Thursday, April 05, 2007

Kenneth R. Timmerman: Why Iran Released the Hostages

Suited and booted: the sailors held captive for 13 days leave Tehran today wearing clothes given to them by their Iranian captors. They will be reunited with their families in Devon.

Kenneth R. Timmerman

April 5, 2007

The latest looney-tune story from the left was spun by Patrick Cockburn, an intrepid reporter for London’s Independent newspaper. According to this Iranian-sponsored fairy tale, it’s all Bush’s fault.

That’s right. The fact that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards navy seized 15 British sailors and marines and took them hostage in Iraqi waters never would have happened if George W. Bush hadn’t ordered U.S. troops in Iraq to capture Gen. Minojahar Firouzandeh, a top Rev. Guards intelligence officer on Jan. 10, 2007.

It appears that Gen. Firouzandeh was paying a courtesy call to an Iranian “consulate” in Irbil, Iraq, when U.S. and Iraqi troops decided to raid the place. Luckily for Firouzandeh, he and another high-level visitor – said to be Mohammed Jaafari, the deputy chairman of the Supreme Council on National Security – had been tipped off by Iraqi Kurdish friends and high-tailed it out of dodge, just in time.

Instead of Firouzandeh and Jaafari, coalition troops arrested six other Iranians, including three top officers of the Quds Force, the overseas terrorist arm of the Iranian Rev. Guards. One Iranian, who was operating under diplomatic cover, was subsequently released. The other five were caught in the act of trying to eat their passports or otherwise destroy their identity papers and are still in U.S. custody.

Because of America’s audacity in arresting Iranian intelligence officers using a visa office in northern Iraq as a staging area to funnel support to Iraqi insurgents, Iran was compelled to take hostage a team of British sailors who were operating in Iraqi waters at the opposite end of the country. Got that?

According to this version of events, if the United States and Britain would just allow Iran to run roughshod over Iraq, supply terrorists with fresh weapons and suitcases of cash, everything would be just fine.

Cockburn was right about one thing, however. He called the U.S. arrests “a significant escalation in the confrontation between the U.S. and Iran.”

As I revealed on this page not long after the Jan. 10 raid, Iran’s leaders panicked when they heard the news. For only the second time in the 28 years the Iranian mullahs had been jerking the American chain, the Americans finally reacted with something akin to force. (The other time was during a one day battle in the Persian Gulf on April 18, 1988, during which the U.S. navy sunk one-third of the Iranian navy.)

Iran’s leaders respect and fear U.S. military force. Clearly, they neither respect nor fear the Royal Navy. That’s why they chose to take British sailors hostage, not attack a U.S. boarding party or a U.S. ship, although some in the Iranian government were indeed advocating such action.

The decision to release the fifteen British hostages, announced by Ahmadinejad on Wednesday, came after an intense and often bitter internal debate, sources in Tehran told me.

If the capture of the British naval inspection team was clearly a coordinated effort by the Iranian government aimed at demonstrating Iran’s ability to confront the U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq and to divert international attention from the nuclear showdown, the decision to release the hostages showed the limits of Iran’s power and the fears of some leaders that too much provocation could backfire.

Within four days of their capture on March 23, the fifteen Britons were split up into smaller groups and held in different areas, Iranian sources told me. This was a lesson learned from the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, when all 55 U.S. hostages were initially kept in one place, prompting the failed U.S. effort to rescue them.

Early during the current hostage crisis, the British team was split up into five groups of three, to prevent any rescue attempt, with each group kept at a different military base. The Iranians would then bring several groups together and film them, to give the impression they were being held together.

The order to capture the British sailors and marines was given by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself, my sources tell me.

Khamenei’s top advisors argued that by striking out against a U.S. ally in Iraq, they would be sending a message to other European nations to step back from supporting the U.S. strategy of increasing pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. They saw the move as a clear test of Western resolve.

And for awhile, this Iranian strategy appeared to be working.

Britain’s European partners quickly forgot their treaty obligations and determined that the British sailors and marines were not really Europeans, thus obviating the need for a collective response from all members of the European Union.

Although they might carry European Union passports when traveling to Italy or Greece, when British subjects got in trouble in Iran they were Britons first and last.

“C’est vraiment une affaire qui ne passe pas outre-Manche,” the French center-left daily Le Monde commented on Tuesday. Translated into plain English, the French observed (accurately) that nobody on the correct side of the English Channel could give a rat’s behind about the fate of the British hostages. They had too much (commercially) at stake.

Tony Blair’s efforts to get his European partners to consider scaling back export credits to Iran fell on deaf ears. Let’s hope his successors remember that heart-warming European response when the French and the Germans roll-out their next version of a collectivist constitution for the EU’s 25-member states.

British companies, however, rallied to the call and backed off their planned participation in a oil trade show planned in Tehran from April 18-22.

Just before the hostage crisis began, the Iranians boasted that 1,300 international companies had expressed interest in attending the show. On March 30, a British trade representative told me that only 13 UK companies had signed up for the trip. Since then, Iran appears to have pushed the show back by at least a week.

As Britain refused to apologize for the behavior of its boarding party, continuing to insist that they were operating in Iraqi waters – not inside Iran’s territorial waters, as Tehran alleged – some of Khamenei’s advisors began to have second thoughts.

Adding to those doubts were whispered reports that the USS Nimitz was steaming toward the Persian Gulf– making it the third Carrier Strike Group in the area.

The Nimitz is expected to join the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS John C. Stennis, both currently in the Persian Gulf, in the coming weeks. It left its home port of San Diego on April 2, but the Iranians apparently had advance warning of the Nimitz’s plans (hello?)

On Friday, March 30, Khamenei’s top advisors met in an emergency session of the Supreme Council on National Security, chaired by Ali Larijani.

Larijani is the regime’s top nuclear negotiator, and is a confidant of the Supreme Leader, while maintaining close ties to President Ahmadinejad.

At that meeting, Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Rahim Safavi reported that the deployment of the Nimitz suggested that a U.S. military invasion of Iran was being prepared for early May. He urged the Council to order the release of the British hostages as a gesture to defuse the tension in the region.

The next day, however, the head of the Political and Cultural bureau of the Revolutionary Guards, Dr. Yadollah Javani, called Safavi a “traitor” for proposing the release of the hostages.

While this internal dispute raged, Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers in charge of guarding the hostages continued intense debriefings, aimed at eliciting “confessions” from the British captives that were aired on Iranian television.

The first inkling that the faction urging release of the hostages was winning appeared on Tuesday evening, when the influential Baztab website, run by former Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Mohsen Rezai, reported that the British captives would soon be released.

“It can now be said that the politicians who are for continuing relations with London have got the upper hand,” Baztab reported.

So for now, Tehran’s leaders have backed down. Why?

For one, they scored some domestic political points. Britain is not terribly popular in Iran, and is always suspected of some conspiratorial plot aimed at destroying Iran’s territorial integrity or national sovereignty. So any blow against Britain is a sure win for Iranian jingoists.

Second, I am told that the U.S. agreed to an Iranian demand to allow an international Red Crescent team interview the five Iranian officials in U.S. custody after the Jan. 10 raid in Irbil. This is a serious but understandable U.S. concession.

Among the Red Crescent team is an Iranian national, and the chances that he reports directly to the Iranian government are very high. “He will tell the captives to shut up, hang tight, and soon they’ll be free,” my Iranian sources tell me.

But my bets are still on the Nimitz – and on the proximity of the anniversary of Operation Praying Mantis, when the Iranians tasted the steel and cordite of a determined U.S. navy.
Unless Iran already has nuclear warheads, a direct military confrontation with the United States would most likely provoke a popular uprising against the regime. And retaining power is the one thing that Ayatollah Khamenei and his clerical cohorts actually care about.

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Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the
Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Dutch Immigration Disaster: Is It Happening Here?


March 29, 2007

By Bruce Allen Roberts

An Islamic imam calls homosexuals "pigs." One homosexual responds that Islam is "a backward religion," and that the country should close its borders to Muslim immigrants.

This exchange took place in the Netherlands in mid-2001, as Stanford’s Paul M. Sniderman (email him) and the University of Utrecht’s Louk Hagendoorn (email him) detail in their insightful new book When Ways of Life Collide.

The homosexual, Pim Fortuyn, started his own political party and quickly rose to prominence as a candidate for parliament. Nine days before the election, a man named Volkert van der Graaf assassinated Fortuyn, explaining that "he was an ever growing danger who would affect many people in society." Fortuyn’s party won 26 of the 150 seats.

This event, though a microcosm of immigration-influenced tensions, was but a blip on the radar screen. Since then, the Netherlands has continued a policy of internationalism, importing massive numbers of Muslim immigrants. In a decade Muslims will outnumber Dutch in major cities.

Even discounting high-profile acts of violence—the Fortuyn assassination, the Muhammad cartoon riots, the Theo van Gogh murder, Dutch Muslims cheering after 9/11—the trend has had a wide range of negative effects.

For one, the government aggressively promoted Islam, despite the religion’s inconsistency with Dutch values. Sniderman and Hagendoorn write:

"Minority groups are provided instruction in their own language and culture; separate radio and television stations; government funding to import religious leaders; and publicly financed housing set aside for and specifically designed to meet Muslim requirements for strict separation of ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces."

The government also "builds mosques," "supports separate social and welfare arrangements for immigrant minorities; and has established a separate consultation system with community ‘leaders.’"

Some of these "leaders" have even advocated that sharia law apply to civil disputes between Muslims.

Inevitably, this coupling of immigration and multicultural politics has triggered resentment among native Dutch, a phenomenon to which When Ways of Life Collide devotes a considerable portion of its pages. The authors conducted extensive original research, running statistical regressions and factor analyses on their survey data.

Importantly, the polling took place in 1998—years before Fortuyn’s murder and the World Trade Center attack brought Muslim-West tensions to a head. Even so, it was obvious, as the authors argue, that official multiculturalism had planted the seeds for a clash of civilizations.

Some of the more fascinating findings:

* More than 52 percent of Dutch agree strongly or somewhat that "Western European and Muslim ways of life are irreconcilable."

* About 46 percent of Turkish Muslims, and 37 percent of Moroccan Muslims, agree strongly or somewhat that "Western European culture has nothing to contribute to Islam."

* About four in ten Dutch people believe Muslims are "politically untrustworthy."

* Survey respondents were more than willing to express negative stereotypes. More than 40 percent, for example, agreed that Moroccans are not law-abiding. The notion of popular political correctness is a myth, at least in the Netherlands.

* Dutch people respond more strongly to cultural than economic immigration issues.

* When primed to think about cultural identity, people are more likely to express anti-immigration opinions—even if, when not primed, they reported no threat to that identity.

From the mountain of information barely scratched above, the authors put forward the thesis that

"Bringing issues of collective identity to the fore undercuts support for the right of ethnic and religious minorities to follow their own ways of life. Tolerance, not identity, provides the foundation for diversity."

This is the authors’ preferred solution—one consistent with the evidence but not explicitly weighed against alternatives. They do not even mention the most obvious deduction: Muslim immigration has done more harm than good and it should end.

The book’s 15-page closing chapter—mainly the last two pages—lays out a dual-pronged program:

1. Muslims should profess loyalty to their new country, and

2. the Dutch should tolerate Muslims without having to accept Muslim cultural identity in politics.

Both are steps in the right direction, but inadequate.

It’s unclear what the first suggestion even means, exactly: "A pledge of loyalty to the larger society is the basis for, not the antithesis of, diversity." Is such a pledge voluntary, or a visa requirement?

A voluntary pledge presumes a Muslim desire for inclusion—a desire by the authors’ own far from universal. They write:

"Many Muslim immigrants wish to live in liberal societies but not be part of them. They believe that they ought not to be bound by the ground rules of a liberal democracy when they conflict with their religious tenets."

A required loyalty pledge might weed out a few bad apples—Muslims who don’t want to join a new culture and won’t even say they do—but it’s easy enough to lie. A forced loyalty oath is just that, forced.

A political de-multiculturalization may hold a little more promise. As the authors’ data show, the Dutch public reacts most strongly when cultural identity comes to the fore. If the government stopped promoting Islam and acknowledged the validity of "insensitive" criticisms like Fortuyn’s, native resentment would subside…to some degree.

That’s far from certain, though. This solution focuses too much on Dutch sentiments, ignoring one of the main problems: Muslims intimidating their critics, sometimes through murder, thereby threatening core Dutch values like hyper-tolerance and free speech.

It’s clearly counterintuitive that doing less for Muslims will make them friendlier. And the authors make no attempt to convince readers otherwise. Indeed, about 42 percent of Turkish Muslims and half of Moroccan Muslims already agree strongly or somewhat that "West Europeans have no respect for Muslim culture."

Perhaps that’s When Ways of Life Collide’s biggest oversight. Sniderman and Hagendoorn get so wound up in theories of white racism that they ignore Muslims as part of the problem. "How can we get the Dutch to like Muslims?" takes precedence over, "How can we improve Muslim behavior and attitudes?"

The authors believe multiculturalism spurs resentment on both sides. But they only seriously investigate one side. Only two of the book’s 33 tables and figures deal with Muslim poll results.
Stateside readers will wonder how universal the book’s findings are. Taken at face value, America’s immigration dilemma differs from that of the Netherlands’.

For one, here the largest immigrant contingent comes from Mexico. Muslim immigrants have certainly raised their share of hell, from 9/11 to the "flying imams" controversy, but in sheer numbers they do not pose an immediate cultural or economic threat, yet. The U.S.-radical Islam conflict is a war with an immigration dimension—not a relentless mass invasion.

And whatever Hispanics do to low-wage labor and the English language, they’ve never asked American courts to apply Latin American law. The thought is absurd (…maybe. The Supreme Court has cited other countries’ rulings from time to time.)

Two, Americans have a fiercer dedication to their constitution. They let neo-Nazis march in the streets. It’s presumably safe to say the U.S. government won’t extensively fund Muslim religious activities anytime soon. And citizens won’t stand for blatant attacks on free speech.

That said, there are many eerie similarities. Muslims and Mexicans are similarly arrogant in their demands. It might surprise Americans to learn that, as racial preferences went into effect against the electorate’s wishes here, Dutch multicultural policies evolved in a top-down manner.

Elites decided what was best, implementing those views without popular support.

And Dutch left-right cooperation, with the left advocating and the right acquiescing to multiculturalism, must remind Americans of their own internationalist left/free-trade right pro-immigration alliance.

When Ways of Life Collide is an immensely important and meticulously researched contribution to the developed world’s immigration debate.

The data should inform policymakers for years to come—even if the impeccably Establishment authors’ analysis is vague and incomplete at times.

Bruce Allen Roberts (email him) is a writer living in northern Virginia

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Freed British sailors to fly home from Iran tomorrow

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: awarded medals to the coastguards he said had captured the sailors and marines
Last updated at 16:33pm on 4th April 2007

The president of Iran shook hands with the British hostages this afternoon after announcing he was freeing them.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad smiled as he talked through an interpreter to several of the men held captive for 13 days in the capital Tehran. One of them was heard to say to him: "Thanks for releasing us. I wish you success.”

The men were dressed in suits and Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the only woman in the 15-strong patrol of marines and sailors, wore a blue headscarf and pink shirt but it was not thought she had shaken hands with the president.

Mr Ahmadinejad joked when he met one of them, saying: "How are you? So you came on a mandatory holiday?"

It was a bizarre end to a tense international stand-off which began when the Navy personnel were seized at gunpoint by Revolutionary Guards on the Shatt al Arab waterway. The meetingwas clearly staged for the Iranian media but there was no mistaking the relief of the Britons.

Mr Ahmadinejad said he had pardoned them as an Easter present for the British people and to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.

The Navy personnel are said to have shouted for joy on hearing the news and their families were planning to hold parties tonight.

The hardline president's comments came after the UK was said to have begun direct talks for the release of the HMS Cornwall personnel with Iran's chief negotiator Dr Ali Larijani.

Earlier, Mr Ahmadinejad said Iran would never accept trespassing of its territorial waters. "On behalf of the great Iranian people, I would like to thank the Iranian coastguard for courageously defending our Iranian territorial waters," the president added.

He then pinned medals on the chests of three coastguard officers.

President Ahmadinejad honours his naval personnel with medals

President Ahmadinejad homed in on the plight of Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the only female captive, questioning why such a difficult job had been given to a mother. "Why is there no respect for motherhood, affection?" he demanded.

Tony Blair's spokesman said they welcomed the news and said efforts were being made to find out when they would be flown home. One Iranian diplomat spoke of a BA flight out of Tehran tomorrow.

Maggie Batchelor, the sister of the youngest captive Arthur Batchelor, 20, said: "I can't wait to get through that door to see him again. It's such a relief that he's okay and he's well, plus the other lads as well. The other families must be as happy as I am. But I don't think I'll be very happy until he's on that plane."

Brian Rawsthorne, whose grandson Nathan Summers was among those held, said: "We are over the moon. The news hasn't sunk it yet. I think he's handled himself wonderfully." His wife added: "We've been devastated these last thirteen days. They've been the longest of my life."

Iran appeared to be trying to turn the seizure of the patrol, which has been condemned by governments across the world, into a diplomatic victory with a beaming Mr Ahmadinejad speaking to the Navy personnel. One said: "Your people have been very kind to us." Mr Ahmadinejad wished them "good luck" and "success".

"We appreciate it. Your people have been really kind to us, and we appreciate it very much,î one of the sailors could be heard on the footage. Another was heard to say: "We are grateful for your forgiveness." Mr Ahmadinejad responded to him in Farsi: "You are welcome."

In a speech before he announced their release, Mr Ahmadinejad launched into a fierce criticism of British and American foreign policy.

He also criticised Mr Blair for deploying Leading Seaman Turney in the Gulf, pointing out that she is a woman with a child.

"How can you justify sending a mother away from her home, her children? Why don't they respect family values in the West?" L/S Turney has a three-year-old daughter Molly.

The president also appealed in his press conference for a softer approach from the United Nations over Iran's nuclear ambitions. The UN has imposed sanctions against Tehran because of concerns it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Downing Street said: "We welcome what the president has said about the release of our 15 personnel. We are now establishing exactly what this means in terms of the method and timing of their release."

Mr Ahmadinejad said that Mr Blair was wrong to ratchet up the row by taking the issue to the United Nations to try to condemn Iran. However, the release of the Navy crews is likely to be seen as a diplomatic success after the Prime Minister's chief foreign policy adviser Sir Nigel Sheinwald held talks last night with Dr Ali Larijani, Iran's international negotiator.

After their discussions, Downing Street issued an unexpected statement raising the prospect of a swift resolution to the crisis through direct talks.

Mr Ahmadinejad said Iran was not seeking a "confrontation" when it intercepted the British, "but the deplorable conduct of the British government led to the prolonging of this incident."

Iran sparked outrage by parading L/S Turney and other captives on TV "confessing" to having entered Iranian waters, a fact that the UK strongly denies.

Shaver booked in shooting, then played concert after leaving jail

Billy Joe Shaver at Waterloo Records, Austin TX (11/19/02)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

By Cindy V. Culp

Waco Tribune-Herald

Billy Joe Shaver probably didn’t enjoy wearing the orange jumpsuit. But the potential songwriting material he got out of a trip to the McLennan County Jail on Tuesday may have been worth it to the 67-year-old, who’s known for his outlaw country music.

Besides, he was out in plenty of time to attend a release party for his new album Tuesday evening.

“It’s just so great to be anywhere,” an animated and smiling Shaver told an audience of about 200 fans and half a dozen news cameras during his appearance at Austin’s Waterloo Records.

If the Waco native was feeling much stress over recent events, he didn’t show it, flapping his arms during “When the Fallen Angels Fly” and shadowboxing near the end of “Honky Tonk Heroes.” Soaking up all the love, he ended the set by saying, “Don’t forget to pray for me, and tell your kids to pray for me, too.”

A few hours earlier, Shaver had surrendered to local authorities after two warrants were issued for his arrest following a shooting Saturday night at a Lorena bar. He was arraigned by McLennan County Justice of the Peace Kristi DeCluitt, who set bail at $50,000.

Shaver posted bond and was out of the jail by about 2:20 p.m.

He faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawfully carrying a handgun on the premises of a business with a license to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption.

Shaver’s attorney has acknowledged that the singer-songwriter was involved in the shooting, which happened at 8:30 p.m. outside Papa Joe’s Bar, 1505 N. Interstate 35.

But according to the attorney’s version of events, Shaver was acting in self-defense against another bar patron, who was threatening him with a knife.

That story is contradicted, however, by affidavits filed to support Shaver’s arrest. The documents, which were written by Lorena Police Chief John Moran, paint a picture of Shaver as the aggressor.

Shaver and the man police say he shot, 50-year-old Billy Bryant Coker, had been visiting in the bar for about an hour to 1 12 hours before the shooting, according to the affidavits. The two men had not known each other before but were introduced that night by the bar’s owner.

During their conversation, the two men figured out they had something in common, the affidavits say. A cousin of Coker’s had been married to Shaver’s wife, Wanda, before he died.

At some point after that revelation, though, the conversation apparently soured. A woman who was in the bar at the time told police that she saw Shaver and Coker exit the building at the rear, then heard what she believed to be a gunshot, the affidavits said.

When the woman ran outside to see what had happened, she heard Shaver say to Coker, “Tell me you are sorry,” and that “Nobody tells me to shut up.”

Shortly after that, Shaver and his wife left the bar, the woman said.

Corroborated statement

Another man at the bar who said he witnessed the shooting echoed that story, according to the affidavits. He told police that Coker exited the building first, with Shaver following close behind, pistol in hand.

Once outside, Shaver asked Coker, “Where do you want it?” the affidavits say. Shaver then raised his arm level with Coker’s face and fired, hitting Coker in the cheek.

Coker related the same story, the affidavits say. He claims the attack was unprovoked, and he told police it happened after Shaver asked him to step onto the back porch.

No information about Coker was available from a local hospital Tuesday, but Moran said he was in stable condition. According to the affidavits, Coker was alert and talking to police as soon as they arrived on the scene.

The documents also say Shaver has a concealed handgun permit. However, under state law, guns cannot be brought into bars by citizens, regardless of whether they have a permit.

Moran declined to talk about details of the case Tuesday afternoon because it is still under investigation.

Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony, which carries a prison term of two to 20 years. Taking a gun into a bar is a third-degree felony, which is punishable by two to 10 years in prison.

Shaver’s attorney, Austin lawyer Joseph Turner, referred comment to Shaver’s spokesman, Marcus R. Harris., who declined to discuss details of the affidavits or of the shooting. However, he stressed that Shaver is cooperating with authorities.

Harris also said that Shaver is trying to focus on promoting his new album. Asked if he thought the shooting would help or hurt in that endeavor, Harris said Shaver and his record company are just asking fans to continue supporting him.

“Everything went on as scheduled today,” Harris said late Tuesday afternoon. “It is a regular work day. We’re moving forward.”

Shaver’s niche has been writing lyrics that could be called blue-collar poetry. He puts chunks of everyday life, love and loss into plain language that has a grit and passion born from his own experiences and religious faith.

Among the lows that his songs have drawn upon are his problems with drinking and drugs; his stormy-yet-enduring relationship with his late wife, Brenda, whom he married three times; his love and partnership with his son, Eddy; and the pain of dealing with Brenda’s death from cancer and Eddy’s death from a drug overdose.

Shaver first got attention in 1973 with the release of Waylon Jennings’ Honky Tonk Heroes, a pivotal album in the ’70s outlaw country music movement. He wrote all but one cut on the work. Other popular songs he has written include “Georgia on a Fast Train” and “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal.”

Although Shaver hasn’t had much luck on the charts with his more than 20 albums, his songs have been covered by many famous performers. They include Johnny Cash, the Allman Brothers, John Hartford, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, John Anderson, Bob Dylan, Tom T. Hall, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones and more than a dozen others.

The Austin American-Statesman contributed to this story.

Michelle Malkin: Whitewashing Jihad in the Schools

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Three years ago, I wrote about a mock terrorism drill at a public school district in Muskegon County, Mich. Instead of Islamic terrorists, educators substituted Christian homeschoolers. Yes, Christian homeschoolers. Here was the description of the school drill plan:

"The exercise will simulate an attack by a fictitious radical group called Wackos Against Schools and Education who believe everyone should be homeschooled. Under the scenario, a bomb is placed on the bus and is detonated while the bus is traveling on Durham, causing the bus to land on its side and fill with smoke."

Flabbergasting, but true. In the wake of 9/11 and the jihadists' carnage against schoolchildren in Beslan, Russia, the school chose to prepare their students for an attack by Christian homeschooling "wackos," not Muslim suicide bombers.

Unfortunately, little has changed. Last month, New Jersey's Burlington Township High School held its own mock terrorism drill. "You perform as you practice," Superintendent Chris Manno told the Burlington County Times. "We need to practice under conditions as real as possible in order to evaluate our procedures and plans so that they're as effective as possible."

But the "real as possible" conditions included no bomb-vest-donning jihadists shouting "Allahu Akbar." No red bandana-wearing martyrs with visions of 72 virgins dancing in their evil heads. No America-hating plotters enraged by the existence of Israel or driven to establish a worldwide caliphate. Nope.

According to the paper, two local police detectives took on the role of hostage-taking Christian gunmen.

"Investigators described them as members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the 'New Crusaders' who don't believe in separation of church and state. The mock gunmen went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class." Upset Christian students reported on the drill to their parents.

How many other jihad-whitewashing mock terrorism drills have been conducted using tax dollars? How long before we mimic the British schools, where the Holocaust is being dropped from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils?

American educators have been bending to the will of the grievance-mongers ever since the 9/11 attacks. Remember the jihad-sympathizing admonition included in the NEA's touchy-feely, post-9/11 curriculum: "Do not suggest that any group is responsible" for the terrorist attacks, parents and teachers were advised.

But feel free to conjure up homeschooling "wackos" and Christian "New Crusaders" to avoid offending the Muslim lobby.

Here is a "real as possible" scenario. Last month, you'll recall, counterterrorism officials sent cautionary bulletins to police departments nationwide warning that suspected members of extremist groups have signed up as school bus drivers in the United States. The "extremists" being investigated by the FBI and other agencies are foreigners who have been able to "purchase buses and acquire licenses."

Who are these "extremists"? Hint: They are not Presbyterian or Lutheran or Catholic homeschooling wackos.

In Indonesia last month, a theological school was reportedly attacked by religious terrorists in Jakarta. The school was evangelical Christian. The terrorists were Muslim. In southern Thailand, attackers hurled explosives and opened fire on an Islamic school, killing three students. According to reports, police believe that Muslim insurgents staged the attack in an attempt to convince villagers that authorities were responsible -- a ploy to win villagers over to the insurgents' cause.

And in the name of winning Iraqis over to their blood-stained cause this week, a suicide truck bomber carrying food supplies killed eight Iraqi schoolgirls and a baby in the northern oil city of Kirkuk. The truck bomber was a crusader, all right. But not the kind American students are being taught to drill against in their make-believe bubbles.

In our government institutions of perpetual ignorance maintenance, "D" is for dhimmitude. They are teaching our children all too well.

Michelle Malkin makes news and waves with a unique combination of investigative journalism and incisive commentary. She is the author of Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild.

Thomas Sowell: Playing With Fire

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, right, is welcomed by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, left, upon her arrival at the Lebanese government house in Beirut, Lebanon, on Monday April 2, 2007.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Congressman Tom Lantos, who is a member of the delegation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading to Syria, put the mission clearly when he said: "We have an alternative Democratic foreign policy."

Democrats can have any foreign policy they want -- if and when they are elected to the White House.

Until Nancy Pelosi came along, it was understood by all that we had only one president at a time and -- like him or not -- he alone had the Constitutional authority to speak for this country to foreign nations, especially in wartime.

All that Pelosi's trip can accomplish is to advertise American disunity to a terrorist-sponsoring nation in the Middle East while we are in a war there. That in turn can only embolden the Syrians to exploit the lack of unified resolve in Washington by stepping up their efforts to destabilize Iraq and the Middle East in general.

Members of the opposition party, whichever party that might be at a given time, knew that their role was not to intervene abroad themselves to undermine this country's foreign policy, however much they might criticize it at home.

During the Second World War, the defeated Republican presidential candidate, Wendell Wilkie, even acted as President Roosevelt's personal envoy to British Prime Minister Churchill.

He understood that we were all in this together, however we might disagree among ourselves about the best course to follow.

Today, Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Democrats are stepping in to carry out their own foreign policy and even their own military policy on troop deployment -- all the while denying that they are intruding on the president's authority.

They are doing the same thing domestically by making a big media circus over the fact that the Bush administration fired eight U.S. attorneys. These attorneys are among the many officials who serve at the pleasure of the president -- which means that they can be fired at any time for any reason or for no reason.

That is why there was no big hullabaloo in the media when Bill Clinton fired all the U.S. attorneys across the country -- even though that got rid of the U.S. attorneys who were conducting an on-going investigation into corruption in Clinton's own administration as governor of Arkansas.

So much hate has been hyped against George W. Bush that anything that is done against him is unlikely to be questioned in most of the media.

But whatever passing damage is being done to George W. Bush is a relatively minor concern compared to the lasting damage that is being done to the presidency as an institution that will still be here when George W. Bush is gone.

Once it becomes accepted that it is all right to violate both the laws and the traditions of this nation, and to undermine the ability of the United States to speak to other nations of the world with one voice, we will have taken another fateful step downward into the degeneration of this society.

Such a drastic and irresponsible step should remove any lingering doubt that the Democrats' political strategy is to ensure that there is an American defeat in Iraq, in order to ensure their own political victory in 2008.

That these political games are being played while Iran keeps advancing relentlessly toward acquiring nuclear weapons is a fateful sign of the utter unreality of politicians preoccupied with scoring points and a media obsessed with celebrity bimbos, living and dead.

Once Iran has nuclear weapons, that will be an irreversible change that will mark a defining moment in the history of the United States and of Western civilization, which will forever after live at the mercy of hate-filled suicidal fanatics and sadists.

Yet among too many politicians in Washington, it is business as usual. Indeed, it is monkey business as usual, as Congressional Democrats revel in the power of their new and narrow election victory last year to drag people before committee hearings and posture for the television cameras.

It has been said that the world ends not with a bang but with a whimper. But who would have thought that it could end with political clowning in the shadow of a mushroom cloud?

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

Islam's War Against Buddhism

The Taliban blew up what was believed to be the world's tallest standing Buddha (175 feet) in Afghanistan in March of 2001.

By Dhammajarat
April 4, 2007

“Allahu Akbar”! The tinny P.A. system tore asunder the pre-dawn peace and quiet.

I was jolted in my mind, almost like experiencing a car wreck, suddenly and without any warning. This totally incongruous sound intruded upon and encompassed everything, causing even the birds to rustle in the darkness.

It was just after 4 a.m. I was seated underneath the holy Maha Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, in the state of Bihar in India. It was a few days past the full moon of May 2004, a few days past Veesak. This was my second visit to this unparalleled location, the site of the Lord Buddha’s attainment of full Enlightenment over 2,500 years ago. Now, towards the end of my 10 day stay, I had applied for and been granted the great honor of permission to spend the night within the Maha Bodhi compound.

My plan was to spend the entire night practicing seated meditation, walking meditation, and circumambulation of the great Maha Bodhi Stupa. The air was warm and my practice was going very well as I alternated between the three practices, as the hours passed.

The beautiful waning full moon light filtering through the glistening leaves of the Maha Bodhi Tree, the soft fluttering of the leaves, the serene quiet, took me back to that time long ago when the Buddha himself had sat very near this same exact spot.

Or so I thought…….

The mussein’s call to prayer for the faithful of Islam, here in this most sacred location to all of Buddhism, ripped me back to modern reality. I was stunned! How could this be? Here in one of the most significant spots of Buddhism, loud speakers come on at four in the morning every day, to shock and intrude upon meditators and Buddhist practitioners using this spot for that which it has to offer in its most special way?

How could this be allowed? It is…

The Muslim call to prayer seemed to go on and on…..20 minutes to a half-hour later, the scratchy recording thankfully ended and quiet returned.

My concentration was thoroughly blown. Instead of following my breath, I found myself looking at the great distraction and paradox I had just experienced.

I thought about Mecca!

Could any other religion intrude itself there in the holiest of places to Islam, as the tenets of Islam had so intruded itself here in the holiest place of Buddhism?

No way! I could imagine immediate death being visited upon anyone that would even try – that is, if they would be admitted anywhere close to the Muslims’ holy Kabah – let alone be allowed to set up a loud public address system that would broadcast the message of another religion across the courtyards of the Grand Mosque, or any other Moslem religious site. The hypocrisy was astounding.

After awhile, I ceased to be so shocked and began to calm down. I began to see that this was merely a continuation of a long and sad trespass against Buddhism perpetrated by the faith of Islam.

In my previous visits to India, I had visited every site that was specific to the actual life of the Lord Buddha. At every location the pattern was the same: Just the partial foundations remaining of what had once been great Stupas or elaborate religious universities of Buddhist learning and practice. Even the place of the Buddha’s birth had been destroyed and buried, with modern day excavations only now giving some restoration.

I had learned from guides on location, and then from further studies once I returned home, that these locations had all been laid to waste in the early Moslem invasions of India, starting in the 900’s by Turkic hordes issuing forth from what is now Afghanistan, and continuing for over a thousand years until the Mughal era. A prolonged and calculated assault, an assault designed to wipe an entire belief, an entire religion, off the face of the Earth. The long history of Islam, being spread by the sword and by fire, had left its indelible mark on these wonderful peaceful, harmless, legacy sites of Buddhism.

I learned how the monks and nuns and religious students were slaughtered without mercy and piled up and burned, and all terrified survivors were driven like dry leaves before a strong wind, out of the region of India entirely, wherever this Islamic wind blew.

I was told this is how Buddhism actually came to Tibet and Southeast Asia, by Buddhists fleeing for their lives! My faith had been rendered a refugee faith via the tender mercies of Islam.

I learned how Islam was particularly unkind and brutal to Buddhists, because to Moslems the Buddhist represented the most reprehensible type of human personality: the “atheist” holding no monotheistic God image as their object of worship and veneration. We were worse even than the far more numerous Hindus, with their vast pantheon of multiple gods. The Buddhists, to the Muslims, only worshipped the image of a man, and no God higher.

Apparently they did not bother to look into the philosophies of Buddhism any more deeply. That was enough for the sword to come down and the fire to be applied. And so they have over the centuries until today.

I remember, some years back, before the gripping situations that we face today had quite come in to focus for many of us, I followed the story of the great Buddhas of Bamiyan, in sad and war torn Afghanistan. The Russian war was over, and the rein of the Taliban was in full force, but they were not content to merely rule the people with an iron hand by the strictest applications of Sharia law. They had to physically erase the “infidel” past, as well.

The statues, demolished by the Taliban, dated back to the second and fifth centuries. They were two of Asia's great archaelogical treasures.

I remember shedding tears as I saw the footage of those magnificent Buddhas, the tallest ancient statues in the world, being reduced to rubble by explosive charges and artillery shells. I remembered hearing on the news footage, that same cry of “Allahu Akbar!” – as the dust of Bamiyan settled to reveal the emptiness of the destruction. The same cry that destroyed my meditative absorption under the Bodhi Tree.

Now, I pray we never hear this call in this our home, America. Not until and unless Islam totally and completely reforms itself after over a thousand years of ravaging and sweeping all others before it.

I feel, through my direct experiences of it, that Islam has not changed its ways in the least. In fact it has become more aggressive now than at any time since its period of greatest expansion in the 900s to the 1200s. “Modern” Islam seeks to return humanity to those very same times – a revival of the dark ages of Islamic slaughter, mayhem, and pillage – all in the name of Allah.

We Buddhists must realize that we, and our cherished practices, would be swept away entirely and crushed utterly, should Islam ever gain ascendancy in this world in which we live. Islam is the only belief that propagates itself thus – by the sword.

And it is very patient.


Dhammajarat is the pen name of a Buddhist author.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tawfik Hamid: The Trouble With Islam


Sadly, mainstream Muslim teaching accepts and promotes violence.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The Wall Street Journal

Not many years ago the brilliant Orientalist, Bernard Lewis, published a short history of the Islamic world's decline, entitled "What Went Wrong?" Astonishingly, there was, among many Western "progressives," a vocal dislike for the title. It is a false premise, these critics protested. They ignored Mr. Lewis's implicit statement that things have been, or could be, right.

But indeed, there is much that is clearly wrong with the Islamic world. Women are stoned to death and undergo clitorectomies. Gays hang from the gallows under the approving eyes of the proponents of Shariah, the legal code of Islam. Sunni and Shia massacre each other daily in Iraq. Palestinian mothers teach 3-year-old boys and girls the ideal of martyrdom. One would expect the orthodox Islamic establishment to evade or dismiss these complaints, but less happily, the non-Muslim priests of enlightenment in the West have come, actively and passively, to the Islamists' defense.

These "progressives" frequently cite the need to examine "root causes." In this they are correct: Terrorism is only the manifestation of a disease and not the disease itself. But the root-causes are quite different from what they think. As a former member of Jemaah Islamiya, a group led by al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, I know firsthand that the inhumane teaching in Islamist ideology can transform a young, benevolent mind into that of a terrorist. Without confronting the ideological roots of radical Islam it will be impossible to combat it. While there are many ideological "rootlets" of Islamism, the main tap root has a name--Salafism, or Salafi Islam, a violent, ultra-conservative version of the religion.

It is vital to grasp that traditional and even mainstream Islamic teaching accepts and promotes violence. Shariah, for example, allows apostates to be killed, permits beating women to discipline them, seeks to subjugate non-Muslims to Islam as dhimmis and justifies declaring war to do so. It exhorts good Muslims to exterminate the Jews before the "end of days." The near deafening silence of the Muslim majority against these barbaric practices is evidence enough that there is something fundamentally wrong.

The grave predicament we face in the Islamic world is the virtual lack of approved, theologically rigorous interpretations of Islam that clearly challenge the abusive aspects of Shariah. Unlike Salafism, more liberal branches of Islam, such as Sufism, typically do not provide the essential theological base to nullify the cruel proclamations of their Salafist counterparts. And so, for more than 20 years I have been developing and working to establish a theologically-rigorous Islam that teaches peace.

Yet it is ironic and discouraging that many non-Muslim, Western intellectuals--who unceasingly claim to support human rights--have become obstacles to reforming Islam. Political correctness among Westerners obstructs unambiguous criticism of Shariah's inhumanity. They find socioeconomic or political excuses for Islamist terrorism such as poverty, colonialism, discrimination or the existence of Israel. What incentive is there for Muslims to demand reform when Western "progressives" pave the way for Islamist barbarity? Indeed, if the problem is not one of religious beliefs, it leaves one to wonder why Christians who live among Muslims under identical circumstances refrain from contributing to wide-scale, systematic campaigns of terror.


Politicians and scholars in the West have taken up the chant that Islamic extremism is caused by the Arab-Israeli conflict. This analysis cannot convince any rational person that the Islamist murder of over 150,000 innocent people in Algeria--which happened in the last few decades--or their slaying of hundreds of Buddhists in Thailand, or the brutal violence between Sunni and Shia in Iraq could have anything to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Western feminists duly fight in their home countries for equal pay and opportunity, but seemingly ignore, under a façade of cultural relativism, that large numbers of women in the Islamic world live under threat of beating, execution and genital mutilation, or cannot vote, drive cars and dress as they please.

The tendency of many Westerners to restrict themselves to self-criticism further obstructs reformation in Islam. Americans demonstrate against the war in Iraq, yet decline to demonstrate against the terrorists who kidnap innocent people and behead them. Similarly, after the Madrid train bombings, millions of Spanish citizens demonstrated against their separatist organization, ETA. But once the demonstrators realized that Muslims were behind the terror attacks they suspended the demonstrations. This example sent a message to radical Islamists to continue their violent methods.

Western appeasement of their Muslim communities has exacerbated the problem. During the four-month period after the publication of the Muhammad cartoons in a Danish magazine, there were comparatively few violent demonstrations by Muslims. Within a few days of the Danish magazine's formal apology, riots erupted throughout the world. The apology had been perceived by Islamists as weakness and concession.

Worst of all, perhaps, is the anti-Americanism among many Westerners. It is a resentment so strong, so deep-seated, so rooted in personal identity, that it has led many, consciously or unconsciously, to morally support America's enemies.

Progressives need to realize that radical Islam is based on an antiliberal system. They need to awaken to the inhumane policies and practices of Islamists around the world. They need to realize that Islamism spells the death of liberal values. And they must not take for granted the respect for human rights and dignity that we experience in America, and indeed, the West, today.

Well-meaning interfaith dialogues with Muslims have largely been fruitless. Participants must demand--but so far haven't--that Muslim organizations and scholars specifically and unambiguously denounce violent Salafi components in their mosques and in the media. Muslims who do not vocally oppose brutal Shariah decrees should not be considered "moderates."


All of this makes the efforts of Muslim reformers more difficult. When Westerners make politically-correct excuses for Islamism, it actually endangers the lives of reformers and in many cases has the effect of suppressing their voices.
Tolerance does not mean toleration of atrocities under the umbrella of relativism. It is time for all of us in the free world to face the reality of Salafi Islam or the reality of radical Islam will continue to face us.

Dr. Hamid, a onetime member of Jemaah Islamiya, an Islamist terrorist group, is a medical doctor and Muslim reformer living in the West.

Billy Joe Shaver charged in shooting, attorney says

Incident was at Lorena bar.

By Michael Corcoran

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, who's been called the poet laureate of Texas music, has been charged with aggravated assault in connection with a shooting outside a Lorena bar Saturday night, his lawyer said.

Shaver's Austin-based attorney, Joe Turner, said his client acted in self-defense.

Photos: His Austin performances

"The other guy was the aggressor," said Turner, who spent Sunday interviewing witnesses at the bar. "He was intoxicated and followed Billy Joe outside the bar with a knife."

The man, who was shot in the cheek, was reported by the Waco Tribune-Herald to be in stable condition at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center on Sunday. Police have not released his name.

Lorena police say the shooting occurred at 8:30 p.m. Saturday outside Papa Joe's Texas Saloon on Interstate 35, 89 miles north of Austin. The bar's owner, who would identify herself only as Gloria, said she had introduced Shaver, 67, to the other man earlier in the night.

Turner said he'd been told by the Lorena chief of police that a warrant has been issued, but he hadn't seen it. He said Shaver will surrender to police when he's served with the warrant.

He said Shaver also was charged with possession of a firearm in an establishment where alcohol is served.

A representative of Shaver's Houston-based record label said before the warrant was issued that the songwriter planned to honor a scheduled appearance at 5 p.m. today at Waterloo Records in Austin. Shaver's "Greatest Hits" album comes out today on Compadre Records, the label recently bought by Matthew Knowles, singer Beyoncé's father.

A fixture on the Texas songwriting scene, Shaver got his big break in 1973, when Waylon Jennings recorded nine Shaver compositions, including the title track on the landmark "Honky Tonk Heroes" LP. His songs have also been covered by Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.

Shaver served in an unofficial capacity as author-musician Kinky Friedman's "spiritual adviser" during Friedman's run for governor last year.


Concert Features 23 Songs From November, 2006

Columbia Records will release 'Bruce Springsteen With The Sessions Band Live in Dublin' June 5, a concert DVD, and separate two-CD set release. The two-CD set and DVD both feature 23 songs drawn from the band's performances in Dublin, Ireland at The Point on November 17, 18 and 19, 2006. Songs include fan favorites from 'The Seeger Sessions,' radical interpretations from the Springsteen songbook and rare songs appearing for the first time on any Springsteen release.

Springsteen's longtime manager Jon Landau said, "'Live in Dublin' charts the development of a band from an informal gathering in Bruce's living room to an onstage powerhouse. It also documents the growth in Bruce's vision of American music; it includes folk music, blues, Dixieland, country, swing, gospel, rock, down to and including his own writing. It's all performed with Bruce's classic energy and focus. I think it's some of the finest music he's ever made."

The DVD and CD captures the band during the finale of its multi-leg 2006 tour. The Word Magazine (UK) said of a concert on this tour, "I have never, make that NEVER, seen a show better than the one mounted by Bruce Springsteen and his band at Wembley Arena on Saturday, November 11, 2006." The Sunday Business Post Agenda (UK), in a 5 star review, said, "During the concert's numerous high points, the crowd was ecstatic and Springsteen was the preacher, spreading a welcome message: We're open all night."

Bruce Springsteen with The Sessions Band's tour last year prompted other incredible reviews. "Sometime, somewhere, a more dramatic and exhilarating confluence of music with moment may have existed... But in nearly 40 years of concert-going, I haven't witnessed one," said LA Times. The Washington Post declared, "It was the best live show I've seen in at least five years. (And I've seen a few.)" Meanwhile, The Independent (UK), said, "It's been an astonishingly rich evening." The Observer (UK) proclaimed, "Springsteen and the Seeger Session band were an inspiring triumph."

'Bruce Springsteen With The Sessions Band Live in Dublin' was produced by George Travis and produced and edited by Emmy Award winner Thom Zimny, who recently took home a Grammy Award for directing "Wings For Wheels: The Making Of Born To Run," a DVD in the acclaimed 'Born To Run' box set. Legendary mixer Bob Clearmountain mixed the DVD in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound. Bob Ludwig mastered the DVD and CD at Gateway Studios. Documented with nine cameras, the concert was filmed in High Definition (HD).

Bruce Springsteen With The Sessions Band Live In Dublin' Tracklisting

1. Atlantic City
2. Old Dan Tucker
3. Eyes on the Prize
4. Jesse James
5. Further on Up the Road
6. O Mary Don't You Weep
7. Erie Canal
8. If I Should Fall Behind
9. My Oklahoma Home
10. Highway Patrolman
11. Mrs. McGrath
12. How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live
13. Jacob's Ladder
14. Long Time Comin'
15. Open All Night
16. Pay Me My Money Down
17. Growin' Up
18. When the Saints Go Marching In
19. This Little Light of Mine
20. American Land
21. Blinded By the Light (Credits)

Bonus Songs:
Love of the Common People
We Shall Overcome

The Sessions Band From November 17. 18 and 19, 2006:

Bruce Springsteen - Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
Sam Bardfeld - Violin, Vocals
Art Baron - Sousaphone, Trombone, Mandolin, Penny Whistle, Euphonium
Frank Bruno - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Field Drum
Jeremy Chatzky - Bass
Larry Eagle - Drums, Percussion
Clark Gayton - Trombone, Vocals, Percussion
Charlie Giordano - Accordian, Piano, Organ, Vocals
Curtis King Jr. - Vocals, Percussion
Greg Liszt - Banjo, Vocals
Lisa Lowell - Vocals, Percussion
Ed Manion - Saxophone, Vocals, Percussion
Cindy Mizelle - Vocals, Percussion
Curt Ramm - Trumpet, Vocals, Percussion
Marty Rifkin - Steel Guitar, Dobro, Mandolin
Patti Scialfa - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Marc Anthony Thompson - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Soozie Tyrell - Violin, Vocals

Adam Lucas: HOF Latest Step in Charmed Life

Roy Williams received his profession's ultimate honor on Monday.

University of North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams has been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Williams joins the Class of 2007 which also includes Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson, the 1966 NCAA champions from Texas Western University (now UTEP), coach Van Chancellor of Ole Miss and the WNBA Houston Comets, referee Mendy Rudolph and international coaches Fedro Ferrandiz of Spain and Mirko Novosel of the former Yugoslavia.

April 2, 2007

ATLANTA--Margey Frederick's family depended on the hire her husband was about to make, and she was concerned.

Bob Frederick was about to hire a basketball coach at the University of Kansas to replace Larry Brown. Understand, this was Kansas, one of the top jobs in America and fresh off the 1988 national championship. Rabid fans, tradition, Rock Chalk, all that.

And Margey Frederick's husband, Kansas's popular--up to this point, when he was about to commit career suicide--athletic director, was proposing to hire a relative unknown from the University of North Carolina, a coach named Roy Williams who wasn't even the first assistant in Chapel Hill.

Imagine that. Imagine Carolina needed to fill a basketball vacancy and the school decided to go for a second assistant who had never been a head coach at the college level and had zero ties to the school.

Now walk back in off the ledge.

So the remark has been immortalized in history, but Margey had good reason to say exactly what she said, which was:

"You're not going to hire that guy from North Carolina, are you?"

That guy won 418 games at Kansas and has already amassed 106 wins back at Carolina. And Monday, those 524 career wins and .800 career winning percentage earned him a spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

We love him because he's approachable, because even 20 years and a lot of money after that first introductory press conference he still checks his tab at dinner to make sure he's been charged correctly. Because he travels with a printout of the top golf courses in the world, checking them off as he plays them and comparing notes with Larry Brown and Dean Smith.
He might be your golfing buddy. It doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility, not the way it would to play with a divine presence like Smith. To us, he's ol' Roy, a guy you feel like you can slap on the back in the aisle of the grocery store and tell him about the time you used one of his defenses while coaching your son's rec league team. And that's why he can't go many places at all without a handful of people stopping him. "Coach, you probably don't remember me, but..." And five minutes later, he's still standing there smiling and nodding.

We love all that. The Hall of Fame does not care. The Hall of Fame cares about wins and championships. Sometimes we forget that. Behind the twang and the community involvement and the subtle gestures like visiting a first-year head coach in the hospital after midnight, Roy Williams is one of the best coaches in college basketball. And by the time he's done--Monday he hedged about the possibility of coaching 15 more years, but he didn't slam the door on that possibility, either--he might be in the conversation of the best college basketball coaches ever.
He will not want to hear that, of course. Monday, he said all the things you would expect him to say.

"I already had my talk ready for what I was going to say when I didn't make it," he said of the phone call all the finalists received last Wednesday notifying them of the selection committee's decision.

How did he celebrate? He skipped his noon workout and went home to tell his wife, Wanda. In the Williams household, this qualifies as wild partying. Some coaches show up on the internet in wacky pictures in compromising locations. About as compromising as Williams ever gets is sitting on the couch watching golf with a bag of potato chips.

Hall selections were a closely guarded secret, with only Phil Jackson's name leaking into the public before Monday's presentation. Williams had to tell a few close athletic department staffers in order to coordinate his appearance at the function. This is how he told them about the greatest honor anyone in his profession can receive:

"Well, I got a call. And I guess I've made the Hall of Fame."

This, by the way, was the last item he mentioned in the meeting, almost in an apologetic, passing way. It was the way someone would ask you to pick up something at the grocery store on the way home, an "Oh, by the way..." kind of remark.

Don't be fooled--he is honored. "It's one of the only times I've ever been speechless," he said. But he freely admitted that in Atlanta, a city consumed by Monday's Florida-Ohio State title tilt, he'd happily swap the honor for a chance for his team to participate in the season's last game.

His team knows it, too. Earlier this year, word arrived during a Carolina practice that Williams was a HOF finalist. Williams, of course, was oblivious. The staff passed the news to the seniors, and Wes Miller gathered the entire team at center court at the conclusion of practice--never during practice, of course.

"Coach, we just wanted to be the first ones to congratulate you on being a Hall of Fame finalist," Miller said. And that's how Williams found out he'd made the first round of cuts, which is exactly how he'd want it.

"I've lived a charmed life, I really have," he said.

It's a life that would make Disney skeptical. And "charmed" doesn't really do it justice, because that somehow implies there wasn't a substantial amount of work involved. You know the stories: the Coca-Colas, the calendars, the driving 504 miles roundtrip on Sundays to deliver UNC television shows just to make a few extra dollars during his early Tar Heel assistant coaching days.

And yet somehow he's still--someone tell Margey Frederick--that same guy from North Carolina.

Roy Williams has just been announced as a Basketball Hall of Famer. What does he do next? Does he buy the finest bottle of champagne in Atlanta and toast to his greatness? Does he post on his own personal website proclaiming he's reached the pinnacle of his profession?

Nope. He walks a few blocks down the street to The Varsity and orders a cheeseburger. He splits an order of fries with his daughter, Kimberly.

"Want to flip for who's buying?" he asks his guests, pulling a quarter out of his pocket and flipping it into the air before snatching it and placing it on the back of his hand.

Do you even need to wonder what happens next?

Of course not.

He wins.

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.

Bob Ryan: Gator doubts? They're history

Florida coach Billy Donovan holds up the championship trophy after defeating Ohio State 84-75 in the Final Four basketball championship game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The Boston Globe

April 3, 2007

ATLANTA -- Against Purdue, against Butler, against Oregon, and even, God forbid, against Jackson State, I thought they were begging for it. I feared the Florida Gators were going to be this year's UConn; i.e. The Team With The Most Talent That Threw It All Away.

But once the Gators got to Atlanta, they had their game faces back on. They led UCLA for the final 26 minutes and 54 seconds of Saturday's semifinal and they led Ohio State for the final 32 minutes and 16 seconds of last night's championship game and they have done what they set out to do. The Florida Gators are the repeat champions of the college basketball world.

"I'm so proud of my guys," said coach Billy Donovan. "I think this team should go down as one of the best teams in college basketball history. Not as the most talented, and not on style points, but because they encompassed what the word 'team' means.

"They did it the first year with no expectations and they did it again this year with expectations."

From the time Taurean Green sank three free throws to break an 11-11 deadlock, they had it. They were just better than Ohio State, just as they were clearly better than UCLA. They have the most diversified portfolio the college game has seen in a long time. Well, 15 years, anyway.

Let the comparisons to the Duke championship teams of 1991 and '92 begin. Donovan is right, and he is also being a bit too restrained in the praise of his team. You really do have to throw the Gators into the discussion of greatest short-term college teams of all time, for no other reason than the fact that this quite routine handling of an Ohio State team that had won 22 straight gave Florida 18 consecutive postseason wins.

It's a far different, far more perilous college basketball world than it was in Ye Olde Wooden Days, when UCLA would be fast-forwarded to the West Regional and would have a good chance of playing it in Los Angeles. Nowadays, the NCAA really makes you earn it.

But nothing fazes this Florida team, which just has too many weapons and is overpowering and deadly at both ends of the court. They can beat you inside with a trio of skilled big men (they even added a fourth last night in burly freshman Marreese Speights) and they can beat you outside with the shooting of Corey Brewer, Lee Humphrey, and Green, who combined to go 10 for 18 on threes in the white heat of an NCAA championship game attended by 51,458 fans and watched by additional millions from Fairbanks to Fort Lauderdale.

And they also pay very close attention in the rebounding and defense departments.

The aggressive, swarming Florida defense was one of the keys to the first half, when the Gators picked up 12 points off Ohio State turnovers. You knew from the start that Florida was not going to squander this opportunity to make history on the basis of laziness. Oh, no. These Gators let the Buckeyes know they had come to play some serious basketball.

Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Lee Humphrey (12), Joakim Noah and Taurean Green, from left, celebrate their 84-75 victory over Ohio State in the NCAA championship game.

Teams have won back-to-backs before, of course. Long before Duke there was Oklahoma A&M, there was Kentucky, there was San Francisco, there was Cincinnati, and there was UCLA, which not only went back-to-back, but then went back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

But none of those schools did it in the modern era, when high-profile high school players only stick around for a year or two, tops, before skipping off to the NBA with all its riches and glory. And did I mention the riches? Even in the Duke scenario, no one even thought to ask if, following their 1991 championship game triumph over Kansas, mainstays Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill would be back to defend. It just wasn't an issue.

Florida offers a different tale. Following last year's 73-57 conquest of UCLA, it was just assumed that Donovan had seen the last of his wonderful all-sophomore frontcourt. Joakim Noah was the tourney MVP. He'd be going. Al Horford had established his credentials as an inside force. He'd be going. And Brewer, who had an ailing father and really could have used the money, why, it was a major mortal lock he'd be going.

Except they didn't go. They decided to spend one more year in college. They decided they could put the NBA on hold while they put the giant bull's-eye on their backs. They decided they would try to become the first 21st-century repeat NCAA champions.

They put the pedal to the metal most of the time, but surely not all the time. They actually came in for a lot of criticism late in the season, when, after clinching the Southeastern Conference East Division title with four games remaining, they lost three out of four, including a perplexing game in Baton Rouge when LSU star Glen "Big Baby" Davis didn't even play. All over the country, people were asking the same thing: Are the Gators too full of themselves?

Their response was to roar through the SEC tournament, beating Georgia by 17, Ole Miss by 21, and Arkansas by 19. But when the NCAA Tournament began and they had trouble with Jackson State for a half, and when they had a difficult time with Purdue, Butler, and Oregon, the doubters (yeah, I was one) again started to worry and ask the question anew: Are the Gators too full of themselves?

It was a fair question, but last Saturday evening we all got the answer: an emphatic no. The Gators arrived here in a take-no-prisoners mode, taking the lead on UCLA at 16-14 and never looking back and then taking the lead last night on Ohio State at 14-11 and soon establishing clear superiority. They were up by as many as 13 (40-27) before halftime, and they were in complete control.

The great calling card of Florida is, as Donovan says, their phenomenal t-e-a-m nature. The five starters average between 10 and 13 points a game. They nailed down the championship last evening with Noah limited to 21 foul-plagued and (for him) relatively inefficient minutes. But there is always someone to step forward. In both games here the key man was Brewer, the 6-foot-8-inch forward (13 points, 8 rebounds). Or was it Horford (18 points, 12 rebounds), who made some killer second-half hoops? Or was it Green, whose 16-point, 6-assist evening included going 3 for 3 on threes? Or was it Humphrey, the senior had 10 threes in last year's Final Four and added eight more this year?


You know what? If they aren't a bit full of themselves, maybe they should be.

With Murcer providing vibes, even A-Rod can A-tone

Alex Rodriguez (R) is greeted by Bobby Abreu who scored on Rodriguez's home run to make it a 9-5 lead in the eighth inning.


Tuesday, April 3rd 2007, 4:00 AM

What an Opening Day the Yankees provided their legions yesterday, filling the first few innings with the whole gamut of emotions, including even a little A-Rod dark comedy, before finally flexing their $163 million payroll advantage over the poor Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Christopher Lidle, son of deceased former Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Yankees home opener.

It began with tears for Cory Lidle's widow, Melanie, and son, Christopher, who performed the ceremonial first pitch duties in honor of the ex-Yankee pitcher killed in a plane crash over Manhattan last October, and ended with cheers for Alex Rodriguez, who atoned for his first-inning muff of a two-out foul pop with a monster game-breaking home run in the eighth, and Mariano Rivera, for being Mariano Rivera and striking out the side in the ninth to seal the 9-5 Yankee win. And in the middle of all that, the sellout Stadium crowd heaved with emotion and stood applauding as Bobby Murcer, recovering from brain tumor surgery, waved to them from the broadcast booth as Rod Stewart's "Forever Young" sounded from the PA system.

Derek Jeter rubs the head of Tampa Bay Devil Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer (formerly the Yankees bench coach). When Zimmer was with the Yankees, Jeter rubbed Zimmer's head for luck.

Yep, this was a day in which no one and nothing was forgotten.

At the conclusion of their ritualistic roll call of the Yankee starting lineup, the Bleacher Creatures immediately launched into "We want Bernie!" but Bernie Williams was one Yankee notable who did not make a surprise appearance. Even Steve Swindal, presumably now estranged from the Yankee hierarchy in the wake of his impending divorce from George Steinbrenner's daughter, Jennifer, was on the scene.

And, of course, it also was worthy of note that Carl Pavano showed up for his appointed rounds as Joe Torre's Opening Day starter. Until Pavano actually took the mound for the first time June 27, 2005, there was always going to be that suspicion of some sort of freak injury befalling him. Yet, there he was, even if his teammates didn't exactly show their appreciation behind him.

Heck, it was barely six minutes into the game that A-Rod received his first shower of leftover boos when, with two out and Carl Crawford on third, he circled under and dropped Ty Wigginton's wind-blown foul pop up the third base line. To his credit, Pavano didn't allow this to deter him as he retired Wigginton on a comebacker.

"I know what it looked like and A-Rod got the error because he was closest to the ball," said Joe Torre, "but in truth Jorge (Posada) should have made the play but he kind of gave up on it a little too soon."

It sure began to look as if this was going to be a continuation of A-Rod's postseason woes when, in the bottom of the first, he struck out with runners at first and second as ex-Mets prospect Scott Kazmir first froze him on a 2-1 changeup down the middle and then got him to chase a tailing fastball off the outside corner. That left matters to Giambi, Lidle's best friend from high school, who was still wrapped up in the emotion of having escorted Melanie and Christopher to the mound for the first-pitch ceremony.

Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi hits a two-run single in the first inning giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead over Tampa Bay.

On a 3-1 fastball from Kazmir, Giambi reached out and stroked a single to right-center, scoring both runners who had each moved up a base on the A-Rod strikeout.

"That was one of the toughest things I ever had to do in my life," said Giambi of the first-pitch ceremony, "but I had to be strong for Melanie. It was a lot of emotion that you try to put it into a positive."

The coincidence of Giambi getting a big hit in memory of his fallen best friend could not have been lost on Murcer, who did the same for his best friend, Thurman Munson, some 28 years earlier when, after flying home with the team from the Yankee catcher's funeral in Canton, Ohio, he hit a home run to beat the Baltimore Orioles that night.

Rudy Giuliani applauds after the Yankees defeated the Devil Rays at Yankee Stadium.

"I'm just so happy and grateful to be here for Opening Day," said Murcer, who had been a part of 33 previous Yankee openers, home and away, since 1966 as a player and broadcaster. "There's only going to be one more at this stadium (a new Yankee Stadium is targeted for 2009) and I wanted to be here to wish the players well and thank everyone for their prayers."

In terms of overall drama, emotion and ultimate success, it'll be hard to top this one, though. After the Devil Rays rose up and scored four runs in the fifth, knocking Pavano from the game, the Yankees shook off all their earlier misfires and got down to business against the minimum-salaried Tampa Bay bullpen. Derek Jeter atoned for his throwing error in the second by singling home two runs in the sixth to tie the score, and Giambi put them ahead with an RBI single in the seventh after A-Rod had singled and stolen second.

And you can call A-Rod's two-run homer in the eighth "garbage time" if you want, but there could be no denying the impact it had on this afternoon of tears, jeers and cheers. It was the perfect capper for a complete day in which A-Rod was able to shake off his early jitters and let his talent take over.

As Torre said: "There's enough emotion on any Opening Day, but this one was a roller coaster."

To which no doubt 56,035 would most heartily agree.

Bob Klapisch: A-Rod and Yanks make grade after shaky start

Alex Rodriguez hits a two-run home run in the eighth inning.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera had just finished blistering the Devil Rays with one merciless cutter after another, striking out the side so efficiently (13 pitches) and with such overwhelming force (six swings and misses) that it was impossible to ignore the closer's message: At age 37, the war against time is anything but over.

Welcome to opening day, where everyone gets to customize their unveiling of the summer ahead. Rivera put his timeless cut fastball on display, Carl Pavano pitched without embarrassment – but without much success, either -- and Alex Rodriguez received a curtain call for his monstrous two-run homer in the eighth inning. Meanwhile, the Yankee offense embarked on its 1,000-run campaign in a 9-5 win over Tampa Bay.

Mariano Rivera runs in from the bullpen to pitch in the ninth inning.

Perfect? It was close enough, although there were deeper, more emotional bookmarks on the afternoon. The first was Cory Lidle's family throwing out the first pitch, a sight that several Yankees said reduced them to tears. And then there was Bobby Murcer's return to the broadcast booth in the fourth inning. It didn't take long for the Stadium crowd to realize the man who is fighting (and apparently, beating) a brain tumor was in their midst, sparking the kind of applause that cut across every demographic group.

Everyone in the ballpark, it seemed, was on their feet, including the Yankees themselves in the dugout. Murcer looked happy and strong, his cancer in remission. He waved back to his fans, assuring them that his war isn't over, either.

For that one instant Murcer's brave struggle dwarfed all other Yankee subplots. Even A-Rod's bizarre, roller-coaster day seemed less dramatic, although by the end of the day, the slugger's ebb and flow had spawned a life of its own.

Rodriguez started by over-running a pop foul in the first inning, then struck out with two runners in scoring position in the bottom half of the inning. He was booed twice in the first 30 minutes of opening day, hardly anyone's idea of a christening.

It was impossible not to think A-Rod was sinking fast in a cesspool of self-doubt and self-loathing; it's been his profile for this long, why would Monday afternoon have been any different? But Rodriguez ultimately was rescued by two key factors: The first was the support he received in his own dugout, starting with Jason Giambi, who, after the first inning pulled A-Rod aside and said, "Don't let it fall into where it keeps going. Remember one good at-bat can change all that."

The man who desperately wants to be loved by the fans and accepted by his teammates took that advice to heart, taking advantage of the soft underbelly of the D-Rays' bullpen in his final two at-bats. The day changed so radically for A-Rod that he was later able to laugh at his horrible start, alternately calling it "embarrassing" and the work of a "moron."

Derek Jeter strokes a two-RBI single in the sixth inning to tie the score at 5-5.

A-Rod knows he would've been publicly shredded if the Yankees hadn't resurrected from a 5-3 deficit after five innings. But that's their salvation, that nuclear offense that makes the late innings a terror for opposing relievers. As Joe Torre said, "We like to think if we can stay close, not too many teams are going to be able to shut us down completely."

Those words became a prophecy, as the Yankees scored five runs in the final three innings. The turning point? It was A-Rod -- who else? -- who ignited the go-ahead rally in the seventh with a one-hop grounder off Brian Stokes that went screaming past shortstop Ben Zobrist, generously ruled a base hit.

A-Rod then went into what he called "small ball" mode, stealing second and then scoring on Giambi's RBI single to right. An inning later, A-Rod was beating up on another overwhelmed D-Rays reliever, Juan Salas, nuking that two-run homer that gave the Yankees a four-run lead for Rivera, which was the equivalent of an automatic fast-forward to Game 2 on the schedule.

That's when the real passion play begins; opening day is too full of pomp and ceremony to be viewed as anything but eye candy. Starting Wednesday, we'll learn if the "good demeanor and body language" that Torre says A-Rod is displaying will carry over to the regular season.

But so goes the starter's gun on the million questions about A-Rod's opt-out clause in his contract, the presumed countdown to (fill in the name of a West Coast team), and the temperature of his diplomatic ties to Derek Jeter.

But game by game, pitch by pitch, the Yankees are hoping they'll see more of the post-seventh inning A-Rod for the rest of the summer, the one who's quick enough to create runs with his speed, and strong enough to hit 400-foot home runs when he's merely thinking about punching line drives.

On a day of powerful achievements, this might've been the most impressive of all: A-Rod went deep while trying to emulate Bobby Abreu, who preceded Rodriguez' at-bat with an opposite-field single to left. Indeed, if Rodriguez is this good when he's this calm, imagine how plentiful the rest of the season could be.

If only he could relax.

It's the single greatest what-if clause in the Yankee empire: If a confident Rodriguez tears through a monster summer, takes the Yankees to the World Series and fulfills his pinstripe mandate, will he stick around?

In all probability, no. But the final answer will be revealed to us, one at-bat at a time, starting Wednesday. Fingers crossed, that's one more war with time the Yankees are hoping to win.