Thursday, February 15, 2007

Srdja Trifkovic: Vampires Inside the Blood Bank Redux

Rioting perpetrated by Parisian "disaffected youth" in 2005...
Yep, I'm sure they'll be much happier over here. -- jtf

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The State Department Pushes European Muslims’ “Integration”

According to an inconspicuous article in the Washington Times the State Department is concerned about a “nativist surge” in Western Europe, and is seeking to counter it by creating “a position to coordinate efforts to reach out to European Muslims and help them better integrate into society.” Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said U.S. embassies and consulates in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries will introduce programs tailored to local conditions. The program will be managed by Farah Pandith, until recently a staffer on the National Security Council and a native of Srinagar (Kashmir), who moved to the State Department last week to head the new effort.


The growing Muslim presence in Europe is “a fascinating issue . . . that the American government is just now trying to get its mind around,” Mr. Fried says. “It’s a huge problem, we are thinking about it seriously, and we’ve tried to do some intellectual framing-up.” The conclusion of that framing-up is strictly orthodox-liberal: Muslims in Europe are experiencing a “process of alienation” due to “no sense of integration” in their host societies—and that is Europe’s fault, according to Fried: “Europe has to learn to do that. You have a weird nativist surge in Western Europe, and a kind of odd panic: Aliens are here, they don’t accept our values, they are a threat to our way of life and turn to radicalism.” Foggy Bottom’s solution is to bring American Muslims to Europe to meet with their counterparts and try to “break down stereotypes” and help them end their “self-isolation.” Fried insists that he has not found strong anti-American feelings among European Muslims during his travels, even though many disagree with U.S. policies: “I don’t get big speeches.” he said. “They say, ‘We want to live in Europe. Can you help us out? Do you understand us? We want to be good Muslims and good Europeans.”

Mr. Fried is dangerously deluded. His implied view that America has been successful in integrating “her” Muslims into the societal mainstream—so successful, in fact, that the model is ready to be exported to Europe—is not supported by facts. For the time being, America is in far better shape than Europe, but it would be dangerous to assume that this is so because Muslims have better assimilated into American culture. It would be an even greater folly to hope that America’s economic, political and cultural institutions act as a powerful source of self-identification that breeds personal loyalty and commitment to the host-society that is so evidently absent among the Muslims in Europe. As we shall see, there is ample evidence that Muslims in America share the attitudes and aspirations of their European coreligionists.

There are three reasons why things are not as bad in America.

First of all, Muslims do not account for much more than one percent of the population of the United States, in contrast to Western Europe where their share of the population is up to ten times greater. They like to pretend otherwise, of course, and groups such as the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Student Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the Harvard Islamic Society routinely assert that there are between 4.5 and 9 million Muslims in the United States. It is remarkable that these sources do not provide any empirically verifiable basis for their figures. Impartial studies currently place their number at between 2 and 4 million. The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) polled more than 50,000 people in 2001 and found the total American Muslim population to be 1.8 million.

The second difference is in the fact that Muslim enclaves in Europe are ethnically more homogenous. Most Muslims in France, Spain and Belgium came from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. In Germany and Austria they are mostly Turks. In Britain they are overwhelmingly from the Indian Subcontinent. Their group cohesiveness based on Islam is additionally reinforced by the bonds of ethnic, cultural and linguistic kinship. In the United States, by contrast, neither Arabs nor Sub-Continentals enjoy similar dominance within the Muslim community, which is therefore not equally monolithic.

And finally, there are proportionately fewer U.S. citizens among Muslims in America. In France and Britain, by contrast, most Muslims are citizens of those countries and feel free to act assertively (or even criminally) without any fear of deportation. As permanent residents they continue to refrain from statements and acts that may make them excludable under current laws. But as soon as they gain citizenship, some among them soon rediscover the virtues of sharia and jihad.

On the whole, Muslim immigrants in the United States do not have different attitudes to the host-society from their coreligionists in Europe. The image of America in the Muslim world is far more negative than that of any European country: 81 percent of Pakistanis dislike America while only 10 percent have a favorable image of it. Furthermore, sizable percentages of Muslims all over the world—73 percent in Lebanon, which is considered ripe for a “Cedar Revolution” and has a large Christian minority!—believe that suicide bombings can be justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies.

That baggage comes to the West with the Muslim immigrants and it is transmitted to their Western-born children. In a survey of newly naturalized citizens, 90 percent of Muslim immigrants said that if there were a conflict between the United States and their country of origin, they would be inclined to support their country of origin. In Detroit 81 percent of Muslims “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that Shari’a should be the law of the land. The picture becomes even more disturbing if we look at the incidence of terrorist threats America faces from the ranks of that one percent of its citizenry.

Fried’s assertions reflect a structural problem at the heart of this nation’s decision-making: the refusal of the American elite class to accept that Islam as such, traditionally interpreted, poses a threat, and not some allegedly aberrant variety of it. The enemy is well aware of the opportunity provided by this failure. It sees the liberal mindset as his most powerful secret weapon, while despising it at the same time. The MAS Chicago chapter’s Web site states matter-of-factly that Western secularism and materialism are evil, and that Muslims should “pursue this evil force to its own lands” and “invade its Western heartland.”

The outcome of the misnamed war on terror will depend on our ability to halt this ongoing invasion. The precondition is to accept that a practicing Muslim who comes to the US cannot be “absolutely and entirely” loyal to the United States by definition. The basis of the social and legal order and source of all obligation in Islam is the Kuran, the final revelation of Allah’s will that is to be obeyed by all creation. His divine sovereignty is irreconcilable with popular sovereignty, the keystone of democracy. Politics is not “part of Islam,” as this would imply that, in origin, it is a distinctly separate sphere of existence that is then eventually amalgamated with Islam. Politics is the intrinsic core of the Islamic imperative of Allah’s sovereignty.

The result of that imperative is that among some three million Muslims in the United States of America there are sufficient numbers of terrorist sympathizers and active human assets to justify expenditure of some $300 billion annually in direct and indirect homeland security costs, excluding military operations abroad. That money would not need to be spent if America had been prudent enough to devise a sane immigration policy back in the days of Lyndon Johnson. The tangible cost of the presence of a Muslim man, woman and child to the American taxpayer is at least $100,000 each year. The cost of the general unpleasantness associated with the terrorist threat and its impact on the quality of our lives is, of course, incalculable.

Srdja Trifkovic is the foreign-affairs editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture and director of The Rockford Institute's Center for International Affairs.

Thomas Sowell: Global Hot Air, Part III

Thursday, February 15, 2007

If you take the mainstream media seriously, you might think that every important scientist believes that "global warming" poses a great threat, and that we need to make drastic changes in the way we live, in order to avoid catastrophes to the environment, to various species, and to ourselves.

The media play a key role in perpetuating such beliefs. Often they seize upon every heat wave to hype global warming, but see no implications in record-setting cold weather, such as many places have been experiencing lately.

But, when not one hurricane struck the United States all last year, the media had little or nothing to say about the false predictions they had hyped. It's heads I win and tails you lose.

Are there serious scientists who specialize in weather and climate who have serious doubts about the doomsday scenarios being pushed by global warming advocates? Yes, there are.

There is Dr. S. Fred Singer, who set up the American weather satellite system, and who published some years ago a book titled "Hot Talk, Cold Science." More recently, he has co-authored another book on the subject, "Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years."

There have been periods of global warming that lasted for centuries -- and periods of global cooling that also lasted for centuries. So the issue is not whether the world is warmer now than at some time in the past but how much of that warming is due to human beings and how much can we reduce future warming, even if we drastically reduce our standard of living in the attempt.

Other serious scientists who are not on the global warming bandwagon include a professor of meteorology at MIT, Richard S. Lindzen.

His name was big enough for the National Academy of Sciences to list it among the names of other experts on its 2001 report that was supposed to end the debate by declaring the dangers of global warming proven scientifically.

Professor Lindzen then objected and pointed out that neither he nor any of the other scientists listed ever saw that report before it was published. It was in fact written by government bureaucrats -- as was the more recently published summary report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that is also touted as the final proof and the end of the discussion.

You want more experts who think otherwise? Try a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, Patrick J. Michaels, who refers to the much ballyhooed 2001 IPCC summary as having "misstatements and errors" that he calls "egregious."

A professor of climatology at the University of Delaware, David R. Legates, likewise referred to the 2001 IPCC summary as being "often in direct contrast with the scientific report that accompanies it." It is the summaries that the media hype. The full 2007 report has not even been published yet.

Skeptical experts in other countries around the world include Duncan Wingham, a professor of climate physics at the University College, London, and Nigel Weiss of Cambridge University.

The very attempt to silence all who disagree about global warming ought to raise red flags.

Anyone who remembers the 1970s should remember the Club of Rome report that was supposed to be the last word on economic growth grinding to a halt, "overpopulation" and a rapidly approaching era of mass starvation in the 1980s.

In reality, the 1980s saw increased economic growth around the world and, far from mass starvation, an increase in obesity and agricultural surpluses in many countries. But much of the media went for the Club of Rome report and hyped the hysteria.

Many in the media resent any suggestion that they are either shilling for an ideological agenda or hyping whatever will sell newspapers or get higher ratings on TV.

Here is their chance to check out some heavyweight scientists specializing in weather and climate, instead of taking Al Gore's movie or the pronouncements of government bureaucrats and politicians as the last word.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.

Stephen Brown: A Tale of Two Beauties

Nazanin Afshin-Jam

February 15, 2007

It is a tale of two beauties named Nazanin and the beasts they slew.

The first beauty is Nazanin Fateh, a nineteen-year-old Iranian woman whose melodious-sounding first name means beautiful in Persian. The beast she slew was the man who tried to rape her, for which she was sentenced to death.

The second Nazanin is, literally, a true beauty. Nazanin Afshin-Jam, an Iranian-Canadian, was a 2003 Miss World Canada and runner-up at the Miss World competition. The beast this belle killed was Iran’s brutal sharia law that was responsible for her namesake’s death sentence. Afshin-Jam became the center of the largely women-driven movement that saved the Iranian Nazanin from execution, indicating a new force for change for oppressed Muslim women may be in the making.

But first, the sad and disturbing facts of the case. According to the Iranian newspaper Etemaad, Fateh, seventeen at the time, was in a Tehran park with her fifteen-year-old niece and two boyfriends in March, 2005, when three men approached and pushed the two girls to the ground to rape them. The brave boyfriends, meanwhile, fled on their motorcycles, leaving the two females to fend for themselves.

In self-defense, Fateh pulled a knife and stabbed one of the assailants in the arm. The Iranian teenagers then tried to flee when Fateh stabbed another would-be rapist in the chest, killing the repulsive jackal. The young Iranian woman, it was reported, then waited for the police and gave them the knife.

But despite her honesty and rightful claim to have acted in self-defense to protect both her and her niece’s honor, a criminal court in the Islamic theocracy sentenced her to death in January, 2006. The fact she was out after dark and reported to be a runaway (which her parents denied) also worked against her.

“I wanted to defend myself and my niece,” said Fateh, sobbing, at her trial. “I did not want to kill that boy. In the heat of the moment, I did not know what to do because no one came to help.”

Which says it all! In other countries the defendant would never have been convicted.

At a subsequent retrial Fateh even stymied the judge when, indicating her limited choices, she asked him what he would do if he was attacked by three men. The judge did not reply.

But Iranian sharia law did. It found her killing of a man too drastic for Iran’s male-dominated society. This is a country, by the way, in which a woman’s life is legally worth only half that of a man’s. If her attacker and potential rapist had killed her, Fateh’s family still would have had to pay a certain amount of money to the murderer to make her a full person. Only then would the killer receive the death penalty.

Ironically, even if Fateh had allowed herself to be raped, the legal result would probably have been the same. Damaged female honor is no laughing matter among the sexually puritan mullahs (whose sense of humor is probably questionable anyways). The hanging of a sixteen-year-old Iranian teenager in 2004 for “engaging in acts incompatible with chastity” attests to this. Iran also does not hesitate to execute minors under eighteen, having put to death eight child offenders in 2005, the only country in the world to execute children that year, according to Amnesty International.

But luckily for the Iranian teen, she had a friend she didn’t even know: a woman half a world away with the same beautiful name. When Afshin-Jam, an aspiring singer, heard of her namesake’s tragic plight, she told a Canadian newspaper she was outraged.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “She was only seventeen when this happened.”

Using her celebrity status, the Canadian woman, who arrived in Canada from Iran at age two, set out to right this horrible wrong, initiating a “Save Nazanin Campaign.” Among other things, Afshin-Jam started a petition to free Fateh, collecting 330,000 signatures by last month. The energetic former beauty queen also met with the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, a fellow Canadian woman, who took up the case with the Iranian government. In addition, the Canadian Nazanin made a documentary (called 'A Tale of Two Nazanins') as well as a video appeal to Iranian officials, and addressed Canadian federal politicians about the case last June.

And for pointing out to the world the travesty in Iran, Afshin-Jam received the usual threats.

“One was they were going to leave me with a scar,” she said.

But disregarding her safety, Afshin-Jam persevered and was rewarded with seeing the court buckle under international pressure, sharia law thwarted and her namesake acquitted. Fateh, however, still has to pay the attempted rapist’s family blood money, which her lawyer is appealing. Meanwhile, the young Iranian female was released from prison last month after paying $43,000 in bail money. Another woman, Canadian federal politician Belinda Stronach, contributed substantially to the bail fund.

Afshin-Jam said she spoke to Fateh after her release, saying her Iranian counterpart is aware of the efforts made on her behalf. The Canadian Nazanin added, however, there are still six women in similar circumstances. But the struggle to free Nazanin Fateh proves that if women take matters into their own hands, even misogynistic mullahs and cruel Sharia law will yield.

Stephen Brown is a columnist for Email him at

Robert Spencer: Salt Lake Jihad?

Sulejman Talovic, 18, is shown in a January 2007 family photo supplied by the family. Talovic allegedly shot and killed five people Monday night and wounded four more before being shot and killed by police.

February 15, 2007

When Sulejmen Talovic entered the Trolley Square mall in Salt Lake City Monday night with a shotgun, a pistol, and a backpack full of ammunition, he intended to “kill a large number of people,” according to Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank. Talovic killed five people and wounded four before he himself was killed by an off-duty Ogden police officer who happened to be in the mall.

Why did Talovic do it? No one knows. Talovic’s aunt, Ajka Omerovic, told reporters: “We want to know what happened, just like you guys. We have no idea...We know him as a good boy. He liked everybody, so I don’t know what happened.” Talovic, who was eighteen at the time of the murders, was a Bosnian Muslim who came to the United States with his family in 1998. Could he have been motivated by jihadist sympathies?

FBI special agent Patrick Kiernan discounted that possibility. “We’re working closely with the Salt Lake P.D. and we’re obviously aware that that [terrorism] is a potential issue out there,” he explained. “But at this point there is nothing that is leading us down this road.” And with Talovic dead and apparently having acted alone, unless something he wrote explaining his actions is discovered, it is unlikely that his motive will ever be definitively known.

But was Kiernan really correct that “there is nothing that is leading us down this road”? Unfortunately, he didn’t explain how he came to this conclusion. Talovic joins an unfortunately growing list of Muslims who have committed random acts of violence, only for officials to assure us that their actions have nothing to do with terrorism. Maybe none of them do, but the list is full of troubling details:

* On January 31, Ismail Yassin Mohamed, 22, stole a car in Minneapolis. He went on a rampage, ramming the stolen car into other cars and then stealing a van and continuing to ram other cars, injuring one person. His father told officials that Mohamed was suffering from mental problems; his mother added he had been depressed and hadn’t been taking his medication. During his rampage, Mohamed repeatedly yelled, “Die, die, die, kill, kill, kill,” and when asked why he did all this, he replied, “Allah made me do it.”

* Omeed Aziz Popal, a Muslim from Afghanistan, who killed one person and injured fourteen during a murderous drive through San Francisco city streets in August 2006, during which he targeted people on crosswalks and sidewalks, identified himself as a terrorist after his rampage, according to Rob Roth of San Francisco’s KTVU. Later the murders were ascribed to Popal’s mental problems, and to stress arising from his impending arranged marriage.

* On July 28, 2006, a Muslim named Naveed Afzal Haq forced his way into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. Once inside, Haq announced, “I’m a Muslim American; I’m angry at Israel,” and then began shooting, killing one woman and injuring five more. FBI assistant special agent David Gomez stated: “We’s a lone individual acting out his antagonism. There’s nothing to indicate that it’s terrorism-related. But we're monitoring the entire situation.”

* In March 2006, a twenty-two-year-old Iranian student named Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar drove an SUV onto the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, deliberately trying to kill people and succeeding in injuring nine. After the incident, he seemed singularly pleased with himself, smiling and waving to crowds after a court appearance on Monday, at which he explained that he was “thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah.” Officials here again dismissed the possibility of terrorism, even after Taheri-azar wrote a series of letters to the UNC campus newspaper detailing the Qur’anic justification for warfare against unbelievers, and explaining why he believed his attacks were justified from an Islamic perspective.

None of these were terrorist attacks in the sense that they were planned and executed by al-Qaeda agents. And it is possible that all of them were products of nothing more ideologically significant than a disturbed mental state, although it is at least noteworthy that each attacker explained his actions in terms of Islamic terrorism. As such attacks grow in number, it would behoove authorities at very least to consider the possibility that these attacks were inspired by the jihadist ideology of Islamic supremacism, and to step up pressure on American Muslim advocacy groups to renounce that ideology definitively and begin extensive programs to teach against it in American Islamic schools and mosques.

In October 2006, a pro-jihad internet site published a “Guide for Individual Jihad,” explaining to jihadists “how to fight alone.” It recommended, among other things, assassination with guns and running people over. Is it possible that Sulejmen Talovic and some of these others were waging this jihad of one? It is indeed, but with law enforcement officials trained only to look for signs of membership in al-Qaeda or other jihad groups, and to discount terrorism as a factor if those signs aren’t there, it is a possibility that investigators will continue to overlook.

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

Book Review: "Infidel"

Ayaan Hirsi Ali holds her latest book 'The Infidel: The Story of My Enlightenment' in New York Monday, Feb.5, 2007.

Books of The Times
No Rest for a Feminist Fighting Radical Islam

By Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Illustrated. Free Press. 353 pages. $26.


The New York Times

Published: February 14, 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali came to the attention of the wider world in an extraordinary way. In 2004 a Muslim fanatic, after shooting the filmmaker Theo van Gogh dead on an Amsterdam street, pinned a letter to Mr. van Gogh’s chest with a knife. Addressed to Ms. Hirsi Ali, the letter called for holy war against the West and, more specifically, for her death.

A Somali by birth and a recently elected member of the Dutch Parliament, Ms. Hirsi Ali had waged a personal crusade to improve the lot of Muslim women. Her warnings about the dangers posed to the Netherlands by unassimilated Muslims made her Public Enemy No. 1 for Muslim extremists, a feminist counterpart to Salman Rushdie.

The circuitous, violence-filled path that led Ms. Hirsi Ali from Somalia to the Netherlands is the subject of “Infidel,” her brave, inspiring and beautifully written memoir. Narrated in clear, vigorous prose, it traces the author’s geographical journey from Mogadishu to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and her desperate flight to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage.

At the same time, Ms. Hirsi Ali describes a journey “from the world of faith to the world of reason,” a long, often bitter struggle to come to terms with her religion and the clan-based traditional society that defined her world and that of millions of Muslims all over.

Ms. Hirsi Ali, now 37, belongs to the Osman Mahamud subclan of the Darod clan. Its members, by tradition, are born to rule, which may explain the author’s self-possessed, imperious gaze on the cover of her book. Her mother came from a family of nomads, and Ms. Hirsi Ali grew up listening to desert folk tales narrated by her grandmother, who, like many Somalis, followed a “diluted, relaxed” version of Islam that included traditional magic spirits and genies. It also required that young girls undergo genital mutilation, which Ms. Hirsi Ali, a victim of the practice, describes in horrific detail.

Somalia’s troubled politics provided Ms. Hirsi Ali with an eventful childhood. Her father, an opponent of the country’s Soviet-backed dictator, spent years in prison. The family, living on clan charity, moved to Saudi Arabia, where Ms. Hirsi Ali recoiled at the local interpretation of Islam, and later to Ethiopia and Kenya, where Ms. Hirsi Ali added Swahili and English to her growing list of languages. Without knowing it, she was becoming a permanent outsider, a misfit wherever she traveled.

The family was politically liberal but pious, with one foot in the remote past and the other in the modern world. In Nairobi, her grandmother kept a sheep in the bathtub at night and herded it during the day. Ms. Hirsi Ali, at her English-language school, devoured Nancy Drew mysteries and English adventure series, “tales of freedom, adventure, of equality between girls and boys, trust and friendship.” She eventually became a woman very like one of George Eliot’s heroines — earnest, high-minded and ardent, forever chafing at the limits imposed by her religion and her society.

Rebellion came slowly. Ms. Hirsi Ali, under the spell of a kindly Islamic evangelist, passed through a deeply religious phase. She describes, quite persuasively, the attractions of fundamentalism and the growing appeal of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in disintegrating societies like Somalia’s. But nagging questions disturbed her faith, especially as she encountered inflexible doctrines on the role of women, and their need to submit to men.

“Life on earth is a test, and I was failing it, even though I was trying as hard as I knew how to,” she writes of her anguished, questioning adolescence. “I was failing as a Muslim.”

In 1992, in her early 20s, Ms. Hirsi Ali made a dash for freedom. Instead of joining her new husband in Canada, she bolted to the Netherlands. There, she pretended to be fleeing political persecution, and the authorities granted her refugee status. She had brought shame on her family and her clan, but the order and rationality of the Netherlands intoxicated her, right down to the houses “all the same color, laid out in rows like neat little cakes warm from the oven.” She could not imagine what the Dutch had to vote about, since everything seemed to work perfectly.

Ms. Hirsi Ali’s struggles to gain a toehold in her new country, and her perceptions of the West, told through innocent eyes, put flesh and blood on an immigrant story repeated countless times throughout Western Europe. Alienation, dislocation and the burden of too many choices warp the lives of people rooted in traditional societies based on clans and tribes. Ms. Hirsi Ali’s own sister, who joins her in the Netherlands, sinks into deep depression and psychosis.

Fluent in English, and determined to learn Dutch, the highly adaptable Ms. Hirsi Ali makes her way, first as a translator for various social services, then as a political researcher for the Labor Party, and eventually as a political candidate with uncomfortable views on Islam, immigration and assimilation.

Ms. Hirsi Ali, disturbed at the economic and social plight of Muslims, warned the Dutch that their liberal policy of helping immigrants create separate cultural and religious institutions was counterproductive. She deplored the crimes of violence against Muslim women committed daily in the Netherlands, to which the authorities turned a blind eye in the name of cultural understanding. After the 9/11 attacks, she was vocal in insisting that, despite well-meaning assurances to the contrary, there really was a meaningful link between the Muslim faith and terrorism.

“Holland was trying to be tolerant for the sake of consensus, but the consensus was empty,” she writes. “The immigrants’ culture was being preserved at the expense of their women and children and to the detriment of the immigrants’ integration into Holland.”

Ms. Hirsi Ali’s provocative comments on Islam and on the need for Muslim women to reject their traditionally submissive role (the subject of a short film she made with Mr. van Gogh) channeled mounting Muslim anger directly at her.

Death threats have since driven Ms. Hirsi Ali to the United States, where she has accepted a fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group.

This is a pity. As a politician, she focused Dutch minds on a subject they steadfastly ignored. In her brief career, she forced the government to keep statistics on honor killings, in which enraged family members murder sisters or daughters believed to have brought shame on the family or clan. Much to the surprise of the Dutch, it turned out that there were a lot of them. Unfortunately, Ms. Hirsi Ali is no longer in the Netherlands to point out these things.

Tyler Kepner: Just like old times, Yanks turn to Pettitte

The New York Times

Published: February 15, 2007

TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 14 — In the itinerant world of a baseball player, it is possible to leave home to go home again. That was the sensation Andy Pettitte felt the other day, when he stuffed his suitcases at home in Deer Park, Tex., for a long season with his old team, the Yankees.

“It hits you: Wow, I’m leaving,” Pettitte said Wednesday at Legends Field. “The closet here is empty. I’m shipping everything to Tampa and then going to New York.”

Pettitte logged nine stellar years with the Yankees before signing with the Houston Astros after the 2003 World Series. He never expected to be back, but now that he is, he said it felt natural. He even found a house in Westchester County only two miles from his old one.

“It seems like we never left,” Pettitte said.

In reality, though, the Yankees have changed quite a bit. Only six current teammates were here when Pettitte left — Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Mike Mussina, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera — and all of the coaches are new.

Manager Joe Torre remains, and he has stayed in touch with Pettitte over the past three years. They talked before the Astros played in the 2005 World Series; they talked last summer about a gift for the former pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre; and they talked in November at Torre’s charity dinner.

“He’s not just my manager,” Pettitte said. “I feel like I can go in there and talk about life.”

Pettitte was the Yankees’ highest-profile acquisition over the winter, which said a lot about their strategy. The Yankees traditionally import stars and agree to pay them lavishly for years. But this off-season, they traded two Hall of Fame-caliber players in Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield, and have not offered a major league contract to a franchise icon, Bernie Williams. Pettitte was appealing partly because he took a short-term deal.

Pettitte signed for one year and $16 million with a player option for 2008 at the same amount. At 34, he could have commanded a longer deal, and turned down an overture from St. Louis for three years and more than $45 million.

But Pettitte’s elbow concerns him, as he freely admits in a self-deprecating way. He said he felt strong, and has thrown off a mound five or six times. But he has taxed the elbow heavily since having surgery on it in 2004, making 72 starts over the past two years, including the postseason. The health of his elbow is never far from his mind.

“It makes me think about it every once in a while,” Pettitte said. “But I just try to get back on the mound and make my starts. However my elbow feels, whatever I’ve got that day, just go with it.”

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said Pettitte’s medical exams turned out better this winter than they did three years ago, before his surgery. But Cashman acknowledged the risk.

“The elbow is something he’s had to deal with for quite some time,” Cashman said. “If we can keep him healthy, he’ll be a productive player for us.”

Pettitte adapted to a new environment during his three years in Houston. He threw his changeup more often to neutralize right-handed hitters at Minute Maid Park, where the left-field wall is close. At Yankee Stadium, with its spacious left-center-field power alley, Pettitte said, he would be more confident using his cutter, while keeping hitters honest with the change.

Pitchers and catchers took physicals Wednesday, and Pettitte could throw off a mound Thursday with the other starters. For now, that group includes Pettitte, Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang, Kei Igawa and Carl Pavano. By midseason, the Yankees hope to add Roger Clemens.

Clemens is a semiretired free agent at 44 years old. Pettitte said he would go golfing with Clemens during spring training, but he did not plan to persuade him to join the Yankees. Clemens tends to dominate the conversation, anyway.

“Usually when me and Roger get together, he talks,” Pettitte said. “There’s nothing I’ve got to say. He knows how I feel about him and I know how he feels about me. He knows whoever he adds himself to, he’s going to be an unbelievable help to that team.”

Pettitte said Clemens was keeping his arm in shape and recently threw for an hour at Minute Maid Park. True to form, Pettitte said his own arm could never withstand that strain.

“He’s amazing,” Pettitte said. “If I threw for an hour right now, I wouldn’t pitch the rest of the year.”

If the Yankees were laughing, it was nervous laughter. They are relying on Pettitte the way they used to, and he feels the responsibility.

“I feel like I’m going to hold up, or I wouldn’t have come here,” Pettitte said. “I don’t want to go through the agony of feeling like I let everybody down.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mary Katherine Ham: A Tale of Two Rapes in Durham

The house at 405 Gattis St. was the site of a party Saturday night where a Duke student said she was raped.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

There's another accusation of rape floating around Durham this week. The accuser was allegedly attacked at a house party this Saturday.

The accuser is white. The suspect is black.

Heard anything about that? Yeah, I didn't think so.

The mainstream media has bent over backward to keep race out of this. Even those who first gave a description of the alleged rapist as a “black man” later redacted that from their reports. The News & Observer never printed it at all. And none has pointed out, as the Duke Chronicle has done, that the alleged victim was white, making this a mirror image of the Duke lacrosse case.

Some maintained all along last spring that their protests were not about race but about men’s violence against women. Still others tried to fan racial and class tensions by saying that if these were black men accused of raping a white woman, the man would be in jail. Well, now we know two things: it was always about race for the pot bangers and the Group of 88 professors at Duke, and it is demonstrably true, after Sunday’s incident, that a black man can be accused of raping a white woman and still be on the street.

It was never about protecting women. I know that because I live in a neighborhood that has the dubious honor of being the namesake of at least one serial rapist. There were few candlelight vigils; there was no national media attention; there were no pot-bangers when the women of my neighborhood couldn't take their dogs for walks at dusk. And, those black-on-white rapes just didn't bring the activist out in people the way the Duke non-rape did.

The News & Observer's omission of race is laughable:

The man is described as being in his late teens or early 20s, about 6-foot-1 and wearing a black do-rag, a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans, according to a police news release.

Why laughable? Because the same story appeared in the Charlotte Observer, written by the same reporter, with "black" included, since it was part of the original police report. It was clearly removed in the Raleigh edition:

Police had not charged anyone late Sunday in connection with the allegations but released a description of a suspect: a black male, in his late teens or early 20s, about 6-feet-1-inch tall and wearing a black do-rag, a gray sweat shirt and blue jeans, according to the news release.

And, isn't this uncharacteristically respectful of the judicial system, coming from Duke University?

Duke University administrators will wait for Durham police to finish their investigation of a freshman's allegations that she was raped at an off-campus party before doing an inquiry of their own.

What? Not disbanding the African-American fraternity-- Phi Beta Sigma-- whose members threw the party? I mean, we don't have to wait for anyone to be charged, do we?

K.C. Johnson notes a difference in treatment by the D.A.'s office, too. I'm shocked--

"We haven't made any arrests or anything yet," said Maj. L.A. Russ of the Durham Police Department. "He would not get involved this early."

"But in the lacrosse case," Blythe correctly notes, "Nifong assumed control of the investigation, according to police reports, before any charges were filed."

I'm glad things will be handled more level-headedly this time in Durham, but I'm sad to say it's probably not because the people and politicians of Durham have learned any lessons. But regardless of the reason, it's good to know this case will go more fairly. I just hope the dear "victim" in last year's case hasn't made things harder for this girl if, in fact, her story is true.

The Duke lacrosse season starts next in the next two weeks. Please support them as you can. I'll be going to a few games.

Thomas Sowell: Global Hot Air, Part II

Sir Richard Branson , left, throws a globe into the air watched by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, right, at a presentation to announce the Virgin Earth Challenge, in London, Friday Feb. 9, 2007. The Virgin Earth Challenge is a $25 million global science and technology prize, that will be awarded to an individual or a group who can demonstrate a design to reduce atmospheric pollution and contribute to the stability of the earth's climate.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Propaganda campaigns often acquire a life of their own. Politicians who have hitched their wagons to the star of "global warming" cannot admit any doubts on their part, or permit any doubts by others from becoming part of a public debate.

Neither can environmental crusaders, whose whole sense of themselves as saviors of the planet is at stake, as they try to stamp out any views to the contrary.

A recent and revealing example of the ruthless attempts to silence anyone who dares question the global warming crusade began with a "news" story in the British newspaper "The Guardian." It quickly found an echo among American Senators on the left -- Bernard Sanders, an avowed socialist, and John Kerry, Pat Leahy and Dianne Feinstein, who are unavowed.

The headline of the "news" story said it all: "Scientists Offered Cash to Dispute Climate Study." According to "The Guardian," scientists and economists "have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report."

It is a classic notion on the left in general, and of environmentalist zealots in particular, that no one can disagree with them unless they are either uninformed or dishonest. Here they dispose of scientists who are skeptical of the global warming hysteria by depicting them as being bribed by lobbyists for the oil companies.

While such charges may be enough for crusading zealots to wrap themselves ever more tightly in the mantle of virtue, some of us are still old-fashioned enough to want to know the actual facts.

In this case, the fact is that the American Enterprise Institute -- a think tank, not a lobbyist -- did what all kinds of think tanks do, all across the political spectrum, all across the country, and all around the world.

AEI has planned a roundtable discussion of global warming, attended by people with differing views on the subject. That was their fundamental sin, in the eyes of the global warming crowd. They treated this as an issue, rather than a dogma.

Like liberal, conservative, and other think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute pays people who do the work of preparing scholarly papers for presentation at its roundtables. Ten thousand dollars is not an unusual amount and many have received more from other think tanks for similar work.

Enter Senators Sanders, Kerry, Leahy, and Feinstein. In a joint letter to the head of the American Enterprise Institute, they express shock, shock, like the corrupt police official in "Casablanca."

These Senators express "our very serious concerns" about reports that AEI "offered to pay scientists up to $10,000 for questioning the findings" of other scientists. The four Senators express how "saddened" they would be if the reports are true, "by the depths to which some would sink to undermine the scientific consensus" on global warming.

If the reports are true, the Senators continue, "it would highlight the extent to which moneyed interests distort honest scientific and public policy discussions" by "bribing scientists to support a pre-determined agenda."

The Senators ask: "Does your donors' self-interest trump an honest discussion over the well-being of the planet?" They demand that "AEI will publicly apologize for this conduct."

As the late Art Buchwald once said about comedy and farce in Washington, "You can't make that up!"

If it is a bribe to pay people for doing work, then we are all bribed every day, except for those who inherited enough money not to have to work at all. Among those invited to attend the AEI roundtable are some of the same scientists who produced the recent report that politicians, environmentalists, and the media tout as the last word on global warming.

The trump card of the left is that one of the big oil companies contributed money to the American Enterprise Institute -- not as much as one percent of its budget, but enough for a smear.

All think tanks have contributors or they could not exist. But facts carry little weight in smears, even by politicians who question other people's honesty.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.

Ralph Peters- Sunni vs. Shi'a: It's not all Islam

"Down With America"...just about the only thing on which the Shiites and Sunnis can agree. - jtf

February 14, 2007

Among the worst members of the it's-all-a-conspiracy pack are those who insist that every Muslim is in on a vast Jihadi conspiracy to make Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks wear a chador (not a bad idea, aesthetically speaking). But those most anxious to condemn Islam in its entirety skip over annoying facts: Overwhelmingly, the victims of Islamist terror have been other Muslims; even the Taliban or the Khomeinist regime never rivaled the Inquistion's ferocity; and Europeans, not Muslims, long have been the heavyweight champions of genocide (with the Turks a distant runner-up).

All monotheist religions have been really good haters. We just take turns.

But the biggest obstacle to establishing the Caliphate in California is that Shi'a "Islam" never bought into the Caliphate at all. At bottom, it's a different religion from Sunni Islam. They're not just different branches of a faith, as with Protestantism and Catholicism, but separate faiths whose core differences are more-pronounced than those between Christians and Jews.

Technically, Sunni militants are correct when they label the Shi'a "heretics." Persians and their closest neighbors, with long memories of great civilizations, were never comfortable with the crudeness of Arabian Islam--which the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss aptly called "a barracks religion."

The struggle has never ended between the ascetic, intolerant Bedouin faith of Arabia, with its fascist obsession on behavior, and the profound theologies of Persian civilization that absorbed and transformed Islam. While Shi'ism only prevailed in Persia within the last millennium (nudging out Sunni Islam at last), "Aryan" Islam had long been shaped by Zoroastrianism and other ineradicable pre-Islamic legacies.

Persians made the new faith their own, incorporating cherished traditions--just as northern Europeans made Christianity their own through Protestantism. It's illuminating to hear Iran's president rumor the return of the Twelfth Imam, since the coming of that messiah figure is pure Zoroastrianism, with no connection to the Koran or the Hadiths.

Even the rhetoric of Iran's Islamic Revolution, condemning the U.S. as the "Great Satan" divided the world into forces of light and darkness--Zoroaster again, as well as Mani, the dualist whose followers we know as "Manicheans." Iranians excitedly deny such pre-Islamic influences--then worship at the ancient shrines of re-invented saints, celebrate the Zoroastrian New Year, and incorporate fire rites into social events.

The Prophet's attempt to discipline Arabian hillbillies produced a faith ill-fitted to Persia's complex civilization--or to Mesopotamian Arabs, who despised the illiterate desert nomads. Islam was bound to change as it occupied this haunted real estate.

What we've gotten ourselves involved in today is an old and endless struggle between the desert and the city, between civilization and barbarism. Long oppression may have made Shi'ism appear backward, but it's inherently a richer faith than Sunni Islam. With its End-of-Times vision, founding martyrs and radiant angels, its mysticism and wariness of the flesh, Shi'ism is closer to Christianity than check-list Sunni Islam ever could be.

Further confounding the strategic situation, there are other, parallel struggles within Shi'ism and Sunni Islam. Over the centuries, both faiths developed sophisticated urban classes that are now under assault, as they periodically have been, by intolerant simplifiers preaching the reform-school Islam of seventh-century Arabia.

Simultaneously, there's been some bizarre cross-fertilization: Osama bin Laden, a Sunni who hates the Shi'a more fiercely than he does Americans, has grafted a Shi'a End-Of-Days vision onto Sunni Islam. Meanwhile, the mullahs who locked down Iran obsess about behavior--a Sunni approach to faith--at the expense of Shi'ism's tradition of inner luminosity (in the Sunni world, the persecuted Sufis were the mystics).

We're a fringe player in multiple zero-sum struggles: Persian Zoroastrianism in Muslim garb vs. Bedouin fascism; multiple insurgencies within the Sunni global campaign to re-establish the Caliphate; an interfaith competition to jump-start an apocalypse; an old ethnic struggle between Persians and Arabs; and a distinctly Zoroastrian struggle between good and evil (alert the White House).

Many will reflexively reject this interpretation of Shi'ism and Sunni Islam as two separate faiths with profoundly different inheritances. Blog Bedouins and "scholars" alike will feel threatened. That's part of our problem: We're often as close-minded as our enemies. The greatest power in history thinks small.

As I remarked to an Arab-American friend last week, faiths are like bad neighbors--they borrow a great deal, then deny it. There is no such thing as a pure faith today. All have been influenced by their predecessors and peers, by internal evolutions and their historical environments. But even individuals who reject such a view when it comes to their own faith do themselves no favors by refusing to contemplate Islam's complexity.

What does all this mean to us? First, wherever there are irreconcilable differences, there are strategic opportunities. Second, our insistence on seeing the Middle East through the eyes of yesteryear's failed statesmen has been disastrous--we need to reinterpret the Muslim world.

Third, we've entered a new age when all the great faiths are struggling over their identities. As the religions most-immediately besieged, Shi'ism and Sunni Islam are the noisiest and, for now, the most-violent. But all faiths are in crisis--even as every major faith undergoes a powerful renewal.

In my years as an intelligence analyst, I consistently made my best calls when I trusted my instincts, and I was less likely to get it right when I heeded the arguments around me. Today, those surrounding arguments damn Iran.

My instincts tell me our long-term problem is with Arab Sunnis, whose global aspirations have veered into madness. We have a problem with the junta currently ruling Iran, but not with Persian civilization. Meanwhile, the Bedouin fanaticism gripping so much of the Middle East has no civilization.

Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Never Quit The Fight.”

Global Warming Skeptics Dig In

By David Keene
February 14, 2007

As the November election returns rolled in, giving Democrats control of both the House and Senate for the first time in more than a decade, liberals in both bodies moved their iconic fight to halt “global warming” to the top of their legislative agenda.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announced even before the new Congress convened that the Environment and Public Works Committee would schedule hearings on global warming and climate change, which she hoped would lead to legislation.

In the wake of this announcement she and her fellow global-warming aficionados openly hoped that Virginia’s Sen. John Warner, who talked of taking over for Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe as the committee’s ranking Republican, would in fact do so. Inhofe, a global-warming skeptic, has almost single-handedly stymied past attempts to stampede the Senate into adopting less-than-well-thought-out solutions to a problem that may or may not exist, and removing him as ranking member would have been a tremendous victory.

The effort failed, however. Warner backed away and Inhofe remains in place and ready to do battle.

Meanwhile, on the House side, Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) decided on a different course. She realized that Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) would not, after reclaiming his old post as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, roll over for her or anyone else on the issue and that there would be no replacing him.

So she decided to go around him by creating a new select committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming from which congressional global warmers under the leadership of Massachusetts’s Edward Markey (D) could preach their gospel and demand action. This route won’t completely defang Dingell, but it will certainly weaken him and force him onto the defensive.

Now it’s the House GOP leadership’s turn to get its forces into position for the battles that virtually everyone can see looming just over the horizon. If there is an Inhofe on the House side, it has to be Wisconsin’s James Sensenbrenner Jr., who, term-limited on the House Judiciary Committee, tried unsuccessfully to return to the Science Committee as ranking member and is now seeking the ranking slot on the new select committee.

As chairman of the Science Committee back in 1998, Sensenbrenner led a delegation of skeptics to the Kyoto conference and fought then-President Clinton’s attempt to go along with the Kyoto protocols without seeking ratification of the treaty itself. In the process he became quite an expert on the science relied upon by the global-warming lobby.

In the ’70s, scientists believed we were on the verge of a new ice age; some still believe this to be true. Now we are told constantly not only that they were wrong then and that the earth is warming up, but that it is doing so because of us, our cars, our economic system and the unregulated way we insist on living our lives.

The threat to the planet is taken as a given by the politically correct here and internationally and there is a massive international effort to silence skeptics. In this country Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) have gone so far as to threaten corporations that provide funding to groups that dispute the legitimacy of the science worshipped by the global warmers with punitive action if they don’t stop doing so. Skeptics are no longer just skeptics but “deniers,” and are considered war criminals by many liberals in the battle to save the earth. Like the folks who would suspend civil liberties to fight terrorism, they are prepared to do “whatever it takes” to pursue their war against those who, in their opinion, are enemies of nature.

Many scientists believe that if the earth is warming, it is far more likely to be doing so as part of a 1500-year cycle that predates our arrival and the arrival of the first Toyota. These scientists don’t deny the possibility that human activity has and is continuing to contribute to whatever long-term changes might be taking place, but argue that junking our cars, appliances and freedom won’t do much to change things.

Sensenbrenner, like Inhofe in the Senate, understands the science — and like both Inhofe and Dingell, he won’t be rolled. His colleagues often find him a bit prickly, but they admire his intelligence, his skills, his ability to master data and his willingness to fight.

Those are just the qualities they are going to need as this fight heats up.

David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, is a managing associate with the Carmen Group, a D.C.-based governmental affairs firm.

Robert Spencer: Sharia Chic Comes to London

A model wears an outfit by Fashion East designer Louise Golden during her catwalk show at London Fashion Week in London, Monday Feb. 12, 2007. The designers are showing their Autumn/ Winter 2007/8 collections.

February 14, 2007

Sharia chic has come to London. During London Fashion Week, Fashion East designer Louise Goldin sent a model down the catwalk wearing an outfit that obscured the model’s entire face, all except her eyes, and covered her head entirely. Nor was this the only such outfit Goldin featured during London Fashion Week. The outfits were clearly modeled after Islamic dress, particularly the niqab, the full-face veil.

London is not the only place Sharia chic has appeared. In December, Marie Claire magazine ran a photoshoot featuring three glamorous women, all wearing hijabs and black dresses down to their shoetops -- and sporting ipods, designer handbags, and other evidence of their modernity and sophistication.

Meanwhile, Urban Outfitters is selling the Palestinian kufiya, worn by murderous jihad terrorists for decades, as a “Skull Desert Scarf.”

Obviously there is no reason for the fashion world to be immune to the fashionable contempt for Western culture and values that pervades most creative fields these days, but it is one thing to hold that contempt and quite another to proffer it to the masses as the vanguard of contemporary culture. Contrast the Urban Outfitters item with the fact that in the 1930s, the British considered banning the kufiya, as it had become a symbol of Arab nationalist resistance to their rule. In the 1930s, the British were unafraid to do what they had to do to protect their own interests; in 2007, the U.S. pledged to give 86 million dollars to the government of Mahmoud Abbas just as a former official of Abbas’ Fatah party appeared on Palestinian Authority television saying to Al-Qaeda: “Do to Bush whatever you want, and we wish you success...We are fighting the Americans and hate the Americans more than you!” The official, Abu Ali Shahin, was of course wearing a kufiya.

Likewise, was Louise Goldin or anyone else connected with the pseudo-niqab fashions displayed in London this week aware of the nature of the culture they were aping. Those who are likely to prefer that women never venture outside without covering everything except their eyes are likely also to believe that women are essentially the possessions of men: the Qur’an likens a woman to a field (tilth), to be used by a man as he wills: “Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will” (2:223).

The Qur’an also declares that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man: “Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her” (2:282). Likewise, this is also a culture that allows men to marry up to four wives, and have sex with slave girls also: “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice” (4:3).

The same holy book rules that a son’s inheritance should be twice the size of that of a daughter: “Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children’s (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females” (4:11).

Worst of all, the Qur’an tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them” (4:34).

Finally, the Qur’an allows for marriage to pre-pubescent girls, stipulating that Islamic divorce procedures “shall apply to those who have not yet menstruated” (65:4).

And it is the culture of those who revere the Qur’an as the supreme authority for human behavior that has produced the niqab. Is that the culture Louise Goldin wishes to bring to Britain? Or does she perhaps think its presence there is a fait accompli, since Muslims who clearly believe in Islamic supremacism have become such a prominent feature of the British landscape? Does she regard her fashion creations as a necessary attempt at inclusion and accommodation?

More accurately, they manifest the cultural weariness that has allowed those Islamic supremacists to become quite vocal in Britain, as the recent Dispatches documentary revealed. One may hope that the British will before too longer remember that they were once made of sterner stuff.

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Film Review: 'Children of Men'

Clive Owen and Julianne Moore in Children of Men

By Anthony Sacramone

Wednesday, December 27, 2006, 8:31 AM

Going to see a film based on a novel you’ve read and enjoyed is always problematic. The liberties taken in the name of adapting a book for the screen run the gamut. Some are restrained and straightforward translations, such as A Merry War (from George Orwell’s Keep the Apidistra Flying); some are fanciful attempts to make cinematic a story about internal revolution (A Beautiful Mind); others are glorious renditions that will forever color your rereading of the book (Lord of the Rings); rarely, some even prove more engrossing and memorable than the source (The Godfather).

Then there are adaptations in which the filmmaker virtually co-opts the book, revisioning it and making it his own. Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining stand out in this regard. (There’s a reason the titles are prefaced with Stanley Kubrick’s and not Anthony Burgess’ and Stephen King’s, respectively.)

But writer-director Alfonso Cuarón’s film version of P.D. James’ Children of Men—which opened Christmas Day—is in a category all its own: Call it an act of vandalism. The Christian fable, as James herself described her book, was originally published in 1992 and was a respite from her crime novels. A work of dystopian forecasting, Children of Men was about a time when women could no longer have babies, the world was dying, and Britain was under control of a dictator determined to maintain a semblance of order amid the chaos.

Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá Tambi én, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) uses the core of James’ scenario—a future without children, and therefore without hope—as a mere MacGuffin, that Hitchcockian device that in itself is meaningless but serves to move the action forward. Cuarón’s Children of Men is little more than high-tech agit-prop targeting the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, border policing, and Homeland Security. That it takes place in the England of 2027 is rather beside the point; the world’s desperate and despairing populations are at each other’s throats, and George W’s now decades-old policies are to blame. (I couldn’t help but think, not of Nineteen Eighty-four, but of 1984’s abominable 2010, in which the Reagan White House was retroactively blamed for HAL-9000’s breakdown in 2001.)

The film begins with the death of the youngest person on earth, an 18-year-old Latin American named Diego. Shortly thereafter, Theo (Clive Owen), an erstwhile activist and now a decidedly lethargic bureaucrat in the Ministry of Energy, is literally pulled off the streets and into the world of a clique of terrorists lead by his ex-wife, Julian (Julianne Moore). Hidden among the group is a young black woman named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), a “fugee” (refugee) who is amazingly, inexplicably pregnant. Julian wants Theo to use his influence with the government to pave the way (secretly, of course) for Kee to get safely to the Human Project, an offshore, shipboard collection of intellectuals from around the world who are going to jump-start civilization with fresh answers to old problems.

Throughout the film, characters from the novel are reassigned roles and political stances as Cuarón and co-screenwriter Timothy J. Sexton see fit. In fact, the first thing Cuarón does when he arrives in the year 2027 is eliminate the Christians. In James’ book, Julian is a beautifully wrought Christian believer: the new Eve, the new Mary, the hope for the salvation of the world. But that Julian has been swapped out for Moore’s Julian, now Theo’s ex-wife and a revolutionary any Maoist could love. (As for the book’s Luke, the Christlike Anglican priest— Cuarón has rebirthed him as a duplicitous butcher.) In fact, the only bits of religion left in Cuarón’s version are cults of fanatical masochists and a midwife who engages clumsily in Tai Chi and chants the Buddhist Om mani padme hum.

That is, if you don’t count Jihadism as a religion. You see, an intifada is the answer to Bush’s—er, England’s—inhumane immigration policy, which consists in hauling illegals off to camps bearing a striking example to Abu Ghraib and mainstream-media images of Guantanamo Bay, and where the Nazi-era “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Will Make You Free) is sung (hint hint). What’s implausible about Cuarón’s conception is that no reasonable explanation is ever offered as to why so many people would risk their lives to get into an England that is suffering the same plague of childlessness, pollution, overcrowding, and oppression as everywhere else. In James’ novel, Theo is useful to the terrorists because his cousin is the dictator Xan—the Warden of England—who has created some semblance of order, some functioning economy, some hope (however illusory) that the government has things under control and is working to solve the infertility problem. In Cuarón’s film, chaos reigns and madness rules: Shots of Fleet Street show a garbage-ridden city covered with blankets of smog punctuated only by the smoke from errant bomb blasts, threatening life at every turn. In the film, Xan is gone, but there is Nigel, a minister of culture who ransacks art museums (who does that remind you of?). In fact, what we’re supposed to believe is the original Guernica adorns the minister’s dining-room wall—a bit of set design as overblown in its ideological pretensions as the photograph of General Nguyen shooting a Vietcong prisoner that appears as wallpaper in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories flat. (At least Allen’s film was supposed to be a comedy.)

Just in case you didn’t catch Cuarón’s “We’re living in a fascist state” message with every graceless swing of his cinematic axe handle, we’re introduced to Jasper (Michael Caine), another refashioning of a James character who is now a pot-smoking Methuselahian hippie. A quick survey of Jasper’s and his literally catatonic wife’s memorabilia shows a lifetime of political resistance, including posters and bumper stickers protesting Iraq and Bush (but, interestingly enough, not Tony Blair). Jasper’s political philosophy consists in tuning in, dropping out, and flipping the bird to the fascist pigs. (He also engages in what passes for theological reflection in these apocalyptic times: a meaningless juxtaposition of “faith” and “chance” that is supposed to be penetrating in its flippancy but only betrays the banality of both the character and the film.)

It is Jasper who informs us that “every time the government gets into trouble, a bomb goes off.” So we’re supposed to believe that the threat of terrorism that gave rise to a “Homeland Security” in the first place is a hoax. But then we learn that Julian’s cadre of terrorists/freedom fighters did, in fact, engage in terror bombings but gave it up for PR purposes. The novelty of nonviolent resistance gets old fast, though, as the terrorists/freedom fighters turn sinister again, with their own murderous agenda that entails sacrificing its own members to the cause. We’re never to assume, however, that the terrorists/freedom fighters are really responsible for their actions: What can you expect when Bush—er, the British government—reduces illegals to the status of animals and robs them of their proper dignity? Oh the moral ambiguity of it all!

Why is Kee never brought to the government authorities for protection, given her absolutely unique status, but instead is endangered at every turn in Theo’s desperate, bullet-dodging efforts to get her to the Human Project? It seems the government would never permit a fugee to be the mother of the reborn human race, and so presumably would kill her—and its own future, if you think about it (which is probably not wise). This “explanation” has no place in James’ novel.

In her novel, James never answers the question why women can no longer have babies, although the possibility of divine judgment skulks throughout. In Cuarón’s rendition, that was never really the question to begin with. In the novel, for example, we know who the father of Julian’s baby is, and we’re tempted to ask whether her faithfulness has been rewarded. In the film, Kee couldn’t tell you who the father was if her life depended on it: She admits that, once fertility was no longer an issue, what did it matter about getting names? At first I thought Cuarón might be contributing something countercultural here about the separation of sex from reproduction; instead, this admission is simply left to lie there, lest prolonged contemplation lead one to believe that The End may be related to just such a disconnect. In fact, the miracle of Kee’s pregnancy is never presented as more than just an accident—just another one of Jasper’s chance occurrences.

Were Cuarón’s Children of Men rooted in some larger moral vision it might be tolerable, but the director isn’t even on to the irony of his own incoherent propaganda: It is an increasingly nihilistic West, severed from its Judaeo-Christian roots, that is the target of a militant, authoritarian ideology that some have no qualms about calling fascistic—thus giving rise to a “Homeland Security.” P.D. James saw as one response to the rising tide of moral sterility the still, small voice of a Christianity that invests even the alien and the stranger with dignity, because it defends the preciousness of life from conception to natural death. It is just such a Christian worldview, however muted, that informs even James’ crime novels; in fact, as Ralph Wood has written, what makes the crimes in her mysteries especially thought-provoking is that they’re often committed by the “pitiable” who never intend to “wreak misery in sheer nihilistic perversity,” and who thereby evoke a human solidarity that makes blanket condemnations difficult and Christian forgiveness possible.

The director’s feint at human solidarity, on the other hand, in the form of unified, armed resistance, simultaneously dehumanizes swathes of people by simply dismissing them all as fascists, thereby exhibiting the same moral obtuseness as those he sees as the enemy.

The only hope offered in Cuarón’s film is the existence of the Human Project, which of course is exactly what the world needs in a time of inconceivable degradation—a committee. James’ novel knows of no such project; in fact, it’s too smart for such a contrivance. Let’s face it, the last group of intellectuals assembled from around the world to end a global crisis and usher in peace on earth was the Manhattan Project. I sincerely doubt their solution is quite what the filmmakers here had in mind.

Grant Cuarón the license to make a film about current events as he pleases, whether about the war in Iraq or immigration policy. What’s insufferable is his pressing into service someone else’s vision as a commercial vehicle for a personal political screed. Children of Men wants to be a grown-ups’ Brazil but never transcends a student-film sensibility (“They’re all fascists, man!”), despite hat tips to the cinema-vérité street-fighting styles of Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket. Cuarón pulls off the battles between the terrorists and the government troops with deft and disquieting verisimilitude, obviously attempting to approximate American soldiers’ battling of insurgents in Baghdad, even leaving the splatter of the Kayo syrup that is Hollywood blood on the lens of his camera for a little extra grit. He’s learned much from Spielberg and Kubrick. It’s a shame he’s learned nothing from P.D. James.

Anthony Sacramone is the managing editor of First Things.

John Harper: Show Mo Respect

Show respect to one
who is still a cutter above

The New York Daily News

TAMPA - This doesn't seem like a tough one. Until there is some solid evidence that age is stealing the late life from Mariano Rivera's famous cutter, he gets whatever he wants, right?
If he wants to grow tomatoes in the bullpen, the Yankees plant him a garden. If he wants a contract extension, they write the check.

It's hard to believe this could even be an issue, and maybe it won't be, but the fact that the usually humble Rivera was intimating yesterday that he hasn't been shown the proper respect regarding a contract extension makes you wonder if the Yankees aren't taking him for granted after all these years.

The old adage in baseball has always been that it is better to trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late, and it has come to apply to handing out multiyear contracts in the free agent era.

But if ever there was an exception, it's the guy the Yankees endearingly call "Mo."

For one thing, he has been the Yankees' most indispensable player throughout the Joe Torre era, more vital to their four championships than Derek Jeter or anybody else. He has been worth more than anything the Yankees would pay him for the kind of two-year extension that would give him peace of mind.

For another, as of last season Rivera was still at the top of his game, or close enough that he remained one of the best closers in baseball, with 34 saves and a 1.80 ERA.

You can make the argument that, at age 37, Rivera is at a point where he could slip significantly at any time, especially after the Yankees held him out last September as a precaution for his right elbow. Then again, he was never supposed to last anywhere near this long with that lean, smallish body of his, so who is to say he will slow down now?

He has freakish gifts, not just the ability to throw 95-plus mph in his prime even at 165 pounds, but also a natural release that's just made for a cutter, allowing him to throw what amounts to a breaking pitch at fastball speed.

As his former pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre once said, "Most guys have to work to make the ball move like that. With Mariano it's the most natural thing in the world."

So maybe Mo has a few more years before he starts to slip significantly. As he enters the final year of his contract, looking to stay, why would the Yankees take the chance on him having another superb season and deciding to shop his services to the highest bidder?

You think the Red Sox, a team in search of a closer as spring training begins this week, wouldn't give him anything he wanted to change uniforms?

By raising the "R" word yesterday, Rivera was sending a message to the Yankees.

Surely GM Brian Cashman will take notice. Cashman is changing the way the Yankees do business since becoming the true power broker in the front office a year or so ago. He is committed to making the Yankees younger, investing in the future while not overpaying for the present, and there is little room for sentimentality, even if right now it means cutting ties with a player as popular as Bernie Williams.

But Rivera hasn't reached the Bernie stage and so you have to wonder why the Yankees didn't quietly take care of this over the winter.

They have enough issues as spring training begins, with Torre under scrutiny as a lame duck manager, Alex Rodriguez ever the lightning rod for controversy, and Carl Pavano trying to win over his teammates while giving depth to a thin starting rotation.

They don't need their classiest player of all, the great Rivera, asking for respect before camp even opens.

They need to write him a check, whatever the amount, and be happy he didn't ask for more.

Originally published on February 13, 2007

Deroy Murdock: The Boss and Folk

[One doesn't often read a glowing appraisal of a Bruce Springsteen album on National Review Online...but here's one. - jtf]

February 13, 2007 5:00 AM

Springsteen deservedly wins a Grammy for Best Folk Album.

Amid the 108 Grammy Awards bestowed Sunday night in Los Angeles, Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra surely must be proud that Polka in Paradise scored Polka Album of the Year. I missed that gem, but am delighted to see Bruce Springsteen among the evening’s victors. He won Best Traditional Folk Album for We Shall Overcome — the Seeger Sessions, a fine recording that deserves a spot in every discerning listener’s collection.

I received a copy of We Shall Overcome as a birthday gift last December and have enjoyed it over and over again, perhaps a couple of dozen times by now. That, by itself, surprises me. I never was a Springsteen fan, save for one song: “Katie’s Back in Town.” [I assume Mr. Murdock is referring to the song, "Kitty's Back"]. In fact, it took a little while to…ahem…overcome my life-long allergy to the Garden State rocker and listen to his raspy voice without wincing.

With that initial bias behind me, I have grown very fond of this fantastic piece of work.

We Shall Overcome is not a rock album, like Springsteen’s Born to Run or Darkness on the Edge of Town. This folk album borders on bluegrass. This is honest music played by real musicians who actually play instruments. (What a concept!) This is as far as one can get from the canned, over-produced, stillborn rubbish that acts like Britney Spears plop out when they are not busy humiliating themselves before the paparazzi’s unblinking gaze.

Springsteen, a liberal by all indications, unfortunately lapses unsubtly into politics occasionally. (This is hardly shocking on an album titled after Pete Seeger, a sort of Ralph Nader with an acoustic guitar.) I could have done without the Iraq-themed protest tune “Bring ’em Home.” It’s a downer, and it doesn’t help that Springsteen blames America’s current travails there on politicians who “want to test their grand theories with the blood of you and me.” That may be the least charitable interpretation of President Bush’s casus belli yet uttered.

Katrina, of course, swirls into the song “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” “And what happened to you poor black folks, well it just ain’t fair,” sings Springsteen. Yes, Bruce, “bodies floatin’ on Canal” is not fair. Do you care to add anything else to the debate?

Such sour notes are heavy-handed, but mercifully rare. That aside, the rest of this album is extremely positive. The music is solid, heartfelt, and performed with exceptional skill and spirit.

The lyrics of these mainly traditional songs are vivid and evocative. Springsteen introduces us to Old Dan Tucker who “combed his hair with a wagon wheel.” I ache for the guy whose “Oklahoma home is blown away” and can almost see the tornado ripping across his property.

“Pay Me My Money Down” offers wisps of zydeco, mainly thanks to an energetic accordion. This tune reminds me of New Orleans, where such songs pour out of almost every open door and lifted window. Other numbers on this album put me in a New Orleans state of mind, which is a very good thing. (Fittingly, as I played “Jesse James” on my parents’ living room stereo over Christmas, my mom asked, “Is this from Cajun country?” “Jesse James” also has an air of cowboys about it, right down to a light sound of a horse clip-clopping in the background.)

Springsteen recorded this album at his New Jersey farm with the help of musicians who played and, in most cases, sang along. The result, in many cases, is a hint of gospel, especially in “O Mary Don’t You Weep.” Springsteen and the able performers he gathered played these songs without overdubs or repeat takes. This album retains all the freshness and spontaneity he intended while also appearing as professional and well crafted as if those before the microphones had spent weeks learning their parts.

My favorite tune is “American Land.” It’s bright, lively, and highly patriotic toward the USA. Its rhythm and melody remind me of the Scottish folk tunes I heard at a wedding last fall in Inverness, not far from Loch Ness. Just a few notes into this song, and I am transported back to a dance floor full of guests in gowns and kilts swirling to songs much like this one.

To my ear, “Mrs. McGrath” has much of this same Scottishness about it, although the highly informative CD booklet identifies this as an Irish ballad from 1815.

We Shall Overcome also contains a DVD with warm and appealing visuals. The true musicianship of this artist and his sidemen shines through, as do their camaraderie and sheer love of playing with each other.

What a great idea for Bruce Springsteen to record an album in his living room. You should play it in yours.

— Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.

Thomas Sowell: Global Hot Air

February 13, 2007 12:00 AM

Greenhouse hysteria.

The political Left’s favorite argument is that there is no argument. Their current crusade is to turn “global warming” into one of those things that supposedly no honest and decent person can disagree about, as they have already done with “diversity” and “open space.”

The name of “science” is invoked by the Left today, as it has been for more than two centuries. After all, Karl Marx’s ideology was called “scientific socialism” in the 19th century. In the 18th century, Condorcet analogized his blueprint for a better society to engineering, and social engineering has been the agenda ever since.

Not all the advocates of “global warming” are on the Left, of course. Crusades are not just for crusaders. There are always hangers-on who can turn the true believers’ crusades into votes or money or at least notoriety.

Whether the globe really is warming is a question about facts — and about where those facts are measured: on land, in the air or under the sea. There is no question that there is a “greenhouse” effect. Otherwise, half the planet would freeze every night when there is no sunlight falling on it.

There is also no question that the earth can warm or cool. It has done both at one time or another for thousands of years, even before there were SUVs. If there had never been any global warming before, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy Yosemite Valley today for it was once buried under thousands of feet of ice.

Back in the 1970s, the environmental hysteria was about the dangers of a new ice age. This hysteria was spread by many of the same individuals and groups who are promoting today’s hysteria about global warming.

It is not just the sky that is falling. Government money is falling on those who seek grants to study global warming and produce “solutions” for it. But that money is not as likely to fall on those skeptics in the scientific community who refuse to join the stampede.

Yes, Virginia, there are skeptics about global warming among scientists who study weather and climate. There are arguments both ways — which is why so many in politics and in the media are so busy selling the notion that there is no argument.

If you heard both arguments, you might not be so willing to go along with those who are prepared to ruin the economy, sacrificing jobs and the national standard of living on the altar to the latest in an unending series of crusades, conducted by politicians and other people seeking to tell everyone else how to live.

What about all those scientists mentioned, cited, or quoted by global-warming crusaders?

There are all kinds of scientists, from chemists to nuclear physicists to people who study insects, volcanoes, and endocrine glands — none of whom is an expert on weather or climate, but all of whom can be listed as scientists, to impress people who don’t scrutinize the list any further. That ploy has already been used.

Then there are genuine scientific experts on weather and climate. The National Academy of Sciences came out with a report on global warming back in 2001 with a very distinguished list of such experts listed. The problem is that not one of those very distinguished scientists actually wrote the report — or even saw it before it was published.

One of those very distinguished climate scientists — Richard S. Lindzen of MIT — publicly repudiated the conclusions of that report, even though his name had been among those used as window dressing on the report. But the media may not have told you that.

In short, there has been a full court press to convince the public that “everybody knows” that a catastrophic global warming looms over us, that human beings are the cause of it, and that the only solution is to turn more money and power over to the government to stop us from our dangerous ways of living.

Among the climate experts who are not part of that “everybody” are not only Professor Lindzen but also Fred Singer and Dennis Avery, whose book Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years, punctures the hot air balloon of the global warming crusaders. So does the book Shattered Consensus, edited by Patrick J. Michaels, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, which contains essays by others who are not part of “everybody.”

Larry Miller: We're all part of the pop culture world

[I thought I'd take occasion to post something nice about this poor woman...Larry Miller's piece is certainly that. - jtf]

Anna Nicole
1967 - 2007
by Larry Miller
The Weekly Standard
02/12/2007 12:00:00 AM

WE'RE ALL PART of the pop culture world. Whether you think you are or not, whether you want to be or not, no matter how aloof and superior you feel, even if the Atlantic and Foreign Affairs are the only things you keep in your bathroom, you're as much a part of the celebrity culture as the booker on The View. Deal with it. As Gregory Peck said to David Niven in The Guns of Navarone, "You're in it now . . . up to your neck."

That doesn't mean you can't be out of the loop. And truth be told, you can't be much farther out of the loop than I am. I've never seen Survivor, or American Idol, or the dancing show. My wife, on the other hand, who's the most brilliant person I know watches all of them. She's watching one now, and it's just loud enough for me to hear the roiling host introducing a high-stakes, high-tension, someone-will-get-thrown-out-of-here-but-not-me segment urged on by edgy, needy music. I can't hear his actual words, but you know that's what he's doing. The whole thing probably wouldn't annoy me as much if I thought they hired real violinists.

Of course, The Divine Mrs. M. is not alone in eating up these shows. A large part of our country watches them, too, and loves them, and relaxes with them, and is entertained by them; and these are all virtues. I'm glad for everyone on both ends.

We're all part of it, though, on some level, and that's the point. It seeps in. We all see, we all hear; and this may be fanciful, but, in a way, even if you and I are sworn, detached non-observers, we're also right in the curl of the tidal wave that carries our pop-stars racing along, faster and faster, toward their own shores of good or ill.

AFTER PRINCESS DIANA was killed in that terrible accident, I couldn't help but feel that most of the people who mourned so histrionically were the same ones who'd spent the decade before salivating over every photograph taken by the very people who chased her to her death. Well, all right, I suppose. We all have a lot to be forgiven, because, you see, like it or not, we're all part of the mob. No: We are the mob.

No one who wasn't in a fugue state for the last year could have missed the most recent, and it turns out final, iteration of Anna Nicole Smith's public life. In the last year she had a daughter born and a son die. Her lawyer decided to come around the other side of the desk and take her in his arms, and, you know what? They seemed happy, and I hope they were. Then an ex-boyfriend took time off from eating Cheetoes to sue somebody for something, but what does it matter anymore?

Similarly, you had to have known she married the rich old guy a dozen-or-so years ago and was unpleasantly embroiled ever since with his first loving family over--what a shock--the money. When I heard the old fellow passed away, I read about his son suing her over the will, and I remember thinking, "His son? What is he, 60?" Sixty-seven, it turns out, and he's gone now himself. Since yet another of the heart-broken offspring has gallantly appeared to pick up the cudgels and continue contesting it, I'd like to offer two choices of what I think is some pretty good advice: (1) Get a job. You didn't earn that money and you don't deserve it. And, by the way, every penny of it should go to Anna Nicole's daughter. Or, (2) Try your best to get reincarnated as a sexy woman.

I guess I'm biased though, because I've got a story about her. I had a chance to meet her and like her. And I mean like, not like.

I DID the Tonight Show back in '93 or '94, and she was on it. Leno came in before and said, "She's a nice girl. See you out there." And she was. I've never had the slightest problem digging the different gifts people bring to show business and beauty is a gift as much as anything else. Anyway, it was a good show. And, frankly, sitting next to her wasn't exactly a chore.

But that's not the story. The story happened just a month or two later.

My wife and I were invited out to dinner with two friends of ours, other writers. We were newly married and they took us to one of the fanciest places in town. There were a couple of well-know folks there, but the place was so swank that no one even noticed. Then, very suddenly, the room got quiet. Hushed, in fact. My back was to the door, and my wife said, "Oh, wow . . ." and tapped me, and I turned, and, of course, you know who came in and stopped the presses.

Anna Nicole Smith, in a shattering red gown to the floor. And everything else you'd imagine goes with it. The newspapers I've seen in the last couple of days haven't printed any of her pretty pictures. They use the ones of her much heavier, or eating something, or sad, or coming out of court with her mouth twisted in the middle of a sentence. I'd like to have seen one of those Guess jeans ads instead.

Some women try to arch an eyebrow when they make an entrance, or look sullen or regal, and I don't think I like any of those, but all she had to do to stop the show was be there. Whether you liked her or not, if there's an "it" factor in modeling, she had it. Maybe it flies away, or maybe it's hard to hold onto, but she sure had it then. In spades. And it was murder.

The maitre d' led the way, and he was smart enough to leave plenty of room between them so everyone could look, which, let's be honest, has been the point of the exercise since another blond some time back launched a thousand ships.

And right behind her was her companion, a guy who . . . well, who had to be--Okay, I'm sorry to have to say it this way, but there's no getting around it, so I'm just going to say it and be done--the shortest Arab in history.

He was out of uniform, so to speak, and couldn't--just couldn't--have been more than five feet. And she was a big girl, you know. That guy, though, bless his heart, had his head tipped up high, and the biggest smile I've ever seen in my life.

They sat down at their table, along the wall, next to each other on the booth side, a few tables away from us, and the room resumed it's life and din--but at a much lower level.

Then my wife said to me, "Why don't you go over and say hello?" I said something about, oh, no, I couldn't, and she said, "No one else is going to do it, and you just worked with her. Say hello." So I put my napkin on the table, stood up and walked over.

It wasn't a far walk. Which was lucky, because I was already starting to get flashbacks to junior high dances and wondering what I should say.

I decided instead to speak very quickly (the same approach I used in eighth grade), and walked up and said, "ExcusemefolksI'msorrytobotheryouAnnahiLarryMillerwejust--" and she smiled and said, "Oh, hi, good to see you, sure, that was a good show," and before I could answer she continued, "This is"--I can't remember his name--"and he flew all the way from Saudi Arabia to meet me and give me this. Isn't that amazing? Isn't it beautiful?"

She touched her chest with her hand (which was very sweet of her), and I looked down at what she was touching, a diamond necklace. Not a small one. Immense, actually, and they were spread all over her--what's the word?--décolletage. Then she continued, "But isn't that amazing? I mean, he came all the way from there, and just for tonight, one date, he's going back tomorrow. And just this, too, dinner."

She added a tiny, significant look, and after a slight pause I said, "Ah."

This seemed to state things pretty well, so I put on my best State Department smile and cleared my throat, and turned to him and said, "Well, it's a beautiful gift, and you have magnificent taste, not only in diamonds but in women. What an extraordinary and romantic trip, and I congratulate you."

And his smile got even bigger, and he nodded royally, which is when she said, in a slight whisper, "Oh, he doesn't speak English." My own smile froze a bit now, and I looked at her, then back at him, then back at her, and just said, "Ah," again. Then I held my hand out to him and said, "Well, it's a pleasure to . . . uh . . . well," and he took it in both of his, as warmly as I've ever been greeted. So I decided it wasn't the right time to bring up Israel.

She laughed then, looking right at me, and clapped her hands (probably seeing something I didn't think was showing), and it was a good laugh, a life-is-funny-isn't-it? laugh, and I like to think I know something about laughs, and that's when I decided I liked her. And I nodded and smiled and said, "Take care of yourself," and she said, "You, too."

No one else went over to her that night. But I'll tell you what I really remember.

As I walked away from their table I turned around and took one more look back, and they had returned to . . . I don't know. Just being there, I guess. Two people smiling, as happy as could be. I don't know what they could've talked about. He didn't speak English, and, I'm sorry, but I think it's a fairly safe bet she didn't speak Arabic.

That's the image I took with me, though, that look back at them. I've remembered it over the years each time she came onto the "news" (whatever that even means anymore) and it's the one I remembered when I heard she died last week: this shockingly-beautiful, startlingly-built creature next to a man the top of whose head didn't go above her bicep. But they were both happy; and I liked her. Oh, hell, I guess I liked them both.

WE'LL HEAR A LOT about her and those left around her in the weeks and months to come. Years, probably, since so much money is involved. It won't be pleasant for those of us who don't have a taste for it, but that's the way it goes.

I liked her, and so did you, even if you didn't. No one in the public eye dies without making us stop and think. Shall we turn up our noses at her because she wasn't Katharine Hepburn? She did pretty well with what she was given, so let's not scoff because she wasn't a great poet or leader. Will I mourn more deeply, say, when the sad day comes and Jimmy Carter passes away? Less, I think.

It didn't go well for her, you see, because that kind of beauty isn't a gift at all, it's a burden. I guess she's back with her son again. That's good. Hey, I'll bet that old fella from Texas has wandered over, too, with a big grin and said, "Now, now, don't want to bother you, honey. You two just keep hugging. I know what! How's about I come by every so often? How'd that be?"

I'll bet you something else. I'll bet you there's a short guy in Saudi Arabia who cried when he heard.

Larry Miller is a contributing humorist to The Daily Standard, a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles, and author of Spoiled Rotten America: Outrages of Everyday Life (Regan Books).