Friday, March 16, 2007

Bill Madden: Bye, Bye Bowie

Bowie Kuhn at Yankee Stadium (1969).

Former commissioner dies at 80


Friday, March 16th 2007, 4:00 AM

TAMPA - Bowie Kuhn died yesterday, coincidentally one day after Pete Rose confessed to having bet on every baseball game he ever managed. Because when it came to baseball's first commandment, there was no fiercer defender of the game's integrity than Kuhn, who served as commissioner for 15 turbulent seasons, from 1969-84, the period of the game's greatest growth.

Kuhn, 80, died at St. Luke's Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., following a short bout with pneumonia that led to respiratory failure. He had been hospitalized for several weeks.

He probably will be most remembered as the commissioner who presided over the advent of free agency, salary arbitration and the accompanying higher salaries - all of which were the product of the historic gains made by the Players Association and Kuhn's longtime nemesis, union chief Marvin Miller. But those labor victories by Miller were largely the product of stubborness, gross miscalculations and blind stupidity on the owners' part. For his part, the record will show no commissioner was tougher in dealing with the owners than Kuhn - he suspended George Steinbrenner, Charlie Finley and Ted Turner, mavericks all, for assorted offenses - and dealt swiftly and decisively with the drug crisis that threatened the game's integrity at the end of his term, meting out more suspensions in 1983 to Kansas City Royals players Willie Wilson, Willie Mays Aikens and Jerry Martin.

Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle afetr being reinstated by new commissioner, Peter Ueberroth (1985).

And when it came to gambling, Kuhn was vigilant almost to the extreme. He suspended Detroit Tigers star pitcher Denny McLain for three months in 1970 for consorting with gamblers and played a leading role in blocking Eddie DeBartolo's attempted 1980 purchase of the Chicago White Sox because of his ownership stake in race tracks. I always thought Kuhn's issuing of lifetime bans to Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle for taking jobs as greeters in Atlantic City casinos was a bit over the top, but, to the end, he maintained he was trying to send a message that even the most seemingly benign associations with gambling would not be tolerated on his watch.

The integrity of the game also was the issue when, in 1976, he voided Finley's attempted sales of his Oakland A's stars, Vida Blue to the Yankees for $1 million and Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox for $1 million apiece. Finley retaliated by calling Kuhn "the village idiot" (which earned him another fine) and filing a lawsuit against baseball (which he lost). It was because of those sales that Kuhn instituted the $400,000 limit on money that could be included in transactions, which remained in effect until only a couple of years ago.

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn attends Game 5 of the 1979 World Series at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium.

Although the perception is that Kuhn was the big loser in all of the major arbitrations and court cases that went against the owners, he, in fact, prevailed in the most high-profile one of all - Curt Flood's unsuccessful Supreme Court challenge to the reserve clause in 1970. As the National League attorney, it was Kuhn's victory in a lawsuit filed by the city of Milwaukee over the transfer of the Braves to Atlanta in 1965 that was the springboard to his being selected baseball's fifth commissioner, as a compromise candidate over Yankees president Mike Burke and NL president Chub Feeney. Kuhn also was successful in a lawsuit filed against him by Turner, who, as owner of the Braves in 1977, had been suspended for tampering with Giants outfielder Gary Matthews.

Kuhn's clashes with Steinbrenner likewise were legendary. Steinbrenner had not even owned the Yankees for a year when, in November 1974, Kuhn suspended him for two years after his federal conviction for illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon. Although he lifted the suspension after one year, Kuhn fined Steinbrenner nearly $400,000 over the next 10 years for numerous transgressions, including $5,000 in 1979 for tampering with Angels outfielder Brian Downing and, most notably, a total of $300,000 for The Boss' activities in the aftermath of the notorious 1983 Pine Tar Game. "I offer my condolences to the family," Steinbrenner said in a statement. "He was a good guy and I admired him. Even though we've had disagreements over the years, I never lost my respect for his integrity."

Though the owners reaped monumental profits during Kuhn's term in office - one of his final acts was a then-record $1.2 billon TV rights deal in 1983, the end result of his introduction of World Series night games - they ultimately turned on him and forced his ouster. For whatever consolation it was, the leader of dump-Bowie coup was Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, who had stubbornly refused Kuhn's advice to allow baseball's chief labor attorney John Gaherin to negotiate a settlement of the 1975 challenge to the reserve clause by pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally. The arbitrator of the case, Peter Seitz, had told Kuhn he was prepared to rule against baseball, but Busch and the other hard-line owners insisted they would win in court. They didn't, and thus began the era of free agency.

Bowie Kuhn addressing members of the news media in 1970 when he suspended Denny McLain, a star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.

A couple of weeks ago, I called Kuhn in his room at the hospital in Jacksonville the day before he was to undergo surgery on his lungs. While he struggled at times to get his breath, he still sounded authoritarian - which I made a point of telling him - as we talked about old times.

"You remind me of a conversation I had years ago with Danny Kaye, who as owner of the Mariners was one of my all-time favorite people," he said. "He sounded so great and upbeat and then, the next day, I got a call that he had died. I called his wife and said how unbelievable that was, given our conversation the day before, and she said: 'Oh, Bowie, you should know better. Danny was an actor!'"

I guess the old commish was trying to tell me something I didn't want to believe. He was a good man and baseball was better on account of him. Late-night World Series games notwithstanding.

Fred Thompson: Gandhi's Way Isn't the American Way

Mahatma Gandhi

March 15, 2007 12:23 PM

This is based on a transcript of an original radio commentary

Collective suicide is no foreign policy.

I feel bad for Nancy Pelosi, AND her neighbors. Anti-war activists from the group Code Pink have been giving her the same treatment the president gets at his Crawford, Texas, ranch. Camping on her San Francisco lawn, they’re demanding she cut off funds to the troops in Iraq.

Besides coolers and mattresses, protesters have brought along a giant paper mache statue of Mahatma Gandhi, who is pretty much the symbol of the anti-war movement. Code Pink was founded on his birthday, and when Saddam Hussein was being given a last chance to open Iraq to U.N. weapons inspectors, posters appeared around America asking “What would Gandhi do?”

And that’s a pretty good question. At what point is it okay to fight dictators like Saddam or the al Qaeda terrorists who want to take his place?

It turns out that the answer, according to Gandhi, is NEVER. During World War II, Gandhi penned an open letter to the British people, urging them to surrender to the Nazis. Later, when the extent of the holocaust was known, he criticized Jews who had tried to escape or fight for their lives as they did in Warsaw and Treblinka. “The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife,” he said. “They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.” “Collective suicide,” he told his biographer, “would have been heroism.”

The so-called peace movement certainly has the right to make Gandhi’s way their way, but their efforts to make collective suicide American foreign policy just won’t cut it in this country. When American’s think of heroism, we think of the young American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking their lives to prevent another Adolph Hitler or Saddam Hussein.

Gandhi probably wouldn't approve, but I can live with that.

— Fred Thompson is an actor and former United States senator from Tennessee.


Mona Charen: Braveheart

March 16, 2007 12:00 AM

The story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

I first heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali when they pulled the knife from Theo van Gogh’s chest in November of 2004. The Dutch filmmaker had been shot and then nearly beheaded as he rode his bicycle to work in Amsterdam. His attacker felt justified in committing this filthy murder because van Gogh had insulted Islam in a short film titled Submission about the treatment of women in the Islamic world. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali by birth but by then a member of the Dutch parliament, had written the screenplay. Under that knife was a long rambling letter addressed to Hirsi Ali and to the West generally. Full of threats and imprecations, the letter warned that she was next.

It is appropriate that Hirsi Ali was singled out along with the United States, Holland, and Europe — “I surely know that you, O America, will be destroyed. I surely know that you, O Europe, will be destroyed. I surely know that you, O Holland, will be destroyed” — because as we learn from her new autobiography, Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has come to appreciate and to personify the greatest virtues of our civilization.

Her story, a completely engrossing narrative I found hard to put down, began in Somalia in 1969. She was born into the Osman Mahamud subclan of the Darod clan. For a Somali child, nothing is more important than memorizing her lineage for as many generations as she can count. It can mean the difference between murder and protection — and later in the story, it does for Ayaan.

Her birth coincided with the birth of the new Somalia, which was emerging from years of colonization by the English and the French. Her father, active in politics and later in the opposition forces, hoped to create a democratic society that would astound the world. Instead, as with nearly all of the newly independent African nations, Somalia spiraled down — first into a Soviet-style dictatorship and later into civil and tribal war and chaos.

Instead of finding within her family a refuge from the cruelties of the wider world, Hirsi Ali found persecution instead. She loved both of her parents, but her mother was her father’s second of three wives. He was often away (sometimes in prison for his political activities), and her mother was sometimes hysterical and frequently violent. Hirsi Ali relates being beaten with a rolling pin and being beaten while tied hand and foot. As a Muslim female she was expected to be obedient, servile and meek. All of the housework fell upon her, not her brother. He bullied her mercilessly and got away with it because he was the boy. When she was naughty and disobedient toward her Quran teacher, he cracked her skull and nearly killed her. She was also tortured — there is no other word for it — by female circumcision. She writes, “In Somalia, like many countries across Africa and the Middle East, little girls are made ‘pure’ by having their genitals cut out.” This was done to Hirsi Ali when she was 5. Her description is graphic and blood-curdling.

Because of her father’s prominence in the anti-Siad Barre forces, the family was kept constantly in motion. They lived in Saudi Arabia, where Hirsi Ali heard the cries of women being beaten by their husbands, and in Kenya, where she saw young boys who had stolen something beaten to death by crowds cheering and jeering. She lived in Ethiopia among Christians her mother regarded as “despicable.”

She witnessed the rise of Islamic extremism — Saudi money and influence spread the virus worldwide — and even felt drawn to it herself for a while, shrouding her body in a hijab and trying to pray fervently five times a day.

But she also read all the Western books, novels mostly, she could cadge in Nairobi, and these planted seeds in her young mind. There could be equality between men and women. Instead of being force-marched into arranged marriages, young women could think of romance and even love.

Those seeds would sprout later, when she fled an arranged marriage herself and sought refuge in Holland. Far more perceptive than most around her, she could see that Holland’s unwillingness to give offense to Muslims was enabling the Muslim minority to continue to persecute its girls and women on European soil.

She is now in the United States, after a tumultuous time in Holland, and we are the richer for it. This is a brave, humane and fascinating book by an extraordinary woman.

Needed This St. Patrick's Day: Ronald Reagan

By Tom Purcell

March 16, 2007

It was on St. Patrick's Day 1988 when an unexpected visitor arrived at Pat Troy's Irish pub in Alexandria, Va -- President Ronald Reagan.
For 27 years, it's been a favorite watering hole for Washington insiders. Some of Reagan's advance men had been regulars. They secretly arranged the president's visit.

Just before noon, the pub was half-packed when Reagan and his entourage arrived. As news got around, the pub quickly filled to capacity. While Reagan enjoyed a pint of Harp and some corned beef and cabbage, Troy was so busy tending to patrons, he didn't have time to react to his famous patron.

"He had an energy about him that put you instantly at ease," Troy told me. "He made it easy to carry on as though he was just another patron, so that is what I did."

Troy took the stage and led the audience in "The Wild Rover." He directed sections of the audience to compete with each other to see which could sing and clap the loudest.

"You have to clap louder, Mr. President," he said to Reagan, prompting the president, not used to being given orders, to laugh.

Troy next led the audience in "The Unicorn Song." While Troy sang the words, the audience mimicked the animals referenced in the song: "There were green alligators and long-necked geese, some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees. Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you're born, the loveliest of all was the unicorn."

Reagan turned to watch a group of young women act out the song. His face showed curiosity and delight – he'd never seen this song performed before. But that was how he was: At the same time he was the world's most powerful man, the man who felled communism and restored American optimism, he was a man of youthful innocence who found immense pleasure in the simplest things.

When Troy finished, he handed the president the microphone.

The normally raucous crowd became extraordinarily quiet.

Reagan spoke off the top of his head. He graciously thanked Troy for having him for lunch. He said it was a great surprise. He talked about his father, an Irishman. "When I was a little boy, my father proudly told me that the Irish built the jails in this country," he said, pausing expertly. "Then they proceeded to fill them."

The crowd laughed heartily. "You have to understand that for a man in my position, I'm a little leery about ethnic jokes," he said. The crowd roared.

"The only ones I can tell are Irish."

He talked about a recent trip to Ireland. He visited Castle Rock, the place where St. Patrick erected the first cross in Ireland.

"A young Irish guide took me to the cemetery and showed me an ancient tombstone there," he said. "The inscription read: 'Remember me as you pass by, for as are you so once was I, and as I am you too will be, so be content to follow me."

As Reagan paused, the crowd eagerly awaited his follow up.

"Then I looked below the inscription, where someone scratched in these words: 'To follow you I am content, I wish I knew which way you went.'"

The crowd roared loud and long, causing the president to deadpan to his advance men: "Why didn't I find this place seven years ago?"

The pub visit was videotaped by Reagan staffers and released to Troy 10 years after Reagan left office.

I watched that video and got to see a snapshot of pure, unscripted Ronald Reagan. It shows how powerfully and eloquently the man was able to engage any audience, large or small, just by being his genuine self.

As we begin the process of selecting our next president, we sure could use another fellow like him. I'll be sure to offer up a toast to the Great Communicator as I celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year: "To follow you we were content, and grateful for the way we went."

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

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Art Chansky: Deja Carolina Blue

Tar Heels return to Winston-Salem 10 years after Smith earns victory 877.

March 15, 2007

Carolina's placement in the NCAA Tournament is eerily familiar to 10 years ago, when the Tar Heels rolled to the Final Four in Dean Smith's last season on the bench.

The 1997 Tar Heels were also ACC champs, seeded No. 1 in the East Regional and sent to Winston-Salem for first- and second-round games on Wake Forest's home floor.

Unlike Roy Williams' current dozen-deep rotation, predominantly six men played that season and managed to avoid foul trouble and injuries most of the way. But that team was saddled with a different kind of pressure, a once-in-a-lifetime burden that represented the more than 100 players that came before them under Smith.

Their coach was about to break the all-time record for major college victories, surpassing the legendary Adolph Rupp for what was once considered an unreachable milestone.

The '97 Tar Heels had struggled early, losing their first three ACC games and nearly a fourth (rallying from nine points down in the last two minutes to beat N.C. State in Chapel Hill).

It looked like Smith wouldn't get there that season, and his former players fretted privately that he might retire short of breaking the record. Then his 36th Tar Heel team put together one of the more amazing streaks in Carolina Basketball history.

They ran the table (8-0) in the second half of the ACC schedule, defeated Virginia, two-time defending ACC champion Wake Forest (with Tim Duncan) and State to sweep the tournament in Greensboro and deliver Smith's lucky 13th ACC championship.

Suddenly, Smith had 875 career coaching wins and was one shy of Rupp's 876.

A buzz perhaps like no other ever in the storied program permeated North Carolina, centering on Winston-Salem. History was in the making and in the air. Tickets were impossible to get if you weren't a Rams Club major donor or willing to scalp your way into Lawrence Joel Coliseum for 10 times face value.

Nervous Carolina actually trailed 16th-seed Fairfield by seven points at halftime before senior Serge Zwikker's 19 points and 13 rebounds led a comeback that buried the Stags. Smith had tied Rupp, the famed Baron of the Bluegrass, and needed one win to break a record that had stood for more than 25 years.

CBS, which generally covered the second round regionally and often jumped around the country, had announced it would show Carolina's 12 Noon Saturday game nationally and in its entirety. The opponent was Colorado and a pretty good guard named Chauncey Billlups.

Of course, the main story line was Smith.

Meanwhile, former Tar Heel players around the country were scrambling to get to - and into - Joel Coliseum. Linda Woods, Smith's administrative assistant, had just so many tickets she could leave for the players who bothered to call, because team allotments to the first two rounds were so small.

Carolina's loyal and connected alumni would not be deterred, however.

Mitch Kupchak, then still assistant general manager of the Lakers, and George Karl, head coach of the Seattle Supersonics, flew red-eyes Friday night after their games on the West Coast. Bobby Jones picked up Kupchak in Charlotte and, after a mandated stop in Lexington for some North Carolina barbecue, they were in their seats by tip-off. Dozens of other players got there and somehow got in, which later flabbergasted Smith.

Of course, there was little doubt about the outcome. Carolina was better than Colorado, playing a virtual home game and now on a mission that no mortal could deny. With Antawn Jamison, Ademola Okulaja and Zwikker combining for 38 rebounds (seven more than the entire Colorado team), the Tar Heels broke open a close game early in the second half and cruised to the record-breaking 73-56 win.

As placards showing the number provided by a local newspaper dotted the crowd, chants of "EIGHT SEVENTY-SEVEN! EIGHT SEVENTY-SEVEN!" rang out. At the buzzer, Zwikker nearly tackled an NCAA official trying to retrieve the game ball so he could give it to Smith. CBS cornered the coach for a national TV interview, but after a few words he slipped through a couple of celebrating players and headed for the locker room.

Emerging a few minutes later for the walk down to the press conference, Smith received the surprise of his life. A throng of his players, plus their families, had somehow wangled their way into the hallway outside the locker rooms.

Caught between elation and emotion, Smith was almost aghast as he walked through the gauntlet of gratitude, gushing "hellos" and "thanks for coming" all the way to the end. He tried to reach out and touch, make eye contact with or say the name of every player he saw, including wives and children he remembered from having presided over the fabled Carolina Basketball Family for four decades.

As he finally reached the TV interview room, Smith was bear-hugged from behind by Michael Hooker, the Chancellor and UNC alumnus whose genuine respect and affection for Smith dated back to his student days in the 1960s.

"Thank you, Michael," Smith said to Hooker, who would be dead two years later from acute lymphoma.

The press conference was one of Smith's last in North Carolina as the Tar Heel coach. He retired the following October, saddening Tar Heel Nation but certainly not surprising the masses that had hung on his every word. The time had come, but at least his players, assistant coaches and managers since 1961 could now say they were part of history.

Smith returned the compliment that March 15, 1997, afternoon and, after he had taken an 11th team to the Final Four and won 879 games, again six months later in the Bowles Room next to the building that bears his name.

"All my players," he said, biting his lip both times, "they are so special."

For Durant, Riches Deferred

Texas guard Kevin Durant (35) dunks against Oklahoma State during the first quarter of their semifinal basketball game at the Big 12 Conference Tournament in Oklahoma City, Saturday, March 10, 2007. Durant scored 26.

NBA's Age Minimum Puts Texas Freshman in College Spotlight

By Sally Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 15, 2007; A01

AUSTIN -- Kevin Durant makes a dual impression on the basketball court. The first impression is one of sheer talent -- here is the bounding, net-ripping, honest-to-God real thing, unmistakably a potential great. The second impression is one of youth. Durant, a University of Texas freshman from Suitland, only turned 18 in September and doesn't even have his driver's license. He's so young he has only had time to get one tattoo. It's over his heart, and it's his mother's name.

The juxtaposition of weedy youngness and capacious talent in a 6-foot-9 frame has made Durant at once the most celebrated and argued-over college player in the country. Previously, a savant like Durant would have already gone to the NBA. Instead, he has become a test case of the league's controversial new age minimum.

With the initiation this season of a league policy restricting entry to players 19 or older and a year removed from high school, Durant was forced to delay the call of professionalism and enroll at Texas, where he has discovered something interesting: He likes being an undergraduate.

"I mean, in a couple more years I'll be grown up," he says, "but right now I'm glad I'm a kid and I'm going through this college thing, and I don't have to deal with those pressures or anything like that."

For at least one paradisiacal spring, Durant will test himself against his peers in the NCAA tournament, which begins on Thursday, instead of against his elders in the pros. The age limit was intended get the NBA out of the child-rearing business, to see that prodigies aren't ruined psychologically by too-early entry to a league in which "playing" entails a grind of 82 games, 41 of them on the road. Although some of the league's greatest young stars successfully leapt straight from high school -- Cleveland's LeBron James was named rookie of the year in 2004 -- there are countless anonymous failures. The league has found that professionalism doesn't necessarily accelerate adolescent growth, but can retard it. The hope is that an age restriction will make for more skilled and mature players.

Texas forward Kevin Durant (35) drives the ball around Kansas center Sasha Kaun (24) in the first half at the Big 12 Conference championship basketball game in Oklahoma City, Sunday, March 11, 2007.

The NBA's motive isn't altruistic: While Durant and a handful of other precocious freshmen such as center Greg Oden of Ohio State play out their supercharged collegiate season, NBA teams have had a chance to judge their abilities. Drafting them will be less of a guessing game, and lessen the chances of wasting a top pick on a spectacular failure.

"I think it's working," NBA Commissioner David Stern says. "I'm not one of our scouts but I would gather that by the end of the NCAAs our teams will have seen some extraordinary young men play against accelerated talent and be able to make good judgments. And that the youngsters will have grown in confidence both on and off court, and acquired skills that will make them better able to do their jobs."

But critics charge that while the rule might be good for the NBA, it has unpalatable consequences at the collegiate level. Texas Tech Coach Bobby Knight has flatly called it one of the "worst" rules he has ever seen, arguing that it puts coaches in the position of recruiting players they know won't be in school for more than a year, and that NBA aspirants have small incentive to go to class, especially in the spring semester.

Although Durant claims he is undecided whether to leave school this spring, the widely held assumption is that he will be a "one-and-done" collegian, because with a single declaration he can command a multimillion-dollar NBA contract and even larger shoe endorsement deal. According to Knight, the presence of such players warps the mission of universities, which is to provide higher education, not a lily pad to the pros. "That, I think, has a tremendous effect on the integrity of college sports," Knight said earlier this season.

But supporters of the rule believe rerouting players to college for at least one year is beneficial. NCAA President Myles Brand says that while it's not perfect, it's preferable to no restriction. He argues that forcing high schoolers to focus on admission to college instead of the NBA will have a trickle-down effect and reemphasize academics at the prep level. "You can't get in unless you prepare," he says, "So I think this will lead many more young men to prepare."

Brand also believes the attention devoted to Durant is misplaced. The rule is really aimed at players who won't make it to the pros. "I'm looking at it quite differently, I'm looking at it from the points of view of the vast majority of those who play Division I basketball, who won't ever go to the NBA," Brand says. "Hundreds, maybe thousands, would be better off preparing for college."

It's too early to say who is right, or to calculate what the real effects of the age limit will be. But there is one person for whom the rule seems to be an unqualified success: Durant. Instead of languishing on an NBA bench, the college audience has watched as he has steadily bloomed and is a candidate to be the first freshman ever named NCAA player of the year. He is a shooter of breathtaking suppleness, a slasher with tomahawking power and a defender with a formidable 7-4 wingspan. His averages of 25.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per game are mere suggestions of what he's capable. Ten performances of 30-plus points per game and are probably truer gauges.

"He's just getting started," says Texas Coach Rick Barnes. "When you look at him you say, 'My gosh, does he know what he's got here?' "

And the answer? "Not yet."

Durant is so obviously childlike that it's hard to view even a temporary stop in college as anything but good for him. At the free throw line, when he tilts his chin up to the basket, the gym lights shine on wide eyes in a narrow, baby face that a peach fuzz mustache fails to add years to. He is clearly comfortable at Texas, where he lives in an undergraduate dormitory, Jester Center, in the center of campus. He rides a bus across the sun-dappled and oak-studded college grounds to classes in which he carried a 3.5 grade point average his first semester. He's a familiar figure slouching across campus in a hoodie and billowing sweat pants, his size 18 sneakers slapping the pavement like clown spats.

Kansas forward Julian Wright (30) reaches to block Texas forward Kevin Durant (35) as he advances to the goal in the first half at the Big 12 Conference championship basketball game in Oklahoma City, Sunday, March 11, 2007.

His interests remain strictly undergraduate: he doesn't have a girlfriend, and when he's not in practice or study hall, he engages in marathon sessions of the video game "The Godfather" with a fellow freshman, point guard D.J. Augustin. (Durant made capo, before his machine froze.) He has only one other current passion: basketball in any form. He watches every brand played on campus, from women's games to intramurals, always visible in the bleachers.

For the moment, what's clear is that Durant is still playing for the sake of play. "That's all I want to do," he says. "Just play ball. Go to school, play ball. I try not to worry about the other stuff. Even though it's hard not to."

Durant has spent much of his first few months at Texas adjusting to being away from home, and from his mother, Wanda Pratt, who raised him alone and whom he still calls "Mommy" when he needs comforting. "Like most kids, he doesn't know how to take care of himself yet," Barnes says. "He's still the kind of kid that you got to call him to wake him up." The first thing Durant had to learn, he admits, was that "nobody was going to baby me anymore."

He arrived with a waif-like physique of less than 200 pounds, and drives the Texas coaching staff crazy by forgetting to eat. He put on 20 pounds of muscle with an intensive weight-training program, and repeated visits to Wendy's and Popeyes. But he tends to lose weight after every practice, and strength coach Todd Wright chases him around trying to make him bite into apples. "He can eat anything he wants and it's not going anywhere," sophomore guard A.J. Abrams says.

As far as Abrams can tell, mostly Durant eats Gummy Worms. "He's got a box at every study hall."

It is not a lock that Durant will leave school for the NBA. For one thing, Wanda and Wayne Pratt, Kevin's father who reconciled with Wanda five years ago, will have something to say on the subject. Durant's parents have stated that after the season, they will sit down with the Texas coaching staff and weigh the decision. Among the factors they will consider: If this is what one year of college can do for Durant, what would another? Is the risk of injury too great to stay in school? Or does he need another 20 pounds to be truly ready? Is it worth it to come out, only to be drafted by one of the worst teams in the league, with pressure to reverse the fortunes of a franchise and put spectators in the seats?

"Everyone thinks it's a foregone conclusion that he will leave, but because of them, it's not," Barnes says. "One thing I can tell you is this: They have his best interest at heart and they always have."

Ultimately, whether Durant is physically capable of playing pro ball may not be the real question. It's whether he is ready emotionally. For instance, he is reluctant to go to the NBA if it means living alone. "I don't think I'm grown at all," he says. "I know that without my parents, some things I can't do on my own. For example, if I would go to the NBA right now I wouldn't be able to live by myself."

Leapfrogging to the pros may seem like a fast route to self-assured adulthood, but in fact, it can be just a shortcut to massive insecurity and unhappiness. Durant is, for the moment, still a boy, a very large one, but a boy nonetheless. For the moment, he is happy right where he is, playing for the sake of play.

"Whenever I'm not smiling, something is wrong," he says.

Knight meets his match

Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight talks with his son and head coach designate Pat Knight, left, during practice for the NCAA East Regional basketball tournament Wednesday, March 14, 2007, in Winston-Salem, N.C. Texas Tech will play Boston College Thursday.

March 14, 2007

By Michael Vega, Boston Globe Staff

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. --Texas Tech coach Bob Knight, in addition to being the winningest NCAA Division 1 men's basketball coach, is also something of a performance artist, especially when it comes to holding court at NCAA Tournament press conferences at which he has been known to brow beat the media.

But Knight seemed to meet his match when he went head-to-head with our man, Bob Ryan, who in addition to being a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame is also a consummate baseball man, with an amazing encyclopedic knowledge of the game and equally amazing recall of every game he's ever watched and/or covered for the Globe, and then some.

So when Ryan raised his hand to ask Knight, ``Coach what do you most like about the make up of this team and what concerns you about it?'' Knight playfully pointed out, ``Where did you get that tan?''

``Florida, spring training,'' Ryan replied, ``hanging out with your buddy [Tony] La Russa, among others. So what do you you like about your team . . .?''

Knight, looking to throw Ryan off his game, replied, ``What do you like most about the Cardinals?''

It was a softball serve Ryan was only too happy to bat out of the ballpark when he shot back, ``Albert Pujols.''

In what had to rank as an NCAA Tournament first, Knight was momentarily silenced at his press conference, if not stumped.

``That's a brilliant answer for a writer, I want to tell you,'' Knight said, in a laudatory tone. ``I'm not kidding you, that is really good. I mean you kind of stuck it to me with that answer, I can tell you. I didn't think you could come up with an answer that good; that is REALLY good.''

Knight then proceeded to thoughtfully answer Ryan's original query.

At the conclusion of his press conference, Knight metaphorically doffed his cap (Cardinals, we presume) at Ryan, saying before he arose from the dais, ``Pujols! Pujols! I'll be laying, taking my dying breath, and my wife will say, `What are you thinking about? I'll look up at her and say, `Karen, you cannot believe that sonofabitch Ryan came up with Pujols.' ''

Thomas Sowell: Global Warming Swindle

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The British Broadcasting Corporation has produced a devastating documentary titled "The Great Global Warming Swindle." It has apparently not been broadcast by any of the networks in the United States. But, fortunately, it is available on the Internet.

Distinguished scientists specializing in climate and climate-related fields talk in plain English and present readily understood graphs showing what a crock the current global warming hysteria is.

These include scientists from MIT and top-tier universities in a number of countries. Some of these are scientists whose names were paraded on some of the global warming publications that are being promoted in the media -- but who state plainly that they neither wrote those publications nor approved them.

One scientist threatened to sue unless his name was removed.

While the public has been led to believe that "all" the leading scientists buy the global warming hysteria and the political agenda that goes with it, in fact the official reports from the United Nations or the National Academy of Sciences are written by bureaucrats -- and then garnished with the names of leading scientists who were "consulted," but whose contrary conclusions have been ignored.

There is no question that the globe is warming but it has warmed and cooled before, and is not as warm today as it was some centuries ago, before there were any automobiles and before there was as much burning of fossil fuels as today.

None of the dire things predicted today happened then.

The BBC documentary goes into some of the many factors that have caused the earth to warm and cool for centuries, including changes in activities on the sun, 93 million miles away and wholly beyond the jurisdiction of the Kyoto treaty.

According to these climate scientists, human activities have very little effect on the climate, compared to many other factors, from volcanoes to clouds.

These climate scientists likewise debunk the mathematical models that have been used to hype global warming hysteria, even though hard evidence stretching back over centuries contradicts these models.

What is even scarier than seeing how easily the public, the media, and the politicians have been manipulated and stampeded, is discovering how much effort has been put into silencing scientists who dare to say that the emperor has no clothes.

Academics who jump on the global warming bandwagon are far more likely to get big research grants than those who express doubts -- and research is the lifeblood of an academic career at leading universities.

Environmental movements around the world are committed to global warming hysteria and nowhere more so than on college and university campuses, where they can harass those who say otherwise. One of the scientists interviewed on the BBC documentary reported getting death threats.

In politics, even conservative Republicans seem to have taken the view that, if you can't lick 'em, join 'em. So have big corporations, which have joined the stampede.

This only enables the green crusaders to declare at every opportunity that "everybody" believes the global warming scenario, except for a scattered few "deniers" who are likened to Holocaust deniers.

The difference is that we have the hardest and most painful evidence that there was a Holocaust. But, for the global warming scenario that is causing such hysteria, we have only a movie made by a politician and mathematical models whose results change drastically when you change a few of the arbitrarily selected variables.

No one denies that temperatures are about a degree warmer than they were a century ago.

What the climate scientists in the BBC documentary deny is that you can mindlessly extrapolate that, or that we are headed for a climate catastrophe if we don't take drastic steps that could cause an economic catastrophe.

"Global warming" is just the latest in a long line of hysterical crusades to which we seem to be increasingly susceptible.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wives United by Husbands’ Post-N.F.L. Trauma

John Mackey, left, and Ralph Wenzel were both on the San Diego Chargers in 1972, but have no memory of playing together.

The New York Tmes
March 14, 2007

ANNAPOLIS, Md., March 9 — The night that Sylvia Mackey and Eleanor Perfetto first met, back in October at a Baltimore Ravens reception for former National Football League players and their families, their connection was immediate. As she sat on a couch with her husband, Mrs. Mackey watched Dr. Perfetto cradle the hand of her husband as he blankly shuffled across the floor toward the Mackeys.

“Your husband has dementia,” Mrs. Mackey said.

“Yours does, too,” Dr. Perfetto replied.

“We both just knew,” Dr. Perfetto recalled on Friday, when the two visited the assisted-living facility where Dr. Perfetto’s husband, Ralph Wenzel, resides. Mrs. Mackey quickly added, “You can see it in the wives’ faces just like the husbands’.”

On that evening last October, Mrs. Mackey added another N.F.L. wife to her growing network of women who seek her guidance and support as their husbands deteriorate mentally. Her husband, John, was a Hall of Fame tight end for the Baltimore Colts in the late 1960s and early ’70s, and is probably the most notable victim of dementia among former football players. Mrs. Mackey said that she regularly communicates with about 10 women like Dr. Perfetto as they learn to handle their husbands’ dementia, which often begins as early as their 50s.

“I know about 20 in all,” Mrs. Mackey said. “And if I know 20, there are probably 60 or 80 out there.”

Last May, Mrs. Mackey wrote a three-page letter to Paul Tagliabue, the N.F.L. commissioner at the time, detailing John Mackey’s decline, the financial ruin it would soon cause her, and how the Mackeys were not the only couple facing such a crisis at a time when the league’s coffers are bursting. She wrote that dementia “is a slow, deteriorating, ugly, caregiver-killing, degenerative, brain-destroying tragic horror,” and appealed to Mr. Tagliabue to help.

The result was the formation of the 88 Plan, a joint effort between the league and the N.F.L. Players Association named after John Mackey’s jersey number. Under the plan, families of former players who have various forms of dementia can receive money for their care and treatment — up to $88,000 a year if the player must live in an outside facility, and up to $50,000 a year if the player is cared for at home.

The first applications were mailed in late February to families of 22 former players who are already known to have dementia, including Mr. Mackey, 65, and Mr. Wenzel, 64. No family has received any money yet. The N.F.L. spokesman Greg Aiello said the league would be aggressive in informing other families about the plan.

Although both the league and the players union are quick to deny any connection between someone’s having played football and later cognitive failure — in an e-mail message, Mr. Aiello described dementia as a condition “that affects many elderly people” — the 88 Plan has been created at a time of heightened scrutiny of the effects of brain injuries among football players.

In January, a neuropathologist who examined the brain of Andre Waters, the former Philadelphia Eagles player who committed suicide last fall at 44, said that repeated concussions had led to Mr. Waters’s brain tissue resembling that of an 80-year-old with Alzheimer’s disease. And last month, the doctors of the former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, 34, said he was exhibiting the depression and memory lapses associated with oncoming Alzheimer’s.

Coming Up With a Plan

Former players who have dementia do not qualify for the N.F.L.’s disability insurance program, because neither the league nor the union consider their conditions football-related, a stance that has been cast in doubt by several scientific studies. Dr. Perfetto said that Mr. Wenzel’s neurologist had determined that on-field brain trauma was the probable cause of his Alzheimer’s-type dementia. In more lucid times Mr. Wenzel estimated his number of concussions as “more than I can count.”

Sylvia Mackey said that the cause of her husband’s frontal temporal dementia was less clear, but that his football collisions — including one headfirst impact with a goal post at full speed — were the likely culprit.

“I have been approached many times by lawyers who wanted to use me in a lawsuit — I turned them all down, and I’m glad I did,” Sylvia Mackey said, turning back to the 88 Plan. “This is better, because everyone who is affected will benefit, whether they were stars or Hall of Famers or just regular players like Ralph.”

John Mackey and Ralph Wenzel will almost certainly qualify for aid, as they appear to be textbook cases of dementia among N.F.L. veterans.

Mr. Mackey is a sturdy 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds underneath his trademark black cowboy hat. He’s convivial with fans who remember him, but soon into any interaction quickly demonstrates his mental decline. During lunch on Friday, he used a spoon to drink his coffee, thinking it was soup, and uttered non sequiturs to almost any question, including several repetitions of “I want a cookie” and “I got in the end zone.”

His most prized possessions are two rings, which he repeatedly proffered on his fists. “I got this one for winning Super Bowl V, and this one when they put me in the Hall of Fame,” he said several times. The rings are so precious to him that last year, when airport security screeners asked him to remove them, he grew enraged, ran toward the gate and had to be wrestled to the ground, screaming, by armed officials.

“I was afraid they might shoot him dead,” Sylvia Mackey said. She no longer lets him fly; when the two traveled from Baltimore to Miami for this year’s Super Bowl, they rode Amtrak for 28 hours. When they are home in Baltimore, John regularly attends an adult day-care facility that costs $76 a day, with 24-hour care on the near horizon.

Mr. Wenzel’s dementia is far more apparent than Mr. Mackey’s. Mr. Wenzel walks gingerly, rarely mumbles more than a few nonsensical syllables before growing tired or tongue-tied, and cannot feed himself. He can offer no memories of his N.F.L. career, whether they are about the position he played (offensive line), his seasons (1966-73), his teams (the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers) or his teammates.

“Do you remember playing with Lloyd Voss?” his wife asked, trying to give his memory some traction.

“No,” he said.

“Your best friend?”

“Nah,” Mr. Wenzel said as his head drooped further.

Dr. Perfetto, Mr. Wenzel’s second wife, found she could no longer care for her husband in their home in Stevensville, Md. In February she moved him to the Annapolitan Assisted Living Community at the cost of about $65,000 a year. His building’s doors are locked and guarded so the residents do not wander away.

Families Facing Bankruptcy

A senior director in health policy for Pfizer, Dr. Perfetto, 48, said that caring for her husband would eventually bankrupt her retirement accounts. (Mr. Wenzel receives a monthly N.F.L. pension of $925.) Sylvia Mackey, 65, returned to work as a flight attendant for United Air Lines several years ago solely because her husband’s pension, now $2,450 a month, fell well below their living costs. She said that if it were not for the funds from the 88 Plan, she would have to sell her home, particularly when her husband needs institutionalization. The paradox of veterans of the N.F.L., a $6 billion-a-year business, struggling to pay medical bills is compounded by another, far less obvious fact. Dr. Perfetto said that she had trouble finding a home that would accept Mr. Wenzel because victims of Alzheimer’s-type diseases occasionally become violent, and former football players of his size (6 feet 2 and 215 pounds) are difficult for staff members to subdue.

“These facilities are used to older people who are fairly decrepit — who have strokes or blindness or use a walker, that sort of thing,” Dr. Perfetto said.

Dr. Perfetto said that while she hoped to receive assistance from the 88 Plan, she remained cautious. Many former N.F.L. players and their families have complained that the league’s disability insurance system is far too strict, with thresholds too high and hurdles too numerous for the deserving to get help. This skepticism is shared by Sharon Hawkins, who will be applying for 88 Plan assistance on behalf of her husband, Wayne, a former offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders from 1960-69 who receives at-home care for his increasing dementia.

“I’m full of hope that we’ll be able to get it,” Mrs. Hawkins, who lives in Reno, Nev., said in a telephone interview. “Until something has really happened the way they say it will, I’m reserving judgment.”

Gene Upshaw, executive director of the N.F.L. Players Association and the target of many veterans’ dissatisfaction with the disability system, said in a telephone interview that he understood Mrs. Hawkins’s doubt and agreed that there was too much red tape.

He said that even though 88 Plan awards would be determined by the same six-member panel (split evenly among appointees of the league and the union) as the league’s existing disability plan, he pledged that the 88 Plan would be handled differently.

“There will not be any red tape,” Upshaw said. “There will not be any hurdles to overcome.”

No Memories at All

Meeting up with old teammates is supposed to ease the pain among hurting N.F.L. veterans, but that was not the case with Mr. Mackey and Mr. Wenzel. They played together on the 1972 Chargers, even blocking on the same offensive line, but neither has any memory of it. Neither remembers playing for the Chargers at all.

Even after spending two hours together, and being reintroduced several times, neither man knew the other’s name.

“Do you remember playing with Ralph at all, John?” Mr. Mackey was asked.

“Who’s Ralph?” Mr. Mackey replied.

“The guy sitting to your left.”

“You’re Ralph?” he asked Mr. Wenzel.


“I’m John Mackey,” he declared, staring blankly ahead.

Sylvia Mackey and Eleanor Perfetto looked on, hoping to see some glint of recognition in their husbands’ eyes. But the only sign of recognition in the room was between the two women when they turned to look at each other and smiled sadly, their connection only growing as their husbands’ disappeared.

Steve Emerson: Threatened by the Jihad

Steve Emerson

March 14, 2007

On January 26, 2007, I appeared on Fox News Channel’s Hannity and Colmes program to discuss a January 8, 2007 meeting between the Attorney General of the United States and various Muslim and Arab groups, some of which have a long history of supporting terrorist groups and extremist ideologies. In response to a question from Alan Colmes about the importance of “good relations” between Attorney General Gonzales and the Muslim community, I stated, “[b]ut when you say the ‘Muslim community’ – [the Attorney General] is anointing them representatives of the Muslim community, when in fact there are many others who support the war on terrorism, who don't tell their members not to cooperate with the FBI, who don't support Hamas and Hezbollah, unlike members of this group. So, in fact, I think it's wrong to confer legitimacy on those very organizations that inhibit cooperation with the FBI, that support Hamas or justify Hezbollah, and who are radical in terms of portraying the war on terrorism as a war against Islam.”

On February 16, 2007, MPAC’s lawyer sent me a letter demanding an apology for my allegedly “[f]alse statements about the Muslim Public Affairs Council on Hannity and Colmes.” The letter demands that I “immediately issue a public apology and … cease and desist from making false statements about MPAC,” and that “MPAC is willing to pursue all available legal remedies” should I not comply with MPAC’s demands.

And what are the allegedly “false statements” MPAC is claiming I made? That “MPAC told its ‘members not to cooperate with the FBI,’” and that MPAC “are the ones radicalizing their community.” Now let’s analyze those charges by looking at MPAC’s own words.

First, that MPAC has instructed American Muslims not to cooperate with the FBI:

MPAC and its lawyers claim this to be untrue. But at a July 1, 2005 ISNA conference in Dallas, MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati did just that. Al-Marayati, speaking of the FBI’s terrorism investigation in Lodi and the use of Muslim informants in that case, California, told the assembled crowd of Muslim-Americans, “[c]ounter-terrorism and counter-violence should be defined by us. We should define how an effective counter-terrorism policy should be pursued in this country. So, number one, we reject any effort, notion, suggestion that Muslims should start spying on one another.” Right there, Al-Marayati is instructing Muslim Americans to not even attempt to observe any extremism or terrorist activity in their community, and even if they should observe something troubling, to not inform law enforcement authorities, that the duty owed to the Muslim community by the government is greater than to society at large.

And Al-Marayati continued, “Law enforcement is going to come to your mosque. It already has as far as I can tell. Everywhere I go, either somebody tells me that officials have met with them publicly or they tell me that they know who those folks are that are representing law enforcement. So we know they have communicated one way or the other with the Muslim community. The question is how do you deal with it in a healthy, open, transparent manner. That is why we are saying have them come in community forums, in open-dialogues, so they come through the front door and you prevent them having to come from the back door.”

Here, Al-Marayati is instructing Muslim Americans not to cooperate with the FBI’s preferred methods of investigation, and that, as he stated earlier, it is the Muslim community, and its so-called leaders, that should define the terms of the FBI’s investigation. That approach can hardly be described as full-fledged cooperation with law enforcement. Far from it, in fact. Al-Marayati used the Lodi case as an excuse to tell Muslim Americans not to deal with the FBI directly. Demanding that the American Muslim community only work with FBI agents and other law enforcement in public forums clearly detracts from the ability of investigators to do their job, which is to protect American citizens from the threat of radical Islamist terrorists. MPAC, and groups like it, are also clearly seeking to intrude into and ultimately to dominate the relationship between the law enforcement and the Muslim community, ensuring that the degree of allowable cooperation is regulated by these self-appointed leaders.

And why did Mr. Al-Marayati not urge his listeners in Dallas that they should extend full cooperation to the FBI and law enforcement community at every instance, rather than to demand a specific approach which is debilitating from an investigatory standpoint? Or that law abiding American Muslims need some sort of self-appointed intermediary when working with the FBI? And how can people feel comfortable providing information to law enforcement if they can only do so in an open forum? I will leave that to the reader to decide. But one thing is clear: MPAC is on the record telling American Muslims not to directly cooperate with the FBI, while at the same time advocating an impractical or impossible way for those who actually have information to relay it to law enforcement.

Now let’s analyze the other alleged “false statement”: that MPAC serves to radicalize the American Muslim community:

This claim is even easier to demonstrate, as MPAC officials give speeches and quotes to the media that can only serve to alienate and radicalize Muslims who hear them. The constant refrain: a conspiracy theory that the War on Terror is a contrivance of the U.S. government and is really a “War against Islam.” Such a conspiracy dismissed legitimate efforts by law enforcement to fight terrorism and terrorist financing perpetrated on U.S. soil. By virtue of the sheer number of times MPAC officials (and, for that matter, officials of other U.S.-based Islamist groups,) have made that claim, it is impossible to include them all here. But here are several instances that easily serve to make the point:

· Aslam Abdullah, MPAC Vice Chairman and Editor of the MPAC-linked magazine, the Minaret, in a 2002 online forum entitled, “The Truth behind America's War on Terrorism,” wrote, “[t]here are three specific lobbies that are turning the ongoing war on terrorism against Islam. The Christian Evangelicals who want to see Muslims converted, the political Zionists who want to see Muslim [sic] politically obliterated, and the Hindu Extremists who want to see Muslim [sic] humiliated…Mr. Bush and his administration have not been able to challenge these lobbies. Many members of these lobbies are in the administration and in FBI, law enforcement and even Congress.”[1]

· MPAC “hate crime prevention coordinator” in May 2004, speaking to the Inter Press Service article reported, “The war on terror is a war, really, on a community that is being connected to the (9/11) hijackers.”[2]

· In a January 2002 article in the Minaret, stated that, “[s]ince the Sept. 11 attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the U.S. government has pursued a policy where it has targeted Islamic, Arab and Palestinian organizations and individuals, in a manner that often lacks legal legitimacy.”[3]

· And al-Marayati, in the Los Angeles Times in March 2003, blasted “the FBI’s policy of targeting people because of their race and religion.” He added, “That’s what they’ve been doing since the attacks, and we don’t know of any case that has resulted in the arrest, indictment or prosecution of a terrorist.”[4]

A recent study conducted by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has concluded that the repeated use of “War on Islam” mantra is directly related to the radicalization of the “homegrown” jihadists.[5]

Al-Marayati also infamously told an L.A. radio station after 9/11, “[i]f we’re going to look at suspects we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list,” engaging in the very kind of conspiracy theories heard in the most radical quarters around the globe. Additionally, MPAC officials have defended Hezbollah, blasted the U.S. government for actions taken to stop the funding of Hamas by U.S. front organizations, and repeatedly defended convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami al-Arian, downplaying his jihadist exhortations and claiming that his prosecution was merely “political.”

As a well-known analyst of militant Islamist groups in the United States, I have been a target of a vicious smear campaign by organizations which are afraid of having the bright light of day shone on their words and deeds. For example, in December 2004, MPAC, published a “policy” paper titled “Counterproductive Counterterrorism,” in which more than 20 of the 48 pages were at their core a personal hit piece against me. And after failing to de-legitimize me through character assassination, MPAC is now threatening to silence me using the court system.

Legal action has become a mainstay of radical Islamist organizations seeking to intimidate and silence their critics. In September 2005, journalist Robert King, writing in the Indianapolis Star, outlined the strategy[6]:

Sayyid Syeed, the secretary general of ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), a group generally less vocal than CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), earlier in the weekend said his organization is considering filing defamation lawsuits against some of its sharpest critics.

King goes on to write that one of the potential targets frequently cited by America’s Muslim leaders is yours truly. And why is that? Because I have spent more than a decade exposing radical Islamists in the United States, many of whom are functioning in leadership capacities in these very groups in question. CAIR by the way, as King noted, has repeatedly taken to the courts, fortunately with very little success, to stifle criticism. Thankfully, the First Amendment protections granted by the U.S. Constitution do not favor this latest tactic employed by the Islamist groups.

MPAC cannot stand to have its agenda exposed, especially when it comes in the form of having its own words, and the words of its officials, used against them. In their minds, any such efforts need to be stifled. MPAC’s smear tactics have not worked, and as such, their lawyers have now stated that “MPAC is willing to pursue all available legal remedies” to silence me. MPAC’s bullying attempt to stifle free speech will not stand. Such tactics should be vigorously opposed, and MPAC, like CAIR before it, must learn that legal threats will not work to stifle legitimate criticism, especially when the facts underlying the criticism are both well documented, and as is often the case, straight out of the horse’s mouth, so to speak.


[1] Aslam Abdullah, “The Truth Behind America’s War on Terrorism,” November 30, 2002,

[2] Amantha Perera, “US Muslims Fear Second Term for Patriot Act,” Inter Press Service, May 7, 2004.

[3] “Relief Groups Shut Down,” The Minaret, January 2002.

[4] H.G. Reza, “FBI Has a Pledge and a Request for Muslims,” The Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2003.

[5] Stewart Bell, “Jihadization of youth a 'rapid process'; CSIS: Study Of Extremism,” National Post, January 26, 2007.

[6] Robert King, “Muslims aim to challenge critics in America; Convention seminar focuses on best ways for followers to respond when their faith is attacked,” Indianapolis Star, September 5, 2005,

Steven Emerson is the author of Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fred Thompson considers running

By William Rusher
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The battle for the Republican presidential nomination underwent a major transformation last weekend when Fred Thompson told Chris Wallace of the Fox News Channel that he is considering entering the race. This is no minor development. Bob Beckel, Clinton's longtime press secretary and now a Democratic commentator for Fox, promptly asserted that Thompson is the only possible Republican contender "who scares me," and he is right to worry.

Thompson first attracted national notice as the Republican minority counsel in Congress's investigation of the Watergate scandal. Television viewers liked the imperturbable figure they saw, and parts in various Hollywood movies came Thompson's way. Then, in 1994, Thompson was elected to the U.S. Senate in a landslide to fill the remainder of Al Gore's term, which Gore had vacated on his election as vice president in 1992. Thompson was elected to a full term in 1996, and served as chairman of the Senate's Governmental Affairs Committee.

In 2002, Thompson's prospects for re-election were rosy but, perhaps understandably, he opted to retire from the Senate and earn substantially more money for himself and his family as an actor. He was promptly snapped up by the wildly popular television series "Law & Order," which cast him as the wise and avuncular district attorney who oversaw its criminal prosecutions.

And recently, the Bush Justice Department enlisted him to accompany Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito on their visits to key senators when their nominations were up for ratification. The counsel of a shrewd former senator was judged of high value to the nominees.

Thompson has not yet officially thrown his hat into the 2008 ring, but his statement to Fox News was clearly intended to call attention to the possibility, and test the waters.

It is a major development because Thompson has so many undeniable qualifications for the nomination. First and foremost, he is a true-blue conservative, comfortable with all the positions on social issues (abortion, gay rights, gun control, etc.) that give Rudy Giuliani so much difficulty and that have inspired John McCain and Mitt Romney to "flip-flop" in recent years to curry favor with social conservatives. In the second place, he is (as his television career demonstrates) an immensely attractive personality at 64, with a rumpled and thoughtful charm. Thirdly, his service for eight years in the U.S. Senate (four times Barack Obama's current tenure) attests to his success as a political leader. And finally, he hails from a border state -- Tennessee -- with all that implies for electability in the South and elsewhere.

Thompson's biggest disadvantage may be that he is entering the race rather late, as things seem to be shaping up this year. Many of the big donors, and most of the knowledgeable campaign managers, have already been signed up by one or another of the candidates who have preceded him into the race.

But in another respect his timing is impeccable. The millions of conservative voters who constitute the Republican Party's base, and whose support is going to be indispensable to any nominee who hopes to win the election, have had visible difficulty generating great enthusiasm for any of the other candidates. Giuliani is an outspoken liberal on a good many important issues. McCain is a bad-tempered maverick who has been all over the map. Romney is a latecomer to various conservative causes, and anyway he's a Mormon. But Thompson is a loveable natural-born conservative without a flyspeck on his record. If he wades into the race, he may excite conservatives as much as Obama excites liberals, political journalists and war protesters.

And by the way, if his critics try to dismiss him as just (or mostly) "an actor," don't forget what happened the last time they tried that.

William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .

David Kahane: 300 Shocker

March 12, 2007 8:15 AM

Hollywood takes a detour to reality.

Okay, this is weird.

Since about, oh, September 12, 2001, every writer, producer, director, and suit in this town has known one thing to be true: Don’t make fun of our so-called “enemies.”

Don’t stereotype them as bad guys. Don’t mock their beliefs. Don’t even mention their names. And for heaven’s sake, don’t make them mad.

Instead, try to understand them. Celebrate their diversity. And realize that, in a world (as the voice on the trailer intones) in which black is really white, up is really down, an attack is really self-defense and self-defense is really a provocation, we ourselves are actually the enemy.

This made things really easy. Out went any script that ascribed anything but the purest of motives to Arabs, Iranians, and Muslims. Back came everybody’s favorite villains: ex- and neo-Nazis (I haven’t met any, but I hear they’re everywhere) and crazed Christian fundamentalists, lurking out there in flyover country, itching to pull the triggers to establish a theocracy in a country we all know perfectly well was founded by unarmed vegetarian multicultural atheists.

Not even Jim Cameron could get a picture like 1994’s True Lies — in which the current governor of California slaughters hundreds of Arab terrorists single-handedly — made anymore, and he’s the King of the World. Instead, we got things like Kingdom of Heaven, in which the Christian ruler of Jerusalem becomes a hero by surrendering the Holy Land to the noble Saladin.

So now along comes a bunch of schmucks nobody’s ever heard of — graphic novelist Frank Miller, director Zack Snyder, and a couple of other writers — to pull in $70 million over the weekend with a movie about a handful of brave warriors who stand up against the limitless central-Asian hordes, iron men vs. effeminate oriental voluptuaries, and patriots against robotic slaves. How was this picture allowed to be made?

I’m talking, of course, about 300, a gory retelling of the Spartans’ defense at Thermopylae, which has got the whole town buzzing, and not just about its first-weekend grosses. Is it an ode to Riefensthalian fascist militarism? A thinly veiled attack on the Bush administration‘s insane war-mongering? Or is it something else?

Help me out here, because I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around a few things: When, early in the film, a sneering Persian emissary insults King Leonidas’s hot wife, threatens the kingdom, and rages about “blasphemy,” the king kicks him down a bottomless well. And yet nobody in Sparta asks, “Why do they hate us?” and seeks to find common ground with the Persians on their doorstep. Why not?

The Spartans mock the god-king Xerxes (whose traveling throne resembles a particularly louche Brazilian gay-pride carnival float), mow down his armored “immortal” holy warriors clad is nothing but red cloaks, loincloths, and sandals, and generally give their last full measure to defend Greek civilization against superstition and tyranny. Where are the liberal Spartan voices raised in protest against this blatant homophobia, xenophobia, and racism?

The only way this bunch of refugees from a Village People show can whup our heroes is by dangling some dubious hookers in front of a horny hunchback who makes Quasimodo look like Tom Cruise, and by bribing a corrupt legislator to tie up reinforcements with various legalistic maneuvers. When the queen finally kills the councilor, the others call him a “traitor.” Isn’t that both blaming the victim and questioning his patriotism?

You’d think 300 was a metaphor for something…

I heard the other day that one of the creators of this film is… yes, a closet conservative. And now he, whoever he is, is a rich closet conservative.

As screenwriter-god Bill Goldman says, it’s all about the next job. So that noise you hear this morning is the wind created by hundreds of writers from Playa del Rey to Santa Barbara, sticking their fingers in the air to see if the wind’s suddenly shifted, wondering if they can shelve their metrosexual Syriana and Babel knockoffs and conjure up some good old-fashioned “men of the West” material.

Because the dirty little secret is, we used to write these movies all the time. Impossible odds. Quixotic causes. Death before surrender. Real all-American stuff, in which our heroes stood up for God and country and defending Princess Leia and getting back home to see their wives and children, with their shields or on them.

And the dirtier little secret is: We loved writing them. Even a blacklisted commie like Carl Foreman came up with High Noon, in which a lone Gary Cooper defends a town full of ungrateful, carping yellowbellies and then throws away his badge in disgust at their cowardice. Sure, John Wayne hated it at the time, but today the Duke would be doing handstands to get his teeth into a part like that.

But then came psychiatrists and psychologists and Ritalin and global warming and racism and sexism and homophobia and the enlightened among us said the hell with John Wayne and Gary Cooper. Hollywood became one big Agatha Christie novel in the last chapter — you know, the one where the survivors of the homicidal maniac gather in the drawing room and realize: The killer must be one of us!

And then came September 11th and that was that. But now, I’m beginning to wonder.

Beginning to wonder if a $70-million opening weekend for a picture that was tracking at $40 million will get somebody’s attention. Beginning to wonder if a movie that has no stars, the look and feel of a video game, and the moral code of the U.S.M.C. might have something to say, even to audiences in New York and L.A.

But most of all, I’m beginning to wonder what it feels like to be the good guy.

— David Kahane is a nom de cyber for a writer in Hollywood. “David Kahane” is borrowed from a screenwriter character in The Player.

Hip-Hop Is Rock ’n’ Roll, and Hall of Fame Likes It

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip-hop act to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The New York Times
Published: March 13, 2007

It’s official: Hip-hop is rock ’n’ roll.

Last night at the Waldorf-Astoria, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, who proved that hip-hop was more than party music with their 1982 hit “The Message,” became the first hip-hop group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Joseph Saddler, better known as the disc jockey and producer Grandmaster Flash, said backstage, “It opens the gates to our culture.”

Jay-Z, the rapper who is chief executive officer of Def Jam Records, handed the awards to the group. Reading his speech from a personal digital assistant, he said, “The shot heard ’round the world was fired from the South Bronx.”

When Melle Mel, the rapper on “The Message,” stepped up to speak, he urged the music executives in the audience to “make hip-hop the culture that it was, instead the culture of violence it is right now.”

Joining the rappers as new members of the Hall of Fame were the poet-turned- punk-rock-pioneer Patti Smith, the three-member girl group the Ronettes, the hard-rock band Van Halen and the Georgia college-town rockers R.E.M.

It was the hall’s first awards ceremony to be broadcast live, on both the cable channel VH1 Classic and on the Web by America Online. VH1 will broadcast an edited version of the ceremony on Saturday at 9 p.m.

On the stage, strong women’s voices dominated the music. Aretha Franklin swooped through “I Never Loved a Man,” singing in tribute to the hall’s founder, Ahmet Ertegun, who died in December. Ronnie Spector belted “Be My Baby” with the Ronettes, and Ms. Smith brought an idealistic fervor to her songs.

Accepting her award, Ms. Smith recalled a kitchen table argument with her husband, Fred Smith, shortly before he died in 1994. “He said to me, ‘Tricia, one day you’re going to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,’ ” Ms. Smith said. “He asked me to accept it like a lady and not say any curse words and to make certain to salute new generations. Because it is the new generations that will redefine the landscape of rock ’n’ roll.”

Still, the epithets arrived when Ms. Smith tossed off her jacket, untucked her shirt and belted a punk anthem about being “outside of society.” She said it was her mother’s favorite song. The night’s closing all-star jam was also one of her songs, “People Have the Power.”

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam paid tribute to R.E.M., saying he had, by his calculations, listened to their album “Murmur” 1,260 times in the summer of 1984. Referring to R.E.M.’s hard-to-understand singer, Michael Stipe, he said, “One of the reasons I was listening so incessantly was I had to know what he was saying,” Mr. Vedder said. “He can hit an emotion with pinpoint accuracy or he can be completely oblique, and it all resonates.”

R.E.M. performed with its original drummer, Bill Berry, who had retired after suffering a brain aneurysm. Mr. Vedder joined R.E.M. onstage to sing “Man on the Moon,” and Ms. Smith joined them for the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” It was a reminder that Iggy Pop and the Stooges, whose music was a cornerstone of punk-rock, have not been elected to the Hall of Fame.

Old feuds were not left behind. The Ronettes, whose hits were triumphs of their producer Phil Spector’s “wall of sound,” pointedly didn’t mention him in speeches that thanked a lifetime of other supporters, including Mr. Spector’s songwriting collaborators and the Ronettes’ arranger, Jack Nitzsche.

The Ronettes

Introducing the Ronettes, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones described hearing the group warming up backstage when they shared touring bills in the 1960s. “They could sing all their way right through a wall of sound,” he said. “They didn’t need anything.”

Ms. Spector, who was married to Mr. Spector from 1968 until 1974, recalled the days of “our dresses slit up the side and our beehives up to here,” pointing well over her head. “All my life, all I ever wanted to do was sing rock ’n’ roll.”

The omission of Mr. Spector’s name reflected a 15-year court battle between the producer and the group. The Ronettes were paid less than $15,000 when they signed with Philles Records in 1964, and never saw another payment. In 1987, the Ronettes sued Mr. Spector — who also wrote their songs and owned their label — for royalties. They won an award of $2.6 million in 2000, but it was overturned on appeal.

After the Ronettes performed last night, Paul Shaffer of “Late Night With David Letterman” — who led the stage band — read a brief congratulatory message from Mr. Spector in which he said, “I wish them all the happiness and good fortune the world has to offer.”

Mr. Spector, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989, meanwhile, is about to go on trial for the 2003 killing of an actress, Lana Clarkson, at his Los Angeles mansion; jury selection is to start on Monday.

Phil Spector

Van Halen, which planned and then canceled a tour this summer with its original singer, David Lee Roth, couldn’t manage a reunion for the Hall of Fame. Its guitarist, Eddie Van Halen, entered a rehabilitation center last Thursday, according to a statement on the band’s Web site, and negotiations over which songs Mr. Roth might perform broke down. Only Van Halen’s bassist, Michael Anthony, and its second lead singer, Sammy Hagar, attended the ceremony. They performed the 1986 hit “Why Can’t This Be Love” with the stage band.

Velvet Revolver, which includes members of Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots, handed the members of Van Halen their awards and performed two additional Van Halen songs.

Mr. Hagar, accepting his award, said, “I couldn’t tell you how much I wish everyone was here tonight. It’s out of our control.” He also thanked the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for including him as a Hall of Fame member, although he did not join Van Halen until 1985, after Mr. Roth left.

“They didn’t have to do that,” Mr. Hagar said. He added that while he regretted the full band wasn’t at the ceremony, “You couldn’t get me from here with a shotgun.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

Adam Lucas: What It Means

North Carolina's Brandan Wright, tournament MVP, holds a piece of the net after beating North Carolina State, 89-80, in the championship game of the Men's Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, March 11, 2007.

Adam Lucas on the win over NC State.

March 11, 2007

TAMPA--What does it mean to you, Reyshawn?

Sometimes it's hard to tell. Carolina's lone starting senior is the master of the poker face. On the court, you might catch him exulting in a big play, but those moments are rare.

When you think about it, not knowing him is the way you know him. Consider this: have you ever felt less knowledgeable about a four-year Tar Heel who played critical minutes as a junior and senior? What does Terry's mother look like? What are his hobbies? Ever seen his girlfriend?

For four years, he's kept it all inside. He has a lighter side, but even his teammates don't always see it.

"Honestly, he's got that same straight face with us that he has with everyone else," freshman Deon Thompson said. "When he shows a lot of emotion, I'm surprised."

Picture a room. It's the day after Carolina's loss at Georgia Tech and popular opinion has it that the wheels are falling off the Tar Heel bus. Shots aren't falling, players are chirping, and Terry is...hurting?

And showing it.

Several players addressed their teammates on that Friday after practice. They had chosen that time with a specific intent--they knew everyone would be there, no one would be late, everyone would be thinking about basketball. And when it came to Terry's turn to speak, he did something entirely unexpected:

He cried.

North Carolina State's Brandon Costner (33) goes for the net under pressure from North Carolina's Brandan Wright during the first half of the championship game of the Men's Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, March 11, 2007.

The Winston-Salem native was trying to explain what his senior season at Carolina meant to him. First, he tried words. "It's so important to me," he said.

The words made an impression, of course. But his tears meant more. Here was the stoic senior, the man whose previous biggest outburst had probably been one of his typical rapid-fire doses of trash talk during a pickup game, and he was simply overwhelmed.

A lot of things were said that day as Friday afternoon turned into Friday evening. None of them made as big an impact as Terry's emotions.

"I was surprised," Ty Lawson said. "Reyshawn is a tough guy. You never see him show anything. When he started crying, I realized how much it meant to him. He felt like we had so much talent and we were losing it. We weren't using what we had to the best of our abilities."

It's always about ability with Terry, isn't it? You've probably said it yourself.

He's got all the ability in the world...

What I wouldn't give to have that ability...

If he ever harnesses that ability...

His first two years, his teammates saw it more than we did. It would come in flashes--a streak of 3-pointers for the Blue team during practice, a particularly vicious dunk during a summer game. What if those flashes--that ability--could happen during a game that meant something?

Sunday, it did.

Understand this: for all the chirping about Tampa as a bad ACC Tournament site, the St. Pete Times Forum turned into a piece of Tobacco Road in the final minutes of the championship game. For just a moment, you forgot the arena on the water and the palm trees and the hotel breakfast area packed with more spring training fans than basketball fans.

It was Carolina and it was State and it felt like every ACC championship game you've seen before. You were standing and you were chewing your nails and you were starting to wonder what kind of horseshoe Sidney Lowe kept in that red jacket pocket.

By the time the Wolfpack closed to 70-69 on the shoulders of a phenomenal effort from Brandon Costner, there were echoes of the Cardiac Pack throughout the arena. There was 1983 and there was 1987, both a long time ago but both also recent enough to sting.

It is into this moment that Terry suddenly introduced himself. He'd watched an extended stretch of the game from the bench. For what reason?

"Um..." Terry said after the game.

"He doesn't have to answer that," Roy Williams quickly interjected. "That's between us."

No matter. What mattered was that the relationship between Terry and Williams has progressed to the point that once the senior made an error, he was allowed to go back in the game and redeem himself. That is a good measure of how far he has come. There was a time when one mistake ended his day.

Not Sunday. Williams has been remarkably patient with his senior. It is a relationship perhaps unlike any the head coach has ever had. Sometimes, this is what makes being a coach worth it. You push and you prod and you wait and you coax and then...


Terry with a jumper. Not the best shot in the world, but it is all net. Have you ever noticed that about Terry's shots? When they are true, they never touch the rim, just rip straight through.

North Carolina's Reyshawn Terry (3) is fouled as he shoots over North Carolina State's Gavin Grant (11) and Ben McCauley (34) during the second half in the championship game of the Men's Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, March 11, 2007.

Terry inside. Terry twisting, drawing the foul, and scoring.

Now, he is feeling it. So it is easy to fire a 3-pointer from in front of the Tar Heel bench with Engin Atsur all over him. It swishes. Of course.

"Engin was all over him on that shot," Sidney Lowe said. "All over him."

It was 8 straight points for Terry, a reigniting of the Tar Heels that eventually led to an ACC title.

This is how he exulted in it:

"When I got back in the game, I felt like I had to give the team a spark," he said. "The opportunity came and I was able to take it."

From his words, it was hard to tell exactly what it meant. He met the media at the podium with a hat pulled low over his face, obscuring his expressive eyes. Wes Miller's hat was backwards, giving a perfect view of how much it meant for a player who came to the Tournament just like you and me--as a fan--for so many years.

Terry was expressionless. What did it mean to him? It was hard to tell.

Not for his teammates. They already knew.

Because he had showed them. In words, in actions, and when it mattered the most.

Adam Lucas's third book on Carolina basketball, The Best Game Ever, chronicles the 1957 national championship season and is available now. His previous books include Going Home Again, focusing on Roy Williams's return to Carolina, and Led By Their Dreams, a collaboration with Steve Kirschner and Matt Bowers on the 2005 championship team.

Robert Spencer: CAIR vs. Human Rights

Press conference with Entisar and Ahmed Bedier, director of C.A.I.R. (Center for Arab Islamic Relations) in Tampa.

March 12, 2007

The St. Petersburg Declaration, issued at the Secular Islam Summit in St. Petersburg, Florida, last week, is the most comprehensive and forthright statement of Islamic reform anyone has yet managed to come up with. Instead of denying the existence of the elements of Islam that are being used around the world today to incite violence and justify oppression – as do all too many putative Islamic reformers and moderates – the St. Petersburg Declaration is firmly rooted in reality, and evinces no interest in fashionable evasions or political correctness.

Confronting directly the elements of Islamic Sharia law that are at variance with otherwise generally accepted principles of human rights, it affirms “the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience,” in contrast to the Muslim prophet Muhammad’s dictum, “If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him” (Bukhari 4.52.260), and calls upon governments to “oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy.” It declares, “We believe in the equality of all human persons,” cutting against the Qur’anic observation that non-Muslims are the “the worst of created beings” (98:6) and that “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves” (48:29).

Challenging the jihadist aspirations to establish a unified Islamic state under the rule of Sharia, the Declaration states: “We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights…. We call on the governments of the world to reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms…”

Anticipating criticism, the Declaration adds: “We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called ‘Islamaphobia’ in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.”

But some do – notably the Council on American Islamic Relations. CAIR’s Ahmed Bedier huffed, “In order to have legitimate reform, you need to have the right messengers.” In an editorial, Investor’s Business Daily gave the perfect response to this: “And who might that be? The four CAIR executives who have been successfully prosecuted on terrorism-related charges? The CAIR co-founder who said the Quran should replace the U.S. Constitution as ‘the highest authority in America’?”

Bedier complained that the Summit was funded by “neoconservatives,” and objected to the Secular Islam Summit because it featured many ex-Muslims, including Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan, and Nonie Darwish. But CAIR’s opposition to the Summit may offer one hint as to why they felt they had to leave the fold. As Tawfik Hamid, author of The Roots of Jihad, told Bedier on the Glenn Beck show, “The truth should be independent of whoever says it.”

That simple fact seems to have eluded CAIR, as it eludes so many these days. Its denunciations of the Secular Islam Summit have focused on speakers there, not on the message. And unfortunately, no journalist has had the presence of mind or the courage to ask any CAIR official point-blank what he or she actually thinks of the content of the St. Petersburg Declaration.

The Council on American Islamic Relations bills itself as “America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group” and claims that “its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” The mainstream media and even many government and law enforcement officials accept it as a moderate group. CAIR officials have worked with the FBI and other organizations at the highest levels.

Yet suspicions persist about the group, due not only to the terror convictions of several of its former officials and the questionable statements of some of its spokesmen, but because it always seems to be on the opposing side of anti-terror efforts, as well as of any honest attempt to examine and reform the elements of Islam that jihadists are using to justify violence today.

In light of all that, the St. Petersburg Declaration offers CAIR a golden opportunity to demonstrate the genuineness of its claim to moderation. Since Hamid’s dictum that the truth is independent of the identity of the speaker is manifestly true, CAIR should declare its support for the St. Petersburg Declaration. Shouldn’t a dedicated and sincere group of Islamic moderates jump at the chance to go on record opposing “all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy,” as well as opposing “female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage”?

Shouldn’t CAIR gladly and without hesitation endorse a statement calling for protection of “sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence” and the elimination of “sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims”? Isn’t CAIR dedicated to protecting “civil liberties”? And as for the developing of “an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation,” wouldn’t such a public atmosphere help CAIR “encourage dialogue” and “build coalitions”?

What’s not to like? CAIR need not worry that endorsing the St. Petersburg Declaration will lead anyone to think they are associated with the “neoconservatives” behind the Summit. But such an endorsement would go a long way toward reassuring people that CAIR is indeed what it presents itself to be, and not a group whose goals are, in fact, quite different from those of the St. Petersburg Declaration.

Reporters should be asking Nihad Awad and Ibrahim Hooper this week: do you endorse the St. Petersburg Declaration? And if not, why not? Don’t tell us, gentlemen, what you think of the people involved. Tell us what you think of the principles expressed and statements made. We are listening. Let the dialogue begin.

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 Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad.