Saturday, May 05, 2007

Bob Klapisch: Pavano operates a heist on the mound

Brian Cashman welcomes Carl Pavano to New York.

Saturday, May 5, 2007



Say farewell to Carl Pavano, if you haven't already, as the doomed right-hander moves closer to elbow surgery which will end his season and (thankfully) his Yankee career.

Pavano was in Pensacola, Fla., on Friday, where he was supposedly being examined by Dr. James Andrews. There was no further news, however, as Pavano failed to get in touch with the Yankees and his agent, forcing all parties to admit they'd temporarily lost track of the pitcher.

Typical Pavano, unreliable to the end. Still, there's only one possible conclusion to this bizarre saga: Pavano will have reconstructive surgery that will keep him on the disabled list until mid-2008. And that's exactly what he's wanted all along.

Even before the scheduled visit to Andrews, Pavano was telling teammates he needs an operation. One Yankee said on Friday, "He's going to have [this surgery] one way or another." Pavano was going to find a doctor, any doctor, who could hasten his final exit from the Bronx.

Pavano will be remembered as the worst mistake of general manager Brian Cashman's tenure -- and there've been a few. None, however, have been this expensive or this embarrassing. At $10 million a year, Pavano hasn't just been a negative value, he's savaged Cashman's reputation, as well.

The GM was fleeced by a pitcher who never intended to honor his contract. Even if you accept that Pavano's elbow is legitimately damaged, the constellation of preceding injuries told you there was something spiritually wrong with him. Pavano made Cashman look like a fool, and the GM compounded his mistake by insisting the right-hander would make a storybook comeback in 2007.

Cashman finally admitted on Friday, "This hasn't worked out" for either Pavano or the Yankees. But the GM is still being too nice. He - and agent Gregg Clifton, another honorable man – should stop making excuses for Pavano, stop talking about his bad luck and articulate what everyone in the baseball community already knows.

And that is, Pavano has made off with the greatest heist in recent Yankee memory. Who knew it would end this badly? Pavano had everyone so thoroughly conned: He was blessed with that power sinker, the Connecticut roots, the championship pedigree from the 2003 Marlins. He even turned down more money from the Tigers just to play in pinstripes.

But something happened to Pavano in his first six weeks in New York. A member of the organization said: "He realized he couldn't handle it here. Everything, all of this, was too much for him." And so began the steady blur of unthinkable injuries – the back, the buttocks, the shoulder, bone chips in the elbow. Now comes the doomsday setback, Tommy John surgery, which will keep Pavano on the disabled list for 12-16 months.

That extended invisibility will give everyone a perfect exit strategy: Pavano won't be pressured to return, allowing him to get paid for doing nothing. And if Cashman wants it, he'll have the last word.


There's no reason for the Yankees not to sever their ties with Pavano. There's no financial incentive to keep him around; his money is guaranteed and the Bombers will collect their insurance payout. Buying out Pavano will allow the Yankees to at least regain their dignity after two years of humiliation within the industry.

Even Clifton has trouble mustering a defense for his client. This is the same agent who represents some of the game's most ethical players, including Tom Glavine. Clifton came to Pavano's rescue this winter, determined to rehabilitate the right-hander's career and reputation. But having been undercut by Pavano, Clifton had to skirt around the events of the last two years and speak of Pavano's future (assuming he has one.)

"Carl is still a young man, and if this is all because of an injury, he might be better than ever after he recovers," Clifton said by telephone on Friday.

When asked specifically about Pavano's damaged legacy, Clifton said: "You just keep moving forward. If what went wrong was physical, then you think about getting better. At least you have a reason for what went wrong, something you can point to."

Clifton might have had a point, if the bad elbow was all that ailed Pavano. But once a player spends too much time on the DL, people start talking, even the ones who wear the same uniform. Cashman likes to say every one of Pavano's injuries was diagnosed and confirmed by a board certified physician. But ballplayers have a truer, sixth sense about who wants to be on the field and who doesn't.

You don't have to ask how the Yankees felt about Pavano. His latest setback hardly caused a ripple in the clubhouse. The Bombers were beyond shock or anger or even disappointment. Pavano was all but dead to the Yankees. If anything, the finality of Tommy John surgery will lighten the clubhouse, if not the organization.

The Yankees won't have to issue empty progress reports on Pavano's latest comeback. And he won't have to think of any more injuries. Good thing, since Pavano was running out of available body parts.

Not to worry, though: Dr. Andrews will soon take everyone off the hook. Presumably, he'll fix Pavano's elbow, too.


At Stagecoach festival, Emmylou Harris is the first lady


By Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 3, 2007

PROMOTERS of this weekend's Stagecoach festival in Indio have cast their lasso far and wide to rope in a variety of talent to create an event showcasing the stylistic range and artistic ambition of all that can be considered country music today.

From the commercial punch of headliners Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson to the intensely revelatory songwriting of Lucinda Williams and Kris Kristofferson; the Western music tradition of Riders in the Sky to the high-lonesome bluegrass sounds of Ricky Skaggs and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; the edgy country-sympathetic rock of Neko Case and the Old 97's to the staunchly traditional artistry of the Sons of the San Joaquin.

It'll require roughly 20 hours spanning two days Saturday and Sunday for fans to sample everything offered at this twangy answer to last weekend's pop-rock-dance-hip-hop Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club.

But had time or purse strings been tighter, Stagecoach organizers could have accomplished pretty much everything they set out to do by simply putting Emmylou Harris on stage alone.

Harris, who plays Sunday night on the Palomino Stage (one of four set up to accommodate 62 acts), is arguably the festival's most respected artist, a woman whose three decade-plus recording career has been the gold standard of heady ambition, personal and professional integrity and nearly flawless execution.

It certainly helped that she was mentored early on by one of the most influential musicians in country and rock of the last half century, singer and songwriter Gram Parsons. Harris' otherworldly voice was a key part of Parsons' highly regarded "Grievous Angel" album, and after his death in 1973, she caught the ear of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt, who put her elegant harmonies on their recordings.

But with her "Pieces of the Sky" solo album in 1975, she stepped into the limelight, and has since let her exceptional musical conscience be her guide.

She championed the songs and heart-wrenching harmonies of the Louvin Brothers when most in country music looked on them as relics of the past, she was among the first to recognize the sterling songwriting of Rodney Crowell, Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle, and astutely covered songs by Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Delbert McClinton. She went outside the usual country circles to record tunes by Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Lennon-McCartney.

From 1975 to 1988, she charted 27 Top 10 country hits, seven of them reaching No. 1, and to date she's taken home a dozen Grammy Awards. When country was going pop in the wake of "Urban Cowboy" in the late '70s, she headed in the opposite direction with an exquisite acoustic bluegrass album, "Roses in the Snow." And when she became one of the countless veterans to whom country radio turned its back in the '90s in a single-minded rush for young, fresh faces, she took yet another bold step, opening new thematic and sonic vistas for her by hooking up with celebrated rock producer Daniel Lanois for the richly atmospheric "Red Dirt Girl."

It also flung open the door for a new level of self-expression. Having previously been almost exclusively an interpreter of other writers' songs — the major exception being the instant-classic "Boulder to Birmingham" she wrote for that early "Pieces of the Sky" album—suddenly she proved herself to be a first-rate songwriter as well as one of the most highly regarded singers ever in country.

At 60, she remains a selfless and enthusiastic promoter of music of all stripe, jumping at the chance to record with acclaimed younger acts such as Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. And when there's a worthy cause in need of assistance, Harris is frequently on stage helping out.

So for anyone heading to Stagecoach, go ahead and party with Kenny Chesney, catch George Strait's four-square commercial country hits, hear Willie Nelson sing "Whiskey River" for the 10 zwillionth time, pop in on newcomers Eric Church or Jason Michael Carroll for a glimpse of Country Yet to Come.

But to grasp the very heart and soul of the music known as country, consider Emmylou Harris' performance on Sunday to be the one that's absolutely essential.

Crystal Zevon's story: Warren from A to Z

Through interviews and diaries, the musician's ex-wife chronicles the hedonistic life of one of the genre's bad boys.

By Fred Schruers, Special to The Los Angeles Times
May 4, 2007

In August 1980, Warren Zevon, onstage at the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard, sat down at the piano and introduced his song, "Hasten Down the Wind," which had been covered by Linda Ronstadt on a platinum-selling 1976 album.

"This is the song that intervened between me and starvation," he told the crowd.

This night found Zevon fairly fresh out of a rehab stint and grateful in a larger sense: "As someone who abused the privilege for a long time, I'd like to say, it's good to be alive."

Zevon, who had strained a nerve in rehearsal, was on painkillers and steroids, and the rebirth he cited that night would soon give way to half a decade of heavy boozing and drug abuse that finally yielded in 1986 to a rededication to sobriety. That resolve would last 17 years — until, in a small tragedy engulfed by the larger tragedy of his slow decline from lung cancer, he temporarily succumbed to drugging and boozing again.

"It was very painful," recalled former wife Crystal Zevon of that spell leading to his death on Sept. 7, 2003. "Because we lost that time with him."

One thing that can definitively be said of Crystal Zevon, whose new memoir "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon" is that she's forgiving. Now living near her (and Warren's) daughter, Ariel, in central Vermont, two decades after the breakup that helped send her and Ariel spiraling through years of addictive behavior, she's touring the country to promote the book, which came out this week. It's a compulsively readable oral history composed of brief narrative blocks, a wealth of personal anecdotes from her husband's friends, lovers (including his first wife, Marilyn "Tule" Livingston), and collaborators, and most importantly, Zevon's journals.

Going through his microscopic daily notations, she noted in a recent interview, "There were many times where I said, 'I can't do this, I don't want to read another word, let alone put us all out for public consumption.' Then I'd run across some great line or the moment when a song trigger came to him, and I'd say, 'The story has got to be told.'

"As I say in the acknowledgements, I fell in and out of love a lot of times."

A life on tape

Released simultaneously with the book is a two-CD set (from the small-label Ammal, headed by Zevon's late-career benefactor Danny Goldberg), which has been compiled from carelessly stashed recordings by Zevon's son with Tule, musician Jordan Zevon, 38. It's clear from these 16 tracks, mostly demos of well-known songs, that the performer's classical music grounding made him a deft arranger of his compositions — and also clear, as he growls his way through, that his producers must have worked hard to get some more tuneful barking and crooning out of him for the finished records. (Three of those LPs, never available on CD, were recently released by Rhino in expanded, remastered editions.)

Goldberg believed in the worth of exhuming Jordan's pick of about 150 tracks that Zevon left behind and compares him to John Lennon and Bob Dylan: "I think you could count on the fingers of one hand those songwriters that created an original, distinctive, long lasting and important body of work as Warren," Goldberg said.

Jordan Zevon, who's become an activist against his father's form of lung cancer (mesothelioma, blamed on asbestos), was careful to wear a mask when he delved into the storage areas. Amid old boxes of .45-caliber ammo and T-shirts and cassettes ("Dad would shed a skin every few years, and it was all in there"), he found the real trove in the form of "a floppy, green vinyl suitcase, very 'Death of Salesman,' full of reel-to-reel tapes."

Perhaps most intriguing is the demo of the mournful East L.A. ballad "Carmelita," an emotional rendition in which we hear the original line, "Well I pawned my Smith & Wesson, and I went to meet my man," which was later to be replaced by the much more writerly — in the most literal sense — "… pawned my Smith-Corona."

The accompanying 36-minute interview disk, done circa 2000, displays Zevon's eloquence in answering even pro forma questions. As Goldberg says in the album notes, Zevon "combined sensitivity, intellectual acuity, macho sarcasm, wit, crudeness and aggression. He was the tough guy who wore his heart on his sleeve."

From that same nest of contradictions came Zevon's valedictory body of work, both in his final album, "The Wind," and in earlier work, like the 2000 "Life'll Kill Ya" album, which seems eerily predictive of his fate.

Troubled childhood

But to read Crystal Zevon's unstinting compilation is to swing between admiring and abominating the man. He could be "cruel for cruelty's sake" (as confessed in "The Sin") and during blackout drunks was physically abusive toward Crystal. His itinerant parents' early divorce made Zevon's childhood troubled. When his dad, a Russian-immigrant gangster from Brooklyn, asked him to help with a letter, he "wept with joy." Yet when Jordan, then 8, was ushered into his presence for a rare get-together before a major gig at the Hollywood Bowl, Zevon had little to say.

Jordan finds that forgivable: "Yeah, he's not playing catch with me in the park, but I knew his position in the world — sitting among so many thousands of people as the center point. I never harbored the bitterness, and he ended up being one of my best friends."

"You know, he had a pretty rough beginning," Crystal said. "I think he always suffered. He would angrily reference that, but he took responsibility. I don't think he believed it was a justification."

Ultimately, the dying Zevon pulled out of his binge. His determination to leave a recorded legacy was greatly aided by pals like Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, Bruce Springsteen and his two most indispensable, career-long collaborators, bassist and co-writer Jorge Calderon and singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. Calderon took recording gear to the failing singer's home to get the affecting "Keep Me in Your Heart." Goldberg bankrolled the sessions and was rewarded with a gold record, which Zevon lived to see enter the charts. He also lived to see Ariel's grandsons born.

"He made this decision that the best spiritual connection to this life was to make that album and leave whatever legacy he could in music," Crystal said. "But then when it was all over he kind of let that go, and he really sobered up and he looked at the relationships in his life. He turned to his family and was really there and present."

It was just days before he breathed his last that Zevon reaffirmed to Crystal, "You gotta tell the whole truth, even the awful ugly parts," whereupon "I said, 'Warren, I don't know what the whole truth is.' And he laughed and said, 'You'll find out.' "

Book Review: "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead"

Excitable boy's narcissism, addiction with no regrets
By Erik Himmelsbach, Special to The Los Angeles Times
May 4, 2007

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon
by Crystal Zevon
Ecco: 454 pp., $26.95

It was the perfect subject for a Warren Zevon song: A down-on-his-luck songwriter gets a terminal cancer diagnosis and turns his death march into a victory trot. But Zevon never got to write it; he ran out of time.

Zevon died in September 2003, from mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer. Diagnosed the year before, he was given just a few months to live but was determined to record a final album and see the birth of his grandchildren (his daughter, Ariel, gave birth to twins in June 2003.) He managed to do both, and in the process lived long enough to enjoy the kind of career validation usually reserved for posthumous box sets. During the final year of his life, Zevon was Dead Man Walking — and the manner in which he turned his impending death into the ultimate marketing opportunity was a diabolical final turn in a truly twisted life.

The son of a Jewish gangster known as "Stumpy," Zevon bounced around the fringes of the L.A. music scene in the '60s and '70s — penning jingles, playing piano in the Everly Brothers' touring band. He had less success with his compositions, but he became a sort of bad-boy id to Laurel Canyon's cowboys and girls — Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt. He countered their touchy-feely introspection with a lyrical sledgehammer.

Touted as "the Dorothy Parker of rock" after his self-titled release for David Geffen's Asylum Records in 1976, Zevon reached a commercial peak two years later with the album "Excitable Boy," which landed in Billboard's top 10 on the strength of the hit single "Werewolves of London." Although his commercial appeal plummeted over the next two decades, Zevon's rock 'n' roll appetite never abated. His life was a blur of booze and broads, of endless club tours to pay the bills, a "comeback" every five years or so hyped by sympathetic writers and an occasional glory bask with David Letterman, who remained a loyal champion to the end.

By the late 1990s Zevon was just a guy whose résumé included a singular moment or two, which granted him infinite access to periphery of the business. Then came the diagnosis: Suddenly, 55-year-old Warren Zevon was hot, sexy, and had just months to live.

At last, Zevon had his angle. He spoke to the press, allowed a VH1 camera crew to film his last months and began a final album. "The Wind," released in August 2003, became his biggest seller in two decades and featured famous friends like Bruce Springsteen and Browne paying their final respects. His son, Jordan, remembers his father saying: " 'Okay, I'm going to die but I'm not going to go out John Prine-style with the record that sells ten thousand copies.' He knew what he was doing."

Zevon probably would've appreciated the sometimes disconcerting candor with which friends, family, lovers, acquaintances and, most damningly, Zevon's own diaries, unpeel the complicated layers of the songwriter's life in "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead." Crystal Zevon penned the no-holds-barred oral history at the request of her ex-husband during one of their final conversations. The book reveals a smartass satirist whose inner core was as bankrupt as the characters he documented inhis songs. That Zevon was a songwriter held in the highest esteem by peers cannot mask his inability to connect with others on a basic emotional level. "Nobody with a decent circle of friends could have gotten away with what my dad got away with," his son said. "But he did get away with it because he was him."

He was a difficult guy to root for. According to the testimonials of the scores who knew him, he was a gifted artist who destroyed everything in its wake, leaving miles of scorched earth and emotional debris in the rearview mirror. He had the requisite demons — alcoholism, sex addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder. He could be brutally abusive, both physically and emotionally. In the 1980s when he and Crystal divorced and when he got off booze, his addiction to sex became that much more pronounced. Though he had trysts with the likes of Eleanor Mondale and songwriter Karla Bonoff, he preferred strings-free sexual romps.

Zevon's diaries serve to painfully reinforce others' points of view. So it comes as no surprise when, on his deathbed, he asks his son to safekeep his collection of homemade porn tapes he'd shot with various partners.

Zevon was a strict adherent to the rock star rulebook: He was a classic narcissist of the no apologies, no regrets school. And the story gets ugly, but Crystal Zevon embellishes the darkness with enough Zevonian gonzoness as a reminder why so many were so fond of him: getting married in Vegas while on LSD; shooting cockroaches in his home with a .45; palling with Hunter Thompson, Ross Macdonald and Thomas McGuane.

Even Zevon may have believed he was larger than life. But in spite of the in-character bravado he exhibited when faced with death, he was as scared as any of us would be. He broke 17 years of sobriety, sometimes concocting cocktails of liquid morphine and scotch.

In spite of his last-gasp of self-destruction, he was stubborn enough to hold his grandkids and finish his final sonic statement. Zevon was an excitable boy to the very end — summing it up nicely to his friend, author Carl Hiaasen: "I got to be Jim Morrison a lot longer than he did." This book chronicles a debauched rock 'n' roll life, simultaneously puncturing through Zevon's self-created mythology while enhancing his legend in the process.

Erik Himmelsbach, a writer and TV producer, is at work on a book about the radio station KROQ-FM (106.7) and the alternative-culture revolution.

Tony Blankley: A Rising Tide of Fury

May 02, 2007

The Washington Times

Tony Blankley

Whenever I refer to the threat of radical Islam, I am inundated with e-mails chastising me for unjustified alarmism (that is the polite description of the missives). This week, even the esteemed and often accurate British Economist accused me, by name, of overestimating the threat and being alarmist on the topic.

Not only do I hope they are right, but I regularly monitor the news for evidence of my error; for I have long taken to heart and applied to myself the advice that Oliver Cromwell gave to the Scottish Presbyterians: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."

Nonetheless, while Muslim attitudes across the world are dynamic, and subtle inflections of thought are not easily captured by polling, the news continues to be not encouraging.

Last week, the respected University of Maryland Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), released its most recent survey of Muslim attitudes on America, terrorism and related topics (see They surveyed attitudes in four representative Muslim countries: Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and Morocco.

On the question of America's influence in the world, from a low of 60 percent in Indonesia to a high of 89 percent in Egypt, they answered that most or nearly all of what happens in the world is controlled by the United States. And how do the world's Muslims see (what they believe to be) our all-powerful objectives?

From a low of 73 percent in Indonesia to a high of 92 percent in Egypt the Muslims believe that America's goal is "to weaken and divide the Islamic world." Fairly assuming that these four countries' populations represent worldwide Muslim views in Islamic countries, in other words, about 80 percent of the 1.4 billion Muslims or about a billion souls see America as hostile or an enemy to Islam.

Between 61 percent and 67 percent of the polled Muslims also thought that America's goal was to spread Christianity in the Middle East. Given that Islam teaches that Muslim converts to other religions must be executed, this purported American objective is probably not well received.

What do they think is our primary goal in the war on terror? Between 9 percent-23 percent believe it is to protect ourselves from terrorism. Between 53 percent-86 percent believe it is to weaken, divide and dominate the Islamic religion and people.

What percentage of the polled Muslims is in favor of terrorism attacks on civilians (and note the question doesn't say American civilians -- which presumably would be more popular than attacks on even Muslim civilians -- as the general form of the question suggests)?

To varying degrees, 27 percent of Moroccans, 21 percent of Egyptians, 13 percent of Pakistanis and 11 percent of Indonesians approve of terrorism attacks on civilians -- and not just American civilians. Extrapolating those percentages to the world Muslim population, roughly 250 million Muslims may approve, under some circumstances, of terrorism attacks on civilians generally. One might reasonably guess a somewhat larger number would favor it if limited to American victims.

Of course, as the study points out, "Large majorities (57 percent-84 percent) in all countries oppose attacks against civilians for political purposes and see them as contrary to Islam." We must be grateful for such mercies. But when, to fairly extrapolate these numbers, about a quarter of a billion Muslims are in favor of civilian terrorist attacks, I think prudent people are entitled to be alarmed at the magnitude of the threat.

It should be remembered that a majority of Germans never voted for Hitler. His high watermark was about four in 10 -- and that probably over stated his true level of support. Indeed, only a minority of American colonists supported our noble revolution.

Anytime a revolutionary cause -- and particularly one that is culturally and violently aggressive -- reaches a certain critical mass, its target runs the risk of losing the support of the majority who are not revolutionary, but are susceptible to being intimidated by the revolutionary minority.

Whether the radical percentages measured in this report constitute a critical mass or not is certainly conjectural (please see the full report online for other intriguing data that are generally in line with these samples).

Importantly, attitudes can shift either way over time. And most importantly, we have not had -- even remotely -- a national debate on what policies are best judged to reduce radical sentiment in the Muslim world, while also protecting us from potentially imminent terrorist attacks. Rather, we are still having a jolly old time deciding whom amongst us to skin for our past mistakes.

The president's critics are fond of pointing out that America's participation in World War II was shorter than the current Iraq struggle. Of course it is also true that given the longevity of our current finger pointing, if this were World War II, it would be 1946, and we would still be trying to figure out whom to fire over Pearl Harbor.

Let us, at least, now be resolved to not permit any candidate for president -- Republican or Democrat -- get away with merely criticizing past decisions and policies or offering simplistic slogans on the War on Terror (or whatever other term people prefer for the global jihad threat to the West). Let's insist that they each discuss in depth their understanding of the threat and their considered and detailed strategy for protecting us in the future.

Winston Churchill warned when he took over government in 1940: "If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future."

And, as an official alarmist, let me assert that the data, such as above, suggests that our future is quite losable if we persist in ignoring the regrettable realities pregnant within it.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Gerard Baker: The wisdom of Ronald Reagan speaks down the years

From The London Times

May 4, 2007

If you hang around Los Angeles for a day to two you will see enough strange things to fill a respectable screenplay.

The biggest news this week was the surprise comeback of Britney Spears, who returned to touring after a three-year break. She showed up unannounced at the House of Blues in Anaheim, clad in a brunette wig, knee-high go-go boots and a fur coat that revealed glimpses of a jewel-encrusted bra.

Lip-synching her way through the full repertoire of Spears classics, she won rave reviews from her neglected fans. “She looked so freaking hot,” Julie West, 16, told the Los Angeles Times.

But if you think that odd, consider this. Ten Republican presidential hopefuls gathered here last night to make their case that they should be the next US president. Though no-one showed up in a jewel-encrusted bra (Rudolph Giuliani presumably resisting what must have been a powerful temptation), the event was still an unusual spectacle in this part of Southern California.

Los Angeles is hostile territory for Republicans. The city’s entertainment elite is committed to the belief that conservatives are so evil that they should only ever be portrayed in adult films and played by Manichean-looking British actors.

Republicans have also alienated the city’s massive Latino population – once thought of as potentially solid Republican voters – with a nativist message on immigration.

So what were these Republican hopefuls doing here, or more accurately, just outside the metropolis in the lumpy scrubland of the Simi Valley? The answer is Ronald Reagan.

The candidates had been invited by Nancy Reagan to the Reagan Presidential Library. The event was a useful reminder of the power the Reagan legacy has over Republicans. Margaret Thatcher, Mr Reagan’s partner in the 1980s, is now seen as something of a liability by her party. There are a few Republican intellectuals who would like American conservatives to follow suit and tone down some of the Reagan-worship. Some think the roots of today’s conservative crisis actually go back to Mr Reagan and his simple embrace of free markets and assertive American idealism.

Even some of those who admired the former president think he is simply no longer relevant – that the Reagan message of smaller government and firm resolve against global ideological enemies is just not suited to the modern challenges of rising economic insecurity and the diverse and complex threat from Islamic radicalism.

That the world is a different place from 25 years ago ought not to be in dispute. But it seems to me that the problem with the Republican Party in the past five years is not that it has tried unsuccessfully to apply the Reagan principles to modern times, but that they have misappropriated the Reagan legacy for their own ill-advised and indefensible objectives.

The Reagan imprimatur has been rolled out and sent into service in defence of things the great man would find incomprehensible. He stood for less government, for a start, but Republicans have joyfully expanded the size and scope of government, while ignoring a looming fiscal catastrophe from an ageing population.

Mr Reagan cut taxes from absurdly high levels to regenerate American enterprise. This successful approach has turned over the years into a calcified dogma that says no Republican can challenge the contention that taxes should be cut all the time and as often as possible, whatever the economic circumstances, on the alchemist’s proposition that such cuts will always and everywhere “pay for themselves” in increased government revenues.

In foreign policy, Mr Reagan’s legacy has also been traduced by his would-be successors. He did indeed challenge the prevailing diplomatic assumptions and directly took on the enemies of freedom in the world. But he never shrank from making uncomfortable compromises with reality. So distorted has US foreign policy discussion on the Right become that some of the things Mr Reagan did would probably provoke cries of appeasement if they were done today. In 1983, for example, after 200 US Marines were murdered by a suicide truck bomber in Lebanon, Mr Reagan immediately pulled all US forces out of the country.

My favourite story about him concerns the US invasion of Grenada, just after that infamous Beirut incident in 1983. It illustrates the kind of wisdom that has been sorely lacking in the Bush Administration’s foreign policy in the last five years.

The President was being briefed on the invasion plans by his senior military officers just before the Grenada operation. As was often the case, Mr Reagan did not seem to be paying close attention, according to one of those present. But when the briefing was over he had one question. He wanted to hear again the number of troops the planners were going to send in. He was told a figure and shook his head. “Make it twice that,” he told a slightly puzzled general. Asked why, the President said calmly: “If Jimmy Carter had sent 16 helicopters rather than eight to Desert One to rescue the US hostages in Iran in 1980, you’d be sitting here briefing him today, not me.” Grenada was not Iraq, but just as assuredly George W. Bush is no Ronald Reagan.

What may be most relevant about Reagan is this: he became President in the midst of one of those periodic crises of American self-confidence, in which the nation’s spirit had been sapped by a disastrous war, a series of scandals that undermined confidence in government and the failures of a comically inept Administration.

Within a few years the President had led the American people back to an improbable victory in the Cold War and an unchallenged status as the world’s economic superpower. America needs that leadership again.

Srdja Trifkovic: France’s Fateful Choice

Nicolas Sarkozy

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy, the Center-Right candidate, will face Socialist Segolene Royal in the run-off of France’s presidential election on May 6. In the first round last Sunday M. Sarkozy had 31 percent of the vote, Mlle Royal just under 26 percent, “extreme-centrist” Francois Bayrou 18 percent, and nationalist conservative Jean-Marie Le Pen almost 11 percent.

Voting reached near-record levels at 85 percent, the highest since 1965. Disillusionment with politicians and distrust of their promises—endemic in France since De Gaulle’s second term—did not translate into apathy on this particular occasion for three main reasons.

First of all, millions of Frenchmen feel that the country is not on the right course. They had felt that before, of course (notably in 1968) but this time the Angst is real. Change is in the air. After decades of establishmentarian consensus, it is clear that de facto open-door Third World immigration, 35-hour working week (for two-fifths of the population who do work, that is), and generous welfare benefits for the rest cannot continue indefinitely.

Among the main candidates only Nicolas Sarkozy, former interior minister, promised a “rupture” with the past and meaningful economic reform coupled with the renewed insistence on national identity and values. Unlike his predecessor Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy is not visibly corrupt or intellectually sluggish. He can be rough around the edges, and—being a politician—prone to unprincipled opportunism. Unlike his Socialist opponent Ségolène Royal, however, “Sarko” has a coherent world outlook, some good ideas coupled with the ability to articulate them, and government experience that breeds self-confidence essential for the job. To his credit, and unlike most members of France’s ruling political elite, he is not a graduate of the elite National Administration School whose alumni have presided over decades of France’s decline.

While other E.U. countries have lowered taxation rates and reduced the burden of bureaucratic controls since Maastricht, France remains stuck in the sixties. Her per capita GDP was eighth in the world a generation ago; today it is 19th. In the early 1990s GDP was 83% of that of the U.S.; now it is 71 percent. Three decades ago France had a bigger economy than Britain, but not any more. For a generation, under the tepid Francois Mitterrand and slimy Chirac—the immobile “Mitterand by other means,” in the words of a disgruntled former aide—hard economic and social decisions necessary to reform the country’s dirigiste welfarism had been avoided.

Sarkozy may not be able to make the clean break—he’d be well advised to study the causes of Thatcher’s ultimate failure in the 1980s—but at least he will try, unlike the hapless “Ségo,” whose fiscal program was a head-in-the-sand rehash of failed orthodoxies. His 2005 statement that “success and social promotion are not some right that anybody can claim [at a welfare office] but a right that one can deserve because of one’s sweat” reflects a promising mindset for an “Old European.” In addition he had warned French voters for weeks that the nation was undergoing a “national identity crisis,” cultural as well as managerial, that sapped its political and economic vitality. When the Left accused him of being too “Anglo-Saxon” in his proposed remedy, Sarkozy responded that he was “proud” to be called more American than French, and that there “are many good lessons that we must learn from America.”

Sarkozy’s Socialist opponent Ségolène Royal has pledged a “fairer society” (i.e., more of the same), and she could count on the support of all those who benefit from France’s old status quo—sinecured loafers, Muslim invaders, Rive Gauche “intellectuals” and their provincial emulators, state-sector union members, central and local government salariat. Even to them she appealed faute de mieux. She was weakened by the vanishing influence of the gauche de la gauche: keeping the Socialists and the far left united while wooing centrists under the banner of a modern social democracy proved to be way beyond her limited powers. Ignorant of the world (she thinks the Taliban still rules Afghanistan), unwilling or (more likely) unable to spell out a coherent position on many key economic and social issues (“I’ll consult my advisors,” “I’ll let the people decide”), she is the least impressive second-round candidate in the history of the Fifth Republic.

Segolene Royal

Secondly, the huge campaign by the Left and by immigrant activists of different hues—from doctrinaire Maoists to doctrinaire Jihadists—to register millions of non-French citizens of France who are legally eligible to vote, has been successful in bringing to the polls some two million new voters who want to turn Marseilles into Mogadishu and Arles into Algiers. More than three million new voters, at least half of them Third World immigrants, have been added to the electoral roll following the Muslim riots of October-November 2005; another two million will follow suit before the next election. They are voting, as their counterparts in America vote, for the parties reconciled to or actively supportive of the nation’s eventual self-liquidation. A mere one percent of eligible Muslim voters cast their ballot for Sarkozy, compared with 64 percent for Royal and one-fifth for the centrist Francois Bayrou. They are the unnatural allies of that half of the French electorate which is dependent on the state for wages, benefits or pensions. In 2012 they will present a formidable force in favor of reestablishing the long road to extinction. At the same time, immigrants’ evident success in getting the vote has prompted millions of real Frenchmen, who may have abstained otherwise, to go to the polls.

Thirdly, after Le Pen’s second-round debacle in 2002 they knew that the only viable option for them is Sarkozy, and their choice was facilitated by his embrace of much of Le Pen’s rhetoric and specific policy proposals. This has enabled “Sarko” to produce the French variety of Reagan’s 1980 strategy, and appeal to many elderly, blue-collar and traditionally centrist voters who would not have been his natural constituency five, let alone ten years ago.

To a woman asking him, in October 2005, if he would “get rid of this scum”—referring to North African Muslims causing havoc in predominantly immigrant suburbs—Sarkozy the Interior Minister replied with the words unutterable by any American politician: “Enough of this scum? Well, we’re going to get rid of them for you!” Around the same time he told Le Parisien, “When you fire bullets at police, you’re not a ‘youth,’ you’re a thug.” In a similar spirit he told Charlie Rose last January that “if you don’t want your wife to be examined by a male doctor, then you’re not welcome here.” On the eve of the first round of voting on April 22 he reiterated, “If living in France bothers some people, they should feel free to leave the country.”

Such sanguineness was decisive in reducing Jean-Marie Le Pen’s share of the vote to only 11 percent in the first round, prompting Le Pen’s complaint that Sarkozy had stolen his platform—including the demand for the creation of a new Ministry of Immigration and National Identity—and his voters. The old paratrooper is not any less impressive today than he was in 2002 when he went into the run-off with Chirac, but many of his supporters evidently decided that, on this occasion, lesser-evilism was the sound strategy to preserve what is left of their idea of France. This was 79-year-old Le Pen’s last election, but the issue of succession and policy articulation on the nationalist right remains unresolved.

Europe is under demographic siege, and France is the keystone of Europe. Sarkozy appears to understand the problem. When he told Le Monde two years ago that “we live in a world where people don’t all have the same scruples,” he was restating a view deeply odious to the Kantian-liberal mindset: that it is impossible for all cultures and creeds to subscribe to a one-world, “universal morality,” and that those groups that embrace it will inevitably be displaced by those that do not. Jean Raspail said the same thing when he warned that Westerners are doomed irretrievably to extinction in the century to come, if they hold fast to their utopian delusions: “No other race subscribes to these moral principles — if that is really what they are — because they are weapons of self-annihilation.” This key insight is essential in a Western leader, especially one who leads a country with a higher percentage of Muslim immigrants and their offspring than any other developed country in the world. Sarkozy is unlikely to reiterate this insight so openly any time soon, but it is comforting to know that this is what he thinks.

The choice facing France on May 6 is clear. Her foreign friends, who appreciate her culture and civilization and many fruits (even if they draw the line at une certaine idée de la France) should pray that it is the right one.

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

Monet Arrives and Ripens

Art Review | Monet

The New York Times
Published: May 4, 2007

Seeing a good-sized museum-quality show squeezed into a commercial gallery can sometimes feel like having dinner with a celebrity. A familiar distance falls away; the intimacy startles. So the show of around 60 paintings by Claude Monet at Wildenstein & Company may take getting used to, or it may simply take your breath away. It surveys Monet’s astounding 60-year trajectory in the span of three crowded galleries that would easily fit in one of the coat rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
Claude Monet: A Tribute to Daniel Wildenstein and Katia Granoff This show, at Wildenstein & Company, includes “On the Beach at Trouville” (1870), above.

This show offers a rare chance to encounter, up close and in detail, the evolving ways of seeing and painting that established the originality, historical importance and continuing irresistibility of Monet’s art. There are outstanding examples of his best-known motifs: two grain stacks, a burnished view of the cathedral at Rouen, several scumbled renderings of London’s bridges and three waterlily paintings. But there are also less familiar works, including a winter view of Vétheuil in which ice floes dot the Seine with the same levitation that would come to characterize his waterlilies images; a London street scene that is little more than swatches of mauve, green and gray broken by bursts of streetlamp yellow; and two still lifes from 1867-68. These show Monet painting piles of fruit with a restrained if loaded brush reminiscent of Manet and placing them in a space as airy and transparent as a still life by Zurbaran.

Monet of course exemplified Impressionism more completely and pushed it further than any other painter. The style’s radicalism lay in the determination to paint not just reality but the seeing of reality, the act of perception itself, by showing how light, especially bright light, tended to dissolve the colors and forms of the world. The key to this effect lay in spontaneous, broken, skipping brushwork — preferably registered in paint applied in front of the subject, en plein air.

The images produced are so familiar now that it’s possible to forget that Impressionism created a newly complex awareness for its original viewers. The experience of light was enhanced, but so was the physical assertiveness of the painted surface. Paint and reality co-existed in heightened tension.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
“Camille and Jean Monet in the Garden at Argenteuil,” by Monet, 1873.

In terms of sheer physical gifts Monet was superbly skilled at maintaining this tension. Cézanne’s famous summing up is still the best: Monet, he said, “is only an eye, but good God, what an eye.” The phrase, frequently quoted without the God part, has often been taken as a subtle put-down that implies a reflexive skill, dispassionate and even cold. Yet it is heat that comes across here, evident of course, in the light and the color but also in a palpable determination to see and portray, to penetrate reality by painting its surface in a new way.

The paintings are divided among the three galleries according to what might be called the three stages of Monet. In the first, where the relatively realistic Manet-like still lifes hang, we see how Impressionism began to emerge almost naturally in other works of the decade, especially when Monet followed the advice of his first teacher, Eugène Boudin, and concentrated on landscape. The sun-drenched “Seaside at Honfleur,” from 1864, for example, presents a rocky beach as a sparkling field of dabs of tan and gray paint, with the afternoon brightness heightened by sailboats rendered as dark silhouettes. A small figure approaches: it is apparently the artist carrying his easel, his blue smock echoing the sky, which fades into fluffy white clouds on the horizon.

In the second gallery, which concentrates on the 1870s and ’80s, Impressionism arrives and ripens. It is immanent in the paintings of the early ’70s, like the laundry-fresh “On the Beach at Trouville” and the imposing canvas of Camille and Jean Monet, the artist’s wife and young son, almost engulfed in the plant life of a garden in full bloom but still legible as individuals. Two summers later, in the open fields near Argenteuil, the figures are seen from a distance, and everything is a buzzy blur of pulverized color.

This room includes the great, steamy 1877 view of the immense open shed of the Saint-Lazare train station lent by the Art Institute of Chicago and two less familiar, mustardy views of the sea from the cliffs of Normandy. It concludes with two canvases painted in 1889 in the south of France. Monet eliminates the horizon in a close-up of the torrents of the Petite Creuse and then pulls back to depict the river in its gorge, its white foam highlighting the water the way red, pink and chartreuse highlight the dark slopes. The iridescence seems both highly artificial yet also true to the effects of raking afternoon light.

In the final gallery, devoted to works from 1890 on, color and paint do a slow and then a not-so-slow burn. Monet’s tendency to work in series is touched on in paintings of haystacks and of the Thames and an image — his first — of poplars reflected in the River Epte at Giverny, at the edge of the property he acquired in 1890 and where over the next several years he built his famous water garden.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The sun-drenched “Seaside at Honfleur,” 1864, depicts a rocky beach and sailboats as silhouettes.

Among the Giverny paintings, the standouts are four from 1918 or later of the Japanese footbridge, a structure that is all but subsumed in the skirmishes of radiant colors. The protagonists are mostly greens and whites in one canvas, greens and yellows in two others. In the fourth, the entire spectrum is more or less present, darkened, off-key, with a blistery blur of orange in the lower left corner. They remind us once more that Monet was as much an artist of the 20th century as the 19th.

This show also provides a reminder that commercial galleries are more than money machines. Organized by Joseph Baillio, senior vice president at Wildenstein, it is a tribute to the art dealers Daniel Wildenstein and Katia Granoff. Mr. Wildenstein (1917-2001) assembled the five-volume catalogue raisonné of Monet’s work between 1939 and 1991, and Ms. Granoff (1895-1989), the Russian-born, Paris-based dealer, was instrumental in the broader appreciation of Monet’s late work that developed in the 1950s. The show is accompanied by a museum-worthy catalog, one of whose illuminating essays traces the rise of Monet’s reputation in America. It is hard to imagine that there was ever a time when he wasn’t the most beloved artist in the Western Hemisphere.

“Claude Monet: A Tribute to Daniel Wildenstein and Katia Granoff” continues through June 15 at Wildenstein & Company, 19 East 64th Street, Manhattan, (212) 879-0500. Admission: $10; $5 for full-time students, military personnel and people 65+.

Yankees' sweep of Texas how it should be


May 3, 2007, 10:23 PM EDT

ARLINGTON, Texas -- For the first time, the Yankees know what it might look like to have the front end of their starting rotation together.

And what does it look like to have Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang leading the rotation again? Pretty good.

Pettitte and Mussina were the starters in yesterday's doubleheader as the Yankees finished off a three-game sweep. They won the day game started by Pettitte, 4-3, and the night game started by Mussina, 5-2, with Mariano Rivera saving each win.

"He worked fast, he threw a lot of strikes," Joe Torre said of Mussina. "He gave us all we could have asked for. His stuff was all we could have asked for."

Said Mussina, "I was hoping five innings was what I was going to be able to do ... I had better command than I might have expected. I had a little better velocity than I expected. It was a good day."

Derek Jeter

The Yankees return to New York with far better vibes surrounding them than when they departed Monday. Their flight to Dallas left just hours after owner George Steinbrenner had a statement sent out giving a reprieve to Joe Torre regarding his job security. The team had lost eight of its last nine games.

But in the Rangers, they met another struggling team and came out on top. Now they are approaching the .500 mark (12-14) and are out of the American League East basement.

One thing the Yankees can almost count on getting when Mussina, Pettitte or Wang is pitching is innings. Mussina (1-1) went only five innings in the second game, but that was because it was his first start since he went on the disabled list April 15 with a left hamstring strain. Wang has gone at least six innings in both starts since coming off the DL (right hamstring). Pettitte has pitched six-plus innings four times, including his six innings in the Yankees' Game 1 victory over the Rangers, although the bullpen cost him a victory for the third time this season when Luis Vizcaino allowed a tying home run. Despite making six starts and posting a 3.00 ERA, Pettitte is just 1-1.

Joe Torre

Pettitte was not impressed with himself. His pitching line did not look bad (two earned runs, five hits and three walks in six innings), but it didn't feel right to him. "I was just out of sync again," Pettitte said. "I was fighting myself, trying to battle through it with my command."

Pettitte's schedule has been mangled the past month as a result of a snowout, a rainout and a game postponed because of tornado warnings. He pitched yesterday's matinee on an extra day's rest after the Wednesday tornado threat. Pettitte needed 47 pitches to get through the first two innings but threw 60 in the next four innings.

It wasn't a huge offensive afternoon for the Yankees. Jason Giambi hit a solo home run, Hideki Matsui had two doubles -- including one that broke a 3-3 tie with two out in the eighth -- and two RBIs, and Melky Cabrera was 3-for-4 with a triple.

Mariano Rivera

In the second game, the start of which was delayed 40 minutes by rain, Matsui was back at it with a pair of hits, including another double. Doug Mientkiewicz's two-run homer off Rangers starter Robinson Tejeda put the Yankees ahead for good at 2-0 in the second. Derek Jeter went 3-for-5, including an RBI single in the seventh and an RBI double in the ninth, to extend his hitting streak to 20 games. He was robbed of a fourth hit when Matt Kata leaped at the wall in leftfield, came down with the ball and doubled off Cabrera.

Not only the starting pitchers provided the Yankees with reason for hope. Rivera pitched a 1-2-3 ninth in the first game and recovered after giving up hits to his first two batters in Game 2. He struck out Gerald Laird for the second time in the doubleheader and got Kenny Lofton to ground into a double play to end it.

Said Mientkiewicz, "It's nice with what we went through before we got here to sweep all three, especially against a team like that that can swing it with the best of them."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Appreciation: Gordon Scott 1926-2007

From the Baltimore Sun

'An absolutely wonderful Tarzan'

Movie star of 1950s, 1960s dies at 80 after reclusive final years in Baltimore

By Frederick N. Rasmussen
Baltimore Sun reporter

May 3, 2007

After reclusive years, movie 'Tarzan' dies in Baltimore

Gordon Scott may have hung up his loincloth four decades ago, but he was still fondly remembered by some movie fans for his portrayal of jungle superman Tarzan and later roles in westerns and sword-and-sandals gladiator films.

The actor - who went from being an unknown Las Vegas hotel lifeguard to Hollywood star overnight, and seemed to vanish overnight after a 24-movie career - died Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital of complications after several heart surgeries.

Mr. Scott, who was 80, had spent the last five years of his life in a rowhouse in Baltimore's Brooklyn neighborhood after being befriended by Roger and Betty Thomas. They gave him a spare room in their Pontiac Avenue home.

"My husband has been a fan of his since he was a child. He was his idol. When we were in Hollywood about eight years ago, we looked him up," said Mrs. Thomas, a retired licensed practical nurse who is a part-time actress. "They called each other several times, and then we invited him for a visit. He came and never left."

"I first saw him in a movie in a Rogersville, Pa., theater when I was a boy, and that was it," said Mr. Thomas, a retired factory worker. "I haven't had much time to think about his death and let it sink in. He meant the world to me, and we had lots of good times together. I was blessed to have known him."

Mrs. Thomas said that since October, the former film star had been in failing health and was in and out of a nursing home and several hospitals. "He had nobody but us."

According to a surviving brother, Rayfield Werschkull of Portland, Ore., Mr. Scott was born Gordon M. Werschkull there on Aug. 3, 1926. Other sources give his birth year as 1927, but the brother noted, "I'm exactly 10 years older."

"We were a family of nine kids, and we all ended up going in different directions. I haven't seen Gordon, whom we called Pete, for eight or 10 years. We just didn't keep in touch," Mr. Werschkull said.

Mr. Scott was in his teens when he took up bodybuilding, which he quickly found impressed women.

"Vanity is the crutch of us all," Mr. Scott told City Paper reporter Chris Landers, whose profile of the actor was published in yesterday's editions of the Baltimore weekly, with the news of his death added just before publication.

Mr. Scott attended the University of Oregon for a year and was drafted into the Army in 1944, serving as a drill sergeant and military policeman until 1947.

"After the war, I bought a beverage company and Pete went to work for me delivering soda pop until one day he left and went to work at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas as a lifeguard," his brother said. "And that's where Sol Lesser, a Hollywood producer, discovered him."

Climbing trees, jumping into pools and swinging from ersatz vines for six hours, Mr. Scott beat out 200 other would-be Tarzans from across the world who had auditioned for the part. And he was an impressive physical and athletic specimen, standing 6-foot-3, weighing 218 pounds and with 19-inch biceps.

In 1953, he was awarded a seven-year contract and the last name of Scott by Mr. Lesser, becoming the 11th Tarzan, replacing Lex Barker.

Tarzan was created by novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Hollywood movies based on his stories date to Elmo Lincoln (one-time locomotive engineer Otto Elmo Linkenletter), in the 1918 silent screen thriller Tarzan of the Apes.

During the 1954 production of his first film, Tarzan's Hidden Jungle, Mr. Scott met and fell in love with co-star Vera Miles. The couple married in 1954 and divorced four years later.

The film was followed by Tarzan and the Lost Safari (1957); Tarzan's Fight for Life (1958); Tarzan and the Trappers (1958); Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959), with co-stars Sean Connery and Anthony Quayle; and Tarzan the Magnificent (1960).

"He was an absolutely wonderful Tarzan who played the character as an intelligent and nice man who carried himself well, much as my grandfather had originally written it," said Danton Burroughs of Tarzana, Calif. "He also gave a wonderful rendition of Tarzan's call which didn't have so much yodel in it."

Mr. Scott, having had his fill of Tarzan, moved to Italy in 1960 and acted in spaghetti westerns and films such as Hercules and Buffalo Bill, Hero of the Far West.

Gordon Scott, who played Tarzan in five films during the 1950s, including "Tarzan's Hidden Jungle," pictured here, died Monday from complications of surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 79.

His last film, The Tramplers, made in 1966 with co-stars Joseph Cotten and James Mitchum, was released in 1968.

Mr. Scott supported himself later by attending autograph shows and film conventions, and living off residuals.

"He was always a big spender and loved to party," Mr. Scott's brother recalled. "If he had one weakness, it was women. They were always hitting on him."

In his City Paper interview, Mr. Scott said that being an actor "is one thing I never thought about doing, but once you're in it, it spoils you for anything else if you're successful at it. The money's so easy, you meet beautiful people. My god, that's the ideal situation - kind of a fantasy world. It's the best way to travel, too. First class, and you get to see a lot of interesting places."

"I was a little girl, and I remember when Uncle Pete would came up to see us," niece Jane Tyler said yesterday from her home in Seattle. "He was driving a big pink Cadillac, and my girlfriends couldn't believe that my uncle was such a big Hollywood star. Then we lost contact and I haven't seen him in more than 30 years."

Living as a semi-recluse in the Thomas household, Mr. Scott liked to stay in his room reading or watching old black-and-white movies on television. Occasionally, he walked around the neighborhood, unrecognized by passers-by.

Gordon Scott is shown with Vera Miles as a United Nations nurse and Zippy the chimp as Cheeta in “Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle.”

"He'd talk about his days in Hollywood and the different film roles he had. Whenever he watched a Tarzan movie, he'd say, 'I can't believe I did those things. Just look at me now,'" Mrs. Thomas said.

Mr. Scott spent his final days on life support at Hopkins.

"We tried to get information from Gordon about his family because we were worried about what might happen to him, but he'd never discuss the issue," Mrs. Thomas said.

"I last saw him on Saturday and said, 'Gordon, we love you, and so does the dog and the bird.' He opened one eye for a moment and gave me a wink," she said.

Mr. Scott had been married at least three times, family members said, and is thought to have had at least three children.

Plans for a memorial service to be held in Oregon in June were incomplete yesterday.

In addition to his brother, survivors include two sisters, Janice McKeel of Salem, Ore., and Betty Lou Hyatt of Sisters, Ore.

[Gordon Scott and Ron Ely portrayed Tarzan more closely to the character as he appeared in the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels...which meant they were my two favorites. The grunting primitive of the other Tarzan films just never did it for me. - jtf]

Robert D. Novak: Mormon Massacre

Chicago Sun-Times

Thursday, May 3, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Opening in theaters Friday, a motion picture called "September Dawn" depicts a brutal American massacre that has been forgotten. On Sept. 11, 1857, in Utah Territory, Mormons slaughtered more than 120 California-bound settlers from Arkansas. Retelling at this time the 9/11 carnage of 150 years ago does not help Mormon Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

The basic facts about the Mountain Meadows Massacre are not in dispute. Mormons mobilized Paiute Indians, accompanied by Mormons disguised as Indians, to attack a peaceful wagon train. The settlers beat off the attack but were left short of food and ammunition. They disarmed themselves at the request of Mormons who said they would lead them to safety but instead turned on the settlers, murdering every man, woman and child above the age of 8. All that is in doubt historically is whether this was ordered by Brigham Young, president of the Mormon Church and territorial governor of Utah. "September Dawn" says he was responsible, and the church denies it.

Today's Mormons, including Romney, cannot be blamed for these events. Nevertheless, the candidate has followed the church's example in ignoring this movie. Romney will not comment on "September Dawn" and indeed will not watch it. That follows his decision not to defend his Mormon faith or actively fight religious bias that has impeded his candidacy.

I attended an April 11 screening of the movie at the Motion Picture Association of America headquarters in Washington, hosted by its lead actor: Academy Award-winner Jon Voight (who plays a fictional Mormon bishop). A conservative, he said this was no hit against Romney. "I didn't even know he was running when we began this," Voight told viewers after the screening. But he said this terrible story is important considering America's war against terrorists.

Indeed, Brigham Young -- played by the British actor Terence Stamp -- is portrayed in the film as a 19th-century Osama bin Laden. Calling himself a "second Muhammad," he insists on the "shedding of blood" by "gentiles." He is seen fighting the United States, which was sending federal troops to Utah.

The church always has accepted Young's plea that he had nothing to do with the Mountain Meadows Massacre. But Voight is certain that he did, based on research for the movie. "If any miserable scoundrels come here, cut their throats," Young said in his "Blood Atonement Sermon" (which concluded that he would not fight "unless they come upon us and compel us"). The movie's researchers found in the church archives a generic threat against interlopers: "I will loose the Indians on them, and I will slit their throats from ear to ear."

In response to this column's inquiry, a Mormon Church spokeswoman in Salt Lake City Wednesday said: "The weight of historical evidence shows that Brigham Young did not authorize the massacre." She added that "the church has no comment on the 'September Dawn' movie."

John D. Lee, Young's adopted son who led the massacre, was executed by a firing squad 20 years after the killings -- the only person punished. "I have been sacrificed in a cowardly, dastardly manner," he said after his excommunication by the church and his conviction. In his autobiography, he said the attack was planned "by the direct command of Brigham Young."

I knew no Mormons growing up in Joliet, Ill., and my first experience with the church was watching the 1940 film "Brigham Young." It depicted the original Mormon settlers in Utah as persecuted and peaceful, and Young as prudent and wise. When some Mormons complained then that Young came over as vacillating, church president Heber J. Grant said of the movie: "I endorse it with all my heart. This is one of the greatest days of my life." He knew it could have been much worse.

Mitt Romney surely is not responsible for what kind of man Brigham Young was, but that question hurts his candidacy. Romney has been described by many Republican insiders as the perfect candidate: magnetic, smart and with an excellent record as an executive. His greatest liability has been religious bias against him. He has never seized this issue, thinking it so wrong-headed that it will go away.

Similarly, he has rejected efforts by the producers of "September Dawn" to reach out to him. I made three attempts without success to get his views of the movie. Neither watching it nor condemning it, he may just hope that Americans will not include this bloody tragedy in their spring and summer viewing.

For more on this incident read:

Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows by Will Bagley

No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith by Fawn M. Brodie

Mountain Meadows Massacre by Juanita Brooks

John Doyle Lee: Zealot, Pioneer Builder, Scapegoat by Juanita Brooks

American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857 by Sally Denton

Also visit the following websites:

Robert Spencer: 'Obsession' By Muhammad

November 25, 2006

Ilana Mercer writes forcefully about the successes and failures of the film Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. I tend to share her views. I think Obsession is a terrific film, and have twice spoken after screenings of it, along with the courageous Nonie Darwish, here in Los Angeles. It is a superb introduction to the challenge we are facing from the jihadists.

At the same time, I agree with Mercer that it doesn't go far enough in identifying the source of that challenge -- which I think must be done if anything is ultimately going to be done to meet the challenge effectively. So along with, but not instead of, Obsession, I recommend the less flashy but more informative Islam: What the West Needs to Know.

Now, I am in Islam: What the West Needs to Know, but not in Obsession, as Mercer points out, but that is not why I am recommeding the other film along with Obsession: while I appreciate Mercer's kind words, certainly the Obsession producers could have told the full truth about the jihad ideology without featuring my mug in their movie. If they had told those truths, however, they almost certainly would not have gotten their film onto Fox News. So it's a trade-off. A lot of people are waking up to what we're up against because of Obsession, and so my hat is off to Wayne Kopping and Rafael Shore.

From Ilana Mercer's excellent column:

...Viewers of "Obsession" are treated to terrifying, flesh-creeping scenes common in the Arab media: death-adulating, Quran-quoting kids and clerics in madrasas and mosques across the Muslim world, all calling for the killing of Jews and gentiles and for the subjugation of the West to Islam. Nevertheless, these spectacles are then punctuated by pieties about Islam being a peaceful religion, hijacked by extremists – a hell of a lot of them.

To be fair, "Obsession" does dispel the fiction that jihad is an inner struggle, but then even an A-list Islam apologist like professor John Esposito has admitted as much: "Jihad means to fight to spread Islam, not just to defend it, and to wage war against [Jews and Christians] who refuse Muslim rule," Esposito has conceded.

"Radical Islam": now there's another redundancy that ought not to have marred the message of this important documentary. If one cares to delve into the Quran, the hadith, and the Sira, or read the scholars who've done so for us, then it becomes abundantly clear: Islam is radical.

"Obsession" features the brilliant Daniel Pipes and the heroics Brigitte Gabriel and Walid Shoebat. However, conspicuously absent from the impressive lineup is the indefatigable Robert Spencer, whose detailed exegeses have exploded the myth of a peaceful Islam.

On the other hand, since the directors of "Obsession" appear intent on upholding this Scheherazade-worthy charade, it is perfectly understandable why they would exclude the author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)," and "The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion."

Thank you, Ilana.

Read it all. And watch both films.

Alan Nathan: An "Obsession" with Truth

May 3, 2007

The phrase “divergent views” does not do justice to the verbal gymnastics that followed the anti-terrorism event I was privileged to introduce at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virgnia. After my brief introduction to the movie, Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against The West, everyone settled in for a dialogue that would last longer than the film itself. A large number of Muslim participants objected – and we had sometimes heated discussion – but in the end, surprisingly, this film and the subsequent discussion hosted by the Terrorism Awareness Project helped bring some sense (and consensus) to the crowd and helped Muslims understand the film did not target their religion.

It was scheduled weeks in advance at universities around the country. Coincidentally around the same time, GMU and other campuses had vigils held for the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, thus making it a surprise that the screening room became as busy as it did.

A local paper had reported that only seven people attended, but had their journalist not left early to catch a flight, she would have witnessed audience growth, spirited jesting, candor, and partial consensus.

The film included multiple Middle Eastern talk shows comprised of virulent hosts and guests propagating the benefits, promise and duty of jihad – or struggle. Offsetting fanatical jihadists wishing to massacre all who are not Muslim, also called kaffers, were others belonging to Islam but having the courage to demonstrate greater tolerance for those not of their faith.

These moderate Muslims, one of them a former PLO terrorist, stressed the need not to lump all of the faithful into the fanatical camp, while still warning that more and more of his fellow Muslims were proving vulnerable to the killers’ poisonous and atavistic brainwashing. Included also were heavy comparisons of Islamic-fanaticism to Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Earlier in the film, multiple speakers emphasized that only 15 percent of the Muslim world is part of the terrorist agenda. Others equally underscored that such an amount still exceeds the population of the United States and should be understood as a greater threat than the West has thus far been willing to accept, but should.

Once the viewing was complete, I explained to this multi-ethnic and multi-religious audience (40 percent were self-described Muslims) that I was a centrist who was both a social progressive and a national defense hawk with no allegiance to either Republicans or Democrats. I further stipulated that I support the war in Iraq as well as the greater war against fanatical jihadists, and wanted to know if they found the film racist, or did they agree with its call for urgent solidarity against Islamic terrorists.

The most energetic participants were the Muslim students, whose wardrobes varied from traditional to modern apparel – especially the women. One of those wearing a hijab, or headscarf, softly stated that she was offended by the film, believing that it depicted Islam in a racist light. A male Iranian-American student in dungaree shorts, t-shirt and ball cap concurred and wanted to know why the documentary was so one-sided. A Palestinian student here on a visa wearing casual trousers and a short-sleeve shirt asked if perhaps these problems might disappear once Israel did.

I answered that the film was dominated by images of Muslims who hate the West because that footage focused on the minority in question, as opposed to the majority who do not. I further explained that if Muslim leaders from around the world are correct in saying that we shouldn’t think of the Bin Ladens, al-Zawahiris and Nasrallahs of the world as the face of Islam, then it naturally follows that attacking them and their followers cannot be an attack on Islam – once separated, always separated. In short, if it’s wrong to assume guilt based on religion, then it’s equally wrong to shield guilt based on religion.

To the Palestinian student who asked whether or not Israel’s demise would rectify everything, I answered, “Why would you want to remove the only place in the Middle East where Muslims enjoy the unencumbered right to speech, freedom to worship, entitlement to vote, and prerogative to run for public office?” No answer was given.

I further explained that I cannot recognize the sovereignty of any country that doesn’t recognize the sovereignty of its own individual citizens. If you’re not part of a society in which the leaders rule by the consent of the governed, then your nation is nothing more than an enslaved populace.

Continuing on the issue of Israel, I acknowledged where that country also carries some blame. However, I first gave the disclaimer that I am pro-Israel and support a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Yes, Israel has done wrong. Whether you’re talking about continuing West Bank developments in disputed territories despite officially banning them, marginalizing Palestinian mineral rights and water rights; or, imposing draconian checkpoints and routes of travel that periodically and unnecessarily weaken already devolved accesses to markets and commerce.

However, all that notwithstanding, there’s still a difference between Palestinian terrorists who specifically target women and children for slaughter, versus Israeli soldiers who may accidentally kill the innocent while in pursuit of those same terrorists.

Not seeing a difference between these groups is unambiguously bizarre. It’s like saying that no moral gap exists between the motorist who deliberately mows down a pedestrian and the driver who inadvertently hits one after running a stoplight. Yes, both victims are equally dead – but no, they were not equally killed.

Another Muslim woman in more Western apparel, an American raised in both Saudi Arabia and the United States, conceded that a film scrutinizing a slim minority’s ugly fanaticism would naturally have to depict that same ugliness. However, she felt that it was a reminder of the mainstream media’s skewed portrayal of Muslims as people who condone and support terrorists. From the perspectives of her family and friends, Muslims who do speak out against terrorists aren’t credited enough for stepping up despite the ridicule to which they may be subjected by their own people.

A couple from Peru in their fifties was taken aback by those who didn’t recognize the fundamentally superior quality of life and freedom America offers to so many of the very same war protestors who denounce the U.S. more so than they do the terrorist-sponsoring states that oppose her.

The College Republicans and the Terrorism Awareness Project sponsoring the film’s screening, had members emphatically stating that these events weren’t meant to embarrass anyone, but rather were geared for better depicting the global threat and its actual source – a twisted minority view of Islam, not Islam itself.

After more than 90 minutes of active discourse and some lighthearted banter, there came a moment when all sides demonstrated varying degrees of willingness to disconnect themselves from assumptions based on media-hyped stereotypes, and focus more on what they found in one another’s expressed positions.

They exhibited an ability to interact based on the intent of each speaker vs. the perceived claims of the Politically Correct listener. Why? Because these students learned that perceptions are illegitimate without corresponding foundation. You cannot say, “I perceive; therefore it exists.” They came to understand that such tactics are weapons of the bad-faith debater who, because he’s unable to argue on point, must re-characterize the speaker’s position into something supposedly offensive, because there’s no other way he can appear competent. This is demonization posing as interaction.

Political correctness, at least for that evening, was kicked aside.

Alan Nathan, a combative centrist and "militant moderate," a columnist, and the nationally syndicated talk show host of "Battle Line With Alan Nathan" on the Radio America Network.

[My views concerning the nature of the religion of Islam do not completely coincide with those of the writer and filmmakers. The producers of the film feel that a "peaceful relgion is being hijacked by a dangerous foe". The Qur'an has far too many sura written towards the end of the life of Muhammad that are extremely militaristic for me to consider the book "peaceful" to be a peaceful one. The centuries of Muslim conquest beginning shortley after the death of Muhammad are not reflective of a religion that was spread in any way but by the sword. I remain hopeful of real reform and progress being made on a grand scale across the Islamic world...I just have grave doubts about the actual occurrence of such reform and progress. - jtf]

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Frank Stella on the Roof"

The New York Times

2 May 2007

"Frank Stella on the Roof" atop the Metropolitan Museum of Art features two large sculptures, a mammoth piece titled "Chinese Pavilion" and two smaller sculptures. After 11 tense days of preparations, the exhibition, which runs through Oct. 28, opened Tuesday in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. A section of stainless steel tubing from the sculpture "adjoeman" (2004) is lowered slowly toward the northern end of the roof garden.

"Chinese Pavilion," which the Met bills as an "architectural structure," was fabricated in Brazil. Conceived specifically for the show, the 5,500-pound structure was brought to New York in a container ship before arriving by truck at the Met, where it had to be hoisted atop the roof in eight sections. About a dozen steel plates were positioned on the roof to protect the garden’s granite surface and firmly anchor the sculptures.

Mr. Stella, who lives in Manhattan, traveled uptown to the Met each day to oversee the installation. After the hoisting of the sections was completed, he reviewed the floor plan that had been devised by the Met’s curators in consultation with engineers and the artist. "It was a dialogue about aesthetics and space and what would work best," said Anne Strauss, a lead curator, at right.

Mr. Stella’s workers, who traveled from his studio in upstate New York, to assemble the artworks, worked on welding and bolting the looping pieces of "adjoeman," fashioned from 3,100 pounds of stainless steel and carbon. Given that they helped the artist create it and had recently dismantled it for transport, they were familiar with every nook and cranny. The work’s title is translated as "showing off" or "decorative" in Balinese, the museum said.

The 2,000-pound carbon-and-stainless-steel sculpture "memantra" (2005). According to the Met, the title is a verbal form of "mantra," which means prayer or incantation in Balinese. The day before the press preview, Mr. Stella asked Robert van Winkle, right, to reweld two pieces to adjust the sculpture’s placement.

Workers bolted additional parts to "Chinese Pavilion." One of the goals of the sculpture’s placement, said Ms. Strauss, was to maximize the way that Mr. Stella’s swooping, sloping works resonate against the "more rigorous architectural setting" of the Manhattan skyline.

During a press preview on Monday, April 30, Mr. Stella scrutinized the show’s two smaller sculptures, "Chapel of the Holy Ghost (Model)" from 1992, and "Chinese Pavilion (Model)" from 1993. "He’s been thinking about 'Chinese Pavilion' for so many years," Ms. Strauss said. "He was delighted that it was finally opening day."

The completed "memantra," with a southwest view over Central Park toward Columbus Circle.

A melding of mediums: inside Mr. Stella's fully assembled "Chinese Pavilion."

No-no becomes a big ‘Oh no’


Hughes allows no hits for 6 1/3 innings, then pulls hamstring


May 2, 2007

New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, right, waves for a trainer to come out to the mound and look at Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes in the seventh inning.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Yankees went from thrilled back to worry mode in a matter of minutes last night. One minute, they were watching rookie Phil Hughes throw a no-hitter in the seventh inning, and the next, they saw him leave the mound with a pulled left hamstring.

Hughes, in his second major-league start, had no-hit the Rangers through 6 1/3 innings. The Yankees were dominating en route to what would be a 10-1 win.

And Hughes was chasing history - eight outs away from becoming the youngest American League pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter. But with an 0-and-2 count on Mark Teixeira, Hughes tried to throw his curveball for a strikeout pitch and wound up pulling his hamstring.

"It's disappointing, definitely," Hughes said.

Hughes said he felt a "pop," and manager Joe Torre said he likely will need a minimum of 4-to-6 weeks on the disabled list.

Hughes is the fourth Yankee to pull or strain a hamstring since late March. Righthander Chien-Ming Wang strained his right hamstring March 23 and came off the disabled list April 24, outfielder Hideki Matsui spent 15 days on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, and righthander Mike Mussina strained his left hamstring April 11 and is set to come off the DL tomorrow.

"It seems like if it's not one thing, it's another," general manager Brian Cashman said. "We seem to be getting hit, it seems like every day."

The litany of injuries includes several arm injuries - Carl Pavano is on the DL with right forearm tightness and Jeff Karstens spent time on the DL with right elbow tendinitis. Karstens is now on the DL with a fractured right fibula. But the four hamstring injuries have led to concerns that there could be a common link. Possibilities are the new director of performance enhancement Marty Miller and assistant for performance enhancement Dana Cavalea.

"You get concerned about it, no doubt about it, and try to figure out if there's any connection," Cashman said. "Some are more so explainable than others, but obviously, we have to look into everything. I'm not saying, I can't tell you it's coming from the conditioning program at all, I can't tell you that. But you have to investigate every aspect at the same time, and I have done that. Up until this one, I felt like there were explanations for every one."

Mussina, asked about a possible connection to the new strength and conditioning staff, said: "I think that question's already been raised."

But has it been answered?

"I don't know if it's been answered, and I'm not going to be the one to answer it," Mussina said.

Phil Hughes pitches in the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers.

The injury put a heavy damper on what had been a very positive night for the Yankees. Hughes, who allowed four earned runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings in his debut April 26, faced one batter more than the minimum while in the game. He walked three, but induced a double play on the next batter twice.

Hughes was speeding through the Rangers' lineup with first-pitch strikes and 53 of his 83 pitches were strikes.

"That's the best I've pitched and the best I've felt against the best hitters," Hughes said. "I felt really comfortable."

He was putting to rest any questions that he might not be ready for the major leagues.

The Yankees supported Hughes with plenty of offense against Rangers starter Kameron Loe. Robinson Cano was 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Jorge Posada was 3-for-4 with a walk, two RBIs and three runs scored. Alex Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.

Before Hughes' injury, the team already believed he could go all the way. He was only at 83 pitches, and they had planned for him to throw 100.

The feeling, Torre said, was: "Like it was going to happen. That was the sense in the dugout. We didn't talk about it, but I think everybody couldn't wait for him to get out there again."

Now they will have to wait.

Injury epidemic

Rookie Phil Hughes is the latest Yankees starter to come up lame. He has plenty of company on the injury list.

Pitcher Injury Status

Mike Mussina Strained left hamstring Went on DL April 15

Carl Pavano Forearm stiffness Went on DL April 15

Jeff Karstens Fractured right fibula Went on DL April 29

Chien-Ming Wang Strained right hamstring Came off DL April 24