Friday, January 19, 2007

Patrick J. Buchanan: See the Superpower Run
Friday, January 19, 2007

No sooner had Sens. Hagel and Biden announced their resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the Bush surge of 21,500 troops to Iraq was not in the national interest than the stampede was on. By day's end, Sens. Dodd, Clinton, Bayh, Levin and Obama and ex-Sen. John Edwards had all made or issued statements calling for reversing course or getting out.

You can't run a war by committee, said Vice President Cheney.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (C) is flanked by Iraq's national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie (R) and Iraq's Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani (L) as he cuts a cake during a celebration marking Police Day in Baghdad January 9, 2007. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ) True. George Washington did not request a vote of confidence from the Continental Congress before crossing the Delaware, and Douglas MacArthur did not consult Capitol Hill before landing at Inchon.

But Congress is not trying to run a war. Congress is trying to get out of Iraq and get on record opposing the "surge." Congress is running after popular opinion.

And if the surge does not succeed in six months in quelling the sectarian violence in Baghdad, there will be no more troops, and the Americans will start down the road to Kuwait. And, unlike 2003, there will be no embedded and exhilarated journalists riding with them.

To the older generation, the American way of abandonment is familiar. JFK's New Frontiersmen marched us, flags flying, into Vietnam. But, as the body count rose to 200 a week, the "Best and Brightest" suddenly discovered this was a "civil war," "Nixon's war" and the Saigon regime was "corrupt and dictatorial." So, with a clean conscience, they cut off funds and averted their gaze as Pol Pot's holocaust ensued.

Our Vietnamese friends who did not make it out on the choppers, or survive the hellish crossing of the South China Sea by raft, wound up shot in the street or sent to "re-education camps."

Nouri al-Maliki can see what is coming.

As Condi flies about the Middle East in a security bubble, telling the press he is living on "borrowed time," and Bush tells PBS of his revulsion at the botched hanging of Saddam Hussein, Maliki is showing the same signs of independence he demonstrated when he refused Bush's invitation to dine with him and the king of Jordan. Give me the guns and equipment and go home, he seems to be saying to the White House.

Put me down on Maliki's side. It is he who is taking the real risk here -- with his life. It is he who is likely to learn what Kissinger meant when he observed that in this world, while it is often dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, to be a friend is fatal.

Will the surge work? Can it work? Certainly, adding thousands of the toughest cops in America to the LAPD would reduce gang violence in South Central. So, it may work for a time.

Yet in the long run it is hard to see how the surge succeeds. We are four years into this war, and the bloodletting in Baghdad is rising. Our presence has never been more resented. In America, the war has already been lost. Even Bush admits that staying the course means "slow failure." And a rapid withdrawal, as urged by the Baker-Hamilton commission, means "expedited failure."

Even should the surge succeed for a time, it may only push the inevitable into another year.

And consider what it is we are asking Maliki to do.

We want him to use Sunni and Kurdish brigades of the Iraqi Army, in concert with the U.S. Army, to smash the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the most popular Shia leader in the country and the principal political support of Maliki. We are asking Maliki to turn on his ruthless Shia patron and bet his future on an America whose people want all U.S. troops home, the earlier the better.

For Maliki to implement fully the U.S. conditions would make him a mortal enemy of Moqtada and millions of Shia, and possibly result in his assassination. Whatever legacy Bush faces, he is not staring down a gun barrel at that.

The truth: There is only one U.S. policy guaranteed to work if we are resolved to keep Iraq in the U.S. camp. That is to send an army of 500,000 to 750,000 U.S. troops into Iraq for an indefinite period, to pacify Baghdad, retake and hold Anbar and secure the borders against jihadis. Even that kind of commitment, beyond the present capacity of the U.S. Army and Marines, would not secure America's position, once the inevitable withdrawal began.

It is over. What we need to face now are the consequence of the folly of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice in launching this unnecessary and unprovoked war, the folly of the neocon snake oil salesmen who bamboozled the media into believing in this insane crusade to bring democracy to Baghdad in the belly of Bradley fighting vehicles and the folly of the Democratic establishment in handing Bush a blank check for war out of political fear of being called unpatriotic.

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

Film Review: 'The Last King of Scotland'

Ruthe Stein, San Fransisco Chronicle Senior Movie Writer
Friday, October 6, 2006

The Last King of Scotland: Drama. Starring Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington and Gillian Anderson. Directed by Kevin Macdonald. (R. 121 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)

The public's perverse fascination with dictators faded quickly for Idi Amin. Forced from power in 1979 after a decadelong reign of terror that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans, he died in obscurity three years ago. Amin did not become the subject of a spate of biopics like those chronicling every step of Hitler's rise and fall.

Now that Hollywood belatedly has gotten around to Amin, he shares screen time with a fictional character, something the self-aggrandizing general surely would have found galling. But the brilliance of "The Last King of Scotland'' -- an immediate contender for Oscar consideration and a spot on critics' top 10 lists -- is the way it shows his dangerous allure through the eyes of an innocent.

The central conceit is that on the cusp of his successful coup, Amin, exuberantly portrayed by Forest Whitaker, has a fateful encounter with a Scottish physician. Politically naive Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) has come to Uganda with his freshly minted medical degree to sow some wild oats and, incidentally, minister to the needy. When the general is injured in a car accident, Nicholas, the only doctor within miles, is called upon to treat him. The two men bond immediately, and Amin -- whose affinity for the Scots, whom he sees as victims of British oppression much as he is, leads him to grandiosely refer to himself as the last king of Scotland -- invites Nicholas to be his personal physician and, ultimately, his closest confidant.

This is spellbinding entertainment, filled with unexpected moments of levity that almost make you feel guilty laughing at the antics of a tyrant. They're like the "Springtime for Hitler" number with no singing and dancing. When Amin becomes convinced that he's been poisoned (an early indication of his paranoia) and demands medical attention in the middle of the night, Nicholas correctly diagnoses severe flatulence and has his patient relieve the symptoms by bending over a stick held tightly against his pot belly.

Director Kevin Macdonald, whose previous experience is limited to documentaries, skillfully brings "Last King" to life, bathing the landscape in pastels and capturing the joviality of the Ugandan people despite the hardships they endure. Screenwriters Peter Morgan ("The Queen") and Jeremy Brock ("Mrs. Brown'') do a splendid job of adapting Giles Foden's award-winning novel, rarely resorting to the sort of annoying voiceover that makes a movie sound like a book on tape.

All of this is in service of a truly astonishing screen performance. Followers of Whitaker's career (his heartbreaking vulnerability as the doomed soldier in "The Crying Game" becomes more memorable with time than its most famous scene) knew he had it in him, given material worthy of his talent.

He starts out playing Amin as a cuddly clown, his large body shaking with mirth, only gradually showing glimpses of the madman within. The laugh goes on too long or the look in his eyes abruptly turns malevolent. The red and gold brocade of his military uniform brings out his imperiousness.

Like most dictators, Amin is a champion seducer, whether of the masses, who believe his claim that he only wants to help them, or of individuals like Nicholas. Whitaker makes these seduction scenes palpable. Unlike Sean Penn's demagogue in "All the King's Men," you're able to forget that Whitaker is acting. He embodies the role. When clips of the real Amin are shown at the end, it's almost shocking to realize the extent to which Whitaker has become him.

Just as the doctor is willingly subservient to the dictator, McAvoy (the faun in "The Chronicles of Narnia'') allows Whitaker to upstage him. It's a wise decision, keeping the film tilted the way it should be. McAvoy effectively creates a portrait of a confused young man, susceptible to Amin's charms. Nicholas likes his pleasures. Upon arriving in Uganda, he puts the moves on his colleague's wife (an arresting Gillian Anderson, who has made fascinating career choices since "The X-Files''). He begins an affair with one of the Ugandan strongman's several wives (Kerry Washington, showing by the terror on her face the fear Amin instills in his women). McAvoy makes clear how easily the doctor can be bought by his unadulterated joy when the dictator presents him with an expensive sports car.

So Nicholas chooses not to believe the stories he hears about atrocities committed by his boss. When a suddenly childlike Amin solicits advice on how to spin stories about him being a nut case and a cannibal, Nicholas coolly tells him not to banish the press but instead to meet with them and pour on the charm, which he does to great effect.

At its heart of darkness, the film is about the lure of power. It's a condemnation of all the dictators' men over all time. Surely some of those who served a Nero or Hussein or Ceausescu had the moral sense to realize that they were aligned with a force of evil. Yet they stuck. Emboldened by Whitaker's unforgettable performance, "The Last King" daringly puts forth reasons for such complicity.

-- Advisory: Extremely violent and disturbing images.

E-mail Ruthe Stein at

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Jonah Goldberg: Blinding Us with Science

January 19, 2007 12:00 AM

Hermes is proving to be a fickle ally.

For a generation, American politics has largely been frozen in place when it comes to so-called “reproductive issues.” Abortion has been the keystone holding up a number of related positions, from euthanasia to embryonic-stem-cell research (ESCR), with self-described pro-lifers and pro-choicers locked in a permanent cold war.

But the light of science is melting the permafrost beneath them, making abortion seem like a 20th-century argument about feminism whereas the argument in the 21st century will be about humanity itself — and whether science is the source of human values.

Tellingly, in the past, both sides in the abortion wars have claimed science as their ally in the fight over when life begins. Embryonic-stem-cell research, however, has changed the focus of that argument because, for reasons good and bad, ESCR advocates want to stop talking about those who are pro-life and start calling their opponents “anti-science,” as if being anti-science — whatever that means — is an immoral stance.

Pro-embryonic-stem-cell-research activists have given science something of a messianic role in human affairs, casting it as a deliverer from our moral plight. For example, in a pique of asininity, Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.), declared this month, “It is scandalous that eight years have passed since we have known about stem cell research and the potential to conquer all known maladies, and federal funds have not been available for the research.”

All . . . known . . . maladies? Really? Before that, John Edwards all but promised that a vote for John Kerry was a vote for Christopher Reeve to walk again.

But it appears that Hermes (the Greek god of science) is proving to be a fickle ally. New research shows that there are other, perhaps more promising, sources of “pluripotent” cells (i.e., ones that can become any other cell) that don’t involve destroying embryos. Wake Forest researchers found rich sources of stem cells in simple amniotic fluid. Pro-lifers are now using this research to cast themselves as the true allies of science. Hermes’s sword, it seems, has a double edge.

Simply because science can do something is in no way an argument that it should (or shouldn’t) do it. Science is morally neutral. Science kills and science cures. Which is why it’s so disturbing that both left and right have bought into the rhetoric of science as a source of morality. Scientists themselves tend to understand the moral ambiguity of science, which is why they spend so much time arguing about professional ethics.

For example, everybody agrees that life-ending experimentation on a 5-year-old boy would be wrong. But what if such research could solve “all human maladies?” Would it be wrong then? More relevant, would it be “anti-science?”

Yes, yes, ESCR advocates reject comparing embryos to fully developed humans.
But that misses the point on two scores.

First, the determination that embryos have no moral worth is not a scientific conclusion but a moral one. Second, rejecting the comparison doesn’t answer the question: Is it anti-science to bar certain procedures on moral grounds?

Animal-rights activists don’t believe they are anti-science when they oppose cruel testing on monkeys, even when it could lead to medical breakthroughs. Was it anti-science when doctors invented the “bloodless” heart bypass to accommodate the concerns of Jehovah’s Witnesses who didn’t want transfusions?

We need to grapple with these questions now because we are only entering the shallow rapids while the waterfalls lay ahead. But you can already hear the onrush of water.

Slate’s William Saletan recently chronicled how the age of retail eugenics has arrived. Gender-selective abortion is commonplace in the developing world. In the developed West, we’re more selective at the embryonic level. For example, a handful of deaf parents are deliberately selecting embryos that will become deaf — and doctors are helping.

Meanwhile, researchers at Oregon State University recently revealed that hormone treatments can reverse homosexuality in sheep. Predictably, lesbian activist Martina Navratilova and others complained that the sheep’s “right” to be gay was being violated. While no one called Navratilova “anti-science,” it’s not hard to see the slippery slope she’s concerned about.

Indeed, abortion-rights absolutism provides no defensible terrain to object to that slippery slope. Today’s “pro-science” champions may soon see a world where homosexuality is eradicated in utero thanks to their hard work establishing the absolute moral sovereignty of individual choice and science.

This is the beauty and curse of science: It tends to undermine the cherished positions and assumptions of everyone, even those who claim to be its champions. Perhaps that’s one reason we shouldn’t derive our values from such a moving target in the first place.

© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

— Jonah Goldberg is Editor-at-Large of National Review Online.

Charles Krauthammer: Maliki doesn't deserve a "surge"

Friday, January 19, 2007
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- If we were allied with an Iraqi government that, however weak, was truly national -- cross-confessional and dedicated to fighting a two-front war against Baathist insurgents and Shiite militias -- a surge of American troops, together with a change of counterinsurgency strategy, would have a good chance of succeeding. Unfortunately, the Iraqi political process has given us Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite coalition.

Its beginning was inauspicious. Months of wrangling produced a coalition of the three major Shiite religious parties, including that of Moqtada al-Sadr. Given Maliki's legitimacy as the first democratically elected leader of Iraq, however, he was owed a grace period of, say, six months to show whether he could indeed act as a national leader.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (L) and Iraq's National Security Advisor Muwafaq al-Rubaie attend a meeting with the heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Iraq at the fortified Green Zone area in Baghdad January 17, 2007. REUTERS/Wathiq Khuzaie/Pool (IRAQ) By November, his six months were up and the verdict was clear: He could not. His government is hopelessly sectarian. It protects Sadr, as we saw dramatically when Maliki ordered the lifting of U.S. barricades set up around Sadr City in search of a notorious death squad leader. It is enmeshed with Iran, as we saw when Maliki's government forced us to release Iranian agents found in the compound of one of his coalition partners.

The Saddam hanging did not change anything, but it did illuminate the deeply sectarian nature of this government. If it were my choice, I would not ``surge'' American troops in defense of such a government. I would not trust it to deliver its promises. Lt. Gen. David Petraeus thinks otherwise. Petraeus, who will be leading our forces in Iraq, has not only served two and a half years there, but has also literally written the book on counterinsurgency. He believes that with an augmentation of U.S. troops, a change of tactics and the support of three additional Iraqi brigades, he can pacify Baghdad.

Petraeus wants to change the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, at least in Baghdad, from simply hunting terrorists to securing neighborhoods. In other words, from search-and-destroy to stay-and-protect. He thinks that he can do this with only a modest increase of five American brigades.

I am confident that Petraeus knows what he's doing and that U.S. troops will acquit themselves admirably. I'm afraid the effort will fail, however, because the Maliki government will undermine it.

The administration view -- its hope -- is that, whatever Maliki's instincts, he can be forced to act in good faith by the prospect of the calamity that will befall him if he lets us down and we carry out our threat to leave. The problem with this logic is that it is contradicted by the president's simultaneous pledge not to leave ``before the job is done.''

In this high-stakes game of chess, what is missing is some intermediate move on our part -- some Plan B that Maliki believes Bush might actually carry out -- the threat of which will induce him to fully support us in this battle for Baghdad. He won't believe the Bush threat to abandon Iraq. He will believe a U.S. threat of an intermediate redeployment within Iraq that might prove fatal to him but not necessarily to the U.S. interest there.

We need to define that intermediate strategy. Right now there are only three policies on the table: (1) the surge, which a majority of Congress opposes, (2) the status quo, which everybody opposes, and (3) the abandonment of Iraq, which appears to be the default Democratic alternative.

What is missing is a fourth alternative, both as a threat to Maliki and as an actual fallback if the surge fails. The Pentagon should be working on a sustainable Plan B whose major element would be not so much a drawdown of troops as a drawdown of risk to our troops. If we had zero American casualties a day, there would be as little need to withdraw from Iraq as there is to withdraw from the Balkans.

We need to find a redeployment strategy that maintains as much latent American strength as possible, but with minimal exposure. We say to Maliki: you let us down and we dismantle the Green Zone, leave Baghdad and let you fend for yourself; we keep the airport and certain strategic bases in the area; we redeploy most of our forces to Kurdistan; we maintain a significant presence in Anbar province where we are having success in our one-front war against al-Qaeda and the Baathists. Then we watch. You can have your Baghdad civil war without us. We will be around to pick up the pieces as best we can.

This is not a great option, but fallbacks never are. It does have the virtue of being better than all the others, if the surge fails. It has the additional virtue of increasing the chances that the surge will succeed.

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

Guantanamo Bay: Five Years Later

By Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu
January 19, 2007

In January 2002, while the rubble of the Twin Towers was still being removed, military aircraft began landing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with a strange cargo. Men in orange jump suits, shackled hand and foot, hooded and dirty were unloaded brusquely and moved across the base to a hastily-constructed holding facility known as Camp X-Ray. It was little more than a razor wire and mesh compound of cages, protected from the elements by a metal roof. A few plywood buildings were knocked together to serve as dispensary/hospital, administration building, and interrogation booths. Wooden guard towers overwatched the camp and a few hundred yards away, on higher ground, a tent city was erected. The troops who guarded the detainees would live there.

Camp X-Ray only lasted until March 2002 when newly constructed Camp Delta accepted the last of the fewer than 800 detainees. But to this day when much of the world’s media shows photos of Guantanamo it shows the old B-roll from X-Ray. Even though thousands of reporters and photographers have transited the new facilities and the public affairs offices of the Pentagon and subordinate commands have released updated film, the old shots of orange-clad, hooded, kneeling detainees are the visuals of choice for a condemnatory media. Why let the truth stand in the way of a good story?

And the Guantanamo story for most of the world is that American troops unjustly hold hundreds of men prisoner under the harshest, most brutal conditions including regular, institutionalized torture and abuse. These hapless men, the story continues, have substandard living conditions in an incredibly harsh environment and are denied even the most basic standards of humane treatment. That these innocents – for the world automatically presumes that the Guantanamo detainees are such and the U.S. guilty – are despondent and depressed, denied any opportunity of release or even basic rights to present their case in a legal forum.

As you read this, unruly crowds in London, Paris, and other European capitols are calling for immediate release of the Guantanamo innocents. They carry signs depicting President Bush with a Hitler brush moustache and demanding “Stop the Torture Now!” In London they pass near grounds upon which tower cranes are erecting the showpiece Olympic stadium for the 2012 London Games. Precisely beside this glorious display of British pride other workers are toiling away to construct what will become the largest mosque in Europe. This juxtaposition that would have been incomprehensible a mere two or three decades ago, does not draw the merest bleat of protest from the crowds who are preoccupied with their profane attack on America.

The demonstrators exercise the most disciplined cognitive dissonance when dealing with issues of things Muslim. Most particularly they would not deign to be considered in any circumstances as prejudiced or – Gaia forbid! – unaware of the bliss of a multicultural existence. While they decry imagined brutality at Guantanamo they ignore the reality of nearby Wahabbist imams exhorting the faithful that rape, assault, robbery, and murder of infidels is not really a sin in Allah’s eyes, especially if the recipient is a Christian, Jew, or non-believer. Such a “big tent” philosophy of hatred would easily encompass the vast majority of the protesters who – when they are ultimately confronted by a mob of fired-up jihadists – better hope that the multicultural do-gooders had it right.

So given the international rage over Guantanamo what is really happening there? As this column has documented in the past, torture doesn’t exist in the camps, period. And abuse is aimed at the guards and medical corpsmen by detainees. What else would you call it when a detainee deliberately tosses a noxious cocktail of feces, urine, semen, spit, and vomit – sometimes thickened by hair – into the mouth, eyes, and nose of a guard or medic who is trying to help them?

How the time a detainee asked a female medic to lean over so he could whisper something to her, and when she did, smashed her face against the cell so hard and so viciously that she had to undergo reconstructive surgery? Or when food is passed to them and they lunge, trying to break a guard’s arm or hand against the cell?

Maybe it was just lack of full judicial process that caused the detainee in the hospital to punch the female nurse who was tending to him so hard that it shattered her nose across her face? And certainly we can empathize with his outrage as he demanded fresh clothing because his were stained with her blood.

There are hundreds of similar stories coming out of the Joint Task Force in Guantanamo. Sufficient in number to suggest that they are legitimate and not made up. There are also a number of stories – highly underreported – of detainees, usually Afghanis, who have been released praising the care and courtesy they received at Guantanamo and thanking U.S. military for the excellent care they received. Good care? At Guantanamo?

How about prostheses for amputees and care of combat wounds, in some cases years old when they were brought to Guantanamo? Consider that many came with diseases such as TB or hepatitis that has been cured or arrested while in Guantanamo. Or the cardiological specialty team that was flown at great taxpayer expense to Guantanamo to perform surgery on a patient who then declined at the last minute. Another victory for al Qaeda. And let’s not forget the voluntary colonoscopies for detainees age 50 and over. Maybe not the most enjoyable experience but it ain’t torture.

What we don’t hear from Guantanamo five years after is that of the original 780 or so brought there fewer than 350 now remain. The judicial review processes that the demonstrators condemn as absent have, in fact, resulted in transfer to other country custody or outright release of more than 400. Of those released many have surfaced on the battlefields. A couple turned up dead and others were identified in al Qaeda propaganda videos.

In the UK most of the citizens – of Pakistani background primarily – were summarily released by compliant judges within hours of return. Following dictates of al Qaeda’s training manual they immediately claimed torture and abuse, while explaining their presence in the battleground county of Afghanistan as a misunderstanding. It is amazing how many British citizens of Muslim persuasion decided that winter 2001 was the precise time they needed to travel to Afghanistan to “find a bride.” Unfortunately their innocent game of “burqua number one, or burqua number two?” was interrupted by Tiger teams of Special Forces and Northern Alliance rough men who captured all whom they did not kill outright.

These men include Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul, two hard-core terrorists who defied America and beat the Guantanamo system. These are newly minted British heroes who Gitmo critics praise lavishly and elevate to the status of poster boys for the repressive American detention system. Both were captured by Coalition forces in Afghanistan fighting with Taliban forces. But the capture and initial interrogation data was not properly logged in the heat of battle.

Consequently when these men were processed by the Administrative Review Board that is charged with an annual analysis of whether an individual detainee poses a threat to America or possesses intelligence value, they were released back to U.K. custody because of lack of documented proof of their combatant status. Subsequently both men have told lurid tales of the most horrid kinds of torture – none of which seems to have left marks or scars – all in keeping with al Qaeda doctrine found in the Manchester Manual.

It is indicative of leniency the U.S. that more detainees have been transferred or released outright because of lack of hard evidence that continue to be held in Guantanamo. Yet America is still castigated as the “world’s worst human rights violator” that runs a “modern gulag” by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations that ought to know better. Even as recently as this week Representative John Murtha, flexing some newly-won Congressional muscle, claimed that he “intends to close Guantanamo.”

While critics fume, interrogators work diligently to extract volumes of strategic intelligence information from a group the head of the Joint Intelligence Group calls “the main repository for al Qaeda, terrorist HUMINT on the planet.” Cells in Europe and America have been busted, money laundering routes intercepted, bomb making stifled, and organizational and recruiting techniques stymied all because of intelligence coming from Guantanamo’s detainees.

So keep up the good work, troopers. Even though you are slandered, unappreciated by many, and work tirelessly to protect the largely ungrateful, be aware that many Americans are extraordinarily proud of you and the mission you strive so hard to accomplish.

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu has been an Army Green Beret lieutenant colonel, as well as a writer, popular speaker, business executive and farmer. His most recent book is Separated at Birth, about North and South Korea.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Debra J. Saunders: Free the Border Patrol Two

Border Patrol along the fenceline- Nogales, AZ

Thursday, January 18, 2007
San Fransisco Chronicle

Prison doors clanged shut last night, leaving two Border Patrol agents locked up among the very types of felons they once helped put away. The agents' families have been wiped out financially, their kids will grow up without a father watching over them, their freedom has been stripped from them. What was the terrible crime that put agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean behind bars for sentences of 11 years and 12 years, respectively?

They fired at a drug smuggler, who had been driving a van with 743 pounds of marijuana, as he ran toward the border to avoid arrest. They say they did not know they wounded him in the buttocks, so they picked up their shells and filed a false report that didn't mention the shooting.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent patrols along the fence line of the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Ariz., on Thursday, April 6, 2006. Lawmakers in Washington are debating immigration reform measures. Arrests of illegal migrants along the U.S.-Mexican border have dropped by more than a third since U.S. National Guard troops started helping with border security, suggesting that fewer people may be trying to cross. "The presence of the National Guard has had a big impact on migrants," he told The Associated Press on Tuesday Dec. 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Khampha Bouaphanh) For that, Johnny Sutton, the U.S. attorney for Western Texas, prosecuted the agents.

After a two-and-a-half-week trial, a jury found them guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon, discharge of a firearm during a violent crime, obstructing justice, lying about the incident and willfully violating the Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal seizure of Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, the Mexican drug smuggler, who, incidentally, is suing the Border Patrol for $5 million because his civil rights were violated.

Sutton isn't happy about granting the smuggler immunity, but as he told me over the phone, he didn't have enough evidence to prosecute Aldrete-Davila.

Sutton hates being called "an overzealous prosecutor." As he said in a statement, "In America, law enforcement officers do not get to shoot unarmed suspects who are running away and file official reports that are false." And, "It is shocking that there are people who believe it is OK for agents to shoot at an unarmed suspect who is running away."

As for the long sentences, they are the doing of Congress, which tacked 10 years onto federal sentences for crimes committed with guns -- and there is no exemption for law enforcement officers.

Let me say this: Border Patrol agents do not have a right to -- and should not -- shoot at unarmed suspects. When and if they do shoot unarmed suspects, they should be disciplined -- and that includes firing them.

In this case, however, Ramos and Compean say they thought the suspect was armed. Sutton says that's not true. Ditto the drug smuggler -- but he has 5 million reasons to lie.

Two of Aldrete-Davila's family members, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin that the smuggler had been dealing drugs since age 14 and, according to one, he "wouldn't move drugs unless he had a gun on him."

Sutton responded, "There's this impression that all these dopers carry guns," but mules -- smugglers such as Aldrete-Davila -- "almost never carry guns," because federal law "tacks on five years to their sentence."

Even if everything Sutton says is true, Ramos and Compean most certainly should not spend 11 and 12 years behind bars. I don't think they should spend a single night in prison -- not for what was a mistake (if the smuggler was not armed) made in the heat of the moment, even if it was followed with a cover-up.

Americans should not put men in frustrating and dangerous law-enforcement positions, then lock them up and throw away the key if those men do one wrong thing, especially of the sort that angry, scared men sometimes do. It is not as if Ramos and Compean were crooked agents running criminal enterprises and betraying their fellow agents. If they were, they'd probably be facing a shorter sentence.

As T.J. Bonner of the agents' union, told me: "It's going to be terrible. These are good cops going to prison. It's not as if they're bad cops who are going to be accepted into the community. The very people they put away are going to be in the next cell to these guys."

Asked if President Bush would pardon the agents last Friday, White House spokesman Tony Snow noted that a jury had convicted them after a long trial. "We also believe that the people who are working to secure that border themselves obey the law."

Bonner looks at Bush's decision not to pardon the two men as a signal that Dubya doesn't particularly care about securing America's borders.

It is not as if Bush has too many friends and too much public support. I've heard from many Americans who are outraged at these excessive sentences and don't understand why Bush has not used his pardon power to commute the sentences of agents who were just doing their jobs.

If anything happens to these men while they are behind bars, then what will America think of George W. Bush?

Ann Coulter: The Stripper Has No Clothes

January 17, 2007

Stuart Taylor Jr., the liberal but brilliant legal reporter for the National Journal, described The New York Times' coverage of the Duke lacrosse rape case as "(w)orse, perhaps, than the other recent Times embarrassments." For a newspaper that carries Maureen Dowd's column, that's saying something.

As the Times' most loyal reader, this came as welcome news. I had briefly suspected the Times was engaging in fair reporting of the alleged rape case at Duke University. Taylor's article documenting the Times' massive misrepresentations restored order and coherence to my world.

The first part of the story — the lie part — was angrily reported in the Times. But as the accuser's story began to unravel, the Times gave only a selective account of the facts, using its famed lie-by-omission technique.

Among the many gigantic omissions from the Times' pretend-balanced article ("Files From Duke Rape Case Give Details but No Answers") is the fact that the only remaining particulars about the case that are not completely exculpatory come from a memo by Sgt. Mark Gottlieb — written four months after the alleged incident.

Gottlieb, the lead investigator on the alleged rape case, took no contemporaneous notes when he interviewed the accuser, but rather waited for the facts to come in — and his case to be falling apart — to write a memo recalling her statements during that initial investigation. The statements he recalled were surprisingly favorable to the prosecution!

The only problem with his memo, besides being preposterous on its face, is that it is contradicted by the contemporaneous notes taken by other people involved in the investigation. Indeed, the only thing Gottlieb's memo was consistent with were the facts as the prosecution was then alleging them.

Of course, it was hard to keep straight what facts the prosecution was alleging. The accuser made up so many stories about the incident that the Times was forced to offer her Jayson Blair's old position.

The Times "No Answers" article gave no indication that Gottlieb's memo was written four months after the alleged rape, but rather refers to it as the policeman's "case notes," falsely suggesting the notes were taken during the investigation and not after the frame-up.

Beginning with the strongest invented evidence from Gottlieb's "case notes," the Times reported that the nurse who examined the alleged rape victim told Gottlieb that the "blunt force trauma" seen in the examination "was consistent with the sexual assault that was alleged by the victim."

Or at least that's what Gottlieb wrote four months after talking to the nurse. It's not what the nurse wrote the night she examined the accuser. To the contrary, the only sign of physical trauma the nurse noted in her written report immediately after examining the accuser were some superficial scratches on the woman's knee and heel.

Indeed, in all 24 pages of the report prepared by doctors and nurses who examined the accuser the night of the alleged rape, there is no mention of any "blunt force trauma" or any injuries other than the scratches.

Also contradicting Gottlieb's hindsight memo were the notes taken by another policeman during their interview with the accuser — not four months later — saying she described her assailants as "chubby," with a "chubby face" and weighing "260-270" pounds.

That description fit none of the eventual defendants — whom she repeatedly failed to pick out of photo lineups until Gottlieb finally gave up and presented her with a photo lineup of only Duke lacrosse players, to ensure that she couldn't guess wrong.

But according to Gottlieb's hindsight memo, the accuser described one of her rapists as "baby-faced, tall, lean" — just like one of the actual defendants!

In repeatedly citing Gottlieb's after-the-fact memo as if it were the Rosetta stone of the case, the Times also neglected to mention Gottlieb's dark history with Duke students.

Gottlieb repeatedly jailed Duke students charged with minor infractions such as carrying an open beer or playing loud music, often throwing them in cells with violent criminals. He was not so tough on nonstudents, releasing one caught with marijuana and a concealed .45-caliber handgun.

A review of Gottlieb's record published in the Raleigh News & Observer showed that, in the previous year, when he patrolled an area that included both a "crime-ridden" public housing project and Duke off-campus housing, he arrested 20 Duke students and only eight nonstudents. During that same period, the three other officers in that district arrested two Duke students and 61 nonstudents.

At this point, Gottlieb's memo is the linchpin of the prosecution's case, and every single other fact in the case exonerates the defendants.

I mention all this to point out the Alice-in-Wonderland quality of the Times Jan. 15 editorial titled "Politicizing Prosecutors." The editorial had nothing to do with lunatic Southern prosecutors like Mike Nifong, Barry Krischer and Ronnie Earle threatening to put innocent people in prison for being Republican or "privileged white males."

No, the Times was upset because the law allows President Bush to fill vacant U.S. attorney slots with temporary replacements. The Times is enraged that Bush may be choosing prosecutors he likes, rather than prosecutors Sen. Dianne Feinstein likes, for these interim appointments.

If Bush were choosing the most hack, unprincipled, out-of-control Republican party operatives for these temporary U.S. attorney positions, they could not match the partisan witch-hunts of the prosecutors and policemen the Times lies to defend.

The Truth about Londonistan

London Protester- February 2006

By Aaron Hanscom
January 18, 2007

Critics of radical Islam just don’t grasp the concept of complexity. Such, at least, is the view of British journalist David Selbourne, who ended his recent piece in the British Spectator (“Apocalypse on the US blogosphere”) with the following reproach: “The true complexity of things is being given short shrift by ‘experts’ and by vox pop alike: after all, London is no more ‘Londonistan’ than Israel is a ‘cancer’ and America the ‘Great Satan’.”

Selbourne was specifically referring to Melanie Phillip’s book Londonistan. The book details how Islamist extremism has found a hospitable home in Britain. While Selbourne, author of the book The Losing Battle with Islam, doesn’t deny that the West faces a serious threat from radical Islam, he seems more bothered by the rhetoric of Western analysts than that of the jihadists. Clive Davis of the London Times is another serious journalist who recognizes the dangers of Islamist extremism but cares little for the “apocalyptic” style of Phillips or the “bleakly apocalyptic rhetoric” of Bruce Bawer and Claire Berlinksi, two American writers who have also written books about the threats facing Europe.

So the question naturally arises: Should the warnings in these books be dismissed as right-wing hysteria, or is the danger in Europe so great as to warrant the charged language? Put another way, is "Londonistan" just a catchy title for a book, or is the Islamification of Britain already well under way?

The facts paint the truest—and most alarming—picture. Recent undercover investigations by British media outlets have revealed plenty of apocalyptic rhetoric, emanating primarily from supposedly moderate mosques. In a Channel 4 program airing this week called Dispatches: Undercover Mosque, clerics advocating the replacement of British law with Shari’a law are plentiful. In front of a group of Muslims at Sparkbrook mosque, for example, Dr. Ijaz Mian says, “We have to rule ourselves and we have to rule the others.” Sparbrook, it must be noted, is run by the UK Islamic Mission, an organization that Tony Blair has said “is extremely valued by the government for its multi-faith and multicultural activities” and which runs 45 mosques in Britain. Londonistan, anyone?

And there’s no shortage of additional evidence. The documentary program also recorded the activities inside Green Lane mosque in Birmingham, where one cleric explains that “Allah has created the woman deficient” and another advises that if a girl “doesn't wear hijab, we hit her.” Precocious children aren’t the only ones with something to fear. According to a Green Lane cleric: “The time is fast approaching where the tables are going to turn and the Muslims are going to be in the position of being uppermost in strength and, when that happens, people won't get killed - unjustly.”

The Muslim Council of Britain accused Channel 4 of the “continuing demonization of British Muslims and the risible attempt at promoting sectarianism among British Muslims.” The tactics of the radicals portrayed on the program were less problematic to the organization.

In another investigation, British tabloid The People discovered on internet sites British-born Muslim clerics inciting hatred against their own country. In one speech, a radical named Abu Waleed says, “One day we hope to implement Shari’a law over Downing Street and Washington itself." The young cleric, Abu Muwahid, also has Downing Street on his mind when he tells a cheering crowd, “One day the black flag of Islam is going to be over 10 Downing Street, whether Tony Blair likes it or not." To his eager followers he asks: “What role are you going to play? Are you going to be one of those people who watch Osama bin Laden or the Mujahideen or the (inaudible) in the UK fulfilling their duty? You need to play an active role."

Anjem Choudary of Essex is recorded criticizing Muslims who fly the cross of St George on their cars in support of Britain’s soccer team because it “is an act of kufr {when a Muslim does something wrong} to wear a cross." But Muslims aren’t the only people who are now refraining from flying the flag. Islamic protests have forced the cable companies NTL, Heathrow airport, and the Drivers and Vehicles Licensing Agency to ban the flag out of fear.

Using anti-British propaganda to influence impressionable young people is not confined to the mosques of Britain. Last year the British government warned of Islamist groups recruiting in British universities. According to Bill Rammell, the higher education minister, students are being “groomed” by radicals posing as regular students. The Sunday Times quoted Sheikh Musa Admani, an imam, saying radical groups were adept at avoiding campus bans and joining conventional organizations. This followed a leaked Whitehall dossier commissioned by Tony Blair after the Madrid train bombings, which said: “Extremists are known to target schools and colleges where young people may be very inquisitive but less challenging and more susceptible to extremist reasoning/arguments.”

In a 20-page booklet issued by the government in 2006 to advise campus officials how to resist Islamist infiltration, several scenarios based on real events were described. One scenario had a member of a college library staff observing students watching “somebody making a homemade explosive device” on the internet. Other scenarios on campus included a speech given by a cleric who justifies attacks against British civilians and the taking over of an Islamic prayer room. The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (Fosis), which represents 90,000 Muslims students in Britain, was not appreciative of this effort by the government to warn universities about the threat of Islamist extremism. “Demonizing Muslims is unacceptable and dangerous whether in educational institutions or in communities,” a statement put out by Fosis declared.

British prisons are also grooming potential terrorists. The most famous aspiring terrorist is shoe bomber Richard Reid, who was radicalized inside Feltham young offenders’ institution. Lord Carlile, the independent watchdog on the government’s anti-terror laws, recently commented on the radicalization by imams of youths in prison. The Prison Officers’ Association has also warned of “dangerous and highly capable” prisoners, many of whom are affiliated with Al-Qaeda, who dedicate their time in prison to recruiting others to their cause. Unfortunately, the prison service admits that there is no strategy in place to tackle these Al-Qaeda operatives. Time and money are limited after all, and jails are already spending thousands of pounds on color-coded kitchen tools for Muslims and rebuilding toilets to face Mecca.

Because Britain is beholden to the tenets of multiculturalism and diversity, British Muslims have long realized that they can get away with almost anything. This was no more evident than at the 2006 Islamist demonstrations outside the Danish embassy during the Mohammed cartoon controversy. Muslims protestors held placards with such messages as “Britain you will pay - 7/7 is on its way” and "Whoever insults a prophet, kill him.” Omar Khayam arrived at the event wearing what resembled a suicide bomber’s vest.

But it is the bizarre conclusion to these demonstrations that should give pause to those who counsel a more “complex” attitude about the dangers of Islamic extremism in Britain. While the Islamists freely threatened murder against unbelievers, the only two people arrested at the protests were two men who were staging a counter-demonstration.

Aaron Hanscom is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Yankees to host '08 All-Star Game

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bergen County Record

Ever since details to build a new ballpark in the Bronx were finalized, there was a movement to host the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.

Citing undisclosed major league sources, reported Tuesday that the Stadium will indeed host baseball's Midsummer Classic in July of '08 – just nine months before the Yankees' new park opens in 2009.

The Yankees and Major League Baseball had nothing to say officially, although an announcement could be made this week at the owners' meetings in Arizona.

Yankee Stadium hasn't been the site of the All-Star Game since 1977.

Built in 1923, the Stadium – which also hosted All-Star Games in 1939 and 1960 – underwent an extensive two-year renovation before reopening in 1976.

Teams must actively pursue the hosting of an All-Star Game, but neither New York team had shown much interest -- mostly because they were waiting on construction of new ballparks.

Shea Stadium hosted its only All-Star Game in 1964, the year it opened.

The Mets' new park also is scheduled to open in 2009, in the parking lot of the existing stadium. The Yankees' new 51,800-seat home is rising from Macombs Dam Park, across the street from Yankee Stadium.

Construction began Aug. 17.

The Yankees' new ballpark will retain the unique dimensions of the current stadium, while the famous facade roof and the original entrance familiar to the pre-1976 Yankee Stadium will be replicated.

An official announcement for the 2008 All-Star Game site requires satisfaction of MLB's requirements for hotel space, transportation needs and convention center space for the Fan Fest that runs during All-Star week.

Earlier this week, baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced that St. Louis will host the 2009 All-Star Game. San Francisco will host this year's game.

BRIEFS: Reliever Luis Vizcaino and the Yankees agreed to a one-year contract for a reported $3 million, thus avoiding arbitration. The 32-year-old right-hander (4-6, 3.58 ERA, 70 games in 2006) was obtained in the Randy Johnson trade, along with three minor-leaguers. He earned $1.775 million last year with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Shortstop Chris Basak, 28, was invited to spring training as a non-roster player. Basak, 28, spent the past seven years in the Mets' organization.

Revealing the Monet of Pencil and Paper

Photographs from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

“Bank of the Seine,” a Monet pastel on tan paper from about 1869. Monet rarely mentioned his hundreds of drawings, preferring to be known only as a painter.

The New York Times
Published: January 17, 2007

Claude Monet will forever be known for his dreamy Impressionist canvases of grain stacks and cathedrals, the seaside and of course the famous water lilies and gardens that surrounded his beloved home in Giverny. Unlike Degas, Cézanne or Pissarro, contemporaries whose reputations rested on works on paper as well as canvases, Monet was the epitome of the plein-air painter.

Whenever a journalist or collector asked him how he worked, he talked incessantly about the liberating possibilities of painting outdoors, forgoing any mention of the sketches, pastels and prints he quietly produced throughout his life.

“Monet wanted to present himself as the great painter of his day,” said Richard Kendall, curator at large at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. “It was a kind of PR exercise, a way of defining himself. But the big, teasing question has always been why didn’t he want people to know he drew?”

Three years ago Mr. Kendall and James A. Ganz, the Clark’s curator of prints, drawings and photographs, set out to answer that question. Their findings are the focus of “The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings,” an exhibition of about 100 works — drawings, sketchbooks and prints, along with some related paintings — that opens on March 17 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and will arrive on June 24 at the Clark.

The curators say their exhibition will show that Monet wasn’t the anti-draftsman he led the public to believe, and that he relied on drawing both to prepare for his paintings and as an independent form of expression.

He drew throughout his seven-decade career, filling pocket-size sketchbooks when he was a truculent teenager and executing pastel drawings of seascapes when he was in his 20s. He drew in different ways using different materials, and in his final years made abstract crayon and pencil drawings as studies for his water-lily paintings.

Although Monet helped perpetrate the myth that he did not, and maybe even could not, draw, nearly 500 of more than 2,500 works mentioned in his catalogue raisonné are sketchbooks, drawings and pastels. Yet, until now, few scholars have paid much attention to them.

They figure prominently in the fifth and final volume of the catalogue raisonné, published by Daniel Wildenstein in 1991 and devoted primarily to works on paper. But when the catalogue raisonné was reprinted in 1996, that volume was dropped.

Mr. Ganz was unaware of just how little most scholars knew about Monet’s drawings until he began researching a view of Rouen drawn in crayon in 1883 and owned by the Clark Institute. “It was an object that caught my eye especially because I knew it was done after a painting,” he said.

(He said the painting, which is in a private European collection, will be united with the drawing for the first time in the exhibition.)

The more he began to dig, Mr. Ganz said, the more strongly he felt that there was no substantive scholarly examination of Monet’s drawings.

He approached Mr. Kendall about the possibility of jointly organizing a small show centering on the Clark’s Rouen drawing. But after embarking on their research, they began to envision a far larger exhibition. “We began asking colleagues about Monet’s works on paper and consistently got the same reaction — a blank stare,” Mr. Ganz said.

After approaching MaryAnne Stevens, a Monet scholar at the Royal Academy, who agreed that the potential show could travel there, the two American curators set out to find as many of Monet’s works on paper as they could. Searching in Japan as well as in Europe and the United States, they eventually came up with the nearly 100 works that will be in the show.

The Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, which owns eight of Monet’s mature sketchbooks, dating from the 1860s through the 1920s, proved a particularly useful source. A colleague there alerted them to the existence of an unpublished journal by Count Théophile Béguin Billecocq, a friend of the Monet family who was himself an amateur draftsman. The only known firsthand account of Monet’s early life, it depicts him as a young man devoted to drawing. Written over roughly a 30-year period, starting in 1854, the journal has remained in the family, passing eventually to the count’s great-grandson, Xavier Béguin Billecocq, a historian of the Persian Gulf region.

“It became clear to us that we had stumbled on something quite critical,” Mr. Ganz said of the manuscript. “It gave us a wealth of information.”

Interspersed throughout the journal are observations about Monet. When the artist was 17, for instance, Béguin Billecocq described his rapid sketching technique as “Impressionistic.”

Yet the drawings themselves, he wrote, were “detailed, as precise as reality, and delicate, representing the houses, trees, people, etc., in the best possible manner.”

In a telephone interview, Xavier Béguin Billecocq said that Monet often drew in the countryside or at the sea while on vacation with the Béguin Billecocq family. “They would go exploring the surrounding countryside, often sketching in the woods,” Dr. Béguin Billecocq said. “He drew in the country in places like Deauville and Honfleur.”

The journal also captures the flavor of Parisian life in an era when friends got together to play musical instruments, attend the opera and concerts and simply draw.

“It gives a good description of the youth and social environment of Monet,” Dr. Béguin Billecocq said. “You see him growing up, needing money. My great-grandfather would help him, giving him money to buy paper and supplies.”

The early sketchbooks described in the journal are pencil studies of local architecture, trees, sailboats and pastoral scenes. “His sketches, whether in crayon or pencil, were always excellent, even if they were rapidly executed,” Théophile Béguin Billecocq wrote in his journal. “He knew how to capture the essential characteristics of a scene.”

In another revelation he notes that around 1862, the year Monet turned 22, the artist decided to be known as Claude, his middle name, rather than Oscar, his first.

Drafted into the army and sent to Algiers, Monet had been teased by his regiment about the “ridiculous” name Oscar.

“Goodbye Oscar, long live Claude,” Béguin Billecocq writes facetiously. It explains why some of the early drawings are signed Oscar and later works Claude. (Monet signed only some of his works on paper.)

While the manuscript, titled “Grand Journal,” is too fragile to be in the exhibition, the curators say, quotations from it will be incorporated into the installation as a way of telling the story of the artist’s life.

Still, questions about Monet’s development remain. “It’s easy to separate the youthful work,” said Mr. Kendall of the Clark. “It is less distinctive and powerful.” By the mid-1860s, he said, Monet was making “brilliant” drawings of the Normandy coast with a waxy black crayon. “But we still don’t know why he did them,” Mr. Kendall said.

In the first Impressionist Exhibition in 1874 in Paris, however, Monet showed seven of his pastels, their research shows, but they were not included in the catalog or mentioned by any critics. “It’s one of the puzzles in Monet scholarship,” Mr. Kendall said, adding that Monet “takes it up again in the 1880s, and for two weeks in 1901 when he went to London and his canvases didn’t arrive.”

He added, “He wanted to work, so he made pastels of London bridges and rivers.”

Of 26 pastels that can be dated to that time, 6 will be in the exhibition, along with two paintings, of the Waterloo Bridge (1901) and Charing Cross Bridge (about 1900).

Like van Gogh, Monet also created works on paper based on actual paintings. “He wasn’t consistent, but had many different manners of drawing,” Mr. Ganz said, adding: “ A lot had to do with his public-private issue. Some, that were sketchy, were meant only for his private use, while others, more in the style of his paintings, were finished works in themselves.”

Mr. Ganz said he thought the most surprising drawings were those related to the water-lily paintings. Minimalist in style and not pretty like the paintings themselves, these drawings, in black, white and violet crayon, can best be described as agitated, abstract and almost Expressionistic.

“He never meant for the public to see them,” Mr. Kendall said, adding: “It all comes back to marketing. His public image was important to him, and drawings complicated that picture. In fact, they even contradicted it.”

“The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings” will be at the Royal Academy of Arts in London from March 17 to June 10, and at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., from June 24 to Sept. 16.

Kathleen Parker- Duke Faculty: Too Smart by Half

January 17, 2007
The Orlando Sentinel

When Woody Allen said, "The brain is the most overrated organ,'' he must have had in mind North Carolina's Research Triangle, home both to the scandalous Duke lacrosse team "rape'' fiasco -- and to more Ph.D.s per capita than just about anywhere else in America.

Rarely have so many smart people behaved so dumbly.

Last week, the case took yet a new turn when discredited district attorney Mike Nifong, under pressure from the state prosecutors association, relinquished the case to the state attorney general.

In another development, the stripper who initially claimed she was beaten, raped and sodomized by three Duke University lacrosse team players -- Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann -- has changed her story.


This time she says Seligmann didn't participate in the alleged assault after all, though she still insists he was there when the others did. She also changed the time of the alleged assault so that it no longer coincides with time-stamped receipts Seligmann produced months ago indicating that he wasn't at the party house when the incident supposedly took place.

A bit earlier, the dancer also decided she might not have been (children stop reading here) vaginally penetrated by a penis, which is required for a rape charge in North Carolina. Nifong dropped the rape charges, but intended to pursue the remaining charges of kidnapping and sexual assault.

And so it has gone for almost a year now. A new day, a new story.

Of all the questions still unanswered in this shameful saga, among the most perplexing is: How did so many smart people allow things to reach the level of hysteria we've witnessed in the past several months?

The answer is implicit in the question. Notwithstanding the rich brain trust created by the three points of North Carolina's "Triangle'' -- Duke in Durham, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in Raleigh -- university communities are fertile breeding grounds for the totalitarian mindset known as political correctness.

Between a perverse form of liberation feminism that sanctifies strippers, prostitutes and porn stars -- and a dogma of victimology that places blame for all things at the feet of the white patriarchy -- the players were instantaneously presumed guilty by virtue of their being white males and privileged jocks.

By the same reasoning, the dancer was assured victimhood by her status as a black single mother/student, reduced by centuries of white-male oppression to stripping for food and tuition.

What happens next depends on the attorney general's review of evidence. In the meantime, members of the university community who participated in the demonization of the lacrosse team might examine their own souls.

The past year has not been exemplary for the keepers of the flame. Before any charges were brought against the three players, students produced a "wanted'' poster with photos of team members and demonstrated with signs reading, "It's Sunday morning, time to confess.''

Higher up the food chain, Duke faculty formed the "Group of 88'' -- a coalition of 88 faculty members representing 13 departments -- and ran an ad demanding that the lacrosse team players confess.

It's been quite a spectacle. It also has been a damning indictment of an intellectually dishonest culture that pretends to the virtue of enlightened tolerance, but only for a select few. White males are the last remaining group approved for public vilification.

In a March 2006 letter to the Duke administration just days after the alleged rape, English professor Houston A. Baker Jr. brought clarity to the anti-white male, anti-jock bias that is today entrenched on many college campuses. It reads in part:

"How many more people of color must fall victim to violent, white, male, athletic privilege before coaches who make Chevrolet and American Express commercials, athletic directors who engage in Miss Ophelia-styled 'perfectly horrible' rhetoric, higher administrators who are salaried at least in part to keep us safe, and publicists who are supposed not to praise Caesar but to damn the unconscionable ... how many?''

Got that, white-male-capitalist-pig-jocks of the world? Guilty. To Duke's credit, Provost Peter Lange responded to Houston with an eloquent reprimand against prejudgment.

Under pressure from feminist groups, college administrators long have sponsored lectures about date rape and sexual harassment, directed at young males, all of whom are presumed to be potential predators. In light of events at Duke, they might consider adding a new seminar to the roster -- one to review the rules of due process, the evil of mob rule, and the art of apology.

They might invite their faculties to attend.

Joel Mowbray: Boxer vs. CAIR
January 17, 2007

In what could be either a major turning point or just an aberration, Sen. Barbara Boxer recently rescinded an award given to a California resident because of his position with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—a fact she learned because of a Front Page Magazine article by Joe Kaufman.

Despite being founded by two self-identified supporters of Islamic terrorism and continually refusing to condemn Islamic terrorism, CAIR has not only survived, but thrived. In the five years since 9/11, CAIR has grown exponentially in both resources and influence, becoming the defacto voice of American Muslims in the mainstream media. It has been embraced by many sectors of the federal government, including the FBI. But politically, CAIR’s success primarily has been limited to forging alliances with leftist organizations, most notably the ACLU.

Though the long-term implications are still far from certain, Sen. Boxer’s very public disavowal of CAIR might encourage real media investigation by changing the perception that criticism of CAIR is a right-wing affair, and it could even inspire other Democrats and liberals to follow her lead.

Shortly after Sen. Boxer’s office last month presented Sacramento activist Basim Elkarra a “certificate of accomplishment,” he was notified that the award was being withdrawn because he heads the local chapter of CAIR. For Mr. Elkarra, it probably means little whether he is the recipient of the certificate or not. For CAIR, however, the move must feel like a stunning rebuke considering that the group that has masterfully courted the left by positioning itself as “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group.”

While Sen. Boxer cited, among other things, quotes from fellow Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Durbin of Illinois that were critical of CAIR, both statements were made over three years ago—and no other prominent Democrats have said anything similar since. Although no prominent elected Republicans have joined the chorus criticizing CAIR, a fair reading of grassroots Internet activity shows that concern over the organization is largely found on the right.

CAIR claims that Boxer succumbed to the “pro-Israel lobby,” who are “anti-Muslim extremists.” The reality is that Sen. Boxer, as politically safe as any member of Congress’ upper chamber, received little flack for issuing a relatively minor certificate to Mr. Elkarra. She had little to gain, and much to lose. A savvy pol, Sen. Boxer likely realized that she would be subjected to CAIR’s well-oiled attack machine.

Sure enough, CAIR unsheathed the long knives. Calls to Sen. Boxer’s office were overwhelming against her decision, and only one group, California-based Stand With Us, actually encouraged its members to support her. But ironically, in the course of disparaging Ms. Boxer, CAIR demonstrated precisely why the Senator did the right thing.

Interviewed by Paula Zahn last week on CNN, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper let loose a grandiose fabrication:

“We practically have a rubber stamp saying, ‘CAIR condemns blank act of terrorism.’ We’ve repeatedly, consistently condemned terrorism in all its forms, including attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas, Hezbollah. We’ve condemned it repeatedly.”

Not true.

While CAIR did condemn one specific attack committed by Hamas—the particularly gruesome Netanya Passover Massacre in March 2002—it pointedly omitted any reference to the terrorist organization. (Interestingly, CAIR’s press release also avoided acknowledging that the bombing occurred in “Israel,” writing instead that the attack happened in “the Middle East.”) As for Hezbollah, CAIR has never condemned any of that organization’s many terrorist attacks. During the month-long war last summer, CAIR issued at least eight condemnations of Israel and America—but not one of Hezbollah.

CAIR has, in fact, never condemned Hamas or Hezbollah. Given repeated opportunities to do so by outlets such as the Washington Post and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, CAIR has flatly refused to denounce either. Asked point-blank by Newsweek just last month to condemn Hamas, CAIR Executive Director (and co-founder) Nihad Awad demurred, dismissing the question as “the game of the pro-Israel lobby.”

When unaware their words were being recorded, though, both of CAIR’s co-founders have freely discussed Islamic terrorism—by voicing their support. In a speech at Barry University in Florida in 1994, Mr. Awad declared, “I’m in support of the Hamas movement.” Addressing a youth session at a 1999 Islamic Association for Palestine convention in Chicago, CAIR’s other co-founder, Omar Ahmad, praised suicide bombers who “kill themselves for Islam”: “Fighting for freedom, fighting for Islam, that is not suicide. They kill themselves for Islam.” (Transcript provided by the Investigative Project.)

Neither statement endorsing Islamic terrorism is out of character for CAIR. When they founded CAIR in 1994, Awad and Ahmad, were both high-ranking officials with the Islamic Association of Palestine, and they maintained close relations for years afterward. IAP, which appears to have ceased operations within the past two years, was an openly anti-Semitic organization long believed to be Hamas’ political front in the U.S. A civil court judge in Illinois last year confirmed those suspicions when he declared that there was “strong evidence that IAP was supporting Hamas.”

Attacks on CAIR, however, require some degree of nuance, as the group doesn’t openly advocate on behalf of Islamic terrorist organizations. Though it has fiercely and loudly defended men charged with aiding terrorism, such as now-open Hamas operative Mousa Abu Marzouk and former University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian, CAIR’s primary focus is stifling legitimate debate on the threat posed by radical Islam. Talk radio host Michael Graham was drummed out of Disney-owned WMAL in Washington because of a campaign spearheaded by the group. More recently, talk host and columnist Dennis Prager was publicly flagellated for criticizing new Congressman Keith Ellison’s decision to swear his oath of office on the Qur’an.

If only CAIR exhibited anywhere near the same kind of hostility for the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah.

That its apologism for Islamic terrorism has been remarkably slick is probably why CAIR has thus far escaped scrutiny by the left or the mainstream media. Perhaps the best example is its much-ballyhooed fatwa against terrorism and extremism—terms that intentionally were not defined. No fundamentalist Muslim considers himself “extreme,” and Hamas and its boosters maintain that the only real “terrorist” in the region is the Jewish state. Not coincidentally, CAIR claims to condemn “all forms of terrorism,” yet it almost exclusively focuses on Israel’s actions.

Seeing through CAIR’s tapestry of lies and deceptions is admittedly a tough task, but by no means an impossible one. Sen. Boxer did it with little outside prodding. How many others in the media and on the left will follow suit?

Joel Mowbray is author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America’s Security.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Book Review: The Crusader

January 16, 2007
Ronald Reagan: The Crusader
By Herbert Meyer
American Thinker

The Crusader:
Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism
by Paul Kengor
Regan/HarperCollins, 412 pp, $29.95

The complicated business of understanding how Ronald Reagan led the Free World to victory in the Cold War has just become much easier. Run to your nearest bookstore and buy a copy of The Crusader. In one beautifully-written volume, Grove City College Professor Paul Kengor's got the whole story -- completely, accurately, and with more fascinating and never-before-reported details about how Ronald Reagan succeeded than any other Cold War historian, including "official biographer" Edmund Morris.

While the details in The Crusader are eye-opening -- Kengor somehow got his hands on more secret documents than the KGB -- it's the insights that leap off the page. For instance, while it's true that Reagan was the first actor ever elected President, Kengor reminds us that Reagan was also the first union president ever elected to the US presidency. And Kengor shows how Reagan's work for the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) formed his political philosophy and, perhaps more importantly, gave Reagan the practical experience both of industrial negotiations and fighting communism on the ground.

The Toughest Negotiator

Reagan was elected president of SAG seven times - which makes him among the most successful union bosses in American history, by the way - and as a result he probably engaged in more negotiating sessions with hard-headed corporate CEOs and egomaniacal prima donnas within the union itself than anyone ever elected to the White House. No wonder that, years later, Reagan ran circles around the Kremlin - and around a Democratic-controlled Congress. (Someone once asked the President if it was tough negotiating with the Russians. Reagan replied, "No, it was tough negotiating with Jack Warner.")

Moreover, in the late 1940s and early 1950s SAG was among the communists' top takeover targets. The communists wanted control of all our country's unions, of course, but SAG topped their list simply because it was "Hollywood" and so its influence on American culture was enormous. As Kengor shows, it was Reagan who led the fight to stop the communists. It's an astonishing thought, but Reagan was the only American politician who had blocked a communist takeover of anything before reaching the White House. Thirty years later, had Fidel Castro and the Kremlin's leaders remembered this, perhaps they wouldn't have been so surprised when President Reagan kicked them out of Grenada.

Kengor provides a brief but riveting summary of Reagan's public utterances during the decades between the end of his Hollywood career and his White House years. What emerges from the long-forgotten quotes that Kengor has found is not only Reagan's deep interest in and detailed grasp of world affairs - and remember, in these years he had no staffers to brief him or do his research -- but his focus on key symbolic issues long before he held the world stage. For instance, in a 1967 CBS-TV debate with Senator Robert Kennedy - it was later conceded by everyone, including RFK himself, that Reagan had won the debate handily -- Reagan got onto the subject of US-Soviet relations:

"When we signed the Consular Treaty with the Soviet Union, I think there were things we could've asked for in return. I think it would be very admirable if the Berlin Wall, which was built in direct contravention to a treaty, should disappear. I think this would be a step toward peace and toward self-determination for all people, if it were."

In early June 1987, when the draft of President Reagan's forthcoming speech at the Brandenburg Gate circulated through the National Security Council and the State Department, those officials who tried to edit out the President's now-famous line -- "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" - had no idea how strongly the President felt about this, or even that he had been calling for the Wall's destruction for more than 20 years.

Hitting the Kremlin Hard

Of course, most of The Crusader deals with the White House years, and Kengor's account of how the Reagan team ended the Cold War peacefully is a masterpiece of geo-strategic reporting. Kengor has gotten his hands on just about the entire series of "NSDDs" - National Security Decision Directives - produced by the Reagan team. And he uses excerpts from these NSDDs to explain, more clearly than any previous historian, that the President's policy initiatives were the result of a carefully thought-through, meticulously detailed strategy based on identification of the Soviet Union's key weaknesses - chief among them its imploding economy - followed by the execution of specific policies designed to take advantage of these weaknesses by putting more pressure on the Kremlin than it could withstand.

These included policies to limit Soviet energy exports, thus blocking the Soviet Union's access to desperately needed hard currency, funding and otherwise supporting anti-communist insurgencies, and of course publicly declaring the Soviet Union to be "the focus of evil in the world" - which rallied oppressed citizens from Poland to Vladivostok and which, even more importantly, terrified the Kremlin's ageing leaders because, unlike the President's domestic foes, they knew it was true.

Kengor correctly gives the bulk of the credit to the President himself, and he shows again and again how it was Reagan personally who called the shots in Washington. But Kengor also shows how the varsity team that Reagan brought with him to Washington - including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, CIA Director William Casey, and National Security Adviser Judge William Clark - played key roles. And he generously gives credit to the various aides of these officials who labored long, hard and usually anonymously to get the job done.

What emerges from Kengor's reporting, and with a stunning clarity, is the sheer executive competence of Reagan and his team. They started with a goal - ending the Cold War with victory for the Free World -- developed a strategy to achieve that goal, worked out tactics to fulfill their strategy, then executed their plan while making whatever course corrections were required as events unfolded. In short, even though the President couldn't name all 15 members of the Politburo - in truth, he couldn't name all 10 members of his own Cabinet - he was a superb CEO. (Actually, Reagan was a superb CEO precisely because he didn't waste his time and energy on details; he focused on setting an objective, bringing on-board a team capable of achieving that objective, then leading the charge.)

The Crusader should be read by any politician who wants to understand the difference between conveying the illusion of success, and succeeding. And centuries from now, The Crusader will be read by anyone who wants to know how the Cold War really ended.

Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan Administration as Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The 'Touchstone' Evangelical

January 12, 2007
From the "Mere Comments" Page of Touchstone Magazine

Ruminating on Touchstone’s difficulty in appealing to certain kinds of Evangelical, a long-time friend of the magazine reminded the editors about a group that is dissatisfied with where Evangelicalism is going, but nervous about anything smacking too much of Catholicism. We agreed, I think, that the cure for this is in simply reading the magazine, not because we tend to avoid publishing much on disputed subjects (we have never viewed reconciliation on these matters, at least by direct argumentation, as part of our mission), but because the fundamental question troubling these traditional Evangelicals—whether Catholics, especially perhaps the unapologetically Catholic Catholics such as write for Touchstone, can be heard as Christians—will very likely be answered in the reading. I expect there to come a point at which this kind of reader either abandons us, deciding there is some subtle deceit at work here, or remains, feeling it absurd for him to question the Christianity of at least “this kind of Catholic.”

The conservative Evangelical church of my youth, full of converts from Catholicism, tried for years to convince me that Catholics would go to hell if we did not convert them because they believed they could buy their way into heaven with good works and didn't believe in being born again. But I lived in a pre-Vatican II Catholic neighborhood, had many Catholic friends--most of them girls who were interested in converting me, too--and intuited there was something wrong with what my church was trying to teach me here long before I could articulate the reasons.

Fundamentally what I noticed was that the Catholics I knew were like the Baptists I knew, rather than the caricatures and worst-cases I was given by my ministers (and my Catholics friends were evidently given by some of their priests and nuns) who occasionally seemed at war with a Bible which, to its everlasting credit, my church made sure even its children knew very well.

There were some Catholics in whom Charity dwelt, and whose confession, which included their manner of life, was the same as the holy ones among the Baptists. The language they used was often very different; the faith seemed the same. Their devotion to Mary seemed reasonable and proportionate--they made it very clear to me that they did not "worship" her as they did Jesus and God the Father--and did not distort their devotion to the Lord, whom they seemed to treat with more respect than we did. Which was worse, I wondered: being somewhat afraid of the Lord, as the Catholics seemed to be, or treating him as your “buddy,” as we were encouraged to do? I saw Jesus pretty much as I saw my father. While I was confident of his love, he was certainly not my chum. He was a friend, but not of that sort, for a friend and The Friend seemed to me categorically different. Old buddies are not terrors to evil deeds. Jesus and my father, however, were. I had no criticisms of the Catholics on that account, whereas my church, where salvation was not recognized apart from the profession of friendly or even quasi-romantic intimacy with Jesus, did.

The few Catholic fanatics I encountered, including the Marian ones, looked very much like Protestant fanatics I knew--just with different objects for their fanaticism. A lot of the Catholic nuts clustered around Mary just like the Protestant nuts (in my church, anyway) clustered around end-times prophecy—but a nut is a nut, wherever you find him. The Catholics who hated Protestants suffered from the same personality flaws as their Protestant counterparts. As far as earning their salvation by good works was concerned, I knew no official Catholic doctrine, but did notice that Catholic legalists and bean-counters, who really thought they could, were the kind of people who you would expect to: either obsessive types or people who relied on their baptisms for salvation because they preferred this to walking with God. They were a lot like the Baptists who thought their souls were eternally secure because at some time in their lives a preacher got them whupped up enough to get saved. Neither of them seemed to be trusting in the God of the Bible, who clearly was not the kind of salvation machine they took him for.

When I got a little older, my curiosity about why priests and ministers said what they did to keep us apart—and here I am talking men with orthodox sensibilities and dutiful, soldierly hearts—led to the belief, which I retain, that they belonged to religious parties that demanded it of them as a condition of belonging, and hence of their lives, livelihoods, and personal identities. Strong allegiance to, strong, if not avowed, personal investment in these parties, was secured when the clerics were young and relatively inexperienced men. When more mature reflection brought them not to denials of its basic faith or practice, but doubt of the distinctive party—the “denominational”--line, a deep melancholy, if not cynicism and a crisis of faith, often claimed them in their later years.

The divisive preaching and teaching, the deliberate ignorance and lack of sympathy, was a sign first of the dogmatism of youth, or perhaps of the convert reveling in the convert’s exultations, but later of a growing insecurity that sought to deny itself by beating back steadily encroaching doubt. Party activity toward this end intensified in mid-career, and thus came to mark the largest part of an orthodox clerical life which refused to collapse into easy liberalism on one hand, but on the other was forbidden by a church that still retained the truth of the faith to step outside the walls it had built on its own initiative to enhance and defend it. In this way the life of a faithful, orthodox presbyter became that of not only of a defender of the Christian faith against heresy and error, but at the same time, against his deeper will and desire, the life of a sectarian bigot creating other sectarian bigots in his image.

Although I knew none of this as a boy, I did recognize that the effect of this kind of clerical life was to separate us from Christian friends on what seemed to me dubious and insufficient grounds, even though I recognized, as I still do, that the kind of separation that was urged is under certain conditions good, necessary, and demanded by the Lord and his apostles. For this reason there are members of the Catholic and Protestant parties with whom I (by default, a Protestant) cannot maintain ecumenical relationships. This very separation, however, has thrown me into the company of people like the Touchstone Catholics. I think it possible a good many Evangelicals, aroused in the course of their own tribal wars, may find the same happening to them.

Posted by S. M. Hutchens at 11:09 AM

Film Review: 'We Are Marshall'

We Are Marshall (4 stars out of 5)
Gimme a hankie, coach. 'We Are Marshall' is genuinely moving.

Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel Movie Critic
Posted December 22, 2006

'We Are Marshall'

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, David Strathairn, Matthew Fox, Ian McShane.
Director: McG.

Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.

Industry rating: PG for emotional thematic material, a crash scene and mild language.

With the flood of entertaining, inspiring and perfectly serviceable sports dramas of the past few years, it's amazing to remember how long it has been since we had a good sports weeper, a "Brian's Song" for the new millennium.

"We Are Marshall" comes close to filling that bill. The requisite "inspiring" parts of this true story, the way the Marshall University football team rose from the ashes of the worst disaster in American college-sports history to play again, are routine. But the sadness and the ways people responded to that 1970 plane crash are genuinely moving.

A pretty good mid-level college football program was all but snuffed out one night, after a game in November 1970. Some 75 people -- coaches, players, the athletic director and prominent boosters -- died a short distance from home in Huntington, W.Va., when their plane went down.

Then, there were the injured players who didn't make the trip: the assistant coach (Matthew Fox of TV's Lost) who gave up his seat on the plane; the cheerleader (Kate Mara) whose fiance was on the team; the town shaker and mover (Ian McShane) whose son was that fiance; and the interim college president (David Strathairn) dropped into a tragedy, not knowing what to do next.

This atypical offering from McG, the guy who gave us the Charlie's Angels movies, stops to mourn. It takes us to memorial services. The movie even opens with a tribute to the crash that's still observed in Huntington to this day.

Some, like the father who lost his son, will embrace their grief with a death grip. Others will shut down entirely. Nobody in town can escape it. Maybe the best thing to do would be to drop the football program, Marshall's beleaguered president reasons.

But the surviving players (Anthony Mackie is their leader) and the student body won't hear of it. Their way of honoring their classmates, they figure, is to pick themselves, the school and the town up, by playing again.

Strathairn's President Dedmon is living the very definition of dilemma. The town won't accept a team reminding them, every Saturday, of their loss. The students won't accept the alternative. Nobody wants the job of building a team from scratch. The NCAA won't cut the school slack on scholarships (freshmen weren't eligible to play back then).

Then, this odd duck from the College of Wooster (Matthew McConaughey) phones. He would like to help. He wants the job.

McConaughey is at his most engaging here. He plays Jack Lengyel as eccentric, upbeat yet realistic, a stoop-shouldered straight-shooter who drawls out of the side of his mouth.

"If it's a miracle you're looking for, keep lookin'."

Pair the hustler (McConaughey) with a deer-in-headlights (Strathairn) and watch the magic.

The film then settles into the familiar rhythms of recruiting montages, "big games" and occasional moments of grief, many provided by Fox, who, as Red Dawson, embodies "survivor's guilt."

Florida State's Bobby Bowden was at Marshall's rival, West Virginia University, at the time, and played a part in this healing. Florida State alumnus (and Winter Park native) Jamie Linden wrote the script, and the narration has the warm, sentimental cadences of Earl Hamner remembering Walton's Mountain.

"Those were not welcome days. We buried sons, brothers, mothers, fathers, fiances. What once was whole, now shattered."

"We Are Marshall" (it's the rally cry of the team) doesn't always have a handle on the grief, but it does keep emotions close to the surface. That allows McConaughey to be the most refreshing, funny and believable he ever has been, even when he's giving the town, the team and us the only message in the movie that matters.

"Sometimes, winning isn't the only thing."

December and May: Desire vs. Ick Factor

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Simpson in "Notes on a Scandal"

January 15, 2007

The New York Times

As a decrepit womanizer in “Venus,” Peter O’Toole has a mouth that hangs open much of the time: a sign of advanced age, and the better to drool over the young woman he desires. He is meant to be a sly old goat not a dirty old man, so harmless that the film’s creators actually make the poor guy impotent. But while Mr. O’Toole can be wonderfully charming as Maurice, an actor savoring his final lust, this film needs a reality check: there is a significant ick factor in watching Maurice leer.

Older people and the younger, at times under-age objects of their desires are appearing on screen in almost every combination, in literate films whose target audience seems to be aging, upscale baby boomers. But sometimes there is a huge gap between what the filmmakers intend and the way even a sympathetic audience may respond.

In the film of Alan Bennett’s hit play “The History Boys,” Hector, a teacher who gropes his male students, is meant to be benign, even heroic, but his behavior makes him seem venal and self-deluding. Only the deliciously wicked “Notes on a Scandal,” with Cate Blanchett as a teacher who has an affair with a 15-year-old boy, avoids creating unintentional distaste, not because this student-teacher relationship is O.K., but because the film is so lucid. “Notes” gets what these other movies don’t: the difference between predatory sexual attention (unsavory) and mutual sexual attraction (very savory).

The distaste filmmakers should be worrying about has more to do with stalking than with age, but their confusion is evident in the ridiculous ploys they use to justify their older characters’ actions. Early in “Venus” (now in New York and Los Angeles and opening in several more cities on Friday) Maurice is about to be wheeled in for prostate surgery and his doctor announces, “There’s a strong chance of impotence and incontinence.”

A little late for that warning, isn’t it? Still, the statement conveniently whisks away the question of sex in the interest of making Maurice’s attentions to Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), who looks about 20, seem purely aesthetic. But when he gets her a job as a life model for an art class, he leers as he says the word modeling. She takes the job and asks him not to watch, so he climbs a ladder to spy through a window, a moment that “Venus” (directed by Roger Michell and written by the once-daring Hanif Kureishi) turns into a sitcom pratfall.

As their friendship grows, he responds to her suspicions by saying (in case we think he has been fortunate after his surgery), “I’m impotent.” Thanks for sharing. But despite spouting Shakespeare, Maurice is no Humbert Humbert poetically justifying his love.

And Jessie is no teasing Lolita, but she’s not virginal or totally naïf either. Catching on that she can get her way by allowing Maurice small physical gestures, she says he can kiss her shoulder; he hovers over her neck in a way that inadvertently brings Dracula to mind.

“The History Boys” also assumes that the audience will embrace its lecherous hero as fully as the film’s creators do. Faithfully directed by Nicholas Hytner, who also directed the play on Broadway and in London, the movie shows the students rolling their eyes as Hector (Richard Griffiths) offers them rides home on his motorcycle, knowing that at some point he will reach behind for a feel. A gay student, disappointed at never being invited, is told his day will come. “You’re too young still,” another boy says.

This comment about youth echoes the hair-splitting Mr. Bennett has offered in many interviews. “It wouldn’t be pedophilia because they’re 17 or 18, but he is a pederast,” he told a British newspaper, The Birmingham Post, about Hector and his students. “The boys are much more knowing and sophisticated than Hector is.” They’re not history boys, apparently, but history young-men-of-consensual-age.

Mr. Bennett tilts the issue even more in the work. When the headmaster learns of Hector’s behavior, he says indignantly, “This is a school,” then continues, “It’s not normal,” referring to the homoeroticism. In that one sentence the headmaster goes from being right to being a homophobe.

He is also a hypocrite whose unwanted attention to his young female secretary is just as bad as Hector’s. But instead of demonizing both men, Mr. Bennett turns this evidence around to help Hector save his job. Another teacher, Mrs. Lintott (Frances de la Tour), has no patience when Hector pathetically calls his gesture “a benediction,” snapping, “A grope is a grope — it is not the Annunciation.” Her minority voice may speak for the audience more than Mr. Bennett cares to know.

When “History Boys” was on Broadway, the critic John Lahr, filling in as host for Charlie Rose, asked Mr. Bennett whether he expected a different reaction in the United States, “America being that much more puritanical” than Britain. But while “Venus” and “History Boys” are British, it’s not some mythical American priggishness that makes them confounding here. “Notes on a Scandal” displays no such confusion, and it’s British too: directed by Richard Eyre and written with dark wit and a strong undertow of morality by Patrick Marber, from Zoe Heller’s novel.

It is utterly clear that while Steven (Andrew Simpson) is only 15, he comes on to his beautiful teacher, Sheba (Ms. Blanchett), not the other way around. He even dupes her with a false sob story to get her sympathy. Sheba, struggling under the weight of a long marriage to an older man and two children, knows her relationship with the boy is wrong. That doesn’t stop her, but she offers no lame Hector-like excuses. There are no innocents among the main characters, just a chorus of justifiably outraged minor ones, including Steven’s mother.

“Notes on a Scandal” places creepiness where it belongs: not on sex and age themselves but on a predatory impulse, which comes not from Sheba but from her older colleague, Barbara (Judi Dench, practically a rediscovery as she breaks away from all those tiresome roles as lovable, feisty old ladies). Barbara has had a disquieting obsession with Sheba from the start, insinuating herself into Sheba’s life, manipulating her into staying close by promising to guard the secret of the affair. Here is another older-younger attraction, clearly depicted as sexual even if Barbara won’t admit as much out loud. But while Maurice and Hector’s sleaziness seeps through despite Mr. O’Toole’s warmth and Mr. Bennett’s wit, Barbara demonstrates that icky attention from an aging character can be bracing for a film, as long as the ick is intentional.