Friday, November 02, 2007

Ian O'Connor: Not Torre's finest hour

Bergen County Record

Friday, November 2, 2007

New York Yankees manager Joe Torre (R) speaks to a crowd at the U.S. Army Zama Camp as catcher Joe Girardi listens in Sagamihara, west of Tokyo, in this March 28, 2004 file photo.

NEW YORK -- Joe Torre must have used Scott Boras in his negotiations with the Dodgers. Four days after Alex Rodriguez upstaged the World Series, Torre pulled his old office rug out from under Joe Girardi, stealing the day before his former catcher could settle behind his former desk.

Six hours and 3,000 miles removed from Girardi's introduction at the Stadium, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti was on a conference call confirming that Torre had officially surrendered his martyrdom only two days after Grady Little's career was thrown from a roof.

Colletti allowed that he started speaking with Torre before Little's resignation. As it turned out, this transition was about as subtle as Pat Riley's hostile takeover of Stan Van Gundy's job in Miami.

Little's tale of personal reasons and mutual agreements is no more believable now than Van Gundy's was then. Torre has been forever celebrated in this column for his common decency and simple grace, but no, this wasn't his proudest hour.

To borrow a word Torre used in a Clueless Joe moment on David Letterman's show Monday night, the timing of his appointment was "suspicious."

On Letterman, Torre dismissed a report that he'd reached an agreement in principle with the Dodgers, and mocked the accuracy rate of your average daily paper. "Well, the Dodgers have a contract," Torre said, "I mean, a manager."

The Dodgers no longer had a manager the very next day.

Now they have a good one in 67-year-old Joe Torre, a four-time champ who signed a three-year deal worth $13 million, a significant upgrade on the one-year, $5 million guarantee the Yankees offered him for a 13th season, an incentives-laced bid Torre called "an insult."

It didn't look quite so insulting after reports surfaced in The New York Times and on detailing the incentives in Torre's previous contracts.

Whatever. The Yankees still should've offered Torre a two-year deal; he'd earned that much. But Torre's decision to reject the one-year contract could be viewed through an entirely different prism if he already had an inkling that greener grass was waiting out West.

Asked if the Dodgers had any contact with Torre between the Yankees' AL Division Series loss to Cleveland and their manager's fateful plane ride to Tampa, Colletti said, "Zero."

Zero had a short shelf life. Soon enough, the two sides were breaking bread.

"So you really want to get back into something like this when you have the opportunity to probably do different things?" Colletti would ask Torre.

The Brooklyn-born Giants fan looked Colletti in the eye.

"There's no doubt in my mind what I want to do and where I want to do it," Torre told him.

Yes, they met face to face, and yes, Torre also found time to sit down with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. Colletti estimated that the organization's talks with Torre opened "four days ago, maybe," which would've been Sunday, the day A-Rod checked into Game 4 of the World Series by checking out of the Bronx.

It was also a day when Grady Little remained in the Dodgers' employ.

"In respect to Grady," Colletti said of his candidate for a job that wasn't open, "[Torre] just wanted to know what the thought process was and where we were at. And I laid it out to him exactly the way it was."

Colletti said he entered his talks with Torre "probably more curious than hopeful." At the end of the first round, the Dodgers GM said, "I was more hopeful than curious."

Torre made it clear he absolutely wanted the job.

"Having grown up in Brooklyn," Torre said in a statement Thursday, "I have a great understanding of the history of the Dodger organization and I am committed to bringing a world championship back to Los Angeles. I consider it an honor to be a part of this organization, which is one of the most storied franchises in all of sports."

Maybe Little would've been forced out even if Torre told the Dodgers thanks, but no thanks. Or maybe Colletti would've surveyed a thin field of replacements, realized that the two men he wanted – Girardi and Torre, apparently in that order – were off the board, and decided that Little deserved one more shot at healing his fractured clubhouse.

Either way, Torre should've told the Dodgers the following: I can't talk to you unless and until your manager's job is open. The same goes for Girardi, by the way.

Even if that isn't the way business is often done in big league sports anymore, that's the way honorable men should conduct themselves. How did Torre feel when last year George Steinbrenner all but sent Lou Piniella to his favorite tailor to get sized for pinstripes?

Grady Little? As Boston's manager, he thought he'd seen enough of Torre by the close of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. But this one had to hurt. Bud Selig didn't even force the Dodgers to interview a minority candidate. Nobody wanted to slow the Torre train to Tinseltown.

Joe Cool will be bringing along Don Mattingly, and Colletti might as well have named him Torre's successor. The idea of grooming a replacement for a man of Torre's age, Colletti said, "was one of the key components to [the deal]."

Who knows, maybe A-Rod isn't far behind. His agent, Boras, surely has to be impressed with Torre's work in L.A. so far.

On Girardi's big day in the Bronx, his former manager upstaged him. Joe Torre didn't handle the end of Little's reign any better than the Yankees handled the end of his.

Robert Spencer: Most Muslims Reject Terrorism?

Robert Spencer

Friday, November 02, 2007

The controversy over Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week largely centered around the spurious charge that the term “Islamo-Fascism” itself defames all Muslims by suggesting that they are fascists, or support terrorism. Of course, this charge rests on the illogical premise that “Islamo-Fascism” is somehow a different kind of term from “white racism” or “Italian fascism,” which no one has ever taken to suggest that all whites are racists or all Italians fascists. But the real core of the problem is that a discussion of Islamic jihad terrorism and Islamic supremacism in general is supposed to be somehow offensive to the great majority of Muslims who are loyal, patriotic citizens of their respective countries and abhor terrorism.

There is no reason why it should be offensive. What’s more, survey after survey reveals that the attachment of these groups to the global jihad is generally stronger than most analysts assume it to be. In January 2007, columnist Michael Freund summed up some disquieting recent survey results: 25% of Muslims in Britain approved of the July 7, 2005 jihad terror bombings in London; 30% said they would rather live under Sharia than in a Western pluralistic society. 44% of Muslims in Nigeria thought suicide attacks were “often” or “sometimes” justified, with only 28% rejecting them in all cases. Roughly 14% of Muslims in France, Britain and Spain approved of suicide attacks against civilian targets, and only 45% of Muslims in Egypt considered terror never justified.

And in an Al-Jazeera survey on September 11, 2006, 49.9% of the respondents avowed that they did indeed support Osama bin Laden. Freund adds: “And the July 2006 global Pew survey found that among Muslims, a quarter of Jordanians, a third of Indonesians, 38% of Pakistanis and 61% of Nigerians all expressed confidence in the mass murderer who founded al-Qaida.”
Freund also notes that “in Israel, the percentages are even more alarming. After Cpl. Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas terrorists last summer, a poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center revealed that 77.2% of Palestinians supported the kidnapping, while 66.8% said they would back additional such attacks. More than six out of 10 Palestinians also said they were in favor of firing Kassam rockets at Israeli towns and cities….” And in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, “the Beirut Center for Research and Information found that over 80% of the Lebanese population said they supported Hizbullah.”

Some of the results of the Pew Research Center poll of Muslims in America, released in May 2007, were likewise startling: twenty-six percent of Muslims between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine affirmed that there could be justification in some (unspecified) circumstances for suicide bombing, and five percent of all the Muslims surveyed said that they had a favorable view of Al-Qaeda. Given the Pew Center’s estimate of 2.35 million Muslims in America, and the total of thirteen percent that avowed a belief that suicide bombings could ever be justified, that’s over 180,000 supporters of suicide attacks (subtracting the number of children).

Poll results are no better elsewhere. Much was made in the international media of a July 2007 Pew Research Center of attitudes among Muslims in 47 countries. AP reported that “the percentage of Jordanian Muslims who have confidence in bin Laden as a world leader fell 36 percentage points to 20 percent since 2003 while the proportion who say suicide bombing is sometimes or always justified dropped 20 percent points to 23 percent. Other countries where support for bin Laden declined are Lebanon, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan and Kuwait.” Support for suicide attacks dropped sharply in Lebanon, from 79 percent in 2002 to 34 percent in 2007, and in Pakistan from 41 percent in 2004 to only nine percent in 2007. Among Palestinians it remained high, with only six percent affirming that suicide attacks could never be justified.

These declines are encouraging, but the percentages approving of people and practices we have been endlessly told appeal only to a “tiny minority of extremists” are still uncomfortably high. Clearly the Islamic jihad being waged today by Osama bin Laden and his compatriots all over the globe has great appeal among Muslims, and as bin Laden and other jihadists consistently portray themselves as the pure Muslims who are practicing the true Islam, it is clear that that portrayal is convincing to all too many. For these percentages of approval to drop definitively, peaceful Muslims would have to mount comprehensive efforts to counter the jihad ideology of Islamic supremacism within mosques and Islamic schools all over the Muslim world as well as in the West.

But no one has made any effort to do that.

Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of seven books, eight monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Religion of Peace?.

Film Review: "Bee Movie"

DreamWorks Animation/Paramount
Barry B. Benson, left, a daring bee with the voice of Jerry Seinfeld.

A Drone No More: No Hive for Him!

The New York Times
Published: November 2, 2007

Bees rarely fly in a straight line. They hover and zigzag, with a purpose known only to the collective brain of the hive. The most genuinely apian aspect of “Bee Movie,” DreamWorks’ new animated movie about, well, bees, is that it spends a lot of its short running time buzzing happily around, sniffing out fresh jokes wherever they may bloom. There is a plot — the usual big, elaborate story with the usual important messages about saving the planet, living together in interspecies harmony and believing in yourself — but it’s a little beside the point. The real fun is the insect shtick.

The DreamWorks Animation formula, exemplified in the mighty “Shrek” franchise (and imitated by would-be rivals at Sony and Fox), is to charm the children with cute creatures and slapstick action while jabbing at the grown-ups with soft, pseudosophisticated pop- cultural satire. “Bee Movie,” directed by Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner and animated by several hundred industrious drones, pushes this strategy almost to the point of dispensing with the kid stuff altogether.

There are a few splendid cartoon set pieces — including a funny, thrilling bee’s-eye tour of New York, from Central Park flora to the surface of a tennis ball to the inside of a speeding car — that show off the latest computer animation techniques. But most of the film’s creative energy is verbal rather than visual, and semimature rather than strictly juvenile.

Which is hardly surprising. As everyone knows by now, the leading man (and one of the screenwriters and producers) is Jerry Seinfeld, whose sitcom, almost a decade off the network air, lives on in syndication and in the endless recycling of memorable one-liners by a certain type of pathetic Gen-Xer. (Not me, though. I’m the complete opposite of every film critic you’ve ever met. I’m the master of my domain.)

Mr. Seinfeld provides the voice and attitude for Barry B. Benson, a young bee who has reached the stage in his accelerated bug lifestyle when he must choose a career. The hive where he lives is a highly regimented place, where the bees, conditioned by 27 million years of evolution, work without a break in the same job for their whole lives. Visually, this world resembles a sweet, sunny, corporate version of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis.”

Barry’s nerdy pal, Adam (Matthew Broderick), accepts his drone future as part of the natural order of things, but Barry is a maverick, an individualist yearning to break out of the conformist world of the social insects.

He may also remind some viewers of Benjamin Braddock, the alliteratively named hero of “The Graduate,” a film that “Bee Movie” cites in a few amusing scenes. Not that Barry has an affair with a middle-aged mama bee (all bees are children of the queen, a biological fact the film notes only in passing). Instead he flies even farther from the nest, so to speak, falling in love with an actual human being, a Manhattan florist named Vanessa who speaks in the irresistibly sweet voice of Renée Zellweger.

When you stop to think about it, the prospect of romance between a bee and a person raises some potentially awkward, not to say physiologically outlandish, questions. But of course you’re not supposed to think about it. The moral of the story — one of them, anyway — is that we and the bees are interdependent and that we should respect their hard work.

This lesson is satirically driven home in a courtroom plot that erupts just as the love story starts to get sticky. When Barry discovers that honey is sold in supermarkets, and that it is harvested from captive bees held in smoky, shoddy fake hives, he sues the human race, going after some of its notorious bee abusers. These include Ray Liotta, who sells his own brand of honey, and Sting, whose name is obviously offensive to bees. (Both celebrities make cameo voice appearances, as does Larry King, playing a character called Bee Larry King. It’s funnier than it sounds. Or maybe it’s exactly as funny as it sounds.)

Even when playing an animated bee, Mr. Seinfeld does not demonstrate great emotional range. His comfort zone as a performer ranges from peeved to perplexed to moderately psyched, with occasional bursts of obvious exaggeration to indicate that he is at least aware that more intense states of feeling exist. But his detachment works in the movie’s favor by defusing its sentimental impulses.

Perhaps because of its star’s background in stand-up comedy, “Bee Movie” makes overt a conceit that is usually left implicit in animal-kingdom cartoons, namely that species is the cartoon version of ethnicity. Barry and his tribe are not just bees. They identify as “Beeish” — I’m sure “Benson” was something else back in the old country — and worry about their children dating wasps. On his travels Barry meets a mosquito who speaks in the voice of Chris Rock and who refers to his despised and misunderstood brethren as “bloods.”

These riffs on identity politics, a durable if sometimes risky source of humor in American pop culture, give “Bee Movie” an extra fillip of comic vitality — the hint of a sting, if you will, in an otherwise soft and fuzzy entertainment.

“Bee Movie” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). A few scary moments and mild hints about, er, the birds and the bees.

Bee Movie

Opens today nationwide.

Directed by Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner; written by Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder and Andy Robin; head of character animation, Fabio Lignini; edited by Nick Fletcher; music by Rupert Gregson-Williams; production designer, Alex McDowell; produced by Mr. Seinfeld and Christina Steinberg; released by Paramount Pictures. Running time: 100 minutes.

WITH THE VOICES OF: Jerry Seinfeld (Barry B. Benson), Renée Zellweger (Vanessa), Matthew Broderick (Adam Flayman), John Goodman (Layton T. Montgomery), Chris Rock (Mooseblood), Patrick Warburton (Ken), Larry King (Bee Larry King), Ray Liotta (himself) and Sting (himself).

'American Gangster': A Direct Hit

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 2, 2007; Page C01

In "American Gangster," time doesn't fly, it explodes.

The thing is 2 1/2 hours long; it feels like 40 minutes.

Whether it's the next great American crime movie or simply this year's professional stunner will be determined over the next few months. For now, it's enough to say that the story of the rise and fall of an African American drug kingpin is relentlessly told by the English director Ridley Scott ("Gladiator," "Black Hawk Down"); it just keeps on coming.

Starring Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas, a beneath-the-radar Harlem heroin impresario who puts together an astonishing organization before anyone notices, and Russell Crowe as Richie Roberts, the Jersey detective who tracks him, the movie has the aspirations of a crime-and-punishment epic, a superb feel for time and milieu and an almost subliminal feel for myth.

"Is this the end of Rico?" "I ain't so tough." "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse." These iconic lines are from the tradition in which "American Gangster" hopes to find its way. "Either you're somebody or you ain't nobody" seems to be the line it dreams will live forever.

The movie begins by evoking the classic old gangster Bumpy Johnson (dead-eyed Clarence Williams III), the numbers king of Harlem who outlived Dutch Schultz and Lucky Luciano and by the mid-60s was the criminal Yoda of the rough terrain above 125th Street, a bitter old cynic who complained to his driver about the profligacy and the lack of dignity and self-discipline of today's generation of criminals. His driver, just up from North Carolina, was Frank Lucas, and he listened hard and well. When his turn came, he insisted that his organization's minions be low-key, steely-eyed, well-dressed, un-flamboyant. They may have carried .45s but they dressed Brooks Brothers. Frank himself could shoot a competitor in the head, then cross the street and eat breakfast, confident that his sedate coat and tie would shield him from the attention of police investigators who hassled guys with bling around their necks.

Frank had a gimmick. He had a cousin, a well-connected career NCO in Southeast Asia (the war haunts the movie, it should be noted), and via that connection was able to smuggle in pure Chinese-grown smack (Ric Young does a memorable job in brief scenes as an oleaginous Kuomintang generalissimo in the highlands of Thailand). His junk is better and cheaper than anything on the streets and soon enough, by the physics of the market, he controls the streets. The Mafia (repped by Armand Assante dressed in the fashion of Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) has to come to him ! And who opposes him? Hardly the New York Police Department, portrayed as so totally corrupt that the cops are only too eager to keep the drugs flowing as a way to subsidize summer homes in Florida, which dovetails neatly with other period films like "Serpico" and "Prince of the City."

Only one man rises to the challenge. That is Crowe's Richie, complete with Popeye Doyle's scrubby wardrobe and a Jersey accent that sounds like it came from Hoboken out of Perth Amboy. Richie is famously honest, and in Newark he marks himself off from all cops for all time by the simple act of turning in a million bucks he recovered from the back of a mob Cadillac. Big mistake, Richie: No cop in the Newark of the early '60s would work with a guy they knew was tainted by the disease of honesty. So when Richie calls for backup, guess who shows up: nobody. Like Serpico, he goes through the doors alone.

After years of isolation, Richie finally gets a chance to jump to the Feds -- in an early iteration of the Drug Enforcement Administration -- and heads a task force to take down the Harlem heroin lord. But first he has to get a serious enemy out of the way: the New York City Police Department.

Scott, working from a brilliant script by Steven Zaillian ("Schindler's List" among his many other A-list projects), plays the two stories off each other so adroitly that we don't notice that the two antagonists, though defined by the parallel cutting and equal screen time as well as the charisma of the stars, aren't even aware of each other until the movie's second half, and never eyeball each other until the last 20 minutes.

And yet that's not bad, that's good, that's even the heart of the movie's brilliance. Scott gets so much right that it's easy to ignore the singular brilliance of the movie, which is that it gets its star management right. By that I mean Scott and Zaillian are aware of (and dependent upon) the charisma of the stars as they build toward their fated collision. Yet they're also aware that, like so many a gangster movie before, we're secretly in awe of the nominal "bad guy" and that in any case, the rules of movie stardom far outweigh the rules of social morality, at least in the sepulcher of the theater. Thus, while we disapprove of Frank, we don't want to see him destroyed; we want to see him bond with Richie in a way that salvages his soul, destroys a true enemy and send us out on a high note. We want, within the world of chaos, greed and ambition that marks the gangster genre, a happy ending. This is what Scott and Zaillian and Washington and Crowe give us.

Washington is brilliant. He makes sense of a man who could move his mother into a mansion and love the joy on her face, and yet coldly place a Browning 9mm against a competitor's forehead and reply to the question "What are you going to do, Frank, shoot me in front of all these people?" by shooting him in front of all those people. Washington seems to have a secret mechanism by which he turns his face off; it goes from a vibrant, expressive projection of humanity and empathy to a stone-killer executioner's mask so fast it's scary. He makes you fear Frank.

Yet he also makes you love Frank. That's the key to the thing, the charisma of the man who triumphs over the system. And so identified with this theme is "American Gangster" that its other hero, Richie, is also defined as an outsider. The movie seems to be saying: When the inside is so corrupt, you must turn to outsiders.

Does it over-glamorize a man who, after all, sold people drugs for money and their souls, and lived high while they bottomed out in the gutter and were found in the thousands with needle tracks, scabs and hepatitis B in cold Harlem alleyways? In a word: yes.

But that is not its decision alone, it's also ours -- as a society, as a culture, as a civilization we're complicit in the promotion of deviance to heroism. That figure -- the dope dealer, the seller of the Sportin' Life with his powders and his escapes -- has moved from pariah to rock star over the years.

Wishing it weren't so isn't going to make it go away.

American Gangster (157 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for violence, pervasive drug content, profanity, nudity and sexuality.

Girardi Will Wear Goal on His Back: No. 27

The New York Times
Published: November 2, 2007

The mission statement is summarized in the two numerals that will follow Joe Girardi wherever he goes. The uniform number of the Yankees’ new manager is 27, and the reason is rhetorical.

Barton Silverman/The New York Times
Joe Girardi took some pains not to promise instant improvement in the Yankees’ fortunes.

“How many have they won?” Girardi said, knowing that the answer is 26. Joe Torre finished the last seven seasons of his tenure by chasing a 27th title in vain, and now it is Girardi’s turn.

On the day Torre was officially named as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Girardi was welcomed at Yankee Stadium, where the marquee announced his arrival as the club’s 32nd manager.

The Dodgers chased Girardi before signing Torre, and deep down, the Yankees might have preferred him, too. Although they wanted Torre to accept their one-year contract for a guaranteed $5 million, the Yankees are thrilled to be reunited with Girardi, their former catcher, for three years and $7.8 million.

“There’s a great deal of trust we’ve put in his hands,” said General Manager Brian Cashman, who recommended Girardi over Don Mattingly and Tony Peña. Cashman is entering the final year of his contract, and he needs the 27th championship as much as Girardi.

But spotting a quick fix for a team that now stumbles in October was not why Cashman chose Girardi. Mattingly had more history with ownership, and Peña has more managerial experience. Cashman said he simply believed in Girardi, whom he sees as a vital conduit between the baseball operations department and the clubhouse.

Cashman spoke hopefully of Girardi one day taking part in the Yankees’ instructional league or visiting their academy in the Dominican Republic. Torre, for his part, was so detached that he was usually the only manager in the majors who did not attend the winter meetings.

Yet Torre called Cashman after every game, no matter where the Yankees were playing, and the two had a strong bond. Although they disagreed on some moves last season, especially the use of the bullpen, Cashman usually knew what Torre was thinking before they talked.

“I look forward to having the same kind of relationship with Joe, because that’s what I need,” Cashman said, adding, “I can’t imagine a situation where the G.M. and the manager don’t communicate.”

Actually, Cashman does not have to look far. Girardi was fired by the Florida Marlins after the 2006 season over differences with the front office. Selected by the owner, Jeffrey Loria, Girardi never had the backing of General Manager Larry Beinfest, who criticized his communication skills.

Cashman said things would be different with the Yankees, because Girardi has been a player, a bench coach and a broadcaster for the team.

In his season as the bench coach, Girardi saw how Torre and Cashman interacted.

“I wanted to line up somebody that worked within our structure and understands our structure, because there’s growing pains with every new relationship,” Cashman said.

“So, hopefully, growing pains won’t really exist, because Joe’s worked here.”

Another note of caution is Girardi’s handling of young pitchers. Three rookies from his Florida rotation — Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Aníbal Sánchez — sustained major arm injuries last season. Cashman was not specific, but he said he was “very comfortable with the knowledge of what went on in Florida.”

Two coaches from Girardi’s Marlins staff — Bobby Meacham, the third-base coach; and Mike Harkey, the bullpen coach — will be with him in New York. Other coaches will be Peña, the Yankees’ first-base coach; Kevin Long, the hitting coach; Dave Eiland, the pitching coach; and Rob Thomson, the bench coach.

It was Cashman, not Girardi, who confirmed the makeup of the staff, pending the completion of contract talks.

Girardi has a reputation for not sharing much information, a sharp contrast to the voluble and folksy Torre.

Yet when the subject turned to his feelings, Girardi was more revealing. Like Torre, he has always exhibited a certain humanity that has made him highly respected wherever he has been.

In his second tour with the Chicago Cubs, in 2002, Girardi made the tearful announcement to the Wrigley Field crowd that there would be no game because of a tragedy. A pitcher on the opposing team, Darryl Kile, had been found dead in his hotel room.

“Joe showed emotion in his sadness for a friend,” said Don Baylor, who was the Cubs’ manager at the time. “If you have a heart, all of your players are pretty much your family.”

Girardi promised to call each of the Yankees players as he gets to know his new baseball family. His actual family includes a father in Chicago who has Alzheimer’s disease.

Girardi said his father had not spoken in a month until his nurse showed him a picture of him as the Yankees’ manager. “Oh, yeah,” Jerry Girardi said.

“This,” his son said yesterday, “means a lot to our family.”

Bob Raissman: Michael Kay rips Joe Torre, but not on YES Network
Friday, November 2nd 2007, 4:00 AM

Why was Michael Kay treading lightly on Alex Rodriguez and jolly-stomping Joe Torre? That is the question a caller to Kay's ESPN-1050 Tuesday soiree asked.

The inquiry agitated Mr. Kay.

"There are things about Joe Torre, if I wanted to come out and say, would show how cold and calculated he really is," Kay fumed. "... Joe Torre is for Joe Torre. ... The graveyard of Yankees coaches is loaded with bones of coaches Joe Torre did nothing about."

As the former Yankees manager departs for Lipstick City to manage the Dodgers, it's certain Kay won't be shedding any tears. Nor will he be receiving an invitation to a Torre Bon Voyage party. Through Torre's 12-year Yankees career, Torre and Kay - it is fair to say - were not on the same page.

Still, in his role as TV play-by-play voice of the Bombers on the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, Kay never labeled Torre as selfish, or even hinted he tanked when it was time to stand up for one of his coaches. If Kay felt so strongly about this, why didn't he offer the information as either opinion - or fact - during a Yankees telecast?

Stop laughing. While Torre was managing the Yankees to 12 straight playoff trips - and four World Series titles - there would be no criticizing, and very limited second-guessing, the manager on YES.

Any stabbing was done behind Torre's back. The "truth" - or any particular broadcaster's version of it - is not a priority to the stooges running Al Yankzeera.

Their thing is more about increasing the value of YES, and covering their own backsides, than producing quality baseball telecasts.

Anyway, while Kay was yacking about Torre's "graveyard" of mistreated Yankees coaches, he failed to mention how George Steinbrenner tried to "bury" Don Zimmer alive when he instructed Al Yank executive producer John Filippelli to never put Torre's bench coach on camera.

This was just one way Yankees suits - through their YES puppets - were able to annoy Torre, even when he was riding high. There were also those infamous planted questions - delivered by Suzyn (Georgie Girl) Waldman and Kimberly Jones - during the manager's postgame press conferences.

Judging by the totally Twinkie treatment Joe Girardi received from YES yesterday at his introductory press conference, the Yankees' new manager should not be concerned with any covert interference from the propaganda machine.

Girardi worked at the network last season. He now owns an Al Yank diploma. Does anyone really think his former booth buddies (some of whom he played with) are going to offer an honest analysis of his managerial skills, especially if the Bombers don't get off to a fast start?

It may be up to Girardi to gather his former TV mates in spring training and say, "Boys, I understand the job, do what you have to do." Honest encouragement, albeit the kind that conflicts with YES' current singular mission: Offer such extreme Girardi hype that fans' memories of Torre will eventually fade.

This is why, during YES' coverage of Girardi's coronation, neither Kay or Bob Lorenz asked the new manager about his fractured relationship with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and the Florida front office.

Nor did they inquire (most everyone else has) about Josh Johnson's arm injury. And they didn't even ask Girardi about his rather strange encounter with respected Marlins broadcaster (and former Yankees radio voice) Tommy Hutton in the Marlins players' lounge.

Instead, Kay and Lorenz went Charmin with questions such as: "What was it like putting the pinstripes on?" Or, "Will you bring some National League style (managing) to the Yankees?"

Even before Girardi hit the podium, Kay was selling the man's "unbelievable" broadcasting work ethic. Kay would have everyone believe that Girardi prepared for telecasts like no other TV analyst currently working in the major leagues. That's hard to prove, but it does help build Girardi's image.

And if anyone, while pumping up Girardi, can cast aspersions on Torre, well, that's cool, too. The tone was already set by Hank (Boy George) Steinbrenner, who was clearly speaking for the organization when he labeled Torre an ingrate. This was after St.Joe copped an attitude while rejecting the Yankees' final offer.

That was also the day the door opened to hire Girardi. Yesterday, the process of building him into the next Yankees managing legend began in earnest.

Joe Torre? Now, he's a non-person.

Only on YES.

Bill Plaschke: McCourt and Colletti still have work to do

If the Dodgers don't significantly improve their roster, Joe Torre will be little more than a gaudy trinket.

Los Angeles Times

November 2 2007

Hiring Joe Torre to manage the Dodgers is like hanging a masterpiece in a tool shed, installing leather seats in a jalopy, buying designer shoes for a dog.

Joe Torre is a wonderful, dramatic, once-in-a-lifetime gem.

But if the Dodgers don't significantly improve their roster, he'll be little more than a gaudy trinket.

Those who need proof need only to look at the current plight of the other Hall of Fame coach in town.

Phil Jackson sitting on the Lakers' bench these days is like Mt. Rushmore plopped in the middle of a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Torre is Jackson without the smugness. He is Pete Carroll with a couple of more championships. He is Mike Scioscia with more seniority. He is Ben Howland with less rancor.

Torre is lacking only one asset, and that is time. He is 67 years old. He has a career window no larger than his three-year contract.

The Dodgers wanted the younger guy, first chasing Joe Girardi in obvious hopes that he can grow with the kids.

They could have sold us on a long-term plan with Girardi. Life would have been cheaper and easier with Girardi.

But Girardi chose the Yankees, the Dodgers snapped up a guy with a much shorter shelf life, and now everything has changed.

No more slow growth. No more hand holding. Torre is not a nice lot in a burgeoning suburb, he's a $13-million ocean-view, cliff-side property who needs to be enjoyed -- now -- before it erodes gently into the sea.

The Dodgers made a smart move in hiring him; they would be really dumb in trivializing him.

Not that they need to give him the talent of the New York Yankees. We're talking about the National League here, remember?

They only need to give him enough talent to be the best of the mediocre, then allow him to guide them to October.

At the end of last season, even mediocre was a leap, with the Dodgers unable to cope with teams that were younger (Arizona), thinner (Colorado) and more unsettled (San Diego).

That leap is a new third baseman. It's a veteran outfielder who is not 50 years old and who can actually throw the ball. It's a starting pitcher. It's a decent backup catcher.

Memo to owner Frank McCourt: When calculating team payroll, managers don't count.

Memo to Ned Colletti: Your window is even smaller than Torre's.

"[Torre] gave me no indication that he had any concerns as to the type of club that there is currently," Colletti said.

Don't bet your job on it, Ned.

Who do you think will have McCourt's ear? It's the guy with the rings.

Who do you think will take the fall if Torre fails, particularly after the ham-handed way in which Colletti forced out Grady Little? Not the guy with the rings.

Believe it or not, the national view of the Dodgers front office in the last few days could have been even worse.

The slam-dunk nature of Torre's hiring overshadowed the odd fact that baseball officials gave the Dodgers an exemption from interviewing a minority candidate for the job.

Shouldn't Jackie Robinson's franchise always make it a priority to interview a minority?

This no longer seems to be his franchise. These are no longer the legendary Dodgers of Joe Torre's youth.

Without a postseason series victory in 20 years, the Dodgers had become irrelevant on the national sports landscape. When folks talk about Southern California baseball, they are talking about the Angels.

Joe Torre makes the Dodgers relevant again. He gives them a national presence again.

He will do wonders for the career of Russell Martin, catcher taking care of catcher, the way Torre took care of Jorge Posada.

He could make a star out of James Loney, much the way his calm nature helped make a star out of Derek Jeter.

He will be great for the confused bullpen, every man given a single role, every single night, Beimel to Broxton to Saito in the manner of Stanton to Nelson to Rivera.

He will prop up Rafael Furcal, stare down Jeff Kent (if he returns), fill his bench with Torre-type veterans in the manner of Luis Sojo and Jim Leyritz.

Who knows what he will do with Matt Kemp? If he and his veteran coaching staff can reach this marvelously talented but tough-to-coach kid, maybe he can stay. But if Kemp is the one piece who can bring in the big hitter, he's gone.

Whatever Torre's task, Torre's history is clear, his pedigree is established, his actions predictable.

It's the McCourt Dodgers that should scare you.

What if Alex Rodriguez agrees to join Torre if the Dodgers can match his best offer, but McCourt can't do it?

What if Colletti concocts a couple of expensive trades but McCourt, as he reportedly did last summer, kills the deals because he doesn't want to give up the cheaper kids?

When exactly did Colletti first interview Torre?

"Two days ago . . . less than a week . . . four days," Colletti said Thursday.

You see what I mean?

Joe Torre has spent a career giving straight answers.

The Dodgers haven't given one in a week.

When Torre steps to the podium at Chavez Ravine on Monday for his formal introductions, a throwback professional appropriately joining the Dodgers for their 50th year Los Angeles anniversary, a thick, sweet sense of hope will fill the building.

Hope that Frank McCourt and Ned Colletti don't blow it.

Bill Plaschke can be reached at To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mark Shea: Some Thoughts on Motu Proprio Mania
November 1, 2007

I am gratified that the long-awaited motu proprio from Pope Benedict, urging a wider celebration of the Tridentine Rite, is out. I’m happy for those, including my son, who love to worship in that way. More power to ’em. Some of the loveliest Catholics I know are devotees of the Tridentine Rite.

That said, I was not personally excited when news of the motu proprio broke, since it doesn’t especially affect me. I attend a Paul VI Mass that is reverently celebrated by the Dominicans of Blessed Sacrament parish in Seattle. My attitude toward liturgy is “Just give me my lines and my blocking.” I then endeavor to learn and forget about them in precisely the same way I endeavor to break in my shoes. The point of shoes is not to notice them, but to walk in them. Shoes you constantly notice are Bad Shoes. Liturgy you focus on is liturgy that’s not doing its job, which is to refer us to God, not to itself.

Now there are two basic reasons people focus on liturgy instead of God, just as there are two reasons a person will focus on his shoes.

The first reason is that the shoes hurt. Lord knows that, in a time of widespread liturgical abuse, people have been hurt by badly celebrated liturgy, and I empathize with those who have. Many have suffered from self-styled “progressives” who regard the Paul VI Rite as their personal playground and laboratory. Worse, they have treated the Tridentine Rite and those who attend it as throwbacks to some imagined Dark Ages. In place of the authentic Paul VI Mass, many Catholics have had to endure a perpetual Feast of St. Narcissus celebrated by Fr. Heylookatme at what Amy Welborn has aptly called the “Church of Aren’t We Fabulous.” Instead of the worship of God, we get perpetual hymns such as the execrable “Anthem” celebrating our Usness, affirming us in our okayness, and glorifying our wonderfulness for being kind enough to admit God into those parts of our lives where we feel comfortable with Him. The notion among such “progressives” often seems to be that the Mass isn’t enough. They appear to think that people who come for the Christ Who is present in Word and Sacrament have to be bludgeoned into a sort of plastic bonhomie with glad-handing and yuk-it-up homilies about sports and TV shows. The phoniness of such “community-building” experiments on the lab rats in the pews can be awfully wearying for those who have lives and who do not require that the Mass be transformed into a Kiwanis Club meeting in order for them to be socially fulfilled. We like our commandments in the proper order: Love God, then neighbor.

That’s one of the reasons for the motu proprio, to try to give succor to those injured by dreadful abuses of the Paul VI Rite. I wish fans of the Tridentine Rite well in finding a Mass that is reverently celebrated and in receiving redress for legitimate grievances about real abuses, just as I hope the man with painful shoes will soon get new and comfortable shoes—so that both can get on with the business of walking with God.

But I also note that there is another reason some people become focused on their shoes, or the liturgy: oversensitivity. Some people are hypochondriacs who imagine injury where there is none or who grossly exaggerate small irritations into great big ones. Did the priest hold the Host high enough during the Consecration? Is that person dressed in a way I think fitting for Mass? I can’t bear altar girls! Those people held hands during the Our Father! There’s a parish “renewal” program in the bulletin—I wonder what that’s supposed to mean? I see they’ve added that 15th Station of the Cross. That tells me all I need to know about this place.

Some people become so inflamed over such matters that they sacrifice the love of neighbor on the altar of liturgical correctness. Some can even reach the point where they regard those who attend the Paul VI Mass—even a reverently celebrated one—as second-class Catholics. I know this, because I’ve been on the receiving end of such judgments repeatedly. When I’ve stated that I believe the Mass is the Mass is the Mass and so I’m content with either the Tridentine or Paul VI liturgies, I’ve been asked by Tridentine enthusiasts, “Is a Black Mass a Mass also?” (Talk about telegraphing contempt!) I’ve been told repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that the only reason I like the Paul VI Rite is that I don’t know any better, am still a Protestant at heart, or need to have exposure to the true Mass, which is vastly more nourishing to the soul than the pathetic desiccated “Novus Ordo.”

When I reply that I have been exposed to the Tridentine Rite and offer my chief impression from the experience (“Ah! Now I see why they wanted to reform the liturgy!”), there are frowns of disdain. Now, I don’t mean that I think the Tridentine Rite “inferior” any more than I think the Paul VI Rite inferior. I think my proper response to the Mass is gratitude, not a critical spirit. But, speaking only for me, I find the Paul VI Mass more spiritually nourishing (though any liturgy promulgated by the Church is good enough for me).

For this sin of believing and professing that any approved liturgy of the Church is good enough for me and that it’s not my job to find fault but to receive gratefully, I’m told that what I’m really saying is “it is all about me and what the liturgy does or doesn’t do for me.” In that marvelous “heads we win, tails you lose” arrangement, I am supposed to feel the superiority of the Tridentine Rite, and if I don’t feel it, it’s because I’m selfishly putting my feelings ahead of the TRUTH, which is fully expressed by the feelings of Tridentine Rite fans.

I don’t think those who prefer the Tridentine Rite are, for that reason, either better or worse Catholics than those who are at home in the Paul VI Rite. Nor do I regard the Mass as something we are commissioned by Christ to weigh in the balance and find wanting. To be sure, I dislike liturgical abuses, whether they be the apocryphal clown Mass or the five-minute Tridentine Hunting Masses of European nobility (in which the Mass was sped along at light speed so m’lord could get on with his fox-hunting expedition). But I don’t throw the babe out with the bath and say that, because the Paul VI liturgy is often abused, it is therefore an abuse itself.

Consequently, I lack a lot of interest in the motu proprio. I’m glad Benedict is interested in it. That’s his job. I simply don’t see why it’s my job. My parish is reverently celebrating the Paul VI Rite. My job is to receive that gift, not to look it in the mouth. Nor is my job to suggest that, if you like the Tridentine Rite instead, you are a second-class Catholic and a narcissist. It would be nice if many enthusiasts for the Tridentine liturgy could return the favor.

Mark Shea blogs at Catholic and Enjoying It!

This article first appeared in the October 2007 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.

Public School Follies: Y Is for Yoga

By Michelle Malkin
New York Post
October 31, 2007

The surgeon general really needs to slap a health warning on The New York Times. My blood pressure increases a few points every time I read it. This week, the newspaper of record pimped the Next Great American Education Fad: In-school yoga classes.

According to the piece, "Less Homework, More Yoga, From a Principal Who Hates Stress," the head of Needham High School in the Boston suburbs is pushing "stress reduction" through better stretching and breathing. Principal Paul Richards, who last earned nationwide mockery when he ditched publishing the honor roll, is part-Oprah, part-Deepak Chopra, part-Richard Simmons and all edu-babble.

"It's not that I'm trying to turn the culture upside down," he's quoted telling the Times. "It's very important to protect the part of the culture that leads to all the achievement," he said. "It's more about bringing the culture to a healthier place."

And here I thought high school principals should make schooling, not "bringing the culture to a healthier place," their top priority. Silly me. Welcome to your new Nanny State nightmare.

Yoga classes are now a requirement for Needham high school seniors. To further ease the supposed burden on overworked students, Richards has "asked teachers to schedule homework-free weekends and holidays." Just what we need to turn around those one in 10 schools that are now considered "dropout factories," huh? Can't cut it in the classroom? Bend like a bridge, take five deep, slow breaths, and all will be dandy.

Why stop at yoga? Tantric chanting, here we come. And, hey, Kabbalah has done wonders for Madonna. Let's add hypnotism and acupuncture classes while we're at it. Hot stone massages? Bonsai tree-clipping? No Relaxation Technique Left Behind!

Some point to a number of tragic student suicides to justify larding up the school day with Tree Poses and Sun Salutations. But the school officials themselves admit the deaths were not related to stress. No matter. Richards is using them to forge ahead with "a movement to push back against an ethos of super-achievement at affluent suburban high schools amid the extreme competition over college admissions." It appears there are now more than 40 other high schools and middle schools that embrace the "Stressed Out Students" agenda. There's another yoga curriculum popular in California, Yoga Ed., that has trained 10,000 teachers in more than 100 schools nationwide.

And guess what else I discovered after trying to find out whether yoga was coming to a school near me? We are paying for this nonsense. The Yoga Ed. program, created by Hollywood spouse/socialite Tara Guber, was funded with taxpayer grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Carol M. White Physical Education Program.

Bit by bit, the dumbed-down cult of mediocrity, secular extremism and multicultural madness has infected American public education. Instead of concentrating on the basics and then teaching children to manage and conquer their "stress" through internal discipline, we're removing every last source of possible damage to their egos.

Math test scores have plummeted. Solution: Remove the U.S. from international competitions.

Students are failing. Solution: Hide the honor rolls so the under-achievers don't feel bad.

Elementary pupils don't like drills and spelling tests. Solution: Fuzzy math and inventive spelling.

Families can't manage their time. Solution: Less homework, more yoga.

"A lot of these kids," lectures Principal Richards, "are being held hostage to the culture." No kidding. When The New York Times invited one of Richards' students to recommend stress-reduction techniques, he ended with this suggestion:

"Watch a short clip on YouTube (as long as you are not addicted). The amazing and often funny feats on the site are inspiring and often leave you feeling, 'Hey I want to do that!' This is a great attitude to have towards your work."

Watch feats of stupidity on YouTube. Yeah, that'll do wonders for American student achievement.

The only ones who need stress reduction right now are parents fed up with this runaway idiocy. If you think educrats are going to recover their senses any time soon, well, you know, don't hold your breath.

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Joe Girardi: Thinking, Always Thinking

Man in the News

The New York Times
Published: October 31, 2007

New York Yankees' Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, right, look on during spring training baseball in this March 1, 2005 file photo in Tampa, Fla.

As a rookie catcher in 1989, Joe Girardi helped guide the Chicago Cubs to the playoffs. His biggest advocate was the Cubs’ colorful manager, Don Zimmer, who sometimes wondered if he was too hard on the 24-year-old engineering graduate from Northwestern.

“One time he had a bruised thumb, and he had that big plastic thing on it so it wouldn’t get bruised more,” Zimmer said from his home in Florida yesterday, after listening with pride to Girardi’s first news conference as the manager of the Yankees.

“He went to reach for a ball with a runner on third, and the ball bounced off his glove and went to the backstop, and I was hot. I mean, he was a young kid, but I got on his rear end and I said, ‘If you want to catch for me the rest of the year, you’ll catch without a plastic guard on that thumb!’

“After I did that, the next day I felt bad, because I really jumped on him, and when you do that to some guys, they melt on you.”

Girardi did not melt. He was highly educated, an avid chess player since age 5, but he was not a stereotypical egghead.

Girardi was tough, right down to the flat-top haircut, and over many years of wearing baseball uniforms — first for the Cubs, then for the Colorado Rockies, then for the Yankees — he became so close with Zimmer that Zimmer said, “He’s almost like a son to me.”

Zimmer quit the Yankees after the 2003 World Series, fed up with second-guessing from the team’s principal owner, George Steinbrenner, and he was not pleased with the way the Yankees handled Joe Torre’s exit.

So Zimmer stayed away from advising Girardi on whether to take the Yankees job, which Girardi accepted yesterday with a three-year, $7.8 million contract. But in Girardi’s first year as manager, for the Florida Marlins in 2006, Zimmer was a confidant.

“We would talk baseball — ‘Would you do this? Would you do that?’ — a little bit of everything,” Zimmer said. “Everything that concerns baseball, we would talk about it. I would tell him what I would do. That doesn’t mean he took everything I told him, but he always asked me questions, and I always gave him answers.”

Players with an intellectual bent can stand out in a baseball clubhouse. Many players have signed contracts out of high school and, understandably, resent condescending teammates. But Girardi, who played until 2003, was less brainy than inquisitive. Teammates saw that as an important distinction.

“Everyone knew he was smart, but he was one of the guys,” the former Yankees reliever Mike Stanton said yesterday. “He didn’t talk down to you. If there was something you didn’t understand, he would explain it. But intelligence doesn’t mean you know everything. Sometimes, it means knowing when to ask a question instead of faking it.”

On the Yankees’ title teams of the 1990s, Stanton said, Girardi was a leader of the best kind: he had an exemplary work ethic but would also challenge pitchers if he noticed their concentration wane. Pitchers always knew that Girardi, a .267 career hitter, put their needs first.

“The way he handled pitchers, I really thought he gave himself up a lot for them,” said Don Baylor, who managed Girardi with the Rockies and the Cubs. “He was a team guy. He put the pitchers before himself.

“I always thought he had the capability to manage if he really wanted to. I told him a couple of times: ‘Keep score here. Look around, because someday, you’re going to be doing this on your own.’ ”

Girardi retired after playing for the Yankees in spring training in 2004. He returned as the bench coach in 2005 and was a regular in the weight room before games; Stanton said he was in even better shape than he was as a player.

As a bench coach, Girardi was meticulous, keeping a binder during games to track tendencies and strategies. He streamlined the information for scouting meetings, making it easy for the catchers to understand the game plan.

When he interviewed for the Marlins’ managing job in October 2005, Girardi studied intensely and quickly won over their owner, Jeffrey Loria. But the Marlins promptly slashed payroll to $15 million after promising Girardi the cuts would not be so extensive, and their relationship was doomed.

Girardi instituted a Yankees-style policy of no facial hair, and he outran many of his players in spring training wind sprints. He coaxed 78 victories out of the team, but his downfall came in August, when he shouted down Loria, who was screaming at the umpire from his box beside the dugout. Girardi was nearly fired then, but Loria waited until the season ended.

“Joe is not returning because it was not a good fit,” General Manager Larry Beinfest said at the time, adding later, “We felt that Joe was not able to integrate himself into the workings of our organization.”

Girardi has never directly returned fire to the Marlins, and he has not discussed the particulars, even with friends. John Flaherty, who caught for the Yankees in 2005 and worked with Girardi for the YES Network, said Girardi was always vague about it.

“I think what really came out of it was that he learned some things about ownership and the front office and the manager all having to get along,” Flaherty said. “But it was very, very vague, nothing specific on what happened.”

After working with Girardi, Flaherty once found himself wondering if there was something wrong with him. Like Girardi, Flaherty is a retired catcher with a young family and enough money to last a lifetime. But unlike Girardi, Flaherty has no desire to be in a dugout anymore.

“With him, or even with a Joe Torre, I think it’s that competitiveness, that desire to compete during a ballgame,” Flaherty said. “You could definitely see it in Girardi. He missed being on the field.”

Girardi Takes First Step Toward a New Legacy

The New York Times
Published: October 31, 2007

New York Yankees coach Joe Girardi (L) and manager Joe Torre look out from the dugout in the ninth inning of their game against the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio in this August 2, 2005 file photo.

All along, it was going to take an extraordinary candidate to make the Yankees say no to Don Mattingly as their next manager. Mattingly is probably the most beloved Yankee of the last 25 years, and his passion and knowledge of the game are unquestioned.

“It was extremely difficult,” General Manager Brian Cashman said yesterday. “It was not a conversation I wanted to have. Donnie is a special individual, a terrific baseball mind.”

Yet when he recommended a successor for Joe Torre, who led the Yankees to 12 consecutive playoff appearances, Cashman turned away from Mattingly. He picked Joe Girardi, and said Girardi’s managerial experience was a factor.

Girardi, who signed a three-year, $7.8 million contract, was the National League manager of the year for the Florida Marlins in 2006. Mattingly has four years of coaching experience, but he has never managed.

“Being a coach is one thing,” Cashman said. “But actually having to make the tough decisions and live with the consequences, whether they work or not, those are all learning tools he has benefited from.”

In replacing Torre, who won four World Series in his first five years, Girardi faces a task that Mattingly, despite wanting the job, had called a “no-win situation.”

As a player, Girardi joined the Yankees in 1996 as the unpopular successor to Mike Stanley, a catcher who hit with more power. Three championship rings later, Girardi had forged his own legacy, and he plans to do so again.

“I can’t be Joe Torre, because I’m made up different,” Girardi said. “I’m a different character. I don’t really worry about how I’m going to replace someone. I’m more worried about being myself and getting the most out of the guys.”

Girardi’s contract will pay him $2.5 million each season, with a $300,000 signing bonus spread over the three years. The deal includes bonuses that could reach $500,000 a year if the Yankees make the World Series.

Tony Peña, the other candidate interviewed last week, will remain with the Yankees as the first-base coach, and the hitting coach Kevin Long is close to signing a three-year, $1 million deal.

Three newcomers are expected to join the staff: Dave Eiland as the pitching coach, Mike Harkey as the bullpen coach, and Bobby Meacham as the third-base coach.

Rob Thomson, a special assignment coach, will inherit Mattingly’s job as the bench coach. The Yankees had offered to let Mattingly stay in that position, but he turned down the job.

“I don’t think it would be fair to anybody who got the job if I were on the coaching staff,” Mattingly said. “Because there’s going to be a stretch of three games and people would start talking, and that’s just not right.”

Mattingly could have a spot on Torre’s staff if the Los Angeles Dodgers hire Torre as their manager. The Dodgers were negotiating with Torre after they and Manager Grady Little cut ties yesterday.

Mattingly did not refer directly to the Dodgers’ opportunity, but he said his departure from the Yankees was liberating, in a way. Mattingly has worked for no other organizations, but he said he still burned to manage and looked forward to challenging himself in another setting.

Yet while Torre left with bitterness, questioning whether he would even want to return to Yankee Stadium, Mattingly said he had no hard feelings.

“Trust me, I’m not going to all of a sudden start rooting for the Red Sox,” Mattingly said. “I’m from Indiana, but I’ve really always believed that I grew up in New York. I consider myself a New Yorker in those terms. That’s how I’ve gotten to this point. I would never look back and say it’s unfortunate.”

Mattingly said it was not true that George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner, promised him he would someday be manager when he hired him as the hitting coach for the 2004 season. Mattingly said he would not have wanted to be handed a job without working for it.

“I think I’m ready right now, but somebody doesn’t,” he said. “The Yankees didn’t think that I was the guy for that. So, in a sense, it’s a self-evaluation. You do it as a player. If you’re not getting the job done the way somebody thinks, you look at it honestly. It doesn’t deter me.”

The Yankees put the candidates through an exhaustive process in which they had separate meetings with ownership and with Cashman, who included nine of his staff members in baseball operations.

Cashman said they discussed everything from game strategy and player evaluation to advance scouting and dealing with the news media. Girardi, the Yankees’ bench coach in 2005 and a YES Network broadcaster last season, was extremely well prepared and impressed Cashman.

“He’s been a world champion player, he’s played in this environment, he’s been a coach, he’s been a major league manager, he’s meticulous in his approach,” Cashman said. “I know about him from his playing days to his coaching days, and we followed his career down in Florida. He likes to compete all the time. It’s not just what happens at the first pitch. It’s team first, individual second. We dissected game strategy; we believe he’s mentally tough. Ultimately, a lot of things came up right to help me gravitate to Joe Girardi.”

Hank Steinbrenner, who is running the Yankees with his brother, Hal, was on the conference call with reporters and said he was “in complete agreement with Brian” on Girardi. Hank Steinbrenner has asked that fans be patient with the new manager, but he has also said that he agrees with his father in that only a championship can be considered a success for the Yankees.

“I understand the expectations, and I think that’s the advantage of being a player in New York,” Girardi said. “You understand what’s expected, and I expect it as well.” Then Girardi added the sentence that the Steinbrenner family probably most wanted to hear: “I expect to be playing in the Fall Classic next October.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What’s Wrong with America?

You’ve let us all down by not going to see our movies.

By David Kahane
October 29, 2007, 5:00 a.m.

I sure hope you like C-SPAN, reruns, and reality shows, because if we the Hollywood proletariat have our way, every writer in town is going on strike, perhaps as soon as this Thursday. If you ask me, it’s not a moment too soon.

Technically, we’re striking against the producers, the studios, and the networks — the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers — who have been trying to screw us out of our fair share of VHS and DVD residuals for years, and whose initial offer was to screw us even harder. With a brave new world of iPhone technology on its way, we want to make sure we don’t get fooled again.

But everyone knows we’re really striking against you, the ungrateful, reactionary, and probably crypto-fascist audience. You’ve let us all down by not going to see our movies.

The Kingdom? A disappointment at $46 million. Rendition? A huge antiwar belly flop for Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, and the guy from Brokeback Mountain playing in 2,250 theaters that hasn’t yet managed $8 million. Elizabeth: The Golden Age? The Catholic-bashing costume party with Cate Blanchett in high dudgeon and higher drag is a flopola at $14 million. In the Valley of Elah, from scribe du jour Paul Haggis? It’ll be lucky to make $7 million. At this rate, you probably won’t even go to see Brian De Palma’s Redacted.

Frankly, we’re tired of throwing our pearls before you swine. So we’re firing you.

I mean, come on: the fourth installment of a torture-porn series, a Steve Carell laugher, a vampire movie set in Alaska and a comedy aimed at the, ahem, “urban audience” are opening up cans of cinematic whup-ass on the finest, most passionate anti-American movies our smartest, snarkiest Harvard grads can think up. And Lions for Lambs hasn’t even opened yet! Heck, The Rock’s family-values comedy The Game Plan has made $77 million, more than all the antiwar movies put together.

It’s so sad: Here we were, on a roll, with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in command of Congress, the Clinton Restoration practically a fait accompli, and Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize to use as a doorstop alongside his Oscar — and this is the thanks we get.

Well, I just don’t get it. It’s not like our patriotism is questionable or anything. Like Bonosera the undertaker in The Godfather, we love U.S.-America, we believe in U.S.-America, just not U.S.-America the way she is now: a racist, sexist, homophobic bastion of white male privilege, built on the backs of Africans and Native Americans and exploited immigrants, seeking to export its murderous rage to the Middle East and beyond. And all right-thinking people — by which I mean “left-thinking” people, of course — agree with us. You certainly won’t get any argument on the west side of Los Angeles, and wherever I travel in this great land of ours — to places as diverse as San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and the Upper West Side — it’s unanimous. America stinks!

So we want to change this country into something new and beautiful and socialist, a liberated America in which we middle-class Hollywood people (for so we like to think of ourselves; we’re not really rich) can live safely in our patrolled communities and send our kids to private schools while making sure your tax money goes to pacify the howling mob beyond the gates. An America, in other words, that looks more like South America or South Africa than Bedford Falls, condemned to eternal punishment for its moral turpitude. Who could possibly object to that?

Another reason we’re striking is that there’s just too much competition these days from journalists. Who does this clown Scott Thomas Beauchamp think he is, pitching anti-war movies in the guise of writing a “Baghdad Diary” for The New Republic? He might have fooled his editors into thinking he was doing straight reporting, but anyone who lives within 50 miles of the intersection of Fairfax and Melrose can smell a scenario when he steps in it. It’s hard enough to make your bones and get into the Writers Guild of America, a closed-shop union that civilians can’t join, without worrying about a bunch of hacks making stuff up that makes America look bad and passing it off as truth in the hopes that some producer will come calling. That’s our job!

So as the days dwindle down to a precious few, it’s looking more and more like we’re going out. The studios have stockpiled all the bad scripts they can get their hands on, the writers’ rooms are going 24/7 to churn out enough episodes to get the networks through Festivus, and nobody’s taking any pitches until this thing is over.

It may be a while. Last Thursday, the producers have told us to forget about upgrading the DVD residuals, or any other residuals. For our part, the Guild membership has voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike — the last one was in 1988, and lasted five months — and all over town, people are consulting their accountants and business managers over how they’re going to make their $20,000 a month mortgage nut if they’re not working.

Both sides have called in a federal mediator when negotiations resume tomorrow. But unless this stooge of the Bush Administration waterboards us, it’s on to the picket lines at Paramount, ABC, and Warner Bros. We’re going to hit the AMPTP where it hurts, right in the pocketbook, and make ‘em remember that it all starts with the writer and if you think actors can invent stories and ad-lib dialogue, you’re a die-hard Robert Altman fan.

But, even more, we’re going to hit you where you live: on your sofas.

No more Letterman. No more Leno. No more Lost. No more great movies like Rendition to alert you to the evils of the Chimp-in-Chief and the Grand Vizier and their Illegal War in Iraq. The hell with you. We’ve knocked ourselves out for you, and this is how you repay us. Serves you right.

— David Kahane is a nom de cyber for a writer in Hollywood. “David Kahane” is borrowed from a screenwriter character in The Player.

Dinesh D'Souza Interview: What's So Great About Christianity?

Dinesh D’Souza

By Dr. Paul Kengor | Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dr. Paul Kengor: Dinesh, I can’t help but begin by tossing you a big softball: I’m impressed by the endorsements for your new book. This is quite an eclectic bunch: Francis Collins of the Human Genome Institute, academic Stanley Fish, the Rev. Robert Schuller, Oxford’s Daniel Robinson, historian Paul Johnson and even Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine. Clearly, you’ve done something right. The title of this book, What’s So Great About Christianity, is a natural follow-up to your earlier work, What’s So Great About America, but the theme is really a follow-up to a bunch of recent books by others attacking religious belief generally and the Christian faith in particular. This book is obviously an answer to the polemics by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and others. What’s your answer?

Dinesh D’Souza: We’re seeing a surge of atheist confidence and atheist belligerence. The best-selling atheist books like Hitchens’ God Is Not Great and Dawkins’ The God Delusion are one indication of this. Another is the militancy of atheism on many campuses today. In a way, the atheist attacks on God and religion are a bit odd. I don’t believe in unicorns, but I don’t go around writing books about them. I suspect what has given atheists a boost is the Islamic radicalism we’ve seen in the wake of 9/11. The atheists glibly equate Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism, and then conclude that religion itself is the problem.

My book What’s So Great About Christianity is consciously written in the C.S. Lewis tradition. Just as Lewis, writing after World War II, dealt with issues specific to his time, such as “How can a just God allow the Holocaust?” so too my book is a response to the intellectual and moral attack on Christianity launched by the new atheists. I take the atheist argument seriously, and meet it on its own ground, which is the ground of reason and skepticism. I want to show Christians and religious believers that theism makes vastly more sense of the world and of our lives than agnosticism or atheism. I also want to persuade genuine seekers that they should take Christianity seriously, and give it real consideration. I don’t expect to convince dogmatic atheists, but I do intend to expose and refute and embarrass them.

Kengor: In a recent interview, Oxford’s Alistair McGrath said that he is somewhat shocked by the lack of new insights in these best-selling books by Hitchens and Dawkins and the like, and how they are actually, in his view, filled with hackneyed, easily refutable arguments served up for years. He said it seems clear—and very surprisingly so—that these authors don’t appear to read the many readily available counter-arguments that quickly refute their assertions. McGrath believes they have constructed very weak cases that any rank-and-file minister worth his salt could dissect paragraph-by-paragraph with little effort. That’s pretty harsh. Likewise, Dr. Stanley Fish—not exactly a conservative—calls these books unsophisticated “rants.” Do you agree with these judgments?

D’Souza: While there are a lot of shallow arguments made by Dawkins, Hitchens, [Sam] Harris and the others, behind them there is the formidable atheism of philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Friedrich Nietzsche. My book takes the new atheists to task on specific fallacies and whoppers that they routinely make. But I’m not content to defeat them on their weakest ground. So at times I strengthen their arguments, remove contradictions, and give them the benefit of every doubt. I attack their argument not at its vulnerable point but at its strong point. If I succeed there, then I have defeated atheism in its strongest and most coherent form. Ultimately, it is Russell and Heidegger and Nietzsche who pose the greatest challenge to believers, not intellectual snipers like Hitchens and Dawkins.

Kengor: Despite all the noise being made by atheists lately on the New York Times Best-seller List, you believe that we are now witnessing what you call, “The Twilight of Atheism,” and a triumph of not only religion around the world—you note that the continued growth of religion around the globe has gone unnoticed (or at least not remarked upon) by atheists—but of Christianity in particular. Is that wishful thinking on your part? What’s your evidence?

D’Souza: There is a whole body of data showing that the world is growing more religious. One reason for this is that religious countries and religious people are having more children, while secular countries and secular people are not reproducing themselves. Interestingly while Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are all growing worldwide, Christianity is the fastest-growing religion. Islam grows mainly because of Muslims who have large families, while Christianity is also growing through rapid conversion. Once a religion confined mostly to Europe, Christianity has become a truly universal religion and over time it will increasingly be dominated by Asia, Africa and South America. This is very disturbing news for atheists. Not so long ago the typical atheist could be comforted by the idea that as the world became more modern, more urbanized, more educated, it would also become more secular. Religion would wither away. This hasn’t happened, and the trend is actually in the other direction. In fact, religion is booming in rapidly modernizing countries like India and China. Perhaps the new atheism is a backlash against the unforeseen success of religion.

Kengor: You have some surprises in here even for Christians, including those Christians who have bought into the caricature of the Galileo incident as a case of science and reason being trashed by close-minded religious fanatics—centuries-ago precursors to the Salem witch-hunters and, of course, George W. Bush—who opposed not merely scientific inquiry but progress itself. You re-examine the Galileo case, calling it “an atheist fable.” Tell us about this.

D’Souza: It seems like every year or so one of the news magazines does a cover story on Science vs. Religion. It turns out that this whole framework is a 19th-century fabrication. There is no sustained historical clash between science and religion. In fact, Christianity was crucial in giving birth to modern science, and the vast, vast majority of leading scientists over the past 500 years have been Christians. The whole warfare model relies on a handful of examples, mostly exaggerated or made up. Perhaps the best example that the atheists can cite is the Galileo case. I re-examine this case in the light of the best scholarship about it. We discover that the evidence for heliocentrism was not definitive in Galileo’s day. With hindsight we know that Galileo was right, but the arguments he made for heliocentrism were actually wrong. The Church’s position was far more open-minded and reasonable than Galileo’s. He made agreements that he didn’t keep, and blatantly lied about his views before the Inquisition courts. Still, he was treated leniently and allowed to continue his scientific work and died in his bed. I’m only giving hints of a remarkable story that readers should digest in full in the book.

Kengor: You continue this thought by, quite the contrary, arguing that the Church from the beginning was not anti-science and anti-reason but pro-science and pro-reason, and credit Christianity with “the invention of invention.” Who were these oddball Renaissance Christian scientists who believed in God—surely there weren’t many of them, right?

D’Souza: Well, on the Christian side we have Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Brahe, Descartes, Boyle, Newton, Leibniz, Gassendi, Pascal, Mersenne, Cuvier, Harvey, Dalton, Farady, Hershel, Joule, Lyell, Lavoisier, Priestley, Kelvin, Ohm, Ampere, Steno, Pasteur, Maxwell, Planck, Mendel and Lemaitre. Einstein too was a believer in God as a kind of supreme mind or spirit discernible through the complex and beautiful laws of nature. So none of these folks saw theism or Christianity as incompatible with science, as Richard Dawkins and others would have it. Dawkins is a decent popularizer of science but compared to Kepler, Newton, and Einstein he is a Lilliputian. So he works very hard to make Einstein look like an atheist. His proof is a complete failure, but give the man credit for effort. The deeper point to be made here, however, is not merely that leading scientists over the centuries have been Christian, but that science itself, in its assumption that the universe is rational and obeys laws discoverable by the human mind, is based on Christian precepts and cannot in fact be done without Christian presuppositions.

Kengor: So, are you saying that many of the comforts that Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins take for granted—like electricity and the law of gravity—stem from the scientific breakthroughs of devoutly Christian men who judged that God was great?

D’Souza: I could give numerous examples here—Boyle, Newton, Kepler—but let me focus for a moment on Kepler. Kepler wanted to become a theologian, but he finally decided to become an astronomer to demonstrate God’s hand in creation. When Kepler realized that planets don’t move in circular orbits, he was criticized by some for rejecting the creative beauty of God’s plan. These critics reasoned that surely God would have used perfect circles to choreograph the planetary motions. Kepler was sure, however, based on his deep Christian faith, that God had employed an even more beautiful pattern, and he labored hard to decipher it. When he discovered what it was—his three laws of planetary motion—he experienced something of a spiritual epiphany. In a prayer concluding his “Harmony of the World,” Kepler implored God “graciously to cause that these demonstrations may lead to the salvation of souls.” I don’t think we can understand the motivations and greatness of scientists like Kepler and Newton if we ignore their theological and specifically Christian beliefs.

Kengor: Dinesh, there’s this quite stunning, inexplicable refrain that we hear constantly today, from the op-ed pages of the New York Times to email blasts from my atheist friends, about the alleged incompatibility of faith and reason—as if you are either a person of faith or a person of reason. They genuinely seem to have no knowledge that the Church from the very beginning—for 2,000 years—has argued that faith and reason reinforce one another and are mutually compatible. Protestants believe this, and the Catholic Church has noted this vigorously not only since the writings of Thomas Aquinas but all the way back to Clement of Alexandria, and has kept it out front with regular homilies by the current pope, Benedict XVI, and major encyclicals from the last pope, John Paul II, who reaffirmed the “two wings” of faith and reason that lift us to truth and Truth. Anyone with a modicum of religious knowledge would know this. And yet, few secularists seem to be aware of this history, while they simultaneously portray believers as stupid and themselves as smart. What explains the ignorance and the arrogance?

Dinesh D’Souza: The new atheists like Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker and Victor Stenger are all theological ignoramuses. Their work shows little or no understanding of either Catholic or Protestant thought. I shouldn’t even mention other religions, about which they know even less. One critic, Terry Eagleton, says of Dawkins that his writing about Christian theology has all the credibility of a Christian who attempted to criticize modern science based on knowledge derived solely from a single book on British birds. Not that this stops our intrepid atheists from charging forward. Their motto is, “Take that, Aquinas!” Even Christopher Hitchens, who has a wider literary and cultural range, shows that he has no understanding whatever of thinkers like Augustine and Anselm. At one point he accuses Anselm of arguing that if you can imagine God in your head, then God must exist. This is a very stupid argument, but then Anselm doesn’t make it. Hitchens is a veritable pyromaniac in a field of straw men.

Kengor: Is this what you mean by “miseducating the young?” As for those of this mindset, have they been miseducated on these basics of religion, and are they, in turn, continuing the process now with the next generation?

D’Souza: Something a bit more insidious is going on here. The new atheists realize that the world isn’t going their way and religion is not about to disappear. So they want to take over the minds of the next generation. They want to do this through the schools. Of course, they know that religious parents might want to have something to say about this. Consequently, all the atheist tracts are filled with attacks on the idea that parents should have the authority to teach their children about religion and values. From the atheist point of view, religious education is a form of brainwashing. So schools and colleges are viewed by the atheists as institutions for deprogramming. It’s a little Orwellian, but, of course, the advocates of these schemes present them in the attractive language of “open-mindedness” and “liberation.”

Kengor: How much of this is the fault of not only the lack of religious education in public schools but modern education at secular universities? Some parents reading this right now may be surprised to hear that if their son or daughter takes an elective on religion at many (if not most) of our major universities, the course is likely to be taught by a skeptic if not an atheist, one quite often outright hostile to Christianity, and who at the least sees all religions as basically equal, with none having a rightful claim of truth over the others.

D’Souza: I’m not against the study of comparative religions, or even having skeptics and atheists teach such courses. But if you are going to teach religion you should be knowledgeable about religion and you should approach the subject fairly. When a professor teaches Hamlet in English class, or Hegel in philosophy, you don’t demand that your students believe everything that Shakespeare or Hegel says. But you do ask that they plunge into Shakespeare’s world and Hegel’s thought. You want students, at least provisionally, to go along with the playwright and the philosopher at least to get a sympathetic understanding of what they are trying to convey. Why should religion and Christianity not be taught in the same way?

Kengor: You write that the thinking of the atheist professor toward today’s youth goes like this: “Let the religious people breed them, and we will educate them to despise their parents’ belief.” Thus, you maintain that the secularization of young people in college, for instance, is not so much a natural process of alleged enlightened maturation but one guided and orchestrated by teachers with an “anti-religious” agenda.

D’Souza: I illustrate with a quotation from the atheist philosopher Richard Rorty, who died recently and is, I suspect, now having a lengthy conversation with his maker. Rorty argued that secular professors ought “to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own.” The goal of education, in his view, is to help them to “escape the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents.” Indeed, Rorty warned parents that when they send their children to college, “We are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.” Rorty keeps using the term “fundamentalism” but I think he means traditional Christianity. Of course, he is quite oblivious to his own secular fundamentalism, which is just as narrow and bigoted as anything you will find among religious people.

Kengor: So, quite often, two parents spend 18 years inculcating certain religious beliefs and values into their child only to turn over that child to a university that in four years undermines those beliefs and values—and the parents pay big bucks for that process of deconstruction?

D’Souza: Who said atheists weren’t clever?

Kengor: This doesn’t describe a college like Grove City College, but it really does describe so much of academia, which is easily among the most secular institutions in America. You and I could back that up with hundreds of examples and even survey data. One 2007 survey, for instance, showed that professors harbor a hostility toward evangelical Christians in particular. For the sake of academic honesty, should these universities redo their mission statements to make clear their belief in secularism and cultural and moral relativism?

D’Souza: When I speak on college campuses and point out that there is so much closed-mindedness and political correctness going on, even in our most elite universities, inevitably some professor will ask me about Bob Jones University or Jerry Falwell’s university. The professor’s point is, “Aren’t they just as closed-minded over there?” But, of course, Bob Jones University and Liberty University are very clear about their religious commitments. They state them up front. By contrast, secular universities promote an ideological agenda, but they pretend to be broad-minded and open and intellectually diverse.

Kengor: Having said all of this, your book is positive. You think Christianity is not only “great” but in great shape. Why are you such an optimist?

D’Souza: Theism in general, and Christianity in particular, make so much more sense of the world than the doctrines of unbelief. This is in a way the great secret that my book communicates to Christians. There’s no reason to be on the defensive. Ours is a set of beliefs that are completely supported by modern science and modern thought. For example, the Bible says that through the design of the universe we can see the handiwork of God. The Anglican theologian William Paley made design arguments 200 years ago. Richard Dawkins tries, in The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion, to show that Darwin overthrew the design argument. But if you look at the totality of the discoveries made by modern science, it’s evident that the argument from design is vastly stronger today than it was when Paley wrote. I’m genuinely excited by modern science because it’s proving propositions that were boldly advanced in the Bible thousands of years ago.

Kengor: Dinesh, what about the “antithesis” of belief in God? In your book, you address the consequences of non-religion, of atheism as a system of belief; here you point to the destruction and death wrought by atheist ideologies in the 20th century in particular. Tell us about that.

D’Souza: We keep hearing not only from the new atheists but also from political pundits that religion is responsible for most of the conflicts and violence in the world. Not true. Atheist regimes have killed more people in the past century than all the religions of the world have managed to do since the beginning of time. Let’s not even count the lesser atheist dictators like Pol Pot or Castro or Ceausescu or Hoxha or Kim Jong-Il. Focusing just on the regimes of Mao, Stalin and Hitler, we have a body count that exceeds 100 million people. Atheism, not religion, is responsible for the mass murders of history.

Kengor: But aren’t you being selective with the evidence, Dinesh? Sure, atheistic communism produced more than 100 million deaths in less than 70 years in the last century—70 million dead in China, 30 million in the Soviet Union, two million in Cambodia, two to three million in Kim’s North Korea today, to cite only a handful of communist killing fields—but Christians had the Inquisition. Are you ignoring the historical incidents that hurt your case?

D’Souza: Well, the best scholarship on the Inquisition shows that approximately 2,000 people were killed by the Spanish Inquisition over a period of 350 years. I would never apologize for the Inquisition, which I think represented a terrible strain in late-medieval Christianity. I am glad that Christianity is different now, and the closest thing you have to a religious inquisition today would be something like the regime of the ayatollahs in Iran. Still, how can you even compare the casualties of the Inquisition to those of the atheists’ regimes? Even a second-rate atheist despot like Pol Pot killed more people in a month than the Inquisition managed to do in three centuries.

Kengor: What about the Crusades?

D’Souza: The Crusades were a belated and necessary Christian enterprise to block Islamic invasion and conquest. Remember that before Islam, virtually the entire Middle East was Christian. Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Jordan—these areas were predominantly Christian. The Muslims conquered the region, and then Muslim armies invaded Europe, conquering parts of Italy and virtually all of Spain, which the Muslims ruled for nearly 700 years. The Muslims over-ran the Balkans and were at the gates of Vienna. Edward Gibbon, no friend of Christianity, says that if the Christians hadn’t fought back then, today at Oxford and Cambridge—and by extension Harvard and Duke—we’d all be studying the teachings of Muhammad in the Arabic language. Western civilization, then called Christendom, was mortally threatened. The Crusades, for all their excesses, helped to prevent this disastrous outcome.

Kengor: Curiously, this atheist-government/mass-murder thing seems to have not been a major thrust of these recent best-selling atheist books. How do those authors defend that omission?

D’Souza: Here is where atheist sophistry reaches Himalayan heights. Richard Dawkins writes that atheists might do bad things, but they don’t do them in the name of atheism. Someone should enroll the man in an introductory course in Marxism and Communism. Of course the Stalinists and the Maoists committed their crimes in the name of atheism. Ever heard of “godless communism?” The reason these regimes targeted the churches and the clergy is that they were officially and explicitly dedicated to the creation of a new man and a new society free from the shackles of traditional religion and traditional morality. Again, Hitchens is one step ahead because he knows this, but being one step ahead of Dawkins doesn’t get you very far in this race. Hitchens tries to argue that Communism was a kind of surrogate religion because it imitated religious rituals and so on. This I think is a bit much. Should religion now be blamed not only for the crimes committed in the name of God but also those committed in the name of atheism?

Kengor: Naturally, it goes without saying that you are not arguing that every atheist is a potential murderer. We know atheists who are gentler people than the Christians we know. Clarify that, if you could.

D’Souza: This is not the point at all. Consider what the atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett says in discussing religion. He says judge it by its consequences: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Dennett says he doesn’t care if these consequences were intended by the founders of the religion or if they represent its highest and noblest values. He writes: “It is true that religious fanatics are rarely if ever inspired or guided by the deepest and best tenets in those religions. So what? Al Qaeda and Hamas terrorism is still Islam’s responsibility, and abortion clinic bombing is still Christianity’s responsibility.” Fine: I accept Dennett’s standard. But then by the same criterion, the mass murders of atheist regimes are atheism’s responsibility. If the ordinary Christian who has never burned anyone at the stake must bear some responsibility for what other self-styled Christians have done on behalf of religion, then atheists who think of themselves as the kinder, gentler type do not get to absolve themselves for the horrible suffering that their beliefs have unleashed in recent history. If Christianity has to answer for Torquemada, atheism has to answer for Stalin.

Kengor: Non-believers and even many believers ask, “Where is God?” when something bad happens. You flip this on its head by asking, “Where is atheism?” when something bad happens.

D’Souza: It’s interesting that whenever there is a real tragedy, such as the serial shooting at Virginia Tech, even the most secular campus becomes transformed, and everyone begins to use religious language and religious symbolism. Suddenly atheism disappears from the scene.

Kengor: Dinesh D’Souza, thanks for talking to us. It has been a while since you’ve been to Grove City College. Maybe we can bring you back again soon, maybe in a debate with one of these atheists?

D’Souza: It would be a pleasure.

Paul Kengor, Ph.D. is author of God and George W. Bush. He is also a professor of political science at Grove City College and a visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution.