Saturday, March 29, 2008
March 27, 2008 - by Michael van der Galien
After vehement warnings from the Islamic world, Dutch MP Geert Wilders just published his controversial film Fitna (roughly translated as “strife” or “disturbance”) about the Koran and Islam on the Internet. You can view it here in English translation. (LiveLeak has removed the film from its website...you can view it at the following link for the moment:
The film begins with a warning of its own: “This contains very shocking images.”
And then the Koran appears, followed by an imam singing verses from it about fighting the infidels.
Next two planes are seen flying into the World Trade Center in New York City. After that we see buildings burning and hear a telephone conversation between a woman trapped inside the WTC and a 911 operator. The woman is panicking and fears she’s going to die. “It’s so hot, I’m burning up,” she says.
Next, another terrorist attack, quickly followed by leading terrorists and extremists telling fellow Muslims that Islam, that Allah, requires of them to fight “infidels.” After that come images of severely tarnished bodies, all victims of terrorism.
Fitna then returns to the Koran, again quoting violent passages, again followed by images of a fundamentalist Muslim imam telling believers that God will give them strength to kill unbelievers.
The movie continues in the same vein; Wilders then focuses on Muslims living in the West. In Western Europe, we have an integration problem, and Wilders believes that this problem is — also mainly — caused by the fact that those immigrants are Muslims.
Wilders’ message is clear: his argument is not that extremists distort what the Koran says and what Islam teaches; the problem, as he presents it, is that Islam is inherently violent. Islam, Wilders argues in Fitna, is a religion of terror and intolerance.
In the MP’s vision, Western democracy and freedom on the one hand and Islam on the other are polar opposites. Islam teaches that Western society has to be destroyed and/or subdued. Westerners are, therefore, in a battle for our lives; fighting for the survival of civilization.
Not unexpectedly, a Muslim group has already taken action against the film.
The moment the right-wing politician announced he would produce this movie, Muslims in the Netherlands sounded alarm bells. Other more fundamentalist Muslims in the Arab world were less cryptic; they said that if it were released, they would riot.
The grand mufti of Syria had warned that Wilders alone would be responsible for possible bloodshed if he went on to produce the movie and put it online.
The Dutch government put heavy pressure on the MP, telling him he should not produce the movie, that Dutch people living in Muslim countries would would be in danger because of his “obsession.” Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende tried to convince Muslim governments he too didn’t want Wilders to produce Fitna, insisting he disagreed with Wilders on just about everything. He even said Wilders’ movie “threatens the nation.”
As the film hit the Internet today, Dutch news channel RTL Nieuws reported their government met with ambassadors of Muslim nations in an attempt to explain that Wilders stood alone; that it may be his right to produce this movie, but that they and the majority of the Dutch people don’t agree with his views on Islam.
Dutch networks had previously refused to air Fitna. Wilders had approached several channels, but they all turned him down. The exception was the Dutch Muslim Channel, which agreed to air his movie, as long as they were allowed to watch Fitna before airing it. Wilders didn’t consider that a fair demand, and told them that he’d publish his movie on the Internet instead.
Wilders, however, finally found a site willing to host his film. Shortly after 7 p.m. Dutch time on Wednesday, Fitna went online.
There has been talk of little else on Dutch television ever since. The biggest network, RTL 4, already devoted an entire program on Fitna and is planning a follow-up.
They ask the questions: Will Fitna arouse the anger of Muslims in the Netherlands? Will some start rioting? And how about Muslim countries? Should Dutch people living in Muslim countries fear for their lives? Will Dutch embassies be attacked and possibly burned down?
Nobody knows that yet.
At this moment, a Muslim group has already taken action. “A Dutch judge is due on Friday to hear the petition of a Muslim group seeking an independent review of an anti-Koran film by lawmaker Geert Wilders to see whether it violates hate speech laws.”
In the petition the group says that “the situation of Muslims in the Netherlands is comparable with that of our Jewish fellow-citizens in the 1930s.”
March 28, 2008 - by Annie Jacobsen
By Elise Amendola, AP
Harvard University student Kareem Shuman, 21, was turned away from the gym during women-only hours that recently were instituted at the center. Shuman, a Muslim, said he was sympathetic to the policy instituted at the request of some Muslim women who, for religious and cultural reasons, cannot exercise comfortably in the presence of men.
In the late 1980s, when I was in college, I served as captain of the Princeton women’s ice hockey team. My teammates and I, our Harvard opponents, and everyone else in the league were beneficiaries of a significant piece of legislation called Title IX — the Education Amendment of 1972 that prohibited discrimination in any activity on the basis of sex.
A few years before I went to college, there were no women’s ice hockey teams at the college level in America. Nine years after I graduated, women I’d skated with competed in the first Olympic games to include our sport. The United States won the gold medal.
Title IX gave the nation’s female college athletes access to a playing field that had previously been ruled by men. Progress inspires further progress and Title IX is an example of this golden rule. The amendment came only three years after Princeton admitted its first female undergraduates. Five years earlier, down south a few states, black men and women were routinely denied the right to vote. In America, the principal of egalitarianism — that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities — has been on a slow but decidedly forward march.
Until recently at Harvard University.
On February 4, 2008, in an act of segregation disguised as “collaboration,” Harvard University set the clock back fifty years by agreeing to ban men from a popular university gym for six hours each week to appease Muslim women. Harvard University spokesman Robert Mitchell stated to me that this was done at the behest of a group of women “whose religion does not allow them to remove their burqas and/or hijab in the presence of men.”
The Harvard College Women’s Center, which represents on its website that it supports “women that challenge, motivate, and inspire,” quickly endorsed the policy of segregation. Its director, Susan Marine, told CNN, “It’s just not possible for [the women] to be in a mixed environment.”
America has a history of having segregation laws on the books. From the end of the Civil War until 1965, America’s “Jim Crow” laws mandated that one group of people — American blacks — had separate facilities for activities including sleeping, eating, worshiping, and exercising apart from another group of people, American whites. But state-sponsored school segregation was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1954, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 annulled all remaining acts of segregation. Title IX, spearheaded by Patsy Mink, the Rosa Parks of the legislation, put an end to male/female inequity at the college level — certainly where federal funding was concerned.
What is Harvard University thinking? Why would it endorse segregation at a time when its most visible alumnus, Barack Obama, has vowed to move America beyond the lingering legacy of America’s “Jim Crow” laws?
“A group of Muslim women made a request, we thought it was reasonable,” Harvard athletics spokesman Matt Lavoie told me in an interview. “It’s a religious issue, that’s all.”
The religious “issue” which Harvard is embracing is a draconian system of jurisprudence called Sharia law. Created in the 9th century and wholly unchanged, Sharia law is the law of the Taliban. Sharia law governs Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Iran.
Just like America’s former “Jim Crow” laws, Sharia law mandates that one group of people — Muslim women — have separate facilities for activities including sleeping, eating, worshiping, and exercising apart from another group of people, the world’s population of men.
Sharia law allows Muslim fathers to force their daughters into prearranged weddings, sometimes with a family member, when those daughters are still children, sometimes as young as nine. Sharia law allows women to be stoned to death for adultery. And Sharia law is why men and women can’t work out in the same environment in a Harvard University gym.
None of which answers the question: why would a bastion of higher learning tolerate such an odious system of jurisprudence, let alone embrace it?
Could it possibly have anything to do with the $20 million gift Harvard recently accepted from Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Addulaziz Alsaud? (That would be the same wealthy prince whose $10 million pledge to the Twin Towers Fund was rejected by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani). When I posed this question to one Harvard official after the next, I was met with guffaws. No one in Harvard University’s president’s office wanted to discuss the issue with me despite multiple requests.
My question — does Harvard’s “Jim Crow” gym have anything to do with the Saudi Prince’s $20 million gift — is not as far of a stretch as you might think. Harvard has a recent history of accepting and then returning gifts by Middle Eastern royals and despots. In 2001, the university returned a $2.5 million gift by the United Arab Emirates unelected leader, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Nahayan, after a group of Harvard Divinity School students tied the emir to the Abu Dhabi-based Zayed Center. The eponymous center, it turned out, was an anti-American organization that had hosted Holocaust deniers and held lectures to promote the idea that the United States military had staged the 9/11 attacks. Sheik Zayed’s gift came with a caveat. Did Prince Alwaleed’s?
With no answers forthcoming, serious questions remain:
* How high up did authorization of the new segregation policy go?
* Was Harvard’s president Drew Gilpin Faust — the first female president in the university’s 372-year history and a prize-winning historian who specializes in the role of women in America’s slaveholding south — involved?
* Did the segregation policy consider Prince Alwaleed’s $20 million gift?
* What happens to the livelihood of the male gym workers who are banned from working those six hours each week?
* Will Harvard University embrace Sharia law in future policy decisions?
Harvard’s “Jim Crow” gym has moved America backwards not beyond. Its potential consequences are best represented in the story of the boiled frog.
Ever tried boiling a frog? You can’t do it by dropping a frog into a pot of boiling water. The frog will leap out, scalded perhaps, but very much alive. To successfully boil a frog, you must put the frog in a pan of nice, luke-warm water and slowly, ever so slowly, turn up the heat.
Before you know it you will have a boiled frog.
Harvard’s “women only” gym hours: Monday 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., Tuesday 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., Thursday 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
By Bill Madden
Yogi Berra leaps into the arms of Don Larsen after Larsen's memorable perfect game at Yankee Stadium in the 1956 World Series.
The Yankees and visiting Devil Rays watch a video tribute to Thurman Munson in 2004. Munson, a beloved Yankee, died during the 1979 season.
I feel as if I've spent half my life in Yankee Stadium, bearing witness to thousands of games as a fan and reporter in the grand old ballpark's two incarnations.
George Steinbrenner and his emissaries of progress will have to understand if I'm taking this coming of the wrecking ball a little personally.
I saw almost all of Mickey Mantle's career played out there while never quite comprehending the disproportionate amount of booing accorded such an otherwise beloved Yankee in all his pregame introductions. I was there, second row, upper deck in left, for Don Larsen's perfect game, and again, in the press box, for David Wells' and David Cone's perfectos more than four decades later.
The memory of an empty home plate as eight Yankees stood somberly at their positions, heaving with emotion, in a moment of silence for their fallen captain, Thurman Munson, remains frozen in my mind, just as surely as those of Wade Boggs on the police horse, the - prematurely - returning Billy Martin running out on the field, doffing his cap to an adoring packed-house Old-timers Day crowd; and Reggie Jackson, then with the Angels, basking in the satisfaction of his monster 1982 homecoming home run off Ron Guidry as another raucous crowd chanted "Steinbrenner sucks! Steinbrenner sucks! Steinbrenner sucks!"
Still, for all those memories, none is more vivid than the first.
Until my dad informed me that we were going to my first major league baseball game that morning of June 27, 1953, my only image of Yankee Stadium was off the grainy, black-and-white Dumont TV in which the picture hardly varied from the pitcher throwing to the batter. I had assumed the stadium was not much different from the wooden grandstand structures our local high school teams played in - just a little larger.
Imagine my surprise then when we parked the car in a lot on 161st St. and began approaching the foreboding concrete and limestone edifice.
"Where's Yankee Stadium?" I asked.
"This is it," my dad answered.
Once inside, my father led me through a portal on the third-base side and back out into the sunshine to about the most awe-inspiring sight I had ever seen - this sweeping expanse of emerald green where the Yankees, in their bright, pinstriped home whites, were taking batting practice while the Cleveland Indians, in their visiting grays, looked on from the third-base dugout. When the game began, I was transfixed on the opposing pitchers - Eddie Lopat for the Yankees, who looked far bigger than his 5-10, 180-pound frame, and Mike Garcia, whose glowering countenance and dark, swarthy complexion made him look every bit the enemy my father had depicted him to be.
Three years later, my father felt I had grown enough as a fan to warrant experiencing my first World Series game. On Oct. 8, 1956, he got me excused from my fifth-grade class to take in Game 5 of the Yankees-Dodgers battle. It would only turn out to be the greatest game in World Series history, as Larsen - the free-spirited righthander who had been KO'd by the Dodgers in the second inning of Game 2 - retired all 27 Brooklyn hitters while out-dueling Sal Maglie, 2-0. Afterward, as we walked across the MaCombs Dam Bridge to our car, which was parked on the street in Harlem, my dad said to me: "Just so you know, not all World Series games are like this, but we're all going to be famous now, everyone who was there today."
Nearly 42 years later, a surreal feeling came over me, along with the echo of my father's words, as I sat transfixed in the press box on the afternoon of May 17, 1998 watching David Wells - who had attended the same high school in San Diego as Larsen - pitch the second perfect game in Yankee Stadium history. As I recorded Wells' masterpiece against the Minnesota Twins in my scorecard, I couldn't help thinking to myself: "Dad, are you here somewhere?"
When a year later, Cone pitched his perfect game - on a day the Yankees honored Larsen's 1956 batterymate Yogi Berra, with Larsen also in attendance - Yankee Stadium, for me, took on an almost haunted quality.
It was even more so on those back-to-back nights in 2001 under a full harvest moon, when Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius each hit two-out, two-run, game-tying, ninth-inning homers off Diamondbacks closer Byung-Hyun Kim, sending the Yankees on to wins in Games 4 and 5 of the World Series. Sitting next to Philadelphia Daily News columnist Sam Donnellon in the press box after the Brosius homer, I said: "Are we really here or merely in some sort of time warp?"
Another serendipitous moment that will always have a lasting place in my Yankee Stadium memory bank occurred on April 26, 1990. The Yankees were playing the Mariners, whose main attractions were Randy Johnson, the pitcher that day, and their budding star center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. I was at the game as a fan, sitting in the Yankees' family section in the first-base reserve seats when I suddenly spotted Ken Griffey Sr., the former Yankee who was now playing for the Reds, two seats down from me. The Reds had an off-day in Philadelphia and Senior had taken the opportunity to watch Junior play at Yankee Stadium.
In the fourth inning, the Yankees' Jesse Barfield hit a drive to left center that sent Junior into overdrive pursuit. As the ball disappeared over the wall, so too did Junior for an instant before pulling himself back onto the field, waving his glove triumphantly. The momentarily stunned crowd suddenly began applauding - an extraordinary gesture, I thought, for an opposing player who had just robbed a Yankee of a home run - as the smiling Junior trotted in from center field and as I glanced over at Ken Sr. I could see him wiping his eyes.
"That," I said to him, "was the greatest catch I have ever seen." Before he could answer, a woman in front of us turned and replied: "I didn't think it was such a great catch." We gave her a confused look, before she thrust out her hand to Ken Sr. and said, smiling: "I'm Marla Barfield, Jesse's wife."
It remains the greatest catch I've ever seen, if only because of the circumstances surrounding it.
Besides the great games and great plays, there was a lot of great humor, too. The "Reggie's Revenge" homer off Guidry, topped only by the homer Jackson hit on Opening Day 1978 when 50,000 "Reggie" bars rained down on the field. Perhaps the funniest moment, though, was Jimmy Piersall of the Indians, in a 1961 game, taking a seat behind the monuments in center field when weak-hitting Yankee pitcher Ryne Duren was coming to bat. I was a fan that day, too, wondering like everyone else what was going on as Indians manager Jimmie Dykes came out of the dugout, waving frantically to the umpires to order Piersall to come out from hiding. The next day, Piersall was quoted as saying he just wanted to have a private talk with the Babe.
Yes, it's been a wonderfully memorable ride these last 55 years. While I'm sure the new Stadium will have vastly superior working conditions along with plenty of other amenities never dreamed of by old Jacob Ruppert, so much of what baseball has meant to me will be forever embedded in the empty green expanse across the street.
Updated: March 27, 2008, 3:52 PM EST
The cover of Vogue's April Shape Issue features Lebron James and Gisele Bundchen. (AP Photo / March 13, 2008)
Would someone please write a handbook? "What Will and Won't Piss Black Folk Smooth the **** Off" would be an international bestseller.
I'm black, and I'm pissed off most of the time, but I wouldn't leave home without the handbook. Not in these racist-ly confusing times. I can barely keep up with when I'm supposed to be disappointed as opposed to offended as opposed to being pissed smooth the **** off.
Right now I need to know where this LeBron James-Gisele Bundchen-Vogue-cover controversy falls. And just who am I supposed to be mad at, LeBron, the photographer, the editors at Vogue or Tom Brady?
Maybe they're all to blame. Maybe that's the point of this whole mess. Or maybe they're just as bewildered as I am.
According to the allegations, King James looks like King Kong clutching Fay Wray on the latest cover of Vogue, and the image, according to potential handbook writers, "conjures up this idea of a dangerous black man."
Hmm, to LeBron and his handlers, he looks like LeBron clutching a pretty white woman on the latest cover of Vogue, and the image conjures up the idea that LeBron can race up court with a basketball and a supermodel.
I agree with LeBron. The photographer captured him exactly as he is. You know, when he covered his body in tatts years ago, mimicking a death-row inmate, LeBron invited people to jump to the conclusion that he's dangerous. Yeah, that's the way the image-is-everything game is played. Ink is a prison and gang thing. Don't act like you don't know the origin of the current fad.
Vogue put a mirror in our face, and we're complaining about the reflection. Half the black players in the NBA take the court each night in front of white audiences tatted from neck to toe like they're shooting a scene for Prison (Fast)Break.
When David Stern insisted on helping these players with their image by implementing a dress code, many of the players and their media groupies screamed racism. You see, showing up to work in a white T and iced-out (heavy jewelry) was their way of showing loyalty to their boys in the 'hood, a shout-out to the corner boys and girls.
And any time someone with common sense points out that athletes are making fools of themselves and feeding negative stereotypes, he or she is shouted down as a sellout, racist or out of touch.
Just look at how much heat the NFL takes for trying to stop Chad Johnson from bojangling. This is why a handbook to clear up the confusion is so necessary. When Johnson slaps in his gold teeth, dyes and cuts his hair into a blonde Mohawk, dances a jig in the end zone and makes life absolute hell on his black coach, that is fun and good for the game.
But when King James apes King Kong it is a terrible blow to the perception of black men.
Would we be having this discussion if LeBron struck the same pose on the cover of Ebony while holding Selita Ebanks? Think about it. And if we wouldn't be having the discussion, what does that say about us? Are we only bothered by negative images of black men when the primary/sole consumer of the image is white people?
Vogue ain't for us. Tyler Perry's new movie, Meet the Browns, was produced with us in mind. It had a great box-office debut, coming in at No. 2 with a take of more than $20 million. It also broke records for negative black stereotypes and simple-mindedness.
We ate it up, and I've yet to hear much of an outcry about a romantic comedy built around a single mama with three baby daddies, her loud-mouthed, weed-smoking, gun-toting Latino best girlfriend, a deadbeat daddy, a drunk sister and a deceased father who was a pimp-turned-preacher. I could go on. This list is endless.
Rather than reading and hearing universal condemnation of Tyler Perry, the drag-queen moviemaker is being hailed as a genius for recognizing what attracts us to the movie theatre.
I'm telling you we need a handbook. We need something athletes, entertainers, black and white folks can easily refer to when deciding how to react to the images we choose to project. The chapter on rap-music videos could be studied at major universities across the globe. I'd like for Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Exploitation Television, to pen that section when he comes off the Clinton campaign trail.
LeBron James is a kid, and his talents as a basketball player and absence of a father allowed him to "grow up" rather than be "raised." His stated goal is to be one of the richest men in the world. Like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, he is a child celebrity interested in increasing his fame and little else.
He's in very good and very deep company when it comes to being unconcerned with and unqualified for the job of representing black men in a positive light.
Hell, given our current state of confusion, I'm not sure Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. could handle the job.
Jason Whitlock can be reached by email at Ballstate68@aol.com.
By GREG COTE
KOICHI KAMOSHIDA / GETTY IMAGES
Pitcher Hideki Okajima of the Boston Red Sox pitches during MLB opening game between the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome on March 25, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan.
Maybe it's just me. I might be a jingoist, or simply a step (or three) behind the grand notion of globalization. But I'm thinking that a lifelong Oakland A's baseball fan should not have to set the alarm for 3 a.m. in order to watch on TV as his team opens the 2008 regular season with a ''home game'' a world away in the Tokyo Dome.
That seems, if you'll pardon an antique phrase, un-American.
At least Boston Red Sox fans could sleep in Tuesday until 6 a.m., their reward, perhaps, for winning the World Series.
The A's and Bosox do it again Wednesday in Japan as Major League Baseball sells its soul to promote itself internationally. Picture Bud Selig in a purple-felt 1970s Superfly hat with a pimp limp, as challenging as that might be.
BAD FOR FANS
There used to be a certain sanctity to American professional sports before globalization became the rather noble code word for disrespecting the fans who built the leagues' popularity in favor of growing the profit potential.
I don't mean players from abroad coming into our leagues. No. That's a very good thing. No one who has watched Yao Ming or Hanley Ramirez perform can be anything but grateful that American sports teams are enriched by imports.
My complaint is when our games are taken from where they should be -- in our stadiums, arenas and ballparks, played before our teams' fans -- and placed elsewhere for no reason but unnecessary, self-serving greed.
Dolphins fans can relate, after seeing last October's ''home game'' against the Giants played in Wembley Stadium in London. Why? Because the NFL Europe league failed to catch on over there, so the NFL is now betting (at hometown fans' expense) that playing regular-season games there may create a spark that catches and turns into broad, lucrative interest.
It is worse, mathematically, that football fans would lose one of only eight real games to this experiment in avarice, yet, somehow, in baseball, it feels worse.
Baseball remains America's National Pastime in some emotional, historical, integral way that no other sport can equal let alone surpass. Even as the ugly spectacle of steroids and Roger Clemens' Congressional testimony echoes, there is something about baseball that is in our national bones the way football isn't.
And Opening Day merits the capital letters only in baseball. Used to, anyway.
Now the sport gives our Opening Day to Tokyo, and it's sacrilege. What's next? Japan takes the Fourth of July, too? How about, in January, we have our presidential inauguration in Mexico City?
I don't blame our pro leagues for trying to grow their popularity beyond U.S. borders because the sale of an officially licensed Manny Ramirez jersey is money in the bank whether it's bought with $100 or 10,000 yen.
But we needn't transplant our real games to accomplish that. The Internet breaks down walls, creates that globalization. Playing exhibition games abroad does that, too.
The NFL has played games outside North America dating to 1976, but they had all properly been exhibitions until the seal was broken (never to be repaired) with a 2005 regular-season 49ers-Cardinals game in Mexico City. But at least that was a trip shorter for both teams than some trips within the states.
Dolphins-Giants in London last fall was the second, the first outside North America, and not to be the last. Commissioner Roger Goodell even blasphemes to suggest he can envision future Super Bowls being held outside the U.S.
At what point do our pro leagues re-pledge their allegiance to the fans who pay their salaries instead of courting foreign dollars?
The NBA has a ''Basketball Without Borders'' global outreach initiative that hits India this July. Terrific. I'm sure it'll be New Dehli-ghtful. League games this season are being broadcast in 215 countries in 41 languages. NBA merchandise is sold in more than 100 countries on six continents. More than half of all hits on NBA.com come from outside the States.
That's not enough? Exhibition games abroad are not enough? Apparently not.
The NBA became the first American pro league to stage a regular-season game outside the U.S. when the Suns and Jazz opened the 1990-91 season with two games in Tokyo. More than a dozen regular-season games abroad have followed.
Baseball played its first regular-season game outside the U.S. with Mets-Padres in Mexico City in 1996. Real games have been hosted in Japan since 2000, Tuesday's the latest.
Now, the Red Sox will travel 30,000 miles and play in three countries before ever playing a true home game. They'll continue to play spring training games even after opening the regular season. It's insane.
Why are we pandering to Japan, a country that swoons over MLB and whose love of baseball is greater than ours?
Baseball has its World Baseball Classic, another good move toward globalization. Staging regular-season games abroad isn't necessary.
''The internationalization of sports is what we need to do now,'' Selig said Tuesday on the TV broadcast from Japan.
You know what, Bud?
Here's what you need to do even more.
You need to remember you are an American sports league whose priority, without exception, is to treat your teams' fans back home as though they matter most.
New York Post
Alex Rodriguez warms up before a Grapefruit League spring training baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., Wednesday, March 26, 2008.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
March 27, 2008 -- CLEARWATER, Fla. - This is how concerned Alex RodriguezAlex Rodriguez is with Jose Canseco's April Fool's joke of a book that will be released April 1.
During batting practice yesterday Rodriguez put on a show, driving one ball far over the Frenchy's pavilion in left field, drawing gasps from the crowd at Bright House Networks Field and leaving his teammates in awe.
Rodriguez was determined to put on a show, and he made his point: A-Rod could care less about Canseco's comments that the steroid slugger said he introduced Rodriguez to a steroid dealer named "Max" and that A-Rod, who was a bachelor at the time, coveted Canseco's wife, according to Canseco.
Jose and Jessica, the former Hooters girl, were divorced in 2000. Alex never did marry her.
It was obvious after the YankeesNew York Yankees ' 4-0 loss to the Phillies that A-Rod isn't about to lose any sleep over Canseco's words. He never mentioned Canseco's name during his meeting with reporters. When asked if all this could be a distraction, he said, "It's over as far as I'm concerned.
"The bell's about to ring and it's getting really exciting," A-Rod noted. "I can't wait for Opening Day March 31 in The Bronx."
He said he had no statements, no comments on the Canseco matter. Why should he? Why should Alex Rodriguez try to sell Canseco's book for him? Why should Rodriguez bother talking about Canseco, who basically has been promising to take down A-Rod with his "inside" information.
Rodriguez doesn't have to worry about Canseco, just opposing pitchers. He's been crushing the ball all spring but was 0-3 yesterday, his average plummeting to .432.
Rodriguez admitted the BP display was "pretty impressive," then noted when the game came, "I went in the hole like a fox."
Or it could be because spring training is about to wrap up and all the hitters are anxious to get out of here and get on with the real show Monday against the Blue Jays, the last Opening Day at the House That Ruth Built.
It's A-Rod's house now. Rodriguez said earlier this spring that he feels the fans have come around to him like never before, and yesterday when he was announc-ed there were cheers from the fans. A lot of Philly fans no less. It seems like they didn't put a lot of stock into Canseco's comments as well.
Why should they? If Jose really had something, he would have sunk A-Rod in his first book. The fans want to see A-Rod hit like he did in batting practice and like he has all spring. Everyone seems to forget that. The fans want to be entertained.
Yankees fans will be interested in these comments from hitting coach Kevin Long, who has built a special bond with Rodriguez the last two years.
"The swing looks short, it looks compact, it looks explosive," Long said. "There's no forward movement still. It's just staying behind the ball, getting the foot down, getting in a good position. Everything looks great."
Long than smiled and added, "It doesn't look normal, it looks great, it looks fantastic."
It looks like an MVP swing. You can expect Rodriguez to win his second straight and fourth career MVP award in 2008. That's how good he looks. That's how good the Yankees offense looks.
Asked to name the best player he's ever seen, Joe Girardi mentioned three: Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Rodriguez. Interestingly, he mentioned the Pittsburgh Pirate Barry Bonds, who could beat you in so many ways, not the Balco Bonds.
"It's over time, not just having one or two great years," Girardi said.
"[Rodriguez] is always going to command a lot of attention," the manager added. "Michael Jordan was the same way."
That's pretty interesting company. That's what the Yankees have in Alex Rodriguez. He's always going to be the center of attention.
A-Rod is not the only one who can't wait for Opening Day.
Author Andrew Britton with one of his best-selling novels in Raleigh.
DURHAM - Friends, family, and fans mourn the loss of 27 year old spy novelist and military veteran Andrew Britton. Described as "the next Tom Clancy" by some literary critics, his New York Times best-seller books were translated into many languages around the world and his popularity was such that his untimely death was announced on the BBC evening newscast.
According to his family, Andrew was found at his apartment in Durham on Tuesday, after he had apparently passed away from a heart condition that was previously undiagnosed. Britton passed peacably in his sleep, said his mother Annie Nice.
"He just went to sleep and never woke up," she said.
Andrew Britton leaves behind his brother Christopher, his sister Roxanne, his mother Annie Nice, and his girlfriend Valerie, all of whom live in the Raleigh and Durham areas. He also leaves behind many family members in Ireland and Great Britain including his aunt, uncle, grandmother, and two nieces, whom he adored says his family.
A special memorial service will be held at the Unity Church (Longview Center) on Hargett Street next to Moore Square at 2pm on Tuesday March 25th. The family says that there will be a service with a video showing photos, bag-pipes, traditional music, and a celebration of the young man's life.
Before he was known to readers around the world, Andrew's experiences growing up would later contribute to his writing.
Although he was born in Peterborough, England, Andrew grew up in the United States and graduated from Leesville High School in Raleigh.
Right out of high school, Britton joined the United States Army, serving three years with the 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Devil Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division (mechanized).
"He was so proud to wear the uniform," said his mother. "You could tell that just by looking at him."
During his tour of duty, Britton served at Fort Riley in Kansas and also in Korea. During his military service, Britton developed a camraderie with his fellow soldiers and had unique experiences that helped to contribute to the realism of his books which he would write later, said his mother.
After earning awards for outstanding behavior, Britton was honorably discharged but was on reserve status until 2006.
"He told me he would have gladly gone back [to serve] if they recalled him," said his mother, Ms. Nice.
PHOTO: Andrew Britton serving as a comat engineer. Photo from Britton family.
A STRUGGLING WRITER
Although still a young man, Britton knew he wanted to write books for quite some time.
While growing up, his mother introduced him to such fiction writers as Jack Higgins, who wrote "The Eagle Has Landed." The novel, later made into a movie, was set in World War II and was a spy-thriller where German agents were trying to infiltrate Great Britain.
"After that, you couldn't feed him enough books," said his mother. "That was his first bite."
After his US Army service and before he started attending classes at UNC, Andrew worked blue collar jobs to make ends meet, but never complained and thought of others before himself, says his family. Ms. Nice said that even while her son was making $6.50 an hour at a gas station in Durham, he still sent members of his family checks to help them make ends meet.
SUCCESS IN SPY NOVELS
However, with his love of books and writing, it didn't take long for Andrew to land his first book deal. His first book "The American" was signed in a publishing deal when Andrew was only 21.
The novel about international espionage received good reviews and has now quite literally been printed around the world, translated into Japanese, Arabic, Russian, and other languages. The book was originally a hardback, but has now been published in paperback form as well.
On the heels of that success, Andrew wrote two more books, "The Assassin" and his most recent book "The Invisible." He was working on a fourth novel when he passed away, his family said.
His second book, "The Assassin" was first released in hardback last year and was recently printed in paperback, allowing it to climb all the way into the top 25 books on the New York Times bestseller list. Only a couple of weeks ago, the book was still on the list at number 32.
Critics hailed Andrew as a new face in the espionage-thriller genre, following in the footsteps as such greats as Tom Clancy and even Ian Fleming.
"Like Tom Clancy, [Britton] has produced a thriller that makes current terrorist threats all too real," said the Library Journal in a review of "The Assassin" last year.
"I'm looking forward to more from Britton...he has a knack for incorporating technical detail, from performing makeshift surgery to carrying out a nighttime ambush. And in this age of terrorism, his plots seem to jump straight out of the headlines," said a reviewer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. "He may well give Tom Clancy a run for the money."
His novels thrilled readers with a sense of realism and Andrew took great pains to research details. He wanted to make sure that his novels seemed to jump off the pages into real life for his readers.
"Nothing annoys me more than reading a book that obviously hasn’t been researched at all, especially when the book in question...requires, by its very nature, a thorough understanding of the content," said Andrew in a posted interview on his website.
To gain knowledge for his books, Andrew often traveled to interview people across the globe.
"He loved to read and he loved to travel," said his mother, who said that he especially loved travelling to Ireland where his mother is from and where he still has relatives.
For research on his novels, Andrew also interviewed local law enforcement officers in Raleigh and Wake County, including members of the Wake County Sheriff's Office, who he thanked in one of his forewords. His dedication to his craft made many fans who eagerly awaited his new novels.
"Andrew was a rising star on the literary scene and there was talk of making one of his novels into a movie," said a friend of the family. "He had a knack for putting you there and he had a tremendous talent."
PHOTO: Andrew Britton celebrated the paperback debut of one of his books with family and friends just last week in Raleigh. Photo by The Raleigh Chronicle.
Although his novels had brought Andrew fame and monetary success at early age, people who knew him said he was more of a minimalist, choosing to focus on his family and his love of books. Unlike some young adults who find early success, Andrew didn't go overboard with spending and in fact, his family said he was quite the opposite.
"He hardly had any furniture in his apartment," said Ms. Nice. "It was wall to wall books."
His mother added that Andrew liked nothing better than spending the evening with a book or a movie or hanging out with his brother, sister, mother, and his girlfriend with whom he was all quite close.
"He was always a wonderful son," said his mother. "He was never too old, too manly, or too proud to give you a hug and say 'I love you.'"
Although a quiet man, Andrew also had a sense of humor that everyone in his family seemed to enjoy.
"He had a very dry wit, he was always the story teller," said his mother. Once his mother asked him while he was on a deadline if he was too busy for her to bring over some sausage rolls, which he loved. He texted back that he was not busy anymore.
Andrew was also a very good listener, say his friends, which allowed him to collect people's various experiences and interesting details and use them later in his novels.
ANDREW THE MAN
Beyond his literary success, everyone who knew Andrew seems to convey that he was, above all, a conscientious man who was always thinking of others. Friends and family say that he always was very concerned with the well-boing of those around him, sometimes even to a fault, and as a result, he was always thought of highly by everyone.
As a testament to the respect for this young man, many people who knew him were flying in from around the United States and even overseas to be with his family and to attend the memorial service next week. The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) even made an announcement on its world-wide newscast that Andrew had passed away, to mourn the loss of the prominent author.
For his immediate family, it was not the loss of Andrew, the world-wide author that hurt them but the passing of the young man behind the novels.
It has been very hard for them to lose Andrew Britton, the young, outstanding gentleman, the quiet warrior who loved those dearly around him.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," said his mother, about having to tell her other children of Andrew's death.
Although Andrew died at a young age, his family takes solace that they were blessed to know him for 27 years and that he was able to accomplish much during his life.
"He did a lot in his life," said his mother. "He fit a lot in."
For his part, Andrew not only leaves behind his family, friends and fans, but also the characters in his books. Created in Andrew's creative genius, he endowed them with their own existence as they live on in his reader's own imaginations.
"For me, the best part about writing is developing characters; creating life out of thin air. Even if it's just on paper, it's an amazing thing, indescribable, almost," said Andrew in an interview on his website.
"I also enjoy incorporating fiction and real life. I'm always searching for ways to blend fiction and fact, and when it works well, it turns out seamlessly, adding a sense of realism to all aspects of the story. In short, the fiction very nearly becomes fact."
ON THE WEB: Andrew Britton's website
Where did the magic go?
About this business of Hillary coming under intense sniping, I have some sympathy. The Clintons got away with this sort of thing for so long that you can’t blame them for wondering how they missed the memo advising that henceforth the old rules no longer apply. Bill, being warier, was usually canny enough to set his fantasies just far enough back in time that live cable footage was unlikely to be available — his vivid memories of entirely mythical black church burnings in his childhood, etc. But Hillary liked to live a little more dangerously. The defining fiction arose back in the mid-Nineties when she visited New Zealand and met Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Everest, and for some reason decided to tell him he was the guy her parents had named her after.
Hmm. Edmund Hillary reached the top of Everest in 1953. Hillary Rodham was born in 1947, when Sir Edmund was an obscure New Zealand beekeeper and a somewhat unlikely inspiration for two young parents in the Chicago suburbs. If any of the bigshot U.S. newspaper correspondents on the trip noticed this inconsistency, they kept it to themselves. I mentioned it in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph at the time, but like so many other improbabilities in the Clinton record it sailed on indestructibly for years. By 2004 it was preserved for the ages in Bill Clinton’s autobiography, on page (gulp) 870: “Sir Edmund Hillary, who had explored the South Pole in the 1950s, was the first man to reach the top of Mount Everest and, most important, was the man Chelsea’s mother had been named for.”
Eventually, when it was noticed that Hillary was born six years before the ascent of Everest, Clinton aides tried assuring skeptics that her parents had seen a press interview with Sir Edmund in his beekeeping days, Mr. and Mrs. Rodham apparently being the only Illinois subscribers to The New Zealand Apiarist. Then, in the early days of her presidential campaign, Senator Clinton quietly withdrew the story, by which time the damage was done. Edmund Hillary passed away a couple of months back, and, as I recall, the New York Times headline read: “New Zealander For Whom Senator Clinton Named Dies; Also First Man To Climb Everest. Senator Clinton Was At The Summit To Greet Him, After Landing Under Heavy Sniper Fire From The Abominable Snowman.”
There’s something weird about the need to tell quite so many unnecessary fictions. Yet Senator Clinton might reasonably have expected the sniper-fire landing in Tuzla to have been like the late-1940s epidemic of beekeeper-inspired Chicago christenings, something planted in the record that no one dares question. Perhaps Burt Bacharach, after his recent anti-Bush anti-war album, might have remade his old song for Gene Pitney as a Hillary campaign anthem:
Oh, I was only Twenty-Four Hours In Tuzla
Only one day pinned down under fire
The jet exploded in flame
But danger’s my middle name
What a surefire smash it would have been. First week, straight into the Billboard Hot One Hundred at Number Seven with a bullet. Alas, Senator Sir Edmund Hillary Danger Rodham Clinton couldn’t have foreseen that the Democratic primary season would dwindle down to the Palm Beach recount replayed as a civil war: Two 50-50 candidates slugging it out, but both Democrats — and so the party’s formidable skills at the politics of personal destruction and its fierce determination to win at all costs are now turned in on itself: As Edwin Glover said of the British defenses at Singapores, the guns are pointing the wrong way. The other day I gave a talk and a Democrat in the audience demanded that I disassociate myself from the sleazy attacks of some Republicans who’ve been referring to “Barack Hussein Obama.” I said I’d be happy to disassociate myself from (Clinton supporter) Bob Kerrey who’s been floating the whole nudge-nudge-Hussein-the-secret-Muslim thing, and to disassociate myself from (Clinton supporter) Bill Shaheen who’s been pushing the Obama-spent-most-of-the-Seventies-selling-cocaine rumors, and to disassociate myself from (Clinton supporter) Andrew Young who’s boasted that Bill Clinton has slept with more black women than Obama. And golly, after I’d got through disassociating myself from all the Democrat sleaze about Obama, I had no time to peddle any sleaze of my own.
It may be that when the Democrats do settle on a candidate — which, on present form, seems likely to be about 48 hours before Election Day — the party will then do its usual thing and unite around the winner in order to slay the Republican dragon. But it’s not unreasonable to calculate that significant elements among both the Clintonites and the Obamaniacs will be disinclined to reward the other side for what they’ll see as an act of usurpation. I have no time for Obama and I think he’d be a disastrous president. But he’s your ticket out if you’re a Democrat who can’t face the thought of giving your party to the Clinton mob for another decade. And evidently quite a lot of Dems feel like that.
Why? Where did the magic go? Well, the show got miscast. I wrote a decade ago that Hillary was like Margaret Dumont to Bill’s Groucho Marx. He goes around leering at cocktail waitresses, waggling his eyebrows and his famously unlit cigar. And Hillary would stand there seemingly oblivious to the subpoenaed dress and DNA analysis and all the rest: In double-acts, the best straight men (or women) are the ones who appear never to get the joke, and that was Hillary in the late Nineties, standing on stage alongside Bill night after night with her rictus grin and droning in the robotic cadences of that computerized voice in your car that tells you to fasten your seatbelt that “I. Am. So. Proud. Of. My. Husband. And. Our. President. Bill. Clinton.”
But you can’t recast: You can’t put Margaret Dumont in the Groucho role. In their heyday, the Clintons ran a thuggish operation fronted by an ingratiating charmer. Now the charming facade’s gone, and the backroom thuggery is ineffective. The Clinton campaign’s letter to Nancy Pelosi suggesting that she might like to “reflect” (if you know what we mean) on her call for the super-delegates to support the winner of the popular vote (ie, Obama) was notable not for its menace but for its clumsiness: Few sights are more forlorn than an enforcer who can no longer enforce. The Clinton letter reminded me of Elena Ceausescu still trying to pull the don’t-you-know-who-I-am routine even as the firing squad were taking aim.
But on she staggers. Even if she can’t win, she can deny victory to Obama, and to her party. As they say in showbusiness, it’s not important for me to succeed, only for my friends to fail.
© 2008 Mark Steyn
The USA Today/Gallup survey clearly explains why Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is losing. Asked whether the candidates were "honest and trustworthy," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won with 67 percent, with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) right behind him at 63. Hillary scored only 44 percent, the lowest rating for any candidate for any attribute in the poll.
Hillary simply cannot tell the truth. Here's her scorecard:
• Chelsea was jogging around the Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (She was in bed watching it on TV.)
• Hillary was named after Sir Edmund Hillary. (She admitted she was wrong. He climbed Mt. Everest five years after her birth.)
• She was under sniper fire in Bosnia. (A girl presented her with flowers at the foot of the ramp.)
• She learned in The Wall Street Journal how to make a killing in the futures market. (It didn't cover the market back then.)
Whoppers She Won't Confess To
• She didn't know about the FALN pardons.
• She didn't know that her brothers were being paid to get pardons that Clinton granted.
• Taking the White House gifts was a clerical error.
• She didn't know that her staff would fire the travel office staff after she told them to do so.
• She didn't know that the Peter Paul fundraiser in Hollywood in 2000 cost $700,000 more than she reported it had.
• She opposed NAFTA at the time.
• She was instrumental in the Irish peace process.
• She urged Bill to intervene in Rwanda.
• She played a role in the '90s economic recovery.
• The billing records showed up on their own.
• She thought Bill was innocent when the Monica scandal broke.
• She was always a Yankees fan.
• She had nothing to do with the New Square Hasidic pardons (after they voted for her 1,400-12 and she attended a meeting at the White House about the pardons).
• She negotiated for the release of refugees in Macedonia (who were released the day before she got there).
With a record like that, is it any wonder that we suspect her of being less than honest and straightforward?
Why has McCain jumped out to a nine-point lead over Obama and a seven-point lead over Hillary in the latest Rasmussen poll? OK, Obama has had the Rev. Wright mess on his hands. And Hillary has come in for her share of negatives, like the Richardson endorsement of Obama and the denouement of her latest lie -- that she endured sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia. But why has McCain gained so much in so short a period of time? Most polls had the general election tied two weeks ago.
McCain's virtues require a contrast in order to stand out. His strength, integrity, solidity and dependability all are essentially passive virtues, which shine only by contrast with others. Now that Obama and Hillary are offering images that are much weaker, less honest, and less solid and dependable, good old John McCain looks that much better as he tours Iraq and Israel while the Democrats rip one another apart.
It took Nixon for us to appreciate Jimmy Carter's simple honesty. It took Clinton and Monica for us to value George W. Bush's personal character. And it takes the unseemly battle among the Democrats for us to give John McCain his due.
When Obama faces McCain in the general election (not if but when) the legacy of the Wright scandal will not be to question Obama's patriotism or love of America. It will be to ask if he has the right stuff (pardon the pun).
The largest gap between McCain and Obama in the most recent USA Today/Gallup Poll was on the trait of leadership. Asked if each man was a "strong, decisive leader," 69 percent felt that the description fit McCain while only 56 percent thought it would apply to Obama. (61 percent said it of Hillary.) Obama has looked weak handling the Rev. Wright controversy. His labored explanation of why he attacks the sin but loves the sinner comes across as elegant but, at the same time, feeble. Obama's reluctance to trade punches with his opponents makes us wonder if he could trade them with bin Laden or Ahmadinejad. We have no doubt that McCain would gladly come to blows and would represent us well, but about Obama we are not so sure.
Morris, a former political adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of “Outrage.” To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to www.dickmorris.com.
By Stephen Webbe
Christian Science Monitor
from the March 24, 2008 edition
Protestors take part in a demonstration calling for a referendum on the European Union (EU) Lisbon Treaty, outside the Houses of Parliament in central London, February 27.
London - You might want to take that vacation in England just as soon as you can – before its 1,000-year run as a sovereign nation comes to an end.
This winter, 27 nations of the European Union (EU) signed the Treaty of Lisbon. You may think, "Innocuous enough," as Portuguese-inspired visions of the Tagus River and chicken piri-piri swirl before your eyes.
But for England (Britain, actually) the Treaty of Lisbon isn't that appetizing. That's because, if ratified, it will become the decisive act in this creation of a federal European superstate with its capital in Brussels. Britain would become a province and its "Mother of Parliaments," a regional assembly. And that's no small humiliation for a country that gave the world English and saved Western civilization in the Battle of Britain in 1940.
The Eurocrat elite in Brussels might not admit it, but the Treaty of Lisbon is essentially a constitution for a "country" called Europe. More bluntly, it's a cynical repackaging of the EU Constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to put the EU Constitution to the British people in a referendum. But his successor, Gordon Brown, has reneged on that promise. He insists that the Treaty of Lisbon is shorn of all constitutional content and that it preserves key aspects of British sovereignty. On March 11, the bill to ratify the treaty cleared the House of Commons. And now the Brown government is poised to win passage in the House of Lords, too.
But British resistance is stirring. In a recent series of minireferendums, almost 90 percent of voters gave the Lisbon Treaty an emphatic thumbs down and demanded a nationwide referendum.
If all 27 nations ratify the treaty this year, it will begin to come into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. The British will then be expected to transfer loyalty and affection to the EU and devote themselves increasingly to its wellbeing.
With its flag, anthem, currency, institutions, regulations, and directives, the EU has long been indistinguishable from a nation-state-in-waiting. Now the Lisbon Treaty gives it those requisites of nationhood it's always lacked: a president, a foreign minister (and diplomatic corps), a powerful new interior department, a public prosecutor and full treaty-making powers. Add to those its common system of criminal justice, an embryonic federal police force, and the faintly sinister-sounding European Gendarmerie Force, and what this union becomes is a monolithic state with great power pretensions.
Most alarmingly, though, is that the Lisbon Treaty can be extended indefinitely without recourse to further treaties or referendums.
That 27 European nations are on the verge of being reconstituted as a federal European superstate is substantially the achievement of the fanatical French integrationist Jean Monnet, for whom the nation state was anathema.
When British Prime Minister Edward Heath took Britain into the Common Market in 1973, the country thought it was entering a free-trade agreement. It hoped membership would sprinkle some European stardust on Britain's shipwrecked economy.
Mr. Heath, a passionate Europhile, assured the country that membership would not entail any sacrifice of "independence and sovereignty." Like Europe's fervent integrationists, whose plans for political union had always been disguised as increasingly beneficial economic integration, Heath maintained the fiction that he had simply joined a trading bloc.
Britain had been a highly successful nation state and global power. Now, it seemed, she needed Europe to reverse a relentless decline. Thus when the British were asked to decide on continued membership in the Common Market in a 1975 referendum, almost 70 percent voted to stay in. The "Yes" campaign swept to victory on a platform of jobs, prosperity, and peace. But the implications for the weakening of national sovereignty went unheeded.
Few recalled that in 1961 the Anti-Common Market League had warned that signing the Treaty of Rome (which created the Common Market) "would mean a permanent, irrevocable loss of sovereignty and independence" and that Britain's affairs "would increasingly be administered by supranational bodies … instead of by our own elected representatives."
Surrendering to supranational rule is hard for Britain given its celebrated past. Its European neighbors, by contrast, their histories indelibly stained by tyranny, military defeat, and imperial barbarity, seem eager to subsume themselves in a suffocating superstate.
The Treaty of Lisbon crystallizes the EU's core belief that nation states are every bit as defunct as Stone Age tribes. In the case of Britain, though, it would curtail the freedom of action and global vision of a nation whose people are far from convinced that sovereign independence is a badge of shame.
Britain could walk out of the EU today simply by repealing the 1972 European Communities Act. But political courage of that order is in short supply.
Perhaps only Queen Elizabeth II can rescue her realm from the baleful Treaty of Lisbon. She could veto it when it comes to her for royal assent and – sensationally – declare that she's not prepared to see her proud, independent, liberty-loving country swallowed up by an arrogant, authoritarian, and unloved European superstate.
She would be in excellent company. Queen Anne refused assent to the Scottish Militia Bill in 1708. And that was only about a bunch of musket-toting rubes of doubtful loyalty. This is about national survival.
Stephen Webbe is a British writer and historian and former Monitor correspondent.
Orange County Register
"I'm sure," said Barack Obama in that sonorous baritone that makes his drive-thru order for a Big Mac, fries and strawberry shake sound profound, "many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed."
Well, yes. But not many of us have heard remarks from our pastors, priests or rabbis that are stark, staring, out-of-his-tree, flown-the-coop nuts. Unlike Bill Clinton, whose legions of "spiritual advisers" at the height of his Monica troubles outnumbered the U.S. diplomatic corps, Sen. Obama has had just one spiritual adviser his entire adult life: the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, two-decade pastor to the president presumptive. The Rev. Wright believes that AIDS was created by the government of the United States – and not as a cure for the common cold that went tragically awry and had to be covered up by Karl Rove, but for the explicit purpose of killing millions of its own citizens. The government has never come clean about this, but the Rev. Wright knows the truth. "The government lied," he told his flock, "about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. The government lied."
Does he really believe this? If so, he's crazy, and no sane person would sit through his gibberish, certainly not for 20 years.
Or is he just saying it? In which case, he's profoundly wicked. If you understand that AIDS is spread by sexual promiscuity and drug use, you'll know that it's within your power to protect yourself from the disease. If you're told that it's just whitey's latest cunning plot to stick it to you, well, hey, it's out of your hands, nothing to do with you or your behavior.
Before the speech, Slate's Mickey Kaus advised Sen. Obama to give us a Sister Souljah moment: "There are plenty of potential Souljahs still around: Race preferences. Out-of-wedlock births," he wrote. "But most of all the victim mentality that tells African Americans (in the fashion of the Rev. Wright's most infamous sermons) that the important forces shaping their lives are the evil actions of others, of other races." Indeed. It makes no difference to white folks when a black pastor inflicts kook genocide theories on his congregation: The victims are those in his audience who make the mistake of believing him.
The Rev. Wright has a hugely popular church with over 8,000 members, and Sen. Obama assures us that his pastor does good work by "reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS." But maybe he wouldn't have to quite so much "reaching out" to do and maybe there wouldn't be quite so many black Americans "suffering from HIV/AIDS" if the likes of Wright weren't peddling lunatic conspiracy theories to his own community.
Nonetheless, last week, Barack Obama told America: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community."
What is the plain meaning of that sentence? That the paranoid racist ravings of Jeremiah Wright are now part of the established cultural discourse in African American life and thus must command our respect? Let us take the senator at his word when he says he chanced not to be present on AIDS Conspiracy Sunday, or God Damn America Sunday, or US of KKKA Sunday, or the Post-9/11 America-Had-It-Coming Memorial Service. A conventional pol would have said he was shocked, shocked to discover Afrocentric black liberation theology going on at his church. But Obama did something far more audacious: Instead of distancing himself from his pastor, he attempted to close the gap between Wright and the rest of the country, arguing, in effect, that the guy is not just his crazy uncle but America's, too.
To do this, Obama promoted a false equivalence. "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother," he continued. "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." Well, according to the way he tells it in his book, it was one specific black man on her bus, and he wasn't merely "passing by."
When the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan dumped some of his closest Cabinet colleagues to extricate himself from a political crisis, the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe responded: "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his friends for his life." In Philadelphia, Sen. Obama topped that: Greater love hath no man than to lay down his grandma for his life.
In the days that followed, Obama's interviewers seemed grateful for the introduction of a less-complicated villain: Unlike the Rev. Wright, she doesn't want God to damn America for being no better than al-Qaida, but on the other hand she did once express her apprehension about a black man on the bus. It's surely only a matter of days before Keith Olbermann on MSNBC names her his "Worst Person In The World". Asked about the sin of racism beating within Grandma's breast, Obama said on TV that "she's a typical white person."
Which doesn't sound like the sort of thing the supposed "post-racial" candidate ought to be saying, but let that pass. How "typically white" is Obama's grandmother? She is the woman who raised him – that's to say, she brought up a black grandchild and loved him unconditionally. Burning deep down inside, she may nurse a secret desire to be Simon Legree or Bull Connor, but it doesn't seem very likely. She does then, in her own flawed way, represent a post-racial America.
But what of her equivalent (as Obama's speech had it)? Is Jeremiah Wright a "typical black person"? One would hope not. A century and a half after the Civil War, two generations after the Civil Rights Act, the Rev. Wright promotes victimization theses more insane than anything promulgated at the height of slavery or the Jim Crow era. You can understand why Obama is so anxious to meet with President Ahmadinejad, a man who denies the last Holocaust even as he plans the next one. Such a summit would be easy listening after the more robust sermons of Jeremiah Wright.
But America is not Ahmadinejad's Iran. Free societies live in truth, not in the fever swamps of Jeremiah Wright. The pastor is a fraud, a crock, a mountebank – for, if this truly were a country whose government invented a virus to kill black people, why would they leave him walking around to expose the truth? It is Barack Obama's choice to entrust his daughters to the spiritual care of such a man for their entire lives, but in Philadelphia the senator attempted to universalize his peculiar judgment – to claim that, given America's history, it would be unreasonable to expect black men of Jeremiah Wright's generation not to peddle hateful and damaging lunacies. Isn't that – what's the word? – racist? So much for the post-racial candidate.
March 24, 2008
Pope converts outspoken Muslim who condemned ‘religion of hate’
Magdi Allam is baptised by Pope Benedict XVI
Richard Owen in Rome
The Pope has risked a renewed rift with the Islamic world by baptising a Muslim journalist who describes Islam as intrinsically violent and characterised by “hate and intolerance”.
In a surprise move at the Easter vigil at St Peter’s, Pope Benedict XVI baptised Magdi Allam, 55, an outspoken Egyptian-born critic of Islamic extremism and supporter of Israel. He has been under police protection for five years after receiving death threats over his criticism of suicide-bombings.
Religious freedom has been the theme of this year’s Easter celebrations. The meditations for the Good Friday Via Crucis procession at the Colosseum were written by Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Archbishop of Hong Kong, who drew attention to the suffering of persecuted Christian “martyrs” around the world.
Mr Allam’s conversion was kept secret until less than an hour before the service on Saturday evening. He took the middle name “Christian” for his baptism.
The Muslim-born deputy editor of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera had described Islam as a religion characterised by hate and intolerance.
The move revived memories of the fury that greeted Pope Benedict’s speech at Regensburg University in 2006 in which he appeared to brand Islam as inherently violent by quoting a Byzantine emperor.
He had since sought to make amends, praying in a mosque in Turkey and establishing a forum for Roman Catholic-Muslim dialogue to be inaugurated in November. His talks last November with King Abdullah in Rome have led to talks on opening a church in Saudi Arabia, where all non-Islamic faiths are banned.
In an article for Corriere della Sera, the Italian newspaper of which he is a deputy editor, Mr Allam, who has lived in Italy most of his adult life and has a Catholic wife, said that his soul had been “liberated from the obscurantism of an ideology which legitimises lies and dissimulation, violent death, which induces both murder and suicide, and blind submission to tyranny”. Instead he had “seen the light” and joined “the authentic religion of Truth, Life and Liberty”.
He added: “I had to do this. Beyond extremists and Islamist terrorism at the global level, the root of evil is inherent in a physiologically violent and historically conflictual Islam.” Mr Allam, who was educated at a Salesian Catholic school and previously described himself as a “not very devout” Muslim, was one of seven adults baptised during the Easter vigil, traditionally used for adult conversion ceremonies.
He said that by baptising him publicly the Pope had “sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too cautious in the conversion of Muslims”. He added: “Thousands of people in Italy have converted to Islam and practise their faith serenely. But there are also thousands of Muslims who have converted to Christianity but are forced to hide out of fear of being killed by Islamist terrorists.”
Last week the Vatican dismissed as “baseless” a charge by Osama bin Laden that the Pope was playing a leading role in a “new Crusade” against Islam. Muslim groups in Italy said that Mr Allam would have done better with a low-key conversion at a local parish.Yesterday the Pope celebrated Easter Mass from under a canopy in torrential rain on St Peter’s Square, calling for an end to “injustice, hatred and violence”. He also called for “solutions that will safeguard peace and the common good” in Tibet, the Middle East and African regions.