Friday, April 20, 2007

George Vecsey: Something Old, Something New and Some Things Pettitte

Published: April 20, 2007

The New York Times

The games have blurred for Andy Pettitte. He vaguely remembers taking the mound for the first time at Fenway Park, hearing the taunts in that unusual New England accent, sometime in 1995, his rookie season with the Yankees.

The rivalry with the Red Sox was mostly historic back then, but now it has intensified into the best rivalry in American sports. Will it ever seem old? Probably only if one or both of these cable-enriched franchises fade, quite unexpectedly.

Right now the Yankees are going into Boston with huge momentum after Alex Rodriguez hit a three-run homer in the ninth yesterday to beat Cleveland, 8-6. A-Rod is on such a tear that he is transforming the Yankees into a team different from anything we have witnessed in the Joe Torre era as manager.

Torre volunteered yesterday that he had never had a player with the talent of Rodriguez, who has two game-winning homers among his 10 home runs so far in April. This is not the same team Pettitte left after the 2003 season.

The Yankees’ prodigal left-hander — the beloved adopted son to thousands of Yankeecentric mothers in the New York area — Pettitte will continue his return to the fold tonight when he makes a start in quivering, historic Fenway.

Pettitte will start the first game of the season between these teams that will play 19 times, grappling for position in the postseason. Yesterday he recalled the last time he was in Fenway, during the 2003 postseason: “Zimmer out on the field with Pedro.”

He smiled. Everybody smiles at the memory of crusty old Don Zimmer rushing onto the field and being deflected by Pedro Martínez, defending his turf. That strange sight may never be equaled, but when these teams meet, there’s always something.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Pettitte, who said he had not discussed the intervening three years with any of his old mates from the championship years. He obviously knows the Sox finally won a World Series in 2004.

Life has moved on, or should have, said Torre, who loves going to Fenway despite the quaint things shouted at him, but contends that Red Sox fans still seem angry over something or other. Torre seems to be suggesting that Boston fans chill out, now that the pressure is off. Or maybe he is needling them.

Pettitte remembers the taunts from his rookie season, although he was hazy about his first games there. I looked them up on that wonderful research asset, and discovered that he made his first appearance out of the bullpen on May 13, after Bob Wickman was removed by Buck Showalter in the third inning. Pettitte gave up two hits and no runs, striking out four, against a lineup that included Mo Vaughn, Jose Canseco and Mike Greenwell.

“It’s coming back to me now,” Pettitte said.

I also jogged his memory about his first start in Fenway, on Aug. 16, 1995, when he lasted six innings, giving up six hits and four runs, with Wickman losing in relief this time.

Aside from the Zim-Pedro sumo wrestling match in 2003, the one game Pettitte does recall in Fenway came late in the 1996 season, when Roger Clemens, whom he admired as a fellow Houstonian, made what would be his last start for the Red Sox — at least up to now.

“I think I won,” Pettitte said, “and I remember Roger wishing us luck in the postseason.”

In fact, Pettitte pitched only two innings in a tuneup, as Clemens lost for the 13th time in 23 decisions. The Sox soon made the evaluation that Clemens was over the hill and let him escape to Toronto, the start of his hegira that includes New York and Houston, with maybe another adventure this summer.

Maybe Clemens is messing with our minds. Or perhaps he will take big money from the Mets, the Red Sox or the Yankees to power somebody’s pennant drive. If Roger is not coming, Robinson Canó, batting .268, might like to regain his old uniform, No. 22, currently in protective custody as a recruiting gesture toward Clemens.

With other veteran pitchers injured, Pettitte is playing the role of Roger Clemens in this performance, holding the Yankees’ staff together. He has started three games and even pitched an inning of relief, for a record of 1-0 with an earned run average of 1.50. Pettitte is the ace.

Yesterday Torre admitted that when he first sized up Pettitte in 1996, he saw a large, quiet man sitting in the trainer’s room, staring into space.

“This guy is scared,” Torre remembered thinking.

That impression did not last long, after Pettitte let out the occasional primal scream that told the manager he cared — cared deeply. Then Pettitte pitched eight and a third scoreless innings as the Yankees won the fifth game of the 1996 World Series. Torre refers to that game more frequently than any other he has managed in his 11-plus years with the Yankees.

When Pettitte played in Houston for three years, Torre never stopped talking about him — and talking to him — in one of the warmer player-manager relationships of this generation. Now Torre has Pettitte back, on a Yankee team roaring into Fenway with A-Rod on a surge unlike anything Torre has ever witnessed in the Bronx.


Bill Madden: Alex, Yanks Having Blast

Friday, April 20th 2007, 4:00 AM

Until "Alex The Great," "A-Rod the Magnificent," "Mr. April" - whatever you care to call him now - came to the plate in the ninth inning yesterday and produced yet another miracle finish in the Bronx, it hadn't been shaping up as the best of circumstances for the Yankees going into Beantown for their first showdown against the Red Sox.

We already knew because of the rash of injuries to befall the rotation that it was going to be two rookie starters, Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright, following Andy Pettitte, and then Joe Torre had to run through almost his entire bullpen in an effort to keep the Cleveland Indians in check.

Until Luis Vizcaino was tagged with a four-spot in the seventh inning, punctuated by Victor Martinez's three-run homer that seemingly put the game safely in hand at 5-2, the Yankee pen had not been scored on in 8-2/3 innings. All the while, however, the relievers have been asked to shoulder the bulk of the pitching work load.

So, things look a tad ominous with Fenway looming. But by now it should be clear that, from the Yankees' standpoint, winning the AL East this year was never going to be about starting pitching. For all of Brian Cashman's maneuvering last winter, the Yankee high command privately understood the most important change that needed to be made was Alex Rodriguez's mind-set - and that was out of their hands.

"We knew that if we were going to be successful, Alex was going to have to be the player he is," Torre said yesterday in the aftermath of Rodriguez's two-out, three-run homer that climaxed the improbable 8-6 Yankee win. "In spring training, though, I could see he was a different person."

A confident person. A free-and-easy person, unburdened from all the soap operas and criticism (justified and not) that have dogged him from the day he put on the Yankee pinstripes for the first time in 2004. A year ago, it was as if he faced these game-on-the-line situations with dread.

The bat was gripped tighter and all the while, the fear of failure was on his mind. Now it is as if he suddenly has a Reggie-like karma about him, welcoming the moment, relishing it. Maybe it all just happened for him with that game-winning grand slam against the Orioles at the Stadium on April 7, but Torre doesn't think so.

"I think," the manager said, "that he's in as good a place as he's ever been, but, like I said, I've seen that all spring. He's having fun and not feeling he has to make up for not doing it earlier. These last two games are the perfect example. He had a series of bad at-bats in both games leading up to his home runs.

"I just know I've never had a player with Alex's ability."

After Indians closer Joe Borowski retired the first two Yankees in the ninth, there was no reason to think that this game was somehow actually going to come down to A-Rod. But when Josh Phelps homered to cut it to 6-3 and Johnny Damon drew a walk, A-Rod began to get that feeling.

"I was sitting next to Andy Pettitte on the bench and not feeling very good about this game up to that point," Rodriguez recounted, "and he said to me after Phelps homered that I might get a chance to do something after all. I figured after Johnny walked that Jeet (Derek Jeter) would do something and the way Bobby (Abreu) is swinging the bat so well, I figured he'd keep it going too."

Which is precisely what happened. But it still fell into the realm of surreal. Once Abreu singled and a wild pitch by Borowski moved the runners up, there was some question as to whether Indians manager Eric Wedge would walk the torrid-hitting A-Rod and take his chances with Jason Giambi, even though it set up a righty-lefty matchup.

"By that point, it had become a case of 'pick your poison,'" Borowski said. "The fact is, it should have never come to that point. I get the first two batters out and all of a sudden it's 4 o'clock batting practice."

Said Rodriguez: "Last year in that spot, with the runners moved up, I probably would have out-thought myself. Now, I just try to keep it simple."

And so for the third straight game it was the same formula for victory - the relievers and A-Rod. Before the game, Torre had noted how this bullpen, six deep in operatives he trusts, has given him the most comfort of any he has had in his 11 years here. Just as A-Rod is having fun and savoring the opportunity to be "the man," Torre seems to be managing as if he can't wait to go to his bullpen.

But then, that's what Cashman, Torre and Co. all figured over the winter would be the keys to Yankee success: a deep bullpen and a different, confident A-Rod. With the emphasis, no doubt, on the latter.

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Sally Pipes: We're Not Going to Melt

April 19, 2007 4:28 PM

Reports of the apocalypse have been greatly exaggerated.

As Earth Day dawns for the 38th year, climate change tops the agenda of environmental activists, thanks to former Vice President Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary and a flurry of scientific studies attempting to make sense of our planet’s dynamic climate.

The Supreme Court has even entered the act, ordering the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

But don’t invest your life’s savings in windmills and solar-powered air conditioners just yet. While the earth does seem to have warmed slightly over the past century, the causes and implications are anything but clear. Moreover, the last ten years have seen a global plateau in temperature change.

Those who claim that we’re racing towards a fiery apocalypse are simply not basing their views on science. In fact, some scientists are now hypothesizing that we’ll see a cooling period in the near future, as we saw from 1940 to 1975.

So what are the facts?

As for hard data, the growth in carbon emissions is far slower than ecodoomsters would have us believe. Since monitoring began in the 1950s, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has grown by 0.41 percent per year, with only a slight uptick in the rate of change after economic development became widespread in the 1980s.

As for the United States, the rate of growth for carbon-dioxide emissions is falling to a level half what it was in the 1990s. And as our economy continues to change, the amount of greenhouse gas America emits per dollar of economic output is also plummeting.

Finally, methane emissions—another greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide—are actually declining in the United States.

Since 1990, the baseline year of the Kyoto Protocol, methane emissions have dropped by 12.8 percent. This reduction of approximately four million metric tons represents an equivalent reduction of about 90 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Continued reductions in methane may make worries about carbon dioxide moot.

Most climate scientists did not forecast this enormous reduction in methane emissions, largely because it did not fit neatly into the accepted paradigm that climate change was an entirely human-induced phenomenon. This viewpoint took a further hit when the United Nations announced that livestock accounted for the emission of 18 percent of total greenhouse gases last year.

But even if global warming isn’t the nightmare it’s cracked up to be, one question remains: Is the environment getting better or worse? No one can say for sure. But actual environmental data from the past year or two show some promising improvements.

First, reforestation efforts are gaining steam across the world. Consequently, the net loss of forests is declining, according to the U.N.’s 2005 Global Forests Resources Assessment. This is a welcome trend, given that forests are believed to mitigate global warming by breathing in carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen.

Counterintuitively, much of this forest increase seems to correlate with economic growth. A report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that “no nation where annual per-capita gross domestic product exceeded $4,600 had a negative rate of growing stock [forest] change.”

This is great news for developing countries, as continued global efforts to foster their economic development will also help sustain their forests. China, in particular, gained over four million hectares of forest area per year between 2000 and 2005.

Second, America’s air quality continues to improve.

Since the EPA first started monitoring (and regulating) air pollutants some 30 years ago, concentrations of particulates like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides have dropped precipitously. This has contributed to lower levels of ozone, a pollutant that disrupts breathing and traps heat when present in the troposphere, or the part of the atmosphere closest to the ground. In fact, ozone levels last year were the second lowest—after 2004 — since the 1970s.
So let’s celebrate this Earth Day with a sigh of relief. Reports of the apocalypse have been greatly exaggerated.

— Sally C. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute.

Richard Reeves: Edwards & the Arrogance of the Entitled

April 20, 2007

NEW YORK -- Three weeks after I wrote that I thought John Edwards might be going someplace in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, I found out where he was heading: to the barber shop.

The candidate, who has been looking pretty and pretty impressive in defining "Two Americas" -- one for the rich and privileged, a lesser place for everyone else -- came up with a wonderful device to show us all what he meant. His campaign spending reports, required by the Federal Election Commission, revealed that he has been paying $400 for haircuts by a Beverly Hills cutter named Joseph Torrenueva. The guy must be good, because Edwards' hair sure looks good. So does the rest of him, helped along by a $250 shaping at the Designworks Salon in Dubuque, Iowa, and $225 at the Pink Sapphire spa in Manchester, N.H.

Well, the man has great hair. My barber tells me I do, too, and he only charges 20 bucks.

That's $20 of my own money. Edwards, who has a couple of thousand times as much money as I do, pays for his tonsorial needs from campaign funds. He travels the country asking concerned citizens for money so he can get haircuts and body polishing. Where I come from that is called a real sense of entitlement.

Edwards says that he and America are angry about wretched excess, things like corporate chief executive officers giving themselves huge bonuses to buy new yachts and new wives. Well, a lot of people are mad, and they should be. I grieve for Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, who is going to spend months in hospitals and physical rehabilitation because of the injuries he suffered in a tragic accident on the Garden State Parkway last week. He is a nice and effective man, but what the hell was he doing in a state car going 91 mph in the rain?

What gives him the right? The fact that he's rich? It is sad that he was so badly hurt, but the fact is that he was not only endangering his own life, he was a danger to everyone else using the road that night. For what? So he could get to the television cameras in Princeton, to sit in on the meeting between the Rutgers women's basketball team and a dirty old man who called them whores on the radio.

A sense of entitlement is a creeping mold on the American dream. Poor boys can make a lot of money -- Edwards as a trial lawyer, Corzine as an investment banker -- buy a public title and act like a separate breed, members of our own unofficial House of Lords, or American monarchs. Maybe we didn't learn that much in 1776.

Smart boys can do the same thing. Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank after showing his military genius in trying to conquer Iraq, is not a rich man. But he is at least as big a fool as the rest of the entitled. In his case, if you follow these things, he arranged a $195,000-a-year salary plus consulting fees for his girlfriend by having her shifted from the bank, which has conflict-of-interest regulations, to the State Department, where she is making more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

So it goes. These are the new best and the brightest.

Kurt Vonnegut -- now there was a man contributing more than Edwards, Corzine and Wolfowitz together -- wrote in 1972 that America had a true two-party system. And the two parties, he said, were the Winners and the Losers. That is much more true now than it was back then. The middle is being squeezed out of the great middle-class experiment called America. To be bigger winners, the entitled have to create more losers.

A shame. Edwards, I assume, will begin paying for haircuts out of his own money. But it is probably too late for him. Corzine, who will be inevitably changed by the pain he will have to bravely face, will become the poster boy for seat belts. Perhaps Wolfowitz will get a clue about the pain of losing because of his own arrogance and stupidity.

They're entitled.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A-Rod on A-Tear as Yanks cruise

Bats blast Indians, back Iggy's first big-league 'W'

Alex Rodriguez scores on Jason Giambi's double in the third inning. Rodriguez is now hitting .365 wih nine homeruns and 23 RBI.


Thursday, April 19th 2007, 9:13 AM

Alex Rodriguez stood near the bat rack in the sixth inning, jawing excitedly with Derek Jeter and hitting coach Kevin Long, dissecting the soaring line-drive homer Rodriguez had hit moments before. In the stands, fans were imploring Rodriguez to come out for a curtain call, but he lingered, soaking it all in.

It's a good time to be a Yankee, what with the way they've played the last two nights after the beginning of their season was marred by injuries to four starting pitchers, some fielding deficiencies and a struggle to get over the break-even mark.

Everything, from their resident enigma, Rodriguez, the hottest hitter in baseball, to their pitching to their power has bloomed for the Yankees in the last two days, most recently last night when Kei Igawa got his first big-league victory and A-Rod and Jason Giambi slugged back-to-back homers in a 9-2 victory over the Indians.

Kei Igawa picked up his first major league win yesterday

"This," Joe Torre said, "is what we envision."

With their rotation hobbled, the Yanks have gotten a solid start from a Double-A pitcher, Chase Wright, on Tuesday and a terrific one last night from Igawa, who allowed two runs and five hits in six innings, striking out five and walking one in front of 41,379 at the Stadium. Their bullpen has thrown seven straight scoreless innings since Mariano Rivera blew a save Sunday and it leads all pens with a .147 batting average against.

Heck, even some of their injured players (Chien-Ming Wang, Hideki Matsui, Jeff Karstens) are close to returning.

Last night, Rodriguez's power show was simply the sizzle in the Yanks' explosion, his ninth homer in just 13 games. The Yanks, who had 14 hits, took command in the third when they scored five times on seven hits. Every starter had at least one hit. Jeter went 3-for-4 with two doubles and Bobby Abreu, Giambi and Josh Phelps had two hits apiece. "It's good to see things start clicking," Giambi said.

Above everyone else, Rodriguez is clicking. He is tied with Albert Pujols and Chris Shelton as the fourth-fastest to reach nine homers - Pujols and Shelton did it last year. Only Mike Schmidt (10 games in 1976), Luis Gonzalez (10 games in 2001) and Larry Walker (12 games in 1997) have reached nine faster.

Rodriguez, who is batting .365 with a .981 slugging percentage and 23 RBI, has an extra-base hit in every game but one and he and the Mets' David Wright are the only players with hits in each game this year.

They seem to be grinning at about the same rate, too. Rodriguez said he hasn't smiled this much, "probably since my daughter was born" and added that even when he makes an out, "I know exactly what to do to fix it."

"He's unbelievable," Jeter said. "Everything he hits is a home run. He hit one out with one hand. I can't relate to it because I can't do it. He's as hot as I've seen a player. All he has to do is make contact and it goes out."

Derek Jeter doubles to start off the third inning. Jeter upped his average to .333 with a 3-4 performance.

Jeter and several other Yankees were ribbing Rodriguez near the bat rack because A-Rod had reached out for a pitch in the dirt and still drilled it over the left-field fence. "There was some other stuff, but that was the premise," Jeter said.

After his homer, Rodriguez gabbed for several seconds before mounting the dugout steps and waving to cheering fans. It seems like Rodriguez's relationship with fans has changed completely this season - he wasn't even booed when he started last night 0-for-3 with two whiffs and stranded a runner at third. Last year, he would've been ridiculed throughout the night. "He's endured a lot," Torre said. "It's sort of nice to see him leave a man at third and no one ask about it."

When someone said to Rodriguez that fans seemed to be giving him a break, he replied, "I haven't noticed. It's been fun ... I'm just trying to enjoy myself, regardless of what happens. Sometimes you try to manipulate things, but this game is just too hard."

Except - for now, anyway - the Yankees are making it look easy.

Edwards' haircuts cost a pretty penny

By JOAN LOWY, Associated Press

Tue Apr 17, 11:16 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Looking pretty is costing John Edwards' presidential campaign a lot of pennies. The Democrat's campaign committee picked up the tab for two haircuts at $400 each by celebrity stylist Joseph Torrenueva of Beverly Hills, Calif., according to a financial report filed with the FEC records show Edwards also availed himself of $250 in services from a trendy salon and spa in Dubuque, Iowa, and $225 in services from the Pink Sapphire in Manchester, N.H., which is described on its Web site as "a unique boutique for the mind, body and face" that caters mostly to women.

A spokeswoman for Edwards' campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Torrenueva — who specializes in men's haircuts — confirmed in an interview with The Associated Press that Edwards is a longtime client and friend.

"I do cut his hair and I have cut it for quite a while," Torrenueva said. "We've been friends a long time."

Referring to a picture of Edwards published Tuesday in The Los Angeles Times, Torrenueva said: "That's my cut." The stylist said he couldn't vouch for the source of Edwards' haircuts in other photos.

One reason the cost of the cut was so steep even by Beverly Hills standards is that Torrenueva went to Edwards rather than the candidate coming into the stylist's salon a block off Rodeo Drive.

"I go to him wherever convenient," Torrenueva said. He declined to identify where the cuts paid for by the campaign took place.

Campaign records also show the former North Carolina senator's campaign paid $248 on March 1 to the Designworks Salon in Dubuque.

According to Designworks' Web site, the salon and spa features a wide variety of beauty and health services, including massages, facials, body polishes, self tanners, and rosemary mint and Caribbean therapy body wraps.

The salon's owners did not return a call.

Pink Sapphire co-owner Ariana Franggos said the two payments last month_ $150 on March 7 and $75 on March 20 — were for doing Edwards' makeup for television appearances. She handles makeup for local television personalities and was referred to Edwards through that connection.

"This poor guy. I'm telling you, I promise he's not in here getting facials and cucumber peels on his eyes or anything," she said.

Edwards, 53, who has made alleviating poverty the central theme of candidacy, has been criticized for building a 28,000-square-foot house for $5.3 million near Chapel Hill, N.C. The complex of several buildings on 102 acres includes an indoor basketball court, an indoor pool and a handball court.

Edwards, who was John Kerry's vice presidential runningmate in 2004, is also the subject of a YouTube spoof poking fun at his youthful good looks. The video shows the candidate combing his tresses to the dubbed-in tune of "I Feel Pretty."

In 1993, Cristophe gave former President Clinton a $200 haircut aboard Air Force One as it sat on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport. Late-night comedians and columnists poked fun at the president for the expensive cut.

Associated Press Writer Beverley Wang in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.

"The South Korean Shaikh, Abu Mus'Ab Al-Virgini"

[Note: The Prophet Mohammed's version of the Abraham/Isaac sacrifice story has "Ismael" in the role of Isaac and the knife-wielding Abraham brandishing an ax. Mohammed claims "Ismael" is the actual "Son of Sacrifice" and his line of descendents are the truly faithful. - jtf]

Cho Seung Hui wrote "Ishmael Ax" on his arm, signed his package to NBC "A. Ishmael," and criticized Christianity in his video message. Do these things make him a jihadist? No. There is plenty of evidence that he was a deeply disturbed young man, full of rage and murderous fantasies, but none at this point to indicate that he had any actual connection to or interest in Islam or jihad.

However, that did not stop some jihadists on Islamic forums from celebrating his deed as if he were one of their own, and even dubbing him "Abu Mus’Ab Al-Virgini," after the late Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. The blogger Basharee Murtadd caught posts on two Arabic-language Islamic forums; one has been taken down, but the other is still there. Some excerpts:

Al-Jazeera reported 20 dead and 29 injured. Praise be to Allah.

Praise be to Allah for these calamities hitting America. By the will of Allah, more of this [will happen], following their defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Muslims, our real condolences to you is to help you absolutely destroy your criminal democracy. By the vulnerable people in the Earth.

Posted by Robert at 06:37 AM Comments (7) Email this entry Print this entry

Partial Reversal: Yesterday's abortion ruling was only a baby step.

Editors, The Wall Street Journal
Thursday, April 19, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

To hear the extremes of the abortion debate tell it, yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in Gonzales v. Carhart is the beginning of the end of abortion rights in America. The Christian Coalition declared that "it is just a matter of time" before Roe v. Wade "will also be struck down by the court," while Senator Hillary Clinton called it "a dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings that upheld a woman's right to choose."

They're both wrong, but the dueling end-of-days rhetoric shows again how much the Supremes have polarized our abortion debate. In fact, yesterday's 5-4 ruling is narrowly drawn and upholds a federal law that outlaws only a single, late-term procedure that Daniel Patrick Moynihan once described as "infanticide."

Not only did the Court not overrule its Roe and Casey decisions, it didn't even overrule Stenberg v. Carhart, the 2000 decision that overturned a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortion. Instead, Justice Anthony Kennedy upheld the 2003 Congressional ban because he said it was more narrowly drawn. "The Act makes the distinction the Nebraska statute failed to draw," he wrote, "by differentiating between the overall partial-birth abortion and the distinct overt act that kills the fetus."

Justice Anthony Kennedy

To be more precise, "The fatal overt act must occur after delivery to an anatomical landmark"--i.e., a fetal body part--and it must not be part of the actual delivery of a baby. We recommend Justice Kennedy's opinion to readers who want to learn the grisly details of what partial-birth abortion actually involves. But the main distinction Mr. Kennedy draws is between an abortion procedure that takes place entirely in the womb and one that first withdraws the fetus part-way before killing it.


The gruesome nature of the procedure explains why the partial-birth ban passed Congress with large bipartisan majorities. Sixteen Senate Democrats, including former Majority Leader Tom Daschle, voted for the ban, along with 63 House Democrats. Polls show that two-thirds of Americans support banning these abortions.
Challengers, led by Planned Parenthood, claimed the law was unconstitutional because it lacked a "health exception" for the mother and defined the banned procedure too broadly. But the majority--which included President Bush's two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito--rejected those arguments as failing to impose an "undue burden" on a woman's right to an abortion.

The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, by the way, provides an exemption for when the mother's life is endangered. Abortion proponents wanted a "health exception" as well, because in legal practice that has become a loophole allowing just about any abortion right up until actual birth. A doctor could consider such things as mental anxiety and even financial strain as justifying a "health exception."

As a practical matter, this ruling sends the abortion debate back to the states. Some may reintroduce their partial-birth bans to conform to the 2003 federal law. This is all to the good, since we think the best place to settle abortion disputes is in state legislatures, where a political consensus that better reflects public opinion can be struck.


Americans are ambivalent about abortion, with a majority wanting it to be legal but also rarer than it is now. The tragedy of Roe, Casey and Stenberg is that they pre-empted that debate, leaving the controversy only to the extremes on both sides. We'd like to see the High Court repeal those decisions, sending the entire issue back to the states, where we'd guess most would allow liberal abortion rights, albeit more restricted than today.

But based on yesterday's ruling, no one should expect such an outcome from the current Court. Justice Kennedy had been a dissenter in Stenberg, so changing his position would have been a little too protean even for him. The fact that he wasn't willing to overturn even Stenberg suggests that this Court is not in the mood for sweeping reversals of precedent. As for Messrs. Roberts and Alito, the Court's opinion also gives no clue about how many abortion precedents they might be willing to overturn. The Court has shown a very modest new deference to the will of the voters on abortion, but no more.

Mark Steyn: A Culture of Passivity

Cho Seung Hui
April 18, 2007 12:44 PM

"Protecting" our "children" at Virginia Tech.

I haven’t weighed in yet on Virginia Tech — mainly because, in a saner world, it would not be the kind of incident one needed to have a partisan opinion on. But I was giving a couple of speeches in Minnesota yesterday and I was asked about it and found myself more and more disturbed by the tone of the coverage. I’m not sure I’m ready to go the full Derb but I think he’s closer to the reality of the situation than most. On Monday night, Geraldo was all over Fox News saying we have to accept that, in this horrible world we live in, our “children” need to be “protected.”

Point one: They’re not “children.” The students at Virginia Tech were grown women and — if you’ll forgive the expression — men. They would be regarded as adults by any other society in the history of our planet. Granted, we live in a selectively infantilized culture where twentysomethings are “children” if they’re serving in the Third Infantry Division in Ramadi but grown-ups making rational choices if they drop to the broadloom in President Clinton’s Oval Office. Nonetheless, it’s deeply damaging to portray fit fully formed adults as children who need to be protected. We should be raising them to understand that there will be moments in life when you need to protect yourself — and, in a “horrible” world, there may come moments when you have to choose between protecting yourself or others. It is a poor reflection on us that, in those first critical seconds where one has to make a decision, only an elderly Holocaust survivor, Professor Librescu, understood instinctively the obligation to act.

Point two: The cost of a “protected” society of eternal “children” is too high. Every December 6th, my own unmanned Dominion lowers its flags to half-mast and tries to saddle Canadian manhood in general with the blame for the “Montreal massacre,” the 14 female students of the Ecole Polytechnique murdered by Marc Lepine (born Gamil Gharbi, the son of an Algerian Muslim wife-beater, though you’d never know that from the press coverage). As I wrote up north a few years ago:

Yet the defining image of contemporary Canadian maleness is not M Lepine/Gharbi but the professors and the men in that classroom, who, ordered to leave by the lone gunman, meekly did so, and abandoned their female classmates to their fate — an act of abdication that would have been unthinkable in almost any other culture throughout human history. The “men” stood outside in the corridor and, even as they heard the first shots, they did nothing. And, when it was over and Gharbi walked out of the room and past them, they still did nothing. Whatever its other defects, Canadian manhood does not suffer from an excess of testosterone.

I have always believed America is different. Certainly on September 11th we understood. The only good news of the day came from the passengers who didn’t meekly follow the obsolescent 1970s hijack procedures but who used their wits and acted as free-born individuals. And a few months later as Richard Reid bent down and tried to light his shoe in that critical split-second even the French guys leapt up and pounded the bejasus out of him.

We do our children a disservice to raise them to entrust all to officialdom’s security blanket. Geraldo-like “protection” is a delusion: when something goes awry — whether on a September morning flight out of Logan or on a peaceful college campus — the state won’t be there to protect you. You’ll be the fellow on the scene who has to make the decision. As my distinguished compatriot Kathy Shaidle says:

When we say “we don’t know what we’d do under the same circumstances”, we make cowardice the default position.

I’d prefer to say that the default position is a terrible enervating passivity. Murderous misfit loners are mercifully rare. But this awful corrosive passivity is far more pervasive, and, unlike the psycho killer, is an existential threat to a functioning society.

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone.

David B. Kopel: "Gun-Free Zones"

Cho Seung-Hui

The Wall Street Journal
April 18, 2007; Page A17

The bucolic campus of Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va., would seem to have little in common with the Trolley Square shopping mall in Salt Lake City. Yet both share an important characteristic, common to the site of almost every other notorious mass murder in recent years: They are "gun-free zones."

Forty American states now have "shall issue" or similar laws, by which officials issue a pistol carry permit upon request to any adult who passes a background check and (in most states) a safety class. Research by Carlisle Moody of the College of William and Mary, and others, suggests that these laws provide law-abiding citizens some protection against violent crime. But in many states there are certain places, especially schools, set aside as off-limits for guns. In Virginia, universities aren't "gun-free zones" by statute, but college officials are allowed to impose anti-gun rules. The result is that mass murderers know where they can commit their crimes.

Private property owners also have the right to prohibit lawful gun possession. And some shopping malls have adopted anti-gun rules. Trolley Square was one, as announced by an unequivocal sign, "No weapons allowed on Trolley Square property."

In February of this year a young man walked past the sign prohibiting him from carrying a gun on the premises and began shooting people who moments earlier were leisurely shopping at Trolley Square. He killed five.

Fortunately, someone else -- off-duty Ogden, Utah, police officer Kenneth Hammond -- also did not comply with the mall's rules. After hearing "popping" sounds, Mr. Hammond investigated and immediately opened fire on the gunman. With his aggressive response, Mr. Hammond prevented other innocent bystanders from getting hurt. He bought time for the local police to respond, while stopping the gunman from hunting down other victims.

At Virginia Tech's sprawling campus in southwestern Va., the local police arrived at the engineering building a few minutes after the start of the murder spree, and after a few critical minutes, broke through the doors that Cho Seung-Hui had apparently chained shut. From what we know now, Cho committed suicide when he realized he'd soon be confronted by the police. But by then, 30 people had been murdered.

But let's take a step back in time. Last year the Virginia legislature defeated a bill that would have ended the "gun-free zones" in Virginia's public universities. At the time, a Virginia Tech associate vice president praised the General Assembly's action "because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus." In an August 2006 editorial for the Roanoke Times, he declared: "Guns don't belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same."

Actually, Virginia Tech's policy only made the killer safer, for it was only the law-abiding victims, and not the criminal, who were prevented from having guns. Virginia Tech's policy bans all guns on campus (except for police and the university's own security guards); even faculty members are prohibited from keeping guns in their cars.

Virginia Tech thus went out of its way to prevent what happened at a Pearl, Miss., high school in 1997, where assistant principal Joel Myrick retrieved a handgun from his car and apprehended a school shooter. Or what happened at Appalachian Law School, in Grundy, Va., in 2002, when a mass murder was stopped by two students with law-enforcement experience, one of whom retrieved his own gun from his vehicle. Or in Edinboro, Pa., a few days after the Pearl event, when a school attack ended after a nearby merchant used a shotgun to force the attacker to desist. Law-abiding citizens routinely defend themselves with firearms. Annually, Americans drive-off home invaders a half-million times, according to a 1997 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Utah, there is no "gun-free schools" exception to the licensed carry law. In K-12 schools and in universities, teachers and other adults can and do legally carry concealed guns. In Utah, there has never been a Columbine-style attack on a school. Nor has there been any of the incidents predicted by self-defense opponents -- such as a teacher drawing a gun on a disrespectful student, or a student stealing a teacher's gun.

Israel uses armed teachers as part of a successful program to deter terrorist attacks on schools. Buddhist teachers in southern Thailand are following the Israeli example, because of Islamist terrorism.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., long-time gun control advocates, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), agreed that making airplane cockpits into "gun-free zones" had made airplanes much more dangerous for everyone except hijackers. Corrective legislation, supported by large bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, allowed pilots to carry firearms, while imposing rigorous gun-safety training on pilots who want to carry.

In many states, "gun-free schools" legislation was enacted hastily in the late 1980s or early 1990s due to concerns about juvenile crime. Aimed at juvenile gangsters, the poorly written and overbroad statutes had the disastrous consequence of rendering teachers unable to protect their students.

Reasonable advocates of gun control can still press for a wide variety of items on their agenda, while helping to reform the "gun-free zones" that have become attractive havens for mass killers. If legislators or administrators want to require extensive additional training for armed faculty and other adults, that's fine. Better that some victims be armed than none at all.

The founder of the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, understood the harms resulting from the type of policy created at Virginia Tech. In his "Commonplace Book," Jefferson copied a passage from Cesare Beccaria, the founder of criminology, which was as true on Monday as it always has been:

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."

Mr. Kopel is research director of the Independence Institute in Golden, Colo., and co-author of the law school textbook, "Gun Control and Gun Rights" (NYU Press).

Thomas Sowell: A Trail of Slime

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong listens during a North Carolina State Bar hearing in Raleigh, N.C., Friday, April 13, 2007. A disciplinary committee rejected a request Friday to dismiss ethics charges against the former prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case that accuse him of withholding critical DNA evidence from the defense.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

District Attorney Michael Nifong has apologized to the Duke University students he indicted for rape for "judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect."

Contrary to the fashionable phrase, "mistakes were made," there is no reason to believe that any mistake was made by District Attorney Nifong in this case, or that he misjudged anything other than miscalculating what he could get away with.

Nothing that Michael Nifong did is consistent with his ever believing that the Duke University students were guilty. If he really thought they were guilty and expected to go to trial and convict them, then the rigged photo lineup he arranged could have been enough to get the case thrown out of court.

This column predicted in April a year ago that this case would never go to trial because it was obvious even then that discovering the guilt or innocence of the accused was not District Attorney Nifong's real goal.

What served Nifong's purposes was keeping this case alive long enough for him to win his election as district attorney.

A real lineup, conducted according to well-established rules, could have revealed early on that the stripper who accused Duke lacrosse players of rape didn't have a clue who they were. That would have killed the case and destroyed Nifong's trump card -- the race card -- for winning the black vote.

The district attorney's failure to interview either the accuser or the accused for months likewise suggests someone who was more concerned with avoiding the premature collapse of his case before election time than with finding out what really happened.

Ironically, it was a black taxi driver who provided the first evidence that the charge was false. He said that one of the accused was in his cab, going to a bank, at the time the rape was supposed to have occurred.

That taxi driver was subsequently brought in for police interrogation on a wholly unrelated matter and grilled for hours before being released, without being charged with anything.

Little, if anything, was heard from that taxi driver again about the Duke rape case. Apparently he got the message.

It later turned out that a bank security camera with date and time confirmed what the taxi driver had said, since it showed one of the accused Duke students taking money out of an ATM at the time when he was supposedly committing rape.

During the current investigation of ethics charges against District Attorney Nifong by the North Carolina Bar Association, one of the things that might be well worth investigating is whether Nifong had anything to do with the harassment or intimidation of a witness whose testimony could have undermined his case.

Another damaging action that Nifong has tried to portray as an oversight on his part was failing to disclose that the DNA evidence from the panties and nearby areas of the accuser showed that a number of other men had had contact there, even though none of the Duke students' DNA was found.

It might seem plausible that a busy district attorney might have forgotten to include that. But the sworn testimony of the head of the laboratory that conducted the DNA tests is that Nifong specifically asked him not to reveal that fact.

That was not an oversight or a misjudgment. That was a deliberate attempt to suppress evidence in a felony case.

When it finally came out, months after the indictment of the Duke students, that the stripper who accused them could not even be sure that a rape had occurred -- despite her previous various accounts of rape -- only the rape charge was dropped, while other serious felonies still hung over the students' heads, based on the same unreliable accuser.

It is hard to believe that Nifong believed that these other charges would stand up in court. But they didn't have to.

After months of mounting pressure and growing legal bills, many people would have plea-bargained, "confessed" to something minor, just to get the nightmare over with.

Such a "confession" might have spared Nifong from being hauled up before the state bar association on ethics charges.

Everything in this case, from start to finish, makes perfect sense when seen as being about Nifong's career, not justice.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Book Review: 'New' Tolkien splendidly rewarding

POSTED: 9:05 a.m. EDT, April 17, 2007

"The Children of Hurin" worthy part of Middle-earth mythology

(AP) -- Six thousand years before the Fellowship of the Ring, long before anyone had even seen a Hobbit, the elves and men of Middle-earth quaked at the power of the dark lord Morgoth.

Hunted by easterlings and orcs, they fled to the fastness of Nargothrond and to the deep forests of Brethil and Doriath. Among them, a hero emerged. Strong and courageous he was, but foolhardy and impetuous. His name was Turin, son of Hurin.

His story, released today by Houghton Mifflin, is a publishing event: It is the first new book by the creator of "The Lord of the Rings" in 30 years. The publisher calls it the culmination of an effort to bring to the public the vast body of work J.R.R. Tolkien had left unpublished, and largely unfinished, when he died in 1973.

Tolkien began writing "The Children of Hurin" 99 years ago, abandoning it and taking it up again repeatedly throughout his life. Versions of the tale already have appeared in "The Silmarillion," "Unfinished Tales" and as narrative poems or prose sections of the "History of Middle-earth" series.

But they were truncated and contradictory. Outside of Tolkien scholars and Middle-earth fanatics, few read them.

These works were, after all, largely unreadable -- dense, hard to follow histories and legends of Tolkien's vast, imaginary world, crammed with complicated genealogies, unfamiliar geography and hard-to-pronounce names. Readers who took up such books hoping for another Rings saga or charming yarn such as "The Hobbit" abandoned them after a few pages.

"The Children of Hurin" is the book for which these readers have been longing.

It is the fruit of 30 years labor by Christopher Tolkien, the author's son, who has devoted much of his life to editing and publishing the work his father left behind. By meticulously combining and editing the many published and unpublished versions of the tale, he has produced at last a coherent, vivid and readable narrative.

Houghton-Mifflin has treated the work well, hiring Alan Lee, who won an Academy Award for art direction for "The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King," to create stunning color illustrations.

The story unfolds in a region far to the west of where Frodo and Samwise would later roam, in a land destined to be swallowed by the sea in the cataclysm that would end the first age of Middle-earth. But even then, it was an ancient land, filled with legends and half-remembered histories.

As the tale begins, Morgoth has destroyed a vast army of elves and men and taken one of its leaders, Hurin, prisoner. The dark lord tries to bend Hurin to his will, but the great man defies him. So Morgoth pronounces a curse on Hurin's children, Turin and his sister Nienor.

The first chapter resembles "The Silmarillion," dense and confusing enough to discourage casual readers. But stick with it and the story soon becomes readable and engaging.

Don't expect an uplifting ending like the one to "The Lord of the Rings," however. This is a gloomy tale -- Hurin's children doomed to failure by Turin's hubris and, of course, the curse.

The story is told in the archaic style to which Tolkien fans are accustomed, from a man who admired old Anglo-Saxon and Norse sagas. A sample:

"In this way, before the summer had passed, the following of Turin had swelled to a great force, and the power of Angband was thrown back. Word of this came even to Nargothrond, and many there grew restless."

The story is short by the standards of "The Lord of the Ring," covering just 259 pages, the rest of the book consisting of an introduction and appendix in which Christopher Tolkien explains how he went about his work. The details are unlikely to be of interest to the casual reader, but the bottom line is this:

Christopher Tolkien says that in reconciling the various versions of his father's story, he added no new material, save for an occasional transition. The words, he says, are virtually all his father's.

Yankees' rook gets it Wright

Posada & A-Rod help drive debut

Chase Wright won his major-league debut yesterday at Yankee Stadium.


Wednesday, April 18th 2007, 4:00 AM

Several versions of the Yankee lineup card sat on the chair in front of Chase Wright's new locker last night, a few minutes after the Yankees beat the Indians, 10-3. In the back of the Yankee clubhouse, trainer Gene Monahan, who usually handles such things, was scrawling names and dates on game-used balls, more souvenirs.

Pitching coach Ron Guidry appeared and handed Wright more paper, saying, "Here ya go, kid. That's the lineup card from the manager."

It was heady stuff for Wright, a 24-year-old lefty who had once seemed stalled in the minors and had never thrown a pitch above Double-A before his first pitch to Grady Sizemore at 7:08 p.m. It was pretty huge for the Yankees, too, who have four starters on the disabled list.

Alex Rodriguez hit his MLB-leading eighth homer of the season.

After a shaky beginning, Wright threw five semi-solid innings, getting plenty of help from his teammates, and got to walk off the mound in position to win as his father, David, beamed and snapped photos from the stands.

Afterward, Wright called it the best night of his life.

"Getting drafted by them was a pretty big thing, but I'd have to say this tops it by far," Wright said. He said the first thing he was going to do when he left the clubhouse was grab his dad, step-mom, Celeste, and brother, Chad, and "give 'em all a hug and scream a little bit."

Wright (1-0) allowed five hits and three runs, walking three and striking out three as the Yankees evened their record at 6-6. Wright grew more comfortable after the Yanks built an 8-1 lead thanks to Alex Rodriguez's eighth home run, one by Jorge Posada and one by Doug Mientkiewicz. Posada's homer was the 200th of his career and A-Rod, who has hit safely in every game this season, also had an RBI single.

Even Derek Jeter, who seemed defensively challenged after making six errors in the first 11 games, made a sparkling play, going to his left, spinning and throwing off balance to rob Victor Martinez of a hit in the third.

The first couple innings were played in a drizzle on a dreary, 48-degree night. While most everyone at the Stadium, including the 38,438 fans who braved the elements, felt chilly, Joe Torre guessed that Wright "was the only one not cold. I think he had the blood rushing."

Told what Torre said, Wright grinned.

"I was cold when I was done pitching," he said.

Wright was the Yankees' third-round pick in the 2001 draft and struggled immediately, spending six years without going past Class A. He was not even in the rotation at Class A Tampa at the start of last season, but eventually began to start and went 12-3 to lead the Florida State League with a 1.88 ERA. He was named the league's Pitcher of the Year. Entering his seventh pro season this year, Wright was ranked as the Yanks' 19th-best prospect by Baseball America's Prospect Handbook.

Wright began surging when he put together several good starts during his 2005 campaign at Class-A Charleston. "Coming out of high school, I struggled and it was hard to have confidence," Wright said. "That was the difference."

That helped him last night when he walked the first two hitters he faced. Sizemore walked on a 3-2 pitch that was close - so much so that Posada stood up to throw the ball down to third to start an around-the-horn - and then Jason Michaels got a free pass after Wright got ahead, 0-1. Some young pitchers might have collapsed, but Wright got three straight outs, with only one run scoring on a grounder.

Guidry visited after the second walk and told Wright, "It's the same game you've been playing all your life. You make good pitches, guys make outs."

"For him, that was a big inning because it could've turned a lot worse if he's not concentrating," Guidry added. "He's got a lot of poise for a young kid."

Wright gave up a homer to Travis Hafner, who hit 42 home runs last year, in the third inning and an RBI single to Andy Marte in the fourth. He came out after a scoreless fifth, having thrown 104 pitches.

"There was a lot of quality there," Torre said. "He went after people."

It's still unclear though if he'll get another start. "We'll see," Torre said. "We'll see how we're lined up. But I certainly like what I saw. We'll make that decision later."

For now, Wright was going to enjoy his first one. There were about 50 voice mails and text messages waiting for him on his cellular phone after the game. He planned to go out to eat with his family, friends and agents.

"It's been a great day," Wright said.

Fred Barnes: A Convenient Fiction

[Normally I don't use a picture on this site more than once but this one is a personal favorite. - jtf]

Steve Hayward's rebuttal to "An Inconvenient Truth" won't thrill either the environmental crowd or Hollywood's liberal elite.

The Weekly Standard

04/18/2007 12:00:00 AM

STEVE HAYWARD is no Al Gore. The former vice president's film about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, delighted environmentalists and won an Academy Award. Hayward's rebuttal of Gore's warning about a coming climate catastrophe won't thrill either the environmental crowd or Hollywood's liberal elite. And you won't find his film, "An Inconvenient Truth or Convenient Fiction," in 600 movie theaters either, as Gore's was last summer. To see Hayward's 50-minute film, your best bet is to go to the website, It is well worth watching, maybe more than once.

Hayward, as a global warming skeptic, has an advantage over Gore. Unlike Gore, he is calm and reasonable, avoids hyperbole, and sticks to the facts, some of which are confusing or contradictory. The result is that he is closer to what he calls "the general consensus" among scientists about global warming than Gore is.

It's important to note than Hayward, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is not a global warming denier. "Much of what Vice President Gore says about climate change is correct," Hayward says in the film. "The planet is warming. Human beings are playing a substantial role in that warming." Beyond that, however, he disagrees sharply with Gore.

"The problem with Vice President Gore and other global warming extremists is that they distort the science, grossly exaggerate the risks, argue that anyone who disagrees with them is corrupt, and suggest that solutions are easy and cheap," Hayward says. "And that's an all too convenient fiction."

Hayward uses the same rhetorical devises as Gore. His film is basically a lecture with graphs and maps and pictures. Sponsored by the Pacific Research Institute, it cost less than $30,000 to produce. As Gore did, Hayward chats with the viewer while driving a car and walking through the woods. All this seems to work. Hayward holds your attention for his entire presentation.
His purpose is to shoot down Gore's "extreme claims" and the important facts he leaves out. For instance, Gore points to the melting ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. Hayward notes what Gore omitted: that while the ice in both places is melting in some locations, it is growing in others. In another case, Gore says the ice on Mt. Kilminjaro in Tanzania is melting so fast it will be gone in a few decades. In response, Hayward says this may be true, but it's not because of global warming but is due to land use and deforestation around the mountain that has "made it drier on top."

Hayward insists we can deal with environmental problems without drastically changing how we live. His example: Los Angeles. When he grew up there, it was smog-bound. Since then, the population has doubled, the number of automobiles has tripled, yet the level of smog has been reduced by 75 percent. "In most areas, not all areas, environmental quality in the U.S. is improving rapidly," he says.

One more telling item: the Kyoto treaty. Two Princeton professors have suggested seven different steps--or wedges, as they call them--to meet Kyoto's goals for cutting greenhouse gases. Gore adopts these steps in his film, minus one of them--more nuclear power. This omission is "a case of environmental correctness right out of the '70s," Hayward says.

If some of Hayward's case sounds too technical or academic, it's not really. Hayward makes it simple to understand. What's especially significant is that he doesn't cite only the science that suits his purposes. Conclusions about global warming are all over the lot, he notes, and "you can get whiplash following the science on this." His point is that the science on global warming is not settled, as Gore and his allies claim.

As it turns out, most of those making the wildest claims about global warming aren't scientists at all, Hayward says. Instead, they tend to be "politicians, headline-seeking journalists, environmentalist, and windy Anglican bishops who can't understand why people aren't coming to church any more on Sunday."

The environment, Hayward concludes, "is much too important to be left to environmentalists."

Or to Al Gore.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

Michelle Malkin- Wanted: A Culture of Self-Defense

Chuck Connors in The Rifleman

April 18, 2007

There's no polite way or time to say it: American colleges and universities have become coddle industries. Big Nanny administrators oversee speech codes, segregated dorms, politically correct academic departments and designated "safe spaces" to protect students selectively from hurtful (conservative) opinions -- while allowing mob rule for approved leftist positions (textbook case: Columbia University's anti-Minuteman Project protesters).

Instead of teaching students to defend their beliefs, American educators shield them from vigorous intellectual debate. Instead of encouraging autonomy, our higher institutions of learning stoke passivity and conflict-avoidance.

And as the erosion of intellectual self-defense goes, so goes the erosion of physical self-defense.

Yesterday morning, as news was breaking about the carnage at Virginia Tech, a reader e-mailed me a news story from last January. State legislators in Virginia had attempted to pass a bill that would have eased handgun restrictions on college campuses. Opposed by outspoken, anti-gun activists and Virginia Tech administrators, that bill failed.

Is it too early to ask: "What if?" What if that bill had passed? What if just one student in one of those classrooms had been in lawful possession of a concealed weapon for the purpose of self-defense?

If it wasn't too early for Keystone Katie Couric to be jumping all over campus security yesterday for what they woulda/coulda/shoulda done in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, and if it isn't too early for The New York Times editorial board to be publishing its knee-jerk call for more gun control, it darned well isn't too early for me to raise questions about how the unrepentant anti-gun lobbying of college officials may have put students at risk.

The back story: Virginia Tech had punished a student for bringing a handgun to class last spring -- despite the fact that the student had a valid concealed handgun permit. The bill would have barred public universities from making "rules or regulations limiting or abridging the ability of a student who possesses a valid concealed handgun permit . . . from lawfully carrying a concealed handgun." After the proposal died in subcommittee, the school's governing board reiterated its ban on students or employees carrying guns and prohibiting visitors from bringing them into campus buildings.

Late last summer, a shooting near campus prompted students to clamor again for loosening campus rules against armed self-defense. Virginia Tech officials turned up their noses. In response to student Bradford Wiles's campus newspaper op-ed piece in support of concealed carry on campus, Virginia Tech Associate Vice President Larry Hincker scoffed:

"[I]t is absolutely mind-boggling to see the opinions of Bradford Wiles. . . . The editors of this page must have printed this commentary if for no other reason than malicious compliance. Surely, they scratched their heads saying, 'I can't believe he really wants to say that.' Wiles tells us that he didn't feel safe with the hundreds of highly trained officers armed with high powered rifles encircling the building and protecting him. He even implies that he needed his sidearm to protect himself . . ."

The nerve!

Hincker continued: "The writer would have us believe that a university campus, with tens of thousands of young people, is safer with everyone packing heat. Imagine the continual fear of students in that scenario. We've seen that fear here, and we don't want to see it again. . . . Guns don't belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same."

Who's scratching his head now, Mr. Hincker?

Some high-handed commentators insist it's premature or unseemly to examine the impact of school rules discouraging students from carrying arms on campus. Pundit Andrew Sullivan complained that it was "creepy" to highlight reader e-mails calling attention to Virginia Tech's restrictions on student self-defense -- even as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence rushed to capitalize on the massacre to sign up new members and gather e-mail addresses for Million Mom March chapters. "We are outraged by the increase in gun violence in America, especially the recent shooting at Virginia Tech," reads the online petition. "Add your name to the growing list of people who are saying: 'Enough Is Enough!'"

Enough is enough, indeed. Enough of intellectual disarmament. Enough of physical disarmament. You want a safer campus? It begins with renewing a culture of self-defense -- mind, spirit and body. It begins with two words: Fight back.

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reading T.S. Eliot's Four Corners: An Interview With Dr. Thomas Howard

April 2, 2006

T.S. Eliot is considered by many to be the most important and influential poet of the 20th century and his Four Quartets is perhaps his finest poem and greatest literary achievement. Dove Descending is a journey into the beauties and depths of Eliot's masterpiece written by Dr. Thomas Howard, bestselling author, professor and critic.

In his line-by-line commentary, Howard unravels the complexities of the sublime poem with such adept adroitness that even its most difficult passages spring to life. During his many years as a professor of English and Literature, Howard taught many classes about Four Quartets and developed what he calls "a reading" approach to its concepts that renders the poem’s meaning more lucid for the reader. Dove Descending reunites the brilliant insights of a master teacher whose understanding and love of Eliot’s writings are shared here for the great benefit of the reader.

Dove Descending is the first in-depth exposition of Eliot's masterwork ever published and the fruit of Howard's many years of teaching Eliot and his unique understanding of the complexities of the great poem. It is a must-have book for fans of T. S Eliot, and anyone who wants to understand his greatest work.

Carl E. Olson, editor of, recently interviewed Dr. Howard about his book, Eliot, and Four Quartets.

T. S. Eliot, March 6, 1950 When was your first encounter with the poetry of T.S. Eliot? What was your impression of it? What attracted you to it?

Thomas Howard: I think my first real encounter with Eliot's poetry occurred during my doctoral studies at New York University. I signed up for a course in his work. It was all extraordinarily demanding, but turned out to be glorious. My first impression, like everyone else's, was of almost impenetrable difficulty. But as I read on (very slowly) it was as though an enormous sunrise swam into view. How did Eliot, via his poetry and critical works, influence other poets and writers? What has been his impact on poetry?

Howard: Eliot had a vast influence for several decades in the English-speaking world, during which he enjoyed an eminence that few writers achieve during their lifetime. But it gradually dawned on the academic world and the world of the arts that Eliot was extolling an unabashedly Christian vision of things, and he was virtually exiled from English departments. He said things that the 20th century did not at all like to hear, most notably that undiluted Christian orthodoxy judges the whole modern enterprise. Why should Eliot be read today?

Howard: Why read Eliot now? Because he speaks of what he called "the permanent things." How would you describe the significance and value of Four Quartets? Is this poem a good place to first meet Eliot for those who haven't read his work before?

Howard: In my opinion, Four Quartets should take its place with other monuments that bespeak the Christian vision, e.g., Dante's work, Chartres cathedral, Bach's B-minor Mass, Mozart's Requiem, and van Eyck's painting of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. But there is no easy "starting point" for one approaching Eliot's work. It is as difficult as scaling Everest–and at least as rewarding. But a new reader needs some help.

Adoration of the Lamb by van Eyck Why did you write Dove Descending? What sort of approach do you take to the poem?

Howard: I wrote Dove Descending because I loved Four Quartets, I knew people found it almost impossible to understand, and I wanted to give them some help in entering the almost unimaginably glorious precincts of Eliot's vision. Could you discuss briefly a specific section or line in Four Quartets that provides a good example of Eliot's style, approach, or use of imagery?

Howard: One suggestive line from Four Quartets might be: ". . . the still point of the turning world." Here Eliot draws us, in his inexorable way, to the center of things, around which whirl all of the distractions which we all pursue in order to avoid coming to terms with sheer, implacable Reality. He speaks also of our being "distracted by distraction from distraction." There are many commentaries about "The Wasteland," Eliot's first great poem. Why haven't many (or any) been written about Four Quartets? Does this reflect a bias against the Christian Eliot as opposed to the pre-Christian Eliot?

Howard: Eliot's early poem "The Waste Land" made him (everyone felt) the spokesman for our 20th century angst, which was breathlessly fashionable: how beleaguered we modern men all are with the ambiguities of existence, etc, etc, etc. Years later he wrote what is in my opinion his magnum opus, the Four Quartets. But this poem draws us to the center of the Christian mysteries, and most people don't want to trouble themselves with all of that. Hence the (probably) more enduring interest of the earlier poem, although I would not be surprised to learn that even "The Waste Land" is no longer read, since Eliot and all of his works are very un-politically-correct, in the view of contemporary academia and the intelligentsia. How would you describe Eliot's views of classical poetry and of modern poetry? Is Eliot the modern poet?

Howard: Eliot, of course, had his sensibilities formed by traditional poetry. But he felt that each epoch must speak in the patois, so to speak, of its own time, and hence the poetry of the 20th century could not simply take up l7th or l9th century ways of saying things poetically. I suppose that he liked the conventions of modern poetry, and knew that he had no choice in the matter. He could not copy Tennyson, Wordsworth, or even Dante. He had to do what they did, namely, speak in the language of their own times. In my view Eliot is indeed the Modern Poet. But that would be the view of an almost invisible minority. After all of your years of studying and reading it, what brings you back to Four Quartets?

Howard: What brings me back to Eliot? The same thing that brings me back to Sacred Scripture (although I do not suppose that Eliot is inspired in the same way). He speaks of "the permanent things," which we all ignore to our everlasting peril.

Chartre Cathedral

Related Articles:

The Quintessential – And Last – Modern Poet George William Rutler The Foreword to Dove Descending: A Journey Into T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, by Thomas Howard

The Power of Poetry Interview with Joseph Pearce about Flowers of Heaven: One Thousand Years of Christian Verse

Well-Versed in Faith Selections from Flowers of Heaven: One Thousand Years of Christian Verse, compiled by Joseph Pearce

The Measure of Literary Giants An Interview with Joseph Pearce

Thomas Howard was raised in a prominent Evangelical home (his sister is well-known author and former missionary Elisabeth Elliot), became Episcopalian in his mid-twenties, then entered the Catholic Church in 1985, at the age of fifty. Howard is a highly acclaimed writer and scholar, noted for his studies of Inklings C.S. Lewis ( Narnia & Beyond: A Guide to the Fiction of C.S. Lewis [2006, 1987]) and Charles Williams (The Novels of Charles Williams [1991]), as well as books including Christ the Tiger (1967), Chance or the Dance? (1969), Hallowed be This House (1976), Evangelical is Not Enough (1984), If Your Mind Wanders at Mass (1995), On Being Catholic (1997), The Secret of New York Revealed, and Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome, the story of his embrace of Catholicism. His new book is Dove Descending: A Journey Into T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets.

Read more about and by Thomas Howard here.

Visit the Insight Scoop Blog and read the latest posts and comments by staff and readers about current events, controversies, and news in the Church!

Thomas Sowell: The Gutless Duke Lynch Mob

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper speaks during a news conference in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, April 11, 2007.

April 17, 2007

Just before the Attorney General of North Carolina appeared on television to announce his decision on the Duke University "rape" case, one of the many expert TV legal commentators said that Attorney General Roy Cooper would probably use the words "insufficient evidence" but not the word "innocent" in dismissing the case.

As it turned out, the Attorney General did use the word "innocent," saying that he and his staff considered the accused students innocent. It was the only decent thing to do.

Anything less would have let the ugly accusation follow them for life and, years from now, when all the details of this sordid story have long since been forgotten, hang over their heads with a suspicion that they got off on some legal technicality.

What a difference a year makes. A year ago, there was a lynch mob atmosphere against the accused students -- from the Duke University campus to the national media, and including the local NAACP and the ever-present Jesse Jackson.

These were affluent white male students and a poor black woman accusing them of rape. For those steeped in the new sacred trinity of "race, class, and gender," what more did you need to know, in order to know which side to come out on?

Duke University suspended the students when charges were filed, cancelled the entire remaining schedule of the lacrosse team for which they played, and got rid of the coach. Former Princeton University president William Bowen -- a critic of college athletics -- and the head of the local NAACP were called in to issue a report, which complained that Duke had not acted fast enough.

Meanwhile, 88 members of the Duke faculty took out an ad in the campus newspaper denouncing racism. Among other things, the ad said, "what is apparent everyday now is the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of racism and sexism."

As for the demonstrations and threats loudly voiced by some local blacks, in the wake of the accusations against the Duke lacrosse students, the ad said:

"We're turning up the volume in a moment when the most vulnerable among us are being asked to quiet down while we wait. To the students speaking individually and to the protesters making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourself heard."

This year, after all the charges have collapsed like a house of cards, the campus lynch mob -- including Duke University president Richard H. Brodhead -- are backpedalling swiftly and washing their hands like Pontius Pilate.

Duke University president Richard H. Brodhead

They deny ever saying that the students were guilty. Of course not. They merely acted as if that was a foregone conclusion, while leaving themselves an escape hatch.

It is bad enough to be part of a lynch mob. It is worse to deny that you are part of a lynch mob, while standing there holding the rope in your hands.

What is even more important than clearing the names of the three young men charged with a heinous crime is making sure that the man responsible for this travesty of justice -- District Attorney Michael Nifong -- pays the fullest price for what he did.

The state bar association investigating Nifong needs to understand that this case is much bigger than Nifong.

If prosecutors can drag people through the mud and keep felony charges hanging over their heads, long after all the evidence says the opposite of what they were charged with, then any of us, anywhere, can be put through a living hell whenever it suits the whim or the political agenda of a district attorney.

Much was made of the fact that these Duke students came from affluent families. Lucky for them -- and for all of us. Not everyone has an extra million dollars lying around to fight off false accusations. Their fight is our fight.

This case will send a message, one way or another, to prosecutors across the length and breadth of this country. Either you can get away with dragging people through hell without a speck of evidence -- and in defiance of other evidence -- or you can't.

This case has already sent a message about the kinds of gutless lemmings on our academic campuses, including our most prestigious institutions.

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Adrian Morgan: Islamic Indoctrination in American Classrooms

April 17, 2007

The First Amendment to the US federal constitution was written in 1789, and was ratified by the States in 1791. It states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." The interpretation of the First Amendment and in particular its first clause, referred to as the "Establishment of Religion" or "Establishment" clause, has a direct bearing on how federally- funded public schools can teach religion. Alan Brownstein, a constitutional law expert from the University of California at Davis' School of Law states: "From a constitutional perspective, schools can't teach the truth or falsity of religious belief, and atheism would fall in that parameter."

Public schools can teach about religions, but can neither denigrate one religion nor promote another. When 9/11 happened, children were confronted with the spectacle of Muslim terrorism on their TV screens. Sadly, for children growing up in America, their understanding of why Islamic terrorism takes place is not likely to be explained at school. There are "problematic" verses in the Koran, advocating violence against "unbelievers". These include Sura 8:12: "I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them."

Sura 3:151 states: "Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority: their abode will be the Fire: And evil is the home of the wrong-doers!" Sura 9:25 declares: "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful."

Sura 9:29 states: "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." (Jizya was a tax which non-Muslims had to pay to their Muslim overlords).

The First Amendment was originally designed to prevent the conflicts which (Christian) religion had caused in Europe. Now, it is being employed by the politically correct to present an anodyne and inaccurate portrayal of Islam in US public schools. Sura 4:34 specifically states that a husband has the right to beat his wife if she is not submissive. Problematic Suras such as this are not likely to even be mentioned in public schools, for fear of being seen to break the terms of the First Amendment by "denigrating" Islam.

Already schools in America are being taken to task by Muslim activists who perceive that their religion is not treated with enough "respect". In December 2006 Baltimore County School Board in Maryland was accused of inaccuracy in its teaching of Islam. The claim was made by Bash Pharoan, who is president of the local American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and head of Baltimore County Muslim Council.

Bash Pharoan

Pharoan was complaining about resource sheets given to students in seventh and tenth grade. He has been whining for three years that the sheets do not show respect to Mohammed, founder of Islam, because they merely call him "Mohammed." "Omitting the word prophet is disrespectful", Pharoan claimed.

He also objected to the description in the resource sheets of "jihad". He accepted that the sheets refer to its meaning as "struggle" but objected to the statement: "Muhammad justified his attacks to his followers by explaining that to weaken those who opposed the spread of God's word was a virtue, and that those who fell in battle would be rewarded in heaven. Thus the idea of the jihad became the holy war of the Muslims against 'the unbelievers."

The issue of how Islam is taught in schools has become a political hot potato. In California one school, the Excelsior Elementary, took its teaching of Islam to seventh graders to extremes. School pupils were made to dress up in Islamic clothing, to memorize Koranic verses and even to fast during their lunch hour to mimic Muslim behavior during Ramadan. The Five Pillars of Islam were to be learned, pupils were encouraged to say "Allahu Ackbar" and using dice, the children played a "jihad game". The materials employed at the school stated: "From the beginning, you and your classmates will become Muslims."

The games were neither new, nor exclusive to Excelsior. In 1994 the Joseph Kerr Junior High School in Elk Grove, California displayed a banner stating "There is one God, Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet" while children ran around in Islamic garb. In summer of 2002, Byron Union School District, which governs Excelsior, became subject of a lawsuit. This suit was brought by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center said of the Islamic sessions at Excelsior: "No federal court would have permitted a class where public school students were taught to 'become Catholics' for three weeks, selected a saint's name, wore identification tags that displayed their new name and a Crucifix, and engaged in Catholic religious practices. Here, however, students were subjected to Islamic religious indoctrination and propaganda and the courts turned a blind eye. The Supreme Court missed an opportunity to demonstrate that the Establishment Clause is to be applied the same to all religions and is not just a weapon to be used only against Christians."

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton

On 10 December 2003 U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton issued a 22 page ruling which claimed that Excelsior was not violating the constitution as it was not indoctrinating students into Islam. TMLC pointed out that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional in 2002.

The simulations of Islam as practiced by Excelsior Elementary School were recommended in a textbook published by Houghton Mifflin, entitled "Across the Centuries". The publishers have defended this book, claiming one major critic had not read the book. William J. Bennetta of the Textbook League has read the book, and still condemns it. "Across the Centuries" is one of several controversial text books available in US schools.

The book "Across the Centuries" was republished after it was reviewed by Susan L. Douglass, an American-born Muslim who works for the Council of Islamic Education (CIE) which was founded in 1990. She is also associated with the International Institute of Islamic Thought, whose president declared that jihad was the only way to liberate Palestine.

CIE describes Douglass as "an American-born Muslim social studies educator and author, with experience in teaching, curriculum and instructional design. She has a Master’s Degree in Arab Studies (History) from Georgetown University and a B.A. in History from the University of Rochester. Ms. Douglass is an independent consultant who has served as CIE’s principal researcher and writer, contributing to projects involving textbook review, analysis of curriculum and standards, teacher training, and development of supplementary materials."

For nearly a decade, up until 2003, Douglass taught at the Saudi-funded Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Virginia. In 1993 the Islamic Assembly published "Answers to Common Questions to New Muslims." In this a question was posed: "Now that I am Muslim, can I keep my non-Muslim friends that I have known all my life?" The answer was given: "You should try to remain away from mixing with non-Muslims because mixing with them removes your religious zealousness and pride from your heart and may lead you to having love and compassion in your heart for them. is obligatory upon a Muslim to be free of the people of infidelity and to hate them for the sake of Allah."

The agendas of those who maintain that religions are discriminated against should always be examined. Bash Pharoan, who maintains that Baltimore County School Board is not respectful of Islam, has demanded that Jewish school holidays be banned. This move was made in June 2006 after his three-year campaigns to have the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha introduced into school calendars was not accepted. He described his vindictive proposal thus: "This issue is about equality, about equity."

On June 13, 2006, the school board ruled that there would not be official Muslim holidays. The reasons were purely financial. There are very few Muslim students and teachers, and the Baltimore County School Board already allows these to stay at home on their holidays. Only when more teachers in the county were taking Muslim holidays (with substitute teachers costing $59.66 to $103.05 per day) would these holidays become universal. Bash Pharoan, unable to get his own way, then argued that there should be no religious holidays for anyone.

A similar situation arose in 2005 in Hillsborough county in Florida. Here the politicking was manipulated by Ahmed Bedier of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). In October 2005, Hillsborough County School Board approved a calendar for 2006 to 2007 which had removed holidays for Yom Kippur and Good Friday. Since December 2004, Bedier had argued that Eid al-Fitr should be included as an official school holiday. On November 8, the school board took another vote, and religious holidays were reinstated, though with no Eid holiday. Bedier said: "I'm disappointed but I'm satisfied. We're back at square one. If others are getting their holidays, it gives us hope we'll get ours as well someday."

Issues of holidays are trivial compared to the material which purports to educate students about Islam. If such material is of itself biased, then the primary duty of education is undermined. In 2004, Georgetown University hosted a seminar for teachers, federally funded under Title VI of the Higher Education Act. The university (already a recipient of $20 million from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal to "educate" the West about Islam) is one of 18 centers of learning that provide resources to educationalists.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal

Among the study materials on offer is the "Arab World Studies Notebook", which makes some bizarre claims, such as Muslims arrived in the Americas before Columbus and spread through the Caribbean and into Canada. This preposterous claim was later removed, but other contentious passages remained, including comments suggesting Jews have no claim to Israel. The book is edited by Audrey Shabbas, who has hosted more than 268 seminars for teachers in 155 cities since 1987. A joint publisher of the book is Dar al Islam, based in New Mexico. According to JTA, Susan L. Douglass is an associate of Dar al Islam's Teachers Institute.

Books which promote Islamic radicalism have made their way into school districts through donations. In 2001, the Omar Ibn Khatab Foundation made a donation of 300 Korans, entitled "The Meaning of the Holy Quran", to Los Angeles city school district. In 2002, these copies of the Koran had to be removed, as it was found that they contained anti-Semitic footnotes, such as: "The Jews in their arrogance claimed that all wisdom and all knowledge of Allah was enclosed in their hearts. Their claim was not only arrogance but blasphemy."

Susan L. Douglass

The public schools in America are partially protected from Islamist indoctrination by the First Amendment. Though imperfectly applied and interpreted, the Establishment Clause prohibits religious indoctrination from entering the classroom. Through the efforts of Susan L. Douglass and the Council of Islamic Education, a biased assessment of Islam is entering public schools via textbooks produced by mainstream publishers.

The extreme and uncompromising form of Islam known as Wahhabism is still being taught in the numerous Saudi-funded schools that exist in North America. Being independent of the US government, such establishments are not subject to the terms of the Establishment Clause. The Saudi-funded Islamic Academy in Virginia, where Susan L. Douglass formerly taught, has already produced three graduates who were jailed in 2002 on suspicion of planning a terrorist act.

Parents should make themselves aware of what their children are being taught about Islam in school. Demand to see study sheets. Demand a list of approved textbooks, and check these out in your local library. Talk to teachers, principals, or write to your local school board. If you think your child is being indoctrinated, write to your Congress representative. You have a Constitution which prevents religious indoctrination by government bodies. For this privilege you should feel fortunate.

Adrian Morgan is a British writer and artist who regularly contributes to Islam Watch, Family Security Matters, Western Resistance, Spero News and He has previously contributed to various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist and is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society. His Global Politician articles deal with issues relating to Islam and terrorism.