Saturday, October 06, 2007

Paul Johnson: Militant Atheism and God

10.08.07, 12:00 AM ET

More From Paul Johnson

Intellectual fashions come and go. The current one is militant atheism. Waves of atheism have swept the West before. One was in the mid-18th century, when the devastating Lisbon earthquake, killing some 60,000 people, shook the belief of many in the benevolence of God. Another was in the mid-19th century, when advances in geology destroyed the traditional chronology of the Old Testament, proving that Earth was much older than the 6,000-odd years the Bible allowed. A third spasm followed the First World War, when the combination of Freud's writings and Einstein's theories of relativity upset established views of the human psyche and the universe. We now seem to be in the midst of a fourth. It is prompted partly by the academic deification of Darwin and his particular theory of evolution, and partly by the revulsion against Islamic fundamentalism and its violent expression, which for some has discredited all forms of belief in God.

Whatever the explanation, books advocating an atheistic view of the universe and arguing that religion is based on delusion are being written, published and widely bought. Their arguments are echoed and amplified on television. And, for the time being at least, atheism seems to have a strong grip on the centers of higher education.

My old university, Oxford, which was founded by monks, friars and theologians nine centuries ago, was until recently regarded as a bastion of old-fashioned Christianity and, as such, was called "the house of lost causes." Today a publicly expressed belief in Christianity is likely to lower your chance of landing a job at Oxford.

Religion has become a handicap in university life, especially in certain subjects. In philosophy, for example, academics who hope for senior chairs keep mum about any faith they hold. God and promotion do not mix. And in all the sciences, young men and women with religious backgrounds are advised to jettison their Christian, Jewish or other religious baggage if they want to pursue careers in physics, chemistry or biology. The universal assumption seems to be that a belief in God fatally debars a scholar from acquiring scientific knowledge. In Britain the number of students concentrating in the sciences is on the decline, and the systematic discouragement of Christians and Jews in the science faculties will clearly increase that trend.

How Important Is This Phenomenon?

Is it a phase? Or is it the harbinger of a fundamental change in the way people see themselves and the world? Ought we to be alarmed--and ought we take action? And if so, what kind of action?

One's answers to these difficult questions are bound to be subjective. My parents were profoundly religious Catholics, who brought me up to share their beliefs. I was educated first by nuns, then by the Jesuits. I have always attended church regularly and said my prayers daily. I'm not sure the human race would survive a prolonged bout of atheism. I recall the words of the German theologian Karl Rahner: "If ever God is banished from the world so that even His image is eradicated from the human mind, we will cease to be human and become merely very clever animals--and our ultimate fate will be too horrible to contemplate."

Bear Witness

We are amazing creatures, capable of astonishingly imaginative concepts and intellectual work of ever increasing complexity. And what we have achieved in the last century--stunning though it is--is nothing compared with what we can and will surely do, as the rate of material progress accelerates. Yet it is hard to see that the human race has made, or is making, any moral progress at all. As a historian who has studied and written about all periods, from the first millennium B.C. to the present, I am perhaps more aware of this than most people.

I see no diminution in the cruelty and violence we inflict on one another, at both a personal and a state level. More people were killed by totalitarian states (all atheistic) in the 20th century than in all previous periods of history. The first few years of the 21st century have witnessed no improvement. States that practice mass murder continue to exist but are now accompanied by terrorist movements doing all within their power to acquire nuclear weapons so they can exterminate entire populations--millions, even tens and hundreds of millions.

It's hard for most of us to face such a fearful world without some kind of faith to sustain us, without a traditional formula through which to express our longings for peace and safety. I believe that religion is a central part of our civilization. But even more than that, I believe religious faith to be an indispensable element to our peace of mind and such happiness as we are capable of enjoying on this Earth.

I could not find content in a landscape whose horizon held no churches or in a civilization whose literature was purged of any reference to a divine being; whose art had blotted out the nativities, crucifixions, saints and angels; and whose music contained no intimations of immortality. And I believe the vast majority of people share such a view.

As for doing something about the militant atheism that threatens our happiness and well-being, it is in the interests of all people that those of us who enjoy religious faith should examine carefully what it has done, is doing and will do to sustain and comfort us in this harsh and difficult world. We should add up all its benefits--and then proclaim the results to the world. There will be plenty who will listen.

Paul Johnson, eminent British historian and author; Lee Kuan Yew, minister mentor of Singapore; Ernesto Zedillo, director, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, former president of Mexico; and David Malpass, chief economist for Bear Stearns Co., Inc., rotate in writing this column. To see past Current Events columns, visit our Web site at

Mark Steyn: Changing His Tune

Steyn on People
Monday, 01 October 2007
from National Review

In The New York Sun the other day, Ron Radosh had a scoop: Hold the front page! Stop the presses! Grizzled Leftie Icon Repudiates…

Who? Castro? Chavez? Al-Qaeda?

Whoa, let’s not rush to judgment. No, the big story was: Grizzled Leftie Icon Repudiates …Stalin.

A couple of months back, there was some documentary or other “celebrating” the “spirit” of Pete Seeger, the folkie colossus, with contributions from the usual suspects – Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, one or more Dixie Chicks, two-thirds of Peter, Paul and Mary, etc. Mr Radosh had also been interviewed but his remarks about Seeger’s lifelong support of Stalinism had not made the final cut. No surprise there. In such circumstances, the rule is to hail someone for his “activism” and “commitment” and “passion” without getting hung up on the specifics of what exactly he’s actively and passionately committing to. Giving him a Kennedy Center Honor a decade or so back, President Clinton hailed ol’ Pete as “an inconvenient artist who dared to sing things as he saw them”, which is one way of putting it. You can’t help noticing, though, that it’s all the documentaries and honors ceremonies and lifetime-achievement tributes to Mr Seeger that seem to find certain things “inconvenient”. The Washington Post’s Style section, with its usual sly elan, hailed him as America’s “best-loved Commie” – which I think translates as “Okay, so the genial old coot spent a lifetime shilling for totalitarian murderers, but only uptight Republican squares would be boorish enough to dwell on it.”

Anyway, in the Sun, Mr Radosh, a former banjo pupil of the great man, did dwell on it, and a few weeks later got a letter in response. “I think you’re right,” wrote Pete. “I should have asked to see the gulags when I was in [the] USSR.” And he enclosed a new song he’d composed:

I’m singing about old Joe, cruel Joe
He ruled with an iron hand
He put an end to the dreams
Of so many in every land
He had a chance to make
A brand new start for the human race
Instead he set it back
Right in the same nasty place
I got the Big Joe Blues
(Keep your mouth shut or you will die fast)
I got the Big Joe Blues
(Do this job, no questions asked)
I got the Big Joe Blues…

Pete Seeger, left, and Bruce Springsteen, performing together at a Woody Guthrie tribute concert at Severance Hall in Cleveland, in 1996.

It’s heartening to see that age (he’s now 88) hasn’t withered Seeger’s unerring instinct for bum rhymes (“fast/asked”). Still, Ron Radosh was thrilled that, just 54 years after the old brute’s death, a mere three-quarters of a century after the purges and show trials and whatnot, the old protest singer has finally got around to protesting Stalin, albeit somewhat evasively: He put the human race “right in the same nasty place”? Sorry, not good enough. Stalin created whole new degrees of nastiness. But, given that the guy got the two great conflicts of the 20th century wrong (in 1940, he was anti-war and singing “Wendell Wilkie and Franklin D/Both agree on killing me”), it’s a start. I can’t wait for his anti-Osama album circa 2078.

Mr Seeger has a song called “Treblinka”, because he thinks it’s important that we should “never forget”. But wouldn’t it be better if we were hip to it before it snowballed into one of those things we had to remember not to forget? Would it kill the icons of the left just for once to be on the right side at the time? America has no “best-loved Nazi” or “best-loved Fascist” or even “best-loved Republican”, but its best-loved Stalinist stooge is hailed in his dotage as a secular saint who’s spent his life “singing for peace”. He sang for “peace” when he opposed the fascistic armaments stooge Roosevelt and imperialist Britain, and he sang for “peace” when he attacked the Cold War paranoiac Truman, and he kept on singing for “peace” no matter how many millions died and millions more had to live in bondage, and, while that may seem agreeably peaceful when you’re singing “If I Had A Hammer” in Ann Arbor, it’s not if you’re on the sharp end of the deal thousands of miles away.

Explaining how Stalin had “put an end to the dreams” of a Communist utopia, Seeger told Ron Radosh that he’d underestimated “how the majority of the human race has faith in violence”. But that isn’t true, is it? Very few of us are violent. Those who order the killings are few in number, and those who carry them out aren’t significantly numerous. But those willing to string along and those too fainthearted to object and those who just want to keep their heads down and wait for things to blow over are numbered in the millions. And so are those many miles away in the plump prosperous western democracies who don’t see why this or that dictator is their problem. One can perhaps understand the great shrug of indifference to distant monsters. It’s harder, though, to forgive the contemporary urge to celebrate it as a form of “idealism”.

James Lileks, the bard of Minnesota, once offered this trenchant analysis of Pete Seeger:

“‘If I Had A Hammer’? Well, what’s stopping you? Go to the hardware store; they’re about a buck-ninety, tops.”

Very true. For the cost of a restricted-view seat at a Peter, Paul and Mary revival, you could buy half-a-dozen top-of-the-line hammers and have a lot more fun, even if you used them on yourself. Yet in a sense Lileks is missing the point : yes, they’re dopey nursery-school jingles, but that’s why they’re so insidious. The numbing simplicity allows them to be passed off as uncontentious unexceptionable all-purpose anthems of goodwill. Which is why you hear “This Land Is Your Land” in American grade schools, but not “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic”. The invention of the faux-childlike faux-folk song was one of the greatest forces in the infantilization of American culture. Seeger’s hymn to the “senselessness” of all war, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”, combined passivity with condescension - “When will they ever learn?” - and established the default mode of contemporary artistic “dissent”. Mr Seeger’s ongoing veneration is indestructible. But at least we now know the answer to the question “When will he ever learn?”

At least half-a-century too late.

Springsteen, E Street lift Philly crowd with high-energy show

The News Journal (Wilmington, DE)

PHILADELPHIA -- So, can a 10-piece rock 'n' roll outfit keep a sold-out Wachovia Center crowd on their feet for more than two hours if none of the band members gets air the whole time?

If it's Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band, the answer is unquestionably "yes."

OK, Springsteen jumped about six inches high at the end of "Born to Run," the last song of the first encore, but that was it. Otherwise, the band members had at least one foot on the stage for the entire set.

But the crowd didn't seem to mind. Even though several songs from the the 24-song list came from the band's latest release, "Magic" the energy level at the center was high from start to finish.

The first portion of the set began with relatively new songs -- "Radio Nowhere," "No Surrender," "Lonesome Day," "Gypsy Biker," "Magic" and "Reason to Believe."

The crowd responded better to the next two songs, the oldies "Candy's Room" and "She's the One."

As always, Springsteen traded Telecasters all night with roadies and sang harmonies with fellow guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt.

Next was "Reason to Believe," and the fan favorite "Promised Land," from the "Darkness on the Edge of Town" album.

Springsteen twice referenced the Phillies, who are down zero games to two against the Colorado Rockies in the playoffs. Game three is today and, if the Phillies lose, the best-of-five series is over.

He told the crowd it was great to be in Philly, which he said represented "cheesesteaks, cheeseburgers, french fries, the Bill of Rights, [the group's saxophonist] Clarence 'Big Man' Clemons and baseball."

He came close to predicting a Phillies victory today. "But I can't guarantee it," he said.

During the first song of the second encore, as the crowd sang along to "Waiting on a Sunny Day," Springsteen said, "If you want the Phillies to win, you have to sing louder."

After "Promised Land," the band played "Brilliant Disguise," "My Home Town," "Darlington County," Devil's Arcade," "The Rising," "Last to Die," "The Long Walk Home" and "Badlands."

Other songs during the encores were "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," "Thundercrack" and "Waiting on a Summer Day."

To some, Springsteens politics are somewhere to the left of Malcolm X. But even though the content of some of his socially conscious songs are decidedly liberal, he kept his mid-song commentary fairly nonpartisan, which was no doubt a relief to some members of the graying audience.

Before the final song,"American Land," he told the crowd, "Get out there. Let your voice be heard about what matters to you. Let freedom ring."

Contact Adam Taylor at 324-2787 or

At the Wachovia Center, the Boss restored one’s faith in rock and roll

Posted on Sat, Oct. 6, 2007

By Dan DeLuca


Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band concerts have a reputation that's 30+ years long to live up to as exhausting and exhilarating marathons that mix together enough musical inspiration and working-class perspiration to restore one's faith in the redemptive powers of rock and roll.

On Friday night at the Wachovia Center, Springsteen took the stage dressed in black to the introductory instrumental strains of "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze," and shouted out a question to the sold-out crowd of middle-aged moms and dads (and their sons and daughters): "Is there anybody alive out there?"

The two-hour-and-fifteen-minute show that followed - beginning with the hard-driving, straight to the solar plexus "Radio Nowhere," the first single from the 58-year-old Jersey guy's new album, Magic - certainly lived up to his vaunted rep, even if it was a little short by Springsteenian standards.

The road to redemption on this night, though, was a rocky one.

That's partly because Philadelphia was only the second stop on this tour, so momentum didn't always flow effortlessly and all the transitions in the 23-song set, which came to a close with the reeling Irish immigrant saga "American Land," weren't seamless.

But it's largely because Springsteen doesn't go in for easily won, fairy-tale happy endings. And beneath its rollicking veneer, Magic is a dark journey through a house of mirrors of mistrust and deceit.

The Boss filled Friday night's set with songs from his catalog whose protagonists feel the ground shake beneath their feet, like Tunnel of Love's "Brilliant Disguise," whose hero asks for "mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of." Or the guy from the bleak Nebraska in "Reason To Believe," which was transformed into a rowdy roadhouse blues, who can't understand how people find the faith to keep on keepin' on.

The E Streeters first with Springsteen in town since 2003 was filled with rousing rockers, many of which, from "Promised Land" to "Waitin' On A Sunny Day," made use of Clarence Clemons' wailing saxophone, almost always a signal of communal strength in a Springsteen song.

The three lead guitarists all got their licks in: Nils Lofgren, the most gifted of the bunch, Steve Van Zandt, Sylvio Dante in a black babushka and snakeskin boots, and Springsteen, who played a five-alarm lead on "Candy's Room."

But on a tour that's about getting back to rock and roll fundamentals, Soozie Tyrell's violin is as key an instrument as the guitar. Her sorrowful fiddle keyed the new album's title track, which "isn't about magic, it's about tricks," Springsteen said, as well as the gorgeously wrought war story "Devil's Arcade" and warmly melodic streetscape "Girls In Their Summer Clothes."

Springsteen did most of his talking early on, before Magic's deceptively jaunty "Livin' In The Future."

He said Philadelphia was full of things "we love about America: Philly cheese steaks . . . the Bill of Rights . . . baseball. I predict they will rise, though I can't guarantee it!"

Then he grew more serious, saying the song was about "things happening these last six years that we never thought would happen in America: illegal wiretapping, no right to habeas corpus, the rolling back of civil liberties."

The blue state crowd greeted him with some cheers, and some boos.

The intertwining of the personal and the political was more powerfully expressed musically in a four strong stretch that brought the show to an emotional crescendo. The title track to Springsteen post-9/11 album, "The Rising," which seeks spiritual answers to the horrors of the Twin Towers falling, was followed by "Last To Die," which traces the death toll in Iraq to a belligerent response to Sept. 11.

Then came "A Long Walk Home," a hymn that slowly built the strength to believe that faith can be restored. And that was followed by "Badlands," the rousing warhorse that sounded as fresh as the day it was born and found the redemption Springsteen was looking for, every inch of it earned.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will play at the Wachovia Center again at 7:30 Saturday night. The show is sold out.

Contact music critic Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628 or Read his blog, "In the Mix," at

The set list from Friday night's Bruce Springsteen concert at the Wachovia Center:

Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Reason To Believe
Candy's Room
She's the One
Livin' In The Future
Promised Land
Brilliant Disguise
My Hometown
Darlington County
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last To Die
A Long Walk Home
Girls In Their Summer Clothes
Born To Run
Waitin' On A Sunny Day
American Land

Friday, October 05, 2007

Mona Charen: Why is Clarence Thomas So Angry?

October 05, 2007

National Public Radio was one of the first out of the box greeting Clarence Thomas's memoir, My Grandfather's Son. Nina Totenberg acknowledged that it was, "in some ways a beautifully written book" but went on to declare it "a book of complete bitterness and rage." The Washington Post's front page announced that Thomas had "settled scores" in his "angry" book. And Washington Post columnist (as well as Charen pal) Ruth Marcus writes of Thomas's "blast furnace" anger.

Imagine that. He hasn't gotten over it. Totenberg, for those who may have forgotten, was the journalist who first reported that Anita Hill had made allegations against Thomas (though at the time, Hill had not agreed to go public). And she was a prominent Hill enthusiast during the contretemps.

Totenberg affects surprise that Thomas is angry? It would require a masochist not to be angry. Imagine that your spotless reputation had been thoroughly trashed before a worldwide audience. Imagine further that everything you had attempted to accomplish in your career was undermined in two weeks by ideological opponents ready to do anything to keep someone with your heterodox views down. It is my experience that people often become enraged when they read even small inaccuracies about themselves in the newspapers. Contemplate enduring a campaign of vilification. How many years is it supposed to take to get over something like that? Is Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky thing?

Actually, speaking of President Clinton, the brouhaha over Thomas and what he did or did not say to Hill now seems almost quaint in retrospect. Even if we assume (and I do not) that the worst of Hill's allegations were true, they do not stack up to the kind of brutish behavior attributed to Bill Clinton by Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. But the very same people who adjudged Thomas one of the lowest creatures on Earth, found Clinton's behavior a private matter of no consequence with no public implications.

Of course, while there is anger in the book -- justifiable anger, one might argue -- there is also tenderness, vulnerability, brutal honesty and overflowing gratitude. None of the major reactions to the book seem to have noticed those things. There is also unswerving intellectual integrity. A small example among many: In law school, Justice Thomas relates, "I was uncomfortably aware that blacks failed to pass the bar exams at a much higher rate than whites, and that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund had filed lawsuits alleging that the exams they took were racially discriminatory. . . . At first I assumed that the disproportionate black failure rate was conclusive evidence of racial discrimination, but the more closely I looked at the facts the more apparent it became that I was wrong. At that time each question on the bar exam was graded separately by a difference scorer and each completed exam identified solely by number, thus making it impossible for the graders to tell which examinees, if any, were black." Thomas concluded that the poor education many blacks received was the culprit, but by differing from the conventional wisdom he was already on the road to heresy.

Justice Thomas has continued that apostasy on the Supreme Court, courageously and brilliantly arguing his philosophy in one magnificent opinion after another. Jan Crawford Greenburg, longtime Supreme Court reporter for the Chicago Tribune, now with ABC, dismisses in her recent book the claim that Thomas is some sort of cipher on the Court (a view held only by the abysmally ignorant). "An extensive documentary record shows," she writes, "that Justice Thomas has been a significant force in shaping the direction and decisions of the court for the past 15 years." No one who has read his opinions could fail to appreciate that.

Finally, no one who has had the pleasure of meeting Clarence Thomas would recognize him from the public descriptions that have greeted this book. His legendary laugh is sonorous and infectious. His manner is dignified yet approachable. Those who know him are aware of his passionate efforts to help other blacks -- and of his equally passionate refusal to advertise this. The Anita Hill business is a tiny part of this man's story -- a story that makes for very rewarding reading.

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Another New Springsteen Album Already Done?

October 05, 2007, 10:45 AM ET

Bruce Springsteen isn't always known for working quickly, but he just may have another new album already in the can on the heels of "Magic," released earlier this week via Columbia.

"There's another group of songs that exist that I think are great songs and should end up somewhere, but they just didn't quite fit with this group," says producer Brendan O'Brien, who helmed "Magic" as well as 2002's "The Rising" and 2005's "Devils & Dust."

O'Brien declined to comment on murmurs that the new album could be out as soon as next spring, saying only, "I'll defer to others on that one."

What's clear is that O'Brien has played a key role in one of the most prolific period of album releases in Springsteen's storied career. Before "The Rising," the Boss hadn't made a new studio album in seven years, and hadn't recorded with the E Street Band in nearly 20.

"He had produced his own music with other people for a long time," O'Brien says. "If he was meeting with me, it meant he maybe wanted to try something new and inspired. He needed somebody to help him get over the hump."

In contrast to the somber, Sept. 11, 2001-themed "The Rising," the folk-leaning solo album "Devils & Dust" and last year's all-traditional "The Seeger Sessions," "Magic" offers some of the most melodic songs Springsteen has written in years. The material is tailor-made for the onstage power of the E Street Band, which has just begun a North American tour.

O'Brien credits Springsteen with allowing him to participate in the vetting process, which in turn shaped the mostly high-energy vibe of the new album.

"It was clear he wanted that kind of input, and I let him know right away that that's something I like to do and am helpful with," he says. "On this one, we met at his place and he sat down and played me a bunch of songs. I would be looking at the lyric book while he was singing them. He'd finish, we'd talk, and we'd make notes."

Once ensconced at O'Brien's Atlanta studio, the producer set Springsteen up with a pared-down core band of drummer Max Weinberg, bassist Garry Tallent and pianist Roy Bittan to record basic tracks. Contributions from E Streeters like guitarist Steven Van Zandt, keyboardist Danny Federici and saxophonist Clarence Clemons were added later.

"As best I can tell, everyone else seems at peace with that," O'Brien says. "We'll bring Danny and Steve in, but by that point, I have a better idea as to what we need them for. It makes their overdubbing much more specific."

Springsteen tour kicks off with a little 'Magic'

by Jay Lustig, Newark Star-Ledger Staff
Wednesday October 03, 2007, 5:31 PM

Saxophonist Clarence Clemons jams with Bruce Springsteen last night at the Hartford Civic Center.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Where and when: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 and 18 at Madison Square Garden, New York. How much: All shows are sold out. Call (201) 507-8900 or visit for information.

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Bruce Springsteen's concert last night at the Hartford Civic Center began with a rallying cry: "Radio Nowhere," the lead single from his new "Magic" album. "Is there anybody alive out there?" he asked, expressing his desire to hear "a thousand guitars" and "pounding drums." When he got to the line, "I want a million different voices speaking in tongues," he motioned for audience members to scream their lungs out, and they did.

"And so it begins," he said, after the song was over.

But what exactly is beginning? That's a little harder to say.

"Magic," which supplied eight of the 23 songs played in Hartford, is a complex, hard-to-define album, with some of the most exuberant pop and the some of the most harrowing rock of Springsteen's career. Loud guitars offer redemption and love is a healing force, but more sinister magic, in the form of war, corruption and political deception, is always lurking, too.

The tour, which officially began in Hartford (though there were three rehearsal shows last week), is equally complex. And Springsteen and his E Street Band, who are joining him on the road for the first time since 2004, are still working on getting the flow right.

Bruce Springsteen rocks Hartford.

One of last night's oddest moments came when one of Springsteen's most upbeat, lyrically slight songs, "Darlington County," was sandwiched between the explosive, "lives-on-the-line" drama of "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and the epic "Magic" soldier's tale, "Devil's Arcade." Even Springsteen isn't enough of a magician to make those segues work.

There were some other segments that worked so well, though, that one expects them to become fixtures in the tour, which comes to the Continental Airlines Arena, Tuesday and Wednesday, and Madison Square Garden, Oct. 17 and 18.

The "Magic" title track, featuring some mournful wailing by Springsteen and his wife, E Street singer-guitarist Patti Scialfa, was the evening's bleakest number. "Reason To Believe," which came next, seemed like a hopeful answer song, with a propulsive new roadhouse-blues arrangement and solos by Nils Lofgren (on slide guitar) and Springsteen (on harmonica).

"Night," followed by "She's the One," was an irresistible one-two blast from Springsteen's past: two revered but not overplayed songs, both drenched in the kind of late-night romanticism that marked much of Springsteen's best '70s work.

"Long Walk Home," from "Magic," closed the pre-encore portion of the first rehearsal show at Asbury Park's Convention Hall. But at the other rehearsal shows, and yesterday it moved up to the penultimate slot, followed by the more dependably rousing "Badlands."

A Scialfa-written song, "Town Called Heartbreak" (from her recent "Play It As It Lays" album), fit into the show surprisingly well, with duet vocals by Scialfa and Springsteen, stripped-down swamp-rock instrumentation, and more stellar slide work from Lofgren.

"Livin' in the Future" is one of the catchiest songs from "Magic," so it's possible to miss the fact that it's also a protest song. As he did at the rehearsals, Springsteen made his intent clear in a spoken introduction, railing against "illegal wiretapping" and "attacks on the Constitution."

"We plan to do something about it right now," he said. "We plan to sing about it."

While "Radio Nowhere" has become the standard show-opener, the show offered an additional welcoming flourish. A carousel organ, with drums and cymbals attached to it, rose at the back of the stage and bright, cheerful music played as Springsteen and the band took the stage. Then it was lowered, and the show started.

In addition to fine-tuning the show's pacing, there are some nuts-and-bolts matters to take care of. Springsteen flubbed some words during "The Promised Land" and "Darlington County." And at one point during "Long Walk Home," he looked over to Clarence Clemons, apparently expecting him to take a solo; Clemons' saxophone was still on its stand.

Springsteen's a notorious perfectionist, but he didn't seem upset. They exchanged surprised glances, then grins, and Clemons casually picked up his instrument and started playing.

The more important thing, of course, was that Clemons sounded good all night, routinely creating the sumptuously rich sax tone that plays such a big part in defining the E Street sound. Drummer Max Weinberg also deserves special mention -- there were lots of fast-paced songs during the set, and little opportunity for him to catch his breath, but he never missed a beat.

Ultimately, maybe, the show wasn't about "Magic," or whatever is on Springsteen's mind. It was about Steven Van Zandt's raw, almost primitive guitar solos, and Roy Bittan's elegant piano riffs, and Garry Tallent's rock-solid bass playing, and everything else that goes into making the E Street Band a rare and, yes, magical thing.

Jay Lustig may be reached at or (973) 392-5850.

Here are the songs Springsteen and the E Street Band played last night:

"Radio Nowhere"
"The Ties That Bind"
"Lonesome Day"
"Gypsy Biker"
"Reason to Believe"
"She's the One"
"Livin' in the Future"
"The Promised Land"
"Town Called Heartbreak"
"Darkness on the Edge of Town"
"Darlington County"
"Devil's Arcade"
"The Rising"
"Last to Die"
"Long Walk Home"


"Girls in Their Summer Clothes"
"Born to Run"
"Waitin' on a Sunny Day"
"American Land"

A Tarnished Golden Girl Can't Outrun the Truth


The New York Times

Published: October 5, 2007

A seven-year race to stay ahead of the performance-enhancement posse that long ago rounded up the flawed, opportunistic men in Marion Jones’s life is over. She was tripped up not by a snitch, not by a drug test, but by the floppy, loose laces of her own face-saving lie.

She did not believe she could come clean when she told federal agents in 2003 that she had not used the designer steroid THG, also known as the clear, in preparation for her five-medal harvest at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She could not plead ignorance by playing the flaxseed oil card she has turned over now, the way her Balco compatriot Barry Bonds did in front of a grand jury investigating the case.

Because unlike baseball, which played deaf, dumb and blind to the culture of sports pharmacology until 2002, the Olympics was long into chasing down cheats. Jones, in a desperate cover-up to protect her legacy, has finally been confirmed as one of them.

She is expected to plead guilty in federal court today to lying to federal agents about her drug use and to an unrelated financial matter. Given the international suspicion that has attached itself to Jones in recent years, her three gold and two bronze medals will no doubt be stripped by the International Olympic Committee, as well they should be.

“Is Marion Jones a bad person?” Victor Conte Jr., the brains behind Balco, said last night in a telephone interview. “No. Marion made mistakes. The pain and suffering she is about to endure in public is going to be devastating to her.”

In the summer of 2006, when Jones was dealing with a questionable drug test that turned out to be a false alarm, I still found myself wishing for her to be remembered as the beautiful blur in silver shoes she was in Sydney, Australia, guilty only of questionable associations. Admittedly, that sentiment reflected a double standard, an indication that keeping tabs on elite athletes peeing into cups was in itself something of a spectator sport.

Root for some while demonstrating indifference, if not downright intolerance, for others. We are all human, captivated by some storybooks more than others.

But an admission makes it virtually impossible to cast Jones as Conte would: a sympathetic victim. No man in her life — not Conte or her onetime coach Trevor Graham, who allegedly supplied Jones the clear, or her former husband C. J. Hunter — made her do it.

Just like Bonds, she is claiming to have been unwittingly enhanced, but why would anyone give Jones, a college-educated woman, the benefit of the doubt when her legacy has been built on lies? At the end of the day, she didn’t train or run by the rules in the summer of 2000. Her medals should be meaningless to all but her enablers.

“Marion wasn’t doing anything the others weren’t doing,” Conte said. “Was she on performance enhancers? Yes, but she was the superior athlete. You don’t just take performance enhancers and win gold medals.”

The problem with this rationale is that not everyone she ran against has been caught or even implicated. In a sport that bestows glory and wealth by virtue of eye blinks, would Jones have been America’s golden girl on the strength of her own natural gifts? Ben Johnson couldn’t prove he was the real deal after Seoul, South Korea. Neither can Jones — too late and too bad.

The chance for Olympic greatness may come once in a lifetime. Jones was 24 in Sydney, in the prime of her sprinting life. More than anything, she cheated her own potential. She is reported to have said in her letter that she lied to the agents because she panicked, but it sounds like that was also the case when she started using the clear in 1999.

In Sydney, she became the subject of suspicion when Hunter, her husband at the time and a former world champion shot putter, was revealed to have failed a drug test. At a news conference now immortalized by time and place and those in attendance (Conte and the renowned lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, among them), Jones stood by Hunter, the way she would later stand by a boyfriend, Tim Montgomery, another of the track tainted who bore witness to Jones’s inability to choose well.

For all of his expressed sympathy, Conte dogged her by volunteering revelatory information whenever he could. That he was right makes him no more a hero in any of this than the baseball steroids snitch José Canseco. It is just more evidence of what happens when an infestation comes under attack.

“I think at some point, someone, some athlete, has to step up and ask for forgiveness for all that has happened with Balco,” Conte said.

The way it looks, at least right now, it won’t have to be Bonds, unless his Balco middleman, the trainer Greg Anderson, decides to talk. As for Jones, in time, and perhaps after some jail time, depending on the terms of the expected plea, forgiveness should not be out of the question, only the retention of her medals.


The Violent Oppression of Women in Islam

By Robert Spencer and Phyllis Chesler

Friday, October 05, 2007

The booklet that you are about to read details some of the principal ways in which women suffer in the Islamic world – often with religious and cultural sanction. Many of these crimes against women, such as wife-beating, are ordained by the Qur’an itself; others, such as female genital mutilation and honor killing, are praised by Islamic clerics and hallowed by Islamic culture. That feminists in the West remain silent about this deeply ingrained and institutionalized mistreatment of women, and even ally with groups that have devoted themselves to the spread of Islamic law that justifies this mistreatment, is one of the unconscionable scandals of our time.

This article is a segment of a series being run as part of our nation-wide campus effort, Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, which will be held on 200 university and college campuses on October 22-26. Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week is a national effort to focus on all the victims of Islamo-Fascist Jihad -- as well as to counter the lies of the academic Left, which seeks to deny the evil, and even the very existence, of our enemy in this terror war. In this way, Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week hopes to educate American students and to enable them to rally to defend their country.

In terms of the booklet of our subject today, its cover is a still photograph that epitomizes Islamic oppression of women, and it has come to also epitomize the Western feminist non-response to it. The picture comes from a Dutch film called De Steen (The Stone), directed by Mahnaz Tamizi, and features the actress Smadar Monsinos. The Stone dramatizes the barbaric treatment of women in Islamic countries. It accurately depicts the reality of Islamic Sharia law regarding adultery: when a couple is caught in adultery, the man is jailed while the woman is stoned to death.

It is a telling indication of the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Left that it has fastened upon our use of this picture to try to discredit Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, since the photo does not depict an actual event – as if women weren’t being stoned to death under Sharia law in Iran and some other Muslim countries today. In reality, eight women are currently in prison in Iran awaiting death by stoning for the crime of adultery. A mother was sentenced to be stoned to death in Iran for adultery just last week. It is typical of the Left to try to cast opprobrium not upon those responsible for these harsh realities, but upon us who are trying to draw attention to them in the name of human rights.

It may have seemed inconceivable that feminists and their allies would defend those who bury women in the earth and kill them by throwing large stones at them, but that is the ultimate thrust of the Left’s outcry against our use of this picture and against Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week in general. Such are the ironies of our troubled age.

In this booklet are realities that should be of paramount concern not just for feminists in the West and their allies on the Left, but of all those who are concerned with the universality of human rights and the dignity of every human being.

To read this booklet, click here.

A Humbled Boss

Bruce Springsteen and Max Weinberg in Hartford on Tuesday.

Father Raymond J. De Souza, National Post
Published: Thursday, October 04, 2007

The last time Bruce Springsteen appeared in this column was three years ago, having just announced his decision to headline a series of anti-Bush concerts in the last months of the 2004 presidential election campaign. I wrote then that trading the musical vocation for the partisan political one was a step down. But in a popular music world dominated by manufactured ciphers with talent and insight thinner than a CD, it is hard to be upset with the Boss for long. His new album was released on Tuesday, and he is back with the E Street Band in all its saxophone-wailing, piano-keys-dancing, mandolin-plucking, guitar-blazing, harmonica-haunted fun.

The politics is still there, but set against a broader critique. Springsteen accuses the architects of the Iraq War of deceit and bad faith, but it is with the experience of an older man who sees that so much of life fails to live up to earlier ideals, many of which were illusory. The title track, Magic, applies the image of the dark illusionist to the current American political leadership: "I'll cut you in half/ While you're smiling from ear to ear/ And the freedom that you sought's/ Driftin' like the ghost amongst trees... On the road the sun is sinkin' low/ There's bodies hangin' in the trees."

Springsteen is now 58, and there is a melancholy note sounded here. Almost 25 years ago, he wrote My Hometown, the lament of a 35-year-old man who sees his hometown in decline and realizes that it might be time for him and his wife and son to move on. Now pushing 60, he has long since left and he thinks about going back in Long Walk Home. But that town is gone, familiar places shuttered up and strangers having replaced old friends. And the values of small town America are no longer found either, the knowledge that there are some things set in stone: "Who we are, what we'll do and what we won't." He knows where he came from, but that to get back there "it's gonna be a long walk home".

The young Springsteen wrote of the ordinary man beaten down by the system, but who, with a few friends, a serviceable car, a hospitable bar and the attention of a pretty girl, might escape it all, even for a short while. The darkness of the edge of town always returned in his music, but it was kept at bay by a certain exuberant optimism, not untouched by sheer foolishness.

Foolishness is not becoming in a mature man, and the Boss now warns the girls he used to chase that "you'll be fine long as your pretty face holds out/ Then it's gonna get pretty cold out/ An empty stream of stars shooting by/ You got your hopes on high/ You'll be coming down now... Like a thief on a Sunday morning/ It all falls apart with no warning."

What lessons has the older Springsteen learned? Most are rather bleak, in the vein of realizing that all is passing away, and we are often betrayed, often by ourselves. But the fallen-away Catholic has not fallen completely, and my favourite song on the new album is a rousing love song in which he promises Theresa that, "I'll work for your love, dear/ What others want for free/ I'll work for your love."

Ornamented by the imagery of his faith, Springsteen knows that the measure of love is sacrifice, and the wise man is the one who knows for what he should make his sacrifices: "Now our city of peace has crumbled/ Our book of faith's been tossed/ And I'm just out here searchin'/ For my own piece of the cross."

The thriving cities and factory towns of Springsteen's youth have passed away and the ideals of earlier time have now dissolved into "tears, they fill the rosary at your feet." The breezy optimism of the young man is gone. In its place is something like wisdom, a wisdom that seeks love, and knows that seeking love means finding the cross, and that a price must be paid for all that is worthy of enduring. The accompanying sadness is that too often a steep price is paid for that which is false, what is not worthy, what doesn't endure.

Three or four years ago, the Harvard professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Coles wrote a book about those who listened to Springsteen. He subtitled it, "A People Listening, A Poet Singing." The poet indeed is singing again. And for the people who listen, there is a something new here: a measure of wisdom, world-weary to be sure, but wisdom still.

Marion Jones Admits to Steroid Use

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 5, 2007; A01

Balco Founder Victor Conte, Marion Jones, C.J. Hunter and Milos Sarcev

Track star Marion Jones has acknowledged using steroids as she prepared for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and is scheduled to plead guilty today in New York to two counts of lying to federal agents about her drug use and an unrelated financial matter, according to a letter Jones sent to close family and friends.

Jones, who won five medals at the Sydney Olympics, said she took the steroid known as "the clear" for two years beginning in 1999, according to the letter. A source familiar with Jones's legal situation who requested anonymity confirmed the relevant facts that were described in the letter.

"I want to apologize to you all for all of this," Jones said. "I am sorry for disappointing you all in so many ways."

Jones's admissions could cost her the three gold and two bronze medals she won in Sydney while enlarging the cloud of doubt hovering over Olympic and professional sports, which have been tarred in recent years with accusations of performance-enhancing drug use, steroids busts and positive drug tests by prominent athletes.

In December 2004, the International Olympic Committee opened an investigation into allegations surrounding steroid use by Jones, once considered the greatest female athlete in the world. In the past, Jones has vehemently denied using steroids or any performance-enhancing drugs.

"This is a shame," World Anti-Doping Agency Chairman Dick Pound said in a telephone interview yesterday. "This was America's darling at the 2000 Summer Olympics. . . . I hope this will have a deterrent effect. It's not merely cheating in sports, but now she has lied her way to exposure to penal sanctions."

In the letter, Jones, who will turn 32 next Friday, said her former coach, Trevor Graham, gave her the substance, telling her it was the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and that she should take it by putting two drops under her tongue. Graham, contacted by telephone yesterday, declined to comment.

Jones said she "trusted [Graham] and never thought for one second" she was using a performance-enhancing drug until after she left Graham's Raleigh, N.C.-based training camp at the end of 2002. "Red flags should have been raised in my head when he told me not to tell anyone about" the supplement program, she said. She also said she noticed changes in how her body felt and how she was able to recover from workouts after she stopped taking the substance in 2001.

The clear, also known as THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone, is a powerful anabolic steroid that was at the center of the federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, or Balco. More than a dozen track and field athletes have faced punishments for their use of the clear, which drug-testing authorities were unable to detect until Graham sent a sample of it to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2003.

Baseball players Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi admitted during grand jury testimony to using the clear, according to reports in the San Francisco Chronicle. Outfielder Barry Bonds also admitted using a substance that he said he had been told was flaxseed oil by his personal trainer, the Chronicle reported.

The federal probe surrounding Balco, a nutritional supplements company based in Burlingame, Calif., has resulted in five criminal convictions. Jones, however, would be the first athlete, joining Balco founder Victor Conte Jr. and vice president James Valente; Bonds's personal trainer, Greg Anderson; track coach Remi Korchemny; and chemist Patrick Arnold, who designed the clear.

Jones's coach, Graham, was indicted last November on three counts of lying to federal agents connected to the investigation. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is scheduled for November.

Jones, who recently married former sprinter Obadele Thompson, said in her letter that she planned to fly from her home in Austin and meet her mother in New York, where she was scheduled to enter the plea today in U.S. District Court. She said she faced up to six months in jail and would be sentenced in three months. Federal sentencing guidelines call for a maximum of five years in prison for one count of lying to federal agents.

Reached at their Austin home, Thompson declined comment on the letter, portions of which were read to him, saying: "The process has to go through before you can make any comments. . . . I'm sure at the appropriate time, all necessary comments will be made." He did not dispute the contents of the letter. He said Jones was unavailable to comment.

When questioned in 2003 by federal agents investigating Balco, Jones lied about using the clear even though agents presented her with a sample of the substance and she immediately recognized it as what she had taken at Graham's behest, Jones said in the letter. She said she lied because she panicked and wanted to protect herself and her coach.

Jones also said in the letter that she lied about a $25,000 check given to her by track athlete Tim Montgomery, the father of her young son who pleaded guilty in New York this year for his part in a multimillion-dollar bank fraud and money-laundering scheme.

Jones said she told investigators she knew nothing about the deposit, even though Montgomery told her it was from the 2005 sale of a refurbished vehicle and was partial payment for $50,000 she had loaned him.

"Once again, I panicked," she wrote. "I did not want my name associated with this mess. I wanted to stay as far away from it as possible."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Death of an Olympian

By Emmett Tyrrell
Thursday, October 4, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The death this week of Al Oerter, four-time Olympic gold medalist in the discus event, prompts some thoughts on the great generation of field-event athletes that is now passing. Oerter is the only Olympian to win four gold medals in his event (1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968) with an Olympic record every time.

Sprinter and long jumper Carl Lewis won golds in four straight Olympics, but he did not set Olympic records in each win. And Lewis, though one of the greatest athletes of his era, competed in a different era, an era after the Olympic ideal of amateur sport had been maculated by professional sports contracts.

In Oerter's day, there was no money in amateur sport, but there were plenty of great athletes and, not coincidentally, great characters. Another who passed away a few months back was shot-putter Parry O'Brien, winner of two consecutive Olympic golds and, in his third attempt in 1960, a bronze. In 1964, O'Brien finished fourth. Both of these athletes were innovators in their events and legendary competitors, without displaying the guff we often see today. They were also lifelong athletes who exemplified the athlete's highest ideals: character, competitiveness and health. On this last point, Oerter's experience might not be totally convincing. He died at 71, but it was after overcoming a life of high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. He also was afflicted often with injuries in competition, injuries that he usually overcame, often heroically.

His first two golds were the easy product of a prodigiously gifted young athlete, but in 1964 and 1968, his feats amazed. Both times he was injured, and in 1964, the injuries were appalling. Six days before his event, the 6-foot-4-inch athlete, who weighed nearly 300 pounds, had fallen on wet pavement and torn rib cartilage on his throwing side while also damaging his neck. Team doctors advised him not to compete and to lay off it for six weeks. His response was, "These are the Olympics. You die before you quit." Calculating that he could only throw in five of the allowed six efforts, he let fly with a tremendous heave on his last effort, sending the discus far enough to beat his great Czech rival, Ludvik Danek. By the time Oerter's discus landed, he was convulsed in agony.

Harold Connolly, another Olympic gold medalist from Oerter's era -- Connolly was a hammer thrower -- esteemed Oerter "the greatest field-event athlete of the century. There's a magic about him when he's competing. He's nervous before the meet. He doesn't eat well and his hands shake. But once the event is about to start, a calmness settles over him. The other athletes see it, and it intimidates them. They watch him, and they are afraid of what he might do." Well, whatever he did, it always would be by the book. He competed until 1987, after reaching the finals of the Olympic trials in 1984 at the age of 47. When he quit, he observed, "The drug culture had taken over."

I suspect the "drug culture" is a concomitant of the big money that has been injected into sports at the highest level today. The Olympic ideal of amateurism is long dead. With its passing has gone the love of sport for its own sake, the sheer fun of competition. After visiting an Olympic training facility in the 1990s, Oerter rendered his judgment of the professionalism that has subverted the amateurism of his day. According to The New York Times, he lamented, "I saw these athletes in their 30s training full time. … That's their life. What happened to the rest of it? I'm happy that I had a normal life, with a career and family. That makes a person whole."

The pure amateurism of the Olympics was a 19th-century liberal ideal. I always have wondered how the liberals could allow this ideal to fall victim to the mercenary impulse. It was one of the ideals they got right, and I have not heard a peep of protest from them as the giant corporations and the superpatriots subverted that ideal. Well, here I stand waving the banner of amateurism. Why is a modern Eleanor Roosevelt or Bertrand Russell not standing here with me? Is it because -- as I have been saying for years -- modern liberalism no longer produces such liberal paragons, just hustlers and the Clintons?

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.

Bob Klapisch: All eyes on A-Rod as he tries to exorcise playoff demons

Bergen County Record

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

NEW YORK -- The Yankee community is taking a deep breath this week, the kind that practically bursts the lungs. Therapists recommend it as a way of coping with anxiety or worry, or even nagging doubt, which is precisely how the Yankees feel about Alex Rodriguez as they embark on the most critical postseason of the Joe Torre era.

Coming off one of the greatest regular-season hitting performances of the last 50 years, will A-Rod finally defeat his October demons? To a man, the Yankees say yes – or as Jason Giambi so succinctly put it, "Just watch, Alex is going to be unreal."

Giambi didn't have to finish the thought: As Rodriguez goes, so do the Yankees. If he destroys the Indians' starters in the division series, the Yankees could be looking at a clear, unfettered path to the league championship series and beyond.

But we've been here before, haven't we, dissecting A-Rod's psyche, trying to understand what makes October so much more challenging for him. Rodriguez is 0-for-his-last-15 in the postseason with runners in scoring position.

You could practically see the machinery of self-doubt at work. Those exact, exaggerated deep breaths, the way Rodriguez gripped the bat too tightly, how flat and mechanical his swing would become. Not only were the American League's best pitchers dominating him, even the mediocre ones were winning at-bats.

How was this possible? How could A-Rod have looked so bad when the pressure was on? Since Game 4 of the 2004 division series against the Twins, Rodriguez has been invisible – hitting a mere .095 (4-for-42) with no RBI. In that span, the Yankees were 3-10.

But Rodriguez insists 2007 has brought a new perspective. He's happier, less self-conscious, less self-absorbed. A-Rod has won Derek Jeter's approval, if not his friendship, by finally directing his energy outward. Finally, A-Rod has stopped worrying about how he sounds, how he looks, how he's being perceived by those around him, especially the media.

In the man's-man culture that pervades the Yankee clubhouse, A-Rod is part of the inner circle – no small achievement, considering it took him four years to get there. He's even forged a healthy relationship with Torre, a year after the manager batted Rodriguez in the No. 8 spot in the doomed Game 4 division series loss to the Tigers.

"Talk about full circle," Rodriguez said. "I had a barbecue at my house this year [on Labor Day], and four hours later [Torre] is still there and I had to push him out of the house. I really was touched by that. That kind of just tells you how we've come in the relationship."

New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, right, talks with shortstop Alex Rodriguez (13) before practice at Jacobs Field in Cleveland Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007. Pettitte will pitch for the Yankees in Game 2 of an American League Division series baseball playoffs Friday against the Cleveland Indians.

Players sense Rodriguez's ease this year, particularly on the field, where he's headed to his third AL Most Valuable Player award. In fact, if you ask the Yankees if they're worried about A-Rod's past failures, they point to his 2007 success as the sign that his demons have all been exorcised.

"I just hope he takes the same approach as he did all year," said Andy Pettitte. "He's been unbelievable in pressure situations all year long."

A-Rod led the major leagues in home runs and RBI. He started slow (.235 in May) but finished strong (.362 in September). He was a force with runners in scoring position (.333) and when the game was on the line (.357 in situations considered close and late).

What more could the Yankees have asked for?

Better question: What juicer scenario could Rodriguez have imagined as he approached his opt-out clause?

It's seems like a perfect marriage between this 22nd-century hitter and baseball's wealthiest franchise. Still, it's hard to imagine any Scott Boras client not maximizing his economic leverage, even as happy as Rodriguez seems to be in pinstripes.

No one, not even Rodriguez himself, professes to know where the slugger will play in 2008. Torre said Tuesday, "This is the most comfortable I've seen Alex -- he's had more fun this year -- but I honestly don't know the answer to that question."

In the best-case scenario, Rodriguez devours opposing pitchers all month, the Yankees cruise to their first championship since 2000 and both sides come to terms in November.

One major league executive says, "I can definitely see [Rodriguez] staying with the Yankees. I could even see him not opting out. But you know Boras is going to make the Yankees pay for that. He knows they've got money and they're desperate to keep him. It's a dangerous combination."

But a different equation awaits if Rodriguez melts down as he did against the Tigers in the '06 division series, when he was 1-for-14 with no RBI. If he and the Yankees flounder against the Indians, A-Rod's legacy in pinstripes could be irreparably damaged; he'll be known as the regular-season myth who was unable to deliver the Yankees to the promised land.

But friends say it would take an apocalyptic failure for Rodriguez to walk away from the Yankees. "If he leaves, it'll be because of money, not because he couldn't hack it. He'll never admit to that," said the friend.

Indeed, Rodriguez wants to be remembered by baseball's historians as a modern-day Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig. He wants a monument in center field, just like the ones honoring the Yankee legends. Rodriguez knows he'll never get that respect by finishing his career with the Angels or Giants or the Red Sox.

That's why this next 30 days will mean everything to Rodriguez. Together, he and the Yankees are looking to take ownership of October and beyond.

Breathe deep. One way or another, it'll be a memorable ride.


* * *

Yankees vs. Cleveland

Game 1: Thursday

Yankees (Wang 19-7) at Cleveland (Sabathia 19-7), 6:37 p.m., TBS

Game 2: Friday

Yankees (Pettitte 15-9) at Cleveland (Carmona 19-8), 5:07 p.m., TBS

Game 3: Sunday

Cleveland (Westbrook 6-9) at Yankees (Clemens 6-6), 6:37 p.m., TBS

*Game 4: Monday

Cleveland (Byrd 15-8) at Yankees (Mussina 11-10), 6:07 p.m., TBS

*Game 5: Wednesday

Yankees (Wang 19-7) at Cleveland (Sabathia 19-7), 5:07 p.m., TBS

* if necessary

Hollywood Plays to Type

[Cliff May]
Wednesday, October 03, 2007

While walking my treadmill tonight I watched my Tivo-ed recording of last night's episode of The Unit — and I was every bit as chagrined as I feared I'd be.

For those not familiar with this series, the show is about a top-secret Delta Force outfit that knows who the bad guys are and takes them on and takes them out — with no apologies. The Unit reports only to the POTUS. No wussy court orders for these boys.

But in the new season, the Unit is disbanded and targeted by really bad guys, not just your run-of-the-mill AQ/Hezbollah/Khomeinist malcontents but those badder then bad: Yes, you got it, right-wing loonies, rich guys who secretly pull all the strings ,"rent out the Oval Office" to useful idiots, and routinely "disappear" people with names like Mahmoud. Why? Because they fear a lilly-livered liberal will soon be elected President and then will open wide Gitmo's doors.

(But wait a minute: Didn't they just tell us these guys were in charge and rent out the Oval Office? So how can elections be won by those who oppose them?)

Somehow, at the end of tonight's episode (please: let me spoil it for you) the guys from the Unit prevail and we are led to believe they are going back to work for the American people — but how exactly is not clear since we now know that the whole damn country is run by six malevolent families (the Clinton family evidently not among them) which means that everything we think is good and honorable is really dirty and corrupt. Why botther with serving in the Special Forces? Why not fight global warming instead?

And by the way: I also don't like it that Mac and Tiffany didn't get back together. It's not just needlessly cynical, it's illogical: Her memory got Mac through the torture.

Memo to David Mamet: I'm deeply disappointed in you. But enjoy your cocktail parties by the pool with your Hollywood buddies. You've earned it.

The only good news: I fast-forwarded through the commercials and got some exercise on the treadmill.

[All of Mr. Mays' points are pretty much right on the money...but I very much like and recommend the show despite the concerns voiced about this week's episode. - jtf]

Steve Emerson: When Islamists Get Caught

Steven Emerson

The Investigative Project on Terrorism

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Esam Omeish

The Esam Omeish affair is the latest example of a "moderate," "peaceful" American Muslim leader done in by his own words, caught on tape.

Omeish, the president of the Muslim American Society (MAS), was forced to resign last week from his recently-appointed position on Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's immigration commission when videos featuring Omeish posted by Little Green Footballs and the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) were brought to the governor's attention.

Kaine asked for Omeish's resignation after observing one video featuring Omeish at a December 2000 rally praising Palestinians for " have learned the way, that you have known that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land."

Instead of owning up to his words, Omeish told reporters at a press conference Friday that he was taken out of context as part of a "smear campaign" based on"Islamophobia."

When speaking of jihad, he said he did not mean violence. He only meant "exerting full effort."

He, like the Muslim American Society, is completely peaceful, espousing only a "path of moderation, engagement and outreach." Omeish is a surgeon, and before that, an honor student – a pillar of the community, and nothing more. The re-production of his own words is an "Islamophobic" "smear."

MAS Freedom Foundation Executive Director, Mahdi Bray, went one step further, portraying Omeish as the victim of a not-so-vast right wing conspiracy by those who "send people into our mosques and send people into our conventions dressed as Muslim women with hidden cameras."
Bray, too, has been "caught on tape" by the IPT, raising his arms and cheering loudly in October 2000 as his former colleague, Abdurrahman Alamoudi, announced his support for two notoriously deadly terrorist groups:

Alamoudi: I have been labeled by the media in New York to be a supporter of Hamas, anybody supports Hamas here?

[Crowd cheers, "Yes!"].

Anybody is a supporter of Hamas here?

[Crowd cheers, "Yes!" Mahdi Bray on stage nods and raises his arms in approval].

Anybody is a supporter of Hamas here?

[Crowd cheers, "Yes!"].

Hear that, Bill Clinton; we are all supporters of Hamas, Allahu Akbar. [Crowd responds].

I wish they added that I am also a supporter of Hizballah. Anybody supports Hizballah here?

[Crowd cheers, "Yes!"]

Now, is it "Islamophobia" to show a tape of Bray gleefully cheering on Hamas and Hizballah? Somehow asking Omeish to be accountable for his endorsement of "the jihad way" is over the line.

As with all the Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups, MAS has its public face of "peace" and "compassion" it plays up in front of the Western media and government officials, and another when comfortably surrounded only by its supporters.

And Omeish is no different. Watch the videos. Here is the entire December 2000 speech.
Without the power of videotape and an historic record, gullible members of the media would probably believe a "jihad" as an approach to "liberate your land" had no violent connotation as Omeish claimed. Sadly, even with powerful and damning video evidence, they might choose to believe the likes of Omeish and Bray, earnest as they are in their denunciations of those who merely produce the evidence.

The Sept. 29 Washington Post story simply took Omeish and his allies at their words. His jihad-way reference "was not a call for violence. It was never any condoning of terrorism or any violent acts," the newspaper quoted Omeish. It sought no other viewpoint. Nor did its reporters appear to ask what it means to say "exerting full effort" is "the way to liberate your land" peacefully.

It could have turned to Imam Abdul Alim Musa, of the Masjid al-Islam in Washington D.C. Musa offered a definition of jihad in stark contrast to Omeish during a MAS rally in Washington in May 2003.

The Post story also cited Brian Becker, national coordinator of the leftist ANSWER Coalition, as a character witness, who called Omeish "one of the foremost leaders" of ANSWER's anti-war rallies and someone who agreed Omeish had fallen to a smear campaign by "right-wing anti-Muslim bigots.

But what the Post did not tell you was that Becker was a comrade of Omeish and actually spoke together with him at a rally supporting Hizballah in July 2006. To Becker, Israel's response to Hamas rockets from Gaza targeting civilians was a "criminal reaggression." He minimized Hizballah's cross-border raid that killed three Israeli soldiers and ended with the kidnapping of two others. He made no reference to Hizballah rocket fire raining down on civilian neighborhoods.

Becker also argued that Israel is supported by U.S. aid because "Israel carries out the fundamental colonial functions against not only the Palestinians but against all Arab people and against other peoples of the Middle East."

Despite the denials and obfuscation, MAS officials have justified suicide bombings and terrorism repeatedly.

At a June 2001 press conference and sit-in at the State Department, then-MAS Secretary General Shaker El-Sayed was asked directly whether he condemned "the terrorist attacks from Hamas and the suicide bombings."

"I made a statement that we do support the Palestinian resistance," El-Sayed said. "The so-called Israeli settlers are not civilian population. They are military reserves; they are armed, trained and dangerous. They invade the Palestinian neighborhoods at night and squander everything. They kill, maim, and destroy homes. If I were there, I would use every power in my hand to defend my family."

El-Sayed continued, "so long as occupation continues, we say to the Palestinian people, ‘Go ahead. Continue your fight against occupation no matter what name they give you because we give you the name of courageous people who stand for the rights and we're standing with you.'"
The question was not whether he supported the Palestinians, but whether he condemned Hamas and suicide bombings.

Eighteen months later, at a joint conference sponsored by the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), El-Sayed had this to say (in mixed Arabic and English) about suicide bombers:

El-Sayed (Arabic): And about the subject unfairly named suicide bombers, homicide bombers, or murderers, or killers. Our answer to this issue is simple. To decide that this man is a martyr or not a martyr, it is a pure religious matter. Nobody who is not Muslim has any right to decide for us, we the Muslims, whose is a martyr or another. We as Muslims will decide that. It is in-house business.

The Islamic scholars said whenever there is an attack on an Islamic state or occupation, or the honor of the Muslims has been violated, the Jihad is a must for everyone, a child, a lady and a man. They have to make Jihad with every tool that they can get in their hand. Anything that they can get in their hand and if they don't have anything in their hand then they can fight with their hand without weapons.

In its June 2002 issue, MAS's official publication, the American Muslim, featured a question and answer section with the deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research. When asked about suicide bombings, Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi responded that "Martyr operations are not suicide and should not be deemed as unjustifiable means of endangering one's life."

But back to Omeish and his self-proclaimed non-violent support for "jihad." It includes going to bat in support a specific Hamas activist. Omeish wrote a letter in support of Abdelhaleem Ashqar, a Virginia-based Hamas activist convicted in Chicago last year of obstruction of justice and contempt of court, related to his activities in support of the terrorist group His sentencing is slated for later this year, and his attorneys have actively solicited letters to sway the judge. Omeish, for his part, wrote of Ashqar:

"Never at any time did I sense a radical tone and an extremist agenda in his words or actions. He has never and from what I saw can never aide or abet any terrorist or help finance any act of terror, simply because he does not believe in violence and extremism as a way to voice disenfranchisement or disagreement." (Emphasis added)

It was Ashqar who helped organize a secret 1993 gathering of Hamas members and supporters in Philadelphia. They gathered with the specific intent of finding ways to "derail" the new Oslo peace deal, which group members opposed because it left the state of Israel intact and threatened to marginalize the Islamist Hamas.

During the course of Ashqar's trial, prosecutors entered into evidence a 1993 wiretapped phone conversation between Ashqar and Hamas co-founder, Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, in which the two discussed a Hamas attack that day on Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped and then killed. Rantisi then told Ashqar that they had even taken the ID Cards of the two soldiers and both men began laughing.

Others have rallied to Omeish's side, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which also blasts any criticism of itself as an Islamophobic smear. CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Dallas terror-financing trial against the Holy Land for Relief and Development (HLF).

The trial has shone new light on CAIR's connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
CAIR issued a statement supporting Omeish, who it said resigned "after being subjected to what he called a ‘smear campaign' by anti-Islam bloggers and Muslim-bashers like Steven Emerson who distorted past comments he made about Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinian people and about ‘jihad.'"

Thankfully, and importantly for the Muslim community at large, not all Muslim leaders are on board with CAIR's (or MAS,' for that matter) specific "Islamic perspective," and they are willing to speak out against its extremism and pressure tactics. As reported in the Virginian Pilot:

Two leaders in South Hampton Road s' Muslim community said they approved of Kaine's action.
Omeish represented "an extremist point of view," said M. Sharif Hafiz, board chairman of the Islamic Center of Tidewater. "I don't subscribe to it," he said. "I am a tolerant, open-minded Muslim."

Imam Vernon M. Fareed of Masjid William Salaam mosque in Norfolk said Omeish's comments "seem out of place."

Fareed said he has met Kaine several times. "I perceive the governor as a person who is fair and who is inclusive with religious communities," he said.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy also spoke out against Omeish's CAIR-backed brand of extremism, issuing a release that stated, in part:

"Many of Dr. Omeish's statements and activities in the past have in fact been a manifestation of political Islam and his attempt to use the Muslim community as a tool in a specific Islamist political agenda. This not only violates the core principles of the separation of religion and politics, which is a cornerstone of our nation, but is in fact the main mechanism of influence of transnational Islamism. His public advocacy of 'jihad' in the Middle East by co-religionists implicitly via terrorist organizations like Hezbullah or HAMAS against Israel, an ally of the United States, should certainly highlight the toxicity of Islamism as a political ideology-- regardless of the ideological jujitsu one uses to define 'jihad'. This becomes especially concerning in an individual appointed to contribute to a more sound immigration policy because it begs the question: Will this appointee's point of view be one primarily of American nationalism and security first, or will it be one of transnational global Islamism?"

Omeish and his colleagues at MAS can continue to cry foul when their own words are broadcast publicly. And they can continue trying to spin the meaning of those words. It might just be their best strategy, and clearly some people fall for it. Telling the truth is clearly not an option. The proof is in the video tape.

Steven Emerson is the author of Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US.

On Magic and opening night of the E Street Band tour

Jimmy Guterman
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Jewels and Binoculars

"Devil's Arcade," the last song on Bruce Springsteen's just-released Magic, is one of his greatest-ever ballads, no small achievement. Intimate yet grand, engrossing and shattering, its story pivoting on the edge between life and death, its guitar as insistent and terrifying as the 4 a.m. cry of your own child, Springsteen's singing possessing an almost Astral Weeks-like intensity, "Devil's Arcade" is a song very much of the current political and military moment, but also as timeless as war itself. With Springsteen playing once again with The E Street Band, it's as powerful a piece of music as I've heard in years.

That awful beauty also separates "Devil's Arcade" from the rest of Magic. There are some strong tracks on the album (the nasty "Magic" and the worldly but hopeful "Long Walk Home"), but more than half of Magic feels tired, smooth, self-conscious, settling for the generic when it should be burrowing toward the specific. As with Springsteen's two previous albums, Magic is backward-looking. But whereas 2005's Devils and Dust rescued a handful of worthwhile decade-old compositions from the vault and last year's covers set We Shall Overcome showcased Springsteen's excitement as he discovered a new context, Magic feels overtly nostalgic. Its lead single, "Radio Nowhere," is the chief culprit. It's an unmistakable attempt to recapture a particular sound (the sound The E Street Band invented in the studio from 1979 to 1984), and it feels like someone returning home to find things have changed and he can't do anything about it. The topic is hardly new -- good bands were writing songs complaining that there was nothing to listen to on the radio as far back as the mid-'70s -- but here Springsteen just sounds petulant. He sounds, most of all, like an aging former multiplatinum rocker unhappy that he can't hear himself on the radio anymore. Contrast that with the bittersweet "Bobby Jean" (from Born in the U.S.A.), in which Springsteen imagines himself closer to a far-away friend because his friend can hear him on the radio. Bruce wants to be on the radio again, damn it (forget for a moment that there's no such thing as rock'n'roll radio anymore), and he's going to make a record that he thinks will get him back there.

So Springsteen stuffed Magic with more musical and lyrical connections to older songs than he'd ever allow on a record. Hey, self-referential cliches work for Bon Jovi. Nearly all Clarence Clemons's solos (even the sharp one over the fade of "Long Walk Home") bear a close resemblance to earlier ones, and some songs are pastiches of previous triumphs: "Livin' in the Future" is "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" meets "Out of Work," which Springsteen wrote for Gary U.S. Bonds during a previous recession. And the record just sounds a bit off, second-hand, without the rawness of Springsteen's previous record with the E Streeters, 2002's The Rising. Emotionally raw, I mean, not musically raw. Producer Brendan O'Brien, it seems, never found a musical edge he didn't want to sand smooth and buff up.

Still, even subpar Springsteen records have their charms. (The guitar solo at the end of "Human Touch," the title track of his 1992 dud, comes to mind.) Even on "Radio Nowhere," dismissed in the previous paragraph, you have the pleasure of listening to the Weinberg/Tallent rhythm section, as inevitable as the tides and a lot less predictable. Hearing these players lock in after so long together is, even on a bum cut, borderline thrilling. As they proved at the end of the Rising tour when Springsteen added Human Touch selections to the set, they can make mediocre songs sound better than they really are.

But as precise and reliable as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band can be in the studio, they do their best work on a concert stage. Magic feels like a record meant to be played live. And that's what sent me, on a school night even, down to Hartford for the kickoff night of the band's tour.

If you see a band on a long tour, either go very early in the tour or very late. Very early, they're still figuring out the set and some welcome surprises can emerge from the miscues. Very late, they're adding more and more surprises to keep themselves engaged. (Needless to say, the middle third usually produces the most professional and the least interesting shows.) Tonight's show in Hartford, after three open rehearsals in New Jersey, was the first bona fide full arena show, and a good place to see where the band is five years after it started its last major tour. The anticipation before such a show is still quite real, even for skeptics.

The two-hour-and-fifteen-minute show was, as with so many other official Springsteen/E Street opening night, mixed. It wasn't the near-train wreck of the Tunnel of Love Express opener in Worcester (would someone please explain that park bench to me?), but it was still a show in which the band members, particular Springsteen, were still feeling their way through the set. Lesser songs from Magic were played tougher than O'Brien let them in the studio ("Gypsy Biker" is developing a hard-headed rock'n'roll ending, as Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt trade brief guitar breaks), although even a vigorous take couldn't make sense out of the bipolar "Livin' in the Future." The performance, to start the single encore, of the pure-pop "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," was light and sweet, especially since the arena echo made the first-draft lyrics easier to ignore. "Devil's Arcade" was an intense highlight, but (like "Paradise" from The Rising) it may be too intimate to work in a hockey arena.

Most of the new songs did not garner a big audience response, probably because they're so new. (Magic was released officially the same day as the show.) But it was an unusual experience seeing an audience as a whole sit down for most of the
new songs, even the rockers (except, of course, for the floor, which was standing room only). I suspect this will change as more people hear the record. It won't change for "A Town Called Heartbreak," a song from Patti Scialfa's new album, sung as a duet, which provided the night's lull and will serve as the Senator Montoya moment for the tour if it stays in the set. (I was only 11 the summer of the Senate Watergate hearings, but I do remember that I could go to the bathroom when Senator
Montoya asked questions and not miss anything important.)

Some of the older songs felt old. "Darlington County," a deeply silly song, was put across with minimal silliness, and "The Promised Land" felt tired (although, to its credit, it was way less bloated than it's been on previous tours.) But, as you'd
expect from a band touring behind a not-great new record, most of the show's great moments came on older songs. "The Ties That Bind" featured a new melodic bass line from Garry Tallent and some sly, Emmylou Harris-esque harmonies from Scialfa. Springsteen played with his vocal and guitar phrasing on "Lonesome Day," which was one of many songs lifted by new Weinberg flourishes. "Reason to Believe" was a highlight, featuring a boogieing arrangement somewhere between ZZ Top and Springsteen's ZZ Top tribute "Seeds," an ace slide solo from Nils Lofgren, and, on the last verse, the return of the Devils and Dust tour bullet mic.

The five-song encore was particularly sturdy. The quarter-century-old "Thundercrack," only recently picked up by this version of the E Street Band, is as weird, eccentric, and enjoyable as always. Fellow long-time E Street Band concertgoers (likely the only people who have read this far) may appreciate this random note: During the song, bassist Tallent walked all the way to the edge of stage right, past Danny Federici's organ and Clemons's equipment, which is the farthest I've seen him walk from his usual spot next to the drum riser in 30 years of Springsteen concert-going. Tallent didn't only travel physically. Since 1975, he and Weinberg have been the core of this band, but tonight (maybe thanks to a bass-heavy arena mix) Tallent's balance of melody and rhythm was particularly notable. His injection of a few new runs into "Born to Run," which followed "Thundercrack," was one of many reasons why that old song still hasn't any rust on it. "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" felt like a benediction to send us into the night, but there was one more song, an E Streetified version of the Seeger Sessions tour finale "American Land." With Weinberg nearly battering his rack tom into smithereens, Federici and Roy Bittan playing dual accordions, and Clemons nearly mastering his pennywhistle, the band members took turns cracking each other up. It was a friendly, spirited way to end the night.

Two more comments before I end the night, which will soon be morning and I have to walk a second grader to school on Picture Day.

Since reuniting the E Street Band in the late 1990s, many of Springsteen's most worthwhile new songs have been about death: "Land of Hope and Dreams," "American Skin (41 Shots)," "The Rising," "Nothing Man," "You're Missing," and now "Devil's Arcade." Many before me have noted that death should be the subject of any artist. With this band, Springsteen is well-armed to battle the most difficult and inevitable of subjects.

This brings me to one related observation, which is that tonight's show felt to me as if it was a show about age. The show is shorter and less acrobatic than previous shows, and although Springsteen appears quite fit he did look like a man his age. During "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," he no longer hangs upside down on his mic stand. The show was not a Rolling Stones-style denial of age. Many of the songs on Magic are about age and the frustrations and sometimes wisdom it brings. And the show itself, without saying so, was about the aging of a magnificent band and its magnificent audience. The E Street Band played to their peers tonight. Springsteen has reached the point in his career that he no longer picks up casual fans who heard a recent single, say "Hungry Heart" or "Glory Days," and figured they'd check out the show. The fans at these shows tend to be lifers, people who have known the words to "Thundercrack" for decades. At its best, Magic and this tour appear to be honest about getting older, both the good and the bad, and offer the audience a shotgun seat to come along and find out how it all ends up. Onward!

(Thanks to Bill for the ride and the great company. Great to see you, Tim. Missed you a lot, Owen.)

Radio Nowhere/The Ties That Bind/Lonesome Day/Gypsy Biker/Magic/Reason to Believe/Night/She's the One/Livin' in the Future/The Promised Land/Town Called Heartbreak/Darkness on the Edge of Town/Darlington County/Devil's Arcade/The Rising/Last to Die/Long Walk Home/Badlands//Girls in Their Summer Clothes/Thundercrack/Born to Run/Waitin' on a Sunny Day/American Land