure boundaries, but he ignores the fact that Israel accepted and all the Arab nations and the Palestinians rejected this resolution. The Arabs met in Khartum and issued their three famous “no’s”: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiation” but you wouldn’t know that from reading the history according to Carter.

Carter faults Israel for its “air strike that destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor” without mentioning that Iraq had threatened to attack Israel with nuclear weapons if they succeeded in building a bomb.

* Carter faults Israel for its administration of Christian and Muslim religious sites, when in fact Israel is scrupulous about ensuring every religion the right to worship as they please—consistant, of course, with security needs. He fails to mention that between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Hashemites destroyed and desecrated Jewish religious sites and prevented Jews from praying at the Western Wall. He also never mentions Egypt’s brutal occupation of Gaza between 1949 and 1967.

* Carter blames Israel, and exonerates Arafat, for the Palestinian refusal to accept statehood on 95% of the West Bank and all of Gaza pursuant to the Clinton-Barak offers of Camp David and Taba in 2000-2001. He accepts the Palestinian revisionist history, rejects the eye-witness accounts of President Clinton and Dennis Ross and ignores Saudi Prince Bandar’s accusation that Arafat’s rejection of the proposal was “a crime” and that Arafat’s account “was not truthful”—except, apparently, to Carter. The fact that Carter chooses to believe Yasir Arafat over Bill Clinton speaks volumes.

* Carter’s description of the recent Lebanon war is misleading. He begins by asserting that Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. “Captured” suggest a military apprehension subject to the usual prisoner of war status. The soldiers were kidnapped, and have not been heard from—not even a sign of life. The rocket attacks that preceded Israel’s invasion are largely ignored, as is the fact that Hezbollah fired its rockets from civilian population centers.

* Carter gives virtually no credit to Israel’s superb legal system, falsely asserting (without any citation) that “confessions extracted through torture are admissible in Israeli courts,” that prisoners are “executed” and that the “accusers” act “as judges.” Even Israel’s most severe critics acknowledge the fairness of the Israeli Supreme Court, but not Carter.

* Carter even blames Israel for the “exodus of Christians from the Holy Land,” totally ignoring the Islamization of the area by Hamas and the comparable exodus of Christian Arabs from Lebanon as a result of the increasing influence of Hezbollah and the repeated assassination of Christian leaders by Syria.

* Carter also blames every American administration but his own for the Mideast stalemate with particular emphasis on “a submissive White House and U.S. Congress in recent years.” He employs hyperbole and overstatement when he says that “dialogue on controversial issues is a privilege to be extended only as a reward for subservient behavior and withheld from those who reject U.S. demands.” He confuses terrorist states, such as Iran and Syria to which we do not extend dialogue, with states with whom we strongly disagree, such as France and China, with whom we have constant dialogue.

And it’s not just the facts; it’s the tone as well. It’s obvious that Carter just doesn’t like Israel or Israelis. He lectured Golda Meir on Israeli’s “secular” nature, warning her that “Israel was punished whenever its leaders turned away from devout worship of God.” He admits that he did not like Menachem Begin. He has little good to say about any Israelis—except those few who agree with him. But he apparently got along swimmingly with the very secular Syrian mass-murderer Hafez al-Assad. He and his wife Rosalynn also had a fine time with the equally secular Yasir Arafat—a man who has the blood of hundreds of Americans and Israelis on his hands:

Rosalynn and I met with Yasir Arafat in Gaza City, where he was staying with his wife, Suha, and their little daughter. The baby, dressed in a beautiful pink suit, came readily to sit on my lap, where I practiced the same wiles that had been successful with our children and grandchildren. A lot of photographs were taken, and then the photographers asked that Arafat hold his daughter for a while. When he took her, the child screamed loudly and reached out her hands to me, bringing jovial admonitions to the presidential candidate to stay at home enough to become acquainted with is own child.

There is something quite disturbing about these pictures.

The Carter book is so biased that it inevitably raises the question of what would motivate a decent man like Jimmy Carter to write such an indecent book. Whatever Carter’s motives may be, his authorship of this ahistorical, one-sided and simplistic brief against Israel forever disqualifies him from playing any positive role in fairly resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. That is a tragedy because the Carter Center, which has done much good in the world, could have been a force for peace if Jimmy Carter were as generous in spirit to the Israelis as he is to the Palestinians.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Harvey Araton: Intangibles Separate Rodriguez and Jeter

The New York Times
Published: November 23, 2006

Derek Jeter lost the American League Most Valuable Player award this week to Justin Morneau, one year after Alex Rodriguez outpolled the most notorious Yankee killer of the 21st century.

A-Rod, fall guy for Yankees fans, beats out David Ortiz of the hated Red Sox, but Jeter, Mr. October and November, comes up short against Morneau, a Minnesota Twin. How, exactly, do we who claim to understand the proper order of all things Yankee explain this breach of common baseball sense that anoints A-Rod, not Jeter, as an M.V.P.?

Tuesday’s decision for Morneau, hardly outrageous or even an egregious example of anti-New York bias by any objective examination of the numbers, speaks more to the ecological imbalance that has befallen the Yankees in the six years since their last World Series was won.

Here at the onset of the hot-stove season comes another chilly reminder that the Yankees don’t spin on their axis the way they once did. There is always some wobble at the end of their rotation.

If you have been paying attention for the past 11 years, if you understand the symbiosis of Jeter’s relationship with his manager, Joe Torre, then you know how badly the organization wanted Jeter to win his first M.V.P. award, probably more than Jeter wished it for himself.

The years pass, the failures mount, but Jeter remains the standard of excellence, the embodiment of all those team-first intangibles the Yankees would have us believe were invented in the Bronx. Jeter may be alone someday, with Bernie Williams possibly exiting the stage soon, leaving him, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada as the true-blue ring bearers among the wealthy and winless, the clubhouse wing most epitomized by A-Rod and the richest contract in the history of the sport.

He, of course, sacrificed his natural position, shortstop, to be a Yankee, to play alongside Jeter, but has spent the past three years trying to reach Jeter’s champion’s perch. A-Rod climbs and climbs, inflating his Hall of Fame statistics along the way, only to stumble over himself and roll back down the hill at the end of the season.

He was not the only Yankee to flame out this fall, but how surprising, in retrospect, was his 1-for-14 division series against Detroit after all those advance alibis in Sports Illustrated? Was it really so unreasonable for an exasperated Torre to throw up his hands and bat A-Rod a humiliating eighth in Game 4?

Quickly, the Yankees squelched inevitable speculation that they had had enough and were ready to send A-Rod away, if only he would agree to go. He and his agent, Scott Boras, insist he doesn’t want out of New York. That he loves being here. With Gary Sheffield and his right-handed power bat gone, A-Rod probably has to be. But does he really buy into this whole Yankee thing, or did he come to New York “to be Mr. Madison Ave.” — as his marketing representative, Steve Fortunato, told USA Today last June?

Corny as it all may seem, scripted as Jeter can sound, he typically puts the best franchise face forward. At a memorial service last month in California several days after pitcher Cory Lidle’s death in a Manhattan plane crash, there was Jeter, right alongside Torre. Where was Rodriguez? He is not the manager, or the captain, as is Jeter, but what about his alleged standing as the team’s reigning superstar, its most scrutinized player, A-lightning-Rod?
Too many times — as with the Sports Illustrated confessional on the eve of the playoffs — Rodriguez seems to miss the impact of his actions, or inaction.

Last Wednesday, after attending his own charity poker tournament in Manhattan, he canceled on a major fund-raiser the next night at the Yogi Berra Museum in Little Falls, N.J. According to a person in the Rodriguez camp who spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity, A-Rod’s mother, Lourdes, had suddenly been hospitalized — certainly a legitimate excuse and far better than the reason David Wright’s people gave for him not showing. (Wright had been inadvertently double-booked that night.)

But Wright is a Met, A-Rod a Yankee, and because he has a history around town of blowing off events (including one of Torre’s last year), because the call to the museum to cancel was made not by Rodriguez but by one of his employees, because there was an A-Rod sighting last Friday night at courtside of the Knicks-Heat game in Miami, the museum people and the Berra family and even the Yankees’ president, Randy Levine, were said to be in a snit, with the impression that A-Rod too often gives: he just doesn’t get it.

A personal call to Berra a day or two or even three after the event is all it would have taken to deliver an expression of sincerity, to let Berra and the Yankees know that A-Rod does respect the tradition, the legacy and, in this case, the patriarchal standing of Berra, 81, as the greatest living Yankee.

Raw power may make you a most valuable player, but A-Rod, as talented and hard-working as he is, still hasn’t mastered the subtleties of team interaction, the intangibles that postseason awards typically don’t address. Without them, there is no way for A-Rod to reach the pedestal on which Jeter still stands.


George Will: Thankful From the Beginning

George F. Will
The Washington Post
Thursday, November 23, 2006; Page A39

"Twas founded be th' Puritans to give thanks f'r bein' presarved fr'm th' Indyans, an' . . . we keep it to give thanks we are presarved fr'm th' Puritans."
-- Finley Peter Dunne

But the Pilgrims who bequeathed to us Thanksgiving were not Puritans, at least as we use that term to denote busybodies bent on extirpating dissipation, meaning fun. Excessive merriment was not a pressing problem for the half of the Mayflower's 102 passengers who survived the first few months in wintry Massachusetts.

True, the Pilgrims left Holland for America in part because the Dutch had too much fun, even on Sunday, when the Pilgrims' services would last four hours, the congregation standing throughout. And two Pilgrim brothers did quarrel because one said the other was "blinded, bewitched and besotted" by his wife, a "bouncing girl who wore whalebones in her breast, an excessive deal of lace and a showish hat."

But the Pilgrims went to America, writes Godfrey Hodgson, not to become American but to remain English and devout. Rather than tarry among the licentious Dutch, they would risk life among Indians who, they had heard, flayed prisoners with scallop shells. Soon a Pilgrim was instructing Indians in the Ten Commandments, "all of which they harkened unto with great attention, and liked well of; only the seventh commandment they excepted against, thinking there were many inconveniences in it, that a man should be tied to one woman."

Hodgson is a British journalist and historian. His "A Great and Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving" makes clear that the Pilgrims embarked on the angry North Atlantic in storm season not because they wanted to impose their strict ways on anyone but to avoid being bothered by anyone.

It was not until the Cold War in the 1950s that American historians, seizing upon John Winthrop's sermon ("we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us"), suggested that the Pilgrims pioneered "American exceptionalism" by adopting a universal mission to cure this fallen world of corruptions. An American cold warrior, Ronald Reagan, was to wield that "city upon a hill" trope 30 years later while ending the Cold War.

The first Thanksgiving feast involved a few dozen English settlers and perhaps a few hundred Native Americans who, Hodgson reports, "protected themselves from cold, insect bites and so on with a thick layer of fat or grease. This may have made them smelly at close quarters though hardly smellier than the Europeans, who changed their clothes rarely." The dinner probably did not include turkey, which was rarer in Massachusetts than in England, where it had been introduced from the Mediterranean, hence its name.

This year, when one of the Transportation Security Administration's 43,000 airport screeners (perhaps two times more numerous than were Native Americans in 1620 in what is now eastern Massachusetts) confiscated a traveler's too-large tube of toothpaste, the traveler perhaps thought: Life is hard. So it is timely for Hodgson to remind us of the admiration that is due "as a tiny band of men and women, determined to follow what they believe to be the ordinances of their God, entrust themselves to the wild freezing ocean; confront disease, starvation, ferocious enemies and justified fear."

Thanksgiving, Hodgson notes, is an echo of the breaking of bread at the heart of Christian worship, and of a Jewish Seder. It also is a continuation, in today's abundance, of harvest festivals around the world, which began millennia ago, when abundance was so rare as to seem miraculous. Hodgson thinks that Thanksgiving expresses "the deepest of all American national feelings" -- gratitude. It is the inclusive gratitude "of a nation of immigrants who have lived for the most part in peace and plenty under the rule of law as established with the consent of the governed." Celebrated by turning inward with family, Thanksgiving is, Hodgson thinks, a counterpoint to Americans' other great civic festival, the Fourth of July:

"It is good to celebrate the public glories and the promise of American life with fireworks and speeches, better still to celebrate the mysterious cycle of life, the parade of the generations, and the fragile miracle of plenty, in the small warm circle of family, the building brick of which all prouder towers have always been constructed."

An Englishman (Samuel Johnson) said that people more often need to be reminded than informed. Sometimes Americans need a sympathetic foreigner, such as Hodgson, to remind them of the dignity of what they are doing, on this day and all others.

Ann Coulter: What can I do to make your flight more uncomfortable?

November 22, 2006

Six imams removed from a US Airways flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix are calling on Muslims to boycott the airline. If only we could get Muslims to boycott all airlines, we could dispense with airport security altogether. Witnesses said the imams stood to do their evening prayers in the terminal before boarding, chanting "Allah, Allah, Allah" — coincidentally, the last words heard by hundreds of airline passengers on 9/11 before they died. Witnesses also said that the imams were talking about Saddam Hussein, and denouncing America and the war in Iraq. About the only scary preflight ritual the imams didn't perform was the signing of last wills and testaments.

After boarding, the imams did not sit together and some asked for seat belt extensions, although none were morbidly obese. Three of the men had one-way tickets and no checked baggage.

Also they were Muslims.

The idea that a Muslim boycott against US Airways would hurt the airline proves that Arabs are utterly tone-deaf. This is roughly the equivalent of Cindy Sheehan taking a vow of silence. How can we hope to deal with people with no sense of irony? The next thing you know, New York City cab drivers will be threatening to bathe. Come to think of it, the whole affair may have been a madcap advertising scheme cooked up by US Airways.

It worked with me.

US Airways is my official airline now. Northwest, which eventually flew the Allah-spouting Muslims to their destinations, is off my list. You want to really hurt a U.S. air carrier's business? Have Muslims announce that it's their favorite airline.

The clerics had been attending an imam conference in Minneapolis (imam conference slogan: "What Happens in Minneapolis — Actually, Nothing Happened in Minneapolis"). But instead of investigating the conference, the government is now investigating my favorite airline.

What threat could Muslims flying from Minnesota to Arizona be? Three of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 received their flight training in Arizona. Long before the attacks, an FBI agent in Phoenix found it curious that so many Arabs were enrolled in flight school. But the FBI rebuffed his request for an investigation on the grounds that his suspicions were based on the same invidious racial profiling that has brought US Airways under investigation and into my good graces.

Lynne Stewart's client, the Blind Sheik, Omar Abdel-Rahman, is serving life in prison in a maximum security lock-up in Minnesota. One of the six imams removed from the US Airways plane was blind, so Lynne Stewart was the one missing clue that would have sent all the passengers screaming from the plane.

Wholly apart from the issue of terrorism, don't we have a seller's market for new immigrants? How does a blind Muslim get to the top of the visa list? Is there a shortage of blind, fanatical clerics in this country that I haven't noticed? Couldn't we get some Burmese with leprosy instead? A 4-year-old could do a better job choosing visa applicants than the U.S. Department of Immigration.

One of the stunt-imams in US Airways' advertising scheme, Omar Shahin, complained about being removed from the plane, saying: "Six scholars in handcuffs. It's terrible." Yes, especially when there was a whole conference of them! Six out of 150 is called "poor law enforcement." How did the other 144 "scholars" get off so easy?

Shahin's own "scholarship" consisted of continuing to deny Muslims were behind 9/11 nearly two months after the attacks. On Nov. 4, 2001, The Arizona Republic cited Shahin's "skepticism that Muslims or bin Laden carried out attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon." Shahin complained that the government was "focusing on the Arabs, the Muslims. And all the evidence shows that the Muslims are not involved in this terrorist act."

In case your memory of that time is hazy, within three days of the attack, the Justice Department had released the names of all 19 hijackers — names like Majed Moqed, Ahmed Alghamdi, Mohand Alshehri, Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi and Ahmed Alnami. The government had excluded all but 19 passengers as possible hijackers based on extensive interviews with friends and family of nearly every passenger on all four flights. Some of the hijackers' seat numbers had been called in by flight attendants on the planes. By early October, bin Laden had produced a videotape claiming credit for the attacks. And by Nov. 4, 2001, The New York Times had run well over 100 articles on the connections between bin Laden and the hijackers — even more detailed and sinister than the Times' flowcharts on neoconservatives! Also, if I remember correctly, al-Qaida had taken out full-page ads in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter thanking their agents for the attacks.

But now, on the eve of the busiest travel day in America, these "scholars" have ginned up America's PC victim machinery to intimidate airlines and passengers from noticing six imams chanting "Allah" before boarding a commercial jet.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Al Gore is Captain Planet

November 21, 2006 7:00 AM

And POTUS, too, if he has his way.
By Iain Murray

The DVD version of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is released this week. In addition to the movie, the DVD will feature a new 30-minute interview with the former vice president updating his argument. It is unlikely that he will use the segment to admit to any of the inconvenient truths I or my colleagues have pointed out, but he has bigger fish to fry: his movie has been nominated for an Academy Award. His latest intervention in global politics — a column in the British newspaper the Sunday Telegraph, objecting to a pair of articles downplaying the threat of global warming from Mrs. Thatcher’s old adviser Lord Monckton — suggests that this is a man on a mission; his likely victory speech in the Kodak Theater next February 25 could be the launch of something more.

In his article, Gore is doing again what he does best, exaggerating the arguments in favor of action on global warming while disparaging and misrepresenting the arguments against it. He has had a lot of practice at this, having repeated the same misleading points over 1,000 times in lectures all over the world. So full of holes, however, is his argument, that it is difficult to know where to begin.

We might start with the nature of scientific peer review, which Gore asserts is there to keep out ideas scientists disagree with. We should be thankful this is not the case; otherwise prevailing scientific theories would never be challenged. Peer review is actually there to elicit criticism, not suppress it. Editors ask their reviewers whether the article is worth publishing, not whether it is right. Sadly, in the case of climate science, peer review seems to be working exactly as Al Gore describes and not as the scientific model would suggest. Leading scientific journals routinely turn down articles that challenge the alarmist stance, even when they come from researchers concerned about global warming.

Gore is especially angry that Lord Monckton suggests that the Earth might not be that sensitive to the presence of greenhouse gases. Gore asserts that climate sensitivity, which represents how much temperature increase — all other things being equal — we can expect from a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is in the order of 3 degrees C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admits that there is a wide amount of uncertainty in their models as to how much temperature change we can expect from a doubling of CO2 — from 1.5 to 4.5 degrees C.
Yet when Robert Douglass and Robert Knox of the University of Rochester examined the real world effects of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, they found a climate sensitivity of only 0.6 degrees C — well below the 3 degrees Gore claims “the real world evidence” shows.

Gore also dismisses criticism of the “hockey stick” graph of historical temperatures, saying that the National Academies of Science had validated it. This is quite blatant spin. The National Academies’ report most assuredly did not state that “the late 20th-century warming in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the past 1,000 years and probably for much longer than that.” It found that current temperatures were the warmest in 400 years (which no one disputed); that the claim that temperatures were the warmest in a millennium was merely “plausible”; and that we could place very little confidence in reconstructions of temperature records before that. The report also upheld every methodological complaint against the shoddy science that produced the “hockey stick” in the first place. The “hockey stick” is most assuredly broken.

Gore also seriously misrepresents the peer-reviewed literature (ironically enough) on the relationship between disasters and climate change. Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado characterized Gore’s approach here as “deciding to uphold scientific standards only when politically convenient” and contributory to a “pathological politicization” of science. It is the ultimate irony that, when Al Gore complains about people misrepresenting the science, given his massive audience he is probably guilty of more far-reaching misrepresentation than anyone else.

As for the economics, it is no surprise that Gore lauds the Stern Review, which follows his approach in taking a worst-case scenario and exaggerating it to produce an estimate of the cost of global warming and then comparing that figure against a cost of mitigation that is well below the accepted cost estimates of such policies.

Gore also quotes Margaret Thatcher, just as he did Winston Churchill in his movie. In the chapter on global warming in her last book, Statecraft, Mrs. Thatcher warned against “the usual suspects on the left [who] have been exaggerating dangers and simplifying solutions in order to press their agenda of anti-capitalism.” Al Gore’s article fits that admonition exactly.

The former vice president has invested a lot of time and effort into making this not only his signature issue, but making it a moral, not a technical issue. He has been quite explicit in comparing the issue to the war on terror as an issue for our time. In his Telegraph article he actually concludes by saying, “At stake is nothing less than the survival of human civilisation and the habitability of the earth for our species.” Think about the implications of that for a moment. Not only is this breath-taking hyperbole, it sets Gore himself up as nothing less than the Savior of the entire Earth.

Such arrogance is surely egregious, but it also raises a question. What opportunity is there coming up for Al Gore to put himself in a position to change the course of history? Perhaps future historians will mark the opening of Al Gore’s 2008 presidential bid as Oscar night, February 25, 2007.

—Iain Murray is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Clinton Pardoned Hasting's Co-Conspirator

November 20, 2006 10:25 PM

The convicted felon who went to jail rather than testify against Alcee Hastings.

By Byron York

William Borders was a prominent Washington, D.C. lawyer when, in 1981, he was charged with conspiring with his good friend, federal judge Alcee Hastings, to solicit bribes from defendants seeking lenient treatment in Hastings’s courtroom. Hastings was charged, too, though the men were tried separately. When it was all over, Borders was convicted, disbarred, and sentenced to five years in jail. Hastings was acquitted, but later impeached and removed from office.

In addition to his sentence, Borders went to jail two other times as a result of the Hastings matter, both times when he refused to testify against his friend. In the first instance, after his sentencing in 1982, Borders was ordered to cooperate with the continuing grand jury investigation into Hastings’s conduct. Borders refused to talk, was cited with contempt, and sent to jail. He served about six weeks before being released at the end of the grand jury’s term.

Later, in 1989, after the House passed articles of impeachment against Hastings, Borders was called to testify at the Senate trial. He was given immunity for his testimony but again refused to talk. The Senate threatened him with contempt. Borders would not budge. Finally, the Senate referred the matter to a federal judge, who ordered Borders to testify. Borders again refused, and the judge sent him to jail. “Borders has refused to testify in this impeachment proceeding as well as in all other proceedings in which, if Judge Hastings’ version of the facts is true, Borders could have established Judge Hastings’ innocence,” House impeachment manager Rep. John Bryant told the Senate on October 18, 1989. “Borders is in jail today at this moment and will be until this body votes, and he is in jail for refusing to testify before the impeachment trial committee despite a grant of immunity. I ask you, on behalf of the House managers, why would he go to jail, again, if by his testimony he could honestly vindicate his close friend of so many years?”

The answer to that question, Bryant concluded, was that Hastings was guilty, and Borders knew it. “The fact is that Borders will not talk, because if he tells the truth he must acknowledge Judge Hastings’ role in the conspiracy, and if he does not tell the truth he risks placing himself in violation of the law again,” Bryant argued. “And that is why he refused to testify, and that is why the judge did not call Borders to testify at his own trial.”

Borders never talked. He was behind bars for about eight weeks, and was released when the trial ended, after the Senate had voted to remove Hastings from office.

At various times over the years, Borders has tried to have his license to practice law in the District of Columbia restored. But his episodes of contempt, in addition to his original conviction for bribery, led the legal bodies involved to conclude that, even though he had done his time, he did not feel remorse for his actions nor a respect for the law under which he was punished. He remains disbarred today.

None of that, however, stopped President Bill Clinton from granting Borders a full and unconditional pardon as part of the flurry of controversial pardons Clinton issued during his last hours in office. The pardon documents listed Borders’s crime this way: “Conspiracy to corruptly solicit and accept money in return for influencing the official acts of a federal district court judge (Alcee L. Hastings), and to defraud the United States in connection with the performance of lawful government functions; corruptly influencing, obstructing, impeding and endeavoring to influence, obstruct and impede the due administration of justice, and aiding and abetting therein; traveling interstate with intent to commit bribery.” The document did not mention Borders’s contempt. (That same day, Clinton also pardoned another contemnor, Whitewater figure Susan McDougal, who went to jail rather than reveal whether the president testified truthfully at her trial.)

Borders’s pardon surprised some of those who were most familiar with the Hastings case. “Some [names on the pardon list] will raise eyebrows,” Reid Weingarten, who as a Justice Department attorney prosecuted Hastings and Borders, told the Washington Post. “For example, I was Bill Borders’ prosecutor and, while I have sympathy for the man, I thought his crimes were unpardonable.”

The entire Borders/Hastings issue would not be coming up now but for the fact that Hastings, who ran for and won a seat in Congress in 1992, is in line to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, one of the most sensitive posts on Capitol Hill. Republicans who would like to see Hastings passed over, and nervous Democrats who would like to see the same thing, are poring through old records of the impeachment, trying to reconstruct what happened in the case and how it might reflect on Hastings’s fitness for the chairmanship.

The issue is so sensitive that some observers have questioned whether Hastings, given his impeachment and removal from office for conspiring to take bribes, would qualify for the security clearances needed to serve as chairman. The answer, according to sources on the Hill, is yes. According to those sources, if you’re a member of the House of Representatives, you’ve already got the clearance you need. “The best way to understand it is that, by virtue of having been elected by their constituents, members are already granted the privilege of access to classified government information,” says Jamal Ware, a spokesman for the Intelligence Committee. “Members are given access to the classified information they need to carry out their job.”

Ware explains that members of Congress sign an oath pledging not to reveal classified information, and that members who join the Intelligence Committee sign a second oath specific to work on the committee. The first, more general, oath is not mandatory — indeed, there are a few members who refuse to sign — but it, along with the second oath, is required for service on the Intelligence Committee. In any event, Hastings, despite his record, would not be barred from becoming chairman.

Monday, November 20, 2006

In Memoriam: Milton Friedman

From OpinionJournal:


Freedom Man

Milton Friedman had both genius and common sense.

Saturday, November 18, 2006 12:01 a.m.

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Milton Friedman was one of the very few intellectuals with both genius and common sense. He could express himself at the highest analytical levels to his fellow economists in academic publications and still write popular books such as "Capitalism and Freedom" and "Free to Choose" that could be understood by people who knew nothing about economics. Indeed, his television series, "Free to Choose," was readily understandable even by people who don’t read books.

Milton Friedman may well have been the most important economist of the 20th century, even if John Maynard Keynes was the most famous. No small part of Friedman’s achievement was rescuing economics from the pervasive and virtually unquestioned Keynesian orthodoxy that reigned in many places.

Ironically, Friedman began his career as a believer in both Keynesian economics and in the liberals’ vision of the world with which it was so compatible. Yet, in the end, no one did more to dethrone both. It is doubtful whether Ronald Reagan could have been elected president in 1980 without the changes in public opinion produced by Friedman’s work in the previous decades.

The Keynesians’ belief that government policy could wisely make trade-offs between rates of inflation and rates of unemployment was epitomized in the Phillips Curve, which seemed to lend empirical support to that belief. Friedman dealt that analysis a body blow when he argued that it was not the rate of inflation which reduced unemployment but the fact that inflation exceeded expectations.

In other words, even a high rate of inflation would not reduce unemployment if inflationary policies became so common as to be expected. The "stagflation" of the 1970s--with simultaneous double-digit inflation and double-digit unemployment--validated what Friedman had said, in a way that no one could ignore.

Unlike so many intellectuals who have aspired to positions of power, Friedman preferred to remain outside of government and independent of politicians. His influence was nevertheless great because his ideas moved others, whether in the economics profession, in the general public or among policy makers.

Friedman’s many contributions to economics, recognized by the Nobel Prize that he received in 1976, were only part of his contributions to society at large. His decades-long campaign to promote school vouchers has been enshrined in the foundation named for him and his wife, the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. He was a compassionate conservative long before that term was coined, for the rich obviously do not need vouchers to get a decent education for their children.

Friedman’s own personal background made him familiar with the problems of those who begin life without the privileges of the elite--and of the importance of education as a way to advance beyond their beginnings. Born in Brooklyn in 1912 to immigrant parents, he grew up in New Jersey, living over his family’s store, and worked his way through Rutgers University. Later, he went on to postgraduate work at the University of Chicago. The rest, as they say, is history.

As the central figure in the "Chicago School" of economists, and an outstanding teacher, Friedman over the years sent forth into the world--overseas as well as in the U.S.--a stream of economists who influenced the thinking, and in some cases the policies, of countries all around the world. These students, along with his writings, are part of his enduring legacy. His popular writings, speeches and television appearances spread his ideas through successively wider circles of people, who passed these ideas on to others, many of whom may never had known where these ideas originated.

As one of those privileged to have studied under Friedman, I felt a special loss at his death but also a sense of good fortune to have learned from him, not only when I was at the University of Chicago but also in the years and decades since then. He was a tough, no-nonsense teacher in the classroom but a kind and generous human being outside.

Students were not allowed to walk into his classroom after his lecture had begun, distracting others. Once, I arrived at the door just minutes after Friedman began speaking and had to turn around and go back to the dormitory, wondering all the while whether what he taught that day would be on the next exam. After that, I was always in my seat when Friedman entered the classroom. He was also a tough grader. On one exam, there were only two B’s in the whole class--and no A’s.

The other side of Friedman was his generosity with his time to help students, and even former students. In later years, long after I had left the University of Chicago, he helped me with his criticisms and advice on my work--only when asked. When I was offered an appointment to the Federal Trade Commission in 1976, he was asked by the White House to urge me to accept but he declined to do so. It was the best non-advice I ever got. I would have been miserable at the FTC.

Although in recent years we were both members of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, we each lived miles away and neither of us was physically present there with any great frequency, so the chance that we would both be there on the same day was virtually nil. The last time I saw Friedman in person was in 2004, when we were jointly interviewed on television. Afterwards, he gave me a ride in his little sports car over to the Stanford faculty club, where we joined a group for lunch. Then he drove back to his home in San Francisco, 30 miles away, though he was at the time in his 90s.

More recently, I happened to chat briefly with Friedman on the phone a few days before his death, and found his mind to be as clear and sharp as ever. That will always be a special memory of a very special man, one of the giants of our time--intellectually, morally, and as a human being.