Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Grateful Nod to the Boss

December 21, 2006

By KENNETH PARTRIDGE, Special to The Hartford Courant

Though he spent much of this year singing over banjos and tubas, touring behind his album of folk songs originally made famous by Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen may have been the most influential artist of 2006.

Two of the year's most talked-about releases, the Killers' "Sam's Town" and the Hold Steady's "Boys and Girls in America," bear the unmistakable mark of the Boss, even if they reference entirely different eras in his storied career.

For the Killers, nodding to Springsteen was a tactical move - a chance to defy critics who have chastised the Las Vegas band for sounding cold and overly British.

"Sam's Town" still has a slick, almost New Wave feel, but its bombast has some precedent in the album it partially wants to be, Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

Throughout "Sam's Town," singer Brandon Flowers trades the monotone dandyism he favored on the band's debut, "Hot Fuss," for his own version of Springsteen's freewheeling American romanticism.

The transition is evident from the opening strains of the title track, as swirling synths and charging drums give way to simple palm-muted guitars and an uncharacteristically earnest lyric: "Nobody ever had a dream 'round here/ but I don't really mind that it's starting to get to me."

Flowers goes on to reference his "sentimental heart" and pine for the day when he can break free from his surroundings and laugh in the face of "judges" who aim to keep him down.

Unfortunately, for all its ambition, the album doesn't quite achieve the desired effect. Flowers' writing is vague and often self-conscious, and he almost never hits on the universal themes that make Springsteen's songs so essential.

Even so, "Sam's Town" represents a daring step forward for a band brushed off by many as nothing more than another '80s revival act.

By contrast, the Hold Steady's decision to fully embrace the Springsteen sound is more natural progression than about-face.

the Hold Steady

On its previous two albums, the Brooklyn band with Midwestern roots explored a number of classic-rock influences, with singer Craig Finn's wordy story songs often drawing comparisons to Springsteen's verbose early work.

On "Boys and Girls in America," the band sounds as if it's finally relocated to E Street. Much of this is due to keyboardist Franz Nicolay, who adds "Born To Run"-style organ and piano flourishes to "Stuck Between Stations," "Chips Ahoy!" and the lovely ballad "First Night."

A more realized effort than "Sam's Town," "Boys and Girls" is remarkable for, among other things, its heart.

Finn's characters are drugged-out teens drinking from flasks on prom night and overdosing at outdoor music festivals. Still, he treats them with tremendous respect and delicacy, like Springsteen did with the troubled heroes of "Born to Run."

Whether 2007 will find Springsteen once again interested in playing his own music is anyone's guess. While he's on hiatus, though, it's nice to know we have the Hold Steady, chugging away (both on guitars and from beer cans) for all the kids still grappling to find themselves.

Pettitte is Torre's security blanket

Saturday, March 3, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In his 59th year in baseball, there isn't much that shocks Don Zimmer anymore.

Ask him about Andy Pettitte coming back to the Yankees after three years in Houston, and Zimmer leans forward in the Devil Rays' dugout, presses down on his ever-present fungo bat and shoots from the lip.

"The only thing that has surprised me is that [Roger] Clemens hasn't come back with him yet."

Tampa Bay Devil Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer, left, talks with New York Yankees great Yogi Berra prior to a spring training game.

Al Lang Field had the air of familiarity Friday afternoon; Zimmer chatting with Joe Torre, Yogi Berra and more old New York friends, and Pettitte taking the ball in a New York uniform.

There was even a loud ovation for Pettitte as he was introduced. Pettitte took his warm-ups as the fans cheered, and never glanced at anything but catcher Wil Nieves' glove. The batters he faced went by in a blur -- six up, six down, three groundouts, two flies, one strikeout.

Two innings were the whole day's work in Pettitte's spring re-debut as a Yankee. If he's Torre's opening-day starter, Pettitte probably will want to stay around for all nine -- just like old times.

"Nobody stared a hole through me like he did when I went to take him out of games," Torre said before the Yankees' 3-1 victory over the Devil Rays. "He was always surprised when we'd go to get him. That's where his mind's at. He knows what responsibility is."

There's plenty more responsibility heaped now on Pettitte, the de facto ace of Torre's staff. At press time, Clemens hadn't yet strolled into Torre's office asking for a uniform. And it's been years since David Cone or David Wells were preceding Pettitte in a playoff series.

Across those Octobers, starting in 1996, Pettitte earned Torre's most precious honor -- trust -- more than any starting pitcher. Some things haven't changed.

"[Pettitte] was a guy that you counted on all the time, even though you always mentioned somebody else's name first," Torre said. "I think people associate his presence with what we did when he was here."

What the Yankees did was win pennants, six of them in eight seasons. Pettitte pitched the last World Series game the Yankees played in. He won another pennant in Houston, with Clemens, in 2005.

"I didn't think my arm would allow me to pitch past the '06 season," Pettitte said. At age 34, "in my mind, I was ready for [retirement]."

Torre and Pettitte's wife, Laura, felt differently.

"I think he was sort of caught off-guard with our interest to begin with," said Torre, who phoned Pettitte "four or five times" to sell him on a comeback and "talk about what's best for him."

Laura Pettitte already was telling her husband that he had too much life in his arm to quit at 34. And she was right.

Pettitte's elbow, surgically repaired during 2004, barked a bit late last season. But by November, Pettitte felt strong tossing the ball around with his four kids, ages 6 through 12.

On Friday, Pettitte's angular delivery produced plenty of his trademark cutters. He even surprised himself with several excellent change-ups, including one that froze Jorge Cantu on a called third strike.

"If I could harness that for the year, I'd be all right," he said. Torre is counting on it.

"The one thing Andy did every year was get better," Torre said. There were times during Pettitte's 14-13 season (4.20 ERA) last year when he'd speak with Torre and say, "Skip, I feel so good, but the results are so bad."

But at year's end, Pettitte had pitched more than 200 innings for the second straight season -- a sign of Pettitte's responsibility to his team.

"There's never an ounce of quit in him," Torre said. In return for Torre's trust again, Pettitte renewed an old promise, too.

"I came in here and wanted everybody to know that this is my team," Pettitte said.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Not 'a Good-News Story'

Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley

Why is Gen. Kiley back in charge at Walter Reed?

The Washington Post
Friday, March 2, 2007; Page A12

Yesterday The Post reported that Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley heard years ago from a veterans advocate and even a member of Congress that outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was distressingly squalid and disorganized. That commander proceeded to do little, even though he lives across the street from the outpatient facilities in a spacious Georgian house. Also yesterday, the Army announced that Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, the head of Walter Reed since August, had been relieved of his command. His temporary replacement? None other than Gen. Kiley.

Here's where the story stops making sense. Much of The Post's article detailed the abuse by omission that Gen. Kiley, not Gen. Weightman, committed, first as head of Walter Reed, then in his current post as Army surgeon general. Gen. Weightman, who very well might deserve his disgrace, has commanded Walter Reed for only half a year, while Gen. Kiley, now back in charge of Walter Reed, headed the hospital and its outpatient facilities for two years and has led the Army's medical command since. Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife say they repeatedly told Gen. Kiley about unhealthful conditions in outpatient facilities.

While Gen. Kiley was ignoring Walter Reed's outpatients, he was assuring Congress that he was doing just the opposite. A staffer for Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) told us yesterday that Gen. Kiley told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2005 that the performance of the medical holdover program, which covers 69 of the 76 residents of Building 18, "is a good-news story." In response to questions Mr. Davis submitted, Gen. Kiley stated, "the Army Surgeon General has made their care the medical treatment facilities' top priority." At best, Gen. Kiley was ignorant of the conditions at Walter Reed.

We are glad that the Army is finally taking the issue of outpatient care seriously enough to effectively end the career of a major general for presiding over the disgraceful condition of Building 18. But the evidence compiled so far suggests that Gen. Kiley has been more complicit in the scandalous neglect of Walter Reed's outpatient facilities for longer than Gen. Weightman has been. It also indicates that the Army's reshuffle is really about projecting the appearance of accountability, not punishing those most responsible. As Mr. Young said yesterday of Gen. Weightman, "I don't know him. But I know he's the fall guy."

Film Review: "Zodiac"

Newspaper cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) searches for a serial killer in "Zodiac."

Hunting a Killer as the Age of Aquarius Dies

The New York Times
Published: March 2, 2007

David Fincher’s magnificently obsessive new film, “Zodiac,” tracks the story of the serial killer who left dead bodies up and down California in the 1960s and possibly the ’70s, and that of the men who tried to stop him. Set when the Age of Aquarius disappeared into the black hole of the Manson family murders, the film is at once sprawling and tightly constructed, opaque and meticulously detailed. It’s part police procedural, part monster movie, a funereal entertainment that is an unexpected repudiation of Mr. Fincher’s most famous movie, the serial-killer fiction “Seven,” as well as a testament to this cinematic savant’s gifts.

Informed by history and steeped in pulp fiction, “Zodiac” stars a trio of beauties — Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo — all at the top of their performance game and captured in out-of-sight high-definition digital by the cinematographer Harris Savides. Mr. Gyllenhaal is the sneaky star of the show as the real-life cartoonist turned writer Robert Graysmith, though he doesn’t emerge from the wings until fairly late, after the bodies and the investigations have cooled. A silky, seductive Mr. Downey plays Paul Avery, a showboating newspaper reporter who chased the killer in print, while Mr. Ruffalo struts his estimable stuff as Dave Toschi, the San Francisco police detective who taught Steve McQueen how to wear a gun in “Bullitt” and pursued Zodiac close to the ground.

The relative unknown James Vanderbilt wrote the jigsaw-puzzle screenplay, working from Mr. Graysmith’s exhaustive, exhausting true-crime accounts of the murders and their investigations, “Zodiac” and “Zodiac Unmasked.” Mr. Graysmith, coyly played by Mr. Gyllenhaal as something of an overgrown Hardy Boy, his great big eyes matched by his great big ambition, was a political cartoonist doodling Nixon noses at The San Francisco Chronicle when Zodiac started sending letters and ciphers to the paper, divulging intimate knowledge of the crimes. The first messages arrived in 1969, the year Zodiac shot one young couple and knifed another in separate Northern California counties before moving on to San Francisco, where he put a bullet in the head of a cabbie.

The first cipher stumped an alphabet soup of law enforcement agencies, including the C.I.A. and F.B.I., but was cracked by a California schoolteacher and his wife. The decoded cipher opened with an ominous and crudely effective flourish: “I like killing people because it is so much fun it is more fun than killing wild game in the forrest because man is the most dangeroue anamal.” The letters, the misspellings and the lax punctuation kept coming, and perhaps so did the murders, though only five were substantively linked to him. A publicity hound, Zodiac claimed responsibility for murders he might not have committed, a habit that added to a boogeyman mystery and myth that chroniclers of his crimes, including Mr. Graysmith, have exploited.

Mr. Fincher made his name with “Seven,” a thriller in which the grotesquely mutilated bodies of murder victims are nothing more than lovingly designed props. Although more than capable of adding to the exploitation annals, he is up to something profoundly different in this film, which opens with the shooting of two people parked on a lovers’ lane at night, an attack that is soon followed by a squirmingly visceral knife assault on a couple during a daytime idyll. By front-loading the violence, Mr. Fincher instantly makes it clear just what kind of murderer this was — one who liked to get his hands wet — and ensures that the murders don’t become the story’s payoff, our reward for all the time stamps, geographic shifts, narrative complication and frustrated action.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal in Paramount Pictures' Zodiac

The story structure is as intricate as the storytelling is seamless, with multiple time-and-place interludes neatly slotted into two distinct sections. The first largely concerns the murders and the investigations; the second, far shorter one involves Graysmith’s transformation of the murders and the investigations into a narrative. With its nicotine browns, the first section, which opens in 1969 and continues through the mid-’70s, looks as if it had been art-directed by a roomful of chain smokers. Dark and moody, like all of Mr. Fincher’s work, this part has been drained of almost all bright colors, save for splashes of yellow, the color of safety and caution, and an alarming-looking blue elixir called an Aqua Velva that is Graysmith’s bar drink of choice.

The second, more vibrantly hued section begins with Graysmith sitting in the Chronicle newsroom, its yellow pillars now painted blue. He looks as bright and bushy-tailed as the day he read Zodiac’s first letter, though now he comes equipped with three kids and a wife (an unfortunately familiar scold whom Chloë Sevigny imbues with some welcome wit). But there are demons still loose, inside and out, which is why Graysmith takes on Zodiac alone, warming up the stone-cold case. Domestic tranquillity, it seems, can’t hold a candle to work, to the fanatical pursuit of meaning and self-discovery, to finding out what makes you and the world tick — which is why, while “Zodiac” contains multitudes (genres, jokes, nods at 1970s New Hollywood), it feels like Mr. Fincher’s most personal film to date.

Maybe that’s why it doesn’t have the usual movie-made shrink- rapping and beard-stroking, as in Mommy was a castrating shrew and Daddy used a two-by-four as a paddle. Throughout the film Mr. Fincher and company keep focus on Zodiac’s crimes, on the nuts and bolts of his deeds, rather than on the nurture and nature behind them. There is no normalizing psychology here, and no deep-dish symbolism either, maybe because the title crazy is so peculiarly fond of symbols, which he sprinkles in his missives and, for one murder, wears superhero style on a black-hooded costume that makes him look like a portly ninja in a Z-movie quickie. It’s no wonder the victims don’t see the threat behind the masquerade until it’s too late.

Psychology isn’t Mr. Fincher’s bag; he isn’t interested in what lies and writhes beneath, but what is right there: the visible evidence. And what beautiful evidence it is. His polished technique can leave you slack-jawed, as can his scrupulous attention to detail: the peeling walls of a derelict building in “Fight Club,” the rows of ant-size letters marching across the pages of a composition notebook in “Seven,” the bruises splashed across a woman’s arm in “Zodiac.” There is mystery in this minutiae, not just virtuosity, and maybe, to judge from reports of his painstaking process, a touch of madness. Like his detectives and journalists, Mr. Fincher seems possessed by the need to recreate reality — to revisit the scene of the crime — piece by piece.

There’s a moment early in the film when Mr. Downey stands in the Chronicle newsroom, back arched and rear gently hoisted, affecting a posture that calls to mind Gene Kelly done up as a Toulouse-Lautrec jockey in “An American in Paris.” Avery has already started his long slip-slide into boozy oblivion, abetted by toots of coke, but as he strides around the newsroom, motored by talent and self-regard, he is the guy everybody else wants to be or wants to have. Like Mr. Ruffalo’s detective, who leaves everything bobbing in his rapid wake, Mr. Downey fills the screen with life that, by its very nature, is a rebuke to the death drive embodied by the Zodiac killer. Rarely has a film with so much blood on its hands seemed so insistently alive.

“Zodiac” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It contains extremely graphic gun and knife violence, as well as alcohol abuse and cocaine use.


Opens today nationwide.

Directed by David Fincher; written by James Vanderbilt, based on the books “Zodiac” and “Zodiac Unmasked” by Robert Graysmith; director of photography, Harris Savides; edited by Angus Wall; music by David Shire; production designer, Donald Graham Burt; produced by Mr. Vanderbilt, Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Bradley J. Fischer and Cean Chaffin; released by Paramount Pictures. Running time: 158 minutes.

WITH: Jake Gyllenhaal (Robert Graysmith), Mark Ruffalo (Inspector Dave Toschi), Robert Downey Jr. (Paul Avery), Anthony Edwards (Inspector Bill Armstrong), Brian Cox (Melvin Belli), Elias Koteas (Sgt. Jack Mulanax) and Chloë Sevigny (Melanie).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Jason & The Scorchers to play Exit in June

Press Release: Feb. 23, 2007

Jason and the Scorchers, Nashville's legendary rockers, will reform
for one concert only June 2, 2007 at the Exit In Nashville
Tennessee. This will be a benefit concert, with all profits
earmarked to help pay the medical expenses for Perry Baggs. Perry is
courageously fighting diabetes and kidney failure, and is on
dialysis 3 days a week. He is the original Scorcher's drummer,
harmony singer, and songwriter of some of the band's biggest songs.
His courage in the face of his illnesses is a great inspiration to
many in the Nashville music community, as well as other diabetes and
dialysis patients.

Health permitting, Perry does plan to play drums on some songs at the
show, and sing harmony. Warner E. Hodges will be on guitar, Jason
Ringenberg on vocals, Fenner Castner on drums filling in for Perry
as needed, and Kenny Ames on bass. Old Scorchers Ken Fox and Andy
York may make an appearance if their schedules permit.

The show will start promptly at 8.30. The band will do 2 sets.

Tickets are not for sale yet but will be soon. Keep checking the
Exit In website for info. Their will be no guest list, since all
money will go to help pay Perry's medical expenses. Tickets will be
20.00 in advance and 25.00 at the door.

Two Paintings by Picasso Are Stolen in Paris

Pablo Picasso's "Portrait of Jacqueline," left, and "Maya with Doll."


The New York Times

Published: March 1, 2007

PARIS, Feb. 28 — Two important paintings by Picasso estimated by the police to be worth a total of about $66 million have been stolen from the Left Bank home of his granddaughter Diana Widmaier-Picasso, the authorities announced Wednesday.

Paris police officials said the two oils, “Maya With Doll” from 1938 and “Portrait of Jacqueline” from 1961, were taken from Ms. Widmaier-Picasso’s house on the Rue de Grenelle in the city’s chic Seventh Arrondissement sometime overnight between Monday and Tuesday.

The police said that two drawings, one by Picasso, were also stolen, but this could not be confirmed by the Picasso family lawyer, Céline Astolfe.

In a telephone interview Ms. Astolfe said that Ms. Widmaier-Picasso and her mother, Maya, the daughter of Picasso’s longtime mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, were asleep in the house when the theft occurred.

“They heard a noise, went downstairs and saw nothing,” Ms. Astolfe said. “They went to bed and the following morning they saw that two paintings were missing.”

The lawyer said the theft appeared to be the work of professionals because the home’s alarms were neutralized and there were no signs of a break-in. “They blocked the alarm, and they had either the code or keys,” she said.

Although the paintings formed part of the Picasso family’s private collection, they are nonetheless well known and, art experts said, would be difficult to sell on the open market. Ms. Astolfe said their value might exceed the police estimate.

“Maya With Doll” is a colorful Cubist portrait of Picasso’s daughter as a child clutching a doll, while “Portrait of Jacqueline” is a black, gray and white Cubist oil of Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s second wife, whom he married in 1961.

Thefts of works by Picasso have become relatively common, not least because he was so prolific. London’s Art Loss Register lists 444 missing Picassos in its database, including paintings, lithographs, drawings and ceramics. There is also an active industry making and selling fake Picassos.

The artist’s descendants have had artworks stolen before. One famous theft involved pieces worth about $17 million, taken from the Cannes home of Marina Picasso, another of his granddaughters, in 1989. Those were later recovered. Seven Picasso oils stolen from a gallery in Zurich in 1994 have yet to be found.

Neither Diana Widmaier-Picasso nor her mother could be reached on Wednesday.

Like other members of the family they are active in studying and overseeing the artist’s legacy. Maya Widmaier-Picasso is often called on to verify questionable works attributed to Picasso, while her daughter, an art historian, recently published an illustrated book of Picasso’s erotic works called “Art Can Only Be Erotic.”

Joe Kaufman: America's Islamist Threat

"Milestone" author Sayyid Qutb

March 1, 2007

For decades, adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) have threatened the existence of their respective governments, considering them to be secular, illegitimate and traitorous. As more and more of this brand of fundamentalist – and many times fanatic – Islam reaches our shores, will the same threat for us become reality?

State-run regimes have, time and time again, taken extreme measures against the Iquan. These measures include imprisonment, expulsion, execution, and in the case of the Syrian Hama massacre of 1982, mass murder. Life at home for Brothers has never been that brotherly. For this reason, many chose to temporarily forego the quest for regional domination, in hopes of finding acceptance elsewhere.

Beginning in the 1950s, Saudi Arabia happily opened its doors to these unwanted travelers. Unlike many Muslim nations, Saudi Arabia was/is ruled by a fundamentalist form of Islam known as Wahhabism. The Islamist movement of the Ikhwan, having a similar religious underpinning, allowed for mutual understanding and acceptance from the royal family. As such, the Brotherhood was the perfect vehicle to spread the Wahhabi philosophy to other parts of the world.

Europe and North America, while being the ideological opposite of Islam, were ironically the perfect match for the Brothers, as these continents offered Islamists something they did not have in their native lands – freedom of religion. Others would embrace more radical surroundings, such as those who went off to fight the Russians alongside Osama bin Laden and his mentor Abdullah Azzam, in Afghanistan during the 80s.

Within North America, Brotherhood organizations began to sprout. The same year the newly formed Baathist regime of Syria outlawed the Ikhwan, leaders of the Brotherhood found a new dwelling place in the state of Illinois. In January of 1963, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) was born. Today, MSA chapters number in the hundreds.

Out of the MSA came the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), two large umbrella organizations for radical mosques and Islamic centers throughout the U.S. and Canada – the latter being created to emulate Jamaat-e-Islami, the Brotherhood of Pakistan. As well, from the MSA came the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), the first ever Muslim financial trust (waqf) company, that holds the titles for the radical mosques and North American children’s schools. These organizations form the basis for a physical American Islamist infrastructure.

Other groups, like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) attempt to attach themselves to politicians and law enforcement personnel. Educational facilities, such as the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), and book companies, like Amana Publications, provide Islamist propaganda to the masses. And charities, such as Islamic Relief (IR) and Life for Relief and Development (LIFE) actively raise money through much of the above for Islamist causes overseas.

The groups work in tandem with one another to make sure goals are achieved, and all are charged to protect one another from harm – even if the wrongdoing is beyond reprehensible. Sami Al-Arian was a co-founder of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the organization’s North American leader. He was, at least in part, responsible for the brutal murders of over 100 innocent people, including two Americans. He now sits in a U.S. prison, a convicted terrorist. None of this has fazed the Islamist community, as many of the groups mentioned have called for fasting in solidarity with Al-Arian, who has gone on a hunger strike. As well, they have called for their Brother’s release.

Sami Al-Arian

Except for his children’s school, which was being used to funnel money to PIJ, Al-Arian’s operation in the U.S. was shut down by the government. Many other organizations connected to overseas terror have been shut down as well. However, this has only been a hinderance, as Islamism in America continues to grow, strengthened by the ideologies of the Brotherhood and the never-ending petrodollars they receive from their Wahhabist enablers in the Persian Gulf.

What is the Brotherhood doctrine with regard to America? It was spelled out in a book entitled Milestones, authored by Ikhwan leader Sayyid Qutb. In it, he writes, “Even the Western world realizes that Western civilization is unable to present any healthy values for the guidance of mankind… It is essential for mankind to have a new leadership… Islam is the only system which possesses these values and this way of life.” Or as Omar Ahmad, former National Chairman of CAIR, put it, “Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”

Those adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood that are in America have a religious-based political mission. It is no different than that of Osama bin Laden or his second-in-charge, Brother Ayman al-Zawahiri. Only the tactics have changed. While Al-Qaeda looks to establish Islam in America overnight, those Brothers that live here practice patience. They know that the American public is ignorant to their desires, as they slowly bring themselves to power using our hard-earned dollars that we feed into our gas tanks, using our own Constitution against us. If we don’t wake up soon, their goals will be achieved.

Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate, the founder of CAIR Watch, and the spokesman for Terror-Free Oil Initiative.

Ann Coulter: Let Them Eat Tofu

Director Davis Guggenheim (L), former Vice President Al Gore and singer Melissa Etheridge celebrate their film 'An Inconvenient Truth' winning the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 79th Annual Academy Awards.

March 1, 2007

Even right-wingers who know that "global warming" is a crock do not seem to grasp what the tree-huggers are demanding. Liberals want mass starvation and human devastation.

Forget the lunacy of people claiming to tell us the precise temperature of planet Earth in 1918 based on tree rings. Or the fact that in the '70s liberals were issuing similarly dire warnings about "global cooling."

Simply consider what noted climatologists Al Gore and Melissa Etheridge are demanding that we do to combat their nutty conjectures about "global warming." They want us to starve the productive sector of fossil fuel and allow the world's factories to grind to a halt. This means an end to material growth and a cataclysmic reduction in wealth.

There are more reputable scientists defending astrology than defending "global warming," but liberals simply announce that the debate has been resolved in their favor and demand that we shut down all production.

They think they can live in a world of only Malibu and East Hampton – with no Trentons or Detroits. It does not occur to them that someone has to manufacture the tiles and steel and glass and solar panels that go into those "eco-friendly" mansions, and someone has to truck it all to their beachfront properties, and someone else has to transport all the workers there to build it. (And then someone has to drive the fleets of trucks delivering the pachysandra and bottled water every day.)

Liberals are already comfortably ensconced in their beachfront estates, which they expect to be unaffected by their negative growth prescriptions for the rest of us.

There was more energy consumed in the manufacture, construction and maintenance of Leonardo DiCaprio's Malibu home than is needed to light the entire city of Albuquerque, where there are surely several men who can actually act. But he has solar panels to warm his house six degrees on chilly Malibu nights.

Liberals haven't the foggiest idea how the industrial world works. They act as if America could reduce its vast energy consumption by using fluorescent bulbs and driving hybrid cars rather than SUVs. They have no idea how light miraculously appears when they flick a switch or what allows them to go to the bathroom indoors in winter – luxuries Americans are not likely to abandon because Leo DiCaprio had solar panels trucked into his Malibu estate.

Our lives depend on fossil fuel. Steel plants, chemical plants, rubber plants, pharmaceutical plants, glass plants, paper plants – those run on energy. There are no Mother Earth nursery designs in stylish organic cotton without gas-belching factories, ships and trucks, and temperature-controlled, well-lighted stores. Windmills can't even produce enough energy to manufacture a windmill.

Because of the industrialization of agriculture – using massive amounts of fossil fuel – only 2 percent of Americans work in farming. And yet they produce enough food to feed all 300 million Americans, with plenty left over for export. When are liberals going to break the news to their friends in Darfur that they all have to starve to death to save the planet?

"Global warming" is the left's pagan rage against mankind. If we can't produce industrial waste, then we can't produce. Some of us – not the ones with mansions in Malibu and Nashville is my guess – are going to have to die. To say we need to reduce our energy consumption is like saying we need to reduce our oxygen consumption.

Liberals have always had a thing about eliminating humans. Stalin wanted to eliminate the kulaks and Ukrainians, vegetarian atheist Adolf Hitler wanted to eliminate the Jews, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger wanted to eliminate poor blacks, DDT opponent Rachel Carson wanted to eliminate Africans (introduction to her book "Silent Spring" written by ... Al Gore!), and population-control guru Paul Ehrlich wants to eliminate all humans.

But global warming is the most insane, psychotic idea liberals have ever concocted to kill off "useless eaters." If we have to live in a pure "natural" environment like the Indians, then our entire transcontinental nation can only support about 1 million human beings. Sorry, fellas – 299 million of you are going to have to go.

Proving that the "global warming" campaign is nothing but hatred of humanity, these are the exact same people who destroyed the nuclear power industry in this country 30 years ago.

If we accept for purposes of argument their claim that the only way the human race can survive is with clean energy that doesn't emit carbon dioxide, environmentalists waited until they had safely destroyed the nuclear power industry to tell us that. This proves they never intended for us to survive.

"Global warming" is the liberals' stalking horse for their ultimate fantasy: The whole U.S. will look like Amagansett, with no one living in it except their even-tempered maids (for "diversity"), themselves and their coterie (all, presumably, living in solar-heated mansions, except the maids who will do without electricity altogether). The entire fuel-guzzling, tacky, beer-drinking, NASCAR-watching middle class with their over-large families will simply have to die.

It seems not to have occurred to the jet set that when California is as poor as Mexico, they might have trouble finding a maid. Without trucking, packaging, manufacturing, shipping and refrigeration in their Bel-Air fantasy world, they'll be chasing the rear end of an animal every time their stomachs growl and killing small animals for pelts to keep their genitals warm.

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bob Klapisch: Reggie, Goose and Graig made the Bronx Zoo wild

Reggie Jackson

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


TAMPA, Fla. – Had enough of the Alex Rodriguez-Derek Jeter passion play? Vowed not to waste another neuron reading about who's mad at whom?

You're not alone in your boycott.

If anyone understands turmoil, the genuine, old-school brand, it's the '70s-era Yankees, the champions of clubhouse friction. To hear Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles and Goose Gossage tell it, today's dramas barely would register on the Bronx Zoo scandal-meter.

If you want to know what happens when teammates really can't stand each other, think of Nettles punching out Reggie after the 1981 American League Championship Series, or Gossage and Cliff Johnson in a violent clubhouse brawl in 1979 that left the Yankee closer with a torn ligament in his pitching hand, dooming the season.

These anecdotes aren't new to Yankee historians, but they're reminders of how suffocating our PC world has become. These days, the best (or worst) a player can do to his enemy is to stop talking to him. A generation ago, says Reggie, a clubhouse wasn't much different from a saloon. Tempers often flared, and unless neutral parties interceded in time, "Things got physical."

That's why the elder Yankees have no patience for the constant obsessing over A-Rod and Jeter – a symptom, they say, of our gossip-fueled society. "Believe me, this is nothing," Jackson was saying on Tuesday. "Even if Derek and Alex have a problem, which I don't think they do, it's absolutely nothing."

Not when you compare it to the one-punch knockout Reggie suffered at the hands of his third baseman. The Yankees had just beaten the A's and were drinking heavily in an after-hours get-together. Nettles, who never cared for Reggie in those days, took exception to Jackson bringing too many people to the party, one of whom had occupied Nettles' seat.

Words were exchanged between the two Yankees, and a moment later Reggie was flattened. Although Jackson insists that, to this day, "I don't really remember what happened" Nettles has a clear, concise recollection of the incident.

"Reggie brought some people who shouldn't have been there and things got out of hand," Nettles said.

How many punches were thrown?

"One," Nettles said.

Did you connect?

"Oh, yeah."

Did Reggie throw a counter-punch?

"Didn't have time."

Graig Nettles

Nettles was quick to say the two called a truce on the charter flight home from Oakland the next day, and they now peacefully co-exist as guest instructors in spring training.

But Jackson still has issues with his violent past. "I got into fights with Nettles, Billy North, Mike Epstein and it's not something I'm proud of," he said. "It's still not easy for me to talk about it."

That's not the case for Gossage, who freely discusses his virtual street fight with Johnson 28 years ago. The exchange of blows was so fierce, Goose ended up on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb, further sabotaging the Yankees in a season in which Thurman Munson died in a plane crash.

"What a horse [bleep] season that was," Gossage said. "The fight, losing Thurman, worst time of my career. It was terrible. And it all started over nothing.

"I remember we'd just lost a game and I was [ticked] off about it. I start taking off my socks, rolled 'em up in a ball and threw them across the room [toward the hamper]. Cliff's locker was straight across from mine, so they must've glanced off Cliff's shoulder because Reggie's walking by now and says, 'Hey, Cliff, how did you hit Goose in the National League?' "

"I said, 'He couldn't hit what he couldn't see.' I didn't mean it as a knock against Cliff; I was just talking about my velocity. So I get up to use the bathroom, and when I'm standing at the urinal, I realize Cliff is over my shoulder, telling me, 'You think you can back that [bleep] up?'

"I'm thinking, 'this guy's not kidding.' Next thing I know he hits me with an open hand across the neck. Bam. So I elbow him right in the chest, and then nailed him with a punch that knocks him right into one of the stalls.

"At that point guys are rushing in, breaking it up, so I stopped hitting him. But I'm shouting at Cliff, 'you worthless piece of [bleep].' So now he tackles me in the shower. I lose my balance and as I'm falling back into the wall, I tear my thumb. Completely tore it up. That was it for my season."

With memories so raw, Gossage says, "it's a joke" that anyone worries about the present-day third baseman and shortstop not speaking to each other. Repeating Reggie's sentiment, Gossage said, "As long as they play hard on the field, and they do, none of that other stuff matters."

Nettles feels just as strongly, having worked with A-Rod and Jeter in camp. He said, "The whole idea that you have to get along with your teammates to win is false. We proved it wasn't true. But I don't think there's a problem between those two. I can't see it.

"I'm not sure I understood what Alex meant about sleeping over [at Jeter's house]. That was a pretty weird thing to say," Nettles said. "Otherwise, what's the big deal?"

Bill Madden: Hall committee strikes out

The New York Daily News

Veterans shaft umps, execs and managers

TAMPA - Another shutout by the Veterans Committee. Another exercise in futility in which two candidates, Ron Santo and Jim Kaat, at least made some nominal progress in achieving far higher percentages than they ever did on the Baseball Writers ballot but not enough to give them hope of being elected to the Hall of Fame anytime soon.
Still, this wasn't the egregious fault in yesterday's latest non-election. The fact that no one came close among the managers/executives/umpires in the second "composite" ballot is a clear indication that the 82-member committee, the vast majority of which consists of Hall of Famers, simply aren't equipped to evaluate managers or the non-uniformed people whose impact on the game was of historical nature.

Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark, while revealing the shutout, at least upheld the high standards for the Hall established by the Baseball Writers Association, admitting to being "disappointed that no one was elected."

To that, I would tell her, as well as the Hall's Board of Directors that meet March 17 to re-evaluate the process, to give the composite ballot to the Baseball Writers who are far more qualified to evaluate the executives and managers. I guarantee they'll elect someone.

As a voting member in the Baseball Writers Association's regular election, I don't have any problem with the new Veterans Committee not electing anyone from the players' ballot, most of whom spent 15 years on our ballot and didn't come close to attaining the necessary 75% needed for election. I don't even have a problem with the fact that Gil Hodges is probably never getting in after losing ground in this latest election.

Gil Hodges

Although Hodges, in his 15 years on the Baseball Writers ballot, received more cumulative votes than any player not elected to the Hall, his highest plurality was 67% in 1998. In his three shots with this Veterans Committee, he's gotten 62%, 65% and 61%, which tells me that both the writers and the players are consistent in the determination that he's just not quite a Hall of Famer. I suspect that the vast majority of Hall of Fame players who didn't see Hodges play looked at his record for the same things the writers looked for - domination (as in league-leading numbers) and hardware (MVPs) and found none. As productive as Hodges was, knocking in more than 100runs seven straight seasons, he didn't have 2,000 hits, he never led the league in anything in 18 seasons and never finished higher than seventh in any MVP voting.

I believe Joe Morgan, who insisted yesterday the Hall of Famers "did their due diligence" in evaluating and discussing among themselves the merits of all the former players. But when it came to managers and the execs, their vote seemed to me like they really didn't care. I wonder, for instance, how many of them were aware that Dick Williams (who got only 37%) is one of only two managers in history (the other is Hall of Famer Bill McKechnie) to take three different teams to the World Series?

Williams, who managed four World Series teams, winning twice, also significantly improved about every team he ever managed and, as Casey Stengel said, you could look that up, although I doubt any of these voters did. It's a fact that Williams wasn't well-liked by many of his players and that, too, could be a reason why he got so little support on this ballot.

But in terms of what this ballot is supposed to be all about, it's a crime that Marvin Miller, the players' union chief who revolutionized baseball by winning for them free agency and salary arbitration among other monumental rights, was once again denied. As Morgan said: "Marvin Miller's impact on the game is seen every single day." At least Miller improved from 44% in the first composite ballot election in '05 to 63%, but there is enough bias against him among the executives and pre-Miller players on the committee to comprise the 10 votes he missed by.

I would submit the Baseball Writers, many of whom (like myself) had their share of differences with Miller through the years, would agree he was a giant figure in the game's history and belongs in the Hall of Fame. Do you think anyone other than the most erudite baseball historian knows what William Harridge, Warren Giles, Morgan Bulkeley, executives all, did to warrant election to the Hall of Fame? That will never be the case with Miller.

Listening to Jane Forbes Clark yesterday, you got a sense that she concluded there was at least one wrong that needs to be made right if the Hall of Fame, as a museum, is to maintain its sense of history. Its board can do that by giving the composite ballot to the Baseball Writers. For next year and every year thereafter, so that deserving candidates such as Miller, Williams, Whitey Herzog, Bowie Kuhn and Buzzie Bavasi have a chance to be elected while they're still alive.

For them, in their advancing age, this process hasn't just been an exercise in futility; it's been an exercise in cruelty.

Originally published on February 27, 2007

Joke is on Jeter!

President and Mantle pop up on Topps' gag baseball card



Topps takes a swing at comedy with its Derek Jeter card, digitally adding President Bush and Mickey Mantle.

It's hard to Topps this one: The card company has issued a Derek Jeter baseball card with a smiling President Bush in the stands.
But there's something very wrong with that picture: Bush wasn't really at the game that day.

A not-so-careful analysis of the card makes it clear that Bush was digitally superimposed - his right arm extended in a waving motion and his left arm seemingly missing.

The mischievous elves at Topps then played another version of Where's Waldo - sticking a picture of Mickey Mantle in the dugout.

The Mick is depicted in uniform, holding a bat as though he were back from the dead and preparing to pinch hit.

"Somewhere in between the final proofing and its printing, someone at our company - and we won't name names - thought it would be funny to put in Bush and Mantle," said Clay Luraschi, a spokesman for Topps.

When the cards were proofread, Luraschi said, "We couldn't do anything but laugh.

"Okay, it's in the set and it's funny," Luraschi conceded. "It's caused quite a stir."

Jeter's card, No. 40 in the set, instantly becomes part of the card-collecting hobby's "long tradition of silly little error cards or odd prints that have taken on a lot of mileage in hobby lore," said T.S. O'Connell, the editor of Sports Collector's Digest, a 33-year-old weekly publication.

"For collectors, there's a real giggle factor for something like that," O'Connell said.

It's possible the Jeter card could join cards such as the 1969 Topps Aurelio Rodriguez, which features a photo of a bat boy instead of the Angels infielder, and the 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken, which showed Cal Ripken's little brother holding a bat that had an obscenity scrawled on the handle, as hobby icons.

Of course, as O'Connell says, printing the wacky card is also "benign guerrilla marketing, however it was done, accident or otherwise."

Alex Gregg, owner of Alex's MVP Cards on the upper East Side, said the images of Bush and Mantle could slightly bump up the value of the Jeter card; the card's currently going for about $2 on eBay.

If a collector got both Jeter and Bush to autograph the card, it could send the value skyrocketing, Gregg said.

"It could be worth $500. Who knows?" Gregg said.

While the card has made news in the card collectors' world, Jeter is apparently in the dark.

Asked about the card, Jeter said, "Oh yeah? I haven't heard anything about it. I have no idea."

Luraschi said Topps hasn't heard anything from the Bush administration about the card - even though using the likeness of Bush for a commercial enterprise requires the White House's permission.

A White House spokesman would only say, "I'll decline to comment at this point."

It's unclear whether the card will ever be corrected - Luraschi said a decision hasn't been made whether to erase Bush and Mantle in the cards that will be sold as part of complete sets.

"I'm not sure George has seen the card," Luraschi said. "I'd be happy to send him a box."

With Mark Feinsand and Bill Hutchinson

Oh, my, Capt.!

Derek's joke card sells for $370,
day after it's worth $2


Jeter's gag card has collectors smiling.

Here's a Derek Jeter error that's actually worth treasuring - for now.
The Yankee captain's unusual 2007 Topps baseball card, which features digitally superimposed images of President Bush and Mickey Mantle, skyrocketed in price yesterday after it appeared on the cover of the Daily News.

The card, which could have been had for just $2 earlier this week, sold for as much as $370 late yesterday on eBay, with some sellers specifically touting, "as seen on the cover of the Daily News."

"I knew the stock market went down today and it might not be a bad time to consider investing in baseball cards," said Craig Pellis, 43, who purchased a card on the Internet auction site for $250. "It was like lightning hit me - I simply had to have it."

"It's been about 20 years since I've collected baseball cards," continued Pellis, who runs a catering business in Mount Kisco, Westchester County, "but maybe this one puts my 5-year-old through college."

But baseball card experts warned the Jeter card's value could be fleeting.

"In a week's time, the value fell from $20 to $6 and then went up to several hundred dollars after the mainstream media attention," said Brian Fleischer, editor of the Beckett Baseball Price Guide.

"We estimate that there could be close to 100,000 of these cards out there, so it simply won't be scarce enough to stay expensive," Fleischer said. "It's going to be near impossible for the cards to keep this value."

Topps has said that the card - which comes in five differently colored versions - would not be recalled, though it would be corrected when the complete 2007 set is issued over the summer.

The card depicts Jeter at the plate at Yankee Stadium with Joe Torre, Jorge Posada and the late Mickey Mantle looking on from the Yankees dugout. The Mick is in full uniform, holding a bat in his hand as if he was set to pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez.

But perhaps even more jarring is the presence of the commander in chief watching from the stands, even though Bush was not in the Bronx that day.

"The pictures were added as sort of a last-minute joke and we decided that, you know, baseball cards are meant to be fun, so let's keep them in," said Clay Luraschi, a Topps spokesman, who added that a Yankees fan came up with the prank.

Luraschi said Topps had a longstanding agreement with the Mantle estate to use the image of the Yankees legend, which a spokesman for the Mick's family confirmed yesterday.

Though the card company has no official agreement with the White House to use Bush's likeness, an administration official said that no action will be taken against Topps.

Originally published on February 28, 2007

Meetings Make You Stupid

Dumbed down by meetings?

Office "groupthink" may hurt your productivity

By Christopher Null
The Working Guy
Yahoo! Tech
Fri Feb 23, 2007 12:33PM EST

Now there's some science behind what every cube dweller has known for years: Meetings are worthless and, in fact, are counterproductive.

A scientific study asked participants to think of as many brands of soft drinks as they could. When part of a group, the participants' final list was shorter than the lists from participants working alone who were asked to do the same thing. This MSNBC story is light on details of the study, but you get the idea: Groupthink extends beyond the swaying of opinions toward a homogenized central viewpoint, even reaching into basic tasks like making lists of facts.

Naturally, this contradicts generations of research that say groups come up with better decisions than individuals. I remember my first day of business school, where our "organizational behavior" class was asked to individually rank a list of 15 items from most important to least important that we would find useful when stranded in a frozen wilderness. We then did the same task in groups of five. Compared to the "expert" list, groups had, on average, slightly better results... however I've always felt those results were flawed. (I deemed a bottle of whiskey much more important than the experts because I thought it might help in starting a fire, for example.)

But the bigger problem with the group results was that it didn't offer any outlet for those who had exceptional ideas: Several people in the class outscored the average by quite a bit, and their scores were brought down by the group project. As a business manager, you should ask yourself: Do you want to seek out these exceptional staff members? Or do you let everyone throw a bunch of random ideas into a pot and wait for something tolerable to rise to the top?

Of course, some meetings are necessary as a means of getting information out to a large number of people at once, but when it comes to brainstorming and creativity, you might be better off letting people work alone.

Feel free to email this to your boss right away.

Jerusalem Experts Trash Jesus' Bones Claim

In this photo released by Israel's Antiquities Authority, Monday, Feb. 26, 2007, an inscription on a burial box reading Yeshua son of Yehosef, or Jesus son of Joesph, discovered during excavations of a cave in Jerusalem is seen.

By Julie Stahl Jerusalem Bureau Chief

February 27, 2007

Jerusalem ( - Claims in a new documentary that an ancient tomb discovered decades ago outside of Jerusalem contained the bones of Jesus and his family may be a great money-making gimmick - but scientifically, it is nonsense, according to leading archeologists and scholars in Jerusalem.

"The Lost Tomb of Jesus," due to air on the Discovery Channel on March 4, claims that a 2,000-year-old tomb containing 10 boxes of bones belonged to the family of Jesus of Nazareth. (Two millennia ago, the dead were left to decompose in a cave and their bones collected a year later and buried in bone boxes or ossuaries.)

James Cameron gestures as he refers to the two limestone ossuraries found in a 2,000 year-old tomb in Jerusalem in 1980, that he believes may have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family, during a news conference in New York, Monday, Feb. 26, 2007. Cameron produced the Discovery Channel documentary 'The Lost Tomb of Jesus,' which presents the latest evidence on the discovery.

The documentary claims that inscriptions on six of 10 ossuaries found in a single tomb indicate that there is a one in 600 chance that bones in the tomb were those of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and a son, along with other family members, a press release said.

According to the Bible, Jesus was God incarnate who was crucified, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. He wasn't married and never had any natural children. Mary Magdalene was a woman out of whom seven demons were exorcized and became a follower of Jesus.

Oscar-award winning filmmaker James Cameron and Emmy Award-winning documentary director Simcha Jacobovici presented their findings at a press conference in New York on Monday where they displayed two ossuaries on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA)

Unlike previous "discoveries," there is no doubt about the authenticity of the ossuaries, IAA spokeswoman Osnat Goaz told Cybercast News Service.

What is in question is the interpretation of the facts and conclusions drawn by the documentary filmmakers, she said.

The IAA loaned the ossuaries to Cameron and his colleague for their press conference in the interest of "artistic freedom," Goaz said. That does not mean that the IAA backs the film's assertions, she added, although the IAA has chosen not to comment on the film.

Discovered in 1980 and excavated by the Israeli government ahead of a building project in the area, the tomb is currently wedged into the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot and covered by a cement slab.

Professor Amos Kloner of Bar Ilan University oversaw the original archeological dig 27 years ago. Kloner could not be contacted Tuesday, but comments published in the Jerusalem Post indicated that he dismissed the tale entirely.

"It makes a great story for a TV film," Kloner said. "But it's completely impossible. It's nonsense."

lsraeli archeologist Amos Kloner pauses in his house in Jerusalem, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007.

Since Jesus was from the Galilee area, there is no way he and his relatives would have had a family tomb in Jerusalem, said Kloner. The tomb in which the ossuaries were found belonged to a "middle class family from the first century," he said.

Hebrew University archeologist and epigraphist Leah DiSegni said that the names found in the tomb were among the most common names of the day.

It would be like finding a tomb with the name "George" on it in the future and people asserting that it must have been the tomb of President George Bush, DiSegni told Cybercast News Service.

Many women in that era were called Miriam (Hebrew for Mary), DiSegni said. That was why they added descriptive titles to their names, such as where they were from.

DeSegni, a Jewish Israeli, also pointed out that according to the Christian faith, Jesus was resurrected and so there would have been no bones left behind.

Until now the Talpiot tomb was just a common excavation, like hundreds of similar tombs from that time period discovered all over Jerusalem, she said.

DiSegni did not think the filmmakers truly believed the theory they were promoting but were simply out to make money.

"It's a pity people are so easily fooled" and more ready to believe in "fables than in reality," she added.

Professor Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar, archeologist and historian at the University of the Holyland, said what was unusual about the tomb is that so many of the ossuaries had names inscribed on them. But the names themselves were not unusual at all.

Most ossuaries that have been found have no names on them, likely because they contained the skeletons of more than one family member, Pfann explained.

He also questioned the actual inscription of the box. It supposedly says "Yeshua ben Yoseph" (Jesus the son of Joseph) but he noted that it was "scratchy" and hard to read.

The filmmakers want to "stir up a hornets nest," said Pfann. He doubted the documentary would affect Christians as long as they don't succumb to skepticism, he added.

"It's not the kind of thing that's a challenge to our faith," said Pfann, a Christian. "For people who really have faith it's not an issue."


Ken Trestrail is the chaplain at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, one of two traditional sites of the tomb in which Jesus was buried and from which he was resurrected.

Another Christian tradition says he was buried on the site where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now stands inside the Old City of Jerusalem. In either case, what the two have in common is that they have empty tombs and no bones.

Christian Orthodox worshippers pass candles to fellow worshippers around the tomb where Jesus Christ is traditionally believed to be buried, during the Holy Fire ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, in this photo taken Saturday April 30, 2005.

Trestrail said there is no point in arguing over where Jesus might have been buried. "It isn't the place - it's the person, and he's alive," Trestrail told Cybercast News Service.

Claiming that Jesus' bones have been found is "a load of nonsense," said Trestrail. "We know that Jesus was raised gloriously from the dead."

He noted that according to the biblical account, Jesus was seen by his disciples and more than 500 people at one time, so it could hardly have been a hallucination.

As to the claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had had a son, Trestrail described it as "heresy."

There is no reason to make up stories about Jesus when the story is recorded clearly in the Bible, he added.

"People would always rather believe in the ridiculous than the miraculous."

Dave Konig: Cameron Finds Christ!

This photo released by Israel's Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem shows a burial box discovered during excavations of a cave in Jerusalem bearing the name Mariamene, a version of the name Mary.

February 28, 2007 6:00 AM

What else in the ossuary?

Hollywood — Titanic director James Cameron unveiled today still more artifacts discovered in the tomb of Jesus. Cameron alleges these artifacts prove, once and for all, that the man Christians believe to be the Son of God actually got married, had a child, and moved to the suburbs:

* An anniversary card “To My Wife” with a handwritten inscription by Jesus; “Mary, this year — I promise — we’ll get a babysitter and take a weekend at the Fontainebleau.”

* Jesus Christ’s personal checkbook, from the Bank of Jerusalem, with a check stub for Jesus Jr.’s Tai Kwan Do lessons.

* Several pairs of hardly worn women’s dress shoes that Cameron swears are “size 7 1/2 — Mary Magdalene’s shoe size!”

* A baseball cap labeled “World’s Greatest Dad” with a handwritten note inscribed; “Pops — Happy Fathers Day (signed) Jesus Jr.”

* On the side of the ossuary, a bumper sticker that, translated from the original Aramaic, reads: “Our Boy Is An Honor Student At Jerusalem High.”

* Some refrigerator magnets shaped like oxen and goats.

* A crayon drawing of a man who appears to be asleep. The drawing is labeled “Uncle Lazarus.”

* A 2,000-year-old lottery ticket for the Jerusalem Powerball Mega Million Game. Scholars employed by Cameron’s production company maintain that the numbers on the ticket correspond exactly with the birthdays of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus Jr.!

* A discount pass for the Jerusalem Chuck E. Cheese “good until January 1st, 0033.”

* Two ticket stubs to Cats.

— Dave Konig can be heard nationally on Speak Now...with Dave & Susan Konig, Mon - Fri, 10 AM - 12 Noon ET on The Catholic Channel, Sirius 159.

Brendan J. Lyons: A Web of Easy Steroids

Gary Matthews Jr. signed a five-year, $50 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in November.

Florida raid highlights a lucrative business

The Times Union (Albany, NY)

First published: Wednesday, February 28, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A downtown pharmacy was raided by a law enforcement task force on Tuesday, the climax of a large New York state grand jury investigation into Internet drug sales that could expose widespread illicit steroid use by professional athletes and thousands of people across the nation.

The unprecedented inquiry, led by Albany County's district attorney, has taken New York narcotics agents and an Orlando-based federal task force deep inside a maze of shadowy pharmacies and Web sites that have reaped millions of dollars in profits by allegedly exploiting federal and state prescription laws, according to court records.

More than two dozen doctors, pharmacists and business owners have been, or will be, arrested in the coming days in Alabama, Texas, Florida and New York on sealed indictments charging them with various felonies for unlawfully distributing steroids and other controlled substances, records show.

The Times Union has learned that investigators in the year-old case, which has been kept quiet until now, uncovered evidence that testosterone and other performance-enhancing drugs may have been fraudulently prescribed over the Internet to current and former Major League Baseball players, National Football League players, college athletes, high school coaches, a former Mr. Olympia champion and another leading contender in the bodybuilding competition.

Victor Martinez, third place, Mr. Olympia 2006. Has allegedly admitted buying steroids and other products from a Florida pharmacy.

The customers include Los Angeles Angels center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Sources also said investigators from the New York Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, which is part of the state Department of Health, recently interviewed a top physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers about his alleged purchase last year of roughly $150,000 of testosterone and human growth hormone.

In the past several years, Internet-based pharmacies have become the new drug delivery system for tens of thousands of customers nationwide, displacing smugglers, overseas mail-order companies and so-called "gym rat" dealers who sell steroids from the trunks of their cars, according to state and federal investigators.

Tuesday's raid of Signature Pharmacy, an Orlando business that collected an estimated $36 million in revenue last year, could expose a long list of sports figures, celebrities and others who have turned to Internet pharmacies for illegal drugs such as steroids, authorities said.

"I don't know the names of a lot of the athletes," Lt. Carl Metzger, commander of the Orlando Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, said during Tuesday's raid.

"This is a criminal investigation, not an administrative investigation," Metzger told a gaggle of TV reporters at the scene. "I think that some of their business was legitimate," he said, adding that "much of it was illegal."

In a news release, Orlando police said the raid targeted steroids and human growth hormone. "People forget about the damage steroids can cause," Metzger said. "It goes all the way down to the high school level."

Albany County District Attorney David Soares said his office pursued the case, in part, because New York has some of the strictest prescription drug laws in the country. In addition, Signature Pharmacy last year did an estimated $10 million in business in New York, he said.

Soares said that his critics will probably question why a local New York prosecutor is pursuing the case.

"We're arresting young men on street corners every day for selling drugs," he said. "Signature did $30 million last year ... $250,000 in Albany County."

Corruption in the Internet pharmaceutical industry, which has received lax oversight from federal authorities, has been organized and systemic, prompting congressional hearings on the issue and a crackdown in recent months by federal agencies.

Some companies have enlisted unethical doctors who blindly write prescriptions for as little as $25 each, giving pharmacies the authorization they need to dole out thousands of illegal prescriptions, according to court documents filed in Albany, Orlando and in a related federal case in Rhode Island.

Customers usually have to pay high retail prices for their drugs, in part because many purchasers avoid seeking reimbursement from insurance carriers to escape detection. Mostly, they use cash, checks and credit cards to pay for the drugs.

"It's a complete perversion of the medical system," said Christopher Baynes, an Albany County prosecutor assigned exclusively to the case for almost a year.

Some federal agents have complained that until recently, the Drug Enforcement Agency and other federal agencies had rarely filed criminal charges in such cases. Instead, they were content to revoke the operating permits of pharmacies that have doled out controlled substances, including addictive painkillers, to customers who have not been properly evaluated by a physician.

In part, an agent said, the unwillingness to prosecute the cases criminally has been a result of federal prosecutors in certain areas of the country being reluctant to take on the complex and time-consuming investigations.

While cases involving heroin, cocaine and other addictive street drugs receive enormous federal resources, law enforcement has been slow to catch on to the Internet pharmacies practices, said the agent, who spoke on condition he not be identified.

In New York, investigators have interviewed numerous suspected steroids buyers, including physicians who prescribed or bought large quantities, an Albany narcotics detective, a top Mr. Olympia bodybuilder and the host of a popular cable television program, sources said.

Last month, a New York investigator who has been tracking suspicious purchases from Signature Pharmacy flew to Pittsburgh to interview a top physician for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers about why he allegedly used a personal credit card to purchase roughly $150,000 in testosterone and human growth hormone in 2006.

Richard A. Rydze, MD, Associate team physician, Pittsburgh Steelers

The physician, Richard A. Rydze, who won a silver medal in platform diving in the 1972 Olympics, told the investigator the drugs were for his private patients, according to a person briefed on the interview. Rydze is an internist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He also is a consulting physician for the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration.

There are no allegations Rydze violated any laws. Many doctors are allowed under Pennsylvania rules to order and dispense prescription drugs. But investigators in New York said his orders of testosterone piqued their interest because of the large volume, his position with an NFL team and because he allegedly used a personal credit card.

"The doctors pretty much have rein to do anything they want," said Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

But Catizone, who has served as an expert witness for the DEA and other law enforcement agencies in criminal trials, said the credit card purchases raised questions.

"I've never seen a doctor pull out his or her own credit card ... it just doesn't make sense," Catizone said. "Unless you are trying to build frequent-flier miles on a credit card, I'm not sure why they'd be using a personal credit card."

Rydze and two spokesmen for the Steelers organization declined repeated requests for comment over the past two weeks. Pennsylvania state medical board officials also declined to comment. NFL officials were taken by surprise as news of the case swept through the sports world on the Internet.

"We just became aware of this, and we will look into it," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

The retail value of the drugs allegedly purchased by Rydze, who tends to Steelers' players during their home and away games, is about $750,000, according to an investigator in the case.

In a related case in Mobile, Ala., two owners of Applied Pharmacy Services have been indicted by an Albany County grand jury. Their customer list allegedly includes former professional boxer and heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, Los Angeles Angels center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., and retired baseball star Jose Canseco, an admitted steroid user.

Evander Holyfield

A law enforcement source involved in that investigation said authorities have not identified what types of products allegedly were ordered by Matthews or Holyfield, whom they said used the name "Evan Fields" when placing orders.

Matthews was told before his spring training game on Tuesday that his name appeared in a Times Union news report. "There's nothing much to say. A name is mentioned. It's sketchy at best," said Los Angeles Angels Vice President of Communications Tim Mead.

"Certainly as we acquire more information, we'll look into it," Mead said.

Holyfield himself did not comment.

"Evander was asked about this by another member of the media and he said he never heard of the company," Donald Tremblay, public relations director at Main Events, a company promoting Holyfield's upcoming fight against Vinny Maddaline, said.

Still, Holyfield and other alleged high-profile customers represent just a fraction of pharmacies' business, which law enforcement authorities said is centered largely on dispensing performance-enhancing drugs.

The Orlando pharmacy is owned and operated by a Florida couple, Stan and Naomi Loomis, who are both licensed pharmacists. Both were arrested Tuesday on indictments from Albany and led in handcuffs from their business.

In 2002, their company reported revenue of about $500,000. Then, driven by a booming Internet prescription market and the referral business Signature received from various Web sites, revenue topped $35 million last year, authorities in the case said.

Also arrested at Signature on Tuesday on Albany indictments were Kenneth Michael Loomis, also a pharmacist and Stan's brother, and Kirk Calvert, Signature's marketing director.

Among Signature's customers was Jason Grimsley, the former Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher who left baseball last year after mail-order steroids were seized at his Scottsdale home by federal agents from San Francisco involved in an ongoing investigation targeting steroid use in professional sports. Grimsley has not been charged with any crimes, but federal agents said he told them about widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by Major League Baseball players.

In an affidavit from a federal agent who questioned Grimsley, the agent said Grimsley claimed another player, later identified in an ESPN report as former Baltimore Orioles first baseman David Segui, had advised Grimsley on how to obtain human growth hormone from a "wellness center" in Florida.

But authorities said they believe Signature's steroid and human growth hormone customers extend beyond baseball to other sports.

During surveillance of the pharmacy last year, investigators said they saw a Philadelphia Eagles football player enter the pharmacy, though they are not certain why he was there. They also identified a member of the Washington Redskins as being a Signature customer, according to an agent in the case.

The pharmacy is located in a two-story, $3.2 million facility on Kuhl Avenue in the heart of Orlando. It contains a small retail store that sells mostly bodybuilding supplements, a high-tech drug-manufacturing laboratory and executive offices on the second floor. A mix of federal and state agents spent Tuesday removing computers and records from Signature's offices.

In the past year, investigators have closely monitored the business. An Orlando investigator also has sifted through the pharmacy's discarded records, removing customer lists and other records, sources in the case said.

People expected to be arrested Tuesday were to be arraigned on sealed felony indictments in New York. They will face extradition hearings over the next several days unless they waive those hearings and agree to appear in Albany on the charges, authorities said.

Brendan J. Lyons can be reached at 454-5547 or by e-mail at Times Union sports writers Pete Iorizzo and Hank Domin contributed to this report.

Jeff Jacoby: Ex-Presidents' Big Payday

Harry S. Truman

Boston Globe

February 28, 2007

When Harry Truman left the White House in 1953, historian David McCullough records, "he had no income or support of any kind from the federal government other than his Army pension of $112.56 a month. He was provided with no government funds for secretarial help or office space, not a penny of expense money." To tide him over for the transition back to private life, Truman had to take out a bank loan. One of the reasons he and his wife moved back into their far-from-elegant old house in Independence, Mo., "was that financially they had little other choice."

Nevertheless, Truman refused to cash in on his celebrity and influence as a former president. He turned down lucrative offers, such as the one from a Florida real estate developer inviting him to become "chairman, officer, or stockholder, at a figure of not less than $100,000." He wouldn't make commercial endorsements, accept "consulting" fees, or engage in lobbying. He wouldn't even take the free car that Toyota offered him as a gesture of improved Japanese-American relations.

"I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable," Truman later wrote, "that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency." He did sell the rights to his memoirs for a handsome sum to Life magazine. But he turned down every other enticement to trade on his former position for private gain.

Half a century later, Truman's rectitude seems as quaint and obsolete as George Washington's wooden teeth.

We learned last week that in the six years since Bill Clinton left office, he has pocketed a staggering $40 million in speaking fees. Tirelessly working the lecture circuit, he has delivered hundreds of speeches, often at a price of $150,000 and up. Two-thirds of his speaking money has come from foreign sources, according to the Washington Post, including "Saudi Arabia's Dabbagh investment firm, which paid $600,000 for two speeches, and China's JingJi Real Estate Development Group, run by a local Communist Party official, which paid $200,000 for a speech."

Bill Clinton

The scale of Clinton's post-White House earnings is known only because financial-disclosure rules require his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, to report them. (They don't include the additional millions his speeches have raised for the William J. Clinton Foundation, his nonprofit charity.) But he is hardly the only former president to leverage the prestige of the presidency for big bucks.

This shabby practice began with Gerald Ford, who accepted high-paying board memberships at companies like 20th Century-Fox, Primerica, and American Express. Ronald Reagan accepted $2 million to deliver two 20-minute speeches in Japan shortly after leaving the White House in 1989, and both George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter have traveled widely to lecture for pay.

The elder Bush in particular seems to be Clinton's model. The Wall Street Journal reported a decade ago that "in the four years since he left office, Mr. Bush, already a wealthy man, has earned millions of dollars speaking publicly." Charging $80,000 to $100,000 per appearance, "Bush generally restricts himself to giving speeches and rubbing shoulders with corporate executives and high-level government officials."

Such post-presidential avarice might be more understandable if presidents were still leaving office the way Truman did, with nothing from the taxpayers but a fond farewell. But that hasn't been the case since the passage of the Former Presidents Act in 1958.

Today former presidents receive a lavish pension -- $186,000, increased yearly -- payable as soon as they depart the White House, regardless of their age. In addition, former chief executives are granted hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual staff, office, and travel allowances. For fiscal year 2007, Clinton will receive approximately $1.16 million from the US Treasury -- his telephone stipend alone will come to $77,000. All former presidents are also entitled to free, round-the-clock Secret Service protection for themselves and their families. The cost of providing security for previous "first families" is estimated at $20 million a year.

According to the National Taxpayers Union, Clinton will reap a lifetime pension payout of more than $7 million, assuming a normal lifespan. The senior George Bush can expect to bank more than $3 million; for Carter, the total will likely top $4 million. Clearly the age when former presidents could find themselves in dire financial straits is long gone. Sadly, so is the sense of integrity and propriety that once kept men like Truman from devoting their post-presidency to money-grubbing. It wasn't only the buck that stopped with the 33rd president. The avarice did, too.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is

P. David Hornik: Condi on a Learning Curve?

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Ramallah.

February 28, 2007

During Condoleezza Rice’s three-hour meeting with Mahmoud Abbas last week in Ramallah, she reportedly “employed a threatening tone.” A Palestinian Authority official said that “We’ve never seen her in such a bad mood.”

Later at a press conference after meeting in a Jerusalem hotel with Abbas and Ehud Olmert, she “briskly walked into . . . the hotel’s main ballroom, gave a vacuous 90-second declaration and unceremoniously left, taking no questions.”

Rice was angry with Abbas for having earlier signed an agreement in Mecca that officially makes his Fatah movement a junior partner of Hamas. Abbas is said to have protested that “the only two options facing me were civil war or national unity, and I chose the second.” Rice apparently didn’t buy it.

Rice’s anger suggests that she has sincerely believed that Abbas is a constructive force who is worth American coddling and encouragement—even to the extent of funding, training, and equipping his militia. The anger, in other words, seems to be a case of empiricism catching up with delusion and denial. It must especially sting that it was the Saudis—whom Rice, the State Department, and the U.S. generally are always trying to impress by demonstrating their tenderness toward the Palestinians—who pressured Abbas into formally capitulating to Hamas and further enshrining the latter as the Palestinian standard-bearer.

It’s hard, after all, to see why Rice—ostensibly a conservative and not a fluttery-hearted liberal—got so disappointed in her Palestinian charge. There has always been much information available showing his lack of moderacy and total lack of interest in complying with the road map.

There is the fact that, since becoming PA president in January 2005—a year before the elections that swept Hamas to victory—he has never lifted a finger to “arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis” as the road map requires.

Even under Arafat’s rule terrorists were sometimes arrested and jailed before being let out through the revolving door. Under Abbas, not even that much. Instead, the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade of his Fatah movement remains a central and active component of Palestinian terror. Just last January 29 it openly took credit along with Islamic Jihad for the suicide bombing in Eilat.

When Abbas made statements in recent weeks like “We should put our internal fighting aside and raise our rifles only against the Israeli occupation” and “We must unite the Hamas and Fatah blood in the struggle against Israel as we did at the beginning of the intifada,” Abbas-opponents who still thought facts played any role in this debate hoped some of the Abbas-backers—Rice, for instance—would take heed. But she didn’t, and so is outraged that he not only signed the deal in Mecca but, when she confronted him, defended it.

She could, instead, have taken more seriously the content of Palestinian education under Fatah and Abbas. After two years of Abbas’s presidency, Palestinian Media Watch reports that “in many respects, [the] new books for Grade 12, written by Fatah-appointed Palestinian educators, are the worst of the textbooks produced by the Palestinian Authority since 2000.” These books “deny Israel’s right to exist, anticipate its destruction and define the conflict with Israel as religious, not merely territorial.” They “teach World War II without the Holocaust.” Now why would this—the cultivation of Palestinian anti-Israeli hatred for generations to come—still be happening, and even have intensified, under Abbas’s presidency if he’s a moderate?

Of course, one is not even supposed to mention in polite company Abbas’s own 1983 opus The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, which maintains that “only a few hundred thousand Jews” were killed in the Holocaust and those mostly through collusion between the Nazis and the Zionists. But do Rice and so many others like her think that Holocaust-denial denial comes with no price attached?

Would Rice herself vote for a public figure—even a candidate for small-town mayor—who had written such a book? Do such people gain legitimacy in the United States at all? Does Rice believe that Abbas’s being a Palestinian absolves him of such moral standards and that, having been absolved, he would never disappoint her?

What, after all, was Abbas doing in all those years before he became a cherished “moderate” of the Palestinian Authority? He was working right alongside Arafat, the cardinal terrorist of the twentieth century. He cofounded Fatah with Arafat and may have financed the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli athletes. At the very least, he stayed with Arafat all the way through the airplane hijackings, the brutal murder of American diplomats in Khartoum, the Coastal Road bloodbath in Israel, the slaughter of Christian communities in Lebanon—the list goes on and on.

America is supposed to be fighting a War on Terror. Would it openly embrace as an ally someone who had worked in close cahoots for years with Bin Laden or Hassan Nasrallah? Would it expect such a person to behave peaceably and responsibly and then be shocked when he openly formed an alliance with other terrorists?

Whatever the extent of Rice’s frustration, it is not yet great enough for her to kick the Abbas-habit. She told the “traveling US press” that “both the U.S. and Israel want to deal with [Abbas’s administration] for as long as they can, in the hope that it will eventually bring about a change” in the Hamas-dominated government and legislature. Olmert, for his part, said “both he and his staff would keep meeting Abbas and his staff.”

One wonders what Abbas would have to do for Rice and Olmert finally to see him differently. Meanwhile, the ongoing Abbas-delusion is a large part of why a U.S. administration sworn to fight terror keeps encouraging the weakest tendencies in Israel, why the jihadist buildup in Gaza continues undisturbed, why Israel keeps living in hair-trigger peril with suicide bombings thwarted almost daily. Does this policy at least influence Washington’s “Arab allies” toward what it views as moderacy? Ask the Saudis.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Tel Aviv. He can be reached at