Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ann Coulter: Throw Grandma Under the Bus
Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama gave a nice speech, except for everything he said about race. He apparently believes we're not talking enough about race. This is like hearing Britney Spears say we're not talking enough about pop-tarts with substance-abuse problems.

By now, the country has spent more time talking about race than John Kerry has talked about Vietnam, John McCain has talked about being a POW, John Edwards has talked about his dead son, and Al Franken has talked about his USO tours.

But the "post-racial candidate" thinks we need to talk yet more about race. How much more? I had had my fill by around 1974. How long must we all marinate in the angry resentment of black people?

As an authentic post-racial American, I will not patronize blacks by pretending Obama's pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is anything other than a raving racist loon. If a white pastor had said what Rev. Wright said -- not about black people, but literally, the exact same things -- I think we'd notice that he's crazier than Ward Churchill and David Duke's love child. (Indeed, both Churchill and the Rev. Wright referred to the attacks of 9/11 as the chickens coming "home to roost.")

Imagine a white pastor saying: "Racism is the American way. Racism is how this country was founded, and how this country is still run. ... We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority. And believe it more than we believe in God."

Imagine a white pastor calling Condoleezza Rice, "Condoskeezza Rice."

Imagine a white pastor saying: "No, no, no, God damn America -- that's in the Bible for killing innocent people! God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human! God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme!"

We treat blacks like children, constantly talking about their temper tantrums right in front of them with airy phrases about black anger. I will not pat blacks on the head and say, "Isn't that cute?" As a post-racial American, I do not believe "the legacy of slavery" gives black people the right to be permanently ill-mannered.

Obama tried to justify Wright's deranged rants by explaining that "legalized discrimination" is the "reality in which Rev. Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up." He said that a "lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families."

That may accurately describe the libretto of "Porgy and Bess," but it has no connection to reality. By Rev. Wright's own account, he was 12 years old and was attending an integrated school in Philadelphia when Brown v. Board of Education was announced, ending "separate but equal" schooling.

Meanwhile, at least since the Supreme Court's decision in University of California v. Bakke in 1978 -- and obviously long before that, or there wouldn't have been a case or controversy for the court to consider -- it has been legal for the government to discriminate against whites on the basis of their race.

Consequently, any white person 30 years old or younger has lived, since the day he was born, in an America where it is legal to discriminate against white people. In many cases it's not just legal, but mandatory, for example, in education, in hiring and in Academy Award nominations.

So for half of Rev. Wright's 66 years, discrimination against blacks was legal -- though he never experienced it personally because it existed in a part of the country where he did not live. For the second half of Wright's life, discrimination against whites was legal throughout the land.

Discrimination has become so openly accepted that -- in a speech meant to tamp down his association with a black racist -- Obama felt perfectly comfortable throwing his white grandmother under the bus. He used her as the white racist counterpart to his black racist "old uncle," Rev. Wright.

First of all, Wright is not Obama's uncle. The only reason we indulge crazy uncles is that everyone understands that people don't choose their relatives the way they choose, for example, their pastors and mentors. No one quarrels with idea that you can't be expected to publicly denounce your blood relatives.

But Wright is not a relative of Obama's at all. Yet Obama cravenly compared Wright's racist invective to his actual grandmother, who "once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

Rev. Wright accuses white people of inventing AIDS to kill black men, but Obama's grandmother -- who raised him, cooked his food, tucked him in at night, and paid for his clothes and books and private school -- has expressed the same feelings about passing black men on the street that Jesse Jackson has.

Unlike his "old uncle" -- who is not his uncle -- Obama had no excuses for his grandmother. Obama's grandmother never felt the lash of discrimination! Crazy grandma doesn't get the same pass as the crazy uncle; she's white. Denounce the racist!

Fine. Can we move on now?

No, of course, not. It never ends. To be fair, Obama hinted that we might have one way out: If we elect him president, then maybe, just maybe, we can stop talking about race.

Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is Godless: The Church of Liberalism.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Today's Tune: Bob Dylan- Every Grain of Sand

(Click on title to play this stunningly beautiful video)

Michelle Malkin: Say Goodbye to the Glowbama Mystique
Posted: 03/19/2008

Barack Obama -- the self-anointed soul-fixing, nation-healing political Messiah -- has lost his glow. That is the takeaway from the beleaguered Democratic presidential candidate's "major" speech in Philadelphia yesterday.

For all of his supposedly unique and transcendent understanding of race in America, Obama's talk amounted to the same old, same old. The Glowbama mystique has gone the way of the Emperor's clothes. Instead of accountability, we got excuses. Instead of disavowal of demagoguery, we got whacked with the moral equivalence card. Instead of rejecting the Blame America mantra of left-wing black nationalism, we got more Blame Whitey. Same old, same old.

For two decades, Obama tethered himself to a fire-breathing pastor peddling bitter Marxist "black liberation theology" in the name of God. Behind the "audacity of hope" was a grievance-mongering preacher animated by the voracity of hate. And understand this: The Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama were not merely passing "associates." They were mentor and mentee, guru and student, with fates and fortunes intertwined.

For two decades, while using the church to build his Chicago power base and credibility in the black community, Obama turned a deaf ear to Wright's AIDS conspiracy theories, class warfare rants, anti-Israel, anti-white raves, and "God damn America" diatribes. These weren't occasional outbursts. They were the bread and butter of the Trinity United Church of Christ. Now, Obama blames "talk show hosts and conservative commentators" for exposing Wright's race-based rancor. Audacious, indeed.

On Friday, Obama attempted to minimize the extent to which he had been exposed to Wright's poisonous politicking on the pulpit. "None of these statements were ones that I had heard myself personally in the pews," he told Major Garrett of Fox News. "The other statements were ones that I just heard about while we were -- when they started being run on FOX and some of the other stations. And so they weren't things that I was familiar with."

Yesterday, Obama changed his tune: "I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Rev. Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes."

The clever Sen. Obama has attempted to erect a firewall of protection from probing questions about which remarks he heard and tolerated and failed to object to while sitting in the pews. Dwelling on what he knew and where and when, he argued yesterday, would be "to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality."

But it is Obama's pastor ("former" pastor, he is so quick to point out now, though he is a two-decade-long mentor) who holds a warped view of reality. And it is Obama who distorts the truth by likening this Ward Churchill of the United Church of Christ to an avuncular, yet lovable, family member who cannot easily be renounced:

"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

Glad to know something made Obama cringe.

Even as he denied that he was justifying and excusing Wright's demagoguery, Obama was doing just that by invoking slavery, Jim Crow, segregated schools, violence in the inner city and, yes, denial of access to FHA mortgages, to explain how we get to Wright spewing "God damn America" on Sunday morning.

"These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love," Obama declared rather stiffly as he stood self-consciously in front of more American flags that he has ever been placed in front of this campaign season.

Well, you can't pick your grandma, but you can pick your pastor. And Obama picked the wrong one if he aspires to be the president of all America -- an America that includes citizens of all colors who cringe at self-serving racial rationalizations masquerading as moral salvation.

Mrs. Malkin is author of Unhinged (Regnery).

Frank J. Gaffney Jr.: The New Dhimmi Times
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Stephanie Sinclair for The New York Times

The High Court in Cairo. In Egypt, courts must act in accordance with the basic tenets of Islamic jurisprudence.

Totalitarians have an uncanny appreciation for the subversive effect of foreign propagandists. The Nazis had Lord Haw-Haw, Imperial Japan its Tokyo Rose, the Soviets the World Council of Churches (among many others) and the North Vietnamese Jane Fonda. Now, our time’s totalitarian ideologues – the Islamofascists – have the New York Times.

This may not seem to be exactly a news flash. After all, the Times has been rendering invaluable service to the enemy’s information operations and military campaigns for years. To cite but a few examples: In December 2005, the paper disclosed a highly classified program for monitoring suspected terrorists’ communications on this war’s global battlefield. In June 2006, it revealed another enormously sensitive surveillance effort concerning movement of funds around the world. And practically every day, what passes for its news pages and editorials run down the Nation’s leadership, military and progress in defeating our foes.

The New York Times marked a deplorable new milestone this weekend, however – a true nadir in collaborating with the enemy in the War of Ideas. Its Sunday magazine featured an article by Harvard law professor Noah Feldman entitled “Why Shariah? Millions of Muslims think Shariah means the rule of law. Could they be right?” According to the Times’ Mr. Feldman, the answer is a resounding “Yes.”

The disinforming character of this essay is evident to the trained eye from the opening paragraph. Feldman depicts sympathetically the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who “gave a nuanced, scholarly lecture” recently in London. Dr. Williams we are told offered “the tentative suggestion…that, subject to the agreement of all parties and the strict requirement of protecting equal rights for women, it might be a good idea to consider allowing Islamic and Orthodox Jewish courts to handle marriage and divorce.” Then, it seems through no fault of his own, “all hell broke loose” on the poor, thoughtful clergyman.

Actually, what the head of the Church of England declared on the BBC was that it was “unavoidable” that Shariah law – a theo-political-legal code that the Islamofascists seek to impose on Muslims and non-Muslims alike in all of its barbaric, intolerant, totalitarian and misogynistic glory – will be observed in the United Kingdom. The man now derided as “the Grand Mufti of Canterbury” was exhibiting the classic symptoms of an unbeliever who chooses to submit to the rule of Islam, rather than accept the other choice under Shariah, namely being put to death. The former is known as a dhimmi.

In an article that can only be described charitably as selective in its rendering of the facts, Feldman paints a portrait of Shariah that would earn admiration from the inventor of the Big Lie, Adolf Hitler. In fact, the text could have been written by the Muslim Brotherhood – an Islamofascist movement that is, by its own documents, charged with “destroying [the United States] from within” and “by its own hands.” Actually, it is no exaggeration to say that the Times’ Magazine has provided a six-page advertisement for the Brotherhood, effectively portraying it as a force for democracy and the rule of law that would make Thomas Jefferson swoon.

The Harvard professor, who helped write the new Iraqi constitution with its requirement that all laws must conform to Shariah, seems open to the Islamofascists’ determination to have the same apply elsewhere. He concludes with this rhapsody: “…With all its risks and dangers, the Islamists’ aspiration to renew old ideas of the rule of law while coming to terms with contemporary circumstances is bold and noble – and may represent a path to just and legitimate government in much of the Muslim world.”

Let’s call this what it is: a paean to dhimmitude. The people who are actually going to have to “come to terms with contemporary circumstances” are not the Islamists. They are hewing to the immutable traditions of Shariah going back to the 9th century, as interpreted by the consensus of the faith’s “authorities,” the only figures allowed to speak for Islam.

It is the cruelest of delusions to contend that such Shariah law will produce “just and legitimate governments” anywhere. Feldman struggles to explain why it isn’t so in two of the four places ruled by Shariah today – Iran and Saudi Arabia; he doesn’t even try to do so with respect to Sudan or Gaza, let alone the nightmare that formerly was Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Sunday’s New York Times article could be chalked up to another travesty by a paper that has long since lost its way, but for one fact: It comes at a moment when the Islamofascists are poised to make a potentially decisive breakthrough. Unless action is taken swiftly, they will achieve a strategic penetration of Wall Street in the form of “Shariah-Compliant Finance” (SCF). Confusion, let alone deliberate disinformation, about the true nature of Shariah, constitutes an invitation to disaster.

After all, the calamitous credit crisis is vaporizing such pillars of American capitalism as Bear Sterns. Other investment houses and commercial banks are desperate for cash. Islamist Sovereign Wealth Funds (more accurately described as Dictators Slush Funds) and other champions of SCF are offering to recycle trillions of dollars here – if only Wall Street will allow Muslim Brothers and other Islamofascists to call the shots, dictating who gets capital and credit on the basis of Shariah adherence. Archbishop Williams judged Shariah law unavoidable in Britain in part because the UK has already embraced Shariah-Compliant Finance.

If we fall for this deadly Trojan horse and the seditious Shariah agenda that animates it, the New Dhimmi Times and Professor Feldman will deserve no small portion of the blame.


Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is the founder, president, and CEO of The Center for Security Policy. During the Reagan administration, Gaffney was the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy, and a Professional Staff Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John Tower (R-Texas). He is a columnist for The Washington Times, Jewish World Review, and and has also contributed to The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, and Newsday.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Today's Tune: The Waterboys- The Whole of the Moon

(Click on title to play video)

I pictured a rainbow
You held it in your hand
I had flashes
You saw the plan
I wandered out in the world for years
While you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon

You were there in the turnstiles
With the wind at your heels
You stretched for the stars
And you know how it feels
To reach too high
Too far
Too soon
You saw the whole of the moon

I was grounded
While you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth
You cut through lies
I saw the rain dirty valley
You saw "Brigadoon"
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon

I spoke about wings
You just flew
I wondered, I guessed and I tried
You just knew
I sighed
And you swooned
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon
The whole of the moon

The torch in your pocket
And the wind on your heels
You climbed on a ladder
And you know how it feels
To get too high
Too far
Too soon
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon

Unicorns and cannonballs
Palaces and Piers
Trumpets, towers, and tenaments
Wide oceans full of tears
Flags, rags, ferryboats
Scimitars and scarves
Every precious dream and vision
Underneath the stars
Yes, you climbed on a ladder
With the wind in your sails
You came like a comet
Blazing your trail
Too high
Too far
Too soon
You saw the whole of the moon

Going Up For Second

By John R. Lott Jr.
March 18, 2008 6:00 AM

Gun rights@SCOTUS.

A mixed crowd of about 70 gun-law supporters and gun-control advocates set up camp outside the U.S. Supreme Court building last night to be first in line for a courtroom seat today to hear the District defend its handgun ban.

If courts made their decisions based on public opinion, the case that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear today on the District of Columbia’s handgun ban would seem to be easy to decide. The polls and the sheer number of those filing amicus briefs support an individual right to owning guns. Yet, the Justice Department’s brief, while technically also supporting an individual right, has made this debate much more complicated and, for the first time in American history, even compelled a vice president to file his own brief.

A Gallup poll in February found that 73 percent of Americans believe that Second Amendment protects an individual right. On top of that, 305 members of Congress, 31 states, and the Department of Justice all make the same claim. Support is bipartisan. On the other side, only a minority of Democrats — 18 members of congress and attorney generals from five states — signed briefs arguing that it isn’t an individual right.

Even among presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama all reach the conclusion that there is an individual right to owning guns. Prominent liberal Democratic legal academics such as Akhil Amar, Sanford Levinson, and Laurence Tribe have reached similar conclusions.

Perhaps all this is not surprising given that the Second Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, and everyplace else in the Constitution that discusses “the right of the individual” the Supreme Court has consistently interpreted this phrase to mean precisely what it seems to mean, that an individual right, not the right of the government, is protected. Even if there were any remaining doubt, the debate over the 14th Amendment, which applies the Bill of Rights to the states, made it clear that Congress wanted to protect blacks against Southern states that were trying to disarm them after the Civil War.

Yet, all that agreement hides a very significant difference. The debate today will likely be over what protection is given this individual right.

Some, such as the vice president, the 305 members of Congress, and the 31 states, want to treat the Second Amendment like the rest of the Bill of Rights, requiring the same hurdles for the government to justify that a regulation is “reasonable.” Others, such as the Bush Department of Justice, argue that an “unquestionable threat to public safety” from unregulated guns requires that a lower standard must be adopted. Strongly hinting that D.C.’s handgun ban and requirement that long guns always be kept locked and unloaded could be upheld under this lower standard.

But this public-safety argument faces serious problems. After the ban went into effect in early 1977, D.C.’s murder rate rose dramatically. Only in one year since the ban has the murder rate gotten as low as it was in 1976. But it is not just that D.C.’s murder rates rose, they rose dramatically relative to other cities. In the 29 years that we have data after the ban, among the 50 largest cities, D.C.’s murder rate was either first or second for 15 years and fourth for another four years. By contrast, in 1976 D.C.’s murder rate ranked 15th. Over all, violent crime also soared.

But these problems don’t just represent something unique about D.C. Chicago experienced an increase after its ban in 1982. Even island nations from Ireland to Jamaica, whose borders are relatively easy to control, have experienced large increases in murder and violent crime after gun bans. For example, after handguns were banned in 1997, the number of deaths and injuries from gun crime in England and Wales increased by an amazing 340 percent in the seven years from 1998 to 2005.

There is real irony about the Justice Department argument. It is the old, oft derided “slippery slope” argument so often used by opponents of gun control. The Justice Department worries that if the government can’t ban handguns, it won’t be able to ban private ownership of machine guns. The specter of machine guns is raised ten times in their brief.

No one expects the court to completely end gun control any more than the First Amendment’s “Congress shall make no laws” has prevented the passage of campaign-finance regulations. But a lot is at stake today before the Supreme Court. If D.C.’s handgun ban is upheld, the Second Amendment will hold little practical meaning. Even if the ban is struck down, the decision will likely only rule out the most extreme of regulations: a complete ban on handguns.

— John R. Lott Jr. is the author of More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2000) and a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland.

Rolling Stone Q&A: Steve Van Zandt

The favorite sideman of Bruce Springsteen and Tony Soprano talks about touring, his favorite songs and why he’ll probably never do another solo album

Posted Mar 17, 2008 10:56 AM

Bruce has been dragging out some pretty rare songs on this leg of the tour so far.
You never know what's gonna pop out, you know? It's kind fun to have so many songs to choose from.

What motivated him to open up the first show with something as random as "So Young and In Love"?
I don't know how many songs he has right now. Two-hundred and fifty? Three hundred? He just flips through 'em, and says, "Heeeey, remember this one?" No particular reason other than to just he hadn't done it very often, or hadn't done it for a long time. The wonderful... freedom... that our audience allows us is something that's fairly unique, We're able to do almost anything at any time and people seem to dig it.

Are they moments when he calls an audible — say "The Detroit Medley" and you guys just can't remember it?
We take a vote amongst us very quickly as to what key it's in. That happens. The nice thing about having so many people in the band is that no one person has to know everything. I might catch up on the second verse, you know what I'm saying?

You've played "Badlands", "Born to Run" and "Promised Land" at nearly every gig you've done over the past decade. Which one are you the most sick of?
We play those every time, huh?

Pretty much.
I know it sounds like an odd thing, because I used to think this about people in the theater, They have to do exactly the same thing every night. There's not one single word different. I used to think, How do you do that? We probably change things more often than almost anybody. Maybe there's a jam band or two through history that maybe changed things more often than us, but I don't think it's very many. Even if you're playing the same song, if there's a different order or a different context, then it sort of changes a little bit because of what's before it or what's after it. And so it has a funny kind of "newness" every night.

I've heard you say before that your favorite Springsteen song is "Fade Away."
Yeah, that's one of 'em.

Why does Bruce never play it with the band?
I don't know! It's just one of those funny, lost little gems, you know?

Do you ever say to him, "Bruce, I'd like to play this song tonight?"
You know, I really should do that more often. I guess it's just kind of a slower one and we don't play that many slower ones anymore, so maybe it's just hard to fit it in. But I should bring that up. My other favorite is "Held Up Without a Gun." We never play that one, either.

You and Nils are singing a bit now on "Long Walk Home," which you didn't on the first leg of the tour. How'd that happen?
It just spontaneously happened one night. It was one of those songs I thought we weren't quite getting the most out of it somehow. Songs are funny. You record them one way and then sometimes live they need to be adjusted or expanded or changed slightly to capture the essence of it. Sometimes it doesn't quite translate literally when you do it precisely the same way. And that just struck me as we were playing it, you know. I thought, you know, it's not quite going to that place it needs to go to, which the lyrics in it suggest. Sometimes something is just great on record and never quite translates live for some reason. It can be a bit of a challenge and that's just one thing I love to do. I'm just a natural-born arranger and always have been. I just love it. I did a lot of the stuff on "Darkness" and, of course, "The River" and "Born in the U.S.A.", that was sort of my thing before I started co-producing with him.

You know, I was reading that you were almost a part of the 1992 tour. Could you tell me about that?
We were talking about it and now you remind me. We were talking about doing something and I think we just decided to kind of wait on it or I got busy doing something. I honestly don't remember now. I think we just maybe decided to wait and get the E Street band back together.

How's Danny Federici doing?
He's doing great at the moment. It's a bit miraculous. I talked to him last week and he sounds great. I just hope it lasts. In a month or two we'll hopefully see him back.

Great. It's pretty incredible to think the same lineup of people who played on "Born to Run" are still in the band.
Yeah, I know. That's why it was so hard when Danny had to drop out for a minute. It was like the first time we were on stage without him. I love Charlie, he's doing a great job, but you can't replace Danny. You know what I mean? I look over there and it's like "Oh man." You know? It's just weird. Honestly, Charlie has an impossible job of trying to replace a legendary cat like Danny. He certainly is doing a great job, but you can't replace Danny.

People are concerned Max isn't going to be allowed on tour after Conan moves to 11:30.
The Conan show ends somewhere around New Years Eve this year. Then there's a good five or six months before they take over The Tonight Show. There's still plenty of time before that happens and we'll see. Through the years Max has absolutely become an integral part of that show. It's not like he's just the music guy. He's the second banana, as we used to call it. He's the foil, the Ed McMahon. He's great being that straight man. So for Conan to give that up and say "Okay man, I know this is important, I'll do the show without you," I mean it's radical man. I really don't think Conan gets enough credit for being so amazing, and everybody else at NBC are just terrific — from the chairman on down, honestly. So we'll see. There may come a day when it's all over, but, not yet.

So the tour is going through October?
I don't know. We're all gonna certainly be around and not take any other major projects for the rest of the year. Let's put it that way. There may be some time off. I'm not sure it will be every single week, every single month right through October. I think this year, we certainly have carved out for this and we'll see what happens. I haven't really seen a schedule to be honest. I just know we have to be available this year.

I'm wondering if you ever think about making a solo album that's backed by some of the garage bands you champion on your show?
Nah, I really haven't. I haven't really had any time to think about that at all. I'm just trying to get our business on solid ground, which may never happen. But I'm hoping it does. We're kind of reinventing the whole music business at this point, not to mention trying to bring back the whole basic genre of rock and roll, which disappeared off the face of the earth. Our two hour syndicated show is over a million listeners in over 200 cities. And the Sirius satellite thing is going great and then we're spanning into Europe. We're expanding very well but now the next level is to get some TV going and get these new rock n roll bands actually seen, whether it's on YouTube or whether it's on regular TV.

So that leaves you no time for an album.
Yeah. I'm hoping I even get a chance to maybe produce a song or two for some of these bands. Or maybe write a song or co-write a song and get a little bit involved in getting into a studio — which is like a fucking vacation, man. To walk into a studio, for me, is just like walking onto a beach or something. I haven't really thought of doing a solo record although it probably would be a good one honestly because I've done nothing but listen to good rock music for six straight years. It's probably getting into my head somewhere. But I kind of said what I needed to say with the five solo albums I did. I didn't really want to make a solo album. I don't believe in solo albums. I'm a band guy anyway. The only reason why I made solo records was because I got so obsessed with politics and that is quite personal, I don't really philosophically believe in solo records. So that's why I don't play my own records on my radio show. I'm just strictly a band guy.

If you had to give a number of the percent odds of a Sopranos movie, what number is that?

I'd say you gotta one out of ten shot. And that's three years from now. Not likely, but slightly slightly slightly possible.

Good thing you survived.
Silvio's still breathing. So that's all I care about, but I don't really don't expect a movie.

The fans are always curious about the Nebraska sessions. Were any of them attempted with a full band? What happened there?
It was an interesting moment. If I recall correctly he started cutting them as demos for the band. This was before Born in the USA right?

I remember him playing them for me one day and said "Here's my new songs. We'll start rehearsing them as a band soon." And I listened to this thing and I thought to myself "I gotta say there's something extraordinary about this." There was no intention of it being a record and no intention of it being released, but there was something just extraordinarily intimate about it. And I thought "What a wonderful moment has been captured here just accidentally." And I said to him, "Listen, I know this is a bit strange but I honestly think this is an album unto itself and I think you should release it." And he was like "What do you mean? It's just demos for the band." And I'm like "I know you didn't intended for this to be recorded but I just know greatness when I hear it, okay? It's my thing, it's why I'm a record producer and that's why I'm your friend and I'm just telling you I think your fans will just love this and I think it's actually an important piece of work. Because it captures this amazingly strange, weirdly cinematic kind of dreamlike mood. I don't know what it is. All I know is I know greatness when I hear it and this is it, okay? And this deserves to be heard I think people will love it and I think it's a unique opportunity to actually release something absurdly intimate."

So the band didn't even try to record them?
We may have cut one or two. I don't know if they ended up on Tracks. I think it just sort of became it's own thing and then he just wrote Born in the USA. I must say, again, the record company in that case, and I forget who it was, was very surprisingly and shockingly understanding about it. It was like "Well, we got this really cool electric album coming. So don't think we're gonna do this all the time. But we kind of want to put this thing out." I guess Bruce's manager Jon just managed to convince him that it was cool and then he went along with it.

I think "Trapped Again" is one of your few co-writing credit you had with Bruce.
There's a couple more. "Love on the Wrong Side of Town," from the second album. "This Time It's Real."

It would be great if you guys wrote together more often.
We really should have done more of that. We brought back Gary U.S. Bonds, which was an amazing success. It was totally Bruce's and he probably intended to produce it in the end, co-produce the single, then produce the rest of the album. I tried to convince him to buy the Power Station and start a record label. I really wish we had. Then we could have co-wrote and co-produced a bunch of legendary 60's cats. I thought we could build a whole label around that and just kind of have fun with it. I wish we had done that. But it was not the right time.

Do you think the tour is going to end here in New York as the last two tours have?
Jeez, I don't know. I have no idea. No idea. Really, I mean, I don't even know where we are this week.

I think you're playing in Nebraska in two days.
(Laughs) Oh, speaking of Nebraska! My life is on a need to know basis. I literally only get my schedule maybe the night before. So that's about as far in the future as I now.

Still powerful, Springsteen masters the contradictions

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted: March 18, 2008

Photos/Jim Bovin
Bruce Springsteen (left) and Little Steven Van Zandt perform Monday at the Bradley Center.

His new album is called "Magic" and as Milwaukee found again Monday night at the Bradley Center, magic continues to pulse through the night whenever Bruce Springsteen picks up a guitar and steps on stage.

At 58, Springsteen remains the most powerful of rock and roll front men, charismatic, funny, joyous, virile, and coursing with raw energy. There are many of things Springsteen has done well through the years and three of them in particular are on display in the songs of "Magic." One of them is the ability to take themes that are serious, even somber, and craft them into music that is upbeat and, against all odds, exhilarating. "Radio Nowhere" is on one level an apocalyptic vision of a man trying to find human connection after an unspecified calamity. It's a dark tale, but it's also alienation that rocks.

"Livin' In the Future" is another example. It is, if you look at the lyrics, almost Orwellian, a bleak tale of American civil liberties under attack, but Springsteen grew up on '60s pop and those dark words ride along on a buoyant pop melody. It is, if you will, an exercise in danceable agitation. That ability to frame stark scenes in almost upbeat music, sometimes leads to misunderstanding, but it also buttresses Springsteen's credibility.

Unlike some of the other old guard of rock - Neil Young and Elvis Costello come to mind - Springsteen also has the ability to frame his views in music that remains on some level positive in spirit. For that reason he rarely comes across as a sour scold. Even "Magic" which is the darkest tune on album, and is clearly leveling charges of government by deception, does it without calling names or railing against specific personalities. For that reason as an artist, Springsteen is able to remain convincing as a patriot in dissent.

He's also a master at taking the national or global and shrinking it down into the tales of ordinary men and women who become collateral damage in a geo-political chess game. "Devil's Arcade" is about an ordinary soldier lying in a hospital ward and dreaming of his wife at home. The title character in "Gypsy Biker" could be the son of the fallen soldier in "Born in the USA."

Of course, if Springsteen did nothing but come out and lecture people, however, cleverly and seductively, he probably wouldn't still be filling big arenas like the Bradley. Nudging towards 60, Springsteen still understands the joy of simply rocking your butt off. Monday's set list included "Cadillac Ranch," "Jungleland" and an encore triple blast of "Ramrod," "Born to Run" and the Irish gig "American Land."

As rewarding as it was, Monday probably wouldn't rank with Springsteen's best Milwaukee appearances. For reasons unexplained, the concert started slightly over an hour after it was scheduled to begin. That's a very long wait for even a superstar.

This was also the first time that I've had the sense that time was beginning to slow the E Street Band. Danny Federici has dropped out of the band for health reasons and Patti Scialfa has elected to sit this leg of the tour out to stay home and tend to the kids. More significantly, Clarence Clemons seems like a shadow of himself. The playful interplay between the Big Man and Springsteen seems like a thing of the past. Clemons now moves slowly and deliberately like a man in pain, and often retreats to a lounge chair in the shadows of stage, where he sometimes sits out entire songs.

No Surrender
Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
Streets of Fire
Gypsy Biker
Reason to Believe
It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City
Prove It All Night
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Cadillac Ranch
My Hometown
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
* * *
Loose Ends
Meeting Across the River (with Richard Davis)
Born to Run
American Land

Monday, March 17, 2008

Today's Tune: Abba- Take a Chance on Me

Former drummer for the Swedish pop band ABBA, Ola Brunkert, is seen in his undated file photo. Brunkert has been found dead after an apparent accident in his house in Mallorca, Spanish police said on Monday. REUTERS /Roger Schederin/Ringside Events/Handout.

(Click on title to play video)

George Neumayr: Wrighting Dirty

The American Spectator
Published 3/17/2008 12:08:32 AM

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright speaks at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

The videos of Barack Obama's pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, surpass Saturday Night Live parodies. As his congregants are hopping up and down like hyperactive children and fellow pastors are clapping him on the back, a sashaying Wright allows himself a range of rancid and conspiratorial musings that might even give Cynthia McKinney pause. The feverish racism reaches its high point of buffoonishness when Wright accuses the so-called first black president, Bill Clinton, of "riding dirty," exploiting the black community as he exploited Monica Lewinsky.

Under pressure, Obama is crying uncle, literally. He is casting Wright as the unhinged relative with which most American families are saddled. But how many Americans have their bonkers uncle preside at their wedding, baptize their children, and give them a title to a book? This is like finding out that, say, David Duke had served as best man at John McCain's wedding.

Obama now says he would have walked out of the church had he heard Wright's "God damn America" sermons. But look at the videos: none of Obama's fellow congregants look appalled or ready to walk out; they are practically doing somersaults of joy down the aisles. Wright's raise-the-roof racism was his customary style and an immense crowd-pleaser. Obama never saw this in his 20 years of attending his sermons? That's not plausible.

Even as Obama claimed ignorance of the sermons in media interviews last Friday, he contradicted this denial by describing Wright as a man of "anger and frustration" whose time had passed. How did he know? Did he just learn that in the last few days?

A SYMPATHETIC MEDIA, eager to change the subject, quickly notes that Obama has a new pastor, Otis Moss. Well, that's reassuring. Moss was rooting Wright on and shares many of his radical views, having apprenticed under him.

Notice also that the media (the oh-so-irenic-and-thoughtful David Gergen, for example, dusted this one off on CNN) is recycling a tired multiculturalist rationalization in Obama's defense: that the "black church" experience deserves a generous interpretation from whites and that pastors who have suffered discrimination deserve a rhetorical mulligan or two.

Creeping into the news coverage was even a note of admiration for Obama's loyalty to Wright -- that he didn't "repudiate" the man, but only his views. This from a media that egged McCain into calling Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance."

While the media worked hard to try and find a conservative Christian equivalent to Wright in McCain's life, they couldn't come up with one, and since McCain's interest in religion is wan no one really cares anyways.

THE WRIGHT CONTROVERSY threatens to cement Obama's reputation as a stealth radical, cooler in his temperament than overt radicals but equally committed to their goals. It is not surprising to hear Obama casually talk on the campaign trail about confiscating the profits of oil companies given that Wright's "liberation theology," which is Marxist in its premises, has shaped his worldview for over a generation.

And why would Americans want to turn their country over to a candidate who attends a straightforwardly separatist church that views America with suspicion if not contempt? Look at the church's official literature: it is openly separatist, mirroring the white racism of "separate but equal" almost perfectly. A pressed Wright even used the separate but equal defense in an interview on Fox News, saying that separate does not mean superior. The church's literature touts a "Black Value System" and states, "We are an African people, and remain 'true to our native land.'"

Shoehorning racial separatism into Christianity destroys it, as St. Paul admonished when he wrote that in Christ there is "neither Jew nor Greek," and a hyphenated Americanism that prizes the African while holding the American in contempt is also destructive. If this is the "audacity of hope," which is Wright's phrase, America is in trouble.

One reason to doubt Obama's sudden displeasure with his pastor's comments is that his wife makes similar ones and he doesn't seem to care. "As a black man Barack can get shot going to the gas station," she said, before more recently commenting that she is finally "proud" of her country. Perhaps before this is all over Obama will enlist that old explanation for male church attendance: my wife made me go.

George Neumayr is editor of Catholic World Report and press critic for California Political Review.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Today's Tune: The Vogues- Five O'Clock World

(Click on title to play video)

'John Adams,' Second To None

HBO Can Claim Victory With Bold Miniseries

By Tom Shales
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 15, 2008; C01

Kent Eanes/HBO
Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as John and Abigail Adams in a seven-episode mini-series spanning more than 50 years.

When in the course of media events, a network devotes six Sunday nights, more than seven hours of airtime and $100 million to a miniseries, it's likely that the show will be awash with sex and violence.

HBO, however, is about to depart radically from just that sort of thing and take a brave, glorious gamble. "John Adams" dramatizes the life of the second president, a Founding Father whose name is familiar but whose persona isn't.

That is about to change.

Premiering tomorrow night (with the first two episodes airing back to back), "Adams" is the kind of classily intelligent production that can be happily recommended to everybody. The filmmakers, including executive producer Tom Hanks, have attempted to re-create and enliven history -- and they succeed grandly.

Although the production is immense, and scenic values are enhanced by impressive digital effects, the two most important assets to the production are Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney. These exemplary and versatile actors seem to "know" John and Abigail Adams as if they had lived next door to them for years and played cards with them weekly.

Giamatti might seem a curious choice physically, since he's perhaps plumper and grumpier than the Adams of our mind's eye. The actor, though, gets inside the character and takes command in the very first scene, during which the stubbornly independent Adams decides to defend British soldiers charged in court with shooting Boston citizens in the street. It's 1770, and the British still occupy the American colonies, growing more unpopular by the day.

"No Boston jury will ever vote for acquittal," says John's relative Sam (Danny Huston). But John Adams stands fast even against mob rage: "I intend to show that this colony is governed by law," he says, even though he's a member of the rebellious Sons of Liberty himself.

Linney's Abigail is always at his side either literally or spiritually (through 54 years of marriage), occasionally making such suggestions to her husband as "mask your impatience with those less intelligent than yourself" -- something Adams has a tough time doing.

Dramatizing America's colonial and revolutionary years is full of pitfalls and has resulted in many a leaden movie -- from the cartoon buffoons of the musical "1776" to the British-as-mad-fiends hysteria of Mel Gibson's imbecilic "The Patriot." Mythic historical figures can come across as strutting, one-dimensional impersonations. But shrewdly adapting a book by the dedicated David McCullough, writer Kirk Ellis and director Tom Hooper have created characters who live and breathe and also, on occasion, bleed. They talk in complete sentences -- a charming habit long since abandoned here in the Colonies -- and yet the dialogue never seems stiff and unwieldy, as often happens in historical productions.

Giamatti and Linney give us a married couple harmonious, compatible and on occasion discreetly ardent. In Part 4, Abigail goes to France, after years of separation, to join her husband on a diplomatic mission (basically begging the French for material support). She steps out of a carriage in front of a large crowd and John greets her with formal restraint. One can feel their longing to embrace passionately -- which they finally do once protected by the privacy of a palace bedroom.

Paul Giamatti and David Morse (center)
photo by Kent Eanes/HBO

Sometimes, inappropriately, Giamatti exhibits that look of simmering contempt familiar from such films as "Sideways," one of his acclaimed performances, and the bitterness seems misplaced here. In Part 3, Giamatti briefly breaks out in the cutes, with Adams coming off as precious and prissy, as if playing the part at an amusement park like Colonial Williamsburg (where some of the film's scenes were shot; others were done on location in Hungary, about as far from Colonial Williamsburg as one can get).

For nearly throughout, Giamatti's performance is captivating, often poignantly so. He's especially touching when being maligned by giggling French snobs, when Adams is painfully aware that he is being mocked for his lack of sophistication and his inability to master the language.

Americans have a tendency to shy away from television they're told is "good for them." The miniseries is by no means a preachment or a history lesson. Adams was an adventurer in his way, and on a crossing to Europe must join the crew in battling a ferocious storm at sea. They also spot a British ship and decide it is all right to "engage" it for a brief naval battle, with Adams himself firing a ridiculous shot from a rickety rifle.

Perhaps the most shockingly brutal scene (at least in the first four episodes, as made available to critics) is that of a British prisoner being pounced upon by a mob, then tarred and feathered, a practice depicted in the film in a way that makes it appear far more painful and mortifying than is commonly thought. Similarly hard to watch are scenes of the beautiful Adams children being attacked by some form of pox, breaking out in open sores and being treated by a "bleeder," while Adams is off on his mission to Europe.

In addition to Giamatti and Linney, the cast is so stellar as to be almost intimidating. Tom Wilkinson has a romp playing Ben Franklin, who feels as lustily at home in the French court as Adams does uncomfortable. "You are not a man for Paris," Franklin tells Adams. "Paris requires a certain amount of indecency." Poor Adams, try though he might -- and he doesn't try very hard -- remains a fuddy-duddy even in France.

Stephen Dillane's Thomas Jefferson is a quiet, introspective scholar who at first thinks a "Declaration of Independency" is a bad idea -- later changing his tune, of course. David Morse, adept at playing contemporary neurotics, at first seems incongruous in the role of George Washington, heavy makeup caked on his face, but the performance proves canny and haunting, unlike any portrayal of Washington ever.

Production details are impeccable. Scenes set in Holland, where Adams goes in search of funding for the Revolution, are shot and lit like great Dutch paintings of the era. For Adams, however, this is a bleak period in his career, with the Dutch at first refusing his request for a $10 million loan. A fierce cough gets worse and worse, and soon Adams is, like his children back home, being visited by a bleeder (bleeding was apparently the approved treatment for virtually everything).

"Have I failed here as well?" he asks himself, in the depths of despair. When the news come that the British have been decisively defeated at last and the Colonies are no longer under its domain, he weeps in uncontrollable elation.

Although divided into seven parts, the miniseries will clock in at something like 10 hours, since most installments go beyond the one-hour point. Whatever, you won't be watching the clock. "John Adams" can safely be labeled a victory for all the talents who put it together -- an entertainment unmistakably relevant in its evocation of a tumultuous era not entirely unlike our own, and a great moment for a medium that is itself in the throes of revolution.

The first two parts of "John Adams" premiere tomorrow night at 8 on HBO; the remaining five parts will be telecast on subsequent Sundays at 9 p.m. through April 20.

Mark Steyn: Obama's pastor disaster

Saturday, March 15, 2008
Orange County Register

Trinity United Church of Christ/Religion New Service
Senator Barack Obama with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. in a 2005 photograph.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright thinks that, given their treatment by white America, black Americans have no reason to sing "God Bless America." "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America," he told his congregation. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human."

I'm not a believer in guilt by association, or the campaign vaudeville of rival politicians insisting this or that candidate dissociate himself from remarks by some fellow he had a 30-second grip'n'greet with a decade ago. But Jeremiah Wright is not exactly peripheral to Barack Obama's life. He married the Obamas and baptized their children. Those of us who made the mistake of buying the senator's latest book, "The Audacity Of Hope," and assumed the title was an ingeniously parodic distillation of the great sonorous banality of an entire genre of blandly uplifting political writing discovered circa page 127 that in fact the phrase comes from one of the Rev. Wright's sermons. Jeremiah Wright has been Barack Obama's pastor for 20 years – in other words, pretty much the senator's entire adult life. Did Obama consider "God Damn America" as a title for his book but it didn't focus-group so well?

Ah, well, no, the senator told ABC News. The Rev. Wright is like "an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with." So did he agree with goofy old Uncle Jeremiah on Sept. 16, 2001? That Sunday morning, Uncle told his congregation that the United States brought the death and destruction of 9/11 on itself. "We nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," said the Rev. Wright. "We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards."

Is that one of those "things I don't always agree with"? Well, Sen. Obama isn't saying, responding merely that he wasn't in church that morning. OK, fair enough, but what would he have done had he happened to have shown up on Sept. 16? Cried "Shame on you!" and stormed out? Or, if that's a little dramatic, whispered to Michelle that he didn't want their daughters hearing this kind of drivel while rescue workers were still sifting through the rubble and risen from his pew in a dignified manner and led his family to the exit? Or would he have just sat there with an inscrutable look on his face as those around him nodded?

All Sen. Obama will say is that "I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial." And in that he may be correct. There are many preachers who would be happy to tell their congregations "God damn America." But Barack Obama is not supposed to be the candidate of the America-damners: He's not the Rev. Al Sharpton or the Rev. Jesse Jackson or the rest of the racial grievance-mongers. Obama is meant to be the man who transcends the divisions of race, the candidate who doesn't damn America but "heals" it – if you believe, as many Democrats do, that America needs healing.

Yet since his early twenties he's sat week after week, listening to the ravings of just another cookie-cutter race-huckster.

What is Barack Obama for? It's not his "policies," such as they are. Rather, Sen. Obama embodies an idea: He's a symbol of redemption and renewal, and a lot of other airy-fairy abstractions that don't boil down to much except making upscale white liberals feel good about themselves and get even more of a frisson out of white liberal guilt than they usually do. I assume that's what Geraldine Ferraro was getting at when she said Obama wouldn't be where he was today (i.e., leading the race for the Democratic nomination) if he was white. For her infelicity, the first woman on a presidential ticket got bounced from the Clinton campaign and denounced by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann for her "insidious racism" indistinguishable from "the vocabulary of David Duke."

Oh, for cryin' out loud. Enjoyable as it is to watch previously expert tossers of identity-politics hand grenades blow their own fingers off, if Geraldine Ferraro's an "insidious racist", who isn't?

The song the Rev. Wright won't sing is by Irving Berlin, a contemporary of Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin and Lorenz Hart, all the sophisticated rhymesters. But only Berlin could have written without embarrassment "God Bless America." He said it directly, unaffectedly, unashamedly – in seven words:

"God Bless America

Land that I love."

Berlin was a Jew, and he suffered slights: He grew up in the poverty of New York's Lower East Side. When he made his name and fortune, his marriage to a Park Avenue heiress resulted in her expulsion from the Social Register. In the Thirties, her sister moved in with a Nazi diplomat and proudly flaunted her diamond swastika to Irving. But Berlin spent his infancy in Temun, Siberia (until the Cossacks rode in and razed his village), and he understood the great gift he'd been given:

"God Bless America

Land that I love."

The Rev. Wright can't say those words. His shtick is:

"God damn America

Land that I loathe."

I understand the Ellis Island experience of Russian Jews was denied to blacks. But not to Obama. His experience surely isn't so different to Berlin's – except that Barack got to go to Harvard. Obama's father was a Kenyan, he spent his childhood in Indonesia, and he ought to thank his lucky stars that he's running for office in Washington rather than Nairobi or Jakarta.

Instead, his whiny wife, Michelle, says that her husband's election as president would be the first reason to have "pride" in America, and complains that this country is "downright mean" and that she's having difficulty finding money for their daughters' piano lessons and summer camp. Between them, Mr. and Mrs. Obama earn $480,000 a year (not including book royalties from "The Audacity Of Hype," but they're whining about how tough they have it to couples who earn 48 grand – or less. Yes, we can. But not on a lousy half-million bucks a year.

God has blessed America, and blessed the Obamas in America, and even blessed the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose bashing of his own country would be far less lucrative anywhere else on the planet. The "racist" here is not Geraldine Ferraro but the Rev. Wright, whose appeals to racial bitterness are supposed to be everything President Obama will transcend. Right now, it sounds more like the same-old same-old.

"God Bless America

Land that I love."

Take it away, Michelle.