Friday, June 01, 2007

When a Book Reviewer Is In Over His Head

When a Book Reviewer Is In Over His Head
By Robert T. Miller

Thursday, May 24, 2007, 5:52 AM

Christopher Hitchens

Here’s the latest example of a fascinating, though depressing, cultural phenomenon. A fellow who clearly knows nothing about a deep and difficult intellectual problem produces a manuscript purporting to resolve the problem definitively. Such a fellow is a crank, you might think, and will quite properly be ignored. But, no, he actually finds a publisher for his book, and a respected one at that. Even more surprisingly, the New York Times commissions a review of the book from a famous columnist, and, instead of exposing the book for the ignorant twaddle that it is, the columnist writes a glowing review. How does this happen?

Generally speaking, of course, it doesn’t. We have social institutions like the New York Times Book Review precisely in order to make sure that it can’t. Given the amount of material published nowadays, it’s essential to be able to sort the good from the bad, and we rely on prestigious publications like the Times Book Review to do part of the work for us. Book reviewers for this paper are expected to know something about the topics of the books they review, and they are expected to exercise informed judgment, separating the serious books from the intellectual junk in a basically fair sort of way. If a book like the one I describe makes it all the way to a positive review in the Times, there has been a serious failure of the epistemic institutions of our society.

And such there has been, and such there commonly are, when the subject is the philosophical treatment of religion. In case you haven’t guessed yet, the book to which I refer above is Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, just out from Twelve/Warner books, and the review (which can be found here) is that of Michael Kinsley, who writes for Time and the Washington Post.

Hitchens has solved, he thinks, some of the deepest problems in metaphysics and the philosophy of religion—or, at least, he would say he had if he realized that there were deep problems at stake here. But, unfortunately, he doesn’t even know what the real problems are, for, to Hitchens, Kinsley writes, “It’s blindingly obvious: the great religions all began at a time when we knew a tiny fraction of what we know today about the origins of Earth and human life. It’s understandable that early humans would develop stories about gods or God to salve their ignorance. But people today have no such excuse. If they continue to believe in the unbelievable, or say they do, they are morons or lunatics or liars.”

As to the arguments Mr. Hitchens adduces, I think it best to let Mr. Kinsley explain in his own words: “The book is full of logical flourishes and conundrums, many of them entertaining to the nonbeliever. How could Christ have died for our sins, when supposedly he also did not die at all? Did the Jews not know that murder and adultery were wrong before they received the Ten Commandments, and if they did know, why was this such a wonderful gift? On a more somber note, how can the ‘argument from design’ (that only some kind of ‘intelligence’ could have designed anything as perfect as a human being) be reconciled with the religious practice of female genital mutilation, which posits that women, at least, as nature creates them, are not so perfect after all?” I would sort out these mistakes if I thought most readers of First Things, or even most people with a passing familiarity with western civilization, needed my help. As it is, I merely note that these are the arguments Kinsley selected from the book as being—in his view—especially clever.

Now, there are intelligent arguments in favor of atheism, of course, but it’s painfully clear that neither Hitchens nor Kinsley knows what they are. People who have read even a little in the philosophy of religion do know, however, and they know too that there are intelligent responses to these arguments; such people also know that there are intelligent arguments in favor of theism, as well as intelligent responses to those arguments. For an elegant introduction to contemporary philosophy of religion, see Smart and Haldane, Atheism and Theism.

I can understand, just barely, how an intelligent man like Hitchens might make a very bad mistake and write a whole book on a topic without realizing that there is relevant scholarly literature that he ought to have mastered before offering his own views on a subject. I know that I have written some things that I now see to be uninformed, and so I have some sympathy for Hitchens. As to Kinsley, however, in agreeing to review a book, he assumed a responsibility to provide the reading public with an informed and honest judgment, and so in agreeing to review a book that he is obviously incompetent to evaluate he committed more of a breach of trust. I blame him more harshly than I do Hitchens, but let it pass, for perhaps he too somehow never discovered that there is such a thing as the philosophy of religion.

The malfeasance of the editors of the New York Times Book Review, however, is unforgivable. I mean that, if not literally, then at least not merely hyperbolically. For it’s part of an editor’s job, in commissioning a book review, to figure out who’s a competent judge of the book in question. The review of God Is Not Great, along with similar reviews of similar books, shows that the editors at the Times Book Review are not doing their job in a minimally competent way. That means that all their reviews are suspect. The clock at the Times has struck thirteen.

In Culture and Anarchy, Matthew Arnold wrote: “I remember once conversing with a company of Nonconformist admirers of some lecturer who had let off a great firework, which the Saturday Review said was all noise and false lights, and feeling my way as tenderly as I could about the effect of this unfavourable judgment upon those with whom I was conversing. ‘Oh,’ said one who was their spokesman, with the most tranquil air of conviction, ‘it is true the Saturday Review abuses the lecture, but the British Banner’ (I am not quite sure it was the British Banner, but it was some newspaper of that stamp) ‘says that the Saturday Review is quite wrong.’ The speaker had evidently no notion that there was a scale of value for judgments on these topics, and that the judgments of the Saturday Review ranked high on this scale, and those of the British Banner low.”

Arnold, as usual, was chiding the Nonconformists for their lack of cultural understanding. That is a fault that can be remedied with sweetness and light. But what to do when the Saturday Review becomes the British Banner and most of a society’s cultural elite can’t tell the difference?

Robert T. Miller is an assistant professor at the Villanova University School of Law.

Film Review: "Knocked Up"

Bye-Bye, Bong. Hello, Baby.

The New York Times

June 1, 2007
Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up.”

It may be a bit, um, premature to say so, but Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up” strikes me as an instant classic, a comedy that captures the sexual confusion and moral ambivalence of our moment without straining, pandering or preaching. Like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” Mr. Apatow’s earlier film, it attaches dirty humor to a basically upright premise. While this movie’s barrage of gynecology-inspired jokes would have driven the prudes at the old Hays Office mad, its story, about a young man trying to do what used to be the very definition of the Right Thing, might equally have brought a smile of approval to the lips of the starchiest old-Hollywood censor.

The wonder of “Knocked Up” is that it never scolds or sneers. It is sharp but not mean, sweet but not soft, and for all its rowdy obscenity it rarely feels coarse or crude. What it does feel is honest: about love, about sex, and above all about the built-in discrepancies between what men and women expect from each other and what they are likely to get. Starting, as he did in “Virgin,” from a default position of anti-romantic cynicism, Mr. Apatow finds an unlikely route back into romance, a road that passes through failure and humiliation on its meandering way toward comic bliss.

This improbable — and improbably persuasive — love story is embedded in what looks at first like a nest of sitcom clich├ęs. The central would-be couple, Ben and Alison, represent the kind of schlub-babe pairing seen more frequently on television than anywhere else. Tall, blond and lovely, Alison (Katherine Heigl) has just been promoted to an on-air job at the E! cable network when she meets Ben (Seth Rogen) at a nightclub. He is a pudgy, unkempt stoner who lives with a group of goofball pals. Their ratty communal apartment doubles as the headquarters of their nascent Internet enterprise, a Web site that will collect and catalog movie scenes in which famous actresses appear naked. (It never occurs to them that someone else may already have come up with this ingenious idea. Why else was the Internet invented?)

But Ben, whatever his shortcomings, is friendly and unpretentious, and it does not entirely defy belief when Alison, beer goggles firmly in place, takes him home to bed. Or, rather, to her sister’s house, where she sleeps in a spare room. The sister, Debbie (played by the brilliant Leslie Mann, Mr. Apatow’s wife), is on hand to send darts of envy and disapproval in Alison’s direction and also, along with her husband, Pete (Paul Rudd), to incarnate both the ideal and the nightmare of heterosexual domesticity. Debbie is relentlessly critical, Pete is emotionally withdrawn, and together they dwell in a paradoxical state in which fulfillment — two charming young daughters, a big house with a pool, each other — seems indistinguishable from disappointment.

There is, as I’ve suggested, a certain familiarity to much of this: the bickering married couple; the competent, attractive young woman yoked to a slovenly and unambitious young man; the geeky slackers who communicate entirely through allusions to movies, comic books and old television shows. But Mr. Apatow, a creator of some of the best-loved, least-watched series in recent television history (notably “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared”), has a sly way of subverting these familiar touchstones.

When one of Ben’s sperm, showing more initiative than the man who produced it (and taking advantage of an all-too-believable moment of condom carelessness) hits the reproductive jackpot, the stage seems to be set for a comedy of male panic. But that’s not quite how “Knocked Up” plays. Rather than being afraid of commitment, Ben appears fascinated by the idea, as if it were a distant land chronicled in legend and song. When he learns that Alison has decided to keep the baby — there is a funny, knowing riff on the reluctance of movies and television shows even to use the word “abortion” — he seems genuinely delighted.

Alison is somewhat more hesitant, not about the incipient child but about staying with Ben, whose hold on maturity is less sure than his grip on his favorite bong. She does not entirely trust him, but she likes him enough to worry about forcing him to change his ways. What Alison doesn’t realize — partly because he doesn’t quite either — is that Ben wouldn’t mind changing, if only he could figure out how.

At a moment of crisis Ben calls his father, a nice, tolerant guy played by Harold Ramis, for advice. “Just tell me what to do,” he begs, but no help is forthcoming. (“I’ve been divorced three times. Why are you asking me?”) The absence of a credible model of male adulthood is clearly one of the forces trapping Ben and his friends in their state of blithe immaturity.

Mr. Apatow’s critique of contemporary mores is easy to miss — it is obscured as much by geniality as by profanity — but it is nonetheless severe and directed at the young men who make up the core of this film’s likely audience. The culture of sexual entitlement and compulsive consumption encourages men to remain boys, for whom women serve as bedmates and babysitters. Resistance requires the kind of quixotic heroism Steve Carell showed in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” or a life-changing accident, like Alison’s serendipitous pregnancy.

“The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” are, primarily, movies about men, but Mr. Apatow is too smart, and too curious, to imprison the women in these films in the usual static roles of shrew, sexpot or sensible surrogate mom. Alison is not just Ben’s foil, and Mr. Apatow recognizes that her confusion and anxiety are, ultimately, far more acute and consequential than Ben’s. It’s her body and her future on the line, after all.

Ms. Heigl is allowed to be funny as well as pretty — a rarity in guy-centered comedies — as is Ms. Mann. And Debbie’s frustration in marriage is given at least as much emotional and dramatic weight as Pete’s.

I realize that much of what I have said about it makes “Knocked Up” sound like a pretty heavy picture, pregnant (sorry!) with seriousness and social significance. But since the birth of the talkies the best American movie comedies have managed to confront grave matters and to defy their own gravity.

In this case the buoyant hilarity never feels weighed down by moral earnestness, even though the film’s ethical sincerity is rarely in doubt. The writing is quick and sharp, and the jokes skitter past, vanishing almost before you can catch them. Rather than toggle back and forth, sitcom-style, between laughter and tears, Mr. Apatow lingers in his scenes long enough to show that what is funny can also be sad and vice versa.

“Knocked Up” made me smile and wince; it made me laugh and almost cry. Above all it made me happy.

“Knocked Up” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It finds abundant humor in the details — and the very existence — of the human reproductive system.


Opens today nationwide.

Written and directed by Judd Apatow; director of photography, Eric Edwards; edited by Brent White and Craig Alpert; music by Loudon Wainwright and Joe Henry; production designer, Jefferson Sage; produced by Mr. Apatow, Shauna Robertson and Clayton Townsend; released by Universal Pictures. Running time: 129 minutes.

WITH: Seth Rogen (Ben Stone), Katherine Heigl (Alison Scott), Paul Rudd (Pete), Leslie Mann (Debbie), Jason Segel (Jason), Jay Baruchel (Jay), Jonah Hill (Jonah) and Harold Ramis (Ben’s Dad).

An Evening With Christopher Hitchens

Click on the link provided to view an interesting and rather long piece on Christopher Hitchens and his evolving political views. Among other things, he discusses his recent American citizenship and his new book "god is Not Great".

Charles Krauthammer: Get in Line, Einstein

The Washington Post
June 01, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Beware legislative behemoths. Beware "comprehensive immigration reform." Any bill that is 380 pages long is bound to have nooks and crannies reflecting private deals, quiet paybacks and ad hoc arrangements that you often don't learn about until it's too late.

The main provisions of the immigration reform monster are well known. But how many knew, before reading last Saturday's Washington Post, that if Einstein were trying to get a green card, he would have to get in line with Argentine plumbers and Taiwanese accountants to qualify under the new "point system" that gives credit for such things as English proficiency and reliable work history? Good thing Albert was a patent office clerk, and that grooming isn't part of the new point system.

Until now we've had a special category for highly skilled, world-renowned and indispensable talent. Great musicians, athletes and high-tech managers come in today under the EB-1 visa. This apparently is going to be abolished in the name of an idiotic egalitarianism.

I suspect this provision is a kind of apology for one of the few very good ideas in the bill -- taking skill, education and English proficiency into account rather just family ties, and thus cutting back on a chain migration system in which the Yemeni laborer can bring over an entire clan while the engineers and teachers desperate to get here languish in the old country.

The price for this lurch into rationality appears to be the abolition of the VIP fast track, which constitutes less than 2 percent of total immigration and, from the point of view of the national interest, is the most valuable. This staggeringly stupid idea is reason alone to vote against the immigration bill.

Beyond stupidity, the bill offers farce. My favorite episode is the back-taxes caper. John McCain has been going around telling everyone that in order to be legalized, illegal immigrants will, among other things, have to pay back taxes. Such are the stern requirements on the "path to citizenship."

Problem is, McCain then discovered that back taxes were not in the bill. The Homeland Security Department had argued that collecting on money paid under the table -- usually in cash, often with no receipts -- is pretty much impossible. Indeed, the cost of calculating and collecting the money would probably exceed the proceeds.

Now, nonpayment is not the kind of thing you want to defend when trying to sell immigration reform to citizens who do pay their taxes -- back and otherwise. So last week, John McCain proposed an amendment to restore the back-taxes provision. A somewhat sheepish Senate approved this sop -- unanimously.

But the campaign for legalization does not stop at stupidity and farce. It adds mendacity as well. Such as the front-page story in last Friday's New York Times claiming that "a large majority of Americans want to change the immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status."

Sounds unbelievable. And it is. A Rasmussen poll had shown that 72 percent of Americans thought border enforcement and reducing illegal immigration to be very important. Only 29 percent thought legalization to be very important. Indeed, when a different question in the Times poll -- one that did not make the front page -- asked respondents if they wanted to see illegal immigrants prosecuted and deported, 69 percent said yes.

I looked for the poll question that justified the pro-legalization claim. It was question 61. Just as I suspected, it was perfectly tendentious. It gave the respondent two options: (a) allow illegal immigrants to apply for legalization (itself a misleading characterization because the current bill grants instant legal status to all non-criminals), or (b) deport them.

Surprise. Sixty-two percent said (a). That's like asking about abortion: Do you favor (a) legalization or (b) capital punishment for doctor and mother? There is of course a third alternative: what we've been living with for the last 20 years -- a certain tolerance of illegal immigrants that allows 12 million to stay and work but denies them most of the privileges and government payouts reserved for legal citizens, and thus acts as at least a mild disincentive to even more massive illegal immigration.

Indeed, unless the immigration bill is fixed, that alternative is what the country will in essence choose when the bill fails. My view is that the current bill could be fixed with a very strong border control provision. But even then, let's make sure we know what's really in the bill and not distort what the American people are really demanding, which is border control first. And for god sakes, keep Einstein on the fast track.

Peggy Noonan: Too Bad

President Bush has torn the conservative coalition asunder.

The Wall Street Journal

Friday, June 1, 2007 12:00 a.m. EDT

What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White House on immigration. They are not resisting, fighting and thereby setting down a historical marker--"At this point the break became final." That's not what's happening. What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not only for one political party but for the American future.

The White House doesn't need its traditional supporters anymore, because its problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the administration don't even much like the base. Desperate straits have left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid and that its heart is in the wrong place.

For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority and power? Too bad. You think the war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad.

But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."

The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism."


Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though not exclusively, concerned conservatives? It is odd, but it is of a piece with, or a variation on, the "Too bad" governing style. And it is one that has, day by day for at least the past three years, been tearing apart the conservative movement.

I suspect the White House and its allies have turned to name calling because they're defensive, and they're defensive because they know they have produced a big and indecipherable mess of a bill--one that is literally bigger than the Bible, though as someone noted last week, at least we actually had a few years to read the Bible. The White House and its supporters seem to be marshalling not facts but only sentiments, and self-aggrandizing ones at that. They make a call to emotions--this is, always and on every issue, the administration's default position--but not, I think, to seriously influence the debate.

They are trying to lay down markers for history. Having lost the support of most of the country, they are looking to another horizon. The story they would like written in the future is this: Faced with the gathering forces of ethnocentric darkness, a hardy and heroic crew stood firm and held high a candle in the wind. It will make a good chapter. Would that it were true!

If they'd really wanted to help, as opposed to braying about their own wonderfulness, they would have created not one big bill but a series of smaller bills, each of which would do one big clear thing, the first being to close the border. Once that was done--actually and believably done--the country could relax in the knowledge that the situation was finally not day by day getting worse. They could feel some confidence. And in that confidence real progress could begin.


The beginning of my own sense of separation from the Bush administration came in January 2005, when the president declared that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation. This was at once so utopian and so aggressive that it shocked me. For others the beginning of distance might have been Katrina and the incompetence it revealed, or the depth of the mishandling and misjudgments of Iraq.

What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom. Just wisdom--a sense that they did not invent history, that this moment is not all there is, that man has lived a long time and there are things that are true of him, that maturity is not the same thing as cowardice, that personal loyalty is not a good enough reason to put anyone in charge of anything, that the way it works in politics is a friend becomes a loyalist becomes a hack, and actually at this point in history we don't need hacks.


One of the things I have come to think the past few years is that the Bushes, father and son, though different in many ways, are great wasters of political inheritance. They throw it away as if they'd earned it and could do with it what they liked. Bush senior inherited a vibrant country and a party at peace with itself. He won the leadership of a party that had finally, at great cost, by 1980, fought itself through to unity and come together on shared principles. Mr. Bush won in 1988 by saying he would govern as Reagan had. Yet he did not understand he'd been elected to Reagan's third term. He thought he'd been elected because they liked him. And so he raised taxes, sundered a hard-won coalition, and found himself shocked to lose his party the presidency, and for eight long and consequential years. He had many virtues, but he wasted his inheritance.

Bush the younger came forward, presented himself as a conservative, garnered all the frustrated hopes of his party, turned them into victory, and not nine months later was handed a historical trauma that left his country rallied around him, lifting him, and his party bonded to him. He was disciplined and often daring, but in time he sundered the party that rallied to him, and broke his coalition into pieces. He threw away his inheritance. I do not understand such squandering.

Now conservatives and Republicans are going to have to win back their party. They are going to have to break from those who have already broken from them. This will require courage, serious thinking and an ability to do what psychologists used to call letting go. This will be painful, but it's time. It's more than time.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mike Vaccaro: Jeter is Already One of the Greats

[Flashback...'cause I missed this one last week. - jtf]

The New York Post

May 24, 2007 -- THE old-timers don't want to hear this, of course, because the sacrilege is so extreme as to knock them out cold where they stand. It doesn't matter that the final sentence the great Red Smith ever wrote spoke of his belief that he would one day see another Joe DiMaggio.

"There was only one DiMaggio," is what they tell you.

Of course, every year there are fewer and fewer eye-witnesses to the feats of the great DiMaggio. Mostly, we rely on oral history and tales told from father to son.

And here's the thing: If you listen closely to those words, if you follow closely to those stories, they all have a familiar ring to them. They speak of an athlete of such grace that he seemed to be playing in 3/4 time while everyone else was at 4/4. They talk of effortlessness while playing a game that demands supreme effort out of most mortals.

"The thing about Joe," Phil Rizzuto once told me, "is that you could bring someone to the stadium who'd never seen baseball in his life, and the first thing they'd do is point to him and say, 'Who's that one?' "

Derek Jeter collected a couple of base hits in his first two plate appearances last night, part of the Yankees' assault and battery on Curt Schilling, part of the early crush that helped salt away this 8-3 victory before it could ever reach a critical moment. The first one was the 2,214th hit of Jeter's career. That tied Joe DiMaggio on the Yankees' all-time list.

The second was No. 2,215. That put Jeter alone in fifth place in Yankees history. He is a month away from his 33rd birthday, and it's becoming clear that he's not only a cinch to cruise to 3,000 hits - becoming, quite remarkably, the first Yankee to ever reach that forever milestone - but has a wonderful chance to become only the third man ever born to reach 4,000.

It's always been fashionable to say that the numbers don't define Jeter, but the fact is they do define him, they have to. His lifetime batting average entering last night was .318. In club history the only men north of him on that list have names like Ruth and Gehrig and Combs and, yes, DiMaggio.

Joe DiMaggio

"I won't lie," Jeter said. "When you hear your name mentioned with Joe's . . . that's pretty incredible."

What may be most remarkable is the season he's strung together in 2007. With warnings of a falling sky every few days, with everyone else on his roster suffering bouts of self-doubt and self-loathing (save for Jorge Posada - no coincidence they are the most inseparable Yankees), Jeter has been an absolute beacon of consistency. He has played 44 games. He has hits in 41 of them, and in one of the three hitless games he was forced to leave after the first inning with a wrist injury.

It's enough to hearken to DiMaggio, again. It was DiMaggio's brother, Dominic, who described best what it was like to watch Joe during May, June and July of 1941, when he assembled his fabled 56-game hitting streak.

"Most people who play this game, good as they are, it's still something of a pleasant surprise when you see them get a hit," Dominic said last year. "But in '41, whenever my brother made an out, that was the surprise. That's the kind of groove he was in."

And that's how Jeter looks, and has looked, all season long. He is never going to be as spectacular as Alex Rodriguez was in April, not even for a little while. But there really is something magnificent in the simple things he does so well, and so much better than most of the other people who play this game. There is something joyful about watching all of that.

Leading off the seventh inning last night, Jeter hit a ball to the left-center gap. When Jose Reyes hits one there, you see flames on the basepaths. With Jeter, there was just an easy glide. But he wound up on third base, too, career hit No. 2,216. And you get the sense, if someone was at Yankee Stadium watching his first baseball game, he would have pointed to Jeter, and he would have had to ask his neighbor a question.

"Who's that one?"

Mike Vaccaro: Lightning Strikes Rodriguez Again

The New York Post

May 31, 2007 -- This isn't about The Other Stuff. You want The Other Stuff, it isn't hard to find, flip the pages of this newspaper to the left and you can find all of The Other Stuff that you could possibly ask for.

This is about baseball, again, for Alex Rodriguez, for the Yankees, and about how on the field A-Rod is a human lightning rod, always managing to find a way to become the middle of a story, even when it seems he has to go out of his way and make half a dozen U-turns to find that story.

Sometimes, it's basic things, like the two plays that helped turn around Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, the bad throw to first that helped set up Aaron Hill's steal of home, the decision to play a sacrifice bunt an inning later that looked to all the world to be half a revolution away from going foul. That set up the game-winning sacrifice fly. Bad plays? Maybe. They happen. Even to the very best.

And then you have a moment like A-Rod had last night, a moment that it seems only he is capable of delivering, like clockwork.

It was the top of the ninth inning. The Yankees, frantic for a victory, had nudged across an insurance run, extending their lead from 6-5 to 7-5. Hideki Matsui was on second base. Rodriguez, who'd driven in that bonus run, was on first. There were two outs.

Brian Wolfe had just been summoned by Blue Jays manager John Gibbons to make his major-league debut. His assignment was Jorge Posada, who ran the count full, then skied a pop-up high over the infield. Baseball players have been calling this kind of pop-up "hitting it into the silo" for a century and a half. Blue Jays third baseman Howie Clark got a bead on it. Everyone waited for the inning to end.

The "Other" Stuff From yesterday's New York Post

Only it didn't end. Because Clark never did catch the ball. Instead, he and the rest of the 29,187 people inside the stadium gasped as it bounced hard against one of the last artificial turfs remaining in major league baseball, Superballing once, finally settling to rest.

At first, it seemed like just another stroke of good fortune for Posada, who is now hitting .357 and has been getting the kind of bounces and breaks .357 hitters always get.

Only then you could see Joe McDonald, the shortstop, jawing at A-Rod. You could see the same thing from Clark. And then A-Rod jawed back. And here came Gibbons. And now the crowd started to get restless, and angry. Matsui had scored the second run of the inning. A-Rod stood on third, smiling when he wasn't arguing with the left side of the Jays infield.

What happened?

Soon, it was apparent what happened. On replay, you see Rodriguez rounding second, heading for third, and as soon as he passes Clark you can see him open his mouth. There is no disputing that he said something. Rodriguez said it was "Hah!" The Jays insisted he said "Mine," the common infield phrase meaning "I got it."

Both teams had their own unique interpretations, of course.

"Maybe I'm naive, but I thought it was a bush-league play," is how Gibbons described it.

"One thing you know about the Yankees, one of the reasons they're so respected, they do things right. They always have. They got a lot of pride and a lot of class. They play the game hard and that's not Yankee pride right there. That's not the way they play."

A-Rod? "I just said, 'Hah!' That's it," he said. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

He added that he did what he did "to help us win a game. We're desperate."

Added Joe Torre: "It's not like he said, 'I got it.'"

How do these things find him? How do they happen to him?

There have been thousands of baseball games played across the decades. How many times have you heard a player accused of this? But, then, how many times had you ever seen a guy thrown out for slapping a pitcher, as Rodriguez was in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS?

Is it an illegal play? No. Is it a breach of etiquette?

Put it this way: If Pete Rose did this, men would write poems about grittiness, paeans to aggressiveness. But with A-Rod, it rubs opponents the wrong way.

Put it another way: the next time the Yankees face the Blue Jays, the next time A-Rod steps in against A.J. Burnett or Roy Halladay, he may want to wear two batting helmets.

Just in case the Blue Jays are feeling a bit desperate by then, too.

Dick Morris: A New Clinton Scandal

May 29 2007

This is a more detailed version of a column that was published in The New York Post on May 24, 2007.

Since he left office in 2001, former president Bill Clinton has been paid by InfoUSA, an Omaha, Nebraska company that has been identified as a key provider of specially designed databases that are sold to criminals who use the detailed information to defraud the unsuspecting elderly.

Because Senate financial disclosure rules do not require Hillary Clinton to reveal exactly how much — or for what — the company has paid her husband over the past five years, we don’t know all the details. But we do know this: former presidents – especially Bill Clinton – don’t come cheap. And, just months after he left the presidency, Bill Clinton was paid $200,000 for a speech given to InfoUSA in Omaha. Since then, he has been paid an undisclosed amount each year, listed only as “more than $1000” for ‘non-employee compensation” on Senator Clinton’s Senate financial disclosure form.

According to the The New York Times, InfoUSA compiled and sold lists that disclosed the names of elderly men and women who would be likely to respond to unscrupulous scams. The lists left no doubt about the vulnerability of the elderly targets. The Times reported, for example, that InfoUSA advertised lists of “Elderly Opportunity Seekers,” 3.3 million older people “looking for ways to make money,” and “Suffering Seniors,” 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. “Oldies but Goodies” contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: “These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change.”

InfoUSA sold lists to companies that were under investigation or closed down by courts because of their criminal activity. The company’s internal emails show that employees were aware that the investigation for elderly fraud involved their customers, but sold the lists anyway.

The Times profiled one unfortunate 92 year old man who entered a sweepstake sponsored by InfoUSA. The information that he innocently provided was then sold to the predator marketers. After responding to their telemarketing calls seeking financial information, his entire life savings was stolen from his bank account at Wachovia Bank. These practices, using lists supplied by InfoUSA were repeated all over the country.

Last week, Hillary Clinton sought and obtained an extension of time to file her presidential candidate financial disclosure statement. Unlike the information required of Senators, this filing requires her to list not just the sources of Bill’s income but exactly how much they paid him. While Senator Clinton offered no reason for the postponement, one cannot help wondering if a desire to conceal InfoUSA’s payments to her husband while the company is under fire.

Clinton and "Vin" Gupta

The relationship between Bill Clinton and Vinod “Vin” Gupta, the CEO and Chairman of InfoUSA is both long-standing and deep. A frequent Clinton donor, he has stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom, admitted to donating $1,000,000 to the Clinton Library and told the press that he’d consider an additional donation. Again, since the Clintons refuse to disclose who donated money to the library, we don’t know the total that he actually gave. In late 1999, Gupta gave $2,000,000 for Hillary Clinton’s Millennium New Year’s Eve bash. (They party cost $16 million and was closed to the press!)

The links between Gupta and the Clintons are extensive:

• Gutpa raised over $200,000 for Hillary’s Senate campaigns and contributed thousands to the DNC and Democratic House and Senate campaigns.

• InfoUSA was one of the sponsors of the Aspen Festival of Ideas last summer where Bill and Hillary Clinton both spoke.

• Gupta built the Bill Clinton Science & Technology Center and the Hillary Clinton Mass Communications Center in his hometown of Rampur, India

• Bill and Gutpa traveled to India together

• Gupta reportedly paid for a golf outing for Bill at a legendary Scottish course

• InfoUSA appointed Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton’s longtime money man to the Board of Directors of its subsidiary company

• Clinton appointed Gupta to the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees only a few days before he left office

• Clinton also nominated Gupta as Consul General of Bermuda and U.S. Ambassador to Fiji, but Gupta was never confirmed

• Gupta’s company co-sponsored the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative

• Gupta sent a $7000 treadmill to Chappaqua days after the Clintons left the White House. After the NY Post disclosed the gift, the Clintons returned the gift.

Gupta’s generosity to the Clintons is only matched by his generosity to himself. InfoUSA has lately been attacked by some of its shareholders, particularly by the Greenwich, Connecticut company Cardinal Capital that went after Conrad Black. Lord Black is now on trial in Chicago for corporate fraud.

Cardinal Capital objected to Gupta’s purchase of a $600,000 skybox at the University of Nebraska, his family’s charges of $13.5 million in private jet charges, and $2.5 million for the long term lease of a yacht – all with corporate funds.

In addition to his 2001 visit to the company’s headquarters, Bill Clinton was back there to speak at a conference on privacy issues in September 2006. Senator Clinton’s disclosure statement for that period has not been publicly released, so we don’t know how much he was paid.

This connection between the Clintons and InfoUSA only underscores the necessity of full disclosure of income sources and amounts by all the presidential candidates and the release of their income tax returns, a step Mrs. Clinton has, thus far, refused to take.

David Forsmark: The Real Che Guevara
May 31, 2007

Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him

By Humberto Fontova

Sentinel, $23.95, 224 pp.

Time magazine recently made the ludicrous decision to exclude President George W. Bush from its list of the "world’s 100 most influential people. Adding to the insult was the inclusion of such figures as Sacha Baron Cohen and America Ferrara, whom even fans of their characters -- Borat and Ugly Betty, respectively -- probably would not recognize in their real life personas.

But that’s not the first time Time has included essentially fictional characters on a similar list. In its list of the 100 most important people of the 20th Century, under "Heroes and Icons", the magazine’s editors included the fictional creation known as Che Guevara.

Wait, you argue, Ernesto "Che" Guevara was a real person. True enough, as the thousands of his murdered victims would attest. However, as journalist Humberto Fontova shows in Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, Time magazine didn't come close to including the real Che Guevara on its list.

The Che portrayed by Ariel Dorfman on Time’s list was a concoction whom the magazine helped to invent in the 1950s and '60s. In fact, almost nothing in Dorfman’s 1999 wallowing in messianic hero worship in the century list article is true.

Basically, everything most people think they know about Che Guevara is wrong. Okay, maybe not everything, since Frontpage readers at least, who have seen Fontova’s work, are likely to include "bloodthirsty, Communist thug" in their description. But most of the details are wrong, as the story perpetuated by The New York Times, CBS News and Time are drawn from propaganda put out by the Castro organization, much of it made up from whole cloth — including everything Time said about him in its century-end profile.

In fact, Dorfman’s gushy ode to his vicious hero serves as a perfect outline for the myths of Che and the dose of reality Fontova deals to each of them.

Time: "(T)he story of the obscure Argentine doctor who abandoned his profession and his native land to pursue the emancipation of the poor…"

Fontova: There is no proof that Guevara ever actually earned a medical degree, much less had a profession to abandon. As we will see later, Guevara’s only effective military campaign was against poor campesinos in the Cuban countryside.

Time: "After a guerrilla campaign in which Guevara displayed such outrageous bravery and skill that he was named commandante, the insurgents entered Havana and launched what was to become the first and only victorious socialist revolution in the Americas."

Fontova: Che had a particular talent for being nowhere around when any skirmish broke out. In fact, many of the pitched battles trumpeted in The New York Times and other MSM outlets of the time never took place. In one battle that the NYT proclaimed deaths of over a thousand, Fontova writes convincingly that total casualties on both sides probably numbered around five. Talk about creative math.

Fontova shows that Che was responsible for more deaths of non-communist anti-Batista fighters than of soldiers fighting for the regime — most of whom were bribed to flee. After the revolution, Che oversaw not only the executions of tens of thousands of innocents, but he also was in charge of forcibly collectivizing thousands of small farms. In fact, Che Guevara conducted the longest counter-revolutionary campaign in the Americas, with a brutal 6-year war against Cuban peasant farmers.

Che Guevara at the plaza de la Revolucion

Time: "Che the moral guru proclaiming that a New Man, no ego and all ferocious love for the other, had to be forcibly created out of the ruins of the old one."

Fontova: When mothers or wives came to plead for the life of their loved one, he would show his "ferocious love for the other" by picking up the phone and ordering that man or boy’s immediate execution in front of the sobbing woman.

As Fontova points out, the 14,000 executions by firing squad and other Cuban deaths attributed to the Castroites are dwarfed by the numbers killed by Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Pol Pot, but, as a percentage of the population, the Cuban communists are right up there with the other moral gurus who were also trying to create a "New Man."

Time: "Che the romantic mysteriously leaving the revolution to continue…, the struggle against oppression and tyranny."

Fontova: Che was run out of Cuba by Castro who tired of the competing cult of personality, and was a spectacular failure in Africa and South America where he rallied no one to his cause and was ignored-- or mocked—by guerillas on the ground there.

Time: "His execution in Vallegrande at the age of 39 only enhanced Guevara's mythical stature. That Christ-like figure laid out on a bed of death with his uncanny eyes almost about to open; those fearless last words ('Shoot, coward, you're only going to kill a man') somebody invented or reported;"

Fontova: "Invented," indeed. The only place Che’s defiant last words appear are in Cuban accounts. Every eyewitness tells a different tale — of a Che Guevara trying to ingratiate himself to every guard, officer or CIA agent at the scene, spinning the notion constantly that he would be "worth more alive."

But radical Duke professor Dorfman is not the only purveyor of the Che Guevara myth that Fontova deconstructs. Herbert Matthews of the New York Times was among the useful idiots who most helped Castro come to power.

As Fontova puts it, this was not a battle in the Cuban countryside or the streets of Havana but a PR war won on the pages of the mainstream press in Washington and New York.

Fontova also spends a fair amount of time discrediting New Yorker writer Jon Lee Anderson’s hagiography, Che: A Revolutionary Life, which was hailed for its "balance" in the mainstream media and widely considered the ultimate Che biography. Probably all you need to know about this 814 page book is that Anderson writes "I have yet to find a single credible source pointing to a case where Che executed an innocent." Fontova points out that Anderson spends 200 pages on Che’s largely fictional guerilla campaign to oust Batista, but deals with his 5-year slaughter of the farmers in one dismissive sentence.

Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him also takes on an ironic tone similar to Peter Schweizer’s Do As I Say, when dealing with fawning American Che worshipers who help keep his glowering face on tee shirts and coffee mugs everywhere.

Guitar hero Carlos Santana provides comic relief with spaced out statements that "Che was all about peace and love, man," or his loopy comment that Che was the first person to allow women in Cuba's casinos. Of course, Che mainly closed the casinos, persecuted anyone who listened to rock and roll — much less performed it —and his big contribution to feminism was granting women equal access to face firing squads.

There was never any excuse for the media to get it wrong. As Fontova points out in the book’s opening, Che came to the UN and shouted his love of executions from the podium in a speech as subtle as Hugo Chavez’s recent visit. That earned him a party at Bobo Rockefeller’s place in an early example of what Tom Wolfe would later call Radical Chic.

Today’s liberals outraged that there is a place in Cuba today where the US holds genocidal thugs, who are not read their Miranda rights. Meanwhile they continue to not only glorify a murderer from four decades ago, but the regime he co-founded where people are still tortured for decades for speaking their minds-- if not put up against a wall so covered in gore that its original color is no longer discernable.

Che a hero? No, he was a monster, a foul beast. To the ash heap of history he goes. Deservedly.

Ann Coulter: A Green Card in Every Pot
May 31, 2007

Americans – at least really stupid Americans like George Bush – believe the natural state of the world is to have individual self-determination, human rights, the rule of law and a robust democratic economy. On this view, most of the existing world and almost all of world history is a freakish aberration.

In fact, the natural state of the world is Darfur. The freakish aberration is America and the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world.

The British Empire once spread the culture of prosperity around the globe – Judeo-Christian values, tolerance, equality, private property and the rule of law. All recipients of the British Empire's largesse benefited, but the empire's most successful colony was the United States.

At the precise moment in history when the U.S. has abandoned any attempt to transmit Anglo-Saxon virtues to its own citizens, much less to immigrants, George Bush wants to grant citizenship to hordes of immigrants who are here precisely because they are fleeing cultures that are utterly dysfunctional and ruinous for the humans who live in them.

Yes, this country has absorbed huge migrations of illiterate peasants in the past – notably Italian immigrants at the turn of the last century. But also notably, half of them went back. We got the good ones. America was not yet a welfare state guaranteeing room and board to the luckless, the lazy and the incompetent from cradle to grave.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, immigrant and first Jewish member of the Supreme Court, said that Americanization required that the immigrant adopt "the clothes, the manners and the customs generally prevailing here" and that he adopt "the English language as the common medium of speech."

But, Brandeis said, this is only part of it. "(W)e properly demand of the immigrant even more than this – he must be brought into complete harmony with our ideals and aspirations and cooperate with us for their attainment. Only when this has been done will he possess the national consciousness of an American."

Or as George Bush would call it, "empty rhetoric." And as Linda Chavez would call it, "racist."

I wish our new immigrants had come to America back when the foundations of civic society and patriotism were still inculcated in all immigrants (and when half of them went home). But traitors who are citizens have destroyed all acculturating institutions. Traitors who are citizens have also destroyed all incentive for the poor to work or even keep their knees together before marriage.

Until the recipient culture is capable of doing an effective job of Americanizing immigrants, it's preposterous to talk about a massive influx of Hispanic immigrants accomplishing anything other than turning America into yet another Latin American-style banana republic. And it is simply a fact that no one is trying to turn immigrants into Americans.

To the contrary, Democrats are trying to turn new immigrants into wards of the state – and with some success! – so they will be permanent Democratic voters. Rich Republicans and their handmaidens in Washington are trying to turn immigrants into a permanent servant class.

In an astonishing exchange on Fox News last weekend, Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal responded to Heather MacDonald's point that Hispanics in this country have a 50 percent illegitimacy rate, the highest teen pregnancy rate of any group and the highest high school drop-out rate of any group, by asking: "Why don't we feel we are under cultural assault in New York City? You have no sense of this at all here."

You also have no sense of the existence of a middle class in New York City. The rich have hidden the evidence, transplanting all but the massively wealthy to the suburbs. Manhattan is white and getting whiter, while the boroughs are noticeably less white and more dysfunctional.

What evidence is there for the proposition that American culture will leap like a tenacious form of tuberculosis to today's immigrants? Americans display no evident desire to defend their culture, much less transmit it, and immigrants show no evident desire to adopt it.

To the contrary, immigrants are replacing American culture with Latin American culture. Their apparent constant need to demonstrate is just one example.

As Mac Johnson wrote in Human Events last year, these immigrant protests represent "the colonization of America by the Latin style of politics." He listed just some of the demonstrations drawing thousands – sometimes hundreds of thousands – of protesters over the last few years in Mexico alone. Among the targets of the protests were a new regional trade pact, plans to allow private investment in the state-owned electricity industry, energy and tax reforms, and support for the mayor of Mexico City.

In 1993 – long before 9-11, before the USS Cole bombing, before the bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania – the eminent Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington predicted that the greatest threat to Western civilization would come from a clash of civilizations, noting with particular concern the "bloody borders" of the Muslim world.

So it ought to be of some interest that Huntington is now predicting, in his book Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity, that America cannot survive the cultural onslaught from Latin America.

American Hispanics responded to Huntington's book with a flurry of scholarly papers and academic debates to counter his thesis that Mexicans were not assimilating.

Just kidding! They called for national protests against Huntington, his publisher and Harvard University.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Srdja Trifkovic: A Dark Day in History

A Dark Day in History

The Massacre at Chios by Eugene Delacroix

On May 29, 1453, the city of Constantinople fell to the Muslims. It was a dark day for Christendom and for all civilized humanity. His pleas ignored in the West, his supplies running out after six weeks’ siege, his soldiers outnumbered 15 to one, Emperor Constantine XI Dragas knew that his cause was hopeless. Like Prince Lazar at Kosovo 64 years earlier, he chose martyrdom.

On May 22 the moon, symbol of Constantinople since its founding, rose in dark eclipse, fulfilling an old prophecy on the city’s demise. Four days later the Bosphorus was shrouded by thick fog, a phenomenon unknown in eastern Mediterranean in late spring. When the final assault started on the 29th and the walls of the city were shattered, the Emperor discarded his purple cloak and led the last defenders to charge into the breach. The Turks were never able to identify his body; the last Roman Emperor was buried in a mass grave along with his soldiers.

When it was all over, bands of Turks went on a rampage. Pillaging and killing went on for three days. The blood ran down the steep streets from the heights of Petra toward the Golden Horn. All the treasures of the Imperial Palace were promptly removed. Books and icons were burnt on the spot, once the jeweled covers and frames had been wrenched off. In the monastery of the Holy Savior, the invaders first destroyed the icon of the Mother of God, the Hodigitria, the holiest icon in all Byzantium, painted—so men said—by Saint Luke himself. When the Turks burst into the Hagia Sophia, Sir Steven Runciman tells us in his Fall of Constantinople,

The worshippers were trapped. A few of the ancient and infirm were killed on the spot; but most of them were tied or chained together. Many of the lovelier maidens and youths and many of the richer-clad nobles were almost torn to death as their captors quarreled over them. The priests went on chanting at the altar till they too were taken . . . The inhabitants were carried off along with their possessions. Anyone who collapsed from frailty was slaughtered, together with a number of infants who were held to be of no value . . . [The city] was now half in ruins, emptied and deserted and blackened as though by fire, and strangely silent. Wherever the soldiers had been there was desolation. Churches had been desecrated and stripped; houses were no longer habitable and shops and stores battered and bare.

Sultan Mehmed II is said to have been shaken by the spectacle as he rode through the burning streets, but the same carnage and bestiality was to be repeated, in one form or another, dozens of times over hundreds of years. Eugene Delacroix’s depiction of The Massacre at Chios: Greek families awaiting death or slavery is a masterpiece of horror depicting the systematic extermination of the entire population of an Aegean island. It graphically illustrated how being a Greek, Armenian, Serb, or indeed any other Christian, in the Ottoman Empire meant living in daily fear of murder, rape, torture, kidnap of one’s children, slavery, and genocide. Indeed, the last century of Ottoman rule—from the defeat of Napoleon until the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War—witnessed a more thorough and tragic destruction of the Christian communities in the Middle East, Asia Minor, the Caucasus, and the Balkans, than at any prior period.

The tragedy of Christian communities under Turkish rule, as Gladstone rightly pointed out, was not “a question of Mohammedanism simply, but of Mohammedanism compounded with the peculiar character of a race.” The Turks, in his view, “were, upon the whole, from the black day when they first entered Europe, the one great anti-human specimen of humanity. Wherever they went, a broad line of blood marked the track behind them, and, as far as their dominion reached, civilization disappeared from view. They represented everywhere government by force as opposed to government by law.”

The Ottoman Empire gave up the ghost right after the Great War, but long before that it had little interesting to say, or do, at least measured against the enormous cultural melting pot it had inherited and its splendid opportunities between East and West. Not even a prime location at the crossroads of the world could prompt creativity that was not there.

A century later the Turkish Republic is a populous, relatively prosperous and self-assertive nation-state. The Turkish nation has developed a culture based on a blend of European-style nationalism, which is very un-Ottoman, and an underlying Islamic ethos inherited from the Empire. Kemal Ataturk hoped to impose a strictly secular concept of nationhood, but political Islam has reasserted itself. Popular Islamic political movements of the past three decades have produced a Turkish-Islamic synthesis whose “post-Islamist” upholders are firmly in power in Ankara. Their success is due to the fact that most Turks remain Muslim in their beliefs, values, and world outlook. The Kemalist dream of secularism has never penetrated beyond the military and a narrow stratum of urban elite centered in Istanbul, and today it is in retreat. The Kemalist edifice, uneasily perched atop the simmering Islamic volcano, will remain tentative at best.
The re-emergence of an empire centered on the Bosphorus is unlikely, for now, but less so than the integration into the European Union of a democratic, secular and stable Turkey.

The freeing of Hagia Sophia from the four ugly bars imprisoning her is even less likely, for now; but miracles do happen, and therefore this one can happen. On this melancholy anniversary let us pray that it will happen.

Srdja Trifkovic :: May.29.2007 :: News & Views :: 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “A Dark Day in History”
on 29 May 2007 at 6:01 pm

1 Ira Nayus

What you fail to point out is the fact that Constantinople fell six months or so after an attempted illegitimate unia with the Latins. Thanks to St. Mark of Ephesus, the unia did not take place. Of course, the fall of Constantinople was a blow not to “Christendom” — some ecumenical notion embraced by those who have to rely on traffic with Latins for their pay — but a blow to the one, holy Catholic Orthodox Church — not Rome. Why is it that you as a Serb continue to play step-and-fetch-it to Rome? Why do you continue to ignore the countless outrages of Rome against Orthodoxy — never mind the actions of Croatian Latins during WWII, the sacking of Constantinople, or the Uniates in the Ukraine. Constantinople fell in no small part because Rome wanted to capitalize on the vulnerable state of Byzantium, ever looking to “convert” the Orthodox to their heresies and innovations. And why all of this non-sense about Islam? I don’t see any Muslim names heading up media outlets that pump pornographic entertainment into our homes every night of the week through the television and radio. I don’t see any Muslim names heading up organizations demanding the removal of any and everything associated with Christianity from the public square. I didn’t hear any Muslims calling for a new Pearl harbor event. For whom do ye not speak for fear of?

on 29 May 2007 at 6:13 pm

2 George Ajjan

There is another icon of Mary in Sednaya, Syria - also reportedly painted by St. Luke. Very popular local and regional attraction - even Gulf tourists, who are Muslims, regularly pray there.
on 29 May 2007 at 6:35 pm

3 Trifkovic

Re Union etc, cf. my “1204 AND ALL THAT”:
on 29 May 2007 at 6:40 pm

4 A J Pestronic

Mr. “Nayus” is misguided on his history. The Council of Florence took place in 1439 — roughly 13 years before the fall of Constantinople. However, it is interesting to point out that Emperor Constantine XI was, for all practical purposes, a Uniate: he attempted to force a union with Rome. In fact, he was not crowned in Constantinople because of the fierce opposition to his uniate views. In December of 1452, he allowed a uniate liturgy to be served in the Hagia Sophia in which the Pope was commemorated. Then, six months later, Constantinople fell. The spiritual import of this will, one supposes, divide Orthodox and Catholic alike. However, Emperor Constantine XI’s uniate sympathies cannot be denied nor can Rome’s attempt to capitalize on them.

on 29 May 2007 at 10:24 pm

5 S.

So much for “Ottoman tolerance”! Much to often we hear European bureaucrats and western elite talk of Ottoman Empire’s kind treatment of non-Muslims ! This excellent column might make them reshape their enthusiasm for Muslim open-mindedness.
on 29 May 2007 at 11:32 pm

6 Eunomia · Aiei Mnisomen

[…] Second Update: Dr. Trifkovic also has a very good piece on the Fall of Constantinople. […]
on 30 May 2007 at 2:50 am

7 Darcy

I cannot help but read of the fall of Constantinople without getting the shivers. Glorious, doomed Constantinople. Yet I think you protest too loudly about the Evil Turk of Ottoman times. For all their (correct) complaints about being treated as second-class citizens, all the Balkan nationalities managed to preserve their language and msot their religion under the Ottomans. Not a feat that would have been repeated had, say, Serbia been annexed in the 15th century by the Austrians. And the killing, well, yeah, it was hardly confined to the Ottomans.

So boo. The Ottomans were hardly tolerant by today’s standards, but until the 19th century, it would have been more pleasant living as a minority in Ottoman lands than, say, Spain or France. With the probable exceptions of Poland-Lithuania and the Dutch Netherlands.

As for today, your comment “The Kemalist dream of secularism has never penetrated beyond the military and a narrow stratum of urban elite centered in Istanbul, and today it is in retreat.” is way off. In many respects, Istanbul is the most conservative of Turkey’s larger cities. And if the recent series of massive demonstrations against the Government do not convince you that Ataturk’s reforms took hold, then I suppose you also believe in Creationism?

As for your final statement: “The freeing of Hagia Sophia from the four ugly bars imprisoning her is even less likely, for now; but miracles do happen, and therefore this one can happen. On this melancholy anniversary let us pray that it will happen.” This is childish melancholy.

Turkey is hardly a model country, but I see an energy and a will to betterment here that is missing anywhere else in Europe or the Middle East. Next time you visit the Balkans, travel a little further afield to Turkey. Not just to Babylon-on-the-Bosphorus. Go into the heartland of Anatolia and speak with the peasant farmers and the grocers, the taxi drivers and the professors. It will prove enlightening.

on 30 May 2007 at 3:40 am

8 Alistair

“I didn’t hear any Muslims calling for a new Pearl harbor event.” Ira, prhaps you’ve heard of: Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Hassan Nasrallah (just for starters), who have all called for the destruction of the U.S.? Or have you been in a cave the past 28 years?

It’s a shame to see people of the West still harboring ancient grudges that prevent them from uniting against a common foe, who is only too glad to stoke those fires of division.

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Michelle Malkin: Doing the Booing Americans Won't Do

Newly-crowned Rachel Smith, Miss USA 2007, poses in her new Mikimoto tiara, YMI Jeans and Ritmo Mundo watch in downtown Los Angeles March 24, 2007, the morning after winning her title. The 21-year-old from Clarksville, Tennessee, will spend her year-long reign making special appearances on behalf of the Miss Universe Organization, its sponsors and affiliated charities.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The United States government is on the verge of approving a mass amnesty to millions of illegal aliens -- a plan pushed aggressively by meddling Mexican officials who reap billions of dollars in remittances (illegal aliens' earnings sent back to Mexico) without having to lift a finger to clean up their own country.

And the thanks we get? Internationally televised public humiliation.

On Monday night, the beautiful young woman who represented America in the Miss Universe pageant was booed and mocked as she competed on stage in Mexico City. Rachel Smith, 22, did her best to respond with grace and dignity during the Top Five finalists' interview segment as the audience disrupted the event.Definitely not this one.

Smith soldiered through her answer, describing an educational trip to South Africa. Catcalls and whistles nearly drowned out Smith's reply until she wrapped up with "Buenos noches, Mexico."

I wouldn't have been so polite.

None of Miss USA's fellow Americans participating in the interview segment -- neither Minnillo, nor macho co-host Mario Lopez, nor the dashing Romo -- came to Smith's defense. Instead, Minnillo pleaded briefly with the unruly mob: "Okay, una momento, por favor." Lopez stood mute with a dumb grin on his dimpled face. Pathetic.

In fact, Smith was subjected to anti-American hatred throughout the week-long event. Last week, during the contestants' national costume fashion show, Smith smiled bravely as a rowdy outdoor crowd hissed and booed at her. According to pageant observers, no other contestants received such treatment.

Pitifully, Donald Trump and his Miss Universe officials are downplaying Smith's experience -- ignoring the fact that the last time the pageant was held in Mexico, Miss USA was abused in similar fashion. 1993 Miss USA Kenya Moore was infamously heckled when chosen for the semi-finals that year.

Just a tiny minority of America-haters, right? How quickly we forget.

Do you remember what happened in Guadalajara in 2004 during an Olympics qualification soccer match between the U.S. and Mexico? The stadium erupted in boos during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Fans yelled "Osama! Osama!" as the U.S. was eliminated by Mexico.

The following year, in March 2005, Mexican soccer fans again cheered the al Qaeda mastermind's name at a World Cup qualifier. ESPN reported the audience again booed and whistled during the U.S. national anthem, and plastic bags filled with urine were reportedly tossed on American players.

One Mexican fan told the Christian Science Monitor: "'Every schoolboy knows about 1848. . . . When they robbed our territory,' referring to when Texas, California and New Mexico were annexed to the U.S. as part of a peace treaty ending the war between the two countries, 'that was the beginning.'"

This bitterness is long-standing, deep-seated and stoked by top Mexican government officials and elites. But pointing this reality out in the context of our crucial national debate over sovereignty, immigration, assimilation, border security and the rule of law will get you labeled a bigot. Our leaders have concluded that it is better to pander, hide, pull out a friendly Spanish phrase like Minnillo did, and pray that the hatred will go away by giving the pro-amnesty lobby its legislative goodie-bag.

Meanwhile, as Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald points out, the White House continues to attack opponents of the Bush-Kennedy amnesty package as "nativists." Conservative columnist Linda Chavez accused amnesty critics of "not liking Mexicans." Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested enforcement advocates wanted to "execute" illegal aliens. And Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham trashed immigration enforcement proponents as "bigots" in front of the ethnocentric, open-borders group La Raza.

Yeah, we're the nativists.

Next, they'll tell us the mob at the Miss Universe pageant was simply "doing the booing Americans won't do."

Will President Bush speak out against the treatment Miss USA received in Mexico? Will any amnesty peddler in Washington? Imagine if Miss Mexico were booed, heckled and subjected to chants of "USA, USA" if the pageant had been held here.

Smith can hold her head up high. Those who are selling out our country, on the other hand, should hang their heads in shame.

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

Jonah Goldberg: John Edwards' Poor Scam

May 30, 2007

Los Angeles Times

There's a little hustler in every politician. But sometimes there's a little politician in a hustler. Such is the case with John Edwards.

Just last week, we learned that Edwards received $55,000 to give a speech, "Poverty, the Great Moral Issue Facing America," at UC Davis. The poor students who attended were charged $17 a ticket. Earlier this month, it was reported that despite the fact he denounces "predatory lending" and sub-prime mortgages for the poor, Edwards made nearly $500,000 as a consultant to a hedge fund involved in that business.

The former senator defended his gig on the grounds that he took the job to learn how financial markets relate to poverty. This is a bit like saying you frequent brothels so you can learn where babies come from. But here's the hilarious part: Edwards said he didn't know the fund was involved in sub-prime lending. If he was there to learn about poverty and finance, how did he miss this salient fact? He must be a very slow learner. No wonder his former political consultant, Bob Shrum, calls him "a Clinton who hadn't read the books."

Business Week magazine reports that Edwards launched a poverty center that conveniently worked out of the same office as his political action committee. The nonprofit center spent a staggering 70% of the money it raised on a speaking tour for Edwards and on salaries for staffers who in short order just happened to join his presidential campaign. This gives new meaning to the term "poverty pimp."

A few years ago, when it was reported that "virtuecrat" Bill Bennett, the former Education secretary, liked to gamble in Las Vegas, columnist Michael Kinsley spoke for much of establishment liberalism when he declared, "Bennett has been exposed as a humbug artist who ought to be pelted off the public stage." I thought this was unfair, as Bennett never inveighed against gambling, nor did his church consider it a sin. Edwards, who gets choked up and misty-eyed from his own relentlessly recounted stump speech about "two Americas," is more of a humbug artist than Bennett ever was. You would think that when Edwards looks in the mirror in one of his new, 28,000-square-foot house's six bathrooms, inspecting whether it's time for another $400 haircut, he might feel the slightest twinge of conscience about his us-versus-them shtick.

Now, of course, this doesn't mean that he doesn't care about poverty, and there's certainly nothing wrong with making money. Edwards has clearly convinced himself that he's done nothing wrong. He launched his fortune as an ambulance-chasing lawyer, after all, so he's good at convincing people, starting with himself, that he's on the side of the angels. But the story he tells to prove he's not a hypocrite is typically phony. For example, his 2004 presidential campaign highlighted the humble little house he led people to believe he grew up in. But the small home touted in commercials was Edwards' residence until he reached the ripe old age of 1. Then, his father the mill worker was promoted to management and the family moved into a more expensive home that never appeared in his campaign ads.

It's not that Edwards is a liar, it's that he's a toothy door-to-door salesman, seemingly hawking the issues when he's really just hawking himself.

When Edwards was preparing for his first run for president, he struck the pose of a Southern moderate. The National Journal noted that his voting record set him "comfortably apart from Senate liberals." Now that he's out of office -- he likely could not have won reelection -- he's recast himself as the election season's premier anti-warrior. Last week, Edwards gave a major foreign policy speech in which he ridiculed the very idea of a "war on terror" as nothing more than a "bumper sticker." Of course, until recently, he had no problem with the concept. As Sen. John Kerry's running mate, he campaigned on the claim that Iraq was distracting us from the real war on terror. Before that, he recanted his vote in favor of the Iraq war.

In his new book, Shrum says that Edwards voted for the war not because the Bush administration misled him but because his spin doctors did. Edwards, of course, denies this, but even in the recent South Carolina Democratic debate, he confessed that the lesson he learned from his vote was that he needs "to put more faith in my own judgment."

That's a convenient position for a man who seems to really believe only in one thing: himself.

(c) Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Mike Lupica: Shea hello, Barry


Wednesday, May 30th 2007, 4:00 AM

A Met fan protests Barry Bonds last night.

He comes out of the dugout at a little after 5:30 in the afternoon at Shea Stadium, nine home runs away from the great Henry Aaron, the crowd of television cameras and reporters and photographers moving with Barry Bonds as he moves slowly toward the batting cage, almost in slow motion. The crowd is always there with him. It is just most of the faces and the cities that change. Tonight it is New York and Shea, then Philadelphia, then Arizona, then back to San Francisco. The pursuit of Aaron has become like some low-speed chase.

Or like some big wrestling tour. Or circus. But then this whole thing crossed the clown line a long time ago.

Bonds slowly chases Aaron. The media crowd, which will get bigger the closer he gets to 756, chases him. Everybody had expected Bonds to talk to the media at Shea yesterday. He did not. He wasn't going to be dumb enough to talk about steroids, anyway. Not everybody is a talker like Giambi.

When Bonds got on the field, he talked to Tony Bernazard, the Mets' vice president of player development, then to Charlie D'Amodio, a field supervisor who has known Bonds, just from his visits to Shea, a long time. Charlie even managed to get a laugh out of him.

"I guess I was somebody to schmooze with about something other than baseball," Charlie said. "Or steroids."

Bonds is the biggest story in sports, not just baseball, because of Aaron and because of steroids. His tour, this circus, comes to New York this week. Even if he has no chance to break the record here.

When Bonds stepped out of the Giants dugout last night, the fans behind the dugout cheered, most of them, and some chanted his name. Then at 5:40 he got into the cage and began to show off, even halfheartedly, one of the most beautiful and efficient swings any ballpark has ever seen, in any city, or any era.

He was one of the great players of all time before all the drugs we read about in "Game of Shadows." He would have been called that if he had kept hitting 30 home runs a year. But he went a different way, and if you think he didn't, the way Barry Zito doesn't in the new ESPN magazine - in a piece that sounded like the runner-up in a fifth-grade essay contest - then you think Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the authors of "Game of Shadows," made it all up.

Barry Bonds, who did not play in Tuesday night’s game at Shea Stadium, emerged early from the Giants’ dugout to face a gaggle of cameras and news media.

And if that is the case, Bonds should own his own publishing house by now, and the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

Bonds was supposed to talk and didn't yesterday. And he didn't start against Oliver Perez, a lefthander who has given him fits. Between 5:30 and 6 there was just these lazy swings, all eyes in the place on him, the way they will be until 756. And as always you watched him and wondered how it all could have been different for him.

There is no positive test on him for steroids, just amphetamines. There is just the laundry list of drugs in that book, without the word "alleged" in there anywhere. It does not make Bonds more guilty than the guys who have gotten busted since drug testing went into effect. Baseball got Rafael Palmeiro, who said it must have happened to him because of a tainted B-12 shot. Baseball got the Mets' Guillermo Mota, too, even if Mota at least had the good grace not to deny the whole thing.

Bonds just happens to be the biggest star of his game, in all ways, the beefed-up, bulked-up guy whose career changed after the age of 35 the way his body did and is now about to break Aaron's record and has decided that nobody can stop him, not the government, not the baseball commissioner, nobody.

At Shea he takes the swings he is going to take in his abbreviated batting practice. He comes back around the cage, sees a face he recognizes from television.

"You still on that show?" he asks.


He walks away, strolls back past the media, down the Giants dugout, disappears. It is New York for him tonight. As far as Bonds is concerned, it could be anywhere. They are all there to see him and he knows it. Strangest, saddest tour in all of sports history.

Outside, the fans are still coming in from the parking lots and the Willets Point station. Near one of the will-call windows is Ken Iacogacci Jr., Fair Lawn, N.J., wearing a Giants cap and an orange Bonds T-shirt.

Iacogacci is asked about the outfit.

"What can I tell you, I'm a Giants fan 40years," he says. "Before Bonds."

"But you're here to root for him."

"Give me a reason not to," he says.

"How about a whole book about the drugs he took to hit home runs," he is told.

"So what about McGwire?" Iacogacci says. "You see the Maris family when McGwire broke Roger's record? You see them hug him? You tell me they weren't hugging steroids?"

"We know a lot more now."

"Yeah, and I know Mickey Mantle was no saint, either. You want to hear stories about what he was like when he was hungover and he didn't want to sign an autograph for some kid?"

"Do the drugs bother you?" Iacogacci is asked finally.

"You want the truth?" he said. "Yeah, they bother me. But tell me something: What am I gonna do about it now?"

Bonds did not get in the game until the 10th. But this is what they had come to see, both Giants fans and Mets fans. The Mets fans got loud and chanted about steroids. Bonds walked, swinging the bat only once. Not much of a circus on this night, a night when the only swing to remember belonged to Carlos Delgado, and neither Shea nor the baseball season was the property of Barry Bonds.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Stanley Kurtz: Look to Europe

May 29, 2007 5:00 AM

Immigration lessons from across the pond.

Adapting to religious diversity in France has been a 'challenge' according to a French sociologist.

Let’s take a moment to focus on what’s positive in the latest immigration proposal...from Norway, that is. (Sorry, nothing much worthwhile in the American bill.) It turns out that Conservative-party politicians in Oslo are calling for a moratorium on immigrant-family reunification. (Norway’s Conservative party is fiscally conservative but socially liberal, so this is a novel development.) Oslo city council leader Erling Lae argues that out-of-control family reunification is the most important cause of unemployment, income disparities, and lack of assimilation in Norway’s capital. Pakistani Muslims are a key non-Western group in Norway, and apparently the seclusion of immigrant brides and other female relatives is at the root of Norway’s immigration-driven troubles.

So socially liberal Norway is turning against family reunification, at the very moment Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are moving to broaden the family-reunification provisions of America’s immigration bill. Even without the Clinton and Obama amendments, the Senate bill is slated to speed up family reunification for the next eight years.

That doesn’t mean we should despair...about England, anyway, where, like Norway, the news is encouraging. England’s Tory opposition and Labor government are vying with each other to reform an over-generous family-reunification policy — increasingly recognized as a key cause of failed Muslim assimilation. In Britain, as in Norway, chain migration, powered by arranged (and sometimes forced) cousin marriage, has created a kind of “reverse colony.” Marriage-based family reunification has effectively moved whole sections of clan-centered villages from Pakistan to Britain, inhibiting assimilation, encouraging poverty, and nurturing a cultural dissonance in the young that sometimes leads to Islamist radicalism and terror.

Blind Spot

But, hey, no worries. Hillary and Barack have foolproof rationales for their proposed reforms. Introducing an amendment to extend unlimited marriage-based family unification from American citizens to green-card holders, Clinton said, “For those who often speak about family values, this is your opportunity to match your rhetoric with your action.” (Some Christian pro-family groups weren’t sure if Clinton might be right.) For his part, Obama is joining with New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez to offer a series of amendments designed to quickly gut, and eventually eliminate, the merit-based point system supposedly designed to replace family unification as the center of our immigration policy (eight years from now — assuming the already-beseiged point system won’t have to face a Clinton or Obama administration). As Obama puts it: “How many of our forefathers would have measured up under this point system? How many would have been turned back at Ellis Island?”

Here we arrive at one of the central difficulties of America’s immigration debate. Mention immigration and many of us conjure up hallowed memories of our ancestors passing through Ellis Island — and of America’s stirring, centuries-long immigration success story. America’s melting-pot is unquestionably one of this country’s great historic triumphs.

Yet the reality of that achievement too easily blinds us to the fact that not all immigration stories end happily. In an era when the assimilationist ethos has been challenged by multiculturalism, when travel, telephones, and satellite dishes continuously link immigrants with homes half-way round the world, and when the cultural gap between immigrant and host cultures can turn into a chasm, we cannot take immigration success for granted.

Nor can pro-family Christians be properly accused of hypocrisy for thinking twice about promoting Asian or Middle-Eastern family values — if those values are radically different from their own. Polygamy? Cousin marriage? Extended clans held together by transnational arranged marriages? If anything these practices (encouraged by permissive family-reunification policies) are seriously undermining Western family values in Europe. Yet neither the pro-family lobby — nor anyone else in America — seems to understand the cultural disaster family-reunification laws have wrought in Europe. After all, Europeans themselves are only just now waking up to the uncomfortable truth.

Europe’s Disaster

No one realized what Norway was in for when a newly elected Christian-Democratic government in 1998 decided to pursue a more permissive immigration policy than the previous Labor government. Whereas Sweden and Denmark offered only temporary residence and no family reunification, Norway granted refugees both permanent residence and family reunification. As news of this liberalization spread across the immigrant grapevine, Norway saw a 1,300-percent increase in immigration — most of it from Pakistani Muslims and Iraqi Kurds — while Muslim immigration to Norway’s neighbors remained unchanged. Many of these immigrants forged documents, or otherwise disguised their identities, in order to gain entry as refugees. Once in Norway, many imported their extended families and proceeded to live off of Norway’s generous welfare system. There followed the usual raft of controversies over female seclusion, transnational forced marriages, and honor killings.

Britain has an even longer history with the same dynamic. South Asians (including many Pakistani Muslims) flooded into Britain (as did Muslim immigrants to France and other parts of Europe) during the post-WW II boom years, when employers were looking for cheap, unskilled labor. Most of these immigrants were uneducated, non-English-speaking, highly traditional villagers. I tell the story of the assimilation disaster wrought by the marriage-based chain migration of these Pakistani migrants in “Assimilation Studies” and “Assimilation Studies II.”

Left out of those pieces is the tale of the Blair government’s ill-fated liberalization of family-reunification laws — one of the very first acts of “New Labor,” a decade ago. Blair’s “humanitarian” liberalization of marriage-based family-reunification laws effectively doubled the number of transnational arranged cousin marriages, established an additional major barrier to Muslim assimilation, and kicked off a raft of “sham marriages.” (In these sham marriages, Pakistani men marry Muslim British women, leave their British wives after living in Britain long enough to obtain visas, then use family reunification laws to bring over another wife from Pakistan.) The current rush to reform Britain’s marriage-based family-reunification laws is, in part, a belated attempt to undo the disaster precipitated by Blair’s decade-old liberalization.

The broader point is that the history of Muslim immigration in Europe stands on the opposite end of the spectrum of immigration possibilities as America’s great success story. In the European example, we have a concrete case of low-skill immigration successfully feeding an economic boom, while also setting in motion dangerous cultural consequences that would come back a generation later to haunt the West. Pro-business immigration supporters sometimes seem oblivious to the fact that this kind of cultural backfire from economically beneficial immigration is possible. Yet in Europe, a worst-case immigration scenario is playing out right now.

Multiculturalism, American-Style

True, the United States isn’t Europe. Multiculturalism notwithstanding, we are still far better than our continental brethren at assimilating immigrants. And Hispanic migrants are undoubtedly less distant from American culture than Muslims are from the culture of Europe. Yet, balancing America’s traditional assimilationist strengths against modern challenges like multiculturalism, globalizing technology, and radically non-Western immigrants, it’s not unreasonable to believe that the U.S. is in real danger of ending up somewhere in the middle of the immigration spectrum — half-way between our former success and the current European fiasco. So in the new and deeply challenging global immigration environment, exactly how America handles its family-reunification policy could make the difference between success and failure.

To begin with, we can in no way assume that the problems associated with Muslim family reunification will remain confined to Europe. Take a look at this Associated Press story on the new immigration bill. The article offers a multiculturalist argument against cut-backs in extended-family-reunification laws — calling for American acceptance of the very same Pakistani Muslim family system that’s blocked assimilation in England and Norway. Talk about a slippery slope, this article offers the “family diversity” argument usually deployed in defense of gay marriage, but now presented as a justification for in-marrying extended Muslim clans in the West. Yet the article omits to mention that the controversial practice of cousin marriage is the cornerstone of the family system being described.

Multiculturalism may have triumphed over assimilation among America’s media and cultural elites, but could the distinctively European pattern of Muslim immigration and failed assimilation really emerge over here? It may have already happened in the case of the terrorist plot to murder American soldiers at Fort Dix. (See “Immigration and Fort Dix.”) Several of the Fort Dix plotters were members of the extended Duka clan, which originated in the Macedonian village of Debar. Although we still don’t know the details, it seems likely that the Duka clan entered the United States through a combination of illegal immigration and legal family reunification — all the while maintaining constant and collective ties to its home village, limiting assimilation in its members, and inadvertently pushing culturally alienated youngsters toward Islamist radicalism, on the classic European pattern.

The Duka family was part of a larger influx of ethnic Albanian Muslims following “ethnic cleansing” in the former Yugoslavia. Many of those refugees were processed at Fort Dix — which in effect became their Ellis Island. It says something about our era that a new “Ellis Island” has already been targeted for a terrorist massacre.

Dangerous Amendment

Since we reform our immigration laws only at the interval of decades, we ought to ask whether the liberal-family reunification policies favored by Senators Clinton and Obama may be in effect during future Yugoslavia-like influxes. If our Iraq venture fails, if a President Clinton or Obama withdraws our troops from Iraq, if a nuclear Iran kicks off a Sunni-Shiite civil war in the Middle East, the chaos and refugee flows emerging from the Middle East are potentially massive. By extending unlimited marriage-based family reunification to green-card holders and/or by killing off the merit-based point system and reemphasizing family unification, we could be setting ourselves up for a European-style immigration nightmare.

Hillary Clinton’s amendment seems least threatening in this regard, since it applies to children and spouses, rather than extended family members. Yet Muslims traditionally marry extended family members, and have historically used liberal marriage-unification laws to effectively import unassimilated extended family networks to the West. It’s also possible that extending unlimited marriage reunification to green-card holders could stimulate a market in transnational marriages among other ethnic groups. Once marriage became a ticket to Europe, the percentage of arranged, transnational cousin marriages among Muslim immigrants substantially increased. Likewise, with American green-card marriage caps abolished, other immigrant groups could turn to some form of transnational marriage as a conveyor belt to the United States. As in Europe, marriage-based chain migration would effectively block assimilation by guaranteeing a continually renewed supply of marriage partners unfamiliar with Western ways.

Something like this actually happened when the current immigration act passed in 1965. The various numerical restrictions built into that law were effectively obviated by provisions exempting spouses, dependent children, and parents of American citizens from any immigration limits. The unintended consequence of the citizen reunification rules was a massive surge in immigration. So if the Clinton amendment now extends those citizen exemptions to green card holders, we can expect another massive, “uncappable” immigration surge — which could easily cancel out other attempted controls.

Married His Mother

Although the Senate compromise supposedly replaces family reunification with a merit-based point system, the bill actually accelerates extended family reunification for eight years. Even then, the proposed future restrictions on family reunification have come under attack for undermining “Asian family values” (Is America now obliged to support “Asian family values?”), and even for anti-Asian “racism.” Given the fact that educated and English-competent Asians will actually be favored under the new point system, the charge of racism is absurd. The goal of this bill is not to exclude Asians, but to bring over Asian immigrants as individuals, rather than as extended families and clans. That is our best guarantor of successful assimilation. The problem is that the compromise bill fails to accomplish the task, and could have still more disastrous effects if the Clinton and Obama amendments pass.

Like that Associated Press piece on Pakistani extended families, the media has been filled with stories sympathetically portraying the plight of separated immigrant families seeking unification. Here’s a New York Times story about the pain caused to immigrant families when DNA tests reveal that children and parents are not in fact related.

The Times says it found “no evidence of wrongdoing” by the families it interviewed, but the lure of family reunification is famous for provoking “wrongdoing.” Here’s the remarkable story of an Iraqi refugee who married his mother in an attempt to use marriage-unification laws to bring his family to Norway. An extreme case, to be sure, but also an indication of the ingenuity that goes into exploiting family unification.

Wrong Direction

Along with educated, English-speaking Asians, the new point system would likely favor certain African and Middle Eastern immigrants, many of whom have good English and educational credentials. This is particularly true of Egyptians, and again raises the prospect of a new class of Muslim immigrants drawing in extended family networks through clan-based in-marriage. Note that the 9/11 terrorists would themselves have done rather well under the new point system. After all, they had technical degrees and spoke English.

Israel has faced a similar problem. Some 40 percent of Israeli Arabs involved in suicide attacks in 2006 were naturalized, a fact which has prompted the Knesset to deny family-reunification rights to citizens of the Palestinian authority, and four states: Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran. Given that national survival is literally at stake, it’s tough to see what alternative Israel had.

In short, while the rest of the West has been reeling from the unintended consequences of liberal family-unification laws in an age of terror, the United States is rushing headlong toward that very danger. A bill that supposedly moves us away from family-based immigration and toward an individual merit system will in fact accelerate family reunification for eight years.

Legislative Futures

The Obama amendment aims to quickly gut, and eventually kill, the point system. Such a killer amendment would likely scuttle the deal. Obama’s political statement may not pass. Yet in offering it, Obama is effectively promising that, as president, he would put the point system to rest.

On the other hand, Clinton’s amendment extending the unlimited reunification of spouses and children from American citizens to green-card holders, could very well pass (perhaps with a slight delay on processing backlogged claims). The Clinton amendment is politically difficult to oppose. Who could be against uniting nuclear families? But combine unlimited spousal unification with Muslim in-marriage, and the stage is set for a future immigration and assimilation disaster. With Asian and Middle Eastern family values now in play, best let our green card holders adjust to American life, perhaps form a family here in the United States, and gain American citizenship, before extending to them a privilege heretofore reserved for American citizens alone. As they say nowadays in Norway, “integration before immigration.” Otherwise, a decade or so down the road we may find ourselves where Norway, Britain, and Israel are today.

— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.