Saturday, December 23, 2006

Knight ties Smith with 879 wins

By JAIME ARON, AP Sports Writer
December 23, 2006

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- Add this to the list of things you can say about Bob Knight: Nobody has ever won more Division I men's basketball games.

Knight matched Dean Smith's record of 879 victories when Texas Tech beat Bucknell 72-60 on Saturday.

Knight's first chance to own the top spot all by his sweater-wearing self comes Thursday night at home against UNLV.

"Any time a coach is given an award or honor the great thing about it is that it recognizes everyone involved -- the players, the assistant coaches," Knight said. "I know that Dean Smith felt exactly the same way because he epitomized what coaching is all about."

Already a Hall of Famer, Knight now has a share of the record some believe drove him back to coaching after being fired by Indiana after 29 years, three national titles and one too many run-ins with players, bosses and fans. Since resurfacing in 2001 at this West Texas school in the heart of football country, "The General" hasn't changed much.

He's still fiery, as evidenced by him jerking up a player's chin earlier this season. He still runs a motion offense and tight man-to-man defense. And he's still winning: a 115-64 record with three trips to the NCAA tournament in five full seasons at a school that went twice the previous 15 years.

About all that's changed is the color of his sweater (black, instead of Hoosiers red) and the importance of the milestones, none bigger than this one, no matter how much Knight has tried to downplay it.

In his 41st year of coaching, Knight has a career record of 879-353. Smith went 879-254 over 36 years, all at North Carolina. Knight and Smith also are the only men to have won national championships as players and coaches. They also share the record for coaching in the most NCAA tournaments (27).

Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt is the overall leader in major-college victories with 913 going into Saturday.

Playing before 11,561 fans, the second-biggest crowd in the campus arena's history, and without third-leading scorer Charlie Burgess (groin), Tech led for all but a couple possessions in the opening minutes.

Bucknell (5-6) got within 42-39 early in the second half, but missed 13 straight shots starting with a 3-pointer that could have tied it. The Red Raiders capitalized with a 17-0 run and it wasn't close again.

Jay Jackson scored 10 straight points during the game-breaking spurt and scored 18 points for Tech (10-3). Martin Zeno also had 18, while Alan Voskuil scored a season-high 15 and Darryl Dora added 14.

John Griffin scored 16 points for Bucknell, which had won five of six. Donald Brown had 13 and Chris McNaughton added 12.

Although the blowout drove away most fans, those who stayed were standing when time ran out, with three of them holding up black posters with the numbers 879.

There was no postgame announcement of the feat, and it was hardly acknowledged by his five assistants. Only Chris Beard patted him lightly on the back as he walked by, although Tim Knight, one of the coach's sons, went to get the ball from Dora.

Some fans stuck around while Knight did a postgame television interview, but it wasn't heard in the arena and he treated it as just another win as he walked to the locker room.

Karen Knight, a former girl's high school basketball coach in Oklahoma, sat in her usual seat about 20 rows up from the Tech bench. She declined to comment about the impending win record but said she is "absolutely" proud of her husband.

"Always proud of him," she said.

Updated on Saturday, Dec 23, 2006 6:40 pm EST

Dan Wetzel- Bob Knight: Doing it his way

By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
December 21, 2006

LUBBOCK, Texas – Leaning back on a couch in the coach's locker room here, Bob Knight is running through Bucknell tape on his big screen TV, back and forth as Texas Tech's next opponent runs a well-executed ball screen.

As sleet and freezing rain slam the South Plains here on Christmas week, Knight is huddled deep inside United Spirit Arena, one thought on how to get career victory No. 879, and one thought on the media that has been hounding him for nearly all of the previous 878 – most recently when he clipped player Michael Prince on the chin last month.

It is that thought that makes him hit pause and fire off a glare.

"That is why I have such a bad (expletive) feeling about all of you (expletive)," he says.

Knight still wonders how things could get so mixed up with the media, with some of the public.
Actually, he doesn't wonder.

He is fairly convinced that, like a lot of things in college athletics, like a lot of things in the world today, common sense, perspective and the ability to separate the important big things from the superfluous little ones is lost.

While he is not inclined to discuss that a victory Saturday over Bucknell can tie him with Dean Smith as the winningest coach in Division I history, human nature suggests that deep down the record brings additional validation to his methods, to his success.

Bob Knight, no matter what they say, will be on top, without peer, without apology.

Knight, 66, hasnt changed a bit and isn't planning on it. He still is the unapologetically demanding coach. He still is a profound stickler for NCAA rules – no matter how disdainful he can find them. He still is the industry leader in demanding academic success and ultimate graduation of his players. And without question his competitive desire to win has not waned one bit.

He was that way at Army in 1965, where he started his head coaching career at age 24. And he will be that way when he eventually retires on top of his profession. He has no regrets, no remorse – no matter what the media says.

"I've done it my way and I think we've been pretty successful the way I've done it," he said.

One of Knight's prized possessions is a letter from Walter Byers, the pioneering former NCAA executive director who from 1951 to 1988 built the Association into the billion-dollar powerhouse it is today. Byers was a no-nonsense guy who ruled the NCAA with an iron will and an uncompromising vision. It is little surprise he and Knight were friends.

The letter arrived when Knight came here to Tech, when there was still so much fallout from his dismissal at Indiana, still so much negativity. One line in particular is Knights favorite:

"Every game has its rules," wrote Byers, "and over time you've played the game on the important points as cleanly and openly as anyone I've known."

"I don't think," said Knight, "there is anything I have received I appreciated more than that."

To Knight it isn't so much the ultimate vindication as much as it is the proof that someone smart, someone with principle and someone who clearly knows what goes on in college athletics was paying attention and recognized the big stuff.

In terms of the purpose of college sports, Knight's view (which most would agree with) falls into three main categories.

1. Assure an education (both academically and in life skills) for student-athletes.

2. Follow the NCAA rules.

3. Win.

After that, it's all small stuff. After that, what really matters? If you happened to be the coach who has a near 100 percent graduation rate, who has hundreds of former players who swear your teaching drove them to success – and if you happened to do all this while following NCAA rules as well as anyone and you won more games than anyone, would you want to hear about flipped chins, thrown chairs and press conference meltdowns?

But the media coverage of Knight is about the sensational, about the controversial, in part because Knight keeps providing new material. There is little question he is held to a double-standard, but much of that is his own creation.

While almost every news account mentions his successes, it inevitably ends with but … And Knight can't quite figure out why there is the need for the but …

Like Byers, he has been in college athletics a long, long time and he knows as well as anyone that the coaches who don't cheat and who do care are significantly fewer than the public believes.
The NCAA's system of selective enforcement inadvertently convinces the public the cheaters are few and far between – that there are white hats and black hats out there.

Reality is just the opposite. Just about everyone wears grey.

"I would say the majority of major college basketball programs break the rules," said Sonny Vaccaro, the long-time shoe company czar who by operating summer basketball camps, tournaments and all-star games since the 1960s has been privy to about every under-the-table dealing that ever went down.

"Because of my role and because I've been, I guess, a sounding board for these things, I know these things. I've heard it all. I've been there for these things. And with Bob Knight I've never heard a single thing, not first hand, second hand, third hand. Nothing. Not ever."

What Vaccaro knows is that rampant rule breaking takes place not just among the usual suspects, but also within programs run by the game's Mount Rushmore figures, the ones with the most pristine reputations, the guys fans just don't want to believe could be corrupt. He is forever laughing at the disparity between reputation and reality with some of these guys, the ones who employ sugar daddy boosters or whose recruits' parents magically move near campus or offer big money "graduation" gifts for players. But that stuff, he says, has powered some of the dynasties in this sport.

"You'd be disgusted with the number of coaches in the Hall of Fame who got there by cheating," he said. "The American public wouldn't believe it."

Which is why Vaccaro, who has never been close with Knight and whose summer basketball world has been the brunt of many a Knight diatribe, says you can't just dismiss the big stuff because doing it is so, so rare.

"What the fans should realize is that if this is about the student-athlete, about education and following the rules, if that is what matters, then I am saying Bob Knight is the greatest of all-time. And there is no one even close. And there never will be."

Yet as ESPN previews the upcoming Tech games that will propel Knight to the record, the videos that flash across that big screen TV are him getting into it with officials, players and reporters. Following the rules doesn't make for a great highlight. Nor do graduation ceremonies.

"You get tired (of the press)," said Knight. "You get tired of all that. Because I yelled at somebody that supersedes everything else?"

Knight says "I am not my brother's keeper." He says, "I'm not a policeman." He says that while he decided early on to place more value on academics and compliance, it doesn't bother him that so many others in college athletics didn't. Even if it has affected him many times in recruiting.

Knight has been able to recruit and coach some very good players during his career, particularly during his run at Indiana. But the truly great players often eluded him. In his entire career he coached just one NBA All-Star (Isiah Thomas from 1979-81). By comparison, Dean Smith coached 12 who appeared in a collective 61 All-Star games.

For the most part he targeted the guys he thought he could get and went from there. He didn't bother with the ones that wanted more than tuition, room and board; the ones that didn't want any part of actually attending class.

At IU he was literally surrounded by scoundrels – Illinois, Louisville (twice), Kentucky (three times), Cincinnati (three times), Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue – a perfect circle around Bloomington – who all were hammered with major infractions during his time with the Hoosiers. During his five seasons so far in the Big 12, three of the regular season champions (Kansas and Oklahoma) are already on NCAA probation for major rule violations.

"How many people cheat today?" Knight said. "I don't know. I've had one concern as long as I've been coaching and that is how we do things, period. If they put me in charge of it, and that was my job, then I'd bust up a lot of things.

"It's everybody's choice. My choice is there are rules there so we'll try to follow the rules. And that is the way I was taught and that's the way my parents taught me – that there is a right way and a wrong way.

"The kid that goes (to a school that cheats), that's the chance he takes, that (he goes where) it is just about playing four years of basketball or whatever.

"If I broke rules to win games I wouldn't get anything out of them. You know, what games we've won, we've won totally within the rules."

Yet for years he watched as cheaters succeeded, watched them receive glowing praise in the press. For years he received phone calls and letters from players, who after playing for coaches with better reputations, were asking him for help, advice, and guidance.

"Over the years I have had a lot of kids at other schools call me to help them get jobs," Knight said. "So when kids from other schools, kids we played against or I have met somewhere along the way, are calling me to help them, I think that is an indication that their schools don't much give a damn about the kids. And there are a lot of those.

"To me, that's academic fraud."

He sighed and went back to the Bucknell tape for a minute, watching an inbound play closely for some flaw his 9-3 team can exploit. He sat up for a second to get a closer look and then leaned back in the chair.

"I don't have a bad feeling about the guys who want to cheat," he said. "I have a bad feeling for people in your profession who don't recognize what's important and what isn't – and fail to recognize what has been good and what hasn't. That is why I have such a total lack of regard for most people in your profession.

"He threw a chair. What difference does it make if you threw a chair? How (expletive) many guys have thrown things? Bats out on the field, balls, picked up bases, water coolers, thrown coats? How many guys have kicked something over?

"I'm tired of that. That's what Im tired of."

Dating all the way back to his playing days at Ohio State, where he was John Havlicek's teammate on the 1960 NCAA championship team, Knight has questioned the decision making of the NCAA. He's watched the game get bigger, grander, more professionalized and more competitive. Often for the good, he notes, but sometimes for the bad.

The latest trend he can't comprehend is the NCAA's willingness to be used by the NBA as a one-year way station for top pro prospects. NBA Commissioner David Stern instituted a 19-year-old age limit to stop the preps-to-pros trend. It forced the best high school players into college, such as Ohio State's superb center Greg Oden.

But for whatever excitement that brings the fans, such a decision stands in stark contrast to what the NCAA is supposed to be about. Many of the top prospects openly claim they are only going to attend school for one year, no one even pretends that graduating is a goal anymore.

"These rent-a-players, that's the worst thing I've seen happen in college basketball," Knight said. "These guys who can come in for one year and play, that's not college basketball. College basketball is a game for kids that are going to college to graduate not going to college for one year and then move on."

In fact, the one and done student-athlete doesn't have to be much of a student at all under current rules. For a freshman to retain his eligibility into the second semester he needs to earn a meager D in just two classes and flunk the other two. A player could do virtually no academic work in the fall semester and then not attend a single class the spring semester before dropping out the day after the season is over to turn pro.

"So I can come in and (learn nothing) the first semester and then play the second semester without ever going to a class and then quit," said Knight. "Is that what college basketball is all about?"

Knight believes the NCAA is being duped by the NBA because it is so desperate for the talent infusion that they'll compromise all logic.

"(David) Stern doesn't give a damn about college basketball. The NBA saves a hell of a lot of money with these kids coming in early like they do."

Knight's suggestion is to make players who want to attend college sign an agreement that will keep them on campus at a minimum of two years. Or else take a scholarship away from schools that recruit these kinds of players. Anything else is ridiculous and hypocritical.

"It is ludicrous (to allow a) kid who is only going to be there one year have a real effect on the outcome of an entire season of college basketball. And these people talk about academics and graduation rates."

Knight's record of compliance is pristine, yet he hates the NCAA rule book for its arcane and confusing items. He has volunteered to tear it up and turn it into a 10- to 20-page document. He considers the NCAA's new academic requirements that force schools to graduate athletes at a higher rate than the student body or face sanctions to be illogical. He doesn't believe morality can be legislated.

"The rules are not going to keep people from violating them."

Mostly he can't believe how little common sense is being applied.

"I don't think there is anybody in the NCAA hierarchy who has ever coached and very few who have ever played. And it is the same with presidents. How many of them have ever coached? How many of them have ever played? It is amazing.

"The person that through the years the NCAA has gotten furthest away from is the kid," he said. "(They never consider) what's best for the kid."

The three-second clip of Bob Knight flipping Michael Prince on the chin is a snapshot of a full-time, lifetime interaction between coach and player, teacher and student, mentor and protégé. That's how Knight sees it. That's what he believes.

It was just one moment, one interaction. All the other days, the games, the practices, the meetings, the bus trips, the late-night phone calls when the player is long since graduated are missed.

Most people see the footage and see it the other way: Knight once again out of control. But if you can't imagine why he keeps doing these things, why he keeps making it difficult for people that want to support him, want to hold him up as what is good in college sports, then you don't understand Knight. For Knight, the end justifies the means because the end result is so good.

"If I didn't do things like that my kids wouldn't be as successful as they have been," he says.
Knight pauses the Bucknell tape again, turns and makes sure he is getting this message across clearly. This, he believes, is the entire point, the entire missed point when it comes to his career. Never mind the acts that don't seem proper. They are proper because they produce the proper results.

"If I didn't yell, if I didn't demand, if I wasn't tough, if I didn't have the stringent rules, my kids wouldn't be as successful," he said. "You don't graduate players today in college without getting on their ass. You don't make kids better people without getting them out of their comfort zone.
"Why do I have as many kids graduate as anyone? Why are our kids so successful? If I did things the way you'd like me to do them, that are politically acceptable to everybody, then we wouldn't beat anybody, we wouldn't accomplish anything.

"See, that is the thing guys don't grasp."

His mind goes right back onto the game tape, about the next opponent, about the next victory.
After four decades, he is about done even trying to explain all this stuff. He knows, at this point, he probably isn't changing any minds. And his is certainly not going to change, an all-time wins record of not.

As always, he wonders why the world just doesn't always think like he does.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Friday, Dec 22, 2006 1:47 am EST

Rich Lowry: Christmas at the Battle of the Bulge

December 22, 2006 12:00 AM
Won’t Be Home for Christmas
Spending the holiday at the Battle of the Bulge.

“Sir, this is Patton talking … You have just got to make up Your mind whose side You’re on. You must come to my assistance, so that I may dispatch the entire German Army as a birthday present to your Prince of Peace …” — Prayer of Gen. George S. Patton, Dec. 23, 1944

It is with Patton’s plea to the Ultimate Commanding General that Stanley Weintraub opens his new book, 11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944. The tale of the worst Christmas for American soldiers since Valley Forge, as Weintraub puts it, is especially resonant with American troops again in harm’s way on Christmas, this time in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they call on the same resources of bravery and perseverance as their forebears.

The Allied breakout from Normandy in the summer had convinced Gen. Dwight Eisenhower that the war with Germany would be over by Christmas, but as the Allied advance slowed, the Germans hatched a plan to counterattack through the Ardennes forest. They hoped to punch though the thin Allied lines there and surround four Allied armies. In Hitler’s desperate delusion, the Allies in the West would be forced to come to terms. Behind the cover of the thick forest and the horrid weather, the Germans scored initial successes, creating the “bulge” in the Allies’ line. American casualties reached at least 80,000 throughout the course of the battle. The troops fought in conditions that would, in other circumstances, have been a winter wonderland, among evergreen trees freshly covered in snow. American troops suffered frostbite, and the inclement weather favored the Germans, delaying reinforcements and neutralizing American air superiority.

Soldiers who were lucky created makeshift Christmas trees by hanging grenades on pine trees. But GIs who were captured by the Germans were packed into boxcars in unsanitary conditions and got almost nothing to eat. “They filled the time wanly singing carols,” Weintraub writes. “The Germans complained that it kept them awake and threatened to shoot if the songs didn’t cease.” At the front, German loudspeakers broadcast across the lines, “How would you like to die for Christmas?” Americans didn’t intimidate so easily. One American soldier in the encircled city of Bastogne commented to another, “They’ve got us surrounded — the poor bastards.”

When a German commander demanded the surrender of the Americans at Bastogne, Gen. Anthony McAuliffe famously responded in a note, “To the German Commander: ‘Nuts!’” It became clear that the Germans weren’t going to achieve a quick breakout. “Even broken American divisions,” Weintraub writes, “evidencing courage and resourcefulness, had slowed, if not blunted, the German offensive beyond expectations on both sides. The Bulge was producing little strategic benefit.”

Gen. Patton, who had been looking forward to thrusting toward the Saar region of Germany, instead had to relieve Bastogne. Earlier, he had badgered his chaplain to pray for optimal conditions for an offensive. The chaplain noted “that it isn’t a customary thing among men of my profession to pray for clear weather to kill fellow men.” Undeterred, Patton asked, “Are you teaching me theology or are you the chaplain of the Third Army?” Patton distributed a printed prayer for good weather to his troops and made his own appeal, noted above. The weather improved, and Patton wrote in his diary, “A clear, cold Christmas, lovely weather for killing Germans, which seems a bit queer seeing Whose birthday it is.” By early January, the Germans were forced to withdraw from the Ardennes, and the Allies were at the Rhine by March.

One schoolmaster returning to his blasted classroom after the battle found a message scrawled on the blackboard from a distraught German officer: “From the ruins, out of blood and death shall come forth a brotherly world.” Unlikely as it seemed at the time, he was right. The Allied victory created the predicate for a free Europe at peace. One prays that the Christmastime exertions by today’s American troops eventually create equally beneficent results.

Notes on the above picture:
Members of the 101st Airborne Division walk past dead comrades, killed during the Christmas Eve bombing of Bastogne, Belgium, the town in which this division was besieged for ten days. This photo was taken on Christmas Day. 1944

Travel year in review: Springsteen show renews heart in New Orleans

Travel year in review: Springsteen show renews heart in New Orleans
Updated 12/21/2006 5:34 PM ET
By Jerry Shriver, USA TODAY

Best experience

"Brothers and sisters, don't you cry, there'll be better times by and by," implored Bruce Springsteen during the opening song of his performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April.

But most of us 50,000-plus disciples who had gathered at the fairgrounds to hear him that afternoon couldn't help it. Tears of sorrow, anger, joy and release dripped freely onto soil that nine months earlier had been swamped beneath Katrina's aftermath. In those desperate days, few believed that America's greatest cultural festival would ever be staged again, let alone in its normal slot the following spring.

Yet during the opening weekend a near-record, ebullient crowd, drawn from across the country, flowed through the gates to embrace all of those devastated but resilient food vendors, musicians, craftsmen and behind-the-scenes workers who had returned. The initial sight of that outpouring set my wife to sniffling.

I held off until Springsteen's show, which closed the opening weekend. This was the public debut of Bruce's boisterous 17-piece ragtime/Dixieland/oompah/rockabilly band that he assembled to play spirituals, protest songs and feisty American ballads written or popularized by Pete Seeger.
From the opening piano and fiddle runs of Oh, Mary Don't You Weep to the hymn-like version of When the Saints Go Marching In 2½ hours later, the group created the most powerful musical performance I have seen in 35 years of attending concerts.

Every probing lyric and urgent arrangement seemed tailored to the region's and the country's plight. And when coupled with Springsteen's poignant spoken tributes to the city and his expressions of outrage and hope, the effect was pure catharsis. It's a sound I am still replaying in my heart.

READ MORE: Springsteen helps Big Easy overcome Food will be jazzing up New Orleans' spirit

Steve Popper: Memories lured Pettitte back

Friday, December 22, 2006
Bergen County Record

Andy Pettitte had already gone through the heart-wrenching decision to leave New York -- his baseball home -- three years ago, so he had no intention of contemplating leaving his real home again. He was convinced he would either return to the Houston Astros for another season or just hang it up, ending his career at age 34.

And then in November he went to Joe Torre's Safe at Home Foundation Dinner in New York, which happened to feature a 10-year reunion of the 1996 Yankees. He mingled with his former manager and listened to his old friends implore him to return. And he began to wonder.

"I got to see a bunch of the guys," Pettitte said. "They were talking to me about coming back. At that time there was no chance. It was Houston or nowhere -- retirement. It was out of my mind, but all the guys were talking to me. I would kind of smile at them. They were excited and I was excited.

"I had the opportunity to see everybody, see all the guys on the team and talk. I actually had to leave right after the dinner and wasn't able to spend Saturday with them. My son had a playoff football game. Everybody knew I was a free agent. They were planting the seed, but at that time there was no chance."

Having been drafted by the Yankees and been a key part of the franchise's success during his nine seasons in New York, the memories pulled at Pettitte as much as Houston and family had for him when he left New York.

He returned home and spoke with his family and found that, unlike three years ago, his wife and children were not opposed to him returning to New York. On Thursday, the Yankees finally officially welcomed Pettitte back with a $16 million one-year deal and a player option for 2008.

The longing for New York was no more powerful than the longing the Yankees felt for Pettitte, who was everything that his replacements were not -- a big-game pitcher who was at his best in the postseason. So once the seeds were planted, the Yankees put on a full-court press.

"Coming back to the New York scene, seeing lot of former teammates, rustled up emotions of what he felt like here," Brian Cashman said. "Being in New York City, under the Yankee umbrella, stirred some emotions. It was something he cherished. It was a hard decision to leave, just like the decision to come back up here."

But will Pettitte's decision affect the decision of his pal, Roger Clemens?

"He was excited," Pettitte said. "He said he'd like to see me go to New York. My gut feeling, I would imagine, is that he's going to play. I have no idea where. But he's continued to come back and continues to be the best pitcher in the league, so why wouldn't he play? Who with, I have no idea. I know that'll be a major decision he has to make in his life."

Fr. Stylianos Muksuris: God's Greatest Gift at Christmas

God's Greatest Gift at Christmas
Fr. Stylianos Muksuris

". . . all celebrate seeing God on earth and man in the heavens; because of his condescension they see down on earth him who, through his philanthropy, is found in heaven" (St. John Chrysostom, Second Homily on the Nativity).

Why is Christmas important to you? Undoubtedly, people of all ages and different backgrounds will answer this seemingly uncomplicated question in their own unique way. Many express contentment about receiving gifts during this season, while others look forward to sharing their time and resources with others. Some find excitement knowing that the holidays will provide them with some much needed respite from work or school, while still others anticipate being surrounded by good friends and food - and not necessarily in that order! Realizing then the great diversity of such views, I have attempted to avoid transforming this present contribution into one more personal opinion about the significance of Christmas.

As Christians, we believe that the birth in the flesh of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ, has set into motion the process of salvation. St. John Chrysostom's insightful characterization of the Nativity feast as "the center of all festivals" indicates that all subsequent events in the life of our Lord, celebrated liturgically by the Church, find their commencement with the human birth of Christ (On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, Homily 6, PG 48.752). In other words, had Christ not been born in the flesh, He would never have been baptized, crucified, or resurrected in the flesh.

Nevertheless, the Nativity does more than set a sequential basis for the other Christian holidays. More importantly, it imbues the other feasts of the Church with a profound realism, linking the incarnated God with every aspect and phase of human life. In other words, since God is now tangible, He is finally understandable in the full breadth of His love and compassion for the world. Likewise, man perceives that God, through Jesus Christ, has finally visited His people in the most special of ways and has comprehended and assumed in toto the human condition (despite the fact that God's awareness and concern for man has always far surpassed man's own expectation).

This ability then to understand and be understood lies at the very core of the Christmas message, and it is precisely this model of Christian life that our Lord offers to each of us this holy season as His gift of love. Though the Wise Men from the East offered the innocent Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes precious material gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the Lamb of God offers to His worshippers a spiritual gift far more precious than money can buy. Man adorns the Christ Child with the material best of his world; God adorns man with the spiritual wealth of His heavenly Kingdom. And this gift of God comes complete with the following simple directions: "I have entered your beautiful world, the work of My hands, and have embraced you, My people. It is now your turn to learn from My humble example, to enter My Kingdom and embrace God."

What our Lord offers us at Christmastime is the opportunity to essentially adopt a new approach to life and people, His approach. He invites us to incarnate ourselves into the very fabric of our neighbor's reality, to understand and love him rather than to despise him, to forgive her rather than to judge her, and to support rather than to humiliate. In assuming this 'incarnational approach' to life, we would indeed be fulfilling the will of God and living up to the noble motto which proudly graced and still graces the halls of my old Catholic high school: Efficiamur Christiferi ("Let us become Christbearers").

This "foreign and strange mystery" of Christ's birth in the flesh beholds the powerful union of both the heavenly and earthly realms, "the cave as heaven, the Virgin as a Cherubic throne . . . upon which reclined the Boundless One, Christ God" (9th Ode of the katavasiai of the Nativity). Chrysostom makes a most interesting observation, namely, that the Incarnation was necessitated by a "lack of space in heaven", so to speak: "This is why he became flesh, so that the manger could accept him whom heaven cannot contain" (St. John Chrysostom, Second Homily on the Nativity). Put otherwise, God's limitless love for man overflowed from heaven and trickled down upon the earth, making our world, with the divine presence of the incarnate Logos, an extension of God's super-celestial Kingdom. And this expression of divine agape took the form of One who not only fully understood but was fully understood by others, giving to the world a model of living capable of transforming man into god, in St. Athanasius' estimation (On the Incarnation 54).

Christmas is indeed a time of warmth, togetherness, and sharing. However, we cannot and should not overlook the greatest gift God gives to each of us, which is Himself and the model of life He taught us through His humbling condescension and daily example of genuine concern and charity. It is in this 'incarnational approach' that the secrets of true happiness, joy, and peace - sought by people the world over -- are made manifest in their entirety.

Fr. Stylianos Muksuris, BA, MDiv, MLitt, PhD (cand.), is a graduate of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA, and the University of Durham, Durham, UK, and specializes in Eastern Liturgy and Theology. His doctoral dissertation is entitled "Economia and Eschatology: The Mystagogical Significance of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy's Prothesis Rite in the Commentaries of Sts. Nicholas Cabasilas and Symeon of Thessalonike". He has also authored "The Anaphorae of the Liturgy of Sts. Addai and Mari" and the "Byzantine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great: A Comparative Study" (unpublished MLitt thesis). He may be reached at:

Posted: 21-Dec-06

* Information on the above painting:
The Nativity with Donors and Saints Jerome and Leonard, ca. 1510–15
Gerard David (ca. 1455–1523)
Oil on canvas transferred from wood
The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.20a–c)

Film Review: "The Good Shepherd"

Company Man: Hush, Hush, Sweet Operative
The New York Times
Published: December 22, 2006

“The Good Shepherd,” a chilly film about a spy trapped in the cold of his own heart, seeks to put a tragic human face on the Central Intelligence Agency, namely that of Matt Damon. The story more or less begins and ends at the Bay of Pigs. In between there is a spicy, lively interlude in the 1930’s at Yale University, where little boys are made of skull and bones and secret societies. Yale leads to World War II, cloak and dagger and a British spy cut from the same bespoke cloth as Kim Philby. Then it’s over to Washington, where the citadels of power loom against the cheerless sky like tombstones.

Mr. Damon, who plays a super-spy warrior in the “Bourne” films, excels at secretive men, and few are as mysterious as Edward Wilson, the spy catcher in “The Good Shepherd.” (The title refers to the Bible passage in which Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”) Though a composite, Wilson seems largely based on the fascinating, freakishly paranoid James Jesus Angleton, a Yale graduate and poetry lover who served in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and ran C.I.A. counterintelligence from 1954 to 1974. Mr. Angleton cultivated orchids; Wilson builds the more prosaically symbolic miniature ships in bottles.

Mr. Angleton is now widely thought to have hurt the C.I.A. more than he helped it, and articles on the agency’s Web site ( frame his tenure in generally unfavorable terms (it had “devastating results,” for one). Written by Eric Roth and directed by Robert De Niro, “The Good Shepherd” doesn’t address the full consequences of that devastation, partly because it wants to take on the institution as well as the man, and partly, one imagines, because Mr. Angleton’s crippling paranoia would have been too difficult to shape into a neat narrative. “The Good Shepherd” is an origin story about the C.I.A., and for the filmmakers that story boils down to fathers who fail their sons, a suspect metaphor that here becomes all too ploddingly literal.

Certainly fathers and sons offer a serviceable alternative to martinis and Aston Martins.
Created in 1947, the C.I.A. has been responsible for many deeds, including our abiding fascination with spooks. No matter which way public sentiment shifts about the agency and its handiwork (Chile, Nicaragua), we remain fascinated with spies, or at least an idea of them, an idea in which matchbox cameras and microphones invariably figure more prominently than miles of locked filing cabinets. Secrets make agencies like the C.I.A. sexy, no matter how rumpled the raincoats. The most interesting thing about “The Good Shepherd” is how hard the filmmakers work not only to demystify the agency, but also to strip it of its allure, its heat.

In “Betrayal,” a book about Aldrich Ames, the double agent who for years ferried C.I.A. secrets to the Soviets, the agency is characterized as “a cross between Yale’s secret Skull and Bones society and the post office.” In its basic outline Mr. Roth’s overly busy screenplay takes the same approach to the agency as it follows Wilson’s journey through institutions of power. At Yale he joins the Skull and Bones, where the power elite helps reproduce itself by bonding and dressing like the orgiastic partygoers in “Eyes Wide Shut.” The all-male members of this clandestine group don’t have sex with one another, at least on screen, but they do mud-wrestle naked, a ritual that underscores the homosocial nature of Wilson’s world.

Yale and World War II are the juiciest bits of the story, partly because they involve the charismatic Dr. Fredericks, played by a superb Michael Gambon. A Yale professor with a leer as insinuating as his walking stick, Dr. Fredericks tries to seduce Wilson into some antidemocratic chicanery through their shared love of poetry. (At Yale, Mr. Angleton helped found a poetry magazine in which he published Ezra Pound, a family acquaintance.) This attempted seduction parallels a rather more comical one involving Angelina Jolie, who plays Margaret Russell, the sister of another Yale student. With her poppy-red lipstick and raucously aggressive sexuality, Margaret proves a far more successful seducer than Dr. Fredericks, as female pulchritude and power triumph over manly poetry and secrets.

Ah, but not for long. This is a man’s world, after all, filled with specters skulking through alleys with blood on their hands and the world on their shoulders. Conscripted into the O.S.S., Wilson travels to London, where he apprentices in espionage and intelligence and meets Arch Cummings (Billy Crudup), a fop with a posh accent patterned on Kim Philby. The film shies away from the more provocative aspects of Mr. Angleton’s long acquaintance with Mr. Philby, and the years they lunched together while Mr. Philby worked for the Soviets. Whatever its true nature, the friendship hurt Mr. Angleton’s marriage, as he later admitted: “Once I met Philby, the world of intelligence that had once interested me consumed me. The home life that had seemed so important faded in importance.”

That spells trouble for Ms. Jolie, alas, who after her spectacular entrance has to spend most of the film as the aggrieved, abandoned wife. It is not a good fit. A force of nature, Ms. Jolie reads more believably when she’s running through the jungle in boots and a bikini, as she does in the “Tomb Raider” flicks, than when standing on the sidelines in a domestic nightmare. But stand and screech and gamely slosh the booze she does while Mr. Damon’s spy helps win the war and later helps turn the C.I.A. into a shadow empire with some dependable character actors: Mr. De Niro as one of the agency’s founders, the dependably great Alec Baldwin as an F.B.I. agent and an equally fine William Hurt as the pipe-smoking head of the C.I.A.

Mr. De Niro does fine in his avuncular role and, in the main, even better as the film’s director. He imbues “The Good Shepherd” with a funereal vibe that works especially well on the dark, dank streets of London, where Wilson learns his first repellent lesson in spy-catching, and during his early years in Washington. Among the film’s most striking visual tropes is the image of Wilson simply going to work in the capital alongside other similarly dressed men, a spectral army clutching briefcases and silently marching to uncertain victory. In silhouette the men recall the gangsters in a Jean-Pierre Melville film, even as their anonymity evokes the drones in Madeleine L’Engle’s book “A Wrinkle in Time” who are ruled by an evil disembodied brain called IT.

Who rules the drones in “The Good Shepherd”? Who is IT? The president, the people, American mining and banana companies, the ghosts of fathers past, the agency itself? It’s hard to know, though now the C.I.A. answers to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. These are hard questions, but they are also too big, too complex and perhaps too painful for even this ambitious (2 hours, 37 minutes) project, which can only elude and insinuate, not enlighten and inform. Although the film seems true in broad outline and scrupulous detail, and the postwar Berlin rubble looks as real as the documentary footage of Fidel Castro slipped between the lightly fictionalized intrigue, there is something ungraspable and unknowable about this world, even if it is also one we ourselves have helped create.

“The Good Shepherd” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). There is some violence, including a scene of torture, as well as adult language and tactful sex.


Opens Friday nationwide.

Directed by Robert De Niro; written by Eric Roth; director of photography, Robert Richardson; edited by Tariq Anwar; music by Marcelo Zarvos and Bruce Fowler; production designer, Jeannine Oppewall; produced by James G. Robinson, Jane Rosenthal and Mr. De Niro; released by Universal Pictures. Running time: 157 minutes.

WITH: Matt Damon (Edward Wilson), Angelina Jolie (Clover/Margaret Russell), Alec Baldwin (Sam Murach), Tammy Blanchard (Laura), Billy Crudup (Arch Cummings), Robert De Niro (Bill Sullivan), Keir Dullea (Senator John Russell Sr.), Michael Gambon (Dr. Fredericks), Martina Gedeck (Hanna Schiller), William Hurt (Philip Allen), Timothy Hutton (Thomas Wilson), Mark Ivanir (Valentin Mironov No. 2), Gabriel Macht (John Russell Jr.), Lee Pace (Richard Hayes), Joe Pesci (Joseph Palmi), Eddie Redmayne (Edward Wilson Jr.), John Sessions (Valentin Mironov No. 1/Yuri Modin), Oleg Stefan (Ulysses/Stas Siyanko), John Turturro (Ray Brocco), Laila Robins (Toddy Allen), Christopher Evan Welch (Photography Technical Officer), Neal Huff (Teletype Operations Officer), Jason Butler Harner (Teletype Communications Officer), Amy Wright (Safe House Operations Officer) and Ann Hampton Callaway (1961 Deer Island Singer).

Bob Knight: On the brink of history

Knight's son assists in coach's success
Saturday, December 23, 2006
By Betsy Blaney, The Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Bob Knight talks to his son every day about coaching.

It isn't always about offense, defense or even recruiting. Sometimes it's about dealing with a particular player or the media.

But one topic they discussed last season surprised Pat Knight, who will take over at Texas Tech whenever his father retires.

"Believe it or not, my use of language," said the younger Knight, noting the irony of the conversation given his father's penchant for spewing expletives. "He just brought it up."
Pat Knight will be beside his father today, his first chance to tie Dean Smith as the all-time winningest Division I men's coach with 879 victories. Texas Tech (9-3) plays at home against Bucknell (5-5).

Since his father arrived at Tech in 2001, Pat Knight has been taking notes, literally. Bob Knight suggested his son keep a notebook and jot down coaching tidbits and inspirational fodder to motivate players.

But the learning began years earlier.

"I think it really started when I played for him at Indiana," said Pat Knight, who played for the Hoosiers from 1991-95. "But it's been even better being a coach."

It's not all sweetness, though. Sometimes their discussions turn into head-butting sessions.
"It gets heated at times but at least we get all our ideas on the table," Pat Knight said. "We each want to get our point across."

The senior Knight downplayed the help he gives his son, other assistants and players.

"I just teach them the little I know and hope it helps them become better," Bob Knight said.
Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers, who brought Knight to West Texas after he was fired from Indiana University, said the father and son work well together.

"I think it's been good for Bob," Myers said. "I can't imagine any of his former assistants having more input or influence than [Pat] has as far as game preparation and recruiting."

Bob Knight's knowledge has been amassed through 41 years of coaching. During that time he's won three national championships, 11 Big Ten Conference titles and an Olympic gold medal in 1984. Earlier this month he took over the No. 2 spot on the victory list from Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp, who held the No. 1 spot for 25 years until Smith, who coached his entire career at North Carolina, topped him in 1997.

Knight has garnered headlines for his accomplishments and for his volatile temper. His disdain for reporters, the media in general, is well-known. He's talked about it that, too, Pat Knight said.
"It's amazing the different aspects he talks to me about," like "dealing with the press better than he has," the younger Knight said.

Side-by-side on the bench, there have been moments when Pat Knight bounds up just after his father when he looks as if he's about to unleash his well-known temper. Pat Knight tries to calm him, the son said.

"You got to," Pat Knight said. "If I didn't do it no telling what would happen."

Some say the time at Texas Tech is a second chance for father and son to spend time together. Before his divorce in 1986, Bob Knight was often on the road. After the split, Pat Knight lived with his mother.

"It's a great opportunity to have a relationship with his kids, a second opportunity, and in a different way, too," said Steve Downing, who played for Knight at Indiana and is an associate athletic director at Tech. "I don't think you can put a price on that type of relationship."

Friday, December 22, 2006

Russell Moore: Cash Refund

From Touchstone Magazine's "Mere Comments"

A year ago I wrote in Touchstone about the haunting Christian imagery of the music video of the late Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' song "Hurt." The article noted the contrast of this video, which featured images of an dying, weakened Cash and his wife June shortly before their deaths, losing at the MTV Video Awards to bubblegum pop-star Justin Timberlake. This year, Timberlake and Cash are together again, in a way that almost completely evacuates Cash's music of what made it unique.

It is hard to see how the video of Cash's song "God's Gonna Cut You Down" from his posthumously released American V: A Hundred Highways album could be more out of place. The song is a chilling reminder of God's final judgment, of His all-seeing evaluation of human action, of His eschatological justice. Cash sings:

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, The gambler, The back biter
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut 'em down

These lyrics, explicitly Christian in their message, come with added emotional momentum precisely because they are sung by a dead man, or rather by a man who was living when he recorded them but who now has faced the judgment himself. The video of "Hurt" communicated exactly what the dying Cash seemed to understand, echoing Solomon of old: wealth, celebrity, fame, all of it is vanity in the maw of the grave. By contrasting images of the young celebrated Cash with images of the old, gasping, arthritic Cash, his "House of Cash" closed down and boarded over, the video turned then to what Cash saw as the only real alternative to his empire of dirt: the cross of Christ Jesus.

The video for "God's Gonna Cut You Down," however, is a "Where's Waldo" of youth and celebrity. Cash's voice sings of human inability to escape the wrath to come while the images run past of current celebrities: Timberlake, Sheryl Crow, Chris Rock, Bono, Johnny Depp, Lisa Marie Presley, the Dixie Chicks.

On the one hand, there is something jarring about seeing the most celebrated "stars" of the moment mouthing words about God "sooner or later" cutting us down. The vanity of the celebrities themselves is evident up against these sober words. But what is missing here, at least visually, is the warning of the song itself: the inevitability of death.

The celebrities who agreed to show up in this video probably saw this as a good career move, or perhaps as an afternoon's tribute to the "Man in Black." I wonder if any of them realized, as they lip-synced Cash's song, what he came to see. God doesn't subscribe to Us Weekly. If there is Botox, it will fail. If there is silicon, it will cease. If there are groupies, they will leave. If there are royalties, they will wither away. Only love is as strong as death (Song of Songs 8:6).

And love isn't a commodity to be sold, or a song idea to be packaged. He's a Man in White.

Posted by Russell D. Moore at 11:34 AM Permalink Comments (12) TrackBack (0)

Patrick Buchanan: The real schismatics and bigots
Friday, December 22, 2006

"I grew up in the Episcopal church. I hope I don't cry when I talk about this. But the issue is: Are we going to follow Scripture?"

So an anguished Katrina Wagner, a member of the leadership of Truro Episcopal parish, told Washington Post reporters Bill Turque and Michelle Boornstein. They have been covering the sad Christmas story of the breakup of the Episcopal Church in Northern Virginia. Nine parishes have voted to secede from the American church.

What forced the break was the installation at the National Cathedral of Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada as presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church. Schori has blessed homosexual unions and supported the consecration as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire of V. Gene Robinson, a priest who had left his wife to enter a homosexual union. At last report, Robinson was cohabiting with his gay lover.

Traditionalists have had it with the hierarchy, and the in-your-face elevation of a green and trendy liberal prelate to lead them broke it. Not only have the nine parishes severed ties, with more considering secession, seven of 111 Episcopal dioceses have rejected Schori's authority. Sad as the story seems, however, it produced mirth and mockery from Washington Post columnist Howard Meyerson.

"Whether it was the thought of a woman presiding over God's own country club or gays snuggling under its eaves, it was all too much" for the "Fairfax Phobics," wrote Meyerson. This is "just the latest chapter in the global revolt against modernism and equality and, more specifically, in the formation of the Orthodox International."

And what, exactly, is the "Orthodox International"?

"The OI unites frequently fundamentalist believers of often opposed faiths in common fear and loathing of challenges to ancient tribal norms. ... The OI's founding father was Pope John Paul II, who ... sought to build his church in nations of the developing world where traditional morality and bigotry, most especially on matters sexual, were ... more in sync with the Catholic Church's inimitable backwardness. Now America's schismatic Episcopalians are following in (John Paul's) footsteps -- traditionalists of the two great Western hierarchical Christian churches searching the globe for sufficiently benighted bishops."

The reference to "benighted bishops" is to Archbishop Akinola, who believes, as the 13 colonies and 50 American states did up until the late 20th century, that homosexual sodomy should be a crime. Jefferson, the patron saint of liberals, thought active homosexuals should be emasculated.
Meyerson dismisses the Fairfax dissenters as a "distinct minority." Yet, he concedes that only 13 of 38 national churches in the Anglican communion ordain women, and only three -- the United States, Canada and New Zealand -- permit the consecration of women bishops.

So who are the real schismatics, the real heretics?

In rejecting the authority of Schori and refusing to bless homosexual unions, the dissenters have God, Scripture, and church teaching and tradition on their side. Did not Christ Himself say to the Pharisees of his day: "Have ye not read that He who made man at the beginning 'made them male and female'? And He said, 'For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh.'"

As for the Old Testament, Leviticus is a good deal rougher on the Mattachines than even Archbishop Akinola.

And, tell us, Meyerson, if the dissenters believe in their hearts that Christ restricted the priesthood and apostolic succession to men and that homosexual sodomy is a sin against God, which, persisted in, corrupts the soul and can bring eternal damnation, should they stand firm in the faith -- or should they conform to the commands of "modernity"?

Meyerson is particularly upset that Pope John Paul's "Orthodox International" -- Israeli rabbis, Christian and Islamic clergy -- came forward to "bury ancient enmities and to jointly condemn a gay pride festival" in Jerusalem. Yet one need not be a raging homophobe to think it probably not a good idea -- in the middle of a Moslem intifada that may lead to a war of civilizations between Islam and the West -- not to have 100,000 Sodomites cavorting in the Holy City.

In discussing the late pope and traditional Christians, Meyerson tosses about insults like "benighted," "tribal" and "Phobics." He charges the Catholic Church with "backwardness," and draws a direct parallel between Catholic teaching and "tribal norms" and "traditional morality and bigotry."

Meyerson's is the authentic voice of an anti-Catholicism that is out of the closet and on the op-ed pages of the national press.

"Episcopalians Against Equality" is the title of Meyerson's piece. But this is surely unjust. None of these folks has called for the denial of any rights to homosexuals. They are simply saying that, as faithful Christians, they cannot elevate to the same moral plane as Christian marriage, which the Lord commends, the homosexual unions Scripture condemns.

God bless these brave Episcopalians at Christmas -- and a very Merry Christmas to you, too, Meyerson.

Pat Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine, and the author of many books including State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America .

Jay Nordlinger: Bergergate

December 21, 2006 6:15 AM

Call me a right-wing paranoid – it’s been done before! – but I think that, if Sandy Berger were a conservative Republican, the story of his criminality would be a really, really big deal. Bear in mind that the man was national security adviser. Do you know about his criminality? You may read about it here. Let me provide just a taste:

In October 2003, the [inspector general’s] report said, an Archives official called Berger to discuss missing documents from his visit two days earlier. The investigator’s notes said, “Mr. Berger panicked because he realized he was caught.”The notes said that Berger had “destroyed, cut into small pieces, three of the four documents. These were put in the trash.”

As I said, that’s just a taste.

If Berger were a Republican, the word “Nixonian” would be making a big, big comeback – at a minimum.

Remember how President Clinton and his people reacted shortly after the first news about Berger and the Archives came out? Oh, that’s just Sandy, ha, ha, ha – didn’t surprise any of us, when we heard about it. You should have seen his desk at the White House! Sloppy Sandy – ethical as the day is long, though.

Yeah, what a crock.

It could be that Berger performed a real service in stealing and deep-sixing documents – that is, a service to the Clinton administration. (I warned you this would be a paranoid item.) Berger’s lawyer – remember Lanny Breuer, of Lewinsky fame? – says there’s no need to fret: The 9/11 Commission received all the documents it should have; Berger deprived the commission, and therefore the nation, of nothing.

Tom Davis, the Republican congressman – and chairman of the House Government Reform Committee – isn’t so sure. Here’s what he says: “There is absolutely no way to determine if Berger swiped [certain] original documents. Consequently, there is no way to ever know if the 9/11 Commission received all required materials.”

Berger got off pretty lightly: $50,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, no access to classified documents for three years. Whoop-de-doo.

It seems we will never know whether Berger destroyed inconvenient documents. From the look of it, he was trying to avoid embarrassment to himself and the Clinton administration, at the expense of the public’s right to know. To know what? How our government treated al Qaeda before 9/11. In any event, Berger did a lousy, lousy thing.

As would be clear to one and all, in every village and hamlet of this country – if only he were a “neocon” from Texas. (Preferably evangelical!)

Oh, have a little more of the story re Berger:

Berger took a break to go outside without an escort while it was dark. He had taken four documents in his pockets.

“He headed toward a construction area. . . . Mr. Berger looked up and down the street, up into the windows of the Archives and the DOJ (Department of Justice), and did not see anyone,” the interview notes said. He then slid the documents under a construction trailer, according to the inspector general.

Berger acknowledged that he later retrieved the documents from the construction area and returned with them to his office.

“He was aware of the risk he was taking,” the inspector general’s notes said. Berger then returned to the Archives building without fearing the documents would slip out of his pockets or that staff would notice that his pockets were bulging.

The notes said Berger had not been aware that Archives staff had been tracking the documents he was provided because of earlier suspicions from previous visits that he was removing materials. Also, the employees had made copies of some documents.

But only some.

Remember that Condoleezza Rice has been national security adviser – just like Berger. Can you imagine her doing that? I mean, “the whole bitsy,” as my grandmother would say? Looking up and down the street, up into the windows of the Archives and the DOJ, etc.?Anyway . . .

Book Review: "The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister

The Greats

December 2006

John O’Sullivan does not, in this dazzling new book, indulge in schadenfreude. But he permits the reader this pleasure.

“That the Soviet system has made great material progress in recent years,” John Kenneth Galbraith said in 1984, when the ground was already shifting, “is evident both from the statistics and from the general urban scene.”

Those “in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse,” Arthur Schlesinger Jr. said in 1982, as the earth rumbled around him, are “kidding themselves.”

Such were the orthodoxies Ronald Reagan, Karol Wojtyla, and Margaret Thatcher found and overthrew. What is striking is the brightness of spirit with which they did so.

A quarter of a century later, the mood of the Right is Spenglerian. The gardens of the West, or at least of Europe, have, we are told, already closed; the specter of Islam does not merely haunt, it dominates.

Very different was the mood of Ronald Reagan when Mikhail Gorbachev first looked into his eyes at Geneva in 1985. Asked what he saw in them, Gorbachev replied, “Sunshine and clear sky.”

The President could afford to be serene. “I know in my heart that man is good,” Reagan later said, “that what is right will always eventually triumph.”

Was Reagan’s messianic confidence in the future of the free state naïve?

Otto von Bismarck maintained that the “practical benefits” of a free constitution were “but little understood” by most people. A politics that exalts force and will, the German statesman predicted, would in almost every instance trump a free-state program.

But Reagan’s Freevangelical politics appears in retrospect to have been as shrewdly realistic as it was utopian. There was of course nothing original in his belief that the free system, which liberates peoples’ energies, makes possible a technological creativity that no command regime can match.

What was new, O’Sullivan shows, was the boldness with which Reagan translated technological advances in the West into strategic supremacy. SDI was ridiculed by the Schlesingerian clerisy; but Gorbachev saw in Reagan’s brainchild an innovation that the creaking Soviet economy could not possibly equal.

When Reagan, in the face of great temptation, refused to sacrifice SDI at Reykjavik in 1986, the struggle was over.

“Ronnie,” O’Sullivan quotes Charles Z. Wick as saying on Air Force One, “you just won the Cold War. They admitted they can’t compete.”

“Like a chrysalis,” Reagan said in Moscow two years later, “we’re emerging from the economy of the Industrial Revolution” into a world “in which there are no bounds on human imagination and the freedom to create.”

With his faith in the transforming power of liberty, Reagan emerges as the most visionary of O’Sullivan’s trio. Mrs. Thatcher was skeptical of SDI. John Paul was skeptical of the free market.

But the Prime Minister acquiesced in the President’s strategy, and the Pope modified his economic theory in his encyclical Centesimus Annus, in which he argued that economic freedom is an essential condition of human flourishing.

Reagan had changed the debate; the Pope, O’Sullivan writes, “revised Catholic social teaching in the light of the Reagan-Thatcher transformation of capitalism.” The free system gave the President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister an immense material advantage in the struggle against coercion.

But material causes and effects, Clausewitz observed, are “no more than the wooden handle” of a leader’s sword; the moral element is the “noble metal, the real bright-polished weapon.”

O’Sullivan shows that his protagonists prevailed, first, because they believed in the moral superiority of their ideals, and second, because they believed that men and women around the world shared their faith in them.

There was in O’Sullivan’s trio no inclination to hunker in the bunker, in Fortress America (or Britain or the Vatican). The Pope was the most peripatetic of the three evangelists of liberty; but none of the three sought to wall off the West.

The Communist world seemed in 1980 to be as resistant to freedom as the Islamic one does today. But Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul were undaunted. Their faith in the power of freedom seemed, at the time, fantastic to many, just as it seems fantastic to many today. But the three leaders were, O’Sullivan shows, adroit in their approach to exporting the constitution of liberty.

Woodrow Wilson believed that the United States could give a people a list of pedantic policy points, sponsor an election or two, and — hesto presto — a free state would emerge. This was democracy by fiat: “I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men,” Wilson declared.

The Wilsonian school overlooked a lesson of Lincoln, who was as keenly interested as Wilson in the world-struggle between the free state and those novel forms of coercion that German romanticism had inspired.

Lincoln, like his contemporary Bismarck, saw that romantic neofeudal paternalism (and romantic blood-and-soil nationalism) possessed a perverse appeal. He saw also that free-state politicians were slow to counter this appeal; the romantic politics that, in their different ways, Bismarck, Marx, and such American pro-slavery thinkers as Calhoun (a student of Hegel) all embraced appeared to be gaining the upper hand.

Lincoln strengthened the hold of free-state principles on the popular imagination by linking them to the ongoing struggle in every soul between good and evil, and by connecting the free state to (what he argued was) a providential design in which man’s better impulses would prevail.

In his late orations Lincoln contended that America must suffer for having embraced slavery, an evil and despotic system. But from this evil, providence would bring forth good, would bring forth the “new birth of freedom” that Lincoln, paraphrasing the rebirth theory of John 3:3, announced in the Gettysburg Address.

O’Sullivan shows that a similar strategy underlay the efforts of Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul to consign the last refuse of German romanticism, Marxism, to the ash-heap of history. In each of his three protagonists, O’Sullivan detects a “spiritual element” that explains their achievements.

Freedom, they knew, cannot be imposed upon a people, even with bayonets; for though the impulses that give birth to a free state grow out of aspirations deep in human nature, they can bear fruit only where leaders are strong enough, and imaginative enough, to make them the foundation of a culture of liberty.

With his uncanny intuition, Reagan, watching John Paul’s visit to Poland in 1979, saw that a leader had emerged who could unleash the spiritual forces that make for successful free-state revolutions.

“I have had a feeling,” Reagan said, “particularly in the Pope’s visit to Poland, that religion may turn out to be the Soviets’ Achilles’ heel.”

Undoubtedly, the moral effort the President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister made in their quest to topple Marxism was as essential as the material one. Reagan intimidated the Soviet leadership with his arms buildup; but scarcely less did his words fill the Politburo with dread.

The arresting quality of Reagan’s verbal chiaroscuro was reminiscent of Lincoln’s and Churchill’s; in the struggle between light and darkness, the Soviet regime figured of course as the Evil Empire. This messianic or providential rhetoric, which dismayed the intelligentsia of the West, was very differently received by those who lived in slavery.

“We now know,” O’Sullivan writes, that Reagan’s “speeches had a vital effect in weakening Soviet morale and encouraging dissidents throughout the Soviet bloc.” The President’s evangelism for liberty had its effect in part because the Pope had prepared the ground; had he not awakened the spirit of the Eastern European peoples, the seed might have fallen on stony places.

So successful was this strategy of moral and material maneuver that Reagan won his war, as Lady Thatcher observed in her eulogy of the President, without firing a shot. (In this respect he surpassed Lincoln; admittedly the circumstances were different.)

Tolstoy said of Lincoln that we are “still too near to his greatness, and so can hardly appreciate his power; but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do. His genius is still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us.”

So it is, not only with Ronald Reagan, but with his partners in liberation, Margaret Thatcher and John Paul II. With great technical skill and marvelous literary craftsmanship, O’Sullivan has compiled a case for their greatness that will inspire readers for years to come.

A splendid book.

Mr. Beran is the author most recently of Jefferson’s Demons: Portrait of a Restless Mind.

Tom Purcell: The End of Charlie Brown's Christmas

Tom Purcell
December 22, 2006

Good grief. It has been 41 years since the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" special first aired. It was broadcast again the last Tuesday in November, and the show holds more power over me now than it did when I was a kid. I think I know why.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Americans, bolstered by stability and prosperity, married young and had large families. In my neighborhood, we had six kids, the Kreigers five, the Gillens four, the Greenaways four and so on.

The design was simple then for many folks: Many men and women believed that when they married, they became one under God. They believed their role was to sacrifice for their children, so their children could have better lives than they. Their mission was to teach their kids good values and to provide them with an excellent education. That's why so many moved into our neighborhood. It was located a few blocks from St. Germaine's Catholic Church and School.

It was a traditional time, to be sure. Most of the dads went off to work while most of the moms kept an eye on both kids and neighborhood. And although life for adults certainly had its limitations and challenges, there was no better time to be a kid.

Especially during Christmas.

At Catholic school, we kicked off Christmas preparations one month before the big day. We put up decorations, sold items to raise money for the needy and practiced for Christmas concerts (we sang real Christmas songs, too, such as "Silent Night" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing").
We were just as busy at home.

My mother was a master at building suspense. She played Mitch Miller's Christmas albums on the stereo most nights after dinner and whistled to the tunes as we hung decorations and talked over what to get for one another. She celebrated the mystery of giving and taught us that being kind and helping others were the best things we could give.

Silly as it may sound today, the TV Christmas specials were a real event in our home. We all packed into the family room and plugged in the tree. We turned off all the lamps so that the Christmas lights would shine bright. Then we'd wait with great anticipation for the specials.

Every year I laughed out loud when the Grinch's dog, massive antlers strapped to his tiny head, jumped up on the back of the sleigh, causing the Grinch to grimace. In "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the Abominable Snowman terrified me, but I was always relieved when he turned out a lovable fuzz ball.

But the granddaddy of them all was the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" special, a show that captured half the viewing audience when it first ran on Dec. 9, 1965.

As it goes, Charlie Brown is depressed because everyone around him fails to see the true meaning of Christmas. Lucy complains that she doesn't want stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes for Christmas, but real estate. To resolve his depression, Charlie Brown throws himself into work as the director of the Christmas play.

But that soon falls apart, too. Distraught, he follows a light in the east and finds his way to a Christmas tree lot. The only tree he can find is a small sickly one. When he brings it back, the others mock him.

But then Linus comes to the rescue. Linus tells Charlie Brown he knows the real meaning of Christmas. He tells the story of Christ's birth.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men," he says, quoting from the Bible.

Suddenly, the other characters are transformed. They become compassionate and concerned. They decorate the tree and transform it into a thing of beauty. They wish Charlie Brown a Merry Christmas and sing a Christmas carol.

This show holds tremendous power over me still because it brings back powerful childhood memories -- memories of security and love and the anticipation of Christmas morning.

But I love it for another reason.

Despite Christmas being based on the birth of Christ, a historical figure – despite that the show's innocence, simplicity and honesty still make it a ratings winner – it would never be made today.

Good grief.

Tom Purcell's weekly political humor column runs in newspapers and Web sites across America. Visit him at

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jonah Goldberg: Guiliani needs to be America's tough guy

December 21, 2006
The Los Angeles Times
Jonah Goldberg

America needs a Pym Fortuyn, and Rudolph Giuliani may be the man for the job.

Pim Fortuyn, you may recall, was the gay, flamboyant sociology professor turned "right-wing" Dutch politician who took a hard-line position against immigration and Islamic extremism -- two issues inextricably linked in a country where whole communities have become enclaves of Sharia law. Fortuyn was labeled as right wing by identity-politics leftists for his unapologetic view that the Netherlands should stay both liberal and libertine.

His basic view was that the Netherlands has a culture too, and there's no shame in defending civil liberties, free expression and tolerance against their opponents, even if those opponents exploit liberal guilt by casting themselves as victims. In other words, Fortuyn wanted to keep the party going, and that meant taking a strong line against the killjoys. That Fortuyn could be both libertarian and tough-minded caused great cognitive dissonance in the media and on the left -- there and here. He was assassinated by a left-wing extremist.

The United States is not the Netherlands, and Rudy Giuliani is no Pim Fortuyn in his personal life. But Giuliani is still a social liberal, as Americans define the term these days. He's for same-sex unions, though not gay marriage. He's pro-choice. A Catholic, he's been married three times. His first marriage was annulled on dubious grounds -- he suddenly discovered his wife was his second cousin. And his second marriage ended in a tabloid divorce of biblical proportions.

Giuliani also has a decidedly liberal record on immigration; how could a mayor of New York not?
But Giuliani was considered a raging right-winger as mayor. No doubt this had a lot to do with the fact that the city's political center is so far to the left. But there was a lot more to Giuliani's philosophy. When I grew up in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, the job of mayor was, essentially, to manage the city's decline. Crime was not only seen as permanent, some on the left even tried to rationalize it as part of the city's charm.

By the time Giuliani arrived, social chaos was seen as the natural order of things. Giuliani heroically challenged these assumptions on almost all fronts. He and his first police commissioner, William J. Bratton (now chief of the LAPD), refused to accept that mere containment was the best that crime fighters could hope for.

By now, many are familiar with the story of Giuliani's quality-of-life campaign against turnstile jumpers, welfare cheats, squeegee men, graffiti artists and porn shops. But what is forgotten is that Giuliani was reviled for all these efforts by the New York Times, the entertainment industry and the intellectual left -- whose numbers are so great in the Big Apple that they actually constitute a voting bloc -- and that every day he leaped back into the breach.

But Giuliani's stellar performance after 9/11 has erased this story from the public memory banks. And that's a problem, because for Giuliani to have any chance of winning the Republican nomination, he'll need to remind conservatives -- the people who vote in GOP primaries -- that he's more than just the feel-good mayor everyone suddenly loved after 9/11. To do this, he not only needs to convince conservatives that he made all the right enemies on the left, he also needs to explain how his actions in New York were consistent with conservative philosophy.

I think -- and polls corroborate -- that the conservative movement is more open to this pitch than either some of its self-interested leaders or those who report on them claim. First, observers make a grave mistake when they discount how seriously the religious right takes the war on terror. Whoever is the most plausible war president will have a good shot at the nomination. Moreover, conservatives love to talk about philosophy in the same way liberal activists love to talk about action. And contrary to the caricatures of rigid religious zealots in the mainstream press, social conservatives are often quite open to libertarian and small-government arguments.

But such arguments need to be made in the context of what Vice President George H.W. Bush once derisively called "the vision thing." Giuliani needs to articulate a Fortuynish vision for the American context. This might mean a zero-tolerance attitude on terror, a crackdown on crime (including corporate graft) and explaining how his mayoralty actually had socially conservative effects by liberating New York from the stranglehold of the identify-politics left.

Giuliani needs to tell a story of how he beat Al Sharpton at every turn. Giuliani's cheery immigrant story and his personal liberalism make him a particularly formidable spokesman for such a vision. Yes, taken piecemeal, his views on social issues could be a real albatross in GOP primaries (though it's worth noting that Giuliani, while personally pro-choice, signals that he would appoint judges in the mold of Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas). But if Giuliani can make those sorts of issues seem secondary to a broader defense of American civilization, he's got a chance to go all the way.

(C) 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

"Sleeper Cell" will keep you awake nights

David Forsmark
December 21, 2006

Since it’s obvious that Nancy Pelosi’s choice to be House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Silvestre Reyes, has been daydreaming through committee meetings since 9/11, here’s an idea on how to educate him that might actually hold his interest: Send the Chairman copies of cable network Showtime’s superb, just completed antiterrorism series, Sleeper Cell.

At least then he would know that Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization. And, after witnessing a scene where a deep cover terrorist is so enraged by a moderate Shi’ite Imam that he physically attacks him over a 700 year old dispute, Reyes would at least not be ignorant of the diffrerence between Shia and Sunni.

In fact, since ol’ Silvestre seems to know more about Democrat talking points than about counter-terrorism, someone should send him a DVD set containing last season’s Sleeper Cell as well as this season’s. While it won’t make him the expert he ought to be, the following tidbits might prepare him for the shock he will no doubt receive when he is forced to start dealing with real world information:

· Unlike the portrayals in other movies, terrorists are more likely to be financed by Wahabbist sheiks than by WASP billionaires or by slick poker players at swanky European casinos.

· Surveillance of radical mosques and Islamic centers is not religious persecution but a matter of survival.

· The war in Iraq is very important to Al Qaeda leaders who do NOT consider it a sideshow.

· The conspiracy theories put out by the allies of Silvestre’s party like and their ilk, along with their calls for American weakness and exaggeration of enemy victories really do encourage the other side to fight on.

· High value Al Qaeda targets don’t break because they are threatened with imprisonment or asked in a constitutionally prettified way to cooperate.

Sleeper Cell: American Terror is the show’s second season, in which FBI undercover agent Darwin Al-Sayid (an intense but low key Michael Ealy) who is himself both a black man and also a faithful Muslim disturbed by the radicals’ hijacking of his faith, infiltrates an Al Qaeda cell operating in Los Angeles. The story picks up immediately after Season 1, where Darwyn thwarted a chemical attack on the Rose Bowl.

The leader of the sleeper cell, Farik (played with a menacing mix of sophisticated slickness and evangelical fervor by Israeli actor Oded Fehr) is in custody and enduring aggressive questioning by the CIA as a result of the prior attack, disrupted by Darwyn. Because Darwyn’s cover is still intact, he is selected by the imams up the Al Qaeda chain of command to lead a new cell of terrorists.

The cell this time includes a Latino Jose Padilla-lookalike who was recruited by a Muslim prison chaplain, a female Dutch radical whose husband was “martyred” in Iraq, and a homosexual Saudi mechanical engineer whose private life under more wraps than his jihadi activities.

What gives Sleeper Cell its unique edge—and makes it unlike any other television show dealing with terrorism--is that rather than use Darwyn’s religion as a politically correct mitigating factor to imply that the terrorists’ Islamism is beside the point, that they are just bad guys who happen to be Muslims, series creator Kamran Pasha, himself a Muslim, uses this device to directly engage the jihadi ideology.

American radicals also take a huge hit in both seasons of Sleeper Cell. In the first season, one of the cell members is the spoiled son of a stridently antiwar, anti-American Berkley professor. This season, Ilija—a survivior of the take down that broke the cell in the first season, is hiding out with a woman who obviously spends a lot of time on left wing websites. "You know,” she enthuses, “Every time we have sex, it's like the ultimate f--- you to Bush, Cheney and the whole 9/11 plot. I just keep picturing Giuliani and the rest of those assholes supervising the whole thing from that $15 million bunker on the twenty-third floor of Building 7. You know that's where they broadcast the homing signal from, to make sure the planes would hit the towers."

The smirk on her Al Qaeda operative lover’s face who knows full well what Al Qaeda is capable of is priceless as he answers. "I know, and the Pentagon was actually hit by a CIA Global Hawk drone so the administration could start an endless war and turn America into a police state."

We also meet Darwyn’s father--played by series director Charles S. Dutton with his signature bristle of barely controlled fury-- who is a bow-tie wearing member of the Nation of Islam. Dad is mighty ticked off that Darwin works for the FBI, and doesn’t respond well when his son points out that it was HIS crowd who “killed Malcom” and that his dad’s grievances are all over 40 years old.

On the down side, the producers of Sleeper Cell feel the need to remind us this is pay cable, so they get to show sex and nudity. With the gay subplot, I’m sure they thought they were being really daring with several very explicit scenes. There is, however, a delicious irony in cell member Salim’s conversations with his boyfriend when he points out what would happen to them in his own country if they were discovered—this at the same time that we see Salim working to force Sharia law on the rest of the world.

But for all of its cable network grittiness and occasional stabs at cynicism, Sleeper Cell is relentlessly pro-American. Even if it doesn’t wear its heart on its sleeve, Darwyn’s responses to rhetorical attacks on his country are stirring.

When an Al Qaeda higher up in a climactic battle demands of Darwyn, “What kind of true Muslim works for the Americans?” Darwyn’s reply is: “I don’t work for the Americans—I AM American.” And when his father challenges Darwin by asking what color his boss is and how much he is involved in the decision making process, he answers, “It’s not my strategy, but it IS my war.” The discussion, which involved Darwyn’s army service—his dad was drafted during Vietnam, he volunteered later on, which drives the father’s resentment— even implies that the war in Iraq is part of the seamless whole of fighting Islamic terror.

Get the original Sleeper Cell on DVD. Get this one on DVD when it comes out. Watch Sleeper Cell III on Showtime next year. This is television that tells it like it is about terrorism and leaves no doubt that America is at war.

Click Here to support