Saturday, January 13, 2007

TV Review: '24'

After almost two years in captivity, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is freed by the Chinese.

Bombers Strike, and America Is in Turmoil. It's Just Another Day for Jack Bauer.

The New York Times
Published: January 12, 2007

It’s morning again on “24,” and Day 6 is looking bleak. Among other things, teams of suicide bombers are blowing up buses and subway cars all across the United States.

Every new season of this Fox thriller is another twist of a kaleidoscope: the same pieces — terrorists; counterterrorists (and, almost inevitably, a mole); an innocent suburban family; and the president, his aides and his family — are tumbled together to form new patterns around the central figure of the special agent Jack Bauer.

And that makes the four-hour, two-part premiere on Sunday and Monday both comfortingly familiar and strangely gripping. Jack (Kiefer Sutherland), who last season was headed for a Chinese prison, is set free — at a very high cost — so he can once again come to his country’s rescue. Only this time, Jack is not asked to avert a looming terrorist attack; major cities are already under attack. The best he can do is try to prevent the disaster from getting even worse.

Even in its sixth season, “24” remains remarkably compelling. The ratings have steadily increased since the series began in 2001. The first four episodes suggest that this season could be one of the best thus far. The countdown clock — each episode takes place over one hour of a 24-hour period that ends at the conclusion of the season — is just a gimmick. And it’s not just that the action zigzags between at least three separate but interconnected story lines or that the characters are richly imagined. (Actually, many are cartoonish.)

“24” prolongs suspense with detours and surprise twists, and not just in the plot. The series also thrives on ideological red herrings — it leans Tom Clancy right, then suddenly will feint left and then back again.

Torture, presented with gusto and almost no moral compunction, is an increasingly popular way of gathering intelligence on “24.” If anything, the new season seems even more intent on hammering home the message that torture is necessary in the war against terror, and that despite what some experts claim, torture works.

At one point, Jack plunges a knife into a suspect’s shoulder, then relents, convinced that the man will not talk. A more ruthless associate disagrees and plunges the knife into the captive’s knee, ripping upward until the man screams out the location of his leader.

But “24” also jukes to the far side of political correctness and even left-wing paranoia. In two different seasons, the villains seeking to harm the United States are not Middle Eastern terrorists but conspirators directed by wealthy, privileged white Americans: in the second season, oil business tycoons tried to set off a Middle East war, and last year, Russian rebels turned out to be working in cahoots with a cabal of far-right government officials. By those standards, the current crop of Muslim terrorists intent on nuclear Armageddon could yet turn out to be a front for French-Canadian separatists.

Then again, the meddlesome naïveté of civil rights purists is also a leitmotif on “24.” In Season 4, a lawyer for Amnesty Global is dispatched by a terrorist mastermind to free a suspect before he can be interrogated, and the government lets the terrorist walk away. (Jack quit the Counter Terrorist Unit so he could break the suspect’s fingers as a private citizen and leave his bosses plausible deniability.)

This season, the president’s sister, Sandra (Regina King), is a lawyer for an Islamic American solidarity group so passionately intent on protecting her client’s constitutional rights that she deletes the personnel files to prevent the F.B.I. from seizing them — on principle.

Family ties have a way of knotting up on “24.” Jack’s daughter is not around this season, but his estranged father, Phillip Bauer (James Cromwell), makes his first appearance later in the series. Morris (Carlo Rota), the ex-husband of Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), is back at C.T.U. as an analyst, while the boss of the unit, Bill Buchanan (James Morrison), turns out to be married to the national security adviser, Karen Hayes (Jayne Atkinson), whose name sounds like that of Karen Hughes, a former counselor to President Bush who is now the under secretary of state for public diplomacy.

The televisions at C.T.U. headquarters and the White House are tuned to Fox News. When a rival cable network is shown, the report is brief and labeled CNB.

For obvious reasons, the series is a favorite of the Bush administration and many Republicans. Last season, Senator John McCain made a cameo appearance (despite his objections to torture), and in June the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group in Washington, held a panel discussion titled, “ ‘24’ and America’s Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction, or Does It Matter?” The guests included Ms. Rajskub, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security.

That kind of partisan favor is not surprising. Officials in the Clinton administration rubbed elbows with the cast of “The West Wing”; his former press secretary Dee Dee Myers worked as a consultant to the series.

Oval Office deliberation is one of the more colorful elements of “24,” more compelling than even the high-tech satellite snooping and interoffice sniping at C.T.U. headquarters.

It’s like a video game version of a John F. Kennedy School of Government model of presidential decision-making: presidents on “24” are confronted with split-second choices and horrifying moral dilemmas, like choosing to sacrifice the life of a visiting head of state to save American lives. The Cuban missile crisis lasted 13 days; on “24,” the life-or-death consequences of a decision become clear within three commercial breaks.

Last season proved a high point in White House intrigue and indecision. President Charles Logan (Greg Itzin) was irresistible as a caviling, craven commander in chief who manipulates his pill-addled first lady, Martha (Jean Smart).

The newly elected president, Wayne Palmer (D. B. Woodside), the brother of the assassinated president, David Palmer, is more resolute, but he too wavers between hawkish aides who want to put Muslim Americans in detention camps and those who fret about violating the Constitution. The debate can stiffen into a 10th-grade civics lesson.

When the F.B.I. director points out that in wartime, other presidents had suspended many protections, President Palmer snaps, “And Roosevelt interned over 200,000 Japanese-Americans in what most historians consider a shameful mistake.” The wording makes it sound as if the scriptwriters couldn’t agree on whether it was truly shameful, and threw in “most historians” as a palliative.

One thing never changes: the president and his aides keep making the critical blunder of not trusting Jack’s instincts.

This time, however, even Jack is hobbled by self-doubt. He returns to the field altered by his ordeal in China and uncertain whether he can handle the task. On his way to track down a terrorist, Jack suddenly stops, his shoulders slumped, his voice shaken. “I don’t know how to do this anymore,” he says.

His not very sympathetic companion gruffly replies, “You’ll remember.”


Fox, Sunday and Monday nights at 8, Eastern and Pacific times; 7, Central time.

Created by Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran. Mr. Surnow, Mr. Cochran, Howard Gordon, Evan Katz, Jon Cassar, Kiefer Sutherland and Brian Grazer, executive producers. A production of Real Time Productions and Imagine Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television.

WITH: Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer), Chad Lowe (Reed Pollock), D. B. Woodside (Wayne Palmer), Regina King (Sandra Palmer), Jayne Atkinson (Karen Hayes), Peter MacNicol (Thomas Lennox), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O’Brian), Roger Cross (Curtis Manning), James Morrison (Bill Buchanan), James Cromwell (Phillip Bauer), Greg Itzin (Charles Logan), Jean Smart (Martha Logan), Kal Penn (Ahmed Amar), Marisol Nichols (Nadia Yassir), Alexander Siddig (Hamri Al-Assad), Harry Lennix (Walid Al-Rezani), David Hunt (Darren McCarthy), Eric Balfour (Milo Pressman) and Carlo Rota (Morris O’Brian).

Interpreting the Beatles Without Copying

The New York Times
Published: January 13, 2007

Lately I’ve been wondering why, as a more than casual Beatles fan, I’m not interested in note-perfect covers by Beatles tribute bands, even though, as a classical music critic, I happily spend my nights listening to re-creations — covers, in a way — of Beethoven symphonies and Haydn string quartets. What, when it comes down to it, is the difference?

Obviously, this is something of a comparison between apples and oranges: we first heard the Beatles’ music on their own recordings, whose sounds are imprinted on our memories and are definitive. Our first encounters with, say, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony were through performances that, however spectacular, have no direct link to Beethoven himself. Yet Beethoven’s score of the work is a detailed blueprint of how he expected it to sound, and any performance will be governed by that, allowing for interpretive leeway that may be subtle or dramatic. A cover band, hoping to reproduce the original recording, has less flexibility.

The Smithereens (from left, Dennis Diken, Pat DiNizio, Jim Babjak and Mike Mesaros) have recorded their version of the Beatles’ American breakthrough album.

But a new album by the Smithereens shows how much interpretive leeway a rock band can have, even when it intends to perform faithful covers. The disc, “Meet the Smithereens!” (Koch), which comes out next week, reproduces the track lineup and, to a great degree, the original arrangements (at the original tempos and in the original keys) of the Beatles’ 1964 American breakthrough album, “Meet the Beatles!” But it does more: the 12 songs are filtered through the Smithereens’ own crunchy New Jersey bar-band sound, a quality likely to come through even more strongly when the band plays the album live at the B. B. King Blues Club and Grill tonight.

The Smithereens made their name playing their own material, but they have recorded Beatles songs before, and they have always had a soft spot for the concision and zest of British Invasion bands. So they approach this music as fans who know it intimately, but also as composers who know what makes a great song durable.

They are hardly the first to cover a complete Beatles album. Big Daddy recorded a doo-wop version of the full “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in the early 1990s. Phish released a live performance of the complete “White Album” in 1994. In the late ’80s, the Slovenian art-rock band Laibach released “Let It Be,” a ponderous, reordered version of the Beatles’ album of the same name, albeit without the title track.

What makes “Meet the Smithereens” unusual is the degree to which, like a good classical performance, it balances fidelity to the original with a projection of the interpreter’s style. Typically, Beatles covers and pop covers in general are an interpreter’s art and emphasize the performer’s vision. After all, if you don’t have a distinctive perspective, even one as off the wall as Laibach’s, why should someone listen to your version instead of just playing the original?

Tribute acts, by contrast, are purely recreative. Their goal is to reproduce a band’s music rather than to make their own mark on it. The Smithereens acknowledge this world without quite joining it. These days, everyone from the Grateful Dead to R.E.M. has its own shadow specialists. But Beatles tribute bands have long been a global industry.

Many, though by no means all, borrow a page from the Elvis impersonators’ playbook and turn their performances into theater pieces. They dress up in period costumes, changing from short to long wigs, moving from collarless jackets to psychedelic outfits and affixing paste-on beards and mustaches as the show progresses. And they imitate the Beatles’ accents and jokey patter. (A band that takes this approach, 1964 the Tribute, is playing at Carnegie Hall on Jan. 27.)

I’ve never understood the appeal. When I saw “Beatlemania” on Broadway, in the late 1970s, I admired the stage band’s skill, but left the theater feeling I’d have been better off listening to the records and paging through old Life magazines. And watching other faux mop-tops trading on Beatles nostalgia over the years, I’ve always felt a little embarrassed for the musicians, who had clearly devoted significant effort to learning arrangements that in some cases were too complex for even the Beatles themselves to perform live, yet who were sublimating their personalities (and musicianship) to the business of role-playing.

Which is not to say that what they do is without merit; quite the opposite. For anyone who has listened closely to how the Beatles’ vocal and instrumental arrangements work, it’s hard not to admire the musicianship of bands that reproduce it accurately. Still, you could argue that at least some of the Beatles’ music — recorded layer by layer, carefully polished in the studio, and using tape loops, backward sounds and other innovations — is actually electronic music: the recordings are the score and the performance, self-contained, just as much as a tape work by Stockhausen is.

Even so, those recordings can be transcribed fairly precisely, as Tetsuya Fujita, Yuji Hagino, Hajime Kubo and Goro Sato demonstrated in “The Beatles Scores” (published by Hal Leonard in 1993), and those transcriptions can be learned and recreated live with startling exactitude, just as the score of a Shostakovich symphony can. And Glenn Gould’s manifestos about the death of the concert notwithstanding, there will always be something electrifying in a live performance that cannot be captured on a recording.

That live experience is something tribute bands offer that can no longer be had from the Beatles themselves (although Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr still perform their old hits on tour). For that matter, tribute bands offer something — quite a lot, actually — that the Beatles never did. Between late 1962 and the summer of 1966, the Beatles recorded 118 songs. But during their international touring years (starting in late 1963), they played a mere 33 songs in concert. The last album from which they played any material live was the 1965 LP “Rubber Soul”; thereafter, they recorded another 100 songs on six albums. With technology far beyond what the Beatles had (sampling keyboards, in particular), tribute bands can play them all.

That said, when a string quartet plays Haydn, it doesn’t set out to produce an unvaried copy of what’s in the score. The players make interpretive decisions about tempos, balances and tone color; ideally, a quartet’s reading will breathe differently from night to night, and will be distinct from a competing ensemble’s account. And except for the occasional misconceived children’s concert, quartets don’t don Haydn-era wigs and costumes, or adopt Austrian accents.

This is what I like about “Meet the Smithereens!”: it bridges the extremes of note-for-note fidelity and pure interpretation, offering the best of both worlds. The band has treated “Meet the Beatles!” as a symphony, a complete cultural artifact, to be heard intact. It barely matters that “Meet the Beatles!” was not quite the album the Beatles intended, but rather a compilation made by Capitol Records, using 9 of the 14 songs from the group’s British album “With the Beatles,” as well as three songs released as singles. For American listeners who discovered the Beatles at the time, as the Smithereens did, “Meet” has an emotional resonance that “With” does not.

The arrangements on “Meet the Smithereens!” have all the vibrant energy and directness of the originals, and even minor details like the keyboard glissandos in “Little Child” and the overdubbed handclaps on “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” are faithfully preserved.

Yet you wouldn’t mistake it for the Beatles, as you might with a tribute band. Pat DiNizio’s vocals have the dark, slightly flattened quality you hear on signature Smithereens songs like “Blood and Roses” or “A Girl Like You,” and if his guitar solos follow the contours of George Harrison’s, they aren’t slavishly identical.

Where the Beatles moved to acoustic guitars for “Till There Was You” — the only cover on “Meet the Beatles!” — the Smithereens opted to keep it electric, with a touch of distortion, and to abandon the saccharine quality that Paul McCartney brought to the vocal.

The guitar tone and effects, and the way the vocal harmonies are balanced on, for example, “This Boy” and “Hold Me Tight,” are the Smithereens’ own. And so are their accents. The album manages to scream Beatles 1964 and Smithereens 2007 all at once.

Andrew Busch: Remembering Which King?

January 12, 2007 6:30 AM

It is essential to be clear about why we celebrate on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

by Andrew Busch

In a recent New Republic missive, Rick Perlstein attacks many conservatives (myself included) for finding reasons to praise Martin Luther King Jr. Perlstein points out, correctly, that conservatives in the 1960s almost uniformly scorned King as the advance guard of anarchy, and goes on to argue that conservatives who speak well of King today are “mere bean-counters” who miss the true point about King, that “sometimes, doing things that terrify people is the only recourse to injustice.”

Perlstein’s first point bears greater consideration than many conservatives now give it. In the January 2006 online column for the Ashbrook Center for which Perlstein takes me to task, I acknowledged the views of conservatives toward King in the 1960s (though Perlstein does not mention this). Conservatives today would benefit from revisiting that history. While discovering common ground with King, it is important to be honest about the limits of that common ground.

Aside from the general dislike that conservatives held (and hold) toward civil disobedience under most circumstances, there are a number of other reasons left unaddressed by Perlstein for why conservatives cannot embrace King without reservation. His late endorsement of racial preferences ran counter to his earlier professions of color-blindness; despite his devotion to freedom at home, his co-option by the antiwar movement made him, like thousands of other misguided Americans, accessory to the Stalinization of Indochina; and his personal conduct was not what one would hope for from a Christian minister. On the last count, no one can doubt that King would be a prime candidate for endless accusations of hypocrisy had his public cause been less satisfying to those most inclined to generate such accusations.

Nor can conservatives refrain from honestly weighing the costs as well as the benefits of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The costs include the danger of legitimizing the ethnic balkanization of America and of crowding out holidays that might better serve as a national glue than a solvent. On many college campuses, MLK Day has replaced Presidents’ Day as a day off in the academic calendar, as if King were more important and more worthy of veneration than Washington and Lincoln put together. One good reason for conservatives to seek common ground with King is that it is important that the day be made a celebration of essential national principles. Perlstein’s fear that conservatives are trivializing King has it almost exactly backwards. It is the multicultural Left that has shrunken King by turning his day into an outsized “celebrate diversity” sensitivity-training workshop. But perhaps this is all bean-counting.

The point that I made a year ago, and that I will repeat, is that there are three areas where conservatives can embrace King, and in fact where King’s views are more agreeable to conservatives than liberals. The first was his original grounding of his civil rights efforts in a vision of a nation that lives up to its Founding ideals and treats its citizens as individuals rather than ciphers defined by their pigmentation. One can sincerely believe in a nation that defines its children by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin; one can sincerely believe in giving those children a 20-point bonus on their college applications for the color of their skin, as the University of Michigan did; apparently one can, if one suppresses cognitive dissonance, believe in both approaches, as King claimed to when the civil rights movement began its transition from moral crusade to manifestation of interest-group politics; but one cannot bring both into being. Conservatives have aligned themselves with King’s earlier, and more noble, aspiration, liberals with his later adjustment to it. If fighting for equality and civil rights was King’s great contribution to the nation — and the reason he now has a holiday in his honor — then this is hardly a peripheral issue.

Second, King based his struggle on a moral and religious view that eschewed relativism. Indeed, his use of civil disobedience was predicated on his belief that one could distinguish between just human laws and unjust human laws, the latter consisting of those human contrivances which violated the “moral law,” the “natural law,” “God’s law,” or the “eternal law,” as King alternately put it. Yet the social thrust of liberalism today has as its foundation the dismissal of notions of absolute truth or the notion that human law must strive to meet some transcendent moral standard. In this respect, liberalism now has more in common with famed post-modern philosopher Stanley Fish than with King.

Finally, in a related vein, King, like the abolitionists and the Congregationalist clergy of the 1770s, had no qualms about bringing religious language and arguments to bear on the issue at hand. To the contrary, it was perfectly natural to him. It is rather difficult for liberals today to embrace King while attacking conservatives for moral absolutism and for daring to mix religion and politics.

None of this is to say that King would be voting Republican today had he lived, although a few of his contemporaries are indeed doing so for just these reasons. It is to say that, on a number of matters that intersect with crucial public policy concerns today, King had views that logically underpin the conservative rather than the liberal position. More than this, I did not and would not argue.

Perlstein refutes none of this, nor does he attempt to. His point, instead, is that none of it is relevant. Towering over all other considerations stands the importance of remembering that sometimes seekers of justice will present a frightful appearance to established forces of stability in society. Fair enough; a useful reminder. But there are many figures whose preoccupations present a frightful appearance. Everything depends on determining whether those seekers are seeking justice or something else, which determination requires us to come to some understanding of what justice is. That question in turn cannot be answered except by recourse to fundamental principles and a consideration of ends and means.

Which brings us back to bean counting. If the conceptions of racial justice and the legitimate bounds of discourse widely insisted upon by the Left today were strictly applied to King, he would appear not as a seeker of justice but as a theocratic advocate of regressive color-blindness. Indeed, more than a few conservatives have been accused of exactly those sins for nothing more than advocating King’s original racial view or using King’s moral framework and language. Hence Senator Harkin’s outburst accusing President Bush of setting himself up as a “moral Ayatollah” when he vetoed the embryonic stem-cell bill on grounds that the bill did not conform to a higher moral law.

That voice of established stability known as the New York Times finds itself regularly terrified by the specter of encroaching theocracy because the anti-abortion, or anti-embryonic stem-cell research, or anti same-sex marriage rabble insist, like King, on operating in a framework that is not wholly secular. Consequently, it actually matters a great deal whether King and conservatives have something in common on these particulars. It matters even more whether they are right. Without knowing what justice and injustice are, and how to think or talk about them, we cannot give Martin Luther King, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, our veterans, or anyone else a day of honor. In the end, the questions Perlstein dismisses are part of the dividing line that separates a recourse to injustice from the merely terrifying.

This, conservatives get.

— Andrew E. Busch is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and an adjunct fellow of the Ashbrook Center.

Military Readiness

The Washington Times
January 13, 2007

In a long-overdue policy reversal, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday that the Bush administration would finally begin increasing the sizes of the active-duty Army and Marine Corps on a permanent basis. Altogether, the military will permanently add 92,000 active-duty troops to the Army (65,000) and the Marine Corps (25,000). That is a good start.

The Army will rise to 547,000 soldiers, and the Marine Corps will have an eventual end-strength of 202,000 Marines. The Army's projected total of 547,000 soldiers compares to a post-Vietnam/Cold War average of 777,000 soldiers (1975-89) and a post-Cold War demobilized force that averaged 485,000 soldiers (1996-02). During the same periods, active-duty Marines averaged 194,000 (1975-89) and 174,000 (1996-02)
Compared to this year, when its end-strength will reach 512,000, the Army will add only 35,000 troops (or fewer than 7 percent). That is because 30,000 (or nearly half) of the total permanent increase of 65,000 in the Army will have already been added by the end of this year. Previously, that increment of 30,000 troops was classified as a temporary increase. The new policy makes that "temporary" increase permanent. Amazingly, three years after the war in Iraq began and the Army's deployment-readiness situation had already reached a crisis, the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) actually projected eliminating the 30,000 temporary troops by 2011, when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expected the Army to return to an end-strength of 482,000.

Today's force of 180,000 Marines includes only 5,000 temporary troops, who will also become permanent. Hence, the eventual permanent end-strength of the Marine Corps (202,000) will represent a 22,000 (12 percent) increase over today's total.

According to Mr. Gates' timetable, the Army plans to add 7,000 soldiers per year over five years, and the Marine Corps will increase by 5,000 Marines per year until it reaches 202,000. Even if Congress seeks to accelerate that timetable, it is certain that the additional forces still would not be available in sufficient quantities soon enough to solve the Pentagon's readiness crisis. Therefore, Mr. Gates announced a second policy shift. This involves the involuntary mobilization of the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. The new policy will limit an involuntary deployment to one year, but it eliminates, at least for now, the five-year period of demobilization. That means that tens of thousands Guardsmen and Reservists who were mobilized as recently as two and three years ago can expect to return to Iraq and Afghanistan in the not-too-distant future.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Stan Grossfield: No Ravin' for Colts

Baltimore still bitter about team's flight
Boston Globe
January 10, 2007

BALTIMORE -- There are still scars here, nearly 23 years after the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis. Diehards will always bleed blue and white.

"They did us dirty," said Manny Spanomanolis, owner of Club 4100 in the blue-collar Brooklyn Park section.

With Sinatra on the jukebox and Unitas on the walls, it's always 1958 here. Seniors sit in the same booths under the same sepia-toned Baltimore Colts pictures and talk about plays hiked when Ike was President.

"Unitas used to sit right there drinking Schlitz," said white-haired Bob Francis, pointing to a corner table. Francis said he was a Colts season ticket-holder from 1957 until team owner Robert Irsay sneaked the team out of Baltimore in the middle of the night in 1984.

"Nobody bothered him when he came in here; he could relax," said Francis. "He was friends with everybody. If you were here Sept. 11, 2002, at roughly 4:30 p.m. -- the day that [Unitas] died -- you would not have seen a dry eye in the place. I hate to say it's a shrine, but it is."

Baltimore is still Unitastown, and for most people, that horseshoe on the helmet is really a capital U. There's the bigger-than-life Unitas statue in Unitas Plaza outside M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens will host the returning Colts in a divisional playoff game Saturday. It's a local custom that fans streaming into the stadium rub Johnny U's famous black hightops for luck. They've been rubbed so much that the bronze shows through.

There's a Johnny Unitas Stadium at Towson University. Unitas bobblehead dolls outsell such icons as the Baltimore-born Babe Ruth and working-class hero Cal Ripken at the Sports Legends at Camden Yards museum, which features the Johnny Unitas collection -- including the bed he was born in.

But it's the old haunts where the blue and white come to life.

Tom Matte, the Baltimore Colts halfback, walks into Club 4100 greeting everybody by name, just as he's done for the last 40 years. He's been a color announcer the last 10 years for the Ravens, who arrived in 1996 after cameo appearances by the United States Football League's Baltimore Stars and the Canadian Football League's Baltimore Stallions earlier in the decade.

Matte said covering a Ravens-Colts game was difficult.

"I made a couple of mistakes and started rooting for the Colts again because that was such an integral part of my life," he said. "It's that horseshoe. The Super Bowl championship ring we have on from 1970 is the horseshoe. Hey, I wish [Indianapolis quarterback] Peyton Manning well -- he's a great guy; I know his father well -- but as far as that franchise, we're not part of it. We don't need to have our records up there."

Matte is best remembered for taking over at quarterback when Unitas and Gary Cuozzo were hurt prior to the NFL Western Conference championship against Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers Dec. 26, 1965. With the plays scrawled on his vinyl wristband, he forced overtime before a questionable field goal gave the Packers a 13-10 victory. The wristband wound up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

"The only thing I wish they would've done was left the name Baltimore Colts here," said Matte. "Take a look at all the memorabilia that's in the Hall of Fame -- it's under Indianapolis Colts. John Unitas was called an Indianapolis Colt. John Unitas was a Baltimore Colt.

"Indianapolis has not considered us alumni. They have not kept in touch with us. They haven't even sent us mailers of what's going on."

Madge Stanley has been a 4100 Club waitress for the last 40 years. She remembers that on Sundays, three buses of fans would depart for the games.

"It was wild, a real Colts bar," said Stanley. "If they lost, the fans would drink more. There was a whole lot of players, they'd eat together. They were very approachable. You could walk up to them at any time and they'd talk to you. They were very much into the community. Now I root for the Ravens and against the Colts. The only thing that bothers me is that horseshoe on the helmet. That bothers me."


It was a snowy December night in 1984 that a fleet of Mayflower moving vans took the Colts away from Baltimore.

George Mills, a retired television technician, was one of the very few on scene in suburban Owings Mills when the vans rolled.

"It was heartbreaking," he said. "Irsay promised to stay in Baltimore just a week before. There were no people there. It was 3 o'clock in the morning. I'm 75 years old, so I can't get emotional. It's a business world.

"What disturbs me is that we went to Canton to see John Mackey inducted into the Hall of Fame, I got my camera up there and I'm shooting all the statues and it says 'Indianapolis Colts' on the bottom. I made some comment, and there's a guy standing next to me and he says, 'I think that's terrible, son.' It was Gale Sayers."

At Sports Legends, Unitas gets his own section. Visitors can view his shoulder pads, No. 19 jersey, and helmet, and see the football he used for his last Colts pass, a touchdown to wide receiver Eddie Hinton.

They can also listen to a miked Unitas actually calling a play. Hovering over everyone is a huge blow-up of the Sports Illustrated cover with Unitas and the headline, "The Best There Ever Was." The bow-legged, crew-cut icon threw at least one touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games, won the MVP three times, and was the first quarterback to throw for 40,000 yards.

John Unitas Jr. was a ballboy on his father's team. He loved training camp.

"Back then, they played for fun," he said. "The trainer used to walk around with a flashlight at 11 at night, and I'd walk around with him. The players used to be out drinking and they'd put pillows stuffed in their beds. They'd all be smoking Camels with no filters, drinking beer, and having the best time of their lives. If they had a busted-up foot, they'd still play.

"They were just down-to-earth guys. My dad couldn't believe how great the fans were. He was astounded that at intrasquad scrimmages, they would have 40,000 fans. What's missing today is players come into town, they don't live there. People don't put their roots down."

Unitas soured on the Colts' management in 1972 when he wasn't allowed to finish his career in Baltimore.

"A reporter friend called and said, 'John, [you've been] traded to San Diego,' " said his wife, Sandra. "It was so inconsiderate, so horrible for fans."

Colt Hall of Fame halfback Lenny Moore says he was mistreated by the Indianapolis Colts as well. He was working for the Baltimore Colts in community relations when they abruptly left town. "I was temporarily laid off, and that's the last I ever heard from them at all," he said. "Not a letter. Nothing."

An old Colt never forgets. Finding an Indianapolis Colts fan in Baltimore is as hard as finding someone who thought Ripken was a slacker.

When the Colts left town, many fans started rooting for the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles until the NFL returned with the Ravens. The Ravens, they love to point out here, have already captured the Super Bowl. Indianapolis has not.

Rooting against all things Indianapolis is a civic duty.


Today in Baltimore, there is little evidence of the Colts' existence. Memorial Stadium was demolished in February 2001 and is now a YMCA and senior housing complex. The letters from the stadium facade, "Time Will Not Dim the Glory of Their Deeds," and the urn carrying dirt from all overseas American military cemeteries have been moved outside Oriole Park.

The Colts offices and practice fields in Owings Mills are now part of Villa Julie College. The Ravens built a state-of-the-art facility a few miles away in Owings Mills on 32 acres in October 2004.

The Hollywood Diner -- the same one used in the movie "Diner" -- has been moved near City Hall. The 1982 Barry Levinson comedy featured a group of Baltimore Colt-obsessed fans in 1959.

Tracy Hunt, the diner cashier, remembers the night the Colts left. "I was about 9," she said. "My mom woke me up and said, 'The Colts are gone.' She was upset. She was saying, 'It's not right.' I was happy -- it was snowing, and we got the next day off."

Hunt says she lives near M&T Bank Stadium and can hear the public address announcer from her living room. "The day they put the John Unitas statue there, I couldn't even get to my house," she said. "There was so much traffic."

Although the Ravens beat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, it wasn't the same as in 1958, when Unitas led the Colts 80 yards in an overtime victory against the Giants in what has been called "the greatest game ever played."

The Pro Football Hall of Fame credits the game with sparking the NFL's popularity.

"[It] finally gave Baltimore pride," said John Ziemann, deputy director of Sports Legends at Camden Yards. "Before Unitas, people said, 'Let's face it, we're nothing more than a whistle-stop between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.' Then when we won the '58 championship game, we finally had something to cheer about, and Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts did that."

Ziemann also added several questions for the famous quiz Steve Guttenberg's character, Eddie, gives to his fiancee in "Diner," including, "What were the Colts' original colors?" The answer: Green and white. Ernie Accorsi, retiring general manager of the Giants and a Colt fanatic growing up, wrote most of the questions.

Ziemann had been a member of the Baltimore Colt marching band since 1962 and now is president of the Ravens Marching Band. He and Unitas became friends early on.

"It's not like it is now," he said. "In 1963, my appendix exploded. I was in bad shape in the hospital. One of the nurses came in and said, 'Johnny U is going to see you. And I said, 'So is the queen of England.' He came in and said, 'What the hell did you do now?' and stayed three hours.

"They were part of the community."


There is a Baltimore Colt section at Sports Legends that dwarfs the Ravens' section. Part of the exhibit is the back of a Mayflower truck, and audio and radio from the night Baltimore cried.

Moving trucks arrived at the suburban offices when nobody was around.

"I hate Indiana Mayflower," said Ziemann. "Baltimore Mayflower didn't know anything about it.

"But the Civil War is over. I got closure. We beat 'em to a Super Bowl championship and we got a better stadium."

Unitas used to show up at Ravens games against the Colts wearing a Lithuanian baseball cap, his son said. He never forgave Bob Irsay for moving the team.

"John owned a restaurant called the Golden Arm and he had a Bob Irsay room -- the bathroom," said Ziemann. "That's what John thought of him."

Andy Back in Bronx

Friday, January 12, 2007


NEW YORK -- As Andy Pettitte flashed a shy, familiar smile and unfurled his No. 46 jersey for the cameras at Yankee Stadium, his wife, Laura, beamed by his side.

But his famous friend stayed in Texas, where he's likely to remain for months.

Roger Clemens could be fronting the Yankees' rotation by late June, a scenario that seems more plausible by the day. Pettitte believes that Clemens wants to pitch in 2007, but The Rocket won't be reporting with pitchers and catchers in 32 days.

"I think spring training would probably, definitely be out," Pettitte said with a laugh. "But you don't even know what Roger is really going to do."

Adding Clemens makes sense for a club that just dealt Randy Johnson. For now, Pettitte -- three years removed from his last Yankee tour, with one more elbow surgery on his resume -- is their veteran staff ace.

"If Roger's interested in coming to New York ... then, yeah, it'd be a full-court press," general manager Brian Cashman said.

But the Yankees' strategy is for Clemens to make his decision without interference.

"I can do every trick in the book," Cashman said. But in the end, it's just "wasted energy."

Pettitte agreed, though he probably knows where Clemens is leaning.

"As a friend of his, it wouldn't be fair for me to say anything he shared with me," said Pettitte, who golfed with Clemens last week.

"After speaking to him, it sounds like he wants to try to pitch. It's amazing -- it's like he's 20. He just has an unbelievable amount of energy," Pettitte said. "As far as I'm concerned, he's the greatest pitcher who ever played the game.

"When you add him, your expectations are even higher."

For weeks, manager Joe Torre, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter were steady voices in Pettitte's ear. Still, their influence couldn't match Pettitte's family, and his idyllic home on the range.

In Houston, Pettitte said he channeled his inner cowboy.

"The longer I stayed, the further away I felt [from New York]," Pettitte said. "Literally three months ago, I never would've dreamed I'd be here today."

At age 34, retirement was a consideration until Pettitte's family urged him to continue. His elbow felt fine once he started throwing this winter -- despite needing a cortisone shot late last season.

When the Yankees made him a priority (to Pettitte's surprise), and his wife gave her consent, Pettitte left Houston behind.

In the Yankees' assessment, Pettitte ranked among the top of free agent starters, and he only wanted a one-year deal.

Cashman signed Pettitte for $16 million, but acknowledged the risks that remain.

After the 2003 season, the Yankees had reservations about re-signing Pettitte long-term, due to chronic elbow problems. As it happened, Pettitte said he re-injured his elbow during his first Astros start, but started 15 games before requiring surgery.

But Pettitte (17-9, 2.39) bounced back in 2005, helping Houston win its first pennant. He felt even stronger last year (14-13, 4.20), and he's pitched 4352/3 innings over the past two seasons.

Three years ago, Cashman conceded, "we might have done a better job at showing how we felt [about Pettitte]."

Despite his strong feelings about Clemens, Cashman wouldn't reveal whether the Yankees were inclined to grant the special privileges that Clemens enjoys in Houston -- such as frequent trips home in-season.

While Pettitte house hunts in Westchester, he'll resist the urge to seek shelter for Clemens, too. "I'd never try to [influence] him," Pettitte said. "That's his decision."

BRIEFS: Though Cashman continues to keep an "open and honest dialogue" with Bernie Williams, there's currently no room for him. Though nothing's been said, one possible option could have Williams reporting to camp as a non-roster invitee.

Cashman indicated Scott Proctor was not a starting option, and that he didn't necessarily need to add another lefty reliever. Bergenfield's Ron Villone remains a free agent, but Cashman mentioned rookie Sean Henn as a viable lefty relief option, and touted Proctor, Luis Vizcaino and Kyle Farnsworth as able to neutralize lefty hitters.


Pettitte Returns, Bringing Hope That Clemens Follows

A Familiar Face Returns, Bringing Hope That Another Follows

Published: January 12, 2007

The marquee atop Yankee Stadium yesterday told motorists there were 33 days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Reversing the calendar would show it has been 34 days since the Yankees agreed to contract terms with Andy Pettitte.

A little late, but as earnest as ever, Pettitte had his Stadium Club news conference yesterday, slipping into his old No. 46 uniform and tugging on his familiar navy cap. Soon enough, he will be yanking it down near his eyebrows again, staring in for the sign from catcher Jorge Posada as if he had never left.

“It’s really strange,” said Pettitte, who signed a one-year, $16 million contract that includes a player option. “Just the little bit that I’ve been able to walk around, everything looks the same. Down in the clubhouse, it’s just like, ‘Wow.’ ”

Pettitte will be 35 in June, and he is graying a bit above the ears. His elbow has been operated on since he signed with his hometown Houston Astros after the 2003 World Series, and he has logged 87 starts, including the postseason.

Yet he has remained an elite pitcher, and the Yankees hope his powers of persuasion are intact. It was Pettitte’s surprise signing with the Astros that prompted Roger Clemens to call off his retirement and join the Astros in 2004.

Will Clemens follow Pettitte back to New York? Pettitte fielded many questions yesterday, but that was the most pressing.

“As a friend of his, it wouldn’t be fair to share anything that he’s shared with me on that subject,” Pettitte said. “All I feel comfortable saying, and that’s not even definite, but after speaking with him, he probably wants to try to pitch. It’s amazing that he still wants to pitch, but he does, like he’s 20. He’s got an unbelievable amount of energy.

“You add Roger Clemens to your staff, as far as I’m concerned, he’s the greatest pitcher to ever play the game, that’s great. Does he know that I would love that? Of course. And when you add him, your expectations are even higher.”

Clemens, 44, is a free agent, and his agent, Randy Hendricks, has advised him to pitch a partial season, as he did last year. Pettitte laughed at the suggestion that Clemens would be reporting with him to Tampa, Fla., next month. “I would think spring training would be definitely out,” he said.

The Astros, the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees all interest Clemens, and all would welcome him back.

“All of them have such compelling points to them,” Pettitte said. “Boston is where it all started for him, New York is where we won the championships, and home is home. He’s there, the schedule they would have with his family situation, he’s got a son in the organization. Those are the things that have to be going through his mind.”

The Red Sox and the Yankees would bid aggressively for Clemens, with the Yankees privately determined not to be outbid, especially after paring payroll with their trade of Randy Johnson to Arizona.

The Astros, who paid Clemens a prorated $22 million last year, have allowed Clemens to miss road trips to be with his family. Yankees Manager Joe Torre has said the Yankees would not allow a player to do that.

Asked if Clemens would require his 2007 team to offer the same benefits as the Astros, Hendricks said in an e-mail message: “That is not a question we need to address now. Roger has to decide whether to play. Once that decision is made, I go from there.”

Cashman would not detail a potential Yankees offer. But he admitted the Yankees wanted Clemens.

“It’s not that I haven’t talked to Randy Hendricks about Roger Clemens; I haven’t spoken to Roger at all,” Cashman said. “But they know we have an interest. They knew we had an interest last year.”

Trading for Clemens after the Yankees’ 1998 World Series title was among Cashman’s finest moves. It jolted a team that had dominated the previous season, and Clemens wound up pitching in four World Series for the Yankees. But Cashman said he knows Clemens well enough to let him determine his future. Clemens knows the Yankees will be ready for him.

“If we would be included as a team that he would be at least interested in hearing what we have to say, then, yeah, it would be a full-court press,” Cashman said. “But I can tell you right now: Roger is a man that makes his own decisions. I can do every trick in the book, but if he’s not ready to make a decision, it would be more wasted energy.”

For now, Cashman is looking forward to a Caribbean vacation that starts this weekend. After house hunting in Westchester, Pettitte was heading back to Texas. Before he left, though, he had a conversation with the Yankees’ principal owner, George Steinbrenner.

“I’m happy you’re back,” Steinbrenner told Pettitte, according to Steinbrenner’s publicist, Howard Rubenstein. “Go and do a good job for us, and I’m counting on you.”

Rubenstein said Pettitte told Steinbrenner he was prepared and that Steinbrenner could count on him. Rubenstein added that Steinbrenner was “quite elated” to have Pettitte back.

And how would Steinbrenner feel about signing Clemens, too? Rubenstein had no comment.

George Will: Bush & Congress, Hoping for a Miracle

January 12, 2007
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- During the battle of the Marne in September 1914, France's Marshal Foch declared: "My center is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent, I am attacking.'' His brio is remembered because his tactic worked: It prevented a rout that might have swiftly ended what might not today be known as World War I. But, then, we cannot know that.

The president's Wednesday evening address was without Fochian panache. He surely knows that he cannot know how his new policy will unfold, any more than his critics can have reasonable confidence in the consequences of their alternative policy.

The president is probably wrong in thinking that 17,500 more U.S. forces can clear Baghdad until Iraqi forces can hold it. And he probably is wrong in thinking that economic pump-priming and jobs programs, which are usually disappointing when tried in America, can succeed amid Iraq's anarchy. Besides, Shiites are not torturing Sunnis with electric drills and Sunnis are not beheading Shiites because both sides are suffering the ennui of the unemployed. For Iraqis, ennui is a utopian aspiration.

But the president is right in framing his new policy as a ukase to Iraq's government: We are buying you time, and not much of it, for you to dash to competence concerning security matters. Bush's policy probably will not succeed, but at least we will know what were the parameters of the possible, given the government produced by those Iraqi elections that once were the source of so much U.S. confidence.

The president's gamble is not a larger one than Democrats are making with what they are adopting as a party position. They are right that the "surge'' probably will not pull Iraq back from the abyss. But they are wrong to think that their policy is more than a variant of the president's policy: Shock treatment for Iraq's government, which is threatened with what, on Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice icily called, with studied vagueness, "the consequences now of nonperformance."

All sides recognize that the status quo in Iraq is untenable. Therefore those -- almost all Democrats, and a growing minority of Republicans -- who hope to block the "surge'' are really for setting in motion a swift and irreversible process of U.S. withdrawal, in the hope that it will galvanize Iraq's government to military and policy capabilities that U.S. training and subsidies have so far been unable to produce. And if not, Iraq and the region probably will become a cauldron of conflicts with genocidal stakes for the sectarian groups involved.

Both the president's speech, and the Democrats' response to it, delivered by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, contained passages that bordered on the bizarre. The president said, "If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people.'' But that support was long since forfeited. Durbin called upon Iraq's government to "disband'' the militias and death squads. Not destroy, but "disband.'' How is that supposed to happen? By asking them nicely? "Disband, please, and on the way home, if you see a Sunni (Shiite), give him a hug.'' The great question is whether Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will cooperate with crushing the Mahdi Army, which is the instrument of his patron, Moqtada al-Sadr.

Twenty years ago, Ken Livingstone, the (very left-wing) mayor of London, wrote a book titled "If Voting Changed Anything They'd Abolish It.'' But America's November voting produced Wednesday's change in Iraq policy. Voters did not, however, intend to bring on what is coming: Chechnya in their living rooms -- a spike of high-intensity, high-casualty urban warfare, televised.

Bush and his thoughtful critics, ostensibly at daggers drawn, are actually in agreement on three points. First, the failed policy of the last three years is both militarily and politically unsustainable. Second, any substantial departure from that policy must involve a leap into the dark -- a bet on the future about which no reasonable person can be confident. Third, Wednesday night the nation embarked upon the beginning of the end of U.S. suzerainty in Iraq, where, Maliki has said, with more bravado than plausibility, that by June -- about when the full surge probably will reach Iraq -- his government will be able to handle its security challenges.

Foch's 1914 bravado helped produce the "miracle of the Marne,'' which was followed by four years of carnage which destroyed empires, including the Ottoman Empire, a shard of which became Iraq. Today, in Iraq, the president's policy -- and that of his critics -- is to hope for a miracle.

Robert Spencer: The Anti-Profiling Agenda
January 12, 2007

Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) has been named to the House Judiciary Committee. Ellison said in a statement: “I look forward to pursuing a progressive agenda in the committee, including the restoration of American citizen’s civil liberties that have come under increasing attack over the past six years.”

The American citizens Ellison, the nation’s first Muslim congressman, has in mind are likely Muslims who charge that they have been subjected to unjust scrutiny and inconvenience in the aftermath of 9/11. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) shares this view: she has announced her intention to “correct the Patriot Act,” and wants to criminalize scrutiny of Muslims at airports and elsewhere: “Since September 11, many Muslim Americans have been subjected to searches at airports and other locations based upon their religion and national origin. We must make it illegal.” Helping make it illegal with Ellison on the House Judiciary Committee will be John Conyers (D-MI), the new chairman of that committee. “The policies of the Bush administration,” he has declared, “have sent a wave of fear through our immigrant communities and targeted our Arab and Muslim neighbors.”

Pelosi, Conyers, and Ellison by all appearances seem less concerned about any wave of fear that may be sent through American non-Muslims by continued jihad terror activity on American soil. But just this week there have been numerous indications that that jihad activity is continuing:

[1] Talib Abu Salam ibn Shareef (Derrick Shareef), a convert to Islam, pled not guilty Tuesday to plotting a terrorist attack against a shopping mall in Rockford, Illinois. As they were discussing his plans before his arrest, Shareef told an undercover agent: “Any place that’s crowded, like a mall is good, anything, any government facility is good. I swear by Allah man, I’m down for it too, I’m down for the cause, I’m down to live for the cause and die for the cause, man.” What cause? In a videotaped statement discovered after his arrest, Shareef tied his plans explicitly to his Islamic faith: “I am from America, and this tape is to let you guys know, who disbelieve in Allah, to let the enemies of Islam know, and to let the Muslims alike know that the time for jihad is strong, oh Mujahideen...May Allah protect me on this mission we do not cry, do not mourn for me.”

[2] Mohammed Yousuf Mullawala, a Muslim citizen of India, is the subject of a continuing investigation in Rhode Island after enrolling in a truck driving school, inquiring about getting a permit to carry hazardous materials, and telling instructors that he did not need to learn how to back up. Also, Rhode Island State Police Major Steven O’Donnell revealed that “we’ve tied some of his cell-phone records to people of interest nationally” – that is, people who are suspected of terrorist activity. “They’re not your typical person’s cell-phone history … the volume of contacts obviously raises the level of suspicion.” Referring to Mullawala’s own possible connection to jihad terror activity, O’Donnell said: “We don’t know whether he’s a major player, a minor player, or any type of player. But the indicators lead us to believe that his behavior is not normal.”

[3] Imam Fawaz Damra, the former leader of the largest mosque in Cleveland, was deported to the West Bank last Thursday. When he arrived, Israeli authorities promptly arrested him for his ties to the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. His failure to disclose those ties got him deported in the first place. He was also captured on videotape telling an Islamic audience that “the first principle is that terrorism, and terrorism alone, is the path to liberation…. If what they mean by jihad is terrorism, then we are terrorists” – despite having been a signer of the Fiqh Council of North America’s much lionized condemnation of terrorism.

[4] On Monday, a Pakistani Muslim, Shahawar Matin Siraj, was sentenced to thirty years in prison for his plan to blow up a Manhattan subway station.

[5] Last Friday in Palm Springs, a man named Haider Mohammad, who claimed to be an Al-Qaeda operative, was arrested in a bar after threatening to “kill all Jews.”

And that’s just in the last couple of weeks. In light of these and other cases, are law enforcement officials not justified in directing particular scrutiny at Muslims? After all, neither the American Muslim community nor any other has pronounced takfir on Osama bin Laden or any other jihadist individual or group. (Takfir is an Islamic practice akin to excommunication, involving the declaration that a particular Muslim is actually an unbeliever.) Jihadists move more or less freely among peaceful Muslims worldwide, and those peaceful Muslims have mounted no large-scale, organized attempt to wrest the intellectual and theological initiative away from the jihadists. In light of this, and of the jihadists’ copious and consistent use of Islamic teaching to justify their actions and make new recruits, it would be foolish in the extreme to outlaw, as Pelosi, Conyers, and Ellison wish to do, what is known as “religious profiling.”

Would we really all be safer if the one and only element that is common to all jihad attackers – a devout attachment to Islam – were ruled out of bounds as an object of consideration by law enforcement officials? The anti-profiling initiative that is sure to begin soon will necessarily be predicated on the proposition that there is no more reason to be concerned about devout Muslims than about devout Presbyterians or devout Amish.

Unfortunately, the evidence leads in exactly the opposite direction.

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.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Book Review: 'The Truth About Muhammad'

Religion of Peace?

Robert Spencer asks the hard questions.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
January 11, 2007

Islam is quintessentially tolerant. Its adherents are hospitable to liberty, equality, and pluralism, the rudiments of modern democracy. Those committing terror in its name are heretics — a fringe which has “hijacked” a “religion of peace.”

This conventional wisdom brims over the mainstream media’s daily servings. It is, moreover, the not-to-be-questioned premise of U.S. policy on a host of paramount issues: everything from how the war on terror is conceptualized and prosecuted, to the wisdom of negotiations with Iran, a sovereign state for Palestinians, agitation for freedom and popular self-determination throughout the Middle East, and the assumption that our own growing Muslim population will seamlessly assimilate.

But is it true?

Emphatically, the answer is “no.” So argues best-selling author and Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer in The Truth about Muhammad — Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (Regnery, 256 pages, $27.95). And he does not expect you to take his word for it. Painstakingly, Spencer has crafted a biography Islam’s Prophet from the authentic Muslim Sunnah, comprised of: the Koran, which is taken by believers to be the verbatim word of Allah, dictated to Muhammad in Arabic by the angel Gabriel; the tafsir, or Koranic commentary; the hadith, which are lengthy volumes recording the words and traditions of Muhammad (there are six different collections, dating from the eighth and ninth centuries); and, finally, the sira, authoritative biographies of the Prophet, including what remains to us of Ibn Ishaq’s hagiographic account, written about 150 years after Muhammad’s death in 632.

The picture that emerges is complex but not ambiguous. Muhammad was a dynamic figure — necessarily, among the most dynamic in history, having formed from scratch a movement that ultimately dominated lands from the Near East to Central Asia (to say nothing of pockets of Europe, Africa, and the Far East), a movement that today claims over a billion adherents. He was also, through and through, a product of Arabia’s tribal antiquity — a fact often stressed by Islam’s modern sympathizers to explain, if not smooth, the Prophet’s many rough edges. In such a life, unsurprisingly, one finds episodic acts of tolerance and benevolence. But there are episodes and then there is trajectory. The arc of Muhammad’s life tends decisively to intolerance and inequality. His was, ultimately, a bellicose, us-versus-them world of conquest and booty. This cannot help but imbue the religion he founded. In it, his example is normative: the scriptures revere him as “an excellent model of conduct” (Sura 33:21), who exhibits an “exalted standard of character” (68:4) and obedience to whom is repeatedly adjured — indeed, is made equally as essential as obedience to Allah Himself (4:80). Recalling the Muslim fury over Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2005, Spencer points out that in the Koran “again and again Allah is quite solicitous of his prophet, and ready to command what will please him. To the mind of someone who accepts the [Koran] as an authentic revelation, this places Muhammad in a particularly important position.”


The Prophet of Islam was born in Mecca, a member of the Quraysh tribe which did a lucrative trade in pilgrimages to the local shrine, the Kabah — now the central locus of Islamic worship but then home to numerous pagan idols. Both Muhammad’s parents died in his early childhood. In his twenties, he was hired as a traveling salesman by his distant cousin Khadija, an accomplished merchant woman whose wares he deftly traded in Syria. Though fifteen years his senior, Khadija proposed marriage, becoming the first of Muhammad’s many wives (biographers peg the number at between eleven and thirteen, with Muhammad having claimed to be “given the power of sexual intercourse equal to forty men”). Eventually, she also became the first Muslim.

Muhammad’s prophetic career spanned about 23 years after he received, at age 40, what he came to believe was his first revelation. Initially, the call to Islam was a straightforward summons to monotheism — to worship only “Allah,” who, Spencer explains, may have been the tribal god of the Quraysh (and thus one of the many local deities). As further revelations fleshed out nascent Islam, there was transparent borrowing from the Bible, the Torah, other Jewish and Christian sources (including heterodox strains of Christianity then abundant in Arabia), Zoroastrian writings from Persia, and local pagan ritual.

The resulting similarities discomfit Muslims, who often insist that they represent not emulation but happenstance, the Koran having been recited to Muhammad (who was illiterate) by Allah in His original language of Arabic. Beyond that, any seeming Judeo-Christian influence is attributed to Jews and Christians being fellow “People of the Book,” whose God Muslims share and whose heritage they claim to supersede. It is, in fact, an enduring tenet that Jews and Christians are, as Spencer puts it, “sinful renegades from the truth of Islam,” who corruptly altered their scriptures to elide foreshadowings of Muhammad’s coming.

One of the seeming contradictions of Muhammad’s life is the contrast of his early hospitality toward Jews (and Christians) with his final position of unremitting enmity. Contradictions, of course, create ambiguity. This is useful for Islam’s modern apologists, who incessantly underline a few isolated episodes of tolerance and even kindness as if they could bleach away Muhammad’s legacy of arch hostility toward non-Muslims — a legacy built, for example, on the Koran’s admonition that Muslims “take not the Jews and the Christians as friends and protectors” (5:51); on Muhammad’s vision of the end of the world: marked by Jesus returning to abolish Christianity and impose Islam, while Jews are killed by Muslims (with the help of trees and stones, which alert the faithful, “Muslim, … there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him”); and on the Prophet’s deathbed call for the total expulsion of unbelievers from the Arabian Peninsula — a desire the Saudi government honors to this day, particularly in Mecca and Medina, cities closed to non-Muslims.

Spencer cogently explains, however, that there is no real contradiction or ambiguity. Especially in the early phase of his prophesying — the Meccan period before Hijra, when the Muslims were forced to flee to Medina — Muhammad had great reason to be solicitous: He was building a movement. Arabia’s powerful Jewish tribes (the Qaynuqa, Auf and Qurayzah, among others) were among those the Prophet most energetically called to Islam.

Thus we find Muhammad “situating himself within the roster of Jewish prophets, forbidding pork for his followers, and adapting for the Muslims the practice of several daily prayers and other aspects of Jewish ritual.” Muhammad, moreover, struck a treaty with Medina’s Jewish tribes — grandiosely regarded by Muslims as “the world’s first constitution” — which described them as “one community with the believers” (though tellingly, even in this amicable period, the pact drew sharp distinctions between Muslims and non-Muslims).

In fact, this adaptability, when exhibited in Muhammad’s similarly earnest efforts to convert his native Quraysh to Islam, resulted in the nearly ruinous “Satanic verses” incident (made infamous in modern times by Salman Rushdie’s book and the consequent murder fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini). Desperate to be reconciled with his own people, Muhammad convinced himself that he’d received a revelation allowing Muslims to pray to three pagan goddesses favored by the Quraysh as intercessors for Allah. The Quraysh were thrilled, but the Prophet, upon a countermanding revelation from an angry Gabriel, soon realized he had not only contradicted the core of his monotheistic preaching but potentially undermined the entire Islamic enterprise by raising the possibility that his revelations were not authentic. Allah forgave Muhammad, observing that Satan’s interference had been an occupational hazard for all His beleaguered prophets through the ages. Still, the incident is sufficiently embarrassing that Muslim scholars and apologists continue ferociously to discredit it, although, Spencer concludes, the evidence preponderates against them.


In any event, good will between Muslims and non-Muslims proved fleeting. Muhammad’s overriding aim was Islamic hegemony not ecumenical coexistence. Upon resettling in Medina, Muhammad became as much a political and military leader as the apocalyptic preacher of his first 13 years of prophesying. The Jews, like the Quraysh, many Christian communities, and other non-Muslims declined to heed his call. Rejection of Islam was construed as attack upon Islam, for which the prescription was jihad.

Incontestably, jihad is a central imperative (in fact, the highest obligation) of Islam. Muhammad’s career as a fierce and, at times, brutal warrior illustrates the futility of efforts to render congenial to modern sensibilities this command to struggle against perceived enemies. Yes, the Koran famously asserts that there shall be “no compulsion in religion” (2:256). But however hortatory this injunction may be, it is ahistorical. Islam was spread by the sword.

The Prophet’s military feats began with attacks, many of which he led personally, on Quraysh caravans. These raids, Spencer explains, were not merely acts of vengeance against those who had rejected Islam; they further “served a key economic purpose, keeping the Muslim movement solvent.” Booty would be central to Muslim militancy, and thus grew rules for its division (such as one-fifth of the haul set aside for the Prophet, and the propriety of using female slaves as concubines). Asked by a follower about the legitimacy of nighttime attacks given the probability of endangering women and children, Muhammad indicated these were permissible because such noncombatants “are from them” (i.e., the unbelievers). It is due to this and other lessons that the battles of early Islam resonate today — creating a major hurdle (I fear, an insuperable one) for reformers hopeful of convincing the ummah (i.e., the worldwide Muslim community) that it’s the terrorists, not the reformers themselves, who are doctrinally wayward.

The Prophet, for example, directed “martyrdom” operations. Martyrdom, Spencer elaborates, was understood exactly as it is by today’s jihadists: “referring to one who (in the words of a revelation that came to Muhammad much later) ‘slays and is slain’ for Allah (Qur’an 9:111), rather than in the Christian sense of suffering unto death at the hands of the unjust for the sake of the faith.” Muslims were authorized by another revelation to break treaties — particularly with the Jews — when there appeared advantage in doing so (8:58). And in the tone-setting “Nakhla Raid” against the Quraysh, a timely revelation helped Muhammad overcome his initial reluctance to accept booty derived from killings committed by his followers during the sacred month of Rajab, when fighting was forbidden. Those murdered had disbelieved Allah. This, the Prophet learned, was the greater evil. Of course, the collateral lesson, as Spencer relates, was that “[m]oral absolutes were swept aside in favor of the overarching principle of expediency.”

Believers were instructed to fight and behead non-believers (47:4), and did so mercilessly. After the out-numbered Muslims decisively triumphed over the Quraysh in the “Battle of Badr,” for example, one captured Quraysh leader pled for his life, asking, “But who will look after my children?” “Hell,” replied Muhammad, ordering the man killed. Another leader’s head was brought as a trophy to the Prophet, who expressed delight and gave thanks to Allah. (No wonder then, Spencer interjects, that when al Qaeda’s strongman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, decapitated American hostage Nicholas Berg, he declared, “The Prophet, the most merciful, ordered [his army] to strike the necks of some prisoners in Badr and to kill them…. And he set a good example for us.”) (Brackets in original.)

Allah, in fact, expressed anger at Muhammad after Badr because the Prophet agreed to take ransom from some captured Quraysh leaders rather than beheading them as his companion, Umar, had urged. In Medina, the Muslims were pitted against an alliance of the Quraysh and the Qurayzah Jews in the “Battle of the Trench.” During the Muslims’ building of the defensive trench, Muhammad’s pick blows are said to have emitted lightening flashes, which drew cries of “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is greatest” — the “Islamic cry of victory” for Spencer) and were interpreted by the Prophet as a sign that Allah would eventually make Islam triumphant beyond Arabia in the east and west. Opining that “war is deceit,” Muhammad directed one of his followers to appear as a sympathizer to the enemy factions, while sowing discord between them. It worked: the Quraysh abandoned the field and the Muslims laid siege to the Jews, whom Muhammad called “brothers of monkeys.” (Spencer notes three places — 2:62-65, 5:59-60 and 7:166 — where the Koran records that “Allah transformed the Sabbath-breaking Jews into pigs and monkeys.”) When the Qurayzah surrendered and sought mercy, Muhammad agreed with the assessment of his follower Sad bin Muadh that “their warriors should be killed and their children and women should be taken as captives.” In the execution, Muhammad personally participated in the beheading of between 600 and 900 captives — including all males who had reached puberty.

This incident was not unique.

Spencer recounts that Muhammad ordered a Jewish poet, Kab bin al-Ashraf, killed because the Prophet took offense at “amatory verses of an insulting nature about Muslim women.” After the murder, he commanded the Muslims: “Kill any Jew that falls into your power.” When Muhammad ordered the expulsion of the Nadir Jews with whom area Muslims had a treaty, Muhammad’s emissary declared, “Hearts have changed, and Islam has wiped out the old covenants.” When the Jews declined to leave, Muhammad construed this to mean that “[t]he Jews have declared war” — another reminder that whether Islam is “under attack,” the trigger of jihad, is ever in the eyes of the beholder. In the ensuing siege, the Prophet ordered the earth scorched, refuting his own prohibition against the wanton destruction of property so often cited by Islamic apologists. And in the “Raid at Khaybar,” Muhammad directed that a Jewish leader, Kinana bin al-Rabi, be tortured to extract the location of tribal treasure; when al-Rabi stood fast, Muhammad had him beheaded, and later, when more hidden treasure was located, the incensed Prophet — as he had done with the Qurayzah Jews — directed that warriors among the Khaybar Jews be killed and the women and children taken as slaves.


Why rehash these and other chilling episodes in the meteoric, militaristic rise of early Islam? Because, Spencer maintains, they are crucial to appreciating the dual challenge faced by Westerners and Islamic reformers. Americans, told incessantly by their elites that Islam is a “religion of peace,” watch in bewilderment when, for example, a Muslim convert to Christianity is subjected to a death penalty trial in the “new” Afghanistan, liberated from the Taliban due to great American sacrifice. How, they rightly wonder, could the “moderates’ now in charge abide such a thing?

The answer is as simple: Islam’s prophet made death the penalty for apostasy. (“Whoever changed his Islamic religion,” said Muhammad, “then kill him.”) There is a crying need, Spencer observes, “for Westerners to become informed about the words and deeds of Muhammad — which make the actions of Islamic states much more intelligible than do the words of Islamic apologists in the West.”

The foundation of American policy, furthermore, is the conceit that moderates represent the Islamic mainstream, that they reflect the authentic image of a Muhammad — the “highest example of human behavior” — who championed the values of democracy and equality. “But,” as Spencer cautions, “if the jihad terrorists are correct in invoking his example to justify their deeds, then Islamic reformers will need to initiate a respectful but searching re-evaluation of the place Muhammad occupies within Islam — a vastly more difficult undertaking.” And this must be said not just of jihad terrorists.

Spencer, for example, is understanding about the actions of Muhammad, then aged 50, in taking Aisha as a wife when she was six and consummating the marriage when she was nine. This was, after all, in the spirit of the times. Nevertheless, for believers, the Prophet’s example transcends its time, and thus child-brides are a commonplace in the Islamic world. Muhammad’s Islam, moreover, still confines women to a subordinate status — the Koran likens a woman to a “tilth” to be used as a man wills (2:223); a man may take four wives and have sex with slave girls (4:3); a woman’s testimony is valued at half that of a man (2:282); and so on. There is, moreover, simply no credibly denying the denigrated status of non-Muslims, reduced by Muhammad and his successors to humiliating dhimmitude and, as we have seen, brutalized.

Individually, countless Muslims have evolved past these notions. But Islam has not — certainly not in a dominant or convincing way. If anything, atavism is at least as strong a current as reform. Is it realistic to believe the tens of millions (more likely, hundreds of millions) of Muslims whose compass is Muhammad’s belligerent, hegemonic vision of Islam — a vision that has endured for 14 centuries — will abandon it in favor of an Islam that embraces liberty, self-determination, and equality based on our common humanity? Anything, one imagines, is possible … but such a seismic shift is not going to happen any time soon.

Robert Spencer graphically illustrates the depth of our folly in thinking — or, rather, blithely assuming — otherwise. An alarming book, and a necessary one.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Victor Davis Hanson: The Surge Gamble

January 11, 2007 6:30 AM

All eyes now turn to Baghdad and Sadr City.

This was not Churchill, not FDR, and not JFK Wednesday night, and there was not quite enough about winning and victory — but the content was still good enough.

Many of us were skeptical of a surge/bump/increase for an obvious reason: Our military problems in Iraq have been tactical and strategic (too-slow training too few Iraqis, arrest/release of terrorists, too many targets off limits, patrolling in lieu of attacking, worry over our own force protection rather than securing the safety of Iraqi citizens, open borders with Syria and Iran, etc.) — and not a shortage of manpower.

So the increase — no one knows whether the 20,000 number is adequate — could make things far worse by offering more targets and creating more Iraqi dependency if we don’t change our operations. But if the surge ups the ante by bringing a radical new approach on the battlefield as the president promises, then it is worth his gamble.

All the requisite points were made by the president, almost as if were quoting verbatim Gen. David Petraeus’s insightful summaries of counterinsurgency warfare — an Iraqi face on operations, economic stimuli, clear mission of clearing terrorists out of Baghdad, political reform, a “green-light” to go after killers — while addressing the necessary regional concerns with Syria and Iran.

Will these “benchmarks” work? Only if the Maliki government is honest when he promises that there will be no sanctuaries for the militias and terrorists. So when the killing of terrorists causes hysteria — and it will, both in Iraq and back here at home — the Iraqi-American units must escalate their operations rather than stand down.

The American people will support success and an effort to win, whatever the risks, but not stasis. We saw that with the silent approval of Ethiopia’s brutal rout of the Islamists in Somalia, and our own attack on al Qaeda there.

The subtext of the president’s speech was that our sacrifices to offer freedom and constitutional government are the only solution for the Middle East — but that our commitments are not open-ended if the Iraqis themselves don’t want success as much as we do.

But why believe that this latest gamble will work? One, things are by agreement coming to a head: this new strategy will work, or, given the current politics, nothing will. Two, the Iraqis in government know this time Sadr City and Baghdad are to be secured, or it is to be “see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya,” and they will be on planes to Dearborn.

Finally note the pathetic Democratic reply by Sen. Durbin, last in the public eye for his libel of American troops (as analogous to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others”). There was no response.

Durbin simply assumed credit for the Bush policy of deposing Saddam, fostering democracy, and then blamed the Iraqis and said enough was enough. Not a word followed about the effects of a rapid withdrawal. In other words, the Democratic policy is that anything good in Iraq they supported, anything bad they opposed. And they will now harp yet do nothing — except whine in fear the surge might actually work.

So where does that leave us? All eyes now turn to Baghdad and Sadr City and our courageous Americans fighting in them. If they are allowed to rout the terrorists, all will trumpet their victory; if we fail, President Bush alone will take the blame.

In other words, as in all wars, the pulse of the battlefield will determine the ensuing politics. So let’s win in pursuit of victory, and everything else will sort itself out.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is

Bobby's Battle

Murcer upbeat in fight against cancer
January 11, 2007

Although the pathologist report on his brain tumor was grave, Bobby Murcer remained upbeat yesterday as he faced what he termed "the biggest fight of my life so far."

Murcer, who underwent surgery last week, has learned that the tumor was malignant, and apparently the reports showed other invasive cells. As a result, the popular Yankee announcer and former outfielder is facing six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. In addition to that, Murcer said, the doctors at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston have discussed using an experimental treatment for the cancer, and that has given him renewed hope.

"I've got a great team of doctors down here," Murcer, 60, told the Daily News from the hospital, "and they've got some new things they want to try. Hopefully, I can be a positive example for others."

In a statement issued through the Yankees earlier in the day, Murcer said: "I'm not having to battle this alone, but I'm fortified with the most loving family and an abundance of wonderful friends and fans."

And Yankees owner George Steinbrenner issued a statement of his own about Murcer, who has been a Yankee fixture for 40 years.

"Bobby Murcer represents the spirit of the Yankees, and above all he's my dear friend," Steinbrenner said. "I know Bobby very well. He has true grit, is a fighter, and our entire Yankee organization offers our prayers to him and his family for a big win in this battle."

Before he got the latest report, Murcer had expressed a determination to attend the Jan. 24 BAT Dinner in New York, at which he serves as chairman. But while that's no longer possible, he vowed to make it back to work.

"We'll have to see how my body responds to all this treatment," said Murcer, "but I plan to be back in the booth next season and I'm still looking forward to getting down to spring training at some time."

In the meantime, however, he acknowledged the tough fight ahead.

"Tell all my friends and fans how much I appreciate all their prayers," Murcer said, "and tell them that, if it's all right, I could probably use a few more." Originally published on January 11, 2007

Ann Coulter: Stripper Lied...White Boys Fried
January 10, 2007

About a month after members of the Duke lacrosse team were falsely accused of raping a stripper last year, 88 members of the Duke faculty fanned the flames of hysteria by signing a letter announcing that they were "listening" to students "who know themselves to be objects of racism and sexism."

Maybe they should have been listening to the accused, several of whom had ironclad alibis. Now the professors are going to need a new example of "racism and sexism" at Duke, since their case in chief has turned out to be a fraud.

In lieu of a gang rape perpetrated by high-stepping white male athletes against a poor black woman, the Duke lacrosse case has turned out to be another in a long string of hoax hate crimes in which whites are falsely accused.

The lacrosse players denied that any rape had occurred and immediately submitted their DNA to the state, confident that the DNA would prove them innocent.

It did: Not a trace of DNA from any of the lacrosse players was found on the accuser, though this girl had more DNA in her than a refrigerator at a fertility clinic.

She had DNA from five other men, which ought to have raised suspicions about her story that she had not had sex with anyone for the week before the alleged gang rape. Well, that was one of the several versions of events the accuser has offered police to date, although my personal favorite was the one in which Elvis came back from the dead and sexually assaulted her. (I think that was version No. 3 – I'd have to check my notes.)

This is the second time this woman has accused a group of men of gang-raping her. One more time and it's officially considered a hobby.

And yet despite the vast privilege, untold wealth and bright shiny whiteness of the defendants, they are still under criminal indictment in this case. Three of the players face up to 30 years in prison for a crime every sane person knows they did not commit. Ah, the life of the privileged!

Duke English professor Cathy N. Davidson recently wrote an opinion piece defending her signing of the "listening" letter, noting that it was "not addressed to the police investigation," but rather "focused on racial and gender attitudes all too evident" after the alleged rape. She explained that the letter had merely "decried prejudice and inequality in the society at large."

This would be like defending a letter written during the Dreyfus affair on the grounds that the letter didn't explicitly accuse Alfred Dreyfus of treason against France, but simply took the occasion of his arrest to decry the treasonable attitudes of the Jews in society at large.
If poor black women are constantly being raped by rich white men, then how about they produce one case?

Professor Davidson's column – written when it was clear to everyone except Nancy Grace that three innocent men were facing 30 years in prison for a rape they did not commit – notes that she remains "dismayed by the glaring social disparities implicit in what we know happened on March 13" and says the incident "underscores the appalling power dynamics of the situation."
OK, this one they made up, but the case still illustrates a larger truth!

If anything, our awareness of the "power dynamics of the situation" is too high. What we need is a little of that skepticism liberals bring to every single criminal case that is not a white-on-black crime or a rape case involving Bill Clinton.

The truth, as opposed to the larger truth, is that the allegedly powerful white males are at risk of losing their freedom at the hands of a lunatic accuser and a power-mad prosecutor. Meanwhile, the allegedly powerless poor black woman has destroyed people's lives with her false accusations, for which she will walk away scot-free.

Don't leftists ever have to pony up at least one example of a powerful privileged white male trampling on the rights of a powerless black woman in order to keep droning on about powerful privileged white males? Every real-life example invariably turns out to be a hoax, among the most spectacular the Tawana Brawley case and now the Duke lacrosse case.

According to the Los Angeles Times – in an article about another hoax "hate crime" on a college campus – false reports of racist hate crimes on college campuses have averaged about one a year for 20 years.

Leftist professors believe that crying wolf is valuable for calling attention to the societal problem of wolves, even though there's never a wolf in any particular case. Evidently, awareness of an alleged societal ill – of which we have no actual examples – is worth ruining the lives of three innocent people. After all, they're just powerful white men.

At the next White Males of Privilege meeting, someone ought to bring up how they can use their vast power to win the right not to be put on trial for crimes they didn't commit.

Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is Godless: The Church of Liberalism.

Mike Lupica: Baseball unsafe at any speed

The Daily News
January 11, 2007

Barry Bonds is the face of baseball starting today.

Before we get anywhere near pitchers and catchers in baseball, we start things off with McGwire and Bonds.

Oh, sure. A new baseball season, the home run season of Barry Bonds, starts right here and now, with a story in the Daily News this morning about Bonds testing positive for amphetamines last season.

Under the sport's collective bargaining agreement, which can occasionally be more fun and full of thrills than Great Adventure, amphetamines are now banned in baseball. You get suspended if you get caught using them. Just not the first time you get caught. According to our sources, and they're good ones, Bonds got caught, then apparently blamed his positive test on teammate Mark Sweeney, apparently because Sweeney was handy.

Bonds has always been great at baseball and lousy at so many other things. Now put lousy teammate in there, too.

If he didn't have Sweeney to blame, maybe he would have blamed the feds, or the media, or an ex-girlfriend, or Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who called him out in "Game of Shadows." All the good parts of his career, a career that has him on the verge of breaking Henry Aaron's all-time home run record, Bonds did. Well him and God, if you believe his version of things. In no particular order.

The bad parts, all these drug allegations that have chased him out of the BALCO case and will chase him right to Aaron, are just examples of how people don't like him and don't want him to break Aaron's record and are out to get him. Just ask Bonds. Or his peeps.

Mark McGwire, who was not elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame two days ago because people who cheered him for his own home run summer with Sammy Sosa nearly nine years ago now vote against him, is not the main event when it comes to drugs and baseball. He never will be. McGwire was just the headliner for a couple of days because he didn't make it to Cooperstown and Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn did.

But only for a couple of days. Bonds, it turns out, was on deck, even if it's for a misdemeanor this time and not a felony.

So he is the headliner, today, and in spring training, and with every home run he hits until he gets to 756. He will deny these new allegations the way he denies everything else, and he and his lawyers will say that this is just part of the witch hunt that has been going on for years. They will try to make Bonds some kind of victim again. Fat chance. Believe the story.

He is the face of baseball for as long as he plays, until he finally limps away for good. The Giants, who are in the business of making money and selling tickets and justifying the $126 million they just spent for Barry Zito, are so offended by all the charges that have been made against Bonds that they are in the process of working out a $20million deal for him to continue to play baseball for them. The churchgoers in the organization light candles hoping that Bonds closes in on Aaron and then breaks the record during a long home stand.

Of course this story - Bonds on greenies! - seems like a misdemeanor after everything we have seen from him and everything we have learned from him the last couple of years. Once it wouldn't have even seemed like big news, an aging ballplayer trying to get himself through the long season with something stronger than the special players' pot of coffee that was a clubhouse staple for years and years.

It just happens that taking amphetamines, even if you do get a pass the first time, now happens to be against baseball law. But, then, why would that be anything more than a speed bump with Barry Bonds? If they haven't gotten him yet on steroids - despite a pile of evidence as big and muscle-bound as he has become - why would he think they'd get him on the modern version of pep pills?

McGwire took the fall for everybody this week, and will continue to take it until the next big slugger from the steroid era comes up for a Hall of Fame vote. We know a lot more about steroids than we did when he got to 70 home runs, know that there was a lot more going on than one jug of androstenedione in his locker at Shea Stadium. McGwire was the first name to come up, and he got clipped.

But he can't ever be the face of this whole thing for long, no matter how much he got discussed and written up this week, even if he was the first to break Roger Maris' record, even after that sad appearance in front of Congress in March of 2005, as sad as anything you could see in sports.

Bonds is a Face Book of baseball all by himself. He is about to break an even bigger record than Maris', the biggest record in all of sports, become the all-time home run king of baseball. Barry Bonds is the face of baseball starting today, and every day of the season, until he breaks the record or breaks down. We sure are lucky to have him. Play ball. Originally published on January 11, 2007