Saturday, March 01, 2008
A would-be illegal immigrant scales the border fence dividing Nogales, Sonora, Mex., from Nogales, Ariz., in May.
Virtual Border Fence About As Effective As Katrina Levees—Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?
By Patrick J. Buchanan
February 28, 2008
When Woodrow Wilson went to Congress to ask for a declaration of war in 1917, the U.S. Army was ranked 17th in the world, behind Portugal.
On Armistice Day, 19 months later, there were 2 million doughboys in France, where they had helped to break the back of Gen. Ludendorff's theretofore invincible army in its final offensive, and 2 million more in the United States ready to march on Berlin.
No other nation could have done that.
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, FDR demanded that a disarmed America "build 50,000 planes" -- a seemingly impossible number, but one America met and exceeded.
Starting from scratch in 1941, the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos designed, built, tested and detonated three atomic bombs by August 1945 to end the war.
After Sputnik humiliated America, Wernher Von Braun and the boys at Redstone Arsenal had a satellite up in three months. In 1961, JFK declared we were going to the moon and would be there before the decade was out. Cynics scoffed. This writer was at Canaveral to watch Apollo 11 lift off in the summer of 1969.
Whatever became of that can-do nation?
In August 2005, Katrina swept through New Orleans and left 30,000 people stranded at the Superdome and Convention Center. Though the floodwater was shallow and stagnant and New Orleans is a port city with boats all over the place, it took six days and the 82nd Airborne to rescue the stranded.
Compare our performance in Katrina with that of the Brits in 1941, who sent hundreds of boats across the Channel to pull 350,000 British and French troops off the continent in one week in the Miracle of Dunkirk. The Brits weren't going to let Goering's fighters deter them from going across and bringing their boys home.
What occasions these reflections is this morning's lead story in The Washington Post: "'Virtual Fence' Along Border to Be Delayed: U.S. Retooling High-Tech Barrier After 28-Mile Pilot Project Fails."
The opening paragraphs:
"The Bush administration has scaled back plans to quickly build a 'virtual fence' along the U.S.-Mexico border, delaying completion of the first phase of the project by at least three years and shifting away from a network of tower-mounted sensors and surveillance gear. ...
"Technical problems discovered in a 28-mile pilot project south of Tucson prompted the change in plans. ..."
Thus, building the first 100 miles of "virtual fence" will take Bush longer than it took FDR to win World War II. The admission of failure comes two years after Bush announced plans for "the most technologically advanced border enforcement initiative in American history."
"The virtual fence," writes the Post, "was to complement a physical fence that the administration now says will include 370 miles of pedestrian fencing and 300 miles of vehicle barriers to be completed by the end of this year. The GAO says this portion of the project may also be delayed and that its total cost cannot be determined. The president's 2009 budget does not propose funds to add fencing beyond the 700 or so miles meant to be completed by this year."
In short, these characters cannot build a virtual fence and won't complete a physical fence. If the nation is fed up with Republicans, who can blame them?
Securing a border is not that difficult. In 1954, President Eisenhower sent an Army general to Texas to do it. He began repatriating thousands of Mexicans and had the situation in hand within a year. Along the San Diego corridor, a crude fence of corrugated steel matting from U.S. airfields in Vietnam has stopped illegal trucks from crossing, cut back 90 percent on the illegal alien traffic, and virtually eliminated murders and assaults in the border area.
Measures taken lately at the state and federal level, though grudgingly by the administration, have begun to bear fruit.
After Arizonans voted to cut off all social benefits to residents who could not prove they were in the country legally came reports of people pulling their kids out of public schools and leaving the state.
From the border come reports that added Border Patrol agents have reduced the number of illegal aliens apprehended, suggesting word has gone out south of the border that it is no longer so easy to walk in. And deportations of criminal aliens, long demanded, are actually going up.
Let it be said: Our border can be secured; the illegal aliens can be sent home; the magnets that draw them here can be turned off. This crisis can be resolved if the courage and will are there. Unfortunately, we have a government that does not seem to care and probable nominees neither of whom is committed in his heart to doing it.
Given the manifest will of the people that this invasion from the south be halted and rolled back, the 2008 election is shaping up as yet further confirmation that American democracy is a fraud.
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. His new book is Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart.
Friday, February 29th 2008, 4:00 AM
Bobby Murcer during Old-Timers' Day festivities in 2007.
A friend of Bobby Murcer's answered a question Thursday morning by putting it in perspective. Yes, he said, the Oklahoma twang would be missing from the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network's first spring training telecast Sunday.
And maybe Murcer would miss a couple more exhibition games he was scheduled to work.
Not to worry. This was all just about a scheduling conflict. Murcer's doctors at the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston simply changed the days of his regular visit. Ever since Murcer had a brain tumor removed in late December, 2006, he returns to the hospital every few months to be examined and have treatment.
For about a month, he had been congested and coughing. Another Murcer pal said his buddy coughed frequently during a conversation last week.
"With his condition, Bobby's immune system is different," the friend said. "It takes him longer to get over things."
Okay. This all sounded routine. Another checkup. Just missing a few games. No need to be concerned. No need to worry.
An hour or so later, an e-mail from Murcer's wife, Kay, arrived. ". . . And I've always said, ‘No news is good news,' however that's why I'm getting this to you today," Kay Murcer wrote. "Bobby's MRI Tuesday showed an area that the docs are concerned about, and he's scheduled for a brain biopsy at MDA this coming Monday. . . . Please pray that it will be determined to be necrosis (scar tissue from the radiation), and not another cancerous tumor.
"It's one of the two."
Today, Bobby Murcer needs all our prayers. But we need Bobby Murcer. Even now, we need him just as much as he needs us.
Baseball needs him even more.
Apple pie and Mom have been replaced by lying and cheating. The biggest stories in the game make it seem like it is played in a sewer. Roger Clemens, defiant and delusional, staring down the barrel of a possible perjury indictment. Andy Pettitte, destined to spend his summer as a professional witness.
Brian McNamee, the trainer/"friend," with his collection of syringes and gauze. Then there are all those mouthy lawyers and politicians. Don't forget Bud Selig and Donald Fehr. They have been hauled before Congress so many times they are on a first-name basis with the guy who guards the door.
See, we need someone to deliver a bouquet of flowers to a room that stinks. Yeah, we all need Bobby Murcer. We need him now. And in the last season of Yankee Stadium, we need to hear him, on a sunny July day, reminisce about Reggie, Sweet Lou and Thurman. We need to hear him tweak Michael Kay before spinning a few Scooter yarns.
At least for three hours, every summer night, we need to forget about the polluted air surrounding the game. We need to hear Murcer say, "Oh my gosh," after Mariano closes another one. Or throw a few more superlatives at A-Rod.
And we all need to think, think hard, about last season and the memories Murcer - and Yankees fans - provided after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Murcer underwent six hours of surgery to have the tumor removed.
A week later, the first week of January 2007, the pathologist report was grave. The tumor was malignant. Reports showed there were other invasive cells. Murcer then underwent six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
But three months later there he stood, bald, beautiful and smiling. It was Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Top of the third inning against Tampa Bay. Flanked by Kay, Ken Singleton and Girardi, Murcer looked down at the fans and waved. Rod Stewart's version of "Forever Young" sounded from the PA. Then, the crowd of 56,035 stood and cheered. Yankee players did the same. Some pointed up to the broadcast booth.
Murcer wiped away tears.
"If anyone can get well because of that," Murcer said, "I'm well already."
One month later in Arlington, Murcer returned to work his first game for YES. He blended in over the rest of the summer. Once again, Murcer was coming into your home, part of the family, talking Yankees baseball into the fall.
Yesterday, there was nothing in his voice, a voice so positive, indicating anything will change. "I fully intend to be in the booth for the regular season," Murcer said.
The words were spoken by a man of faith. Murcer was supposed to be on Munson's plane that tragic day. And things looked really bad for him last year, too. There is still plenty more for him to accomplish here. March 31 will be his 35th Yankees opener as either a player or broadcaster.
We need him to be there. We need Bobby Murcer.
Friday, February 29, 2008
February 29, 2008
Feb. 21, 1983, Washington D.C. -- President Reagan and William F. Buckley Jr. laugh heartily at a reception for the opening of the Washington office of the Naitonal Review.
He was sui generis, wasn't he? The complete American original, a national treasure, a man whose energy was a kind of optimism, and whose attitude toward life, even when things seemed to others bleak, was summed up in something he said to a friend: "Despair is a mortal sin."
I am not sure conservatives feel despair at Bill Buckley's leaving--he was 82 and had done great work in a lifetime filled with pleasure--but I know they, and many others, are sad, and shaken somehow. On Wednesday, after word came that he had left us, in a television studio where I'd gone to try and speak of some of his greatness, a celebrated liberal academic looked at me stricken, and said he'd just heard the news. "I can't imagine a world without Bill Buckley in it," he said. I said, "Oh, that is exactly it."
It is. What a space he filled.
It is commonplace to say that Bill Buckley brought American conservatism into the mainstream. That's not quite how I see it. To me he came along in the middle of the last century and reminded demoralized American conservatism that it existed. That it was real, that it was in fact a majority political entity, and that it was inherently mainstream. This was after the serious drubbing inflicted by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal and the rise of modern liberalism. Modern liberalism at that point was a real something, a palpable movement formed by FDR and continued by others. Opposing it was . . . what exactly? Robert Taft? The ghost of Calvin Coolidge? Buckley said in effect, Well, there's something known as American conservatism, though it does not even call itself that. It's been calling itself "voting Republican" or "not liking the New Deal." But it is a very American approach to life, and it has to do with knowing that the government is not your master, that America is good, that freedom is good and must be defended, and communism is very, very bad.
He explained, remoralized, brought together those who saw it as he did, and began the process whereby American conservatism came to know itself again. And he did it primarily through a magazine, which he with no modesty decided was going to be the central and most important organ of resurgent conservatism. National Review would be highly literate, philosophical, witty, of the moment, with an élan, a teasing quality that made you feel you didn't just get a subscription, you joined something. You entered a world of thought.
I thought it beautiful and inspiring that he was open to, eager for, friendships from all sides, that even though he cared passionately about political questions, politics was not all, cannot be all, that people can be liked for their essence, for their humor and good nature and intelligence, for their attitude toward life itself. He and his wife, Pat, were friends with lefties and righties, from National Review to the Paris Review. It was moving too that his interests were so broad, that he could go from an appreciation of the metaphors of Norman Mailer to essays on classical music to an extended debate with his beloved friend the actor David Niven on the best brands of peanut butters. When I saw him last he was in a conversation with the historian Paul Johnson on the relative merits of the work of the artist Raeburn.
His broad-gaugedness, his refusal to be limited, seemed to me a reflection in part of a central conservative tenet, as famously expressed by Samuel Johnson. "How small of all that human hearts endure / That part which laws or kings can cause or cure." When you have it right about laws and kings, and what life is, then your politics become grounded in the facts of life. And once they are grounded, you don't have to hold to them so desperately. You can relax and have fun. Just because you're serious doesn't mean you're grim.
* * *
Buckley was a one-man refutation of Hollywood's idea of a conservative. He was rising in the 1950s and early '60s, and Hollywood's idea of a conservative was still Mr. Potter, the nasty old man of "It's a Wonderful Life," who would make a world of grubby Pottersvilles if he could, who cared only about money and the joy of bullying idealists. Bill Buckley's persona, as the first famous conservative of the modern media age, said no to all that. Conservatives are brilliant, capacious, full of delight at the world and full of mischief, too. That's what he was. He upended old clichés.
This was no small thing, changing this template. Ronald Reagan was the other who changed it, by being a sunny man, a happy one. They were friends, admired each other, had two separate and complementary roles. Reagan was in the game of winning votes, of persuading, of leading a political movement that catapulted him to two terms as governor of California, the nation's biggest state, at a time when conservatives were seemingly on the defensive but in retrospect were rising to new heights. He would speak to normal people and persuade them of the efficacy of conservative solutions to pressing problems. Buckley's job was not reaching on-the-ground voters, or reaching voters at all, and his attitude toward his abilities in that area was reflected in his merry answer when asked what he would do if he won the mayoralty of New York. "Demand a recount," he famously replied. His role was speaking to those thirsting for a coherent worldview, for an intellectual and moral attitude grounded in truth. He provided intellectual ballast. Inspired in part by him, voters went on to support Reagan. Both could have existed without the other, but Buckley's work would have been less satisfying, less realized, without Reagan and his presidency, and Reagan's leadership would have been more difficult, and also somehow less satisfying, without Buckley.
* * *
I share here a fear. It is not that the conservative movement is ending, that Bill's death is the period on a long chapter. The house he helped build had--has--many mansions. Conservatism will endure if it is rooted in truth, and in the truths of life. It is.
It is rather that with the loss of Bill Buckley we are, as a nation, losing not only a great man. When Jackie Onassis died, a friend of mine who knew her called me and said, with such woe, "Oh, we are losing her kind." He meant the elegant, the cultivated, the refined. I thought of this with Bill's passing, that we are losing his kind--people who were deeply, broadly educated in great universities when they taught deeply and broadly, who held deep views of life and the world and art and all the things that make life more delicious and more meaningful. We have work to do as a culture in bringing up future generations that are so well rounded, so full and so inspiring.
Bill Buckley lived a great American life. His heroism was very American--the individualist at work in the world, the defender of great creeds and great beliefs going forth with spirit, style and joy. May we not lose his kind. For now, "Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels take thee to thy rest."
February 29, 2008
Bruce Springsteen performs at the XL Center, in Hartford, Conn., Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008. Springsteen and the E Street Band opened the second leg of their 'Magic' tour in Hartford.
(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Before the lights came up, before the storm let loose, Bruce Springsteen stood alone at center stage, a shadow in the dark.
With his back to the audience filling the XL Center to capacity Thursday night, Springsteen seemed to savor that one last moment of anticipation, adulation rippling through the crowd to wash over him, arms raised as if he were conducting the warbling, off-key version of “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” pouring from the calliope spotlighted at the back of the stage.
Then the music started, the lights came up on “So Young and in Love” and he was the Boss once more, swinging around his microphone stand like it was a lamp post on a warm summer’s night.
It was the first show on the second leg of Springsteen’s “Magic” tour, and there was a different kind of intensity to his performance than the barn-burner of a concert he gave in Hartford last October to kick off the first leg of the tour.
Many of the songs he chose this time had a more somber edge, though there were certainly moments of pure rock ’n’ roll abandon. “The Promised Land” was one of them, and Springsteen sang about wanting just one chance to transcend grim reality in pursuit of a dream. Or “She’s the One,” the crowd joining in on the joyful refrain as Clarence Clemons’ saxophone rang off the back wall of the arena.
Much of his 23-song set, though, was about what happens when reality overtakes dreams. Springsteen sounded a note of walled-off desperation on “The River,” and tried to make sense of crumbling love on “Loose Ends.” He reprised the chilling, bone-weary political allegory “Magic,” with Soozie Tyrell adding mournful violin and harmony vocals, and murmured about a power both seductive and dark on “Devil’s Arcade.”
Through it all, though, he poured all of himself into his songs, and he gave the E Street Band plenty of room to shine, too. Clemons played huge sax licks on “Radio Nowhere,” guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt played a lean, dirty blues riff on “Reason to Believe” and shared Springsteen's microphone throughout, and guitarist Nils Lofgren traded verses with Springsteen on “Janey Don’t Lose Heart.”
Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa, was absent while she attended to a different sort of gig. “We have three teenagers at home, so we live in constant fear of the house burning down,” he said by way of explanation. “It must be watched.”
After the anguished anti-war song “Last to Die” and an audience sing-along on “Long Walk Home,” Springsteen ratcheted up the energy level once more, ending the main set with a version of “Badlands” that seethed through the verses and exploded into the chorus.
No Springsteen encore would be complete without “Born to Run” — complete with house lights on and crowd singing at top volume — but he dug deeper into his catalog, too, for “Kitty’s Back.” He also played “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” and “Backstreets” before ending with “American Land.”
1. So Young and in Love
2. Radio Nowhere
3. Lonesome Day
4. Gypsy Biker
6. Reason to Believe
7. Loose Ends
8. She's the One
9. Livin' in the Future
10. The Promised Land
11. Waiting on a Sunny Day
12. Janey Don't Lose Heart
13. The River
14. Devil's Arcade
15. The Rising
16. Last to Die
17. Long Walk Home
19. Girls in Their Summer Clothes
21. Kitty's Back
22. Born to Run
23. American Land
February 29, 2008
WASHINGTON -- Those who think Jack Nicholson's neon smile is the last word in smiles never saw William F. Buckley's. It could light up an auditorium; it did light up half a century of elegant advocacy that made him an engaging public intellectual and the 20th century's most consequential journalist.
Before there could be Ronald Reagan's presidency, there had to be Barry Goldwater's candidacy. It made conservatism confident and placed the Republican Party in the hands of its adherents.
Before there could be Goldwater's insurgency, there had to be National Review magazine. From the creative clutter of its Manhattan offices flowed the ideological electricity that powered the transformation of American conservatism from a mere sensibility into a fighting faith and a blueprint for governance.
Before there was National Review, there was Buckley, spoiling for a philosophic fight, to be followed, of course, by a flute of champagne with his adversaries. He was 29 when, in 1955, he launched National Review with the vow that it "stands athwart history, yelling Stop." Actually, it helped Bill take history by the lapels, shake it to get its attention, and then propel it in a new direction. Bill died Wednesday in his home, in his study, at his desk, diligent at his life-long task of putting words together well and to good use.
Before his intervention -- often laconic in manner, always passionate in purpose -- in the plodding political arguments within the flaccid liberal consensus of the post-World War II intelligentsia, conservatism's face was that of another Yale man, Robert Taft, somewhat dour, often sour, three-piece suits, wire-rim glasses. The word "fun" did not spring to mind.
The fun began when Bill picked up his clipboard, and conservatives' spirits, by bringing his distinctive brio and elan to political skirmishing. When young Goldwater decided to give politics a fling, he wrote to his brother: "It ain't for life and it might be fun." He was half right: Politics became his life and it was fun, all the way. Politics was not Bill's life -- he had many competing and compensating enthusiasms -- but it mattered to him, and he mattered to the course of political events.
One clue to Bill's talent for friendship surely is his fondness for this thought of Harold Nicolson's: "Only one person in a thousand is a bore, and he is interesting because he is one person in a thousand." Consider this from Bill's introduction to a collection of his writings titled "The Jeweler's Eye: A Book of Irresistible Political Reflections":
"The title is, of course, a calculated effrontery, the relic of an impromptu answer I gave once to a tenacious young interviewer who, toward the end of a very long session, asked me what opinion did I have of myself. I replied that I thought of myself as a perfectly average middle-aged American, with, however, a jeweler's eye for political truths. I suppressed a smile -- and watched him carefully record my words in his notebook. Having done so, he looked up and asked, 'Who gave you your jeweler's eye?' 'God,' I said, tilting my head skyward just a little. He wrote that down -- the journalism schools warn you not to risk committing anything to memory. 'Well,' -- he rose to go, smiling at last -- 'that settles that!' We have become friends."
Pat, Bill's beloved wife of 56 years, died last April. During the memorial service for her at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, a friend read lines from "Vitae Summa Brevis" by a poet she admired, Ernest Dowson:
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
Bill's final dream was to see her again, a consummation of which his faith assured him. He had an aptitude for love -- of his son, his church, his harpsichord, language, wine, skiing, sailing.
He began his 60-year voyage on the turbulent waters of American controversy by tacking into the wind with a polemical book, "God and Man at Yale" (1951), that was a lovers' quarrel with his alma mater. And so at Pat's service the achingly beautiful voices of Yale's Whiffenpoofs were raised in their signature song about the tables down at Mory's, "the place where Louis dwells":
We will serenade our Louis
While life and voice shall last
Then we'll pass and be forgotten with the rest
Bill's distinctive voice permeated, and improved, his era. It will be forgotten by no one who had the delight of hearing it.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
February 28, 2008
By Danny Clinch
Music and 'Magic': Bruce Springsteen resumes touring tonight with the E Street Band. Performing inspires the veteran rocker, who remains upbeat about music.
ASBURY PARK, N.J. — Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band begin a new trek through North America tonight with a concert in Hartford, Conn. If you score tickets to one of the shows, be forewarned: The Boss may be watching you.
"The first thing that I do when I come out every night is to look at the faces in front of me, very individually," Springsteen says. "I may find a certain person and play to that single person all night. I'm playing to everyone, but I could see one or two people and decide, 'You're the reason that I'm out here right now, and that I'm going to push myself till it feels like my heart's going to explode.' "
Certainly, anyone who has caught Springsteen live might assume that he or she was that lucky fan.
The singer/songwriter, who added three Grammy Awards to his collection this month, is famous for throwing house parties in arenas and stadiums, channeling his charisma and camaraderie with his longtime bandmates into performances that seem at once intimate and majestic.
Sitting in his dressing room during a rehearsal break at Asbury Park Convention Hall — just a stone's throw from the Stone Pony, the decidedly smaller venue that the 58-year-old Jersey boy helped make a national landmark — Springsteen is true to his persona: a regular guy with a larger-than-life presence (and an endearingly goofy laugh).
Tour keeps going
After releasing last fall's critically acclaimed Magic, his first album with the E Street Band since 2002's The Rising, he and the group played dates in the USA and Europe. The current leg of their tour will wrap April 30 in Charlottesville, Va.; then they head back overseas, returning for three homecoming gigs at Jersey's Giants Stadium in late July. (Sessions Band keyboardist Charles Giordano, who played on Springsteen's Pete Seeger albums, fills in while E Street's Danny Federici undergoes treatment for melanoma.)
"On any given night, what allows me to get to that higher ground is the audience," Springsteen says. "I look for an audience that's as serious about the experience as we are, which, after all these years, continues to be pretty serious."
Springsteen tends to use the pronoun "we" a lot in discussing his creative process these days. His career with E Street has been littered with detours, including starkly haunting acoustic albums such as 1982's Nebraska, 1995's The Ghost of Tom Joad and 2005's Devils & Dust. His colleagues have enjoyed side outings as well.
"Each one of us has at one time or another stepped out, to protect not only our own interests but the interests of the band," Springsteen says. "It's rare to be with the same people 35 or 40 years after you started with them, and at this point in our lives, its pleasures are very great. You really appreciate the guy next to you, you know?
"You ask for your audience's investment in your music; you're in a relationship with them. And their relationship with the E Street Band is separate from whatever else I might do. I like the idea of us being something that people rely on."
He's been in the studio with E Street, along with Brendan O'Brien, who manned the boards for both Rising and Magic. The singer also is "recording on my own, for an acoustic record. I work on a lot of projects at once." But he acknowledges that he was excited by the pop-savvy songwriting and lustrous production that distinguished the tunes on Magic.
"I got to use muscles that I hadn't used in a long time," he says. "It's been fun going back to more lush arrangements and not being afraid to craft a bigger sound, to get back to writing choruses and hooks."
By Bill Kostroun, AP
Old friends: Bruce Springsteen, left, with Stevie Van Zandt, says, "It's rare to be with the same people 35 or 40 years after you started with them. You really appreciate the guy next to you, you know?"
The songs on Magic, like much of Springsteen's work with and without the E Street Band, also drew attention for their social and political consciousness. "Part of what I'm doing is chronicling the times we live in. The people that have really moved me, whether it was Frank Sinatra or Hank Williams or Bob Dylan or James Brown or Curtis Mayfield or the Sex Pistols and The Clash. When you hear their music, it defines a particular moment."
But "in the end, music is an emotional medium and a sensual medium. I don't like to write rhetorically or get on a soapbox. I try to make the stuff multi-layered, so that it always has a life outside its social context. I don't believe that you can tell people anything; you can only draw them in."
That's Springsteen's philosophy not only as an artist, but also as an extremely famous citizen. "I don't think that people take their political opinions from musicians or actors," he says, alluding to his endorsement of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election and participation in that year's Vote for Change tour. "You can be marginally helpful sometimes, and if you're not careful, you can be marginally damaging. I always try to tread carefully."
Thoughts on politics
In the current presidential race, "there are two really good Democratic candidates for president. I admire and respect them both enough to wait and see what happens." But while he won't endorse Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama yet, he specifically praises the latter, who cited Springsteen as the person he would most like to meet in a recent interview with People.
"I always look at my work as trying to measure the distance between American promise and American reality," Springsteen says. "And I think (Obama's) inspired a lot of people with that idea: How do you make that distance shorter? How do we create a more humane society? We've lived through such ugly times that people want to have a romance with the idea of America again, and I think they need to.
"The hard realities and how things get done are important, too, but if you can effectively convince people that it's possible to make things better, they get excited."
Springsteen is equally avid in championing members of his profession. "I buy CDs all the time. I'll go into a record store and just buy $500 worth of CDs. I will! I am singlehandedly supporting what's left of the record business." His iPod selections include "everything from old American music and old jazz to a lot of new stuff."
His three children with his singer/songwriter wife (and E Streeter) Patti Scialfa are similarly eclectic in their tastes. Elder son Evan, 17, "likes political punk: Rise Against, Against Me, Rage Against the Machine, who I knew from being friends with (Rage guitarist) Tommy Morello. He's always telling me, 'Hey, check these guys out.' He'll take me to shows with him sometimes, which is nice. He doesn't stand with me. He's usually in the mosh pit or something."
Younger son Sam, 14, "likes reggae music and tends to be more of a classic rock guy," while daughter Jessica, 16, "is into top 40, so I'll hear a lot of Rihanna and Mary J. Blige. There's actually an enormous amount of good music in the top 40 these days, well-written songs and well-made records."
Springsteen is more ambivalent about downloading. "I hate to see record stores disappear, and I'm old-school in that I think you should pay for your music. But what my kids do is download a lot of things, pay for them, and then if they love something, they'll get the CD. That may be the future."
With Magic approaching 1 million sold, Springsteen isn't lamenting the end of the music industry's glory days, when pop stars released blockbusters such as his Born in the U.S.A., which has sold more than 15 million copies since its 1984 release. "There are people who still view making albums as a vital form of expression — I know I do." He and the E Street Band "lucked out and had a few singles here and there for a while, but it really wasn't in our nature. Sales go up and down, but we tour a lot, and we've had a pretty consistent audience."
That audience now includes a substantial chunk of his children's peers, Springsteen notes proudly. He has spotted many young fans at recent shows, "probably more than we've had in a decade here in the States. And in Europe, we have an enormous young audience. Every time we go over there, there's a new wave of 16-year-olds."
Still, sustaining the illusion of eternal youth has never been part of this rock icon's long-term plan. "I was 24 when I wrote 'We ain't that young anymore' " in the song Thunder Road.
"If you go back to Darkness on the Edge of Town, which I wrote when I was 27 or 28, or The River, where there are a lot of songs about relationships coming together and falling apart — the characters on those records are all adults.
"I was interested from when I was pretty young in writing music that I felt I could sing at the ancient age of 40 — or maybe even older. It was important to me, along with the exhilaration and rhythm and sexual vitality of youth, which I wanted to maintain, to add a certain complexity — the kind of complex questions you have to sift through once you reach adulthood.
"I've written in that voice consistently, and I assume that I'll continue to go where life leads me."
February 27, 2008 8:00 AM
Saudi women cross a street in Hofuf, 2007.
Sharia tourism: visit your far-flung wives!
A new Saudi plan to stimulate intra-country tourism involves the promotion of harems, notes Youssef Ibrahim. No wonder even Saudi citizens are laughing at their government.
Here’s an official plan submitted to invigorate tourism in Saudi Arabia: Marry four women, domicile them in corners of the kingdom, travel to visit each during the year, and — boom — you’ve stimulated airline business, hotel occupancy, and car rentals. This was submitted by none less than Hassan Alomair, director of self-development in Saudi Arabia, at a Jeddah conference for the development of internal tourism.
The project combines piety with efficacy by uniting Sharia’s entitlements to multiple wives with economic stimulus, Mr. Alomair argued. Sharing the dais was the female dean of the school of literature at King Faisal University, Dr. Feryal al-Hajeri, who remained silent as he prescribed his harem-induced economic scheming.
Not so with the readers and bloggers on the Saudi daily Al Watan’s website, which lit up on February 12 with commentary. “Why not make it four cows? He can fly around to milk them,” one said. “If that is the mentality of our director of self-development,” another asked, ”how are the others in that department?” There was plenty of accord with Mr. Alomair too. Some saw his idea as a “pillar” for building a true Islamic society, a “refuge” for unmarried Saudi women, and a “cure” for a widening spinster phenomena.
Dumbfounding episodes of this variety occur weekly in the Arabian Gulf and are regularly exposed by a growing contingent of brave reporters. Remember the girl condemned to 200 lashes for protesting being raped and that Saudi businesswoman arrested at a Riyadh Starbucks and jailed for having coffee with a male subordinate? The girl of Qatif was pardoned under world pressure but most victims of Saudi religious dementia are never heard from. Alas, if anything, new installments keep on illustrating a Saudi government sailing into the 21st century with social laws of the 7th century.
This weekend the Saudi TV network Al Arabia reported the arrests of 57 men in Mecca’s shopping malls by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice on charges of “flirting with Saudi girls.” Among other things, the young Saudi males were accused by the religious police of “wearing indecent clothes, playing loud music, and dancing.”
Just before Valentine’s Day, dubbed by the Commission as “a pagan Christian holiday,” the government issued an edict banning the sale of anything red: no red roses, no red ribbons, no red greeting cards, no red paint. The penalty as always was arrests and lashes of the cane.
On the face of it, some of this seems pitifully amusing.
It isn’t so for hundreds of thousands of Saudis and the eight million expatriates who live and work in the kingdom — men and women routinely humiliated in the streets, hauled into police stations for wearing a cross or not wearing a veil, or deemed to look the wrong way by a 20,000-man army of bearded fanatics.
This politico-religious repression has suited the royal family for over 60 years. To most of us it was their business. After 9/11 it spilled over when fulminating Islamofascists of the Osama bin Laden variety visited their obsessions upon infidels in New York, London, Paris, and Madrid. It then became “our” problem.
Internally, these miseries hamper all attempts to modernize the kingdom, turning aspirations to a normal life into Sisyphean daily challenges.
Externally, Islamofascism, fortified with oil money, is replicating the Saudi model across a wide swath of the Muslim world from Egypt to Pakistan, and even to enclaves in Europe and America. Witness the suggestion by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to create a special space for the application of Sharia laws for United Kingdom Muslims, in effect rolling back the parameters of freedom at home to accommodate imported modes of Islamofascism — multiple marriages, oppression of women, and suspension of free expression about all things Muslim.
Even modernized Arab sheiks are a problem.
Take one of the most celebrated Arabian friends of America and the West, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid (Sheikh Mo), the ruler of Dubai, a full business partner of President Bill Clinton and his billionaire friend Ron Burkle in their Yucaipa Company’s investment fund, a man of fine taste and zillions of dollars who loves to collect the world’s finest horses — and a few wives.
In all fairness, Sheikh Mo, a modern potentate by any standard, does make it a point to jet around visiting his far-flung horse stables and those multiple lush residences of his wives — spreading that wealth.
Youssef M. Ibrahim, a former Middle East correspondent for the New York Times and Energy Editor of the Wall Street Journal, is a freelance writer and Mideast political risk consultant based in New York.
Thursday, February 28, 2008; Page A17
William F. Buckley Jr. in 1965. (Associated Press)
Woody Allen is reputed to have said that it was better not to meet people you revere -- the disappointment was always so crushing. But no one fortunate enough to meet or know William F. Buckley Jr., who passed away yesterday at the age of 82, could say that. A man of coruscating wit (he'd approve of that word), he was also, by universal acclamation, the most gracious man on the planet. Legend he was, but in a small group, it was always Bill who rushed to get a chair for the person left standing. It was always Bill who reached to fill your glass. It was always Bill who volunteered to give you a lift wherever you were going, insisting it was on his way.
The word "journalist" does not begin to encompass Bill Buckley's profoundly consequential life. In 1949, six years before the founding of National Review, critic Lionel Trilling spoke for the establishment when he wrote in "The Liberal Imagination": "In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation." Conservatives, Trilling continued, didn't so much have ideas as "irritable mental gestures."
And then came Bill Buckley, an intellectual starburst. Gathering a few refugees from the left to the masthead of National Review, Buckley famously announced in the 1955 maiden issue that his mandate was to stand "athwart history, yelling Stop." That's not precisely what happened -- not even the talents of Bill Buckley and his thousands of acolytes could hold back the tide of liberalism that swept the nation during the 1960s and 1970s. But the magazine did plant a flag -- and it did it with such style!
About a week after the inauguration of Lyndon Johnson, National Review announced with regret that its "patience with the Johnson Administration is exhausted." To the great delight of his fans, Bill published reader letters to himself along with his replies in the "Notes and Asides" column. He called it "infield practice." A particularly nasty physician named Marshall Prickman penned an abusive letter insulting Bill for everything from his "stupidity" to his supposedly ugly face. Buckley published the letter, with this reply: "Dear Doc, Please call me Bill. May I address you by your nickname?"
Most of Buckley's readers drank in his erudite conservatism with the sort of gratitude that comes from years of privation. It is safe to say that pretty much all of the leaders of today's conservative movement were incubated by the blue-bordered magazine that arrived twice a month. Among his fans were a California actor named Ronald Reagan and a British shopkeeper's daughter named Margaret Thatcher. And if National Review did not stop history in 1955, by 1985 Bill Buckley and the magazine had indisputably torqued history in their direction.
But the magazine, Bill's first love, could not contain his titanic energy. He taped a weekly television show, "Firing Line"; wrote three elegant and learned columns a week; lectured across the country and the world; produced more than 50 books, both fiction and nonfiction; played the harpsichord and the piano; sailed the Atlantic and Pacific; and once even ran for mayor of New York (mostly as a didactic exercise). Asked what would be his first action upon being elected, he quipped, "I'd demand a recount."
Like many a star-struck youngster, I maneuvered to meet him when I was in college. To my amazement, he agreed to be interviewed for my yearbook. Determined to ask questions that wouldn't betray my outsized admiration for him, I posed the vaguely feminist query, "In what ways would your life have been different if you had been born female?" His reply: "I'd have seduced John Kenneth Galbraith and spared the world much pain."
We who knew him delighted in his company -- and the list of his illustrious friends included prime ministers and presidents. But Bill Buckley was also a conscientious leader. It was he who set out to cleanse the conservative movement of some of its extremist elements -- a responsibility he shouldered, sometimes at considerable personal pain, throughout his long career. It is difficult to think of a comparable figure on the left. The credit for reviving conservatism as a respectable intellectual tradition must be widely shared. Milton Friedman, Whittaker Chambers, F.A. Hayek, Thomas Sowell, Robert Bork, Irving Kristol and many, many more provided essential support. But no one could match Bill Buckley for elan. He was our Samuel Johnson and Errol Flynn rolled into one. We "shall not look upon his like again." RIP.
The writer, a columnist for Creators Syndicate Inc., was on the staff of National Review from 1979 to 1981.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
February 27, 2008
William F. Buckley was the original enfant terrible.
As with Ronald Reagan, everyone prefers to remember great men when they weren't being great, but later, when they were being admired. Having changed the world, there came a point when Buckley no longer needed to shock it.
But to call Buckley an "enfant terrible" and then to recall only his days as a grandee is like calling a liberal actress "courageous." Back in the day, Buckley truly was courageous. I prefer to remember the Buckley who scandalized to the bien-pensant.
Other tributes will contain the obvious quotes about demanding a recount if he won the New York mayoral election and trusting the first 100 names in the Boston telephone book more than the Harvard faculty. I shall revel in the "terrible" aspects of the enfant terrible.
Buckley's first book, God and Man at Yale, was met with the usual thoughtful critiques of anyone who challenges the liberal establishment. Frank Ashburn wrote in the Saturday Review: "The book is one which has the glow and appeal of a fiery cross on a hillside at night. There will undoubtedly be robed figures who gather to it, but the hoods will not be academic. They will cover the face."
The president of Yale sent alumni thousands of copies of McGeorge Bundy's review of the book from the Atlantic Monthly calling Buckley a "twisted and ignorant young man." Other reviews bordered on the hyperbolic. One critic simply burst into tears, then transcribed his entire crying jag word for word.
Buckley's next book, McCarthy and His Enemies, written with L. Brent Bozell, proved that normal people didn't have to wait for the Venona Papers to be declassified to see that the Democratic Party was collaborating with fascists. The book -- and the left's reaction thereto -- demonstrated that liberals could tolerate a communist sympathizer, but never a Joe McCarthy sympathizer.
Relevant to Republicans' predicament today, National Review did not endorse a candidate for president in 1956, correctly concluding that Dwight Eisenhower was not a conservative, however great a military leader he had been. In his defense, Ike never demanded that camps housing enemy detainees be closed down.
Nor would National Review endorse liberal Republican Richard Nixon, waiting until 1964 to enthusiastically support a candidate for president who had no hope of winning. Barry Goldwater, though given the right things to say -- often by Buckley or Bozell, who wrote Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative -- was not particularly bright.
But the Goldwater candidacy, Buckley believed, would provide "the well-planted seeds of hope," eventually fulfilled by Ronald Reagan. Goldwater was sort of the army ant on whose body Reagan walked to greatness. Thanks, Barry. When later challenged on Reagan's intellectual stature, Buckley said: "Of course, he will always tend to reach first for an anecdote. But then, so does the New Testament."
With liberal Republicans still bothering everyone even after Reagan, Buckley went all out against liberal Republican Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. When Democrat Joe Lieberman challenged Weicker for the Senate in 1988, National Review ran an article subtly titled: "Does Lowell Weicker Make You Sick?"
Buckley started a political action committee to support Lieberman, explaining, "We want to pass the word that it's OK to vote for the other guy or stay at home." The good thing about Lieberman, Buckley said, was that he "doesn't have the tendency of appalling you every time he opens his mouth."
That same year, when the radical chic composer Leonard Bernstein complained about the smearing of the word "liberal," Buckley replied: "Lenny does not realize that one of the reasons the 'L' word is discredited is that it was handled by such as Leonard Bernstein." The composer was so unnerved by this remark that, just to cheer himself up, he invited several extra Black Panthers to his next cocktail party.
When Arthur Schlesinger Jr. objected to his words being used as a jacket-flap endorsement on one of Buckley's books in 1963, Buckley replied by telegram:
"MY OFFICE HAS COPY OF ORIGINAL TAPE. TELL ARTHUR THAT'LL TEACH HIM TO USE UNCTION IN POLITICAL DEBATE BUT NOT TO TAKE IT SO HARD: NO ONE BELIEVES ANYTHING HE SAYS ANYWAY."
In a famous exchange with Gore Vidal in 1968, Vidal said to Buckley: "As far as I am concerned, the only crypto Nazi I can think of is yourself."
Buckley replied: "Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto Nazi, or I'll sock you in your goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."
Years later, in 1985, Buckley said of the incident: "We both acted irresponsibly. I'm not a Nazi, but he is, I suppose, a fag."
Writing in defense of the rich in 1967, Buckley said: "My guess is, that the last man to corner the soybean market, whoever he was, put at least as much time and creative energy into the cornering of it as, say, Norman Mailer put into his latest novel and produced something far more bearable -- better a rise in the price of soybeans than 'Why Are We in Vietnam?'" (For you kids out there, Norman Mailer was an America-hating drunkard who wrote books.)
Some of Buckley's best lines were uttered in court during a lengthy libel trial in the '80s against National Review brought by the Liberty Lobby, which was then countersued by National Review. (The Liberty Lobby lost and NR won.)
Irritated by attorney Mark Lane's questions, Buckley asked the judge: "Your Honor, when he asks a ludicrous question, how am I supposed to behave?"
In response to another of Lane's questions, Buckley said: "I decline to answer that question; it's too stupid."
When asked if he had "referred to Jesse Jackson as an ignoramus," Buckley said, "If I didn't, I should have."
Buckley may have been a conservative celebrity, but there was a lot more to him than a bow tie and a sailboat.
COPYRIGHT 2008 ANN COULTER
This has been a helluva day...William F. Buckley Jr., Myron Cope and Larry Norman...all gone...they'll be remembered for a lot longer than we had them.
(Click on title to play video)
To start, or extend, the conversation…
February 26, 2008
Larry Norman, “father of Christian rock,” has gone home. After suffering a severe heart attack and other ailments, he slipped away at 61.
Larry Norman was the writer of a number of popular Christian songs, including “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” many people’s first encounter with the chilling eschatology of the Rapture. He popularized, and perhaps even invented, the “One Way” gesture of the index finger pointing straight up. He helped launch the careers of many talented artists, including Randy Stonehill (my personal favourite, from whom Norman later became estranged), the Daniel Amos band, and many others on his “Street Level” and then “Solid Rock” labels.
For me, however, Larry Norman in particular was a larger-than-life figure who, with authors C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, helped this Plymouth Brethren teenager, in the backwoods (literally) of northern Ontario, look out onto a larger world of Christian possibilities. Indeed, he helped me to look out onto the larger world itself and feel that perhaps I could actually live there, rather than just briefly venture out into it to evangelize a soul or two and then hurriedly withdraw to the sanctuary of my sect.
I saw Norman in concert only once, but it was while I was attending a Brethren Bible school in Edmonton, Alberta. And the contrast between his “cool,” his sarcasm (God bless him), and his driving rock’n'roll over against the staid and square culture of my denomination and Bible school experience was paradigm-shattering.
He was electric and we were acoustic. He was backbeat and we were 6/8. (Take that, Bob Larson.) He was wild and we were repressed. He was “out there” and we were definitely “in here.”
He gave us permission to like stacks of Marshalls and fuzz boxes and wah-wah pedals and countertenor wailings (let the reader understand). He sanctified the idea of being a smarty-pants for Jesus–while also producing art of accessibility, wit, beauty, and fun.
“Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” Larry asked, echoing William Booth of the Salvation Army a century before. It was a good question then, and it’s a good question now–in this era of unrelentingly derivative “CCM” (Christian Contemporary Music).
But the bigger question was simply, “Why should we yield the world to the devil–the world of rock music, the world of clever joking, the world of funky fashion, the world of authentic protest?” As Lewis and Schaeffer helped my generation engage the most intimidating of philosophers, Norman helped us engage the music our parents feared—and loathed.
The rest of my youth group was into “The Imperials” (a pop-country Nashville quartet–whom I liked, too) and the really edgy ones listened to Andrae Crouch, a good black gospel singer. For this one and only time in my life I was actually cool, because I listened to the “Jesus Rock” of Norman, Stonehill & Co.—much too racy for my peers. (Thanks, Larry.)
But ‘way beyond “cool” was Larry Norman’s prickly integrity. Norman was a rocker and used that language to express good things about Jesus and the world. And if rock’n'roll could be claimed and used for Christ–well, what couldn’t be?
Rest in peace, Uncle Larry. I look forward to turning up the amps with you in the Great Jam Session to Come.
William F. Buckley Jr. in his office at the National Review in 1965.
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: February 27, 2008
William F. Buckley Jr., who marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse, died Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn.
Mr Buckley, 82, suffered from diabetes and emphysema, his son Christopher said, although the exact cause of death was not immediately known. He was found at his desk in the study of his home, his son said. “He might have been working on a column,” Mr. Buckley said.
Mr. Buckley’s winningly capricious personality, replete with ten-dollar words and a darting tongue writers loved to compare with an anteater’s, hosted one of television’s longest-running programs, “Firing Line,” and founded and shepherded the influential conservative magazine, “National Review.”
He also found time to write at least 55 books, ranging from sailing odysseys to spy novels to celebrations of his own dashing daily life, and to edit five more. His political novel “The Rake” was published last August, and a book looking back at the National Review’s history in November; a personal memoir of Barry Goldwater is due to be publication in April, and Mr. Buckley was working on a similar book about Ronald Reagan for release in the fall.
The more than 4.5 million words of his 5,600 biweekly newspaper columns, “On the Right,” would fill 45 more medium-sized books.
Mr. Buckley’s greatest achievement was making conservatism — not just electoral Republicanism, but conservatism as a system of ideas — respectable in liberal post-World War II America. He mobilized the young enthusiasts who helped nominate Barry Goldwater in 1964, and saw his dreams fulfilled when Reagan and the Bushes captured the Oval Office.
To Mr. Buckley’s enormous delight, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the historian, termed him “the scourge of liberalism.”
In remarks at National Review’s 30th anniversary in 1985, President Reagan joked that he picked up his first issue of the magazine in a plain brown wrapper and still anxiously awaited his biweekly edition — “without the wrapper.”
“You didn’t just part the Red Sea — you rolled it back, dried it up and left exposed, for all the world to see, the naked desert that is statism,” Mr. Reagan said.
“And then, as if that weren’t enough,” the president continued, “you gave the world something different, something in its weariness it desperately needed, the sound of laughter and the sight of the rich, green uplands of freedom.”
The liberal advance had begun with the New Deal, and so accelerated in the next generation that Lionel Trilling, one of America’s leading intellectuals, wrote in 1950: “In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation.”
Mr. Buckley declared war on this liberal order, beginning with his blistering assault on Yale as a traitorous den of atheistic collectivism immediately after his graduation (with honors) from the university.
“All great biblical stories begin with Genesis,” George Will wrote in the National Review in 1980. “And before there was Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater, and before there was Barry Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was Bill Buckley with a spark in his mind, and the spark in 1980 has become a conflagration.”
Mr. Buckley weaved the tapestry of what became the new American conservatism from libertarian writers like Max Eastman, free market economists like Milton Friedman, traditionalist scholars like Russell Kirk and anti-Communist writers like Whittaker Chambers.
His most receptive audience became young conservatives first energized by Barry Goldwater’s emergence at the Republican convention in 1960 as the right-wing alternative to Nixon. Some met in Sept., 1960, at Mr. Buckley’s Connecticut estate to form Young Americans for Freedom. Their numbers — and influence — grew.
Nicholas Lemann observed in Washington Monthly in 1988 that during the Reagan administration “the 5,000 middle-level officials, journalists and policy intellectuals that it takes to run a government” were “deeply influenced by Buckley’s example.” He suggested that neither moderate Washington insiders nor “Ed Meese-style provincial conservatives” could have pulled off the Reagan tax cut and other reforms.
Speaking of the true believers, Mr. Lemann continued, “Some of these people had been personally groomed by Buckley, and most of the rest saw him as a role model.”
Mr. Buckley rose to prominence with a generation of talented writers fascinated by political themes, names like Mailer, Capote, Vidal, Styron and Baldwin. Like the others, he attracted controversy like a magnet. Even conservatives — from members of the John Birch Society to disciples of conservative author Ayn Rand to George Wallace to moderate Republicans — frequently pounced on him.
Many of varied political stripes came to see his life as something of an art form — from racing through city streets on a motorcycle to a quixotic campaign for mayor of New York in 1965 to startling opinions like favoring the decriminalization of marijuana. He was often described as liberals’ favorite conservative, particularly after suavely hosting an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” on public television in 1982.
Norman Mailer may indeed have dismissed Mr. Buckley as a “second-rate intellect incapable of entertaining two serious thoughts in a row,” but he could not help admiring his stage presence.
Ask a Question About Buckley
Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of the The Times Book Review, who is writing a biography of Mr. Buckley, is taking questions.
The Lede: Magazine Mourns Its Founder
City Room: Remembering Buckley’s 1965 Run for Mayor
From The New York Times Magazine: The Buckley Effect (October 2, 2005)
Reviews: ‘God and Man at Yale’ ‘Up From Liberalism’ ‘Airborne’ More Reviews
Times Topics: William F. Buckley Jr.
William F. Buckley Jr., 1925-2008
Mr. Buckley’s vocabulary, sparkling with phrases from distant eras and described in newspaper and magazine profiles as sesquipedalian (characterized by the use of long words) became the stuff of legend. Less kind commentators called him “pleonastic” (use of more words than necessary).
And, inescapably, there was that aurora of pure mischief. In 1985, David Remnick, writing in The Washington Post, said, “He has the eyes of a child who has just displayed a horrid use for the microwave oven and the family cat.”
William Francis Buckley Jr., was born in Manhattan on Nov. 24, 1925, the sixth of the 10 children of Aloise Steiner Buckley and William Frank Buckley Jr. (John B. Judis relates in his 1988 biography, “William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint Of the Conservative,” that he was christened with the middle name Francis instead of Frank, according to his sister, Patricia, because there was no saint named Frank. Later, in “Who’s Who” entries and elsewhere, he used Frank.)
The elder Mr. Buckley made a fortune in the oil fields of Mexico, and educated his children with personal tutors at Great Elm, the family estate in Sharon, Conn. They also attended exclusive Roman Catholic schools in England and France.
Young William absorbed his family’s conservatism along with its deep Catholicism. At 6, he wrote the King of England demanding he repay his country’s war debt. At 14, he followed his brothers to the Millbrook School, a preparatory school 15 miles across the New York state line from Sharon.
In his spare time at Millbrook, young Bill typed schoolmates’ papers for them, charging $1 a paper, with a 25-cent surcharge for correcting the grammar.
He did not neglect politics, showing up uninvited to a faculty meeting to complain about a teacher abridging his right to free speech and ardently opposing United States’ involvement in World War II. His father wrote him to suggest he “learn to be more moderate in the expression of your views.”
He graduated from Millbrook in 1943, then spent a half a year at the University of Mexico studying Spanish, which had been his first language. He served in the Army from 1944 to 1946, and managed to make second lieutenant after first putting colleagues off with his mannerisms.
“I think the army experience did something to Bill,” his sister, Patricia, told Mr. Judis. “He got to understand people more.”
Mr. Buckley then entered Yale where he studied political science, economics and history; established himself as a fearsome debater; was elected chairman of the Yale Daily News, and joined Skull and Bones, the most prestigious secret society.
As a senior, he was given the honor of delivering the speech for Yale’s Alumni Day celebration, but was replaced after the university’s administration objected to his strong attacks on the university. He responded by writing his critique in the book that brought him to national attention, in part because he gave the publisher, Regnery, $10,000 to advertise it.
Published in 1951, “God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom,’” charged the powers at Yale with having an atheistic and collectivist bent and called for the firing of faculty members who advocated values not in accord with those that the institution should be upholding — which was to say, his own.
Among the avalanche of negative reviews, the one in Atlantic by McGeorge Bundy, a Yale graduate, was conspicuous. He found the book “dishonest in its use of facts, false in its theory, and a discredit to its author.”
But Peter Viereck, writing in The New York Times Sunday Book Review viewed the book as “a necessary counterbalance.”
After a year in the Central Intelligence Agency in Mexico City (his case officer was E. Howard Hunt, who went on to win celebrity for his part in the Watergate break-in), Mr. Buckley went to work for the American Mercury magazine, but resigned after spotting anti-Semitic tendencies in the magazine.
Over the next few years, Mr. Buckley worked as a freelance writer and lecturer, and wrote a second book with L. Brent Bozell, his brother-in-law. Published in 1954, “McCarthy and His Enemies” was a sturdy defense of the senator from Wisconsin who was then in the throes of his campaign against communists, liberals and the Democratic Party.
It proved it by lining up squarely behind Southern segregationists, saying blacks should be denied the vote. After some conservatives objected, Mr. Buckley suggested instead that both uneducated whites and blacks should not be allowed to vote.
Mr. Buckley did not accord automatic support to Republicans, starting with Eisenhower’s campaign for re-election in 1956. National Review’s tepid endorsement: “We prefer Ike.”
Circulation increased from 16,000 in 1957 to 125,000 at the time of Goldwater’s candidacy in 1964, and leveled off to around 100,000 in 1980. It is now 155,000. The magazine has always had to be subsidized by readers’ donations.
Along with offering a forum to big-gun conservatives like Russell Kirk, James Burnham and Robert Nisbet, National Review cultivated the career of several younger writers, including Garry Wills, Joan Didion and John Leonard, who would shake off the conservative attachment and go their leftward ways.
National Review also helped define the conservative movement by isolating cranks from Mr. Buckley’s chosen mainstream.
“Bill was responsible or rejecting the John Birch Society and the other kooks who passed off anti-Semitism or some such as conservatism,” Hugh Kenner, a biographer of Ezra Pound and a frequent contributor to National Review told The Washington Post. “Without Bill — if he had decided to become an academic or a businessman or something else — without him, there probably would be no respectable conservative movement in this country.”
Mr. Buckley’s personal visibility was magnified by his “Firing Line” program which ran from 1966 to 1999. First carried on WOR-TV and then on the Public Broadcasting Service, it became the longest running show hosted by a single host — beating out Johnny Carson by three years. He led the conservative team in 1,504 debates on topics like “Resolved: The women’s movement has been disastrous.”
There were exchanges on foreign policy with the likes of Norman Thomas; feminism with Germaine Greer and race relations with James Baldwin. Not a few viewers thought Mr. Buckley’s toothy grin before he scored a point resembled nothing so much as a switchblade.
To New York City politician Mark Green, he purred, “You’ve been on the show close to 100 times over the years. Tell me, Mark, have you learned anything yet.”
But Harold Macmillan, former prime minister of Britain, flummoxed the master. “Isn’t this show over yet?” he asked.
At age 50, Mr. Buckley added two pursuits to his repertoire — he took up the harpsichord and became novelist. Some 10 of the novels are spy tales starring Blackford Oakes, who fights for the American way and bedded the Queen of England in the first book.
Others of his books included a historical novel with Elvis Presley as a significant character, another starring Fidel Castro, a reasoned critique of anti-Semitism, and journals that more than succeeded dramatizing a life of taste and wealth — his own. For example, in “Cruising Speed: A Documentary,” published in 1971, he discussed the kind of meals he liked to eat.
“Rawle could give us anything, beginning with lobster Newburgh and ending with Baked Alaska,” he wrote. “We settle on a fish chowder, of which he is surely the supreme practitioner, and cheese and bacon sandwiches, grilled, with a most prickly Riesling picked up at St. Barts for peanuts,” he wrote.
Mr. Buckley’s spirit of fun was apparent in his 1965 campaign for mayor of New York on the ticket of the Conservative Party. When asked what he would do if he won, he answered, “Demand a recount.” He got 13.4 percent of the vote.
For Murray Kempton, one of his many friends on the left, the Buckley press conference style called up “an Edwardian resident commissioner reading aloud the 39 articles of the Anglican establishment to a conscript of assembled Zulus.”
Unlike his brother James who served as a United States senator from New York, Mr. Buckley generally avoided official government posts. He did serve from 1969 to 1972 as a presidential appointee to the National Advisory Commission on Information, and as a member of the United States delegation to the United Nations in 1973.
The merits of the argument aside, Mr. Buckley irrevocably proved that his brand of candor did not lend itself to public life when an Op-Ed article he wrote for The New York Times offered a partial cure for the AIDS epidemic: “Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm to prevent common needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of homosexuals,” he wrote.
In his last years, as honors like the Presidential Medal of Freedom came his way, Mr. Buckley gradually loosened his grip on his intellectual empire. In 1998, he ended his frenetic schedule of public speeches (some 70 a year over 40 years, he once estimated). In 1999, he stopped “Firing Line,” and in 2004, he relinquished his voting stock in National Review. He wrote his last spy novel the 11th in his series), sold his sailboat and stopped playing the harpsichord publicly.
But he began a new historical novel and kept up his columns, including one on the “bewitching power” of “The Sopranos” television series. He commanded wide attention by criticizing the Iraq war as a failure.
On April 15, 2007, his wife, the former Patricia Alden Austin Taylor, who had carved out a formidable reputation as a socialite and philanthropist but considered her role as a homemaker, mother and wife most important, died. Mr. and Mrs. Buckley called each other “Ducky.”
He is survived by his son, Christopher, of Washington, D.C.; his sisters Priscilla L. Buckley, of Sharon, Conn., Patricia Buckley Bozell, of Washington, D.C., and Carol Buckley, of Columbia, S.C.; his brothers James L., of Sharon, and F. Reid, of Camden, S.C., a granddaughter and a grandson.
In the end it was Mr. Buckley’s graceful, often self-deprecating wit that endeared him to others.
“ ‘Do you ever read the National Review, Jozsef?’ asks Boris Bolgin, the chief of KGB counter intelligence for Western Europe, ‘it is edited by this young bourgeois fanatic.’ ”
Posted February 26, 2008 12:44 AM (EST)
Read More: Bob Dylan, Ccm, Christian Rock, John Mellencamp, Larry Norman, Paul McCartney, Rock, Sammy Davis Jr., The Pixies, Van Morrison, Breaking News
Larry Norman, the most amazing artist you've never heard of has died. I found Norman's 1976 record "Only Visiting This Planet" on vinyl when I was a kid and was amazed at Norman's creative genius-later I wrote a chapter on him in my book The Rock & Roll Rebellion.
Norman will be mentioned in obits as the Father of Christian Rock, but that's a misunderstanding of who he was. Someone once said "I'm too saved for the Sinners and the Saved don't want me around" and that best described Norman's amazing life and career.
He first cracked the pop charts in the late 60's with his band People and their smash hit "I Love You," but became disgruntled when Capitol Records wouldn't let him call his album "We Need A Whole Lot More Jesus and A Lot Less Rock & Roll" and put a painting of his Master on the cover.
That led Norman to quit the band and go solo, recording for MGM Records, but they too tired of his religious imagery and Norman soon formed his own label, Solid Rock Records. The Christian world was freaked out by the blond hippie and had little use for his music and despite his association with the term "Christian Rock" he was always an outsider and always strived to make his records for everybody.
While Christian Rock is sometimes assailed as formulaic and derivative, Norman was anything but and his admirers included Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, The Pixies, Van Morrison, John Mellencamp and Sammy Davis, Jr. among others.
Martin Luther, no slouch of a songwriter himself once said "Why should the Devil have all the good tunes," and Norman took that line and wrote a memorable song "Why Should the Devil Have All The Good Music" which included these lines:
"I want the people to know that He saved my soul but I still like to listen to the radio/They say rock and roll is wrong give you one more chance/I say I feel so good I gotta get up and dance/There's nothing wrong with playing blues licks/If you gotta reason tell me to my face/Why should the Devil have all the good music"
Norman further alienated many churchgoers with his song "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus" which went: "Gonorrhea on Valentine's Day/You're still looking for the perfect lay/You think rock and roll will set you free/But honey you'll be dead before you're 33"
And only the eclectic Larry Norman could write a song about his Master Jesus, comparing him to a U.F.O. and singing this memorable line: "If there's life on other planets than I'm sure that He must know and He's been there once already and has died to save their souls"
Norman gave the world one last gift as he lay dying dictating these words shortly before his heart gave out. Who wouldn't want to go out like this?
"I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God's hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home... I won't be here much longer. I can't do anything about it. My heart is too weak. I want to say goodbye to everyone...My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside... I want to say I love you. I'd like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort...Goodbye, farewell, we'll meet again Somewhere beyond the sky. I pray that you will stay with God. Goodbye, my friends, goodbye."
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 27, 2008; 12:16 PM
NEW YORK -- William F. Buckley Jr., the erudite Ivy Leaguer and conservative herald who showered huge and scornful words on liberalism as he observed, abetted and cheered on the right's post-World War II rise from the fringes to the White House, died Wednesday. He was 82.
His assistant Linda Bridges said Buckley was found dead by his cook at his home in Stamford, Conn. The cause of death was unknown, but he had been ill with emphysema, she said.
Editor, columnist, novelist, debater, TV talk show star of "Firing Line," harpsichordist, trans-oceanic sailor and even a good-natured loser in a New York mayor's race, Buckley worked at a daunting pace, taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine, the National Review.
Yet on the platform he was all handsome, reptilian languor, flexing his imposing vocabulary ever so slowly, accenting each point with an arched brow or rolling tongue and savoring an opponent's discomfort with wide-eyed glee.
"I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition," he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. "I asked myself the other day, `Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?' I couldn't think of anyone."
Buckley had for years been withdrawing from public life, starting in 1990 when he stepped down as top editor of the National Review. In December 1999, he closed down "Firing Line" after a 23-year run, when guests ranged from Richard Nixon to Allen Ginsberg. "You've got to end sometime and I'd just as soon not die onstage," he told the audience.
"For people of my generation, Bill Buckley was pretty much the first intelligent, witty, well-educated conservative one saw on television," fellow conservative William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said at the time the show ended. "He legitimized conservatism as an intellectual movement and therefore as a political movement."
Fifty years earlier, few could have imagined such a triumph. Conservatives had been marginalized by a generation of discredited stands _ from opposing Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to the isolationism which preceded the U.S. entry into World War II. Liberals so dominated intellectual thought that the critic Lionel Trilling claimed there were "no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation."
Buckley founded the biweekly magazine National Review in 1955, declaring that he proposed to stand "athwart history, yelling `Stop' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who urge it." Not only did he help revive conservative ideology, especially unbending anti-Communism and free market economics, his persona was a dynamic break from such dour right-wing predecessors as Sen. Robert Taft.
Although it perpetually lost money, the National Review built its circulation from 16,000 in 1957 to 125,000 in 1964, the year conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater was the Republican presidential candidate. The magazine claimed a circulation of 155,000 when Buckley relinquished control in 2004, citing concerns about his mortality, and over the years the National Review attracted numerous young writers, some who remained conservative (George Will, David Brooks), and some who didn't (Joan Didion, Garry Wills).
"I was very fond of him," Didion said Wednesday. "Everyone was, even if they didn't agree with him."
Born Nov. 24, 1925, in New York City, William Frank Buckley Jr. was the sixth of 10 children of a a multimillionaire with oil holdings in seven countries. The son spent his early childhood in France and England, in exclusive Roman Catholic schools.
His prominent family also included his brother James, who became a one-term senator from New York in the 1970s; his socialite wife, Pat, who died in April 2007; and their son, Christopher, a noted author and satirist ("Thank You for Smoking").
A precocious controversialist, William was but 8 years old when he wrote to the king of England, demanding payment of the British war debt.
After graduating with honors from Yale in 1950, Buckley married Patricia Alden Austin Taylor, spent a "hedonistic summer" and then excoriated his alma mater for what he regarded as its anti-religious and collectivist leanings in "God and Man at Yale," published in 1951.
Buckley spent a year as a low-level agent for the Central Intelligence Agency in Mexico, work he later dismissed as boring.
With his brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell, Buckley wrote a defense of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1954, "McCarthy and His Enemies." While condemning some of the senator's anti-communist excesses, the book praised a "movement around which men of good will and stern morality can close ranks."
In 1960, Buckley helped found Young Americans for Freedom, and in 1961, he was among the founders of the Conservative Party in New York. Buckley was the party's candidate for mayor of New York in 1965, waging a campaign that was in part a lark _ he proposed an elevated bikeway on Second Avenue _ but that also reflected a deep distaste for the liberal Republicanism of Mayor John V. Lindsay. Asked what he would do if he won, Buckley said, "I'd demand a recount."
He wrote the first of his successful spy thrillers, "Saving the Queen," in 1976, introducing Ivy League hero Blackford Oakes. Oakes was permitted a dash of sex _ with the Queen of England, no less _ and Buckley permitted himself to take positions at odds with conservative orthodoxy. He advocated the decriminalization of marijuana, supported the treaty ceding control of the Panama Canal and came to oppose the Iraq war.
Buckley also took on the archconservative John Birch Society, a growing force in the 1950s and 1960s. "Buckley's articles cost the Birchers their respectability with conservatives," Richard Nixon once said. "I couldn't have accomplished that. Liberals couldn't have, either."
Although he boasted he would never debate a Communist "because there isn't much to say to someone who believes the moon is made of green cheese," Buckley got on well with political foes. His friends included such liberals as John Kenneth Galbraith and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who despised Buckley's "wrathful conservatism," but came to admire him for his "wit, his passion for the harpsichord, his human decency, even for his compulsion to epater the liberals."
Buckley was also capable of deep and genuine dislikes. In a 1968 television debate, when left-wing novelist and critic Gore Vidal called him a "pro-war-crypto-Nazi," Buckley snarled an anti-gay slur and threatened to "sock you in your ... face and you'll stay plastered." Their feud continued in print, leading to mutual libel suits that were either dismissed (Vidal's) or settled out of court (Buckley's).
The National Review defended the Vietnam War, opposed civil rights legislation and once declared that "the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail." Buckley also had little use for the music of the counterculture, once calling the Beatles "so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic."
The National Review could do little to prevent Goldwater's landslide defeat in 1964, but as conservatives gained influence so did Buckley and his magazine. The long rise would culminate in 1980 when Buckley's good friend, Ronald Reagan, was elected president. The outsiders were now in, a development Buckley accepted with a touch of rue.
"It's true. I had much more fun criticizing than praising," he told the Washington Post in 1985. "I criticize Reagan from time to time, but it's nothing like Carter or Johnson."
Buckley's memoir about Goldwater, "Flying High," was coming out this spring, and his son said he was working on a book about Reagan.
Buckley so loved a good argument _ especially when he won _ that he compiled a book of bickering in "Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription," published in 2007 and featuring correspondence with the famous (Nixon, Reagan) and the merely annoyed.
"Mr. Buckley," one non-fan wrote in 1967, "you are the mouthpiece of that evil rabble that depends on fraud, perjury, dirty tricks, anything at all that suits their purposes. I would trust a snake before I would trust you or anybody you support."
Responded Buckley: "What would you do if I supported the snake?"