Friday, December 01, 2006

Patrick Buchanan: The War of All Against All

1 December 2006
Patrick Buchanan

A few days back, the "Today" show, speaking for NBC News, declared Iraq a "civil war," and said the network and CNBC and MSNBC would henceforth use that term to describe it.

President Bush and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow angrily objected. A civil war, said Snow, is when two identifiable armed forces war with each other for control of a government and nation. And Iraq is not that.

Contradicting Snow and the president are most journalists and Colin Powell. Speaking in Dubai, Powell declared, "I would call it a civil war ... because I like to face reality," a smart slap across the face of the president who made him secretary of state by a soldier who feels badly used by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the neoconservatives.

Is this a matter of politics and semantics?

Yes, but it is also far more than that. Those who insist on calling Iraq a civil war are consciously undercutting Bush's case that Iraq is "the central front in the war on terror," that we fight them over there so that we will not have to fight them over here.

Believing him, half the country is convinced we cannot retreat, cut-and-run, for that would mean the terrorists win in Iraq and bring the terror war to the United States. But if Iraq is but a "civil war," most American would say that it's not America's war -- let's go home.

This battle over definitions recalls Vietnam. Those who wanted to stay the course in Vietnam argued that it was the central front in the Cold War against communism, which threatened Southeast Asia today but America tomorrow. Those who had supported the war, but concluded it was no longer worth it, suddenly changed their story to declare it was now a civil war and none of America's business.

What is happening today is that those who once cheered Tommy Frank's march to Baghdad to liberate Iraq from Saddam are trying to rationalize their throwing Iraq to the wolves that the invasion unleashed. America's elite does not wish to admit the truth: that it has no stomach for fighting this ugly and unpopular war into which it foolishly marched the United States.

The baby boomer elite arrogantly and ignorantly led us into a quagmire, as their fathers did in Vietnam -- and now, just like their fathers, they lack the stamina, courage and perseverance to see it through. As they don't want to be held accountable for losing the war, they have seized upon the rationale that it was never our war to fight.

Calling it "a civil war" is a cover for people who wish to cut and run.

What is the truth? Is it a civil war, like the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, when Franco led his armies out of North Africa into Spain to overthrow a regime and end an anarchic situation where priests and nuns were being murdered and Bolsheviks seemed about to ascend to power? No, it is not.

The war in Iraq consists rather of many small wars. The Kurds in the north are seizing and ethnically cleansing Kirkut in anticipation of a day of secession that will give them a nation. Al-Qaida and the Baathists in Anbar are fighting U.S. Marines to expel them from Iraq.

Al-Qaida attacked the Golden Mosque and perpetrated atrocities against Shia civilians to incite the Shia to reprisals and ignite a Sunni-Shia sectarian war. Zarqawi, before we got him, succeeded. He set off the chain reaction that has now a momentum of its own.

The Shia initially backed the Americans and Brits against the Sunni insurgents. Having won power, however, they now are fighting each other over how orthodox the regime should be, and whether the Shia should, like the Kurds, break away and set up an independent state.

The twin pillars of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government are the U.S. military and Moqtada al Sadr, mortal enemies who have fought bloodily before and may well be preparing for a decisive Battle of Baghdad.

Iraq seems to this writer less a classic civil war, like the Spanish and the Russian civil war between "Reds" and "Whites" from 1919 to 1921, than a version of bellum omnium contra omnes, the war of all against all. That is the Latin phrase Thomas Hobbes gave to human existence in the state-of-nature thought experiment he conducted in "Leviathan."

Even our War Between the States was not truly a civil war. For the South did not seek to overturn Lincoln's election, capture the capital or rule the country. The South wanted only to secede from the Union of Abraham Lincoln as their fathers had seceded from the England of George III.

Yet, this argument about whether Iraq is or is not a civil war is deeply consequential for what it exposes. Our elite senses this war is lost, and they are preparing alibis for their roles in what may yet prove the greatest strategic blunder in American history.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Paul Sperry: Imams Gone Wild

Paul Sperry
November 30, 2006

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is demanding Congress investigate US Airway's removal last week of six imams from one of its flights. The Muslim-rights group claims the imams, who were behaving suspiciously, posed no threat.

It's "very, very inappropriate to treat religious leaders that way," a spokesman fumed.

According to CAIR, imams are as harmless as Buddhist monks and deserve no less respect. Tell that to flight attendant Kimberly Banducci.

According to police reports I've obtained, the Delta Air Lines veteran was assaulted by a Muslim cleric in a bizarre attack aboard a flight from Miami International Airport three years ago. The wild scene, which involved federal air marshals and local police, was never reported in the media.

Here's what happened: On Oct. 23, 2003, Sheikh Ahmed Hamman Mahmoud Hamman claimed he needed assistance as he boarded Delta Flight 1586. Banducci, who was flight coordinator that day, escorted the Egyptian imam, dressed in a flowing robe, to his seat. As she helped him get seated, Hamman remarked in heavily accented English how good she smelled and asked her name.

As she began to recoil from the bearded man's passes, he suddenly grabbed her face with one hand and wouldn't let go. Banducci told him he was hurting her and asked for help from passengers in the immediate area. She was able to pull away, but then His Most Holiness grabbed both her breasts and again would not release his grip. Banducci yelled at him to let go, but he refused, squeezing even harder. Only after she screamed for help and two air marshals broke cover did the man back down.

As authorities questioned him, Hamman acted like he couldn't speak any English. The Miami-Dade Police Department took him into custody where he was booked the next day for felony battery, the police report says. Delta did not press charges, however, and kept the incident from the press.

US Airways, which has been flooded with positive calls from customers for its stand against the six obnoxious imams, is poised to take over Delta in a proposed merger, making it the nation's largest carrier.

A local Muslim leader bailed the violent groper sheikh out of jail. Authorities say a man named Sofian Abdelaziz (aka Sofian Zakout, aka Sofian Abdelaziz-Zakout, aka Sofian Zakkout) representing the American Muslim Association of North America, or AMANA, posted bond for the 35-year-old Hamman, who was visiting Florida during Ramadan. Abdelaziz-Zakkout, a Kuwaiti native, was his trip sponsor.

He's also a radical Islamic activist who is a close personal friend of the notorious Shukrijumahs of South Florida, a Saudi family whose son, Adnan, is an al-Qaida operative thought to be in line to head an encore attack on America. The FBI calls him "the next Mohamed Atta." His late father was a local Wahhabi imam on the Saudi payroll.

Not surprisingly, Abdelaziz-Zakkout recently defended an accused al-Qaida confederate of Adnan Shukrijumah at his trial. He also opposed the U.S. strikes on Afghanistan after 9/11, and the U.S. assassination of al-Qaida terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.

Back to the Saintly Six imams kicked off US Airways Flight 300. Their ringleader Omar Shahin whined, "What happened to us is terrible." No, what happened on 9/11 is terrible, and airlines and their passengers will be damned if they'll tolerate any more treacherous tricks from packs of truculent Muslim men on board their flights.

Shahin knows of such shenanigans. At his former mosque in Tucson, Ariz., he ministered to two college students removed from an America West flight after twice attempting to open the cockpit. The FBI suspected it was a "dry run" for the 9/11 hijackings, according the 9/11 Commission Report. One of the students, Hamdan al-Shalawi, had trained for attacks in Afghanistan, the report says. The other, Muhammed al-Qudhaieen, 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 Shahin, the public face of the Slighted Six imams who returned to the US Airways ticket counter at the Minneapolis airport to scold agents before the cameras, and then staged a protest at Reagan International Airport in Washington.

In an "Arizona Republic" interview after the 9/11 attacks, he acknowledged once supporting Osama bin Laden through his hardline Saudi-backed mosque in Tucson. FBI investigators believe bin Laden operated a cell there. Hani Hanjour, the hijacker who piloted the plane that hit the Pentagon, attended the Tucson mosque along with bin Laden's one-time personal secretary, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. Bin Laden's former chief of logistics 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, a native of Jordan, appears to be in the middle of it.

Shahin now heads the North American Imams Federation, which is affiliated with the innocuous-sounding American Open University, where he teaches Islamic studies. The radical Islamic school, known by law enforcement as "Wahhabi Online," has raised a number of red flags at the FBI, including the fact that:

-- It's founder and chairman, Jaafar Idris, is a Sudanese radical on the Saudi payroll who was recently deported for visa fraud and spreading extremism in America.

-- A co-founder, Salah As-Sawi, is a professor at Al-Azhar in Egypt, a bastion of the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, American Open University is a fully accredited satellite campus of Al-Azhar. As-Sawi worked with Idris at the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Sciences in Washington, a propaganda center set up by the Saudi Embassy to spread Wahhabism in America. It was raided after 9/11 and is still under surveillance by federal authorities.

-- Alumni of the "university" include convicted members of the Virginia Jihad Network.

-- The school has received funding from a suspected al-Qaida front that has expressly advocated suicide attacks and using airliners as weapons. The Islamic Assembly of North America, or IANA, is bankrolled by the Saudi religious minister who stayed at the same Washington-area hotel as the hijackers the night before they attacked the Pentagon. (He feigned a heart attack when FBI agents tried to question him and was subsequently evacuated with other Saudi officials on White House-approved escape flights after 9/11.)

A former CAIR official, Bassem Khafagi, headed IANA. He pleaded guilty to terror-related charges and was deported.

CAIR, which is listed as a partner organization to Shahin's North American Imams Federation, insists American imams are peace-loving "patriots."

Oh? Would that include Omar Abdul-Rahman, the blind sheikh serving life for plotting to blow up several New York landmarks? Or Imam Ali al-Timimi, a native Washingtonian, also behind bars for soliciting local Muslims to kill fellow Americans? Or fugitive cleric Anwar Aulaqi, the U.S.-born imam who prepared some of the 9/11 hijackers for martyrdom?

How about imams Mohammed al-Hanooti and Siraj Wahhaj (a CAIR and NAIF board member), both unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspiracy?

Perhaps CAIR is referring to other imams in New York who were recently busted for buying shoulder-fired missiles. Or the one in Lodi, Calif., who planned to build an al-Qaida terror camp there, and on and on.

Yup, they all wear halos all right. Or is that orange jumpsuits? Oh, that's right, they're all so misunderstood and mistreated. Boo-hoo, somebody call the wha-a-a-a-ambulance.

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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

Ann Coulter: Coulter Gets Results!

November 29, 2006

The six imams removed from a US Airways flight last week have apparently adopted my suggestion that if they really want to protest the airline, instead of boycotting US Airways, they should start flying it frequently. The spokesman for the imams — or as I believe it's phrased in their culture, "designated liar" — Omar Shahin, staged a protest at Reagan Washington National Airport on Monday, after which, according to The Associated Press, "he and other religious leaders boarded a US Airways flight to demonstrate their determination to continue praying and flying."

The original six imams removed from the flight last week first attracted attention when they said prayers to Allah on traditional Muslim prayer rugs in the boarding area. After boarding, they changed seats, spreading themselves throughout the plane. They were also overheard spouting anti-American rhetoric. Witnesses said the six men appeared to be either Islamic fanatics or U.S. Army chaplains on leave from Guantanamo.

Following the lead of FEMA in keeping Americans safe, the Homeland Security Department's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is investigating the removal of the imams from the US Airways flight. (Talk about coincidences — I'm currently investigating the removal of the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties from the Department of Homeland Security!)

Imam spokesman Shahin is a great example of why airport security ought to be profiling Arabs. Shahin's predecessor at the Islamic Center in Tucson was Osama bin Laden's financier and head of logistics — until he was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2002. Instead of aggressively distinguishing himself from his terrorist predecessor, judging by news reports, Shahin spent the five years after 9/11 denying that Muslims were behind the attacks and complaining of phony anti-Islamic "hate crimes" — as opposed to the pro-Islamic hate crimes he presumably endorses.

In 2003, for example, Shahin alleged that a woman in Arizona had thrown shoes at children at the mosque. This is the most transparent hoax I've heard since, "If I did it, here's how I would have done it." This is like the joke about a speaker at an American communist rally opening with: "Workers and peasants of Brooklyn!" Shahin has so little insight into this country, he can't even invent a believable hate crime.

It's Arabs who have a thing about shoes being a sign of disrespect, not Americans. When Iraqis toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein, the crowd immediately pelted it with shoes. Saddam installed a mosaic of the first president Bush's face on the ground floor of his palace so that visitors would be forced to disrespect Bush by walking on his visage in their shoes. Shahin himself couldn't get away from this pan-Arabic shoe fetish, adding: "The incidents of Muslims being attacked kind of shocked me in my shoes."

Note to imams trying to fabricate hate crimes against Muslims: Americans don't share your shoe neurosis. At Reagan National this week, Rabbis joined the Muslims at the prayer protest — though one imagines they did not share this prayer from the Hadith: "And the Jews will hide behind the rock and tree, and the rock and tree will say: 'O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!'" In fairness, they usually save that one for the high holidays, like the "Festival of the Six Dead Jews" or "Honor Killing Week."

Nor this one, also from the Hadith: "The Prophet said: 'The Hour will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims kill them. The Muslims will kill the Jews. Rejoice! Rejoice in Allah's victory!'" (Is it just me, or might some fanatic twist those words into an excuse to kill Jews?)

Also strange was that the NAACP has piped in to complain about racial profiling of Muslims. The only reason Americans feel guilty about "racial profiling" against blacks is because of the history of discrimination against blacks in this country. What did we do to the Arabs? I believe Americans are the victims in that relationship. After the attacks of 9/11, profiling Muslims is more like profiling the Klan.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Michael E. Bailey: Napoleon Blown Apart

Touchstone Magazine
October 2006

Michael E. Bailey on the Pauline Aliens of Preston, Idaho

Napoleon Dynamite entered American movie theaters in 2004, having earlier garnered unexpected buzz at the Cannes Film Festival, and within a short time became a cultural phenomenon. Two years after its release, the comedy remains a perennial student film favorite as measured by the all-authoritative standard for college campus life, FaceBook, as well as by the ubiquity of “Vote for Pedro” t-shirts.

It follows the struggles of young Napoleon Dynamite, a Preston, Idaho teenager whose social ineptness at high school compounds the misery and loneliness of his wretched home life. An orphan, his family consists of his guardian grandmother, a short-tempered woman who lives a mysterious double life of fun on the sand dunes, and Kip, his unemployed 32-year-old stay-at-home brother, whose chief activity is chatting for hours “with babes” on-line.

Napoleon’s Hope

Hope enters Napoleon’s life when he befriends new classmate Pedro, an immigrant from Juarez, Mexico, and Deb, a girl who meets him while selling glamour shots door-to-door. The plot, insofar as the movie can be said to have a plot, revolves around their awkward but developing friendship as they campaign for Pedro’s improbable candidacy for school president.

Complicating matters is the overbearing Uncle Rico, who serves as guardian to Napoleon and Kip(!) when their grandmother is injured in a bizarre dune buggy accident. Uncle Rico and Napoleon clash immediately and continuously, and Uncle Rico does not hesitate to humiliate Napoleon in front of his new friends. Home is no refuge for Napoleon, and Uncle Rico’s actions threaten to undermine his friendships and only source of dignity.

At first glance, the movie’s appeal to young people is no surprise; after all, it’s a teen movie with lots of physical humor and distinctly defined characters with highly imitable voices. Yet it stays remarkably clear of most teen-movie props and clich├ęs: It is virtually free of profanity—Napoleon says “Gosh!” and “Dang it”—and it features neither female nudity nor a randy male trying to lose it or have sex with pies.

Napoleon Dynamite is a funny teen movie, but its refusal to play by the rules of most teen movies indicates that it is not, well, just another teen movie. Certainly the bookends of the movie, which show Napoleon on two forms of transportation, suggest that something important has happened to him in between.

In the movie’s opening scene, a sullen and sighing Napoleon, wearing a wild stallion t-shirt, boards a school bus with children half his age and works his way to the back. In the movie’s closing sequence, Napoleon rides a “wild honeymoon stallion” to his brother’s wedding, looking half-like another famous Napoleon.

At the risk of elaborately describing the clothes of a perfectly naked emperor, I think that the underlying theme of Napoleon Dynamite is (though the movie was made by Mormons) consistent with the moral anthro-pology of Christianity: to show us how we become genuinely human.

The point of the movie seems to be this: “Flying solo,” that is, the individualistic pursuit of one’s own happiness apart from the good of others, culminates in misery, and the only way to grow as a human, or even to become human, is through a thick community of support, responsibility, and love. Playing by oneself, as Napoleon is wont to do at the tetherball pole, is unrewarding and pitiful.

The “Decroded” Heart

Since Napoleon Dynamite may well be the most quoted movie in recent years, it seems fitting to elaborate upon three key lines that compactly reveal its meaning. Napoleon utters the first to buoy up his friend Pedro before he gives a campaign speech to the student body. He says: “Pedro, just listen to your heart. That’s what I do.”

Napoleon’s life is such a study in frustration and stunted hopes that it is difficult to believe that he actually follows his heart. But follow his heart he does. Consider the opening lines of the movie. Napoleon plops down on the last seat of the school bus and a boy less than half his age asks him, “What are you going to do today, Napoleon?” To which he responds peevishly, “Whatever I feel like I want to do. Gosh!” And then he proceeds to do exactly what he wants—though he rarely gets what he wants—for the rest of the movie.

But Napoleon is still miserable. What does it matter to follow one’s own heart when one’s heart is small and petty or, to use a favorite word of Napoleon’s, “decroded” (i.e., decayed and corroded)? Thus the film reveals a radical deficiency of individualism: Following your heart does not bring you happiness.

What if our pursuit of our heart’s every desire causes our hearts, like the Grinch’s, to become two sizes too small? What if our feverish pursuit of individual happiness causes us to neglect the communities that, in reality, make us happy? What if, like Napoleon, in our isolation or in our broken communities we have little chance of ever realizing our potential even when we follow our hearts?

Napoleon throws out of the bus window a doll-sized action hero attached to a string. I do not think it much of a stretch to conclude that this doll represents Napoleon. For the greater part of his life, he has been strung and bounced along the road of life face down in the dirt. Life is largely something that happens to Napoleon.

Napoleon is, in effect, the anti-Ferris Bueller. He doesn’t want to have fun so much as simply to survive. He has no friends (at least at first), he gets bullied at school, and he is scared of chickens. In his fantasy life, in contrast, he is a superhero who shoots wolverines, joins gangs who want him for his skills, and forges alliances with wizards and our “underwater ally,” the Loch Ness Monster.

Seek happiness all you want, the movie seems to suggest, but if your heart is decroded, you will still be miserable, a man in body, perhaps, but still just an unhappy boy on the school bus.

No Man Should Be an Island

The absence of Napoleon’s parents is the key to unlocking the underlying serious message of the movie. The threat of social isolation, of loneliness—of being left behind—looms constantly in the film. Virtually every time the filmmakers show a house, it stands by itself, isolated.

Apart from a few school sequences, there are perhaps ninety seconds in the film that show what could be described as a neighborhood or community. This is a movie of vast empty fields, lonely playgrounds, and isolated houses. In one of the film’s few visually arresting scenes, Napoleon, who has been abandoned by his Uncle Rico and is late for the school dance, is shown running to town on an open road that cuts through an immense and remote valley. The scenery mirrors Napoleon’s life.

Certainly the filmmakers go out of their way to show how Napoleon is a misfit. Another way of saying this—a Pauline way of saying this—is that Napoleon is an alien, that is, he is alienated from the world in which he lives. He is not at home in Preston, Idaho. To make sure we don’t miss the point, in the credits sequence the first item taken out of Napoleon’s wallet is a card with his name on it and a picture of—what else?—an alien.

The film’s other characters are also ill at ease in the world. Napoleon’s friend Deb is a very sweet but notably plain girl who runs a glamour studio. Pedro is literally an alien, an immigrant, living in a puzzling new land. But at least he is comfortable in the world of reality, unlike Napoleon’s brother Kip, who lives in the Internet world of chat-rooms and on-line dating.

Uncle Rico is hilariously unerotic about the present yet hopelessly romantic about the past. One of the more subtle jokes in the film is that Uncle Rico attempts to time-travel back to 1982, when the town is still stuck in 1982, judging by the music and fashion styles of the place. His attitude about the present is revealed in this line: “We can’t afford the fun pack.”

True Dreams

The film follows Thomas Hobbes in suggesting that life without community is isolated, nasty, brutish, and possibly even short. But it also suggests that life in community is possible, if difficult. Even in light of alienation, the film ends hopefully, even cheerfully. Just as Pedro predicts. In his campaign speech for school president, Pedro had concluded by saying, “If you vote for me, all of your wildest dreams will come true.”

This is the second key line of the film. The moviemakers seem to be saying through Pedro that if this kid can become class president, then anyone’s wildest dreams really can come true. But here’s the rub: Pedro’s dreams cannot come true without the support of the community. Through Pedro, the filmmakers call on the community to support him and, indirectly, one another.

The movie teaches us that friendship and community, like God’s grace, can come when least expected and in the least expected manner. Several times in the movie, we see Napoleon, like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, being rescued by the kindness of strangers. Recall Napoleon on that isolated road, running back to town to meet his date for the dance. Abandoned by his uncle, Napoleon is given a lift and thereby saved from his predicament by strangers, Pedro’s tough-cut cousins.

Pedro himself is an outsider to the community, whose friendship emboldens Napoleon and gives him new direction and purpose. Deb offers him an unexpected source of friendship and caring that is otherwise missing in his life. The individuals who should have been his bulwark and support—his brother, his Uncle Rico, and his grandmother—fail him completely, so Napoleon builds a kind of family with Pedro and Deb.

Not by Bread Alone

Food plays a weirdly prominent role in this movie. Scarcely five minutes roll by without some reference to or shot of food or drink. In the cafeteria, Napoleon stores up tater tots like a squirrel. Nachos, hot dogs, eggs, cake, “danged kesadillas” (pronounced by Napoleon’s grandmother “case-a-dill-a”), steak, fruit, bleached milk, “chimini changas,” and delicious bass all make appearances.

The characters are clearly starving. But what are they hungry for? Security? Respect? Love? Or just food? The movie credits begin by identifying characters through plates of food, a visual metaphor playing off the phrase, “You are what you eat.”

But is that true, are we just the stuff we eat? Or do we live by something more than bread alone? Is life nothing more than keeping the body free from pain and death for as long as possible?

Scripture says that he who wishes to save his life will lose it, and he who is willing to lose it for God’s sake will find it. The movie confirms this view. Napoleon subjects himself to near-certain humiliation by performing an elaborate (and comical) dance in front of the student body for the sake of Pedro’s election campaign. That the students go wild for his performance should not cause us to overlook his incredible daring.

Napoleon’s dance is an act of love. That the movie wraps up in a lovely package of warmth and hope immediately following Napoleon’s dance reveals the central message of the story: We are made complete only by first becoming vulnerable for the sake of love. No one is beyond love’s redemptive power.

Kip utters the third important line of the movie, when he says of his now in-the-flesh love: “Lafawnduh is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m a hundred percent positive she’s my soul mate.” Lafawnduh, met on-line, is a woman who arrives in Kip’s life from Detroit, sight unseen, of unknown history and of questionable profession. She is black. After meeting her, Kip, who is unquestionably the single whitest character in the history of film, wears bling and works on his street moves for her.

From initial appearances, the relationship is ill-fitted if not just plain nuts. But who doesn’t believe that he is better off with Lafawnduh? Any real human lover for Kip is better for his soul—that is, makes for a better soul mate—than the relationship he had with his beloved technology. Kip’s virtual life was pathetic. His new life is weird and unorthodox but, by comparison, a ride into the sunset.

Love Triumphant

Napoleon Dynamite is a humorous but touching critique of the inevitable loneliness and meaninglessness of individualism when it is stripped of the context of genuine community. Its message is consistent with a Christian moral anthropology, that human beings are not intended to “fly solo,” but made to live in a community marked by the vulnerability and sacrifice of love.
The movie ends in a quietly triumphant celebration of love and friendship. Pedro has won the presidency. Kip marries Lafawnduh. Uncle Rico is possibly united with his girlfriend. And Napoleon is no longer playing tetherball by himself, but is now playing with Deb, who is looking lovely and womanly. One can imagine them growing up to live happily together.
As Napoleon would say, “ Lucky!”

Michael E. Bailey is Associate Professor of Government at Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia. He serves as Deacon at First Presbyterian Church in Rome, Georgia, and is married and has three daughters.

“Napoleon Blown Apart” first appeared in the October, 2006 issue of Touchstone. Click here for a printer-friendly version.
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Robert T. Miller on the Pope's Comments Regarding Wealth Ditribution

November 29, 2006

Speaking about the many people in the world who go hungry, Pope Benedict XVI says that we need “to eliminate the structural causes linked to the system of government of the world economy, which allocates the greater part of the planet’s resources to a minority of the population.” (See the ZENIT Daily Dispatch for November 12, 2006.)

In focusing on the allocation of goods, however, Benedict misdiagnoses the problem, which really concerns economic growth. Like most non-economists, he speaks as if the world’s stock of goods and services were fixed, the only issue being how properly to distribute them. In fact, the total amount of goods and services in the world has been increasing very rapidly for a long time. According to the United Nations Statistics Division (from which all the statistics below are taken), the aggregate gross domestic product of all countries in the world—that is, the total value of all goods and services produced in the world—has increased from about $3.26 trillion in 1970 to about $40 trillion in 2004 (all measured in current U.S. dollars).

In other words, the world nowadays produces twelve times the goods and services it did thirty-five years ago, and, apart from recessions (defined as two or more successive quarters of declining GDP), we will produce even more in the future. This is why we are much better off than we were in the past.

But economic growth is very uneven, with the economic output of some countries increasing much faster than that of others. If you want to know why some countries have become wealthy and others have stayed poor, therefore, you need only compare the growth of their respective GDPs per capita. Consider South Korea and Zimbabwe. In 1970, their respective GDPs per capita were virtually identical: $290 for Zimbabwe and $291 for South Korea. By 2004, Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita had hardly budged, having increased to just $351, meaning that the average Zimbabwean was only marginally better off in 2004 than 1970. In South Korea, however, GDP per capita increased to $14,266, an astonishing forty-nine-fold increase. (In fact, matters are even worse than these numbers imply, for Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita had been as high as $867 in 1982, and from 1997 to 2004 it declined every year, from $735 to $351.) Comparisons for similar pairs of nations—e.g., Singapore and Zambia—yield similar results.

It is thus true, as Benedict says, that the greater part of the planet’s resources is enjoyed by a minority of the population, but this is because the greater part of those resources is produced by that same minority of the population. The world economy is not rigged in favor of the rich nations. South Korea did not get rich, and Zimbabwe did not stay poor, because the captains of industry and the Wall Street bankers met in a smoke-filled room and decided that they loved South Korea but hated Zimbabwe. The South Koreans got rich because they earned their riches and continue to do so, year in and year out. Zimbabweans are poor because they produce little—and less now than twenty years ago. People who produce wealth naturally think they are entitled to keep most of it for themselves and their children. I don’t dispute that such people ought to give away more of what they have, but we should be clear that they have this wealth in the first place because they are producing it themselves, not wrongfully taking it away from others.

When some people are producing a tremendous amount of wealth and others are producing little, it is fine, as a stopgap measure, to tell those producing much that they should share what they produce with those producing little. The immediate needs of the poor must be met. But any permanent solution to the problem requires that those producing little start producing more. The conditions needed to generate sustained economic growth are well known: political stability, transparent and just government, respect for the rule of law, strong property rights, free trade, free flows of capital, disciplined monetary policy, and an educated and hard-working population. Most people in the poor nations are willing to work hard, but the other conditions for economic growth rarely obtain in such nations. This is the fault, primarily, of their leaders—sometimes, it is true, aided and abetted by the governments of developed countries—who have largely prevented the emergence of the other factors needed for sustained growth. The tyranny of Zimbabwe’s Mugabe is a particularly spectacular example, but the conditions for economic growth are fragile, and pathological political, legal and economic regimes nowhere near as bad as his are quite sufficient to stifle economic growth.

In our fallen condition, such problems may be intractable. After all, we have it on good authority that we shall always have the poor with us. Still, we have to try to help when we can, and doing so begins with understanding clearly why the poor nations are poor. The problem is one of production, not distribution. Pretending otherwise only makes the problem harder to solve by obscuring its true nature.

Robert T. Miller is an assistant professor at the Villanova University School of Law.
10:21 AM

John Berlau: The Case of the DDT Deniers

November 29, 2006 7:00 AM

Kenya crazy talk.
By John Berlau

Poor little Kenya. That’s the message the media have been sending as the United Nations and European nations hold out this African country as the poster child of America’s environmental sins. In the weeks leading up today’s presentation of oral arguments in Massachusetts v. EPA — the Supreme Court case in which northeastern states are suing the Bush administration to regulate carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act — global-warming alarmists and the media have been pointing to malaria epidemics in the cooler regions of Kenya as proof of the harmful effects of human-induced “climate change.”

At the United Nations global-warming summit earlier this month in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, the Associated Press breathlessly filed a dispatch citing Kenya as the prime example of how “a warmer world already seems to be producing a sicker world.” The article proclaimed that because global warming was “disrupting normal climate zones” in Kenya, “malaria epidemics have occurred in highland areas where cooler weather historically has kept down populations of the disease-bearing mosquitoes.”

The AP article followed the predictable pattern of blaming America for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, describing how the mostly Europeans signatories were discussing “how to draw the United States into a plan for mandatory emission caps.”

Many friend-of-the-court briefs point to recent cases of malaria appearing in the world’s cooler regions to try to persuade the Supreme Court that carbon dioxide is already affecting public health and thus should be regulated. With examples such as Kenya, they are likely trying to persuade swing justices, such as Anthony Kennedy, who increasingly weigh international considerations in their judgments about laws.

Al Gore’s book and DVD, An Inconvenient Truth, also showcases Kenya. Recent malaria outbreaks in the city of Nairobi, Gore proclaims, show that “now, with global warming, the mosquitoes are climbing to higher altitudes.” At the Nairobi summit, U.N. head Kofi Annan also turned up the heat by proclaiming that climate change “is a threat to health, since a warmer world is one in which infectious diseases such as malaria … will spread further and faster.” Annan then pointed his finger at what he called “the few diehard skeptics” that “try to sow doubt,” concluding that “they should be seen for what they are: out of step, out of arguments, and out of time.”

But when it comes to global warming and malaria, many of the “diehard skeptics” who are “out of step” with Annan and the media are prominent scientists who have produced studies published by the U.N.’s own World Health Organization. Research papers from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show not only that global warming is not to blame for malaria in Nairobi and the highlands, but that flawed environmental policies are the real culprit. We indeed should cry for Kenya, but our tears need to be directed at the right target. In Kenya and elsewhere, it is modern environmentalism that is “producing a sicker world.” And it is now primarily the U.N. and Europe that are blocking Kenya from using the best tool to fight her malarial epidemics. That tool is the “environmentally incorrect” insecticide DDT.

If the AP and other news services had bothered to talk to critics of global-warming alarmism or had even done a simple Google search with words such as “Kenya,” “malaria,” and “history,” they would have discovered a remarkable fact: Epidemics of malaria in Nairobi and in the highlands are nothing new under Kenya’s sun. They have occurred many times before in this century. In those regions of Kenya, as elsewhere, malaria was greatly reduced by the use of DDT to combat the mosquitoes spreading the disease. And there as elsewhere, malaria came back with a vengeance after DDT use was halted due in large part to the scare-mongering of Rachel Carson and other enviros.

If Annan, Gore or the AP had bothered to look at a comprehensive 1999 WHO report published in conjunction with the U.N. and World Bank’s Roll Back Malaria partnership, they would have come across this startling conclusion about malaria in the Kenyan highlands: “malaria among highland populations is better described as a re-emerging [underlining in original] problem rather than a new, unprecedented phenomena.” This paper, written by scientists at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, documents that malaria “[e]pidemics in highland Kenya, varying in magnitude, location, and effect, were to recur throughout the 1940s.”

As for Nairobi, that city experienced malaria outbreaks in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, according to the WHO report, which is entitled “The epidemiology, politics, and control of malaria epidemics in Kenya: 1900-1998.” What brought an end to malaria in these regions for decades until it recently resurfaced? In substantial part, the spraying of DDT.
“Following concerted attempts to interrupt transmission during the 1950s and 1960, … malaria risks declined significantly,” says the WHO study. And DDT was a large component of these “concerted attempts.” According to the WHO paper, authorities in Kenya began spraying DDT in the 1940s, with an immediate 98 percent reduction in some regions. The report credited this spraying in substantial part for malaria not reoccurring in Nairobi after a flood in 1961.

The WHO report also casts a skeptical eye on climate playing any significant role in Kenya malaria resurgence. Measuring temperature and rainfall in Kenya’s Kericho district in the highlands, the study states that “there is no obvious effect of ‘warming’ in this area since 1967.” The U.S. CDC reported similar findings in 2005. The CDC study concluded: “Doubts exist as to the plausibility of climate change as proximate cause of epidemic malaria because global warming cannot explain the World War II epidemics. Dramatic increases in malaria in the 1990s are not mirrored by prospectively collected climate data.” And malaria researchers have also noted that the disease was endemic in many of other regions of the world, including the American South, until DDT eradicated malaria in those places after World War II.

But the malaria increases do seem to be mirrored in the reduction of DDT use. After the unfounded hysterics of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson and other eco-activists, DDT began to be used in Kenya less and less. Supply was restricted by U.S. and other nations’ bans, and in 1990 Kenya itself outlawed the insecticide’s use. Now there is extensive debate in Kenya, as elsewhere, about bringing back DDT. Two of the things that may be holding Kenya back from doing this, according to the online magazine Science in Africa, are the United Nations and the European Union. Although the WHO has commendably now called for DDT’s use in anti-malaria efforts, the U.N. Treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants phases out DDT. It does have an exception for health reasons, but imposes expensive paperwork requirements on countries that use the substance. The European Union is also shedding crocodile tears for Kenya. “Europe is tightening its restrictions on insecticide residues on East African products,” according to the magazine, and this is discouraging DDT’s use, even though it would not be used in agriculture.

Imposing strict Kyoto-like reductions on carbon dioxide may worsen Kenya’s public-health systems, as well as those of other countries including our own, by making electricity use more expensive in setting such as hospitals. My colleague Marlo Lewis delves into more of these details in his report, “A Skeptic’s Guide to An Incovenient Truth.” Critics of global-warming alarmism are often slammed as “deniers.” But to save Kenya and other poor nations from the ravages of malaria, we need to stand up to the activists and bureaucracies who should be called the DDT deniers.

— John Berlau, a policy director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is author of the just-published Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bob Ryan: A No Vote For McGwire

[I don't have a fully formed opinion on this subject...even after reading...and reading...and reading ad infinitum on this subject. I do like Bob Ryan immensely so here are his thoughts on Mr. McGwire's HOF possibilities. - jtf]

For this voter, Cardinal's sins are unforgivable on election day
By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe
November 28, 2006

The time has come, and the answer is no.

Mark McGwire may get into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot, but it won't be unanimous. I know one vote he's not getting.

This is the voting hot potato we've been waiting for, and now it's here with the release of the ballot yesterday . A while back, I would have said "dreading." But I dread no longer. I'm comfortable with my decision. If someone wants to vote for him, fine. But I'm not going to do it. I'll also wager that more people are thinking my way than are thinking the other way. I doubt that he'll get in, at least this time.

To those who will ask, "Where were you in '98, when he was hitting baseballs into places baseballs had never been hit before?" I answer, "Watching and enjoying." I was sent to St. Louis for that Labor Day weekend when he was breaking the Roger Maris record of 61 home runs. I enjoyed it all. I told people it was the most fun event of its type I had ever been around.

It was a weekend celebration of baseball. The Cardinals were playing the Reds and the Cubs, and none of them were in a pennant race. It was all about Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and mostly about Mark McGwire, who had come home from a road trip with 59 home runs.

Would McGwire get your vote?

What I loved about that weekend was the way everyone was into it. McGwire was into it. Sosa was into it. Tony La Russa was into it. Reds manager Jack McKeon was so into it he proclaimed that he would deviate from his normal policy and pitch to McGwire, regardless of circumstance. Cubs skipper Jim Riggleman was into it, stating, "We have a fascination with power." We sure did.

Everything was temporarily subservient to McGwire's quest for the record. Aside from McGwire's at-bats, I remember nothing about the games themselves. Did the Cardinals win or lose? I'd have to look it up. I truly have no idea.

What I do know is that Mark McGwire hit No. 60 off Cincinnati lefthander Dennis Reyes , No. 61 off Chicago veteran righthander Mike Morgan , and the record-breaking No. 62 off Chicago righthander Steve Trachsel . I remember the strange nature of No. 62, a low liner that, at a measured 341 feet, was McGwire's shortest of the season. I remember him almost missing first base. I remember him being greeted by his son. I remember him embracing Sosa. I remember him going into the stands to be congratulated by the Maris family. I remember even the most cynical members of the press being enormously moved and entertained by the whole thing.
Steroids were not an issue.

That seems difficult to believe now; I realize that. I had read about Associated Press writer Steve Wilstein seeing the bottle of androstenedione in McGwire's locker, but I paid that story little attention. I just didn't follow up on it. Sorry. I do recall being struck by the size of McGwire's biceps and forearms during one of his news conferences, but I attributed that to weight training and went onto other matters.

Call that approach to the issue naive, and I won't argue. Call it ignorant, and I won't argue. Call it inexcusable and what am I supposed to say? It probably was. I'm neither cynical nor suspicious by nature, except when it comes to things people say. My long years of experience in this business have taught me that owners, administrators, coaches, and players far too frequently either lie or find nothing wrong with being laughably disingenuous. I must report to you that in the world of sport, honesty and candor are not exactly valued traits.

Anyway, Mark McGwire hit his 70 homers in 1998 and his 65 in 1999 before beginning his quick decline, which we came to learn was almost undoubtedly due to the harm he had done his body by use of something that turned out to be very bad for him. I don't know what he was on, but it became clear to me, and many others, that he was on something sinister.

I don't know for sure when he started going on the juice, but if you look at his record, you notice a dramatic increase in home run frequency in 1995, when he hit 39 homers in 317 at-bats, thus reversing a decline dating from 1992. You can either take it at face value that he just got healthy that year, or you can put 2 and 2 together. I opt for the arithmetic.

We will never know how many home runs he hit that would have died at the warning track absent the extra oomph provided by the juice. 10? 30? 50? 100? It's impossible to say. I know that some voters will do an estimate and say, "OK, we'll subtract that total from the 583 he hit and, hey, he still would have hit (fill in the blank) 450, 500, however many. That's a lot of homers, and I'm voting for him." And that's their call. It's just not going to be mine.

That glorious weekend in St. Louis eight years ago? I now feel I was used. And I'm sorry, but I cannot get past that sad day in March 2005 when Mark McGwire appeared before the House Government Reform Committee and became the first American citizen to invoke the 4 1/2 Amendment. Asked if he had used performance-enhancing substances, he said, "My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself."

And then there was this classic: "I'm not here to talk about the past," he whimpered.

Well, Mark, if you can't bring yourself to talk about your past, I don't see any reason why we should waste time evaluating it. Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Jim Rice, Goose Gossage, Dave Concepcion, and perhaps one or two others will get my vote. You won't.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

Alcee Hastings: I'm An Innocent Victom of Politics

November 28, 2006 8:04 AM

He says his impeachment was a political hit job. The record says otherwise.

By Byron York

“Should impeachment in and of itself prevent me from being chair of a committee in Congress?” asks Rep. Alcee Hastings, the man who, as a federal judge, was charged with conspiring to solicit bribes and then impeached and removed from office. In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent last week to all Democratic members of the House, Hastings, now in line to run the House Intelligence Committee, answers his own question with a resounding No.

“There are several reasons why it should not,” Hastings writes. The first and most important is that Hastings, while convicted in the Senate in 1989, was acquitted in a criminal trial on similar charges several years earlier. “It is amazing how little importance is given to this fact,” Hastings writes. “It is also baffling.”

In his letter, Hastings argues that the difference between his criminal acquittal, on the one hand, and his House impeachment and Senate conviction on the other, is crucial to understanding his case. The criminal acquittal was based on a jury’s careful examination of the evidence, Hastings says, while the impeachment proceedings against him were a purely political process. “In a jury trial, the evidence is the only consideration,” Hastings writes. “In an impeachment, politics is central.”

“Obviously, I could write a book or two about the politics of my impeachment.”

But a review of the record of Hastings’s impeachment suggests that members of the House Judiciary Committee quite consciously tried to approach the matter with the thoroughness and fairness of a criminal trial — in spite of efforts by Hastings himself to stop, slow, and undermine the process.

The procedures of the impeachment were discussed extensively at a July 26, 1988, meeting of the committee in which members unanimously voted in favor of articles of impeachment. At the meeting, Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who chaired the subcommittee which investigated Hastings, addressed the political issue head-on. “It was said at times during the course of the subcommittee’s inquiry that impeachment is a political process, and that may be true, but it is also misleading,” Conyers said. “Impeachment is political in the sense that it is committed to the House of Representatives, a popularly elected and, therefore, political body. Impeachment, however, is not, nor should it be, treated in the way that we treat a piece of legislation.”

“An impeachment decision must be based upon the facts. It would be inappropriate, in my opinion, for any member of Congress to make factual determinations based upon polls or letters received or calls coming into one’s office or from any other secondary matter. “We must weigh the evidence and reach conclusions based upon what that evidence discloses, and not upon anything else.”

Conyers, who at the beginning of the proceeding said he had initially doubted the charges against Hastings case and therefore took particular pains to make sure Hastings received fair treatment, then went on to list what the committee had done. He did not want to “rubberstamp” any previous investigation, Conyers said, so he and his investigators re-reviewed everything. “We reconstructed all of the hearings, trial materials, [and] grand jury information concerning the allegations,” Conyers said.

“We obtained complete records of the proceedings involving Judge Hastings before the Eleventh Circuit Judicial Council, the transcript of Judge Hastings’ criminal trial, and the transcript of the criminal trial of [Hastings’s alleged co-conspirator] William Borders. Independent interviews of numerous persons were conducted.”

All that would have been a time-consuming process under any circumstances. But Conyers told the committee that the investigators’ work was made more difficult by Hastings. “During the course of the inquiry, the subcommittee sought certain records from the courts,” Conyers continued. “Judge Hastings, despite his assertions that he was interested in a full and complete disclosure of the facts, resisted these efforts. The matters were litigated and ultimately the committee prevailed. The delay occasioned by the litigation, however, has probably doubled the amount of time spent conducting the inquiry.”

None of what Conyers said in 1988 is consistent with Hastings’s contention that he, Hastings, was the victim of an unfair political process. Just the opposite: Conyers explained several times during the process that, because of the nature of the case, he tried to be particularly careful. “From the outset, as many on my subcommittee will attest, I did not hide my skepticism about the attempt to bring to this forum an outspoken black public official, charismatic and progressive, who appeared to be targeted based on conduct that had been heard in another arena,” Conyers explained at the meeting. “So I was more than determined in this matter to conduct a thorough and fair investigation.”

Conyers played a key role — perhaps the key role — in the House impeachment. Because Hastings was black, and because Conyers, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, had a great interest in issues of race and justice — at one point in the committee hearing, Conyers explained that he joined the Judiciary Committee “because of my concern for the impact of racism on the judicial system” — many lawmakers looked to Conyers’s opinion as the final word on whether the charges against Hastings were valid. “Conyers was the decider,” says Terence Anderson, the University of Miami law professor who has defended Hastings for decades. “If Conyers had said no, I think the House would not have proceeded.”

But Conyers said yes. And as chairman of the investigating subcommittee, he had the authority to conduct a long and detailed inquiry into the case — an inquiry that Hastings tried to stop back in the 80s and is still trying to discredit today.

— Byron York, NR’s White House correspondent, is the author of the book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President — and Why They’ll Try Even Harder Next Time.

Dennis Prager: Ellison Wishes to Take Congressional Oath on Koran

America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on
By Dennis Prager
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.
He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism -- my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler's "Mein Kampf," the Nazis' bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison's right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?

Of course, Ellison's defenders argue that Ellison is merely being honest; since he believes in the Koran and not in the Bible, he should be allowed, even encouraged, to put his hand on the book he believes in. But for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament, and the many secular elected officials have not believed in the Old Testament either. Yet those secular officials did not demand to take their oaths of office on, say, the collected works of Voltaire or on a volume of New York Times editorials, writings far more significant to some liberal members of Congress than the Bible. Nor has one Mormon official demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon.
And it is hard to imagine a scientologist being allowed to take his oath of office on a copy of "Dianetics" by L. Ron Hubbard.

So why are we allowing Keith Ellison to do what no other member of Congress has ever done -- choose his own most revered book for his oath?

The answer is obvious -- Ellison is a Muslim. And whoever decides these matters, not to mention virtually every editorial page in America, is not going to offend a Muslim. In fact, many of these people argue it will be a good thing because Muslims around the world will see what an open society America is and how much Americans honor Muslims and the Koran.

This argument appeals to all those who believe that one of the greatest goals of America is to be loved by the world, and especially by Muslims because then fewer Muslims will hate us (and therefore fewer will bomb us).

But these naive people do not appreciate that America will not change the attitude of a single American-hating Muslim by allowing Ellison to substitute the Koran for the Bible. In fact, the opposite is more likely: Ellison's doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, as Islamists, rightly or wrongly, see the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal -- the Islamicization of America.

When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization. If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11. It is hard to believe that this is the legacy most Muslim Americans want to bequeath to America. But if it is, it is not only Europe that is in trouble.

Dennis Prager is a radio show host, contributing columinst for, and author of 4 books including Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual.

Thomas Sowell: Who Really Cares?

November 28, 2006
Thomas Sowell

More frightening than any particular beliefs or policies is an utter lack of any sense of a need to test those beliefs and policies against hard evidence. Mistakes can be corrected by those who pay attention to facts but dogmatism will not be corrected by those who are wedded to a vision.

One of the most pervasive political visions of our time is the vision of liberals as compassionate and conservatives as less caring. It is liberals who advocate "forgiveness" of loans to Third World countries, a "living wage" for the poor and a "safety net" for all.

But these are all government policies -- not individual acts of compassion -- and the actual empirical consequences of such policies are of remarkably little interest to those who advocate them. Depending on what those consequences are, there may be good reasons to oppose them, so being for or against these policies may tell us nothing about who is compassionate or caring and who is not.

A new book, titled "Who Really Cares" by Arthur C. Brooks examines the actual behavior of liberals and conservatives when it comes to donating their own time, money, or blood for the benefit of others. It is remarkable that beliefs on this subject should have become conventional, if not set in concrete, for decades before anyone bothered to check these beliefs against facts.
What are those facts?

People who identify themselves as conservatives donate money to charity more often than people who identify themselves as liberals. They donate more money and a higher percentage of their incomes.

It is not that conservatives have more money. Liberal families average 6 percent higher incomes than conservative families.

You may recall a flap during the 2000 election campaign when the fact came out that Al Gore donated a smaller percentage of his income to charity than the national average. That was perfectly consistent with his liberalism.

So is the fact that most of the states that voted for John Kerry during the 2004 election donated a lower percentage of their incomes to charity than the states that voted for George W. Bush.

Conservatives not only donate more money to charity than liberals do, conservatives volunteer more time as well. More conservatives than liberals also donate blood.

According to Professor Brooks: "If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply of the United States would jump about 45 percent."

Professor Brooks admits that the facts he uncovered were the opposite of what he expected to find -- so much so that he went back and checked these facts again, to make sure there was no mistake.

What is the reason why some people are liberals and others are conservatives, if it is not that liberals are more compassionate?

Fundamental differences in ideology go back to fundamental assumptions about human nature. Based on one set of assumptions, it makes perfect sense to be a liberal. Based on a different set of assumptions, it makes perfect sense to be a conservative.

The two visions are not completely symmetrical, however. For at least two centuries, the vision of the left has included a belief that those with that vision are morally superior, more caring and more compassionate.

While both sides argue that their opponents are mistaken, those on the left have declared their opponents to be not merely in error but morally flawed as well. So the idea that liberals are more caring and compassionate goes with the territory, whether or not it fits the facts.
Those on the left proclaimed their moral superiority in the 18th century and they continue to proclaim it in the 21st century. What is remarkable is how long it took for anyone to put that belief to the test -- and how completely it failed that test.

The two visions are different in another way. The vision of the left exalts the young especially as idealists while the more conservative vision warns against the narrowness and shallowness of the inexperienced. This study found young liberals to make the least charitable contributions of all, whether in money, time or blood. Idealism in words is not idealism in deeds.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate

Robert Spencer: Pope Rage in Istanbul

Robert Spencer
November 28, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI is set to arrive in Turkey on Tuesday, and tensions are running high. Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, wrote to Benedict: “Your life is in danger. You absolutely must not come to Turkey.” And several weeks ago, a Turk named Ibrahim Ak stood outside Italy’s consulate in Istanbul and fired a gun while proclaiming his desire to strangle the pope. As he was arrested, Ak shouted: “I am happy to be a Muslim!” He said that he hoped the Pope would decide not to come to Turkey, and that his actions would inspire other Turks to violence: “God willing, this will be a spark, a starter for Muslims ... God willing, he will not come. If he comes, he will see what will happen to him.”

Turkish officials are trying to make sure nothing does. According to the Associated Press, they have “mobilized an army of snipers, bomb disposal experts and riot police, as well as navy commandos to patrol the Bosporus Straits flowing through Istanbul.” However, Meliha Benli Altunisik, a professor at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, questioned whether such precautions were necessary at all: “Will there be protests? Yes, of course. But I cannot take seriously the notion that he is in physical danger. He will rather be ignored.”

Certainly Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan originally planned to ignore him. Erdogan will be attending a NATO summit in Latvia on the first two days of the Pope’s visit and at first announced that he would not meet with him during the last two days, either. “You can't expect me to arrange my timetable according to the pope,” Erdogan huffed, and of course he’s right: how could anyone expect him to rearrange his busy schedule to meet with someone so unimportant as the Pope? (However, on Monday he did finally change his plans and agreed to meet with Benedict.)

The real reason why Erdogan did not want to meet the Pope, of course, is the same reason why security is so tight: Turks are enraged over the Pope’s speech at the University of Regensburg on September 12, 2006, in which he quoted the fourteenth century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologos: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” There were riots all over the Islamic world over these remarks in September, and several Christians were murdered in Iraq and Somalia. In Turkey, tempers haven’t cooled. Turkish politician Salih Kapusuz said: “The owner of those unfortunate and arrogant comments, Benedict XVI, has gone down in history, but in the same category as Hitler and Mussolini....It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades.” The Crusades were on Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahri’s mind also: he likened Benedict to Pope Urban II, who called the First Crusade in 1095.

Unfortunately, the danger of and anger over the Pope’s visit to Turkey has overshadowed both the real focus of the visit, and what should be its major preoccupation. The main purpose of the Pope’s trip is to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church. One may hope also that the Pope will take an opportunity to shed some light upon the woeful condition of religious minorities, principally Christians, in what is nominally a secular state that allows for religious freedom. Two converts from Islam to Christianity, Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal, are currently on trial on charges of “insulting ‘Turkishness’” and inciting hatred of Islam. What seems to be behind the charges is that Tastan and Topal were proselytizing – which, while not officially illegal, is frowned upon and has sometimes resulted in beatings of Christians trying to hand out religious literature. On November 4, a Protestant church in western Turkey was firebombed, after months of harassment that was ignored by Turkish authorities. The murderer of a Catholic priest, Fr. Andrea Santoro, last February in the Turkish city of Trabzon was recently sentenced to only eighteen years in prison. (The killer shouted “Allahu akbar!” as he fired shots at the priest.)

All this bespeaks a Turkish officialdom that is hostile – at best – to non-Muslim forms of religious expression, Turkey’s guarantees of religious freedom be damned. The institutionalized subjugation and second-class status of religious minorities under the Ottoman Empire was bad enough, but Turkish secularism has been, if anything, even worse. Constantinople was 50% Christian as recently as 1914 (its name was changed to Istanbul in 1930); today, it is less than one percent Christian. The Catholic Church has no legal recognition; Catholic churches, like other churches, remain inconspicuous so as not to draw the angry attention of mujahedin. Even the recognized Churches are not allowed to operated seminaries or build new houses of worship – in accord with ancient Islamic Sharia restrictions on non-Muslims in an Islamic state, which restrictions paradoxically enough still have at least some force in secular Turkey.

The righteous fury with which the Pope will likely be greeted in Turkey will shift attention from the shame Turkish authorities should feel over the mistreatment of Christians in their land that nominally allows for religious freedom. The mainstream media will focus on protests against the Pope, and pay scant attention to anything he may say, if he says anything at all, about the oppression of Christians in Turkey. And that, in the final analysis, may lead the Turkish government – for all its security precautions -- to hope that the protestors will turn out in force.

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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of
Jihad Watch. He is the author of six books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and the New York Times Bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). His latest book is the New York Times Bestseller The Truth About Muhammad.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mark Steyn: Quartet of ladies shows where we're headed

November 26, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times

Have you seen a movie called ''Four Jills In A Jeep''? Don't worry, it's not at the multiplex. It came out in 1944. A wartime movie, about the contribution of the gals to the big existential struggle. Great title, and downhill after that. This column is, metaphorically speaking, four Jills in a jeep: It's about a quartet of ladies who provide useful glimpses of where we're heading.

The first is Fatma An-Najar, a 64-year-old grandmother who had a livelier Thanksgiving than most grandmas. She marked the occasion by self-detonating in the town of Jebaliya, and, although all she had to show for splattering body parts over the neighborhood were three "lightly wounded" Israeli soldiers, she will have an honored place in the pantheon of Palestinian heroes. She was, according to the official statistician from the Hamas Book Of Records, the oldest Palestinian suicide bomber ever. And, naturally, her family's pleased as punch.

"We are really happy," her son Zuheir told Agence France-Presse. "She told us last night that she would do a suicide operation. She prepared her clothes for that operation, and we are proud. 'I don't want anything, only to die a martyr.' That's what she said."

Awww, bless the sweet l'il ol' biddy. She wouldn't have wanted to die a long lingering death in some old folks' home. This is the way she wanted to go: quick and painless, except for any Zionists in the immediate vicinity.

An-Najar gave birth to her first child at the age of 12. She had eight others. She had 41 grandchildren. Keep that family tree in mind. By contrast, in Spain, a 64-year old woman will have maybe one grandchild. That's four grandparents, one grandchild: a family tree with no branches.

Which brings me to our second Jill: the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to run a national division of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Kate gave an interview to the New York Times revealing what passes for orthodoxy in this most flexible of faiths. She was asked a simple enough question: "How many members of the Episcopal Church are there?"

"About 2.2 million," replied the presiding bishop. "It used to be larger percentage-wise, but Episcopalians tend to be better educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than other denominations."

This was a bit of a jaw-dropper even for a New York Times hackette, so, with vague memories of God saying something about going forth and multiplying floating around the back of her head, a bewildered Deborah Solomon said: "Episcopalians aren't interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?"

"No," agreed Bishop Kate. "It's probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion."

Now, that may or may not be a great idea, but it's nothing to do with Christianity, only for eco-cultists like Al Gore. If Bishop Kate were an Episcogorian, a member of the Alglican Communion, an elder of the Church of Latter-Day Chads, this would be an unremarkable statement. But, even in their vigorous embrace of gay bishoprics and all the rest, I don't recall the Episcopalians formally embracing the strategy that worked out so swell for the Shakers and enshrining a disapproval of reproduction at the heart of their doctrine.

Which brings me to our third Jill in the jeep: Scarlett Johansson. Like every other sad middle-aged loser guy, I fell in love with Scarlett's fetchingly pert bottom in the opening of ''Lost In Translation,'' and it pains me to discover she's no different from Bishop Kate's generation when it comes to being in thrall to the cobwebbed pieties of the 1960s. In a bit of light Bush-bashing the other day, she attacked the president for his opposition to "sex education." If he had his way, she said, "every woman would have six children and we wouldn't be able to have abortions." Whereas Scarlett is so "socially aware" (as she puts it) she gets tested for HIV twice a year.

Well, yes. If "sex education" is about knowing which concrete condom is less likely to disintegrate during the livelier forms of penetrative intercourse, then getting an AIDS test every few months may well be a sign that you're a Ph.D. (Doctor of Phenomenal horniness). But, if "sex education" means an understanding of sexuality as anything other than an act of transient self-expression, then Scarlett is talking through that famously cute butt.

Here's the question for Bishop Kate: If Fatma An-Najar has 41 grandchildren and a responsible "better educated" Episcopalian has one or two, into whose hands are we delivering "the stewardship of the earth"? If your crowd isn't around in any numbers, how much influence can they have in shaping the future?

Well, the Episcopal head honcho and even Scarlett Johansson are not the most powerful figures in the world, so let's usher on our fourth Jill: Condoleezza Rice.

"The great majority of Palestinian people," said the secretary of state to Cal Thomas the other day, "they just want a better life. This is an educated population. I mean, they have a kind of culture of education and a culture of civil society. I just don't believe mothers want their children to grow up to be suicide bombers. I think the mothers want their children to grow up to go to university. And if you can create the right conditions, that's what people are going to do."

Cal Thomas asked a sharp follow-up: "Do you think this or do you know this?"

"Well, I think I know it," said Dr. Rice.

"You think you know it?"

"I think I know it."

So many of our present woes are due to thinking we know things. To our four Jills in the jeep, let's add one Jim, apparently back at the steering wheel in the current war: James Baker, renowned foreign policy "realist" and the man Beltway wags are currently referring to as "the acting secretary of state." The "realists" think that "containment" and "stability" are wise strategies. In fact, they're the absence of strategy. The fertility rate in the Gaza Strip is one of the highest on earth. If you measure the births of the Muslim world against the dearth of Bishop Kate's Episcopalians, you have the perfect snapshot of why there is no "stability": With every passing month, there are more Muslims and fewer Episcopalians, and the Muslims export their manpower to Europe and other depopulating outposts of the West. It's the intersection of demography and Islamism that makes time a luxury we can't afford.

We can argue about exactly what this trend means, but not that it means nothing. At the very minimum, I'd suggest, it means the Episcopal Church is irrelevant to "the stewardship of the earth" and that Scarlett Johansson will end her days on an earth whose stewards regard being tested for HIV twice as a sign of many things, but not, on the whole, "social awareness."

©Mark Steyn 2006

Book Review: 'The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game'

'The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game' by Michael Lewis
Norton Publishing ($24.95)

Saved by football: Street kid's talent for the game brought him more than fame
Sunday, November 26, 2006
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By John Freeman

In spring 2004, someone sent a football game tape to high-school scout Matt Lemmings. The video quality was poor, but he knew immediately he had to check out one lineman.

"When he came off the line, it looked like one whole wall was moving," Lemmings tells Michael Lewis. "When I saw the tape I guess I didn't really believe it. ... No one who is that big should be able to move that fast. It just wasn't possible."

The kid had a name, Michael Oher, and as Michael Lewis reveals in this fascinating and heartwarming book, his size and speed were not the only singular things about him.

For starters, the fact that Oher (pronounced "oar") was in school at all was a miracle. He had an IQ of 80, and a cumulative grade point average of 0.6.

His mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict and his father was murdered.

Lemmings had no idea about Oher's background when he went to Memphis to watch him play.
Oher was a blank canvas -- a rather large, fast-moving one -- upon which Lemmings saw the possibility of a masterwork: a National Football League left offensive tackle.

As in "Moneyball," his previous book on baseball strategy, Lewis shows how a single moment in sports history embodies an enormous shift in how that game is played. The need for a player like Oher began in the late 1970s, when the NFL's passing game began to dominate offenses.

The bubble burst in the early '80s when New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor exploited quarterbacks' left sides -- their blind sides (for right-handed throwers) -- sacking them, maiming them and sometimes ending their careers.

As quarterbacks' salaries skyrocketed, coaches looked for linemen who could protect this investment.

Lewis insists Memphis Grizzlies basketball team announcer Sean Tuohy was unaware of Oher's possibilities when he saw the boy in the gymnasium of Briarcrest Christian School. He just saw a kid who might need help.

Oher had been admitted to the school, mostly white, academically rigorous and for the well-to-do, for his athletic ability. And Tuohy, who had worked his way through the University of Mississippi on a basketball scholarship, knew what it meant to have one skill and one skill only.

What began as an idle act of generosity became for Tuohy and his family a bear hug so tight it drew even the attention of the NCAA recruiting police.

Driving home one day, Tuohy and his wife spotted Oher walking through the cold. "Where are you going?" they asked.

"To basketball practice," Oher replied.

"Michael you don't have basketball practice," Tuohy said. "I know," said Oher, "but they got heat there."

From that moment, the Tuohy family made Oher their responsibility. Lewis describes what happened when a 6-foot-5, 330-pound black teenager moved in with a conservative, white, wealthy Memphis family.

In no time at all, Oher took to calling Leigh Anne Tuohy, who was his fiercest protector, "mamma," and their blond teenage daughter, "my sister."

Race, Lewis believes, was the least of their issues. They had to find clothes big enough (even the Tennessee Titans didn't have anyone as large), find him a tutor so he would be eligible to play football, and then they had to run interference when hordes of coaches descended with offers of full college scholarships.

Lewis is a terrific reporter and a gifted prose stylist. He absorbs the vibrations of the world he immerses himself in without getting carried away. So as the book progresses, he never loses track of Michael Oher.

Although he is a hulking man, Oher is often timid and afraid. He doesn't like to be touched, he says very little and he trusts almost no one.

In fact, there is a lot about Oher's past that the Touhys don't know, can't know, and Lewis beautifully captures how Oher seems to hide those pains in his massive bulk.

One day soon, that protective armor will make Michael Oher, now playing football at Ole Miss, a very rich man.
(John Freeman is the president of the National Book Critics Circle. )