Friday, June 15, 2007

Final Opinion: Made in America

Posted by Alan Sepinwall

The Newark Star-Ledger

June 15, 2007 7:50AM

Categories: The Sopranos

First things first on what looks to be the final day for this here Sopranos blog:

Thank you.

Over the last few days, I've arrived at the office hoping to spend a good part of the day writing back to each person who's written me over the last few weeks, but the e-mails and comments kept coming in so fast and in such detail that I could barely find the time to read all the new ones, let alone start writing back to everybody. So, unless I want to be like Ringo Starr in that "Simpsons" episode where he was still replying to 25-year-old fanmail, my only choice is to say one blanket thank you to everybody.

The response to these columns has been tremendous, and speaks not only to the popularity of "The Sopranos," but the depth of it. There's so much going on in each episode -- especially this last batch of nine, I think -- that we could spend a lifetime trying to discuss it all. And when I've missed out on certain items, one or many of you have been there to point them out to me. Your passion and enthusiasm for discussing this show has been really gratifying, and proof that TV doesn't have to just be that thing you turn off your brain to watch.

Doing these columns has been a lot of work, but all your responses have made it worth it.
End schmaltzy farewell. Moving on, I want to address some leftover theories and complaints about "Made in America":

The myth of the shirt

The e-mails keep pouring in with people convinced that Tony switched shirts in between his visit to Junior and his trip to Holsten's, or even in between when we see him enter Holsten's and when he sits down, and they've taken that as proof that the final scene is some kind of dream sequence.

I've rewatched both scenes in high-definition several times, and while I can't say with 100 percent certainty that he has the same shirt on at the mental hospital that he does at Holsten's, I would bet the cost of moving Vito's widow and family to Maine on the fact that Tony's shirt is the same for the entire Holsten's sequence. (Confusing matters is the fact that, in some of the publicity photos -- including the one that accompanied my review in Monday's paper -- Jim Gandolfini is wearing a different shirt in the Holsten's booth, but I expect they snapped the pictures early and that David Chase or someone else decided he'd look better in something else.

(Episodes aren't shot in sequence, so the Junior scene could have easily been filmed after the Holsten's trip.) Even if the shirt's different between the hospital and the restaurant, I don't think it's a big deal. As with Tony going to sleep on a bare mattress at the end of last week and waking up on a made bed this week (which suggested Tony had been hiding out for a while), there's no deeper meaning. He may have just changed before dinner (he was already wearing a different jacket before he went to the hospital).

And I've now just devoted nearly 200 words to discussing the implications of Tony's shirt.

The myth of "everything goes to black"

I feel like I dealt with this in the blog a couple of days ago, and yet unlike the Nicky Leotardo theory, this one keeps gaining credence, to the point where even an HBO spokesman suggested it might be right.

One rather large problem, which I feel I must repeat: Bacala never says anything about it all going to black. The exchange is:

Bobby: "You probably don't ever hear it when it happens, right?" Tony:" Ask your friend back there. On the wall."

That's it. You can check yourself if you don't believe me. I think Quentin (the HBO spokesman in the article) is just having some fun with what I'm sure are hundreds and hundreds of media requests for an explanation of what happened.

I'm not saying that the Tony Is Dead people are wasting their time. It's as valid an overall theory as any, even if the evidence is sketchy. But argue your point only with the evidence that exists, not the evidence that you wish existed.

The myth of the non-closure

It seems from reading the e-mails and comments that a decent portion of the people who hated the finale on Sunday night or Monday morning have come around throughout the week. For those of you who still hate it, I'm not going to tell you you're wrong. Art is subjective. We like what we like, you know? But the one reason for hating it that I'm having a trouble abiding is this notion that David Chase screwed everyone over by leaving us hanging.

Let's take the Holsten's scene out of the equation for a minute, okay? Now what's left hanging? The war's over, and Phil is dead. Paulie takes over the old Altieri/Aprile/Ciffaretto/Spatafore/Gervasi construction crew. Sil's in a coma, never to recover (though, shockingly, his hair turns out to be real). Butchie runs New York, Tony runs what's left of New Jersey, and while Carlo is probably talking to the feds, plenty of captains and high-level hangers-on have cooperated before with little consequence (see Jimmy Altieri, Pussy, Ray Curto, Jack Massarone, Adriana, Eugene, etc.).

On the lower-case family side, Janice is preparing to "make it work" with Bobby's kids, even if they have no interest in that. Carm's real estate business is going well. Meadow's engaged to Patrick Parisi and preparing to sell her soul to a big-ticket law firm. AJ has already sold his soul for a dual-exhaust BMW and the promise of a career in showbiz or club management. (And I like how Tony's real son has now taken part of the career path of Tony's surrogate son Chris.) Junior is locked away from both the civilized world and his own memories.

That's more closure than any "Sopranos" finale has ever provided, by a long stretch. There are some loose ends here and there, mainly having to do with Carlo and the feds, but everything else is as wrapped up as this show has ever done, since Chase usually hates wrapping things up into tight, neat packages.

So that only leaves the question of what, if anything, was happening at Holsten's, and we can have fun debating that for the next few decades -- or at least until Chase or one of the writers gets fed up with all the speculation and breaks omerta on it.

Feel free to keep discussing all of this on any of the blog entries, or in e-mails to me -- so long as, in both places, you keep things civil -- but I'm a little talked out on the subject right now. Again, thank you all.

Alan Sepinwall can be reached at

Roger's history entwined with tonight's foe

Friday, June 15, 2007


New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, making his season debut with the Yankees, delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates in New York on June 9.

NEW YORK -- Maybe Roger Clemens has intentionally submerged some of his most indelible moments against the Mets.

There was the heartbreak of the 1986 World Series, Clemens high-fiving Red Sox teammates in Game 6, waiting for a final out that never came.

There was that awful moment when Mike Piazza took Clemens' best fastball square in the helmet.

And, of course, Clemens still can't explain why he fired that broken bat at Piazza in the 2000 World Series.

Ask Clemens about what thoughts the Mets inspire, and he brings up fellow Texan Nolan Ryan's formative years and Tom Seaver's dominating days.

Well, these aren't Piazza's Mets anymore, either.

Tonight at Yankee Stadium, Clemens will face a better-balanced Mets lineup -- but one that is suddenly struggling as badly as the Yankees did in May.

Clemens has done his video homework on the Mets. But he's also spent his first full week back in pinstripes getting to know the 2007 Yankees.

"I've been visiting with teammates, both young and old," Clemens said. "They're getting to know me a bit, my routine, and getting to see what I'm about."

Now Clemens goes for career win No. 350, nearly a week after his successful re-debut with the Yankees.

"Performance-wise, I expect to get stronger and stronger," Clemens said. "I just hope to go a little longer each time out."

Saturday, Clemens, 44, lasted six innings and 108 pitches in a 9-3 win over Pittsburgh. But the way his arm felt, "I could throw 110-120 pitches and not be too fatigued," Clemens said.

His "fatigued" right groin came through fine, and Clemens attributed that setback to having altered his famous workout regimen. "And that's why the scar tissue gave way," he said.

"I was in hurry-up mode to pitch as soon as possible," Clemens said, but the Yankees kept the reins on a little longer, despite their desperate state.

"I know what's going on," Clemens said, as he interrupted his weight-room session to talk with reporters, a water bottle dangling from his back pocket. "There's nothing more disappointing to me than not holding up your end of the deal.

"There's a lot of expectations [for me] to do that," Clemens said. "I really enjoyed working here. That's why I'm back."

But how much of the vintage Clemens can the Yankees' expect for $18 million?

Since he left the Yankees in 2003, Clemens compiled a 2.49 ERA in the NL with Houston (he had a 3.99 over his first five Yankee seasons).

Though intimidation was just part of his Hall of Fame package, it was a factor that might not be as present this time around.

Jim Leyritz recalled that as far back as 1999, he told Clemens that "guys are getting a little too comfortable in the box against you."

The Piazza incident was seen as an attempt to come up and in against a player who had wild success against Clemens (8-for-19, .421, four HR, 10 RBI lifetime) with unintended consequences.

Nowadays "it's intimidation by his ability, not for anything else," manager Joe Torre said of Clemens' fear factor.

It's about "his track record, what he's accomplished, what he's continued to do -- all that," Torre said. "What you lose with age, you pick up in experience."

On the all-time hit-batsmen list, Clemens is tied with Don Drysdale for 12th place, with 154.

But Drysdale had a more defined career as a pitcher who would brush back hitters, or worse. And Clemens has pitched roughly 1,400 more career innings than Drysdale.

"The one thing about Clemens is that it's him against everybody," said Yankees first base coach Tony Pena, who caught Clemens in his prime. "He doesn't let anyone get to him. He means business."

Asked if he was still menacing after all these years, Pena said, "Why not? It's part of his game. Look at how mean he looks.

"Right now he looks even tougher than when I caught him in 1990," Pena said. "No one's going to take both sides of the plate against him. No way."

Yanks hope to make a couple of Subway statements

1. Roger Clemens is worth every penny

The Pirates were a good starter lineup for Clemens’ 2007 debut. Now the ante is a lot larger, and the stakes only get bigger.

2. They can keep the pressure on

Having the designated hitter available should assist the Yankees’ quest to maintain an offense that has recently lived up to expectations, despite Jason Giambi’s absence.

3. The best is yet to come

Joe Torre isn’t a fan of interleague play, but the Pirates and Diamondbacks have allowed the Yankees to fatten up. They certainly don’t want the oddity of a Subway Series to derail that streak.


McCartney, Almost Within Touching Distance

Paul McCartney performing at the Highline Ballroom.

Music Review Paul McCartney

The New York Times
Published: June 15, 2007

“I love you, Paul,” someone shouted, halfway through Paul McCartney’s unadvertised set at the Highline Ballroom on Wednesday night. Well, more than one: A lot of people were shouting that. They couldn’t help themselves. He was right in front of them.

Mr. McCartney struck a formal facsimile of intimacy: 90 minutes on stage in a 700-capacity room full of reporters, assorted V.I.P.s, contest winners and stand-in-line-for-a-long-timers who heard about the show only a day or two before.

“I love you too,” Mr. McCartney answered, but almost as a defensive block. He put on a Tony Soprano accent, and he kept a straight face. “It’s the beauty of these intimate shows, you know,” he followed, dryly. “You get to have intimate conversations with the audience. How ya doin’? You’re the man! Naw, you’re the man!”

Cheery, but essentially trying to get his work done, Mr. McCartney presided over a formal facsimile of intimacy: 90 minutes long, in a 700-capacity room full of press, assorted V.I.P.’s, contest winners and stand-in-line-for-a-long-timers who had heard about the show only a day or two before.

The gig was a promotion for his new album, “Memory Almost Full” (Hear Music), and he put on a similar show at the Electric Ballroom, a slightly larger club, in London last week. (He has not announced plans for a proper tour.) It’s not unusual these days for big acts to play a promotional show at clubs they’ve outgrown; the same night in New York Franz Ferdinand played a secret gig at the Bowery Ballroom, and ditto with Interpol last week.

But for Mr. McCartney, who can sell out stadiums at hundreds of dollars a ticket, this was unusual. He used no pyro or video backdrop, and the audience stood close enough to its hero that it could hold nonconversations with him. He played beautifully, in tight control of his voice (even in high range) and his musicianship, through a clutch of new songs and some of the oldest Beatles repertory.

But some of what was special about hearing Paul McCartney in a place like this was counteracted by the glibness of his touring band, almost the same crew that backed him on his stadium tour last year. These musicians — two guitarists, a keyboardist and a drummer — were accurate, reliable, in the pocket and kind of flavorless.

Mr. McCartney is a fascinating alloy of raw and slick, eccentricity and efficiency. When you hear the tracks on “Memory Almost Full” in which he plays all the instruments — his drumming one step ahead of primitive, his bass lines so melodically inventive they’re almost evil — you wish he could just multiply himself for performances. When the band replicated old parts, touching on the tiniest details of Beatles songs like “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Lady Madonna” and “Hey Jude,” the show felt something like a homage to composition and production, rather than the great thing that performances can be: two-way rituals between band and audience.

But something about the joy and simplicity of the new songs buoyed the set. There were five of them, including “Dance Tonight,” a naïvely sweet call for fun, with Mr. McCartney’s mandolin strumming as the through line; “Nod Your Head,” a slow, chugging rock song; and “That Was Me,” full of spry astonishment at looking back on a strange and notable life. (It went over big in the V.I.P. section, where people are often prone to similar thoughts.)

The onlooker’s stupid reflex, after decades of Beatleology and Paul-versus-John studies, is to scrutinize Mr. McCartney for honesty, whatever that is. But all he had to do was play two songs alone with guitar — “Blackbird” and “I’ll Follow the Sun” — and he seemed as guileless as the next guy. Later, alone at the piano, he sang “Here Today,” an elegiac song he wrote after John Lennon’s death, and dedicated it to “our fallen heroes: John, George and Linda.”

When he finished, he stopped the flow of his own efficiency and thought out loud. “It’s good to play that song in the town John loved,” he said. “And where Linda was born in. And where we played the Ed Sullivan show.”

Fundamentalists threaten Israel from all sides

By Con Coughlin

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 15/06/2007

Welcome to the new Islamic Republic of Hamas-stan, where every Palestinian woman is obliged to wear the veil and all traces of corrupting Western influences, from pop music to internet cafés, are strictly banned.

The creation of a mini Islamic state in Gaza now appears the most likely outcome as the militant Palestinian group Hamas strikes against the more secular-minded government of President Mahmoud Abbas.

And with fighters loyal to Mr Abbas's Fatah movement either surrendering or fleeing, it seems that not even the might of Israel can prevent Hamas from fulfilling its long-held ambition of establishing an Islamic state within the Palestinian territories.

advertisementThe Gaza Strip, the 20-mile stretch of desert scrub wedged between Israel and the Sinai Desert, has never been a happy place. The majority of the 1.4 million Palestinians who live there are mainly refugees from Israel's 1948 war of independence and have rarely seen their living standards rise above subsistence level. But the addition of religious fanaticism to economic privation has severely worsened their plight.

Even before this week's violence, activists had been busy attacking cafés, video shops and restaurants that serve alcohol or sell what are regarded as subversive Western films.

An internet café at the Jabaliyah refugee camp was bombed because zealots believed its customers might be exposed to pornography or pop music. The desire to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law even resulted in a gunman attacking a UN primary school because it allowed young boys and girls to mix together in the playground.

And all this with Ismael Haniyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister who came to power on the back of Hamas's surprise election victory in the 2006 elections, yet to establish his de facto Islamic state. Even if Gaza remains under Mr Abbas's nominal control, the implications of it becoming a self-contained Islamic entity are alarming not just for Israel, but for the wider region.

Hamas makes no secret of the fact that it now receives most of its financial and military support from Iran. The Iranian government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Hamas leadership in June last year, in which it agreed to fund the militant group to the tune of £400 million.

Until then, most of the Palestinian Authority's funding came from the EU and America, but this dried up when Hamas came to power and refused to give up its long-standing policy of seeking Israel's destruction or to renounce its terrorist past.

In addition to financial support, Iran provides training to members of the military wing of Hamas by sending them to camps in Lebanon and Iran run by the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards.

Past Iranian attempts to supply the Palestinians with military hardware have been less successful, with the Israeli navy intercepting a ship laden with explosives destined for Gaza in early 2002. But earlier this year, the Iranians sought to establish new supply lines to Gaza.

On February 24, Khaled Mashaal, Hamas's supreme leader, travelled to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, where he met senior Quds Force officials and Sudanese politicians who are broadly sympathetic to Hamas's political objectives.

The main topic of conversation was setting up a supply route that would enable Iran to smuggle rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, guns and explosives through the porous border between Gaza and Egypt.

The dispute over tightening the border is now one of the issues at the heart of the current violence; Hamas refuses to countenance the deployment of an international force that would seriously curtail the activities of the arms and money smugglers who use a sophisticated network of tunnels to transport their contraband into Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian campaigners frequently claim that the main reason Gaza is in crisis is that the economic blockade imposed by America and Israel following Hamas's election victory has reduced the civilian population to penury. This was the essence of the argument advanced by Alvaro de Soto, until recently the UN's special co-ordinator for the Middle East, who seems happy to blame anyone for the Palestinians' plight except the Palestinians themselves.

Ordinary Palestinians, it is true, in both Gaza and the West Bank, are suffering hardship. But this is not because of a lack of funds entering the Palestinian territories: it is because successive Palestinian administrations have made no effort to distribute the resources available equably among the population.

Hamas, on the other hand, sees economic deprivation as a form of political oppression. The World Bank reported that donors contributed about £375 million to the Palestinian territories in 2006, twice the amount they received in 2005. But since taking power, Hamas ensures any funds are spent on Islamic causes and its 6,000-strong militia, leaving the majority to fend for themselves.

The bonus for Hamas is that, by forcing the majority of Palestinians to exist in dire poverty, it succeeds in attracting widespread sympathy from international do-gooders who do not understand the sadistic economic manipulation that is taking place.

Not surprisingly, many Palestinians who were previously agnostic about their Muslim heritage have found themselves embracing the Hamas cause, more out of economic necessity than religious obligation.

Hizbollah - another Iranian-funded militia - used similar tactics to establish its power base in southern Lebanon during the 1980s. Hizbollah, of course, has now become a dominant force in Lebanese politics.

Hamas is trying to replicate Hizbollah's success in Gaza, not a pleasing prospect for Israel, which now faces the threat of having two Iranian-backed, Islamic fundamentalist organisations dedicated to its destruction camped on its northern and southern borders. It is not a thought that will help Israelis sleep easy.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Yankees keep Moose loose

Three homers and seven Ks help drop deficit to 8 1/2


Thursday, June 14th 2007, 4:00 AM

The Yankees claim they're not doing much scoreboard-watching these days. It's hard to doubt them, since it's been so much fun for them to watch their own scoreboard on a nightly basis.

Last night was no exception, as the Bombers crushed the Diamondbacks, 7-2, extending their season-high winning streak to eight games.

"Seasons are usually full of streaks," Joe Torre said. "You need to have the good ones outnumber the bad ones. Right now, we're going to try to get the most out of this."

The Yankees broke out the big bats, bashing three home runs as part of a seven-run outburst against Livan Hernandez. Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada each went deep, giving the Stadium crowd plenty to cheer about on a chilly June night.

Jorge Posada strokes a solo homer in the second inning last night.

More important was the performance of Mike Mussina, who evened his record at 3-3 with 7-2/3 solid innings. Mussina won his first game in more than a month, giving up two runs on six hits and striking out seven without issuing a walk.

"It's a big win for us because of Mike," Torre said. "He was in command the whole game."

The Yankees (32-31) moved over the .500 mark for the first time since April 20, when they were 8-7. They also sliced another game off Boston's lead in the American League East, moving within 8-1/2 games of the first-place Red Sox, who lost to the Rockies. The Yanks also pulled within 4-1/2 games of the Tigers in the wild-card race.

Since trailing the Red Sox by 14-1/2 games on May 29, the Yankees have gone 11-2 to Boston's 5-8, picking up six games in the standings. Still, the party line remained the same following the win, as one Yankee after another preached the importance of worrying about their own record instead of the distance between them and the rival Bosox.

"I'm not there yet," Torre said. "I'm not saying we don't notice that Boston loses, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to continue to nag these guys about our record. Just go out there, try to win every game and see how far we can take this thing right now."

Bobby Abreu congratulates Alex Rodriguez after A-Rod hit his majors-best 25th homer.

"The numbers are shrinking, but it's been 10 days that we've done all of this," Mussina said. "If you don't pay attention to what you're doing, if you take things for granted, the next 10 days can be the exact opposite."

With Arizona leading 1-0 in the second, Posada tied it up with a blast to right field, his eighth of the season.

A-Rod snapped the tie an inning later, crushing a colossal two-run homer to left field. The ball hit off the facing of the upper deck, a spot rarely reached in the Bronx. It was A-Rod's 25th homer of the year, tops in the majors.

"I didn't see where it landed, but I knew I hit it well," Rodriguez said. "It felt good off the bat."

"You never have to look twice," Torre said. "He killed that ball."

A-Rod added to the lead with an RBI single in the fourth, as he continued to make June look like a carbon copy of his incredible April. Rodriguez is hitting .393 (11-for-28) with five homers and 19 RBI during the Yankees' winning streak, but this month has been more satisfying for the third baseman because his team is surging.

"It felt good to get out to a good start, personally, but it felt terrible that we weren't winning," Rodriguez said of April. "This is night and day. There are so many guys playing at a high level; I'm just one of those guys."

Hideki Matsui connects for a three-run blast in the fourth inning.

Matsui tacked on a three-run shot in the fourth, giving Mussina a 7-1 lead and plenty of breathing room. Mussina sat down 13 of 14 D-Backs from the second through the sixth until Conor Jackson hit a solo shot to make it a 7-2 game.

Unlike Mussina's last outing, when Torre yanked him after 79 pitches in the seventh when he got into some trouble, the righty breezed through a 1-2-3 seventh with his comfortable lead, then came back out for the eighth for the first time this season.

Mussina got the first two hitters in the eighth, but Eric Byrnes singled on his 101st pitch, bringing Torre out of the dugout. Torre got to the mound, but before taking the ball, he told Mussina, "I got you a little tired this time." Mussina walked to the dugout as the 53,891 saluted him with a standing ovation.

"It's going in the right direction," Mussina said. "You want to go out and do it every time."

The same can be said for the Yankees, who will try to complete their second straight series sweep today when they send Andy Pettitte to the mound against Doug Davis.

"We're looking forward to hopefully keeping this feeling we have," Torre said. "We have a lot of confidence right now."

James S. Robbins: Freedom’s Flag

Today and every day.

June 14, 2007 7:00 AM

On June 14, 1777, John Adams introduced a resolution to Congress “that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” The measure passed unanimously. Word was rushed to Middlebrook Heights, N.J., where General George Washington was encamped with the Continental Army, which coincidentally was exactly two years old that day. The next morning Washington raised a flag that met congressional specifications over his headquarters.

Rather, it seems that Congress followed the general’s specs. The initial design was conceived by Washington a year earlier, based on the Grand Union Flag but replacing the Union Flag in the canton with a blue field with 13 stars. The traditional story has it that Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross made some improvements on his original sketch, such as arranging the stars in a circle, and making them five-pointed, instead of the six-pointed stars Washington had suggested. He believed the six-pointed star was easier to cut from cloth, but Betsy demonstrated she could as easily make one five pointed. Imagine the added difficulty we would face in the Middle East today had Betsy been less dexterous.

This was one story of the flag’s origin. Francis Hopkinson of N.J. is another claimant to the title of flag designer. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a poet, musician, and bon vivant. In 1780 he wrote a letter seeking compensation for his work, asking for “a Quarter Cask of the public Wine.” A spirited petition. But being a member of Congress he was already on the payroll, so his request was turned down. Of course both accounts may be true — Betsy Ross could well have crafted the prototype flag and Hopkinson may have then drafted the official design based on it, from which other flags were made. History and legend need not always be obliged to duel to the death.

Flag Day has had a fitful history, never quite rising to the level of other holidays, either officially or in the public mind. It is a legal holiday only in Pennsylvania. As a patriotic commemoration it is overshadowed by Independence Day, which is reasonable; July 4 saw the codification of the ideals for which the flag is but the symbol. The notion of a holiday for the flag had waxed and waned in various localities in the 19th century. Credit for Flag Day as we know it usually goes to Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19-year-old school teacher at Stony Hill School in Fredonia Wisconsin. On June 14, 1885, he asked his students to write essays on the meaning and significance of the flag on what he called “Flag Birthday.” In subsequent years he and others campaigned energetically for a national flag-day observance.

President Woodrow Wilson issued the first Flag Day proclamation on June 14, 1916, after leading a “preparedness parade” in Washington, D.C. His speech at the base of the Washington Monument highlighted the dangers of disunity in the country, and the threat of the “hyphenated-Americans,” particularly with Europe at war. The occasion was more than a little political. The Democratic National Convention opened that same day in St. Louis, with incumbent Wilson the only name nominated, and the speakers sounding the same incendiary themes. Wilson’s second Flag Day speech in 1917, after the United States had entered the war against Germany and its allies, had something of an “I told you so” quality.

The holiday was observed intermittently in subsequent decades. One of the stalwarts in promoting flag awareness in the interwar period was Colonel James Alfred Moss, U.S. Army (ret), who founded the United States Flag Association in 1924. Moss, who graduated at the bottom of his West Point class of 1894, was one of the most prolific authors in the Army. His book The Flag of the United States: Its History and Symbolism, and other related titles on the same theme, instructed many generations on proper flag etiquette. The Association also engaged in flag-related activism, such as warning Americans not to buy cheap foreign-made flags. Those made in Japan, for example, were particularly unsuitable because the colors ran when the flag got wet — something we of course know these colors just don’t do.

Flag Day was finally made a national holiday by act of Congress in 1949. But what does the holiday mean? Rather, what is the meaning of the flag? We know its visceral effect, its power as a symbol. The “rally around the flag” effect in times of crisis is more than a slogan. We saw that response after the 9/11 attacks, a proliferation of stars and stripes, as Americans instinctively sought a way to express their solidarity in the face of a foreign threat to our way of life. For a time, Old Glory was omnipresent. Too brief a time.

But the flag is always on hand to inspire, to motivate, to stir our sense of something larger than ourselves. It is an emblem of ideals, and of our history. We fly the flag, we honor it, but not from blind patriotism, not allegiance without reflection. In Wilson’s 1917 speech he observed that the flag “has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours.” We define what the flag means, to the United States, to the rest of the world. The flag absent the ideals of the Founders, lacking citizens who uphold those ideals, has no meaning at all. The active engagement of those ideals, their concrete expression, is what gives the flag its strength. Through our actions, the policies of our government, the way we lead our daily lives, we give the flag its meaning and purpose. The flag is a call to duty, to the country, our communities, ourselves. It is a marker laid down by a people, by a nation, engaged in the greatest experiment in freedom in human history.

Every day is Flag Day.

— James S. Robbins is senior fellow in national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council, a trustee for the Leaders for Liberty Foundation, and author of Last in Their Class: Custer, Picket and the Goats of West Point. Robbins is also an NRO contributor.

Clifford D. May: Unhappy Anniversary

It’s now 40 years since Israel first offered land for peace.

Israeli Tanks in the Golan Heights

June 14, 2007 12:00 AM

The 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, June 5 - 10, was the occasion for a flurry of media retrospectives. Less attention will be given to a related anniversary: June 19, 1967, when the Israelis first offered to give back most of the land that had come under their control during that conflict.

It is historically rare — if not unprecedented — for a nation to relinquish territory paid for with blood in a defensive war. So there was hope that this bold land-for-peace proposal might lead to Arab-Israeli detente. But at a summit held in Khartoum the following September, Israel’s Arab neighbors declared the “three nos”: no to recognition of Israel, no to negotiations with Israel, no to peace with Israel.

A state of war against Israel, Egyptian president Gamel Abdel Nasser said, had been “in effect since 1948,” the moment modern Israel was born amid the carnage of World War II, on lands ruled by the Ottoman Turks for most of the past four centuries. It would continue, he and the leaders in Khartoum implied, until Israel was destroyed.

Nasser was the primary instigator of the 1967 war, as historian Michael Oren has demonstrated using Arab sources. One example: Salah al-Hadidi, the chief justice in the court proceedings against officers held accountable for Egypt’s defeat, stated unambiguously: “Egypt’s political leadership called Israel to war. It clearly provoked Israel and forced it into a confrontation.”

Nasser did this by blockading Israeli shipping, itself an act of war. He also ordered U.N. peacekeepers out of the Sinai, along Israel’s western border where they had been posted after the 1956 war. He then moved 100,000 Egyptian troops and armor into the Sinai. On May 30, 1967, Nasser declared: “The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel ... while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived.”

According to the BBC — ever tendentious where Israel is concerned — all this amounted merely to Nasser “risking” war. The BBC added that Nasser’s motives “are still debated.” Heaven knows why. Nasser said candidly that the grievance he intended to address was the “existence of Israel.” He promised that the war would result in “Israel’s destruction.” Cairo radio declared Israel would be “liquidated.”

Syrian dictator Hafiz al-Assad — father of Syria’s current dictator, Bashar al-Assad — vowed “a battle of annihilation.” Iraqi President Abdul Rahman Aref said the opportunity must be seized “to wipe Israel off the map … to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948.” Ahmed Shukairy, a representative of the then three-year-old Palestine Liberation Organization was asked what would happen to Israelis after the war. “I estimate that none of them will survive,” he said.

In response, Israel struck fast and hard. Fighting was intense, but within six days Israel had not only prevailed — it had gained what many military analysts called defensible borders for the first time.

Nevertheless, as noted, the Israelis were willing, even eager, to give up most of what they had gained for a sheet of paper with the word “peace” written on it. “We speak not as conquerors, but as partners,” Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol said hopefully.

Eventually, Israel did trade land — the vast Sinai Peninsula — to Egypt in return for a cold peace. And two summers ago, Israel withdrew from Gaza. Palestinian leaders had an opportunity to make Gaza bloom as it never had under occupation — with new homes and schools, farms and factories. Had they done that, Israel today almost certainly would be relinquishing most of the West Bank as well. Instead, Gaza is now more violent and squalid than ever, a place from which missiles are fired daily at villages inside Israel.

A National Pubic Radio report on the war’s anniversary acknowledged the fact that “Israel no longer occupies the Sinai or Gaza,” but added this spin: that Israel’s “continued hold over the other territories has stymied efforts to bring a comprehensive peace to the Middle East.”

No, the obvious if politically unfashionable truth is that what stymies peace today is what stymied peace forty years ago: the refusal of Arab and Muslim rulers to tolerate a neighbor that is not ruled by Arabs or Muslims; their refusal to accept the idea of self-determination for the Jewish people within their ancient homeland.

© Scripps Howard News Service

— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies , a policy institute focusing on terrorism.

Al Qaeda Targets France

Working in Algeria, the terror group has been laying the groundwork for attacks.

By Bruce Riedel, BRUCE RIEDEL is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Los Angeles Times

June 14, 2007

FRANCE'S RECENTLY elected President Nicolas Sarkozy faces a new challenge to the security of his nation from some old foes: Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda movement. One of Al Qaeda's top priorities in the last year has been to create a franchise in Algeria to serve as a node for jihad in North Africa and throughout the Maghrebi diaspora in Western Europe.

Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, negotiated with the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat for two years or more on the terms and conditions for having the group join the movement. Late last year, Bin Laden ordered that the group be renamed Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and it began conducting attacks in that name soon thereafter, starting with a series of strikes at police stations and Western oil targets.

On April 12, the new group carried out multiple suicide car bombings, previously unknown in Algeria, targeting the prime minister's offices and police headquarters in Algiers, killing almost three dozen people. A truck bomb was apparently defused.
But Zawahiri has made clear that it is France that's the major target. In announcing Al Qaeda's new Maghrebi franchise on Sept. 11, 2006, Zawahiri declared that it would be "a source of chagrin, frustration and sadness for the apostates [of the regime in Algeria], the treacherous sons of France," and he urged the group to become "a bone in the throat of the American and French crusaders." French intelligence officials anticipate attacks on French targets in North Africa and probably in France itself sooner or later. Indeed, jihadist websites in Europe have predicted an attack on French interests since Sarkozy's victory.

Threats against France are not new for the old Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. According to media reports, in February 2005, for example, the French domestic intelligence agency estimated that the group had about 5,000 sympathizers and militants in France, centered on 500 hard-core individuals. Many in France's Algerian community are already angry at Sarkozy for his tough words during the 2005 riots in their urban ghettos, and he is considered to be much more sympathetic to Israel than his predecessor.
Zawahiri's warning should be taken very seriously in Europe and by the United States. Al Qaeda has struck in London, Istanbul and Madrid. There have been past reports of plans by Algerian terrorist groups to attack American and Israeli targets in France and Belgium, as well as NATO or European Union installations.

Finally, one should recall that the first-ever plan to fly a hijacked airliner into a target on the ground was a thwarted 1994 plot by Algerian jihadists to crash an Air France jet into the Eiffel Tower, which the 9/11 commission rightly said may have been the model for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Eurabia: "Conspiracy" or Policy?

By Andrew G. Bostom

June 14, 2007

Phillip Jenkins, in his recently released book “God’s Continent” makes the following statement:

Incidentally, the forces driving Muslim immigration were so overwhelming that there is no reason to imagine the conspiracy theory devised by Bat Ye’or and since popularized by Oriana Fallaci and others, which suggests that European elites collaborated with Arab states to create a Eurabian federation spanning the Mediterranean. Given the economic forces demanding labor and the political factors conditioning supply, it would be difficult to imagine any outcome much different from what actually occurred.

Sadly, and not so “incidentally”, this reductio ad absurdum argument—focused inappropriately on the secondary issue of immigration as if that were the sine qua non of “Eurabia”, and imbued with a non-sequitur, defamatory charge of conspiracism—reveals little more than Mr. Jenkin’s own thoroughly inept research, and intellectual laziness.

Despite its widespread usage, there is almost universal ignorance about the origins of the term “Eurabia”. Briefly, here is the historical context, to which Mr. Jenkins is completely oblivious, dating back to the early to mid-1970s, as characterized in meticulous (if dry and forbidding detail) in Bat Ye’or’s seminal, “Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis”.

Born of the Arab League's October, 1973 defeat in their Yom Kippur war against Israel and the related oil embargo, The Euro-Arab Dialogue has created an alphabet soup of European Community, and later European Union-funded organizations charged with planning joint political, cultural, social, industrial, commercial, and technical-scientific projects.

This entity first met officially at a ministerial level on July 31, 1974, in Paris, to discuss the Dialogue's organization. In attendance were the Secretary General of the Arab League, the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, the President of the European Community Commission, and the President of the European Community. As Bat Ye’or observes,

In the course of the meetings that followed, the European foreign ministers of the Nine [i.e., the original European Community member states] laid the foundations for their cooperation with the Arab countries, through an institutionalized structure linked to the highest authorities in each European Community country. This…made it possible to harmonize the European Community policy of trade and cooperation with the Arab League countries.

The Dialogue rapidly spawned a European Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation whose members represented a broad spectrum of European Community political groups. Biannual Euro-Arab Parliamentary meetings convened alternately in Europe and the Arab nations. Roughly 100 European and Arab members of their respective Parliaments attended, along with observers from the European Community/European Union Commission, the Arab League, and other international organizations. During an initial meeting in Damascus, September 14—17, 1974, the Arab delegates established their political preconditions for economic agreements with Western Europe, specifically demanding:

1. Israel's unconditional withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines
2. Arab sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem
3. Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) participation (lead by Yasser Arafat), in any negotiations
4. European Community pressure on the United States to detach it from Israel and bring its policies closer to those of the Arab states

Eurabia was the title of a journal published in the mid-1970s by the European Committee for the Coordination of Friendship Associations with the Arab World. Eurabia’s editor was Lucien Bitterlin, President of the Association of Franco-Arab Solidarity; the journal was published jointly by Euro-Arab associations in London, Paris, and Geneva.

Eurabia served as a Euro-Arab Dialogue mouthpiece. For example, the July 1975 issue published resolutions from the aforementioned Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation, and included an editorial underscoring “…the necessity for a political entente between Europe and the Arab world as a basis for economic agreements.” The editors opined, Europeans must “…understand the political as well as the economic interests of the Arab world.” The Euro-Arab Dialogue must express “…a joint political will”, and Europeans must create “…a climate of opinion” favorable to Arabs. The editorial admonished,

If they really want to cooperate with the Arab world, the European governments and political leaders have an obligation to protect against the denigration of Arabs in their media. They must reaffirm their confidence in the Euro-Arab friendship and their respect for the millennial contribution of the Arabs to world civilization.

The same July 1975 issue of Eurabia included findings from a Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association study advocating,

A medium and long term policy must…be formulated in order to bring about economic cooperation through a combination of Arab manpower reserves and raw materials, and European technology and management

With regard to Israel—the linchpin political issue on which the Arabs demanded European acquiescence—the July 1975 edition of Eurabia also reproduced the Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association resolution from its Strasbourg meeting one month earlier, insisting, per the disputed Arab interpretation of UN Resolution 242, that Israel withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines, that European governments recognize Arafat's PLO as sole representative of the Palestinian Arabs, and that each European Community nation oblige Israel to accept a Palestinian Arab Judenrein state in Gaza, and Judea/Samaria, i.e. the entire so-called “West Bank”.

Let me illustrate but one of the alarming Euro-Arab Dialogue's conduit functions. During a 1974 Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Lahore, Pakistan, OIC general secretary Mohammed Hasan Mohammed al-Tohami highlighted two key related goals:

(1) Urgent [convening] of a meeting of specialists in the propagation of Islam on a world level, and the establishment of a Jihad Fund…this fund is open with no restrictions…in all fields of Jihad

(2) Caring for the affairs of cultural centers in Europe, and the establishment of [additional] cultural centers in the continent

The Euro-Arab Dialogue introduced European Islamic Centers' educational and cultural programs into European schools, reflecting one aspect of the Jihad to which al-Tohami alluded.

In conclusion, I refer to the April 26—28, 2006 celebration (i.e., 14 months ago, and cited in the Preface to the 7th printing of Bat Ye’or’s “Eurabia”) of three decades of the Euro-Arab Dialogue, held at the Paris Institute of the Arab World. The event was touted as a Euro-Arab Dialogue Forum, with a theme entitled, “Prospects and Contents of a Euro-Arab Strategic Partnership”. Former President Chirac's Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste Blazy, delivered the final address at the April 26th Opening Session. The Forum’s “Objectif”, according to the Forum website, stated:

To relaunch the Euro-Arab Dialogue in conformity with new strategic perspectives in order to constitute the future bilateral pole of international equilibrium and to participate in the creation of a new world order.

Clearly, Mr. Jenkins and those of his ilk who spray uninformed and unwarranted charges of “conspiracism” at Bat Ye’or might do well to actually read “Eurabia” and the vast array of self-explanatory documents and public statements it contains. Thus far, that appears to be too much to ask of them.

Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School, and occasional contributor to Frontpage Magazine. He is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (2005), and the forthcoming The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism (2007), which can be previewed here.

Ann Coulter: No Drug Smuggler Left Behind!
June 13, 2007

President Bush was so buoyed by the warm reception he was given in Albania that he immediately gave all 3 million Albanians American citizenship, provided they learn Spanish. The offer was withdrawn when Bush found out most Albanians haven't broken any U.S. laws.

Bush keeps claiming he's dying to enforce the border, but he just can't do it unless we immediately grant amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens. I wonder if that worked on Laura Bush:

Laura: George, it's time you quit drinking.
George: OK, honey, let's discuss it over cocktails.

How about Bush enforce the border and then we'll discuss his amnesty plan?

He assures us that granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants already here won't inspire millions more to run across the border because ... he's going to put infrared lights at the border!

Well, that's a relief. What precisely will infrared lights do again? This is worse than those fake cameras they sell at hardware stores to make it look like you have cameras outside your house. We still need something or someone — say, a wall or a Border Patrol agent — to stop the Mexicans illegally crossing the border as we watch them on the infrared cameras.

Bush won't build a wall and he keeps prosecuting law enforcement officers who stop illegal border crossers. But trust him: He'll get right on that border enforcement business as soon as we grant amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens.

Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean are normally the sort of Mexican-Americans Bush would tear up at while promoting amnesty for illegal aliens. Both served in the military and are taxpaying, law-abiding citizens. They've been risking their lives as Border Patrol agents for years.

Ramos was nominated for Border Patrol Agent of the Year in 2005. His nomination received a major setback when the Bush administration decided to put him in prison instead. Ramos and Compean are now serving more than 10 years apiece in solitary confinement for chasing a drug-running illegal alien back to Mexico.

Bush's pal, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, gave immunity to a Mexican drug dealer hauling a million dollars worth of drugs across the border so that the drug dealer could testify against two Border Patrol agents who shot him in the buttocks.

The border patrol agents were presumed guilty of an unlawful shooting because they neglected to fill out the proper paperwork. For busting a cap in the butt of a drug courier crossing the border illegally — who was so mortally wounded that he proceeded to scamper back to Mexico — they were supposed to spend five hours filling out paperwork. This is what the Bush administration means when it talks about a "cover-up." As U.S. prosecutor Debra Kanof said, "You have to report any discharge of a firearm."

Intriguingly, Kanof also says: "The Border Patrol pursuit policy prohibits the pursuit of someone." (Hence, the oft-heard warning of the border agent in hot pursuit, "Stop or I'll ... do absolutely nothing!") Can we apply this rule to meter maids and tax collectors? At least now border agents will be able to watch the illegal aliens they can't pursue on infrared cameras!

But wait — that's not all! The Border Patrol agents also exceeded the speed limit. "In order to exceed the speed limit," Kanof said, "you have to get supervisor approval, and they did not." It's just so hard to fill out a written request to exceed the speed limit when you're off-roading at 65 mph. There's a whispering campaign suggesting that Ramos and Compean failed to use their turn signal.

As I understand it, you're also supposed to not cross the border illegally from Mexico with a van full of drugs. But the Bush administration has no interest in enforcing those laws. Ninety-eight percent of illegal aliens captured crossing the border illegally are not prosecuted. Those drugs are doing the job American drugs just won't do!

The Bush administration pulls out the big guns only for serious violations like a Border Patrol officer not filling out paperwork.

In addition to giving the illegal alien drug smuggler full immunity to testify against U.S. Border Patrol agents, the government gave him taxpayer-funded medical care for his buttocks wound, an unconditional border-crossing card, the right to sue the U.S. for "civil rights" violations, and a GAP gift card. The drug runner is also on the short-list to replace Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

He's now suing the U.S. for $5 million, but the Bush administration is hoping to bargain him down to $10 million.

That border-crossing card came in handy when the winged illegal alien brought in another load of drugs a short eight months later — for which he has still not been charged, nearly two years later. Who does he think he is? Rep. William Jefferson?

Bush's pal Sutton keeps defending his decision to prosecute Border Patrol agents for paperwork violations, rather than an illegal alien for drug trafficking, on the grounds that the drug dealer has not been charged with any crimes. Let's see, whose job is it to charge that Mexican drug runner with a crime? Why, I believe that would be Johnny Sutton!

Maybe Sutton was too busy prosecuting another Mexican-American law enforcement officer for trying to stop illegal aliens from crossing our border. Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez shot at the tires of a van full of illegal aliens, inadvertently wounding one of the aliens. Sutton prosecuted Hernandez. The government proceeded to give the illegal aliens green cards and $100,000 each.

I didn't realize "living in the shadows" meant in the shadows of palm trees around the pools at taxpayer-funded houses.

Illegal aliens might want to rethink Bush's amnesty plan. The only Hispanics Bush seems to prosecute are the ones who are law-abiding U.S. citizens.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Michelle Malkin: It Ain’t Over ‘Til the Alien Wins

Deportation realities.

June 13, 2007 12:00 AM

As you follow the debate over the Bush-Kennedy immigration bill, keep this cardinal rule in mind: 99.99 percent of the lawmakers who promise you that they’ll ensure the deportation of anyone who doesn’t follow their new “guest-worker” regulations are either A) lying or B) completely clueless.

Rule No. 2: Anyone who plays the Enforcement equals Kicking-Down-Doors-And-Depriving-Babies-of-Mother’s-Milk card (yes, that’s you, Geraldo Rivera) is either A) lying or B) completely clueless.

As I’ve reported many times over the last several years, the nation’s deportation abyss is governed by one reality: “It ain’t over ‘til the alien wins.” Immigration lawyers and ethnic activists run a massive, lucrative industry whose sole objective is to help illegal aliens and convicted criminal visa holders evade deportation for as long as possible. Entry into this country should be a privilege, not a right. The open-borders lobby has turned that principle on its head.

Look no further than New York, where four convicted criminal aliens — a child molester, two killers, and a racketeer — just won a federal lawsuit to remain in the country after all being ordered deported. The stunning decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Blake v. Carbone, came down on June 1 as the shamnesty debate was bubbling in Washington. The ruling, which hinges on convoluted due-process arguments, will greatly expand the number of criminal aliens convicted of certain aggravated felonies who can now receive relief from deportation. This is happening despite the passage of two federal immigration reform laws in 1996 severely restricting deportation waivers for criminal aliens convicted of aggravated felonies.

The lead winning plaintiff, Leroy Blake, is a Jamaican national convicted of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor in 1992. The feds began deportation proceedings in 1999. An immigration judge ruled Blake deportable in 2000. Blake took his case to the federal Board of Immigration Appeals, which remanded the case back to the immigration judge, who granted him relief from deportation. The then-INS appealed the judge’s ruling. In 2005, the Board of Immigration Appeals sided with the INS and ordered Blake removed from the U.S. Blake filed a motion to reconsider, then took his case to the Second Circuit.

The other plaintiffs who’ve successfully gamed the system include:

Aundre Singh, a native of Guyana, who was convicted of second-degree murder in 1986. In 1997, the then-INS moved to deport him. In 1998, an immigration judge ordered him deported. In 1999, the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed Singh’s appeal. In 2003, Singh filed a motion to reconsider, which the appeals board denied. Singh filed for reconsideration of that ruling, which was denied in 2004. Singh tried again to appeal the board’s ruling in 2005 and was denied again before heading to the Second Circuit for relief.

Errol Foster, a Jamaican national, who killed a man with a pistol in 1990. He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. He was released from prison in 2002. The feds began deportation proceedings while he was still in custody. An immigration judge ordered his removal in 2000, which Foster appealed. The Board of Immigration Appeals rejected his appeal in 2001. Four years later, Foster was still in the country — appealing the rejected appeal and filing three separate federal lawsuits before getting lucky with the Second Circuit.

And Ho Yoon Chong, a South Korean national, who was sentenced in 1995 for racketeering related to his participation in the “Korean Fuk Ching” crime ring. In 1998, the then-INS moved to deport him. In 2002, an immigration judge ordered him deported. In 2004, the Board of Immigration Appeals sided with the judge. Like his fellow criminal aliens, Chong didn’t give up, and now he’s won the immigration litigation lottery.

Immigration lawyers representing criminal aliens like these four menaces have gummed up the court system with eleven years of litigation over the 1996 laws banning deportation relief for felons. Meanwhile, when all else fails, deportable aliens can appeal directly to their member of Congress to circumvent immigration laws through special legislation. More than 50 bills have been introduced this year that would grant special, private relief to individual immigrants fighting deportation. Past and present beneficiaries have included smugglers, illegal aliens and a convicted murderer, Mohuiddin A.K.M. Ahmed, who is wanted in Bangladesh for engaging in terrorist activity and participating in a 1975 assassination plot that left the prime minister and dozens of his family members dead.

These individual bills are ripe for corruption. Indeed, the Abscam scandal in the 1970s involved payoffs for the sponsorship of exactly these kind of private immigration laws. Democrats and Republicans alike continue to sponsor these “private relief” bills seeking to sabotage deportation efforts. Every time a private relief bill passes, the number of available visas for that year is reduced by the number of illegal-alien/deportable -immigrant recipients granted legal status/deportation relief through the special legislation. The bills needn’t pass for the recipients to gain benefits. Mere introduction of the bills buys the deportable aliens time that ordinary, law-abiding citizens can’t buy in our court system.

Open-borders Democrats led by Ted Kennedy bleat about the lack of “due process” for downtrodden aliens, but immigration lawyers and their clients know the deal. Whether the Bush-Kennedy bill passes or not, it ain’t over ‘til the alien wins.

This is the real “silent amnesty” that no one in Washington will talk about. Go ahead. Ask them.


Jonah Goldberg: Public Ed 101

Why have it?

June 13, 2007 12:00 AM

Here’s a good question for you: Why have public schools at all?

O.K., cue the marching music. We need public schools because blah blah blah and yada yada yada. We could say blah is common culture and yada is the government’s interest in promoting the general welfare. Or that children are the future. And a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Because we can’t leave any child behind.

The problem with all these bromides is that they leave out the simple fact that one of the surest ways to leave a kid “behind” is to hand him over to the government. Americans want universal education, just as they want universally safe food. But nobody believes that the government should run 90 percent of the restaurants, farms, and supermarkets. Why should it run 90 percent of the schools — particularly when it gets terrible results?

Consider Washington, home of the nation’s most devoted government lovers and, ironically, the city with arguably the worst public schools in the country. Out of the 100 largest school districts, according to the Washington Post, D.C. ranks third in spending for each pupil — $12,979 — but last in spending on instruction. Fifty-six cents out of every dollar goes to administrators who, it’s no secret, do a miserable job administrating, even though D.C. schools have been in a state of “reform” for nearly 40 years.

In a blistering series, the Post has documented how badly the bureaucrats have run public education. More than half of the District of Columbia’s kids spend their days in “persistently dangerous” schools, with an average of nine violent incidents a day in a system with 135 schools. “Principals reporting dangerous conditions or urgently needed repairs in their buildings wait, on average, 379 days … for the problems to be fixed,” according to the Post. But hey, at least the kids are getting a lousy education. A mere 19 schools managed to get “proficient” scores or better for a majority of students on the district’s Comprehensive Assessment Test.

A standard response to such criticisms is to say we don’t spend enough on public education. But if money were the solution, wouldn’t the district, which spends nearly $13,000 on every kid, rank near the top? If you think more money will fix the schools, make your checks out to “cash” and send them to me.

Private, parochial, and charter schools get better results. Parents know this. Applications for vouchers in the district dwarf the available supply, and home schooling has exploded.

As for schools teaching kids about the common culture and all that, as a conservative I couldn’t agree more. But is there evidence that public schools are better at it? According to the 2006 National Assessment of Educational Progress history and civics exams, two-thirds of U.S. high school seniors couldn’t identify the significance of a photo of a theater with a sign reading “Colored Entrance.” And keep in mind, political correctness pretty much guarantees that Jim Crow and the civil-rights movement are included in syllabi. Imagine how few kids can intelligently discuss Manifest Destiny or free silver.

Right now, there’s a renewed debate about providing “universal” health insurance. For some liberals, this simply means replicating the public-school model for health care. (Stop laughing.) But for others, this means mandating that everyone have health insurance — just as we mandate that all drivers have car insurance — and then throwing tax dollars at poorer folks to make sure no one falls through the cracks.

There’s a consensus in America that every child should get an education, but as David Gelernter noted recently in The Weekly Standard, there’s no such consensus that public schools need to do the educating.

Really, what would be so terrible about government mandating that every kid has to go to school, and providing subsidies and oversight when necessary, but then getting out of the way?

Milton Friedman noted long ago that the government is bad at providing services — that’s why he wanted public schools to be called “government schools” — but that it’s good at writing checks. So why not cut checks to people so they can send their kids to school?

What about the good public schools? Well, the reason good public schools are good has nothing to do with government’s special expertise and everything to do with the fact that parents care enough to ensure their kids get a good education. That wouldn’t change if the government got out of the school business. What would change is that fewer kids would get left behind.

© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online.

William F. Buckley Jr.: Goodbye Tony

June 13, 2007 8:30 AM

The genius of David Chase, the originator of The Sopranos, was never more evident than in the last episode of the series. I viewed it with an earnest and cosmopolitan young man and his lady, and we wondered, as we waited for the show to start, what would the final act do to Tony Soprano. Speculation in the press had offered three alternative endings: (1) Tony is killed; (2) Tony survives and kills the leader of the other gang; (3) Tony makes a deal with the FBI.

None of these happened. What happened in the final scene was — nothing.

The “nothing” was brilliantly set up. Tony is sitting in a booth in a restaurant. At some point, two burly men made to order for killing fields come into the restaurant and sit down at another table.

Soon Tony’s wife arrives and sits down next to him. Then their son arrives and takes a seat. The only family member missing is the daughter. You are looking at your watch and there are only two minutes left in the hour. Where is the wretched Meadow? Well, we see her. She’s outside, having a hard time parking her car. She doesn’t quite make it into the space on the first attempt, so she has to try again. Backing a car up when there are only nine seconds to go before Pearl Harbor, or 9/11, or Hiroshima, can make for the slowest parking backup in history, which Meadow’s was. But she succeeds, finally, and walks toward the restaurant.

The camera idles toward the entrance, and you rap your watch because it is showing only 15 seconds to go! Then suddenly you are looking at an entirely black screen. The Sopranos is over. And nothing has changed.

That was the genius, the parable, of the most successful television drama in history, giving the viewer hour after hour, year after year, exploitation of sex, exhibitionism, murder, sadism, cynicism and hypocrisy. And, according to David Chase, we are to remember that such is as it is. There was no pictorial, no dramatic end to The Sopranos because its point was to depict life (a) as practiced by the Mafia, and (b) as tolerated, and in fact swooned over, by the viewing public.

What theatrical obligation is there to call an end to it? To do that courts censoriousness, self-doubt.

Commenting on an episode in Year Three (there were eight years total), I wrote of a scene involving a younger member of the gang conspicuous mostly for his fearless swagger. He is enraged when a girl utters an obscenity at his expense. In some detail, we are shown how he hits and clubs her — to death, we discover moments later when Tony comes on the scene.

Tony is angered by his lieutenant’s loss of control and hits him hard enough to cause Tony’s wrist to swell. Moments later, Tony wearily laments the transgression of his junior killer, who in beating the girl mortally committed an offense against the Soprano protocols. The reproach brings instant surrogate action, and we have the pleasure of viewing the quick execution of retributory justice, though for some reason, the viewers were deprived by Mr. Chase of a nice visual of the execution.

The sophistication of the Mephistophelian creator of The Sopranos was never underrated. The language is purely instrumental, even when the dialogue is between Tony and his resourceful shrink. What the language itself doesn’t communicate, facial muscles eloquently tell us. There is no face in Madame Tussaud’s that combines better than Tony Soprano’s the acceptance of irony, the grit of resolution, the trivialization of theft and murder. There is true underworld humor, and you are free to liberate yourself from the drag of orthodoxy as one more pistol shot explodes into the face of a character whose time is up, and who falls under the wheels of a car on the move.

If one of the burly men had opened up in the restaurant with an Uzi, ending the lives of all four of the Sopranos, you’d have felt a quiver of moral relief. Instead, you were reminded by that blank screen that that kind of thing goes on and on, and reminded, also, of its bewitching power to entertain a spellbound, onanistic audience.

© 2007 Universal Press Syndicate

Front Page Interview: Humberto Fontova

Che Guevara: Mass Murderer and Coward

By Jamie Glazov
June 13, 2007

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Cuban-born Humberto Fontova, who left Cuba in 1961 at age seven, has written for several conservative magazines and is the author of Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant. He has appeared on many radio and television shows and is active in the Cuban American community. He is the author of the new book Exposing the Real Che Guevara: And the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him.

FP: Humberto Fontova, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Fontova: It's my pleasure. Let's face it: how many media outlets are there for the truth about the Cuban Revolution and the murderous Cuban regime? Frontpage is among the few and the proud. And I'm among the grateful for that.

FP: Well thank you. We try our best.

So what made you write this book?

Fontova: The 50 year blizzard of BS in the MSM and Academia about Castro/Che and their "ideals" and "accomplishment" etc. simply drove me to mount a counterattack, in whatever modest capacity I could manage. We're talking about a regime that jailed more political prisoners (as a percentage of population) than Stalin's and for twice as long; that murdered more people (in absolute numbers) during its first three years in power than Hitler's regime murdered in it's first six; that drove out 20 percent of the population from a nation formerly inundated with immigrants.

Then I'm supposed to sit by placidly while constantly hearing my parent's generation, (middle class folks much like the readers of this magazine) who fought that regime, who include the longest-suffering political prisoners in modern history, who lost everything they'd worked for, who sacrificed all to see their children grow up free--I'm supposed to acquiesce in slanders against them as "gangsters, filthy-rich scoundrels," among other choice descriptions by the international left--and Michael Moore in particular?

Well, I'm not about to put up with it.

Mainstream Media and academic depictions of Cuban-Americans constantly fascinate me: If one of us gets down to work and raises a family, he's an effete dispossessed millionaire. If he engages in politics, he's an underhanded rascal. If he takes up arms to free his homeland, he's a terrorist. We can't win.

Now we see the Today Show reporting from Havana. Amazing. North of the Florida straits and in front of Republicans no question for these "reporters" is too rude, irrelevant or offensive; no demeanor too haughty, combative or insolent.

But just let these "reporters" cross the Florida straits and find themselves feted by a Stalinist regime. Then Eddie Haskell's addressing of June Cleaver seems combative in comparison.

FP: I feel you my friend. I come from the Soviet Union and for a lifetime listened to leftists around me praising a regime that persecuted my family and massacred millions of my people.

So what accounts for Che Guevara’s international heraldry? What exactly did he accomplish

Fontova: He accomplished exactly nothing. As I document in the book, Ernesto Guevara failed spectacularly at everything he attempted in his life--except at the mass-murder of defenseless men and boys. But he had the great fortune of linking up with the 20th century's top publicist: Fidel Castro, who hatched and propagated (with the aid of his ever-faithful media and academic accomplices) the Che legend, of which nothing is true.

FP: Most say it was Che’s "idealism" that made him attractive. But just what were those ideals?

Fontova: That's the beauty of it. We don't have to speculate about Che's ideals. They're on full display 90 miles south of Florida--a Stalinist police state where the regime mandates what its subjects, read, say, earn, eat (both substance and amount), where they live, travel or work. Che's dream wasn't to convert Latin America into Sweden--he wanted to convert it into Stalin's Soviet Union. In fact he often signed his early correspondence, "Stalin II."

This KGB-trained and worshiping hangman named Che now serves as the idol of "do your own thing" radicals and the slogan that adorns Che posters under T-shirts is "Resist Oppression." The mind boggles. It really required a sense of humor to write this book--otherwise I'd have gone nuts.

FP: Tell us about Guevara’s violence and sadism.

Fontova: In my book, Roberto Martin-Perez who served almost 30 years in Stalinist Cuba's dungeons says "Castro ordered mass murder, but for him it was a utilitarian slaughter, in order to consolidate his power. A classic psychopath, the butchery didn't seem to affect him one way or the order. But Che Guevara, as his chief executioner, relished the slaughter. You could see it in his face as he watched men yanked from their cells and tied to the execution stake."

Che also loved toying with the distraught and sobbing mothers who came into his La Cabana office to plead for their (innocent) son's lives. He loved to pick up the phone right in front of them and bark" "Execute the Fernandez (or whoever) boy tonight!" As Mr Martin-Perez concluded: "There was something seriously, seriously wrong with Che Guevara." Alas, Che's sadism found a useful outlet as Castro's chief hangman.

FP: What did Castro think of Che?

Fontova: Castro initially found Che useful, let's put it that way. It's hard to say if Fidel Castro could ever think highly of anyone except himself. I conducted interviews with people who saw them together and all say that Fidel loved to berate Guevara savagely, and in front of the other Communist leaders, similar to how Che toyed with those poor, distraught mothers. It must have been a power ploy, by Fidel. But it's clear that by 1964 or so, Che's usefulness to Castro had run it's course. There's evidence he was under house arrest briefly in 1965.

FP: So all these distortions and outright lies regarding Che Guevara's altruism and heroism have lasted almost half a century. What does this say about modern day academics and pundits? About modern culture in general?

Fontova: It says we should be very careful about what we read by these organs. Look how long it took for the truth of the Soviet Union to finally sink in. I loved Robert Conquest's quip after the Iron Curtain fell and the truth started emerging and abundantly confirming everything he had written in his books, The Great Terror, etc.: "I told you so, you bleeping idiots!"

Sadly, Che's cachet as the worldwide symbol of Anti-Americanism let's him get away-- not just with murder--but with Mass-murder. That Anti-American cachet (the gallant David's against the American Goliath) seems to excuse all the horrors of the Cuban revolution for much of the worldwide intelligentsia. When, in fact, as I document in this book, the Castro/Che rebels were aided by the U.S. State department and CIA and after Oct 1962 the Castro/Che regime enjoyed U.S. protection as pledged by JFK to Khrushchev.

FP: You claim that Fidel Castro himself--via the Bolivian Communist party--helped seal Che's doom by feeding information to the CIA regarding Che's whereabouts in Bolivia. This is quite a revelation. The evidence? Have any of Che "scholars" broached this issue?

Fontova: Some have danced around it a bit. But none have tackled it head on. I got the evidence for Che's betrayal by Castro from a primary source --actually from the primary source: the Cuban-American CIA operative who was in overall charge of the hunting down Che in Bolivia. he was the one getting the info from the Bolivian Communists who were getting it from Castro.

FP: The real guerrilla war in Cuba, you write, was fought not by Fidel and Che--but against Fidel and Che and mostly by humble rural rebels. That strikes one as similar to the Contra war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Doesn't this fly in the face of leftist legends regarding Latin America?

Fontova: You're absolutely right. It wouldn't be so bad if what we heard and read regarding the Cuban Revolution was merely wrong. Instead the academic/MSM version is the exact opposite of the truth--it completely upends the truth. A savage anti-communist insurgency by humble rural folk was waged for six years 90 miles from our borders. But it might have occurred on another planet for all we read about it in "scholarly" tracts.

An anti-communist insurgency just doesn't fit their mental template of insurgencies--especially as it was fought against Che Guevara. I interviewed among the very core of these rebels who survived the communist massacres that finally crushed the rebellion. Their bravery awed me. Yet these people have been completely ignored by historians, scholars, reporters, etc. I try to rectify that injustice with this book.

FP: And thanks you for trying to rectify this injustice. You are doing a great service to history, freedom, truth and to the heroes that fought for Cuban freedom – and to all those who died and suffered because of its non-existence.

Let me ask you for an analysis of the psychological mindset that is involved here in terms of the Left.

Let me set the foundation here:

I know many leftists Mr. Fontova. I have even recommended this book on Che to those of my acquaintances who live their lives dedicated to this mass murderer. They won’t read it of course. But to several of them I made the comment that there is no point for them to read it, because even if the truth was proven to them regarding what a monster this sadist and executioner was, they could never accept or admit it. That’s because they couldn’t lose all of their friends and their entire social communities. They would also have to re-examine and change their entire identities, which are interwoven with seeing Che as a hero. Leftism is, after all, a social life, and it is a depersonalization of personal neuroses – and usually very pathological and malignant neuroses at that.

I have bluntly asked some of these people: “how many friends would you have left if you realized that Che was a fascist and began saying such a thing?”

I have received a eerie silence in response to this question every time.

Let me just say here, Mr. Fontova, that, throughout my life, I argued with gizzilions of leftists about communism, trying (naively) to convince them of many things. During my doctoral years in the field of Cold War History, I spent much time debating my colleagues about who was responsible for the Cold War.

My colleagues found my views very amusing. I was ridiculed. They reserved special mockery, and howling fits of laughter, for my respect for Reagan’s reference to the Soviet system as an “Evil Empire.” Till this day I remain confused as to what is so funny about it.

In any case, when the Soviet archives were opened after the fall of the Soviet regime in 1991, I devoured all of the revelations in declassified KGB documents. They all confirmed and substantiated what conservatives had been arguing for decades – that the Soviets were totalitarian and malicious expansionist aggressors that started and prolonged the Cold War.

When I approached my colleagues with this new evidence, ranging from everything from the issues of the Korean war, Berlin, Soviet espionage, American communists’ links with the Soviet regime, etc., I showed how I had been correct on every issue that we had argued about for years.

And yet, instead of hearing a mea culpa, a stated regret or admission of some kind of lesson learned, all that I received were smug disinterested facial expressions and callous and apathetic shrugs of the shoulders. These colleagues brushed me off and even told me that all of this was “old” and “ancient” and suggested that I stopped chasing “old ghosts” and “engaging in necrophilia.”

And these were historians.

I have a feeling that the leftist milieu will greet your revelation and evidence in the same way.

Give us your psychological profile of this pathological mindset.

Fontova: Well, I'm no psychologist or psychiatrist but the term "battered-wife syndrome" certainly comes to mind when contemplating Western Commie-lovers and apologists. As you probably know, these are women who refuse to see what's in front of their face, even when it's a fist three inches from bashing them in the eyes and approaching at warp speed--the same fist that bashed them 100 times before. For some reason these women keep returning to the man attached to that fist. After having their dreams pummelled by Lenin then Stalin, then Castro, then Che then Pol Pot, etc., etc (so many broken eggs, such consistently putrid omelets) these "battered--leftists" keep returning to some communist paramour in the same manner. "In denial" is a psychobabble term I generally loath. But it strikes me as ideal to describe Castro and Che fans and apologists.

During the 30's (the "Red Decade") Stalin was whooped up by everyone from Hemingway to Lilian Hellman to Dashiell Hammett to Auden to Malroux. The Spanish Civil War had much to do with it, then his cachet as victor over Hitler cranked up Stalin's heroic cachet even higher. But Khruschev's "Secret Speech" before the Soviet Congress in 1956, finally shook some foreign Stalin fans. Then, of course, Khrushchev's own invasion of Hungary had even more Western Communist lovers leaving the ranks--however slowly and grudgingly.

Nothing even remotely of this sort has taken place regarding the romantic cachet that still surrounds the Cuban Revolution and hence Fidel and Che. Many of those finally disillusioned with the Soviet Union in 1957 (Jean Paul Sartre comes to mind as a shinning example) then put all their hopes on Cuba's Communist regime--which jailed political prisoners at a rate slightly higher than Stalin's! Cuba's secret police where inspired, trained and counselled by the KGB and STASI! Almost 50 years of proof that the Castro/Che regime is Stalinism rehashed in the tropics simply will not shake the faithful.

And it's that "anti-American" cachet attached to Che that accounts for the thundering block-headedness of so many otherwise rational people. The legend of that handful of long-haired, bearded beatniks who overthrew a "brutal U.S.-backed dictatorship that repressed and impoversished Cuba," (When in fact Cuba had a higher standard of living in 1958 than half of Europe, a larger middle class than Switzerland, a more highly unionized work force than the U.S., more doctors and dentists per capita than Great Britain, more cars and televisions per capita than Canada or Germany, was inundated with immigrants.... I could go on--but will instead refer readers to my book for these statistics and the corresponding documentation.)

If those conditions represent "Yankee-exploitation" then other Latin-American nations should have been half as lucky as Cuba. And if a Stalinist police-state that mandates a monthly salary of $12 dollars a month and food rations lower than Cuban slaves ate in 1848 for its subjects, and where donkey-powered rickshaws have become a luxury item, and where the hottest items on the black market are styrofoam (to build a raft) and ping pong paddles (to paddle away with)--if conversion into such a place constitutes "liberation"....well. As I said, I wrote this book to try and dispel the mountains of outrageous humbug on Cuba we get from Academia, Hollywood and the MSM.

FP: Humberto Fontova, thank you for joining us. And thank you for being such a brave, tenacious and wise soldier for the truth and for liberty.

Fontova: Thank you Jamie.

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Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s
Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Former Duke lacrosse coach tells his story

His book says university buckled

Jim Nesbitt, Staff Writer
The News & Observer
May 4, 2007

In an upcoming book about the Duke lacrosse scandal, former coach Mike Pressler accuses university officials of caving in to pressure from intense media scrutiny and protesters both within and outside of the school.

Pressler says university officials initially showed support for his players following the March 2006 team party at which Crystal Gail Mangum said she was raped by three players. But as harsh nationwide publicity intensified, Pressler says in the book, he was forced to resign on the same day university President Richard Brodhead canceled the season.

Those April 5, 2006, actions helped harden public opinion that Mangum's allegations were true, the book says, almost a year before Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed sex offense charges against three teammates and described the escort service dancer as an unreliable witness.

"It's Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives It Shattered" offers Pressler's first extensive comments about the case. He recounts the meetings among parents, team members and university officials that took place between the night of the team party and his forced resignation.

It is one of two books on the case that will go on sale June 12, with a third book scheduled for release in September.

In one passage, Pressler, now the head lacrosse coach at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., rues the damage to his reputation after 16 years as Duke's coach:

"Until a year ago," Pressler lamented in early 2007, "if you looked my name up you found stories about good lacrosse. Now, if you Google the words 'Mike Pressler,' 'Duke,' and 'rape' you'll come up with more than one hundred thousand hits. Those stories will be out there forever."

Written by former Sports Illustrated investigative reporter Don Yaeger, the book is not a first-person account by the former Duke coach, who gets a partial credit under Yaeger's name. Instead, the book quotes dozens of key characters and relies extensively on newspaper accounts, including The News & Observer's coverage.

In an author's note, Yaeger wrote that he interviewed Pressler, the one university employee who was fired as a result of the scandal. The coach told Yaeger he had kept a diary and planned to write a book; Yaeger proposed a combined project.

Likely more to come

The three books slated for publication so far will probably be joined by others, said Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly, the leading trade journal on book publishing and sales.

While Yaeger's book is fast copy, Nelson said the scandal has all the elements necessary for a more analytical book, including a miscarriage of justice and overtones of class, privilege, race and sex.

"I generally think when the subject has larger social implications, which fits in the Duke case, it needs to have perspective," she said. "A quickie book about what happened, which is a rehash, isn't going to be all that effective."

Yaeger's book covers familiar ground -- from the party and Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong's marathon of damning interviews to the unraveling of the case against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and Dave Evans.

Pressler recounts the slow erosion of support for players among university officials. In another passage, Pressler describes an April 5, 2006, morning meeting with Duke athletics director Joe Alleva hours before the coach is forced out. Alleva tells Pressler the team's season will be canceled.

Words he'll remember

" '... Joe, you told the players and the parents you believed their story, you believed in them, you believed that they were telling the truth,' " Pressler recalls saying. "Alleva looked right at me and made the statement I'll never forget as long as I live: 'It's not about the truth anymore,' he said."

Pressler won a short reprieve by pleading with Alleva to await results of DNA tests on his players. But when a violently worded e-mail message from player Ryan McFadyen became public later that afternoon, Alleva called the coach into his office again, Pressler says in the book.

The athletics director told Pressler that Brodhead would hold a news conference to announce the suspension of the season and Pressler's resignation, leaving the coach little more than an hour to negotiate a severance package.

Alleva could not be reached for comment Thursday. Duke spokesman John Burness said Thursday that Brodhead and other university officials did not succumb to public pressure.

"The university made its decisions at the time based on what it believed was in the best interest of the university and everyone involved," he said. "We were relying on the legal system to ultimately get to the truth, and that's what ultimately happened with the attorney general's actions."

Staff writer Jim Nesbitt can be reached at 829-8955 or

Ex-lacrosse coach to be at Regulator

Mike Pressler led the Duke lacrosse team onto the practice field in March 2006 as the uproar grew.
Staff File Photo by Chuck Liddy

The Regulator Bookshop will be host to former Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, who has cooperated with author Don Yaeger in the writing of the book "It's Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives It Shattered" at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 21, for a discussion and book signing. This event is free and open to the public.