Friday, November 09, 2007
NYT Critics' Pick
This movie has been designated a Critic's Pick by the film reviewers of The Times.
Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in "No Country for Old Men."
He Found a Bundle of Money, and Now There’s Hell to Pay
By A. O. SCOTT
The New York Times
Published: November 9, 2007
“No Country for Old Men,” adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, is bleak, scary and relentlessly violent. At its center is a figure of evil so calm, so extreme, so implacable that to hear his voice is to feel the temperature in the theater drop.
But while that chilly sensation is a sign of terror, it may equally be a symptom of delight. The specter of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a deadpan sociopath with a funny haircut, will feed many a nightmare, but the most lasting impression left by this film is likely to be the deep satisfaction that comes from witnessing the nearly perfect execution of a difficult task. “No Country for Old Men” is purgatory for the squeamish and the easily spooked. For formalists — those moviegoers sent into raptures by tight editing, nimble camera work and faultless sound design — it’s pure heaven.
So before I go any further, allow me my moment of bliss at the sheer brilliance of the Coens’ technique. And it is mostly theirs. The editor, Roderick Jaynes, is their longstanding pseudonym. The cinematographer, Roger Deakins, and the composer, Carter Burwell, are collaborators of such long standing that they surely count as part of the nonbiological Coen fraternity. At their best, and for that matter at their less than best, Joel and Ethan Coen, who share writing and directing credit here, combine virtuosic dexterity with mischievous high spirits, as if they were playing Franz Liszt’s most treacherous compositions on dueling banjos. Sometimes their appetite for pastiche overwhelms their more sober storytelling instincts, so it is something of a relief to find nothing especially showy or gimmicky in “No Country.” In the Coen canon it belongs with “Blood Simple,” “Miller’s Crossing” and “Fargo” as a densely woven crime story made more effective by a certain controlled stylistic perversity.
The script follows Mr. McCarthy’s novel almost scene for scene, and what the camera discloses is pretty much what the book describes: a parched, empty landscape; pickup trucks and taciturn men; and lots of killing. But the pacing, the mood and the attention to detail are breathtaking, sometimes literally.
In one scene a man sits in a dark hotel room as his pursuer walks down the corridor outside. You hear the creak of floorboards and the beeping of a transponder, and see the shadows of the hunter’s feet in the sliver of light under the door. The footsteps move away, and the next sound is the faint squeak of the light bulb in the hall being unscrewed. The silence and the slowness awaken your senses and quiet your breathing, as by the simplest cinematic means — Look! Listen! Hush! — your attention is completely and ecstatically absorbed. You won’t believe what happens next, even though you know it’s coming.
By the time this moment arrives, though, you have already been pulled into a seamlessly imagined and self-sufficient reality. The Coens have always used familiar elements of American pop culture and features of particular American landscapes to create elaborate and hermetic worlds. Mr. McCarthy, especially in the western phase of his career, has frequently done the same. The surprise of “No Country for Old Men,” the first literary adaptation these filmmakers have attempted, is how well matched their methods turn out to be with the novelist’s.
Mr. McCarthy’s book, for all its usual high-literary trappings (many philosophical digressions, no quotation marks), is one of his pulpier efforts, as well as one of his funniest. The Coens, seizing on the novel’s genre elements, lower the metaphysical temperature and amplify the material’s dark, rueful humor. It helps that the three lead actors — Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin along with Mr. Bardem — are adept at displaying their natural wit even when their characters find themselves in serious trouble.
The three are locked in a swerving, round-robin chase that takes them through the empty ranges and lonely motels of the West Texas border country in 1980. The three men occupy the screen one at a time, almost never appearing in the frame together, even as their fates become ever more intimately entwined.
Mr. Jones plays Ed Tom Bell, a world weary third-generation sheriff whose stoicism can barely mask his dismay at the tide of evil seeping into the world. Whether Chigurh is a magnetic force moving that tide or just a particularly nasty specimen carried in on it is one of the questions the film occasionally poses. The man who knows him best, a dandyish bounty-hunter played by Woody Harrelson, describes Chigurh as lacking a sense of humor. But the smile that rides up one side of Chigurh’s mouth as he speaks suggests a diabolical kind of mirth — just as the haircut suggests a lost Beatle from hell — and his conversation has a teasing, riddling quality. The punch line comes when he blows a hole in your head with the pneumatic device he prefers to a conventional firearm.
And the butt of his longest joke is Llewelyn Moss (Mr. Brolin), a welder who lives in a trailer with his wife, Carla Jean (Kelly MacDonald) and is dumb enough to think he’s smart enough to get away with taking the $2 million he finds at the scene of a drug deal gone bad. Chigurh is charged with recovering the cash (by whom is neither clear nor especially relevant), and poor Sheriff Bell trails behind, surveying scenes of mayhem and trying to figure out where the next one will be.
Taken together, these three hombres are not quite the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but each man does carry some allegorical baggage. Mr. Jones’s craggy, vinegary warmth is well suited to the kind of righteous, decent lawman he has lately taken to portraying. Ed Tom Bell is almost continuous with the retired M.P. Mr. Jones played in Paul Haggis’s “In the Valley of Elah” and the sheriff in his own “Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.” It is hard to do wisdom without pomposity, or probity without preening, but Mr. Jones manages with an aplomb that is downright thrilling.
Still, if “No Country for Old Men” were a simple face-off between the sheriff’s goodness and Chigurh’s undiluted evil, it would be a far stiffer, less entertaining picture. Llewelyn is the wild card — a good old boy who lives on the borderline between good luck and bad, between outlaw and solid citizen — and Mr. Brolin is the human center of the movie, the guy you root for and identify with even as the odds against him grow steeper by the minute.
And the minutes fly by, leaving behind some unsettling notions about the bloody, absurd intransigence of fate and the noble futility of human efforts to master it. Mostly, though, “No Country for Old Men” leaves behind the jangled, stunned sensation of having witnessed a ruthless application of craft.
“No Country for Old Men” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). A lot of killing.
'No Country for Old Men' Chases Its Literary Tale
By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 9, 2007; Page C01
I appreciate "No Country for Old Men" for the skill in the film craft. I understand "No Country for Old Men" for its penetrating disquisition on narrative conventions, and its heroic will in subverting them. I admire "No Country for Old Men" for the way it tightens its grip as it progresses, taking us deeper and deeper into a hellish world.
I just don't like it very much.
Derived from the hyper-violent Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, it's a high-end "literary" thriller that traffics as much in ideas as in thrills, sometimes to its own detriment. It follows as a Vietnam vet (the time is the '80s) out antelope hunting comes across a Texas drug deal gone bad. Bodies, guns, blood, flies and folly everywhere on the arid plains. He finds a huge chunk of money and makes off with it; alas, having promised a dying man a drink of water, he heads back, scotching his successful getaway. He is observed by other drug smugglers, and the chase begins.
You can't say it cuts to the chase. There was never anything to cut from to the chase. It's all chase, which means that it offers almost zero in character development. Each of the figures is given, a la standard thriller operating procedure, a single moral or psychological attribute and then acts in accordance to that principle and nothing else, without doubts, contradictions or ambivalence. Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), the laconic vet who finds the stash, is pure stubbornness. His main pursuer, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem in Robert Wagner's haircut from "Prince Valiant"), is Death, without a pale horse. Subsidiary chaser Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) is Pride, or possibly Folly. Various Mexican gunmen show up pretty much in the role of pepper poppers, targets that pop up only to be shot down. Oh, and finally, Tommy Lee Jones appears in the role of Melancholy Wisdom; he's a lawman also trying to find Llewelyn but not very hard. He'd much rather address the camera and soliloquize on the sorry state of affairs of mankind, though if he says anything memorable, I missed it.
Josh Brolin in Miramax Films' No Country For Old Men - 2007
Of these characters, the resolute Moss is the most attractive, because he's tough, leathery, smart, doesn't say much and always seems to know what to do next. For Brolin, heretofore a minor hanger-on, this could be that mythical "major breakthrough" thing that actors are always dreaming about. Harrelson is also quite a striking figure, an overconfident "solver of problems" for Texas organized-crime interests, hired to take out one of the other chasers in a pointless subplot. But then he turns out not to have much to offer either his main antagonist or the story. His ending is inglorious. He's strictly all hat and no cattle.
But by far the strangest character, here as in the book, is the professional played by Bardem. Chigurh -- "chigger," a typhus-carrying mite -- is so strange he seems, in fact, not to come from the planet Earth. I suspect a lot of critics will be drawn to him, because as an actor Bardem delivers a one-note, laser-aimed performance that makes you love to hate him. He is, really, pure death; he frequently kills for no reason except to illustrate the principle of random cruelty in the universe, often deciding the fates of those he bumps into with a flip of the coin.
But he's a complete absurdity. To dress up his otherwise monochromatic personality, filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen (following novelist McCarthy) give him a couple of gimmicky weapons, strictly by the numbers. Both are ridiculous. The first is a slaughterhouse mechanism for killing beef cattle by driving a piston through the brain under the power of compressed air. This means -- now follow this -- he has to hang a 20-pound compressed-air tank around his neck, and it is secured to the cattle-killing device by an extremely vulnerable, even fragile, hose, a series of valves and tubes. And what does he do with such an awkward thing? He uses it to blow the locks out of doors that could just as easily be kicked in, and he uses it to terminate the extremely unwary who allow him to get up close and place it against the skull. Hmm, wouldn't the force of the piston knock the victim backward rather than penetrate the skull? And what happens if the victim is unwilling to stand still while this strange man and his contraption approach? And what does such a device offer over and above a simple silenced .22, ubiquitous in any underworld?
Then there's his sawed-off semi-auto shotgun. I don't want to go all gun-nutty on you, but there's a reason there aren't many around: To silence a shotgun you need a very big "can" (as the actual sound-suppression device screwed to the muzzle is called), which means they're difficult to hide and therefore of limited utility in gangster politics. But the Coen brothers don't care. Chigurh just walks around with this immense weapon that looks like a scattergun on steroids, and nobody seems to notice. And some thriller-consumers will note that when he actually fires the thing, the action doesn't cycle, and an empty shell doesn't eject. So what? you say, and if that's what you say, that's fine. But a lot of people in the audience will pick up on the inauthenticity of the weapon even if they don't quite know what's wrong, and it'll ruin the movie's illusion. Again, why? It's not like we're short of more practical suppressed weapons, such as pistols or submachine guns. It's a machine-gun-rich world, people. But what this trope represents is some movie know-nothings trying to make something "cool" for the movies without giving it much rigorous thought.
Javier Bardem in Miramax Films' No Country For Old Men - 2007
One argument could be made for the movie's integrity by way of the arcane narrative theories it employs. I don't buy it, but it could be made. It sets up a classic thriller situation, a particularly vivid hunter hunting a surprisingly capable man across a deadly landscape, used hundreds, perhaps thousands of times. It pauses time and again to emphasize the horror of the killer. By narrative convention then, the movie is building toward a confrontation between these two. We know it, we expect it, the rules of the thriller mandate its necessity. It represents the completion of the bargain the storyteller has made with us.
"No Country for Old Men" then vigorously subverts the convention. It's meant to be "ironic," with that big capital I. Instead it's unsatisfying, with a capital U. Nobody goes to the movies for the irony. They go for the satisfaction.
No Country for Old Men (120 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for extreme violence.
November 9, 2007 12:00 AM
David Schwimmer on last night's 30 Rock?
“We have turned out the lights in the studio,” NBC’s Bob Costas told viewers of Sunday’s Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game, “to kick off a week that will include more than 150 hours of programming designed to raise awareness about environmental issues.” Discerning viewers with eyes keen enough to pierce the sanctimonious glare of Costas’s candlelit silhouette may have noticed that the stadium’s klieg lights still shone brightly.
On a typical game day, a large football stadium burns about 65,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and 35,000 cubic feet of natural gas. The cars driving to the game spew about 200 metric tons of CO2 (and that assumes nobody’s driving SUVs or RVs, which is like assuming tailgaters are eating only sushi). There’s also the electricity used to broadcast the game and to watch it. But thank goodness Costas turned off the studio lights for a minute or two.
NBC’s “Green Week” continued apace (well after this writing). Morbidly obese contestants on The Biggest Loser lugged piles of recyclable cans up ramps and into enormous collection bins. Of course, the cans were delivered to the stunt by diesel truck. So a lot of energy — and sweat! — that could have been used toward fermenting homebrew tofu, or whatever energy is supposed to be used for, was wasted on viewer schadenfreude. The winners of the challenge each received a hybrid SUV. Alas, one of the winners didn’t own a car to begin with, so the net result was one more car on the road and a little more CO2 in the air.
On Days of Our Lives, a fictional couple had a fictionally “green” wedding.
The cast of The Today Show burned massive amounts of jet fuel sending its hosts to the corners of the globe, leaving a “carbon footprint” larger than those left near the recycle bin on The Biggest Loser.
I could go on, but you’ve seen the tyranny of Green even if you’ve never turned on NBC. Green is everywhere. Every magazine feels compelled to sell some sliced tree-meat in a special “green issue,” but they feel so guilty about it, they ditch their glossy paper for pulp that gives it the feel of a hemp-commune newsletter that doubles as sustainable toilet paper. Food magazines have replaced “delicious” with “sustainable” as the highest praise. “Green is the new black” according to fashion writers who at least think certain cliches never go out of style.
Now, the predictable response to my caterwauling is that I just don’t get it. Of course, Bob Costas’s Dickensian studio lighting is just so much symbolism. But, they respond, NBC is “raising consciousness” and promoting “awareness.” We’ve heard this tone before, perhaps starting in high school, when we were told, “If we all work together, we can make this the best yearbook ever!”
And that’s why, on top of all the other reasons, Green Week — and the Green Millennium it hopes to usher in — is so annoying. It plays us all for suckers. First of all, you have enormously rich people at fantastically wealthy corporations seeking grace on the cheap with a few symbolic gestures that come at absolutely no cost, and often considerable profit.
You do know that the parent company of NBC is General Electric, right? You do know that for GE, green is first and foremost the color of money, right? As Tim Carney explains in vivid detail in his wonderful book, The Big Ripoff, GE’s “ecomagination” campaign is simultaneously a way to brand itself as a “progressive” company and a means of shaking the money tree — the most sustainable planting of them all — growing in Congress’ backyard.
When the global company launched the ecomagination campaign, guess where it held the launch party? Its D.C. lobbying office, of course.
While sipping from wine made at a solar-powered winery, the head of GE, Jeffrey Immelt, proclaimed, “Industry cannot solve the problems of the world alone. We need to work in concert with government.” Translation: The King Kong of the corporate world needs tax breaks, subsidies and favorable regulations in order to make green technology profitable. Indeed, GE has nearly cornered the market on the solar panels necessary to implement Kyoto-style reforms. Global warming hysteria is good for its bottom line.
Liberals and environmentalists love to whine about special breaks for corporations, and they work themselves into paroxysms of paranoia about how big corporations propagandize against action on climate change. The reality is exactly the opposite. GE, DuPont, British Petroleum, and countless other big corporations routinely propagandize in the other direction, largely to win governmental support they don’t need. But so long as environmentalists approve of the message, they’ve got no problem whatsoever with the messengers.
For GE and Bob Costas alike, Kermit the Frog was a liar; it is easy being green.
© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Dr. Naved Musharraf warned his older brother years ago not to follow in the footsteps of other Pakistani strongmen who ruled with an iron fist and became corrupted by power.
"Look, don't overstay and end up like previous martial law governments," Musharraf, a U.S. citizen, advised his brother after he seized control of Islamabad in a 1999 coup. "They were thrown out by the people."
But Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has snubbed his advice, launching his second military crackdown in eight years, a kind of coup against his own government. Over the weekend, the general, who refuses to remove his uniform and govern as a civilian leader as promised, suspended the constitution and declared martial law.
In Musharraf's latest power grab, more than 3,500 civilians have been rounded up and detained, most of them lawyers, judges and political opponents. Pakistan's leader, viewed by the Bush administration as an ally in the war on terror, has ordered his troops to seize the supreme court, police stations and media outlets. They've also cut telephone lines and censored the press.
In 2002, Musharraf enacted the Legal Framework Order, or LFO, giving himself the absolute power to sack the prime minister and dissolve parliament, while formalizing his position as both head of the army and state.
Under pressure from the West, Musharraf made a public commitment to retire from the army and remove his uniform by Dec. 31, 2004. But he soon changed his mind.
"I thought that removing my uniform would dilute my authority and command at a time when both were required most," he said in his recently published memoir. "Therefore, much against my habit and character, I decided to go against my word. I decided not to give up my uniform."
The Pakistani supreme court recently challenged that decision, however, leading to Musharraf's purging of its justices. The draconian move made it clear to critics that his main motive in the crackdown is not to protect the government from terrorism, as he claims, but to save his job and consolidate power.
"This is consistent with who he is. He wants all power all the time," said Talat Masood, a retired general and political analyst. "He's not prepared to share power with anyone" -- including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was away in Dubai when Musharraf ordered martial law.
Dr. Musharraf, a Chicago anesthesiologist who moved to America in 1974, says his older brother does have a authoritarian streak, and can be a bully.
"He used to impose his will on me," he told the New York Times in a 1999 interview. "He'd get angry with me."
He said he hoped his brother would keep his promise to the people of Pakistan and return to democracy.
"If he carries out his promises he's given, I'll be happy," Dr. Musharraf said. "If he becomes corrupted by power, I'll be uncomfortable. I hope he does his job, holds elections and gets out."
Even before the latest crackdown, Musharraf's public approval ratings had sunk to 21 percent in Pakistan.
Both Washington and London had been pushing Musharraf toward democratic reforms with little success. Now, in the wake of his emergency rule, they are demanding he restore the constitution, step down as army chief and hold free elections now.
Musharraf, who sponsored the Taliban before 9/11, has been a reluctant partner in the war on terror. He admits in his memoir that the only reason he signed on to America's war was for "self-interest and self-preservation."
While claiming to cooperate with U.S. antiterror objectives, he has cut deals with Islamic militants in Pakistan's tribal belt; freed high-value al-Qaida targets whom U.S. authorities helped him capture, such as Mohammed Noor Khan; and refused to let authorities question Danny Pearl's murderer, Omar Sheikh, or nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan.
On his watch, moreover, Osama bin Laden and the rest of al-Qaida'a high command have carved out a new sanctuary within Pakistan, where they are training both local and foreign jihadists from Europe and America, including young children now, to attack the West.
And at the same time, Musharraf forbids U.S. patrols in his country to hunt down bin Laden or even counter-attack insurgents.
"It's not that we lack the ability to go into that space," said Tom Fingar of the office of the director of U.S. National Intelligence. "But we have chosen not to do so without the permission of the Pakistani government."
He complained Islamabad consistently denies the U.S. military, based across the border in Afghanistan, permission to go after known al-Qaida training camps.
And the CIA station chief in Islamabad is confined to that city and almost completely isolated. He and other officers cannot venture out into the tribal areas without a Pakistani military escort.
Still, the administration has showered Musharraf's regime with $11 billion in military and economic aid since 9/11, while removing long-time sanctions imposed on Pakistan for rogue nuclear operations and other international violations.
Musharraf also revealed in his memoir that he only took steps toward democracy following his original 1999 military coup because of "external constraints imposed on me by the West in its demand for 'democracy.'"
He argues on page 334 of the book that much of what the West considers terrorism is viewed in the Muslim world as a "struggle for freedom" among the "mujahideen." And Western notions about "democracy" must be tailored to local cultures.
"The sooner the West accepts this reality, instead of thrusting on every country ideas that may be alien to people's aspirations, the better it will be for global harmony," he said. "I still am struggling to convince the West that Pakistan is more democratic today than it ever was in the past."
Musharraf added: "Ironically, to become so it needed me in uniform."
The Supreme Court justices Musharraf arrested might see it differently.
Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington. He can be conacted at Sperry@SperryFiles.com.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Gustave Moreau's "Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra", c. 1876
Oil is nearly $100 a barrel. Gas may soon reach $4 a gallon. And Americans are being bitten in almost every way imaginable by this insidious oil hydra.
Two billion people in China and India are now eager consumers. They want the cars, gadgets and lifestyle that Westerners have claimed as a birthright for a half-century. Their growing energy appetites mean that the international petroleum market may remain tight, even if Americans - who use almost twice as much oil per day as China and India put together - cut back on imported energy.
The Middle East is raking in billions each week. At best, our so-called friends in cash-laden Saudi Arabia subsidize fundamentalist mosques and hate-filled madrassas worldwide. At worst, our enemies in petrol-rich Iran are after the bomb, send weapons into Iraq to kill Americans and fund Hezbollah jihadists.
War in Iraq, rumors of fighting in the near-future in Iran and tension on the West Bank only panic markets, raise oil prices and further enrich our grinning enemies.
The nearly half-trillion dollars we will soon pay for imported oil does a lot more than prop up Russia's Vladimir Putin, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The petrodollar drain also contributes to our trade deficits, falling dollar and a general demoralization of the American people.
Our oil habit not only makes us dependent on some creepy suppliers, but we look like fools as we work nonstop to hand over our earnings to those who are rich by an accident of sitting atop oil someone else found and developed.
There is talk in this country of a gradual transition to alternative fuels, solar power, wind machines, plug-in electric cars and nuclear power. Supposedly Americans will soon be less dependent on imported oil - while helping to slow global warming - as we are weaned off our fossil-fuel addiction.
But let's talk about the present: If oil continues to climb, ultimately, it will change our very way of life. Hard-pressed families will shell out thousands more a year in direct transportation and heating and cooling costs, and more still as consumer prices inflate.
It may have always been unwise for commuters to buy large SUVs and V8 supercab trucks. Now, though, we may reach the point where these pricey huge vehicles will sputter to a halt. Indebted Americans will still shell out monthly payments to pay off their parked dinosaurs, only to drive them for emergency or ceremonial occasions.
Also expect rising popular anger at an asleep-at-the-wheel government that for the last 20 years should have been doing a lot more to mandate conservation, subsidize alternate fuels, encourage nuclear power and open up oil fields offshore and in Alaska.
Instead, doctrinaire free-market purists and radical environmentalists, hand in glove, for years have thwarted both conservation and exploration.
True, in a perfect world, the market would teach Detroit not to build gas-hungry big cars. Yet in the here and now, we are needlessly burning scarce fuel as too many 7,000-pound mammoths deliver single 180-pound drivers to work - while the auto industry continues on its path to irrelevance.
Meanwhile, green politicians may not want messy oilrigs off their coasts, or tankers up north among the ice and polar bears. But so far very few of them have sworn off jet travel, nice cars or ample homes.
Oil companies claim that they are only passing along escalating costs from overseas suppliers over which they have no control. But around a third of our oil is pumped here at home.
Think about it: The cost to extract oil from existing older wells is relatively fixed. For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, oil prices had been steady at between $20 and $30 a barrel (when adjusted for inflation) - and domestic oil companies did quite well. So now at near $100 a barrel, these corporations are raking additional profits of over $60 a barrel - potentially a domestic windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
Is there an easy way out of the mess we've gotten ourselves into?
Maybe a Silicon Valley genius inventor or entrepreneur will step forward with a breakthrough new energy source.
Maybe our government will start a crash project on the scale of the Manhattan Project to conserve and produce more fuels.
Maybe China and India will consider radical conservation measures.
Maybe countries like Iraq, Libya and Russia will start reinvesting in their oil infrastructures and double production.
Maybe the Middle East will finally settle down and soothe jittery oil speculators.
Those are too many maybes to wait for while our way of life hangs in the balance. It is past time to demand from our presidential candidates, as well as the current government, exactly when and how they plan to slay this many-headed oil monster.
Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author, most recently, of "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War." You can reach him by e-mailing email@example.com.
BY ARTHUR HERMAN
The Wall Street Journal
Thursday, November 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower in Northern France, June 1944
"Why should we Anglo-Saxons apologize for being superior?" Winston Churchill once growled in exasperation. "We are superior." Certainly Churchill's views of what he and other late Victorians called the "lesser races," such as blacks and East Indians, are very different from ours today. One might easily assume that a self-described reactionary like Churchill, holding such views, shared the anti-Semitism prevalent among Europe's ruling elites before the Holocaust.
But he did not, as Martin Gilbert vividly shows in "Churchill and the Jews." By chronicling Churchill's warm dealings with English and European Jews throughout his long career, and his heartfelt support of Zionism, Mr. Gilbert conveys Churchill's deep admiration for the Jewish people and captures his crucial role in creating the state of Israel. Churchill offers the powerful example of a Western statesman who--unlike other statesmen in his own time and ours--understood the malignant nature of anti-Semitism and did what he could to oppose its toxic effects.
His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, had been a close friend and ally to many wealthy British Jews, almost notoriously so, given the rancid snobbery of his circles. The son rarely failed to follow his father's inclinations, in this matter as in others. Jews like the Rothschilds and the banker Sir Ernest Cassel helped to advance Winston Churchill's early career (including watching over his finances after his father's death), and he repaid their support in part by publicly condemning the kind of anti-Semitism that was all too common in England's upper classes. But his actions were not merely an expression of personal thanks.
A student of history, Churchill came to feel that Judaism was the bedrock of traditional Western moral and political principles--and Churchill was of a generation that preferred to talk about principles instead of "values." For Europeans to turn against the Jew, he argued, was for them to strike at their own roots and reject an essential part of their civilization--"that corporate strength, that personal and special driving power" that Jews had brought for hundreds of years to Europe's arts, sciences and institutions.
To deny Jews a national homeland was therefore an act of ingratitude. Churchill became a keen backer of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which broached the idea of creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. As a friend to Zionist leader Chaim Weizman, and as colonial secretary after World War I, Churchill made establishing such a homeland a matter of urgency. "The hope of your race for so many centuries will be gradually realized here," Churchill told a Jewish audience in Jerusalem during his visit in March 1921, "not only for your own good, but for the good of all the world."
By "all the world" Churchill most pointedly meant to include Palestine's Arabs. As Mr. Gilbert recounts, Churchill was dismayed and disgusted by Arab resistance to Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine. "The Jews have a far more difficult task than you," he told Arab representatives, since "you only have to enjoy your own possessions," while the Jewish emigrants from Europe and elsewhere would have to carve a society out of a barren wilderness.
Yet Churchill was convinced that Arab civilization would benefit from contact with an entrepreneurial and morally centered people. "Speaking entirely as a non-Jew," he wrote, "I look on the Jews as the natural importers of western leaven so necessary for countries in the Near East." At the same time, Churchill tried to ensure that Palestinian Arabs got their own national homeland. It was Churchill who, as colonial secretary, decided to separate Transjordan (modern-day Jordan) from the rest of Palestine, assuming that Transjordan would become the site of the Arabs' future state and that other parts of Palestine (including the West Bank of the Jordan River) would be open to Jewish settlement.
Churchill was to be disappointed by the results of his Middle Eastern efforts, as Arabs hunted down and murdered Jewish settlers by the hundreds in the 1920s and 1930s--just at the time when Adolf Hitler was building his own regime around the persecution of the Jews in Germany. As early as 1930 Churchill realized that the Nazis' anti-Jewish policies carried the stench of an ancient evil. "Tell your boss from me," he said to a Hitler acquaintance in the late summer of 1932, as the Nazi Party was on the verge of power, "that anti-Semitism may be a good starter but it is a bad finisher."
In December 1942, Churchill--now prime minister--learned from a Roman Catholic member of the Polish resistance, a man named Jan Karsky, that thousands of Jews were being rounded up and sent by cattle cars to what turned out to be the death camp at Belzec, in eastern Poland. Churchill used the Karsky report to compel the Allies, including the Russians, to condemn "a bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination" in Germany--although he understood that the best way to halt the slaughter would be the speedy destruction of Hitler's empire. The chief of Britain's air staff, Sir Charles Portal, warned that any air raids "avowedly conducted on account of the Jews would be an asset to enemy propaganda," and Churchill reluctantly bowed to his advice. Nonetheless, in 1943 he wanted a film that documented the atrocities committed against the Jews to be shown to every American serviceman before the invasion of Europe.
After the war, Churchill felt that the most fitting response to the Holocaust would be to punish those guilty of the most horrific crimes against the Jews and to fulfill the promise of a Jewish homeland that he and Britain had made almost 30 years earlier. When Ernest Bevin, Britain's Labour Party foreign minister, hesitated to recognize Israel nine months after its founding, for fear of inflaming Arab opinion, Churchill swung back hard: "Whether the Right Honorable Gentleman likes it or not, the coming into being of a Jewish State in Palestine is an event in world history to be viewed in the perspective, not of a generation or a century, but in the perspective of a thousand, two thousand, or even three thousand years." Israel was just recompense, Churchill felt, not only for what the Jews of Europe had lost but for what they had given to civilization over the centuries.
This view, of course, no longer prevails. Today the existence of Israel is apparently something to be regretted, even deplored, not only in Arab capitals but in European ones and on American university campuses. Paradoxically, such feelings intensified after 9/11, an event that should have made us all aware of who the friends of Western civilization really are--and who its enemies. Martin Gilbert's book reminds us that anti-Semitism is the dark turn of the modern mind against itself, and a form of cultural patricide.
Mr. Herman's "Gandhi & Churchill" will be published by Bantam in April. You can buy "Churchill and the Jews" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
John Unitas makes time for autographs for some young fans in 1960. He continued to sign them in his later years when holding a pen was difficult due to nerve damage from his playing days. (Sun file photo)
By Paul McMullen | Baltimore Sun Staff
September 12, 2002
Digg Del.icio.us Facebook Fark Google Newsvine Reddit Yahoo Print Single page view Reprints Reader feedback Text size: The first words I remember are "Get the baby out from in front of the TV." I was 3 years old when the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL championship game, so it's a safe bet that my father wanted an unobstructed view of the man who was known as Johnny U. by most, the "Master" by insiders and "Mister Unitas" by referees.
Baltimore's baby boomers were reared on two athletic heroes, and both were identifiable by a single name. Brooks sounded as exotic as Ali or Pele, compared with plain, simple John, who was all substance and no style, unless you considered black high-top cleats and a flat-top cutting edge.
If ever an athletic star symbolized an American town, it was John Unitas.
He ruled Baltimore before there was a Harborplace and service economies, when men made a living with their hands doing hard, sweaty jobs. He hailed from Pittsburgh, Steeltown USA, and came to Baltimore when tens of thousands still worked at the Bethlehem Steel plant in Sparrows Point. They worked until it ached, and he played hurt. Unitas was signed as a castoff free agent, and that was perfect too, because Baltimore had an inferiority complex.
It doesn't seem a coincidence that John Unitas died the same year Memorial Stadium's facade was leveled.
As honored and as honorable a man as Brooks Robinson is, in the 1960s there was no doubt which Hall of Famer-to-be and which sport ruled Memorial Stadium. While the Orioles were a pastime that struggled to draw 1 million fans a season despite some of the best teams in the majors, the Colts were a passion and Unitas always kept his cool inside what was dubbed "The World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum."
John Unitas, always calm despite playing in "The World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum," tries to get past Los Angeles linebacker and future NFL coach Jack Pardee in 1962 home opener. He led the Colts to a 30-27 win over Rams. (Sun file photo : 1962)
Unitas wasn't the star of the Colts' last home game in 1964, the first I attended. He sent Lenny Moore behind Jim Parker about 20 times, and the halfback set an NFL record for touchdowns in a season as Baltimore pounded the hapless Washington Redskins.
That season ended in crisis, as the Colts were inexplicably routed by Art Modell's Cleveland Browns in the NFL title game. The same in 1965, when Unitas' magic couldn't overcome the Green Bay Packers' dynasty. In 1966, when the Orioles made the World Series, they played the Dodgers on a Sunday afternoon, but our TV remained glued to the Colts' game against the Bears at Wrigley Field.
My late parents ran their household the way Unitas ran a huddle - stern and without dissent.
When America began to let its hair down in the late 1960s, Unitas grew his just long enough for a comb-over. He still looked square compared with Joe Namath, the antihero who led the Jets to an upset of the Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969. Before John Elway was born, Unitas had mastered the two-minute drill, but he was coming off an injury and the bench, and could not rescue Baltimore at the Orange Bowl on that nauseating, epochal day.
When Carroll Rosenbloom and Robert Irsay conspired during pro football's merger to shift the franchise from the NFL to the AFC, old-guard fans like my father stopped going to Memorial Stadium. They wanted Lions and Bears, not Bengals and Patriots. That meant more tickets for teens like me, who enjoyed Unitas in his twilight.
ESPN Classic links Namath and Unitas to Super Bowl III, and forgets the show that they put on in Baltimore 30 years ago this month. The brash Jet threw for 496 yards, the hobbled Unitas 376, and New York won, 44-34. It was as wild a game as I have ever witnessed.
Within weeks, general manager Joe Thomas had Unitas benched, but there was one last hurrah. In the last game of the 1972 season at Memorial Stadium, below a plane pulling a banner that read "Unitas We Stand!" he was sent in to mop up in a rout of Buffalo. Unitas tossed a sideline pass to Eddie Hinton, who turned it into an inspired 63-yard catch and run to a touchdown.
Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas is shown in action against the Oakland Raiders during a Jan. 4, 1971 game at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. (AP file photo / September 11, 2002)
The place rattled like it did in the old days. It was John Wayne walking off into the sunset. A month later, Unitas was traded to the San Diego Chargers. The Colts drafted Bert Jones, but football in Baltimore - Super Bowl XXXV and all - was never the same.
Unitas did not suffer fools gladly, and I experienced that firsthand a few years ago, when I was asked to get his comment about Irsay's passing off Baltimore's football history as Indianapolis'. Awestruck by the voice on the other end of the phone, I didn't word the question the right way, and he grumbled something like "You'll have to ask Mr. Irsay about that."
The death of Ted Williams revisited the argument about the greatest feat in American sports history, his .406 batting average in 1941 or Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak the same year. Web sites conducted polls about the matter, but unmentioned was another achievement that will never be matched.
Unitas threw a touchdown pass in 47 straight games. Some of them were 12-game seasons. That is no off-days in four seasons, no secondary schemes that he couldn't solve.
47. What a number.
Not as memorable as 19.
Johnny Unitas, displaying his famous flat-top haircut and old Colts uniform, is shown in a 1960 photo.
September 12, 2002
It must have been a blind-side tackle that took John Unitas yesterday. The man who made Sudden Death part of the American language would have headed downfield in that determined crablike scuttle of his if he had seen the real thing coming. Anybody could tell you: Give Unitas a few final ticks on the clock, and he could bring triumph out of almost any disaster.
He did it once upon a time, didn't he? Didn't he fade into that pocket long ago in the frozen dusk at Yankee Stadium, and didn't he lead a team called the Baltimore Colts to a world championship after regulation time had run out? Didn't he throw touchdown passes in 47 straight games with behemoths draped all over him? And didn't he swell the collective chest of an entire community that had never before imagined such a sense of pride?
Didn't he? It's all so long ago, and the story's so wondrous that it kills us to see it end. John Unitas didn't just play football, he defined a generation of Baltimoreans. Baltimore was no longer that marble-step city stuck somewhere on a railroad track between New York and Washington. Now it was the place where John Unitas orchestrated miracles across 17 autumns.
He gave Baltimore a new image to see in the mirror. In him, we saw the ordinary man who did extraordinary things, the crew-cut working stiff who put aside a lunch pail and threw footballs across the horizon. Stripped of his uniform, he was a pale, practically albino scarecrow. But, in high-topped shoes and helmet, the scrawny Ray Bolger became the unconquerable John Wayne.
Signed as a free agent in 1956 after being cut by Pittsburgh, John Unitas was a smiling member of a Colts championship team in 1958. (Sun file photo)
To say his name is to evoke a whole series of snapshots. Unitas finding Raymond Berry in a swirl of dust in that miraculous '58 overtime game; Unitas pulling out some improbable last-minute victory, and then laconically trotting off the field, oblivious to the roar of the adoring crowd; Unitas, tough beyond imagining.
"Out of all those old Colts," I once asked Art Donovan, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle, "who was the toughest you ever saw?"
I imagined he'd say Bill Pellington, the homicidal linebacker, or Don Joyce, who wrestled professionally in the off-season, or maybe Gino "The Giant" Marchetti.
"Unitas," Donovan said without pause. "Because he took the most punishment. And never said a word about it."
Remember? It's 1958, and the Green Bay Packers' John Symank knees Unitas so badly that he badly damaged a lung. Unitas sits out a few games, then returns against the Los Angeles Rams wearing a vest to protect his injury.
On the first series from scrimmage, he heaves a 70-yard touchdown pass to Lenny Moore. Memorial Stadium erupts so loudly you can still hear the echoes. And, above the roar, Chuck Thompson dryly tells his radio audience, "Gosh, how rusty can a guy get?"
That was the year of the first world championship. In '59, he scored two touchdowns in the second title game. And then came the '60 season, when the Colts and Bears went at it late in the year. They were tied for first. Donovan, who served in the South Pacific during World War II, once said, "That game against the Bears in 1960? That was worse than World War II."
With barely a minute remaining, the Colts trailed by a couple of points. Doug Atkins hit Unitas in his backfield and broke Unitas' nose. The Colts called time out, but they couldn't get the bleeding to stop. Jim Parker, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman, remembered years later, "It was awful. You couldn't even look at John's face, it was so busted up. And the blood kept coming. Finally, Alex Sandusky reached down and grabbed a clump of mud and shoved it up Unitas' nose."
Several months back, I asked Unitas about the story. He remembered Coach Weeb Ewbank trying to pull him out of the game.
"You do," Unitas told Ewbank, "and I'll kill you."
Moments later, with seconds left on the clock and tacklers descending on him, Unitas lofted a game-winning touchdown pass to Lenny Moore, who leaped over the Bears' J.C. Caroline in the corner of the end zone.
Always the competitor, John Unitas seemed happiest and his most effective when he was a little banged up. (Sun file photo : 1960)
Over the years, Unitas took some hellacious shots to the body, and paid a price for the rest of his life. He strode like a guy who'd just gotten off a horse. For years, he took physical therapy. A while back, the TV reporter Ron Matz went to Kernan Hospital to interview a couple of the old Colts about a team reunion.
He found Unitas walking into the hospital - with Lenny Moore and Jim Parker. Parker had had a stroke some months earlier. Now, he was leaning on Unitas and Moore for help as the three of them gimped in.
Matz thought about the irony. For years, it was Parker who'd opened the running holes for Moore, and Parker who had protected Unitas as he dropped back to pass. Now it was the two "little" guys protecting him.
"John was the Babe Ruth of the National Football League," said Mike Gibbons, director of the Babe Ruth Museum. He said it the day Unitas donated all his memorabilia to the museum.
"I always felt it should remain here in Baltimore," Unitas said. "People here have always been so gracious to me."
Gracious doesn't cover it. For a whole generation, John Unitas defined a way of life around here. Boys grew up hunching their shoulders because Unitas did. They wore crew cuts like his, and closed their eyes at night and imagined themselves with the number 19 on their jerseys, and the crowd roaring.
The doctors say it was a heart attack that took Unitas. Maybe it wore itself out. For so many years, he gave a whole community its heart, and its sense of a better self.
Quarterback John Unitas, known as "The Golden Arm," once held nearly every NFL passing record. (Sun file photo)
The Golden Colt
On arm of No. 19, NFL spiraled to new heights
By John Eisenberg | Baltimore Sun Staff
September 12, 2002
John Unitas' importance in pro football history can't be emphasized enough. He was not only one of the game's all-time greatest quarterbacks, but also a central figure in the NFL's rise from relative obscurity to the nation's No. 1 sports obsession.
When Unitas broke in with the Colts in 1956, pro football still lagged behind baseball, boxing and horse racing in the hearts and minds of many sports fans. But a new medium - television - and a small cadre of indelible characters would soon send the NFL hurtling toward the top.
In the corridors of power, there was Pete Rozelle, the boy wonder commissioner who recognized TV's awesome potential.
On the sidelines, there was Vince Lombardi, the jut-jawed coach who molded a dynasty in Green Bay.
And in uniform, there was Unitas, the Baltimore quarterback who made the impossible seem routine.
"He was, in a way, the face of the league as it grew," said Tex Schramm, who worked for the Los Angeles Rams and CBS television in the '50s and was later one of the architects of the Dallas Cowboys' dynasty. "There were a few guys who people looked at and said, 'There's pro football. There's one of the guys who make this game so great.' Johnny Unitas was one of them."
His timing was as perfect as his sideline tosses to his favorite Colts receiver, Raymond Berry. Pro football was just evolving when he arrived, with offenses becoming more sophisticated and exciting as they moved away from the running game and old-fashioned sleight-of-hand trickery and toward the passing game.
"There were guys like Otto Graham and Sammy Baugh who were great passers, but Unitas was really the first, great, unbelievable passing quarterback," Schramm said. "We'd never had anything like that before in the league. His passing was remarkable. He could hit anything. And he did it late in close games. There was just so much drama with Unitas. He was a player that people loved to watch."
People in Baltimore were the ones who loved to watch him the most, of course. The city's major-league papers had just been stamped a few years earlier, with the Colts arriving in 1953 and the Orioles a year later.
John Unitas was the best quarterback when TV's power and pro football's rising popularity began to create what is now the nation's No. 1 sports obsession. (Sun file photo : 1970)
"We'd never had anything - anything! - and then this guy just appeared out of nowhere," said sportswriter Frank Deford, who was a Baltimore teen-ager when Unitas came along. "He was like someone who had come to us from another planet. No one had ever heard of him. We didn't even know how to pronounce his name. We called him 'Uni-tass' at first. But then he was almost immediately this God-like figure, throwing passes and pulling out games. He could do no wrong. He was Robin Hood. It was amazing, wonderful. And it climaxed that day in New York."
The Colts' defeat of the New York Giants in the 1958 championship game at Yankee Stadium was a watershed moment for the NFL, the day the sport arrived at the forefront of the nation's sports awareness. Millions across the country were watching on TV as the Colts rallied to an overtime victory in a taut drama that underlined the pro game's best aspects. Unitas was the star of the show, coolly rescuing the Colts with his passing and courage.
"Unitas had something that you can't exactly put into words - a form of quiet leadership that you don't see much of anymore, and it was never more evident than that day," Schramm said. "As the audience for pro football grew with that game and others that followed, Unitas represented something to the public."
His timing, again, was perfect. He was the game's best quarterback at the precise moment when TV's power and pro football's rising popularity began to create the monster that would one day dwarf all other sports.
It was an epic time for myth-making in America, with the space program taking off and the country turning to a new generation of heroes such as astronauts and football players, who were engaged in "new" endeavors seemingly as fantastic as they were dangerous. Unitas became a fixture on that dramatic landscape.
The irony, of course, was that he was as old-fashioned as they came, a classic American underdog, hunch-shouldered, buzz-cut, sparing with words; willing to stay in the pocket and take a fearful beating as long as it meant he'd win. Reared in the blue-collar hills of Western Pennsylvania, he had been ignored and disdained before coming to the Colts as a graduate of a semi-pro league.
Former Colts quarterback John Unitas walks off the field at Memorial Stadium after being honored with the retiring of his famous No. 19 during halftime of a game against the Miami Dolphins. Unitas, after an 18-year Hall of Fame career, would be labeled the greatest player in the first 50 years of the NFL. (Sun file photo: 1977)
"I saw him three or four years ago, and he was all beat up," Deford said. "He paid for all those years of staying in the pocket. But, oh, was he gutsy. On top of everything else, his great skill, you will never find a gutsier athlete."
He lived long enough to see his sport become a multi-billion dollar industry, an ultra-modern mega-game.
"His time was just a little bit before the wave [of popularity] really broke for the NFL," Deford said. "There was more [adulation] for, say, Joe Montana, who was a generation later. But people in the East knew about Unitas. People in New York certainly did.
"There's a great appreciation now for how good he was. He was right on the cusp of it all as he played. It started with him, it really did."
November 7, 2007 12:00 AM
You don’t have to be a Harvard University researcher to figure out that the media is infected with liberal bias — or to realize that some left-wing journalists will use any means necessary to create ideological narratives that fit their worldview. The Rathergate debacle at CBS News involving faked National Guard memos to smear President Bush was an extreme example. But if you look closely, you’ll find everyday examples of Serious Journalists manufacturing the news and concocting social crises.
Amazingly, they always manage to make conservatives look racist, intolerant, and evil. Funny how that works.
On Monday, the local Fox affiliate in Birmingham, Ala., blew the whistle on an ABC News sting operation intended to elicit bigoted responses from local residents. The national ABC News program Primetime Live hired actors to pose as same-sex couples and engage in public displays of affection on a park bench. Birmingham police department sources told the Fox affiliate about the social experiment; a local merchant spotted an RV where the ABC crew was stationed. The merchant was told “ABC was working on a week-long project to see how people would react . . . A FOX6 news reporter approached the RV and talked with an ‘actor’ who said, ‘Yes, we are working for ABC News.’”
Welcome to Media Theatrics 101. Instead of simply interviewing folks in the South or staking out real gay couples, ABC News thinks it’s fair and objective to stage-manage social experiments and call it journalism. Next thing you know, they’ll hire celebrity prankster Ashton Kutcher to jump out and yell, “You just got Punk’d!” as passers-by get ensnared and — ABC News hopes — exhibit the signs of prejudice they are so sure exist in southerners.
Does this politically correct set-up sound familiar? It should. Last spring, I exposed a similar news media production engineered by NBC’s Dateline, which recruited Muslim males to be sent to sports events and NASCAR races in the South and across the heartland to expose fans as anti-Muslim, anti-Arab bigots. Yes, the same program and network that were humiliated for faking GM pick-up truck explosions attempted to manufacture another crisis to give Dateline’s talking heads yet another opportunity to furrow their brows, shake their heads, and win more Emmy awards.
GWU student journalist admits hate crime hoax
My readers offered their own news sting ideas:
“I wonder if they would consider sending a professor wearing an ‘I Love W’ button and an American flag pin into the faculty lounge at Harvard or some other liberal ivory tower with a hidden camera. I would love to see that experiment.”
“Perhaps when I get back from deployment, you can follow me around Seattle and see how I get treated wearing my Navy uniform . . . “
“Why don’t you set up some white guy with hidden cameras, put a George Bush T-Shirt on him and have him walk down a street in Pakistan. Or, better yet, have him walk down a street in Detroit. I’ll just bet you could get a lot of bigoted reactions . . . “
“Wear a pro-life T-shirt to a Women’s Studies class.” Or a “Marriage Is Between One Man, One Woman” T-shirt to the New York Times newsroom.
For many left-wing do-gooders in the media, the ideological end — exposing America as an irredeemably racist, sexist, homophobic, elitist nation — justifies these manufactured means. That destructive philosophy has manifested itself on countless college campuses, where professors and students alike have been caught cooking up fake hate crimes to show how racist our society is.
On Monday, in a separate but rather related incident, a student journalist/College Democrat at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., admitted that she had drawn swastikas on her own dorm-room door. Sarah Marshak signed a confession, according to campus officials, after security cameras caught her in the act. Her campus publication, The Hatchet, said she told the staff that she “only drew the final three of six swastikas on her door in an attempt to highlight what she characterized as GW’s inaction.”
It’s a short leap from hoax crimes to hoax news. Marshak could get expelled, but there may yet be an opening for her at the stage production unit of ABC News, NBC News, or CBS News.
The de facto dinosaur network-news motto, after all, is “All the news that’s fit to stage.”
© 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
November 02, 2007
By Joe Guzzardi
But when it comes to mass immigration, we at VDARE.COM treat all who support it equally—we come crashing down on them.
So it is, with disappointment, that I expose Bruce Springsteen as a blatant open borders and illegal immigration supporter.
What makes my depiction tough is that, through his music and high-energy concerts, Springsteen has provided millions like me with great pleasure.
The irony is that the "Boss" is an artist who, since his rock and roll beginnings thirty years ago in Asbury Park, New Jersey, has represented himself as an advocate for the American underdog.
Adding to the irony is that Springsteen is, I believe, sincere in his concern about the little guy and deeply disdainful of the federal government bureaucrats who serve themselves without regard for its citizens. Bruce never fails to plug the local food banks that have tables set up inside the arena where he is performing.
Yet what Springsteen misses—oh, so painfully—is the obvious connection between illegal immigration and the demise of the suffering middle-class.
Let me back up to 1984 in Tacoma, Washington when I saw my first Bruce concert.
On the scheduled day of the show, Springsteen came up ill. And about 5:00 p.m., only hours before the starting time, radio stations throughout Seattle, announced: "No Bruce Springsteen tonight! The show has been postponed until tomorrow."
Everyone’s plans were fouled up. Many who could make it on the original day, couldn’t make it the next.
The following night when Bruce walked onto the stage, aware of the inconvenience he had inadvertently caused, he said: "I’ll make it up to you. We’ll be rocking all night long."
For the next four hours, to his fans’ delight, Bruce played non-stop. The Tacoma Dome literally shook.
As everyone learned, when you go to a Springsteen concert, you get your money’s worth.
Since Tacoma, where Springsteen sang songs from his Born in the U.S.A. album (I had no idea at the time how much that phrase would eventually mean to me), I’ve seen Springsteen several times including his recent stop in Oakland (read the review here) where he promoted his new album, Magic.
Springsteen is the same old Bruce—no opening act, no intermission—just his best music from 15 studio albums.
A Springsteen concert is—or should be—a welcome relief from the National Question’s overwhelming weight.
And everything was fine until the finale, American Land, a Springsteen original based on a Pete Seeger song and added as a bonus track to the special edition release of his 2006 album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.
The American Land lyrics were displayed on large overhead projectors. So there was no possible misunderstanding. (Read them here.)
The romanticized, upbeat tune about why people journey to America started innocently enough:
"I docked at Ellis Island in a city of light and spire
My Italian grandparents and Springsteen’s grandmother ("Zerilli") "docked at Ellis Island," made their "home in the American land"—so far, so good.
But then came the crusher:
In the blink of an eye, my night off from immigration came to an abrupt end. I was suddenly "on-duty".
Except for the chorus, those words that misrepresented what immigration reform is about—"The hands that built the country we're all trying to keep down"—were the last Bruce sang that night.
I left the obnoxiously named Oracle Arena angry—furious at Bruce for his song, and mad at myself for being angry, if you can follow that.
After all, I had anted up big money for the tickets, fought the traffic for two hours, paid the equivalent of a week’s worth of groceries to park only to end up listening to Springsteen’s ode to illegal immigration.
And I was irked at myself because, in reality, I may have been the only person who picked up on Springsteen’s message. As I exited the venue, I didn’t hear anyone say: "Wow, Bruce wants more illegal immigration and lots more immigrants from Arab countries! Let’s do all we can to help further his cause."
For all I know, Springsteen’s lyric may just have been words that worked in his song. But for a talent like Bruce, I can’t imagine that it would have taken much effort to write something else.
When I returned home, my curiosity piqued, I discovered that American Land is not Bruce’s only foray into immigration advocacy.
Another cut from Magic is a song based on Springsteen’s New Jersey youth, Long Walk Home and inspired by the gospel classic, "Rank Strangers (To Me)"
Like American Land, it offers an insightful beginning:
"In town I passed Sal's grocery
“My father said Son, we're lucky in this town,
Hard to believe as it is, these words describe the Los Angeles of my own early years: "a beautiful place to be born…nobody crowds you…" We were "lucky" to have been born there.
Then Springsteen’s tone shifted:
"You know that flag flying over the courthouse
In case you miss Bruce’s meaning, see his YouTube.com video (watch it here) where, when those words are sung at about the three minute mark, (3:12) the camera flashes to a young Hispanic man staring through a chain link fence.
Here’s what Springsteen told New York Times critic, A. O. Scott about "Long Walk Home":
"In that particular song a guy comes back to his town and recognizes nothing and is recognized by nothing. The singer in Long Walk Home, that's his experience. His world has changed. The things that he thought he knew, the people who he thought he knew, whose ideals he had something in common with, are like strangers. The world that he knew feels totally alien. I think that's what's happened in this country in the past six years." [In Love With Pop, Uneasy With the World, By A. O. Scott, New York Times, September 21, 2007]
Springsteen’s analysis describes exactly my feelings when I return to Los Angeles.
What Springsteen failed to acknowledge is the "people he thought he knew" have most likely left his hometown of Long Branch (now 20 percent Hispanic) pushed out by immigration.
And his old neighbors whose "ideals he thought he had something in common with" are probably vehemently opposed to mass, particularly immigration.
Springsteen is so close to getting it! But his liberal leanings (he once lived in Beverly Hills) just don’t allow him to follow his instincts to their logical conclusion—legal and illegal immigration plays a major role in changing the world he grew up in and loved.
That’s a pity. Although I don’t believe that Springsteen’s advocacy matters—American sentiment has shifted against him dramatically—if he were to speak out on immigration’s obvious impact, Bruce could help us take another big step forward.
I don’t expect any pro-immigration enforcement songs from Bruce. Writing a catchy tune about border enforcement might be tough. [VDARE.COM NOTE: Country Singer W.C Edgar did—you can hear him sing "Red, White and Black" at this link—his website is here.]
But a few well placed words, like to the Times’ Scott [email him], would be a pleasant relief from the standard Hollywood patter.
Who knows? Perhaps other elites would follow.
And then maybe I could finally get a night off.
Joe Guzzardi [e-mail him] is the Editor of VDARE.COM Letters to the Editor. In addition, he is an English teacher at the Lodi Adult School and has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.
Pakistani policemen scuffle with lawyers outside a court during an anti-Musharraf protest in Multan.
"Inaction at this moment is suicide for Pakistan, and I cannot allow the country to commit suicide."
Thus did President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declare a state of emergency and invoke martial law. [Full text of Musharraf speech here.]
The Supreme Court has been dismissed, the chief justice put under house arrest. A thousand lawyers and political opponents have been incarcerated. Human rights organizations have been shut down. Independent news media have been silenced.
Musharraf has effected a second coup, the first being his takeover in 1999. Doing so, he invoked Abraham Lincoln: "By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life."
Indeed, Lincoln, too, impeded elections in Maryland, ordered Chief Justice Roger Taney arrested, shut newspapers, suspended habeas corpus, arrested thousands who sympathized with the South's right to independence and ordered a blockade of Southern ports.
What has been the reaction of the great evangelist of Wilsonian democracy in the White House to its suspension in Pakistan?
Military aid to the regime and army will continue.
Welcome to the real world, where state interests always trump ideology. The "world democratic revolution" and the Second Bush Inaugural goal of "ending tyranny in our world" have been put on the shelf. For what is at issue is more critical than whether Musharraf is dictator or democrat.
Pakistan, a nation of 170 million with nuclear weapons, is up for grabs. And the major contenders are not democrats. On one side is Musharraf and loyal elements of the army, police and intelligence services. On the other are radicals with guns—disloyal soldiers, pro-Taliban militia, al-Qaida sympathizers and suicide-bombers.
Such folks do not settle quarrels at ballot boxes.
The crisis in Pakistan brings home the reality the Bushites have ignored in their ideological crusades. For in the Pakistan crucible we see starkly who our real enemies are, whence the true dangers come and where our vital interests lie.
Musharraf is—as were Franco, Pinochet and the Shah in the Cold War—a flawed friend and an enemy of our enemy. If he falls, any democratic successor, like Benazir Bhutto, would not likely long survive al-Qaida and the suicide bombers who already tried to kill her.
What is happening in Pakistan exposes, too, the limits of U.S. power and the failure of President Bush—because of the democratist ideology to which he converted after 9-11—to see clearly the real dangers to his country. Our enemy was always al-Qaida. It was never Iraq. And it is not Iran, at whom the GOP candidates are all braying their bellicosity.
After 9-11, those who viewed the horror and asked, "Why do they hate us?" were hooted down as unpatriotic. We were told Muslim militants hate us because we are free, democratic and good, and they are evil.
American can no longer afford to indulge this ideological claptrap. We are hated not because of who we are, but because of what we do. Nowhere is that more true than in Pakistan.
A loyal ally in the Cold War, Pakistan served as a strategic base camp for the Mujahideen, who used U.S. mortars and Stinger missiles to run the Red Army out of Afghanistan. Then we dumped Pakistan to court her adversary, India.
Millions of Muslims now no longer see America as the beacon of liberty, but as an arrogant superpower with a huge footprint in their world, dictating to their regimes. Instead of bringing our troops home after our Cold War and Gulf War victories, we moved permanently into Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Then we attacked a Muslim nation, Iraq, that had neither attacked us nor threatened us, to impose our system upon it.
Like the British, French and Russians before us, we are seen as imperialists, and shall be so seen and so hated until we get our troops out of their world. Finally, we are despised for our toxic culture and our uncritical support of the Israelis, who are viewed as the persecutors and robbers of the land and dignity of the Palestinian people.
Why cannot we see ourselves as others see us?
Pakistan reveals, too, the limits of military power. With an army of 500,000 "breaking" from Iraq and Afghanistan, we lack the forces to wage any more wars. And NATO is a paper army.
If Pakistan's army cannot crush the Taliban and al-Qaida in its western provinces, and now in its cities, how can America do it, if Musharraf falls? How can the Afghan war ever be won, if the Taliban and al-Qaida enjoy a permanent privileged sanctuary from which to launch forays into Afghanistan?
With the end of the Cold War, America needed a strategist of the caliber of George Kennan. But we got George Bush, Condi and the neocons, with their messianic vision of global democracy brought about through an endless series of cakewalk wars.
Pakistan brings us back to Earth.
Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from Amazon.com.
November 6, 2007
BY JIM SCHAEFER
DETROIT FREE PRESS
The Boss roared into the Palace of Auburn Hills on Monday night, pounding a thunderous guitar and waving the American flag — a theoretical, tattered Stars and Stripes — and the well-dressed, mostly older crowd responded with shouts of their own.
“Bruuuuuuce!” was the refrain before and after many songs, and even after the man’s political statements.
Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band grabbed the audience’s attention first with the hard-driving new single, “Radio Nowhere,” and by the fifth song, Springsteen was pontificating lightly from the stage.
Before settling into that tune — the haunting, acoustic title track of his new album, “Magic” — Springsteen opined that over the last six years he’s seen “the truth get spun into lies, and the lies get spun into the truth.”
Is it magic? he asked. Then he began to play.
Springsteen has made no secret of his displeasure with the Bush Administration since the terror attacks of 2001, the war in Iraq, the handling of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the “erosion of civil liberties,” as he put it Monday night from the stage. His new record is laced with editorials.
But his speeches inside the Palace weren’t overbearing. This gig was mostly about singing, dancing and clapping. Performing from a basic stage with no real technical effects other than two big video screens, the focus was on the music and the band delivered.
Springsteen, who at 58 can still leap down to a lower stage platform with the best of them, kept most people in the audience standing through the show, even through the one-third of the performance that featured new numbers. The crowd slowed down only when the Boss wanted to slow down.
And when Springsteen launched into older favorites — “She’s the One” and “Reason to Believe” were early highlights — people kicked their dancing into overdrive.
The energy surged through other hits like “The Promised Land,” a moving version of “The Rising” and the thump-whumping “Badlands.”
Perhaps the most excited and genuine moment, though, came during the encore, which changed on the fly because of a kid in the front row. When Springsteen’s set list indicated it was time for “Kitty’s Back,” he instead reached down and took a sign from the youngster that read, “Ramrod please.”
The rocker noted that the kid, who looked to be about 11, had been dancing like crazy throughout the show. “Unplayed in five years,” Springsteen said about “Ramrod.” Then he laughed and launched into a rousing rendition of the song, first released on “The River” in 1980. Sidekick guitarist Steven Van Zandt scooted over to the main microphone and they belted out the lyrics together, tossing smiles around like the whole thing was a hoot.
Aside from some minor feedback problems in the initial number and a sometimes uninspired “Born to Run,” the Boss’ sound was clean and loud, and his message clear.
Even Steve Tepel, 42, a self-described Republican (in a Hawaiian shirt) from Sterling Heights, said he didn’t mind.
“I’m here to see an icon,” Tepel said. “If he’s got his message, I’m OK with that.”
Donna Garofano, who traveled from Salem, N.H., to see the concert with her friends, said she found the last song most poignant.
“American Land,” performed with two accordions with most of the band at the front of the stage, wasn’t so much a political mule-kick as it was a gently waving flag -- another Springsteen message about the America he wants everyone to know.
“The McNicholas, the Posalski's, the Smiths, Zerillis, too/ The Blacks, the Irish, Italians, the Germans and the Jews/ They died building the railroads worked to bones and skin/ They died in the fields and factories names scattered in the wind/ They died to get here a hundred years ago; they're still dyin’ now/ The hands that built the country we’re always trying to keep down."
Contact Jim Schaefer at 313-223-4542 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Reason to Believe
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
I'll Work For Your Love
Tunnel of Love
Working on the Highway
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Monday, November 05, 2007
Monday, November 5, 2007; Page A19
Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (10) celebrates after Navy defeated Notre Dame, 46-44, in triple overtime during college football action in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007.
When the U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated the seemingly unbeatable Soviet Union in Lake Placid in 1980 en route to the gold medal, it was hailed as the most stunning upset in sports history.
It may be difficult for an outsider to understand, but the Navy football team's 46-44 triple-overtime victory over Notre Dame on Saturday may rank, at the very least, a close second to that storied miracle on ice. This was a miracle on turf. Notre Dame had beaten Navy 43 straight times, dating back to 1963 when Roger Staubach was Navy's quarterback and officers in the military made salaries comparable to those of players in the National Football League.
It was before Vietnam, before Iraq, before any high school athlete who had any notion that he could play in the NFL someday ran screaming from the room at the thought of attending a college with a five-year post-graduate military commitment. It was, in short, a very different world.
Skeptics will point out that this is a bad (now 1-8) Notre Dame team. It doesn't matter. Every Notre Dame team should dominate Navy on the football field. At one point during the game, NBC -- also known as the Notre Dame Broadcasting Co. because it pays the school millions of dollars a year to televise all its home games -- did a promo for a high school All-Star game it televises in January. Only the country's top-rated high school seniors are invited to play.
"Twenty-one of the current Irish players have played in that game in past years," NBC play-by-play announcer Tom Hammond said.
That would be exactly 21 more than are currently playing at Navy. Or, as Hammond's partner Pat Haden pointed out: "With all due respect, Navy doesn't get to recruit blue-chip football players."
Just blue-chip people.
Navy's first touchdown on Saturday was scored by Zerbin Singleton, an aerospace engineering major with a 3.14 grade point average who hopes to be an astronaut. As an 11-year-old, Singleton watched as a bounty hunter shot and arrested his mother. He was accepted at the Naval Academy as a high school senior, but he could not report for plebe summer after he was injured when a car he was in was hit by a drunk driver. He tried to join the football team at Georgia Tech but was told, "Don't waste our time, kid, you're too small." He re-applied to Navy, was accepted, then had to deal with the suicide of his father during his freshman year.
Of course at 5-foot-8 and 174 pounds, Singleton is bigger than Reggie Campbell, the 5-foot-6-inch, 168-pound offensive captain who scored the winning points on Saturday.
Notre Dame has every advantage a football power can possibly have: an 80,000-seat stadium; its own TV network; arguably the greatest tradition in college football history ("win one for the Gipper," Knute Rockne, Touchdown Jesus, the fight song); more money than it knows what to do with; and a great academic reputation.
What does Navy sell to recruits? The chance to play against Notre Dame.
Or maybe it's the chance to wake up at 6 o'clock every morning; the chance to be screamed at by upperclassmen; the chance to lose your weekend liberty for carrying a book-bag improperly or for being 30 seconds late to class. Not to mention the chance to get shot at when you graduate.
The players Coach Paul Johnson recruits are frequently like Campbell and Singleton: too small for big-time programs like Notre Dame to bother with; tough kids who love a challenge and love proving they can do things that "can't" be done.
Like beating Notre Dame in Notre Dame Stadium.
The best description I ever heard of what it is like to play football at Navy, Army and Air Force came from Fred Goldsmith, who coached at Air Force: "At a civilian school the hardest part of a football player's day is football practice," he said. "At an academy, the easiest part of a football player's day is football practice."
Navy can't possibly beat Notre Dame. Except on Saturday a group of youngsters who were too small or too slow (or both) to play big-time college football did just that.
With all due respect to Notre Dame and all its blue-chip players, Navy's celebration should be our celebration.
John Feinstein is the author of "A Civil War: A Year Inside Army vs. Navy, College Football's Purest Rivalry." He has been a commentator for the Navy football radio network for 11 years.